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According to the American Psychological Association (APA), millennials experience more stress and are less able to manage it than any other generation. More than half of us admit to having lain awake at night during the past month from stress.
Not surprisingly, millennials are also more anxious than older Americans. The APA reports that 12 percent of millennials have a diagnosed anxiety disorder—almost twice the percentage of Boomers. On a non-clinical scale, a BDA Morneau Shepell white paper discovered that 30 percent of working millennials have general anxiety, while a 2014 American College Health Association (ACHA) assessment found that anxiety regularly afflicts 61 percent of college students.
Anxiety not only harms our wellbeing but also sabotages our productivity. The ACHA assessment found that the top two tolls on students’ academic performance were stress and anxiety. Two-thirds of millennials interviewed by BDA attribute declining work performance to anxiety.
Sources of millennial anxiety may include a tough job market and student debt as well as psychological causes I’ve covered previously such as ambition addiction, career crises and choice-overload. But even our day-to-day behaviors can incite anxiety. Here are eight common habits that instigate stress and compromise our potential:
1. Bad sleep habits
Perhaps the most prevalent contributor to anxiety is poor sleep. A study by the University of California at Berkeley found that lack of sleep “may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying.” Common causes of insufficient sleep include going to bed at different times, not making sleep a priority and spending time on phones or laptops right before bed.
Calm Clinic, an online magazine dedicated to anxiety management, suggests forming a long, boring nighttime routine free from technology, keeping a journal by your bed to write down thoughts that keep you awake, and exercising during the day to wear out your body.
2. Skipping sustenance
Eating consistently regulates not only our metabolism and insulin levels but also our mental stability.
“Waiting too long to eat or missing out on breakfast may lead to unsteady blood sugar levels, which can cause anxiety-like sensations, including shakiness, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking,” writes Body and Health. Dehydration has a similar effect. Because food and water are biological needs, anxiety naturally follows hunger and thirst.
Eat meals regularly. Keep granola bars or nuts at your desk or in your purse. Bring a water bottle to work and sip it throughout the day. Have a glass of water right when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
3. Drinking coffee
Drinking coffee makes us more alert and, in many cases, helps us perform better on short-term tasks. But it can also make people jittery, irritable and nervous, especially if they’re already predisposed to anxiety. Sensitivity to caffeine is, in fact, heightened in people with panic disorder and social phobia, and caffeine can provoke panic attacks in some individuals. Caffeine is also diuretic, which can cause dehydration—an anxiety trigger established above.
Try weaning off coffee by switching to just one cup a day, decaf or black tea. If you feel calmer and more in control after a couple weeks without it, commit to quitting and pull out all the stops.
America’s surge of anxiety symptoms parallels our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But, until a recent review by BMC Public Health, it was unclear whether the two were actually linked. After lengthy analysis, researchers found that the risk of anxiety risk increases as sedentary behavior increases—and, specifically, sitting time spikes one’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety.
If you work at a desk all day, you’re not doomed. Get up and walk around every ninety minutes. Offset your sitting time with regular exercise, which halves your risk of anxiety and depression.
5. Your phone
A 2014 study by Baylor University found that American students spend an average of nine hours a day on their phone. Of course, technology vastly improves our lives in innumerable ways. But too much of it makes us anxious. Screen-based entertainment increases central nervous system arousal, which can amplify anxiety. Social media is similarly associated with low moods and depression.
Next time you’re waiting or have nothing to do, leave your phone in your pocket or purse. Relinquish it as a means of alleviating boredom and instead use it consciously as needed for its useful functions.
6. Not “clocking out”
According to data from FORBES’ @Work State of Mind Project, millennials become anxious and irritated when work intrudes on our personal lives. But our bad work-life balance is our own choosing. BDA’s assessment explains, “Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’” Even after we leave the office, we’re still at work.
We can still be ambitious, work long hours and impress our bosses without sacrificing psychological health and personal boundaries. So clock out: In your calendar, schedule a defined, consistent time at night to stop working. When time’s up, mark that task complete and go take care of yourself.
You may think snuggling up on the couch and watching a movie will help you unwind, but research disproves this trend.
In one study, participants felt more depressed and anxious after watching just two hours of TV than those who didn’t. Another study found that those with anxiety and depression spend significantly more time on the computer and watching television. While resting reduces anxiety short-term, research reveals that its effect is short lived, particularly compared with exercise.
Do anything but watch TV when you’re done with work. Go on a walk, grab drinks, knit, work, draw, write, sit in your room and look at the wall, call your mom, actually cook dinner, build something, play badminton.
8. Hanging out with anxious people
You might feel like you’ve found someone you can vent to who understands you, but studies show that ruminating on anxiety often makes it worse. Furthermore, participating in “intergroup anxiety” increases one’s anxious behaviors.
Seek out people who level your mood. After you hang out with someone, ask yourself if you feel stable and well—or if you’re hyped up and on edge. It’s easy to spend less time with certain people once you’ve decided they’re bad for your health.
If the annoyance, pain and performance impairment of day-to-day anxiety isn’t enough to quit these bad habits, perhaps this is: According to Harvard Medical School, anxiety is implicated in heart disease, migraines, chronic respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal conditions.
Despite our youth, chronic anxiety is not sustainable. By swapping out these daily practices, we can improve our moods and our lives one habit a time.
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Despite your best intentions, you show up at least 10 minutes after you say you will. At least you’re dependable, right?
Chronic lateness isn’t thoughtlessness or “bad subway luck,” it’s a personality profile, according to research. There are multiple character traits at play that contribute to a person’s repeated tardiness, including some that may not be in your control.
But that doesn’t mean your timing problem is a pattern that will last forever. If you can identify what is behind the lateness, there’s plenty you can do about it. After all, no one wants to be the person who always arrives last.
You might be multitasking too much.
Time flies when you’re juggling multiple items. A 2003 study that examined the habits of New York City subway workers found that those who multitasked were more likely to be late for their jobs than those who focused on on single activity at a time.
This could be due to a phenomenon known as metacognition, or an awareness of what you’re doing (in the case of lateness, it could an awareness of whether you’re doing what you need to make sure you’re on time). Multitasking typically makes it harder to have metacognition, Business Insider reported.
The Fix: Set alerts or reminders so you can stay on track if you get distracted.
“Set a very firm calendar and set of reminders with prompts that occur 10 or 15 minutes before a meeting or appointment is supposed to occur,” Susan Krauss-Whitbourne, a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told The Huffington Post.
Krauss-Whitborne also recommends mapping out how to get from point A to point B ahead of time and set your reminders based on that.
Your internal clock might be off.
Your internal clock could help with regulating time, according to Krauss-Whitbourne. And if you’re always late, you may not have such a reliable compass.
The study measured TBPM by giving participants tasks like completing a jigsaw puzzle and telling them to finish it in a certain amount of time, which required them to pace themselves so they can get the tasks done. The participants were given the option to check the time while they were working. However, the experiment was set up in a way that made it unlikely they would check since they were so engrossed in their tasks.
For the most part, the study found that people relied on their own internal clock to regulate their time ― and those who were able to complete the tasks had a better handle on that inner clock and a better perception of time.
In a post for Psychology Today, Krauss-Whitbourne explained how the process can be applied to real life:
The situation in TBPM experiments is analogous to what happens when you’re engrossed in one activity, such as catching up on your social media feed, at the same time that you’re also supposed to be getting ready to leave your home to be on time for work. You think only five minutes have passed when in fact you’ve let 20 minutes slip by. People who are good at TBPM tasks seem better able to regulate their own clock-checking behavior, so they’re less reliant on their potentially flawed internal timekeeper.
The Fix: Work on perfecting your definition of time.
Make an effort to be your own best critic when it comes to managing your minutes. There are also tasks you can do to help sharpen your sense of time, Krauss-Whitbourne said.
“We all have internal clocks and if yours is constantly off kilter, you need to train yourself to recalibrate,” she explained. “One thought is to play games to guess the time without cues and then see how off you are. Resetting may be as simple as retraining your ability to estimate time.”
You have a “Type B” personality.
Studies suggest those who are typically late tend to underestimate their time ― and personality may be to blame. Research shows that those who display Type B behavior, or the personality type that’s known for being more laid back, may have an off perception of the clock.
The study found that those who associate with the achievement-oriented “Type A” character trait were more accurate in estimating the passage of time than Type B folks. Those who were Type B in the study suspected that less time had passed than it really did when trying to measure out a minute.
It’s totally fine to have a laid back personality (there are even benefits to it!) but it’s important to not be so relaxed that you don’t consider others in the process. Try adding more minutes in your schedule estimation, Krauss-Whitbourne recommends ― and do it for the people you’re meeting.
“Imagine that you’re the one always waiting for someone else,” she said. “It’s irritating to you and therefore irritating to others.”
Most of all, incorporating a few new lifestyle habits into your routine to prevent you from running behind may benefit you the most in the long run, Krauss-Whitbourne explained. Especially when it comes to your own wellbeing.
“Always feeling you’re late contributes to stress levels, and this is also bad for your health,” she said. “So try to change, even if you think it’s hopeless.”
Celebrate Donna Byrd Today! Please join Gallman Consulting and GPS in wishing a very Happy Birthday to a wonderful and inspiring colleague! Your birthday is a promise that life has more to offer you, more plans to make, more goals to reach and more dreams to see come true. It’s a pleasure to wish you a happy birthday!
Let’s all celebrate Donna!
Donna is a Director of Placement at Gallman Consulting.
On your 29th anniversary with GPS, we want you to know what a pleasure it is to work with someone so driven and dedicated as you are. You are such an important asset to our team! Thank you for many wonderful years of service.
For many employees, their dogs and cats are beloved family members. Here are seven ways your company can show it cares.
By: Lisa Rabasca Roepe
February 22, 2017
Office life isn’t for everyone. It certainly didn’t suit Beasley. After his first foray into the work world, he found himself feeling skittish and overwhelmed. He got carsick on the commute, and some of the employees made him uncomfortable.
It soon became clear this wasn’t going to be a good fit. He wasn’t let go so much as left at home—by his owner, Cheryl DeSantis, vice president of people and organization for Mars Petcare North America in Franklin, Tenn.
You see, Beasley is a 3-year-old goldendoodle. And while he didn’t have the right personality to accompany DeSantis to work, he remains a very good boy. DeSantis found a better office mate with her mini-goldendoodle puppy, Riggins, who enjoys the daily routine and meeting new people.
“It’s looking promising for Riggins,” DeSantis says.
Beasley and Riggins are members of the more than 54 million U.S. households that include a dog and the nearly 80 million families with a pet of any kind, according to the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. And Mars Petcare is among a growing number of companies that allow dogs to come to work with their owners.
As organizations look to provide perks that will attract and retain key talent, many are coming to realize that offering pet-friendly benefits—whether that means take-your-dog-to-work days, pet insurance or animal-related volunteer excursions—can be an effective tool for improving recruitment, morale and even wellness.
“Dogs have become a bigger part of everyone’s life, especially as Millennials delay having children,” says Jennifer Joyce, vice president of marketing for Kurgo, a company based in Salisbury, Mass., that makes travel accessories and outdoor products for dogs. “For many, their dog is often their first child.”
Indeed, when Kurgo recently surveyed 1,242 dog owners across the country, 65 percent said their dog is part of their family, while only 8 percent referred to Fido as a pet.
The Benefits of Furry Friends
Mars Petcare, which owns the Banfield brand, has been allowing its employees to bring their dogs to work five days a week since 2007, DeSantis says. On a typical day, there are 900 employees and 30 to 40 dogs in the headquarters office.
From an employer’s perspective, one of the biggest benefits of allowing pets in the workplace is related to retention. A 2016 study by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 83 percent of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to companies with pet-friendly policies.
Moreover, more than half of workers at companies without such policies said they would be more likely to stay at their organization if it were to offer pet-related perks. The same survey found that 88 percent of the 1,006 employees surveyed, and 91 percent of 200 HR decision-makers, agreed that having pets at work improves morale.
“What we hear is people will pick Mars over another employer because they can bring their dogs to work,” DeSantis says. “We also hear that it is hard for associates to leave Mars because not every business allows pets in the office.”
Dogs and cats can also bring people closer together. “They create unity among staff and opportunities for interaction among departments that might not otherwise have interacted,” says Bill Page, HR director for Arkansas Business Publishing Group in Little Rock, Ark., which has 72 employees and four to five dogs at the office each day.
Shaping Pet Policies
Before creating any policy that involves bringing pets to the office, it’s critical to get employees’ input, says Patti Perez, an employment attorney with Ogletree Deakins.
“Everyone’s opinion must be heard,” she says. Are you willing to lose good employees because some don’t want to work in a pet-friendly office? If the feedback is mixed, one way to gauge the potential impact on your culture is to try allowing pets one day per week or month.
“Bringing a dog to work is a privilege, not a right,” says Robbie Eddison, a service desk manager at Softchoice Corp., an IT consulting firm based in Toronto. Eddison oversees her office’s Dog Committee. Softchoice has allowed dogs on the premises for at least 20 years. More than 700 employees work in the Toronto office, and they share the space with about 115 dogs each day.
Sometimes smaller companies become pet-friendly by accident after one or two people start bringing their dogs to work and other employees follow suit. That’s what happened at Arkansas Business Publishing Group five years ago, when CEO Olivia Farrell started bringing her Labrador retriever to the office every day, Page says.
“The generally tacit agreement [was] that your dog is friendly, housebroken, well-mannered and gets along well with others,” Farrell says. The organization recently developed a short policy laying out the ground rules in writing.
Initially, TINYpulse in Seattle—which creates employee engagement surveys—also lacked a written policy. Company leaders wanted to embrace the flexible, informal feel of a small startup. However, as the organization grew from 20 employees and two to three dogs to 60 workers with six to nine canines, the senior team realized it needed to provide clear guidelines and expectations. “It felt important, especially for non-dog owners,” HR Director Eliza Polly says.
As Polly and her colleagues delved into the issues, they realized there was a lot more to consider than they initially thought. “The leadership team still laughs about how much time it spent on this policy,” she says, noting that the topic was discussed at the group’s regularly scheduled meetings for three consecutive weeks. “When you get senior leaders talking about how much a dog should weigh to be allowed to roam free, it feels like a silly detail,” she says.
Actually, it’s not. “We had a big Irish setter puppy coming in that liked to knock over garbage cans and get into everything,” Polly says. “It was the sweetest dog, but he wanted to play and get attention. Not every dog is workplace-ready.”
That’s why TINYpulse’s policy explicitly states that dogs weighing more than 25 pounds can’t roam the building unattended and that dogs must not disturb any employees.
Each of Softchoice’s 21 U.S. and eight Canadian offices sets its own rules and guidelines for its dogs-at-work program, including negotiating agreements with local landlords.
In the Toronto location, employees are required to have worked at the company for three months before they can apply to bring their dog in. When workers make the request, Eddison says, they need to note their department; the location of their desk; their dog’s name, age, breed and gender; whether the dog has been fixed; whether it has had obedience training; and how often the pooch would come to work.
Employees must also get their manager’s written permission and confirm that they have asked nearby co-workers if having a dog around would be OK. A manager can revoke an agreement at any time if he or she thinks the situation isn’t working out, and people who aren’t dog lovers or who are allergic can request to work in a dog-free zone that has its own entrance and exit and a separate HVAC system, Eddison says.
Many company policies also stipulate that pets need to be healthy, clean, and up-to-date on vaccinations and heartworm and flea treatments.
There are approximately 20,000 U.S. service dogs, according to the American Humane Association. These animals are trained to perform tasks to help people with disabilities, such as guiding employees who are blind or deaf.
Regardless of whether an office allows pets, service animals must be allowed to accompany a person with a disability, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That said, animals whose sole function is to provide comfort do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, although some state and local laws allow emotional support animals in the workplace.
Deciding whether to allow an employee to bring in a so-called comfort animal is not that different from making a reasonable accommodation, says Patti Perez, an employment attorney with Ogletree Deakins. Ask yourself these three questions to make the determination.
Is it reasonable?
A monkey or snake is unlikely to be considered a reasonable companion, but a small trained dog may be. Ask the employee to provide medical documentation that having a comfort animal is a valid accommodation for his or her condition.
Would it be an effective solution?
Will the animal keep the employee from performing his or her essential functions? Perez knows of a case where a woman who pierced ears at a mall kiosk asked if she could do her work while holding a comfort dog. In this instance, the employer could make the case that the animal was interfering with the worker’s effectiveness because many people likely wouldn’t want their ears pierced by someone clutching a canine.
Is it an undue burden?
If an employee needs a comfort animal but the building lease won’t allow it, for instance, it is probably not reasonable to expect the employer to move to make the accommodation.
Dogs have bitten employees at Softchoice’s Toronto office twice, Eddison says. “Biting is cause for an immediate expulsion for us,” she says, adding that there is a three-strike policy for lesser complaints, which any employee can submit anonymously; most are related to barking, whimpering or playing with a squeaky toy.
The owner gets a warning when someone complains. A pup that accrues three strikes is not welcome in the office for six months to a year, although it may return on a trial basis if the owner can show a change in behavior, Eddison says.
TINYpulse’s policy relies heavily on self-reporting. If an employee knows her dog barks too much or has had an accident, she is expected to report it, Polly says. The company has a three-strike rule for accidents and no tolerance for biting. “If a dog even bites someone once, they are not welcome back in the office,” she says.
Employers can’t assume that workers’ compensation would cover a bite from a dog visiting the workplace, Perez says. That’s because, to submit a claim, the employer must show that an injury was caused by the scope of the employee’s work.
However, workers may be able to sue an employer for allowing dogs in the office, Perez says, although she isn’t aware of any such cases. Employees might also have a case if two or more dogs get into a fight and one is injured.
Another tip: Make it very clear who is responsible for the dog at all times. Perez worked at a law firm where an attorney who brought her dog to work asked a co-worker to dog-sit on the days she needed to be in court—which made the co-worker less productive. Your policy should address what happens when someone has to go to meetings. Consider stipulating that workers can’t bring their pets in on the days they have other scheduled events, Perez suggests.
If allowing workers to bring their pets to work doesn’t seem like a good option for your company, you’re not alone. Although office animals are making headlines, most organizations don’t allow them. According to the SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits research report, only 7 percent of employers permit pets in the workplace (compared with 8 percent in 2015 and 4 percent in 2014).
Fortunately, there are many other creative ways to show your support for furry friends, including the following:
Foster puppy (or kitty) love online. Because so many employees at Genentech, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company with 11,000 employees, were sharing dog photos and advice through e-mail, the company set up gDOGs, an employee resource group for dog owners, in 2014. More than 200 of Genentech’s employees are members, says Andrew Villani, senior manager of corporate relations and co-founder of gDOGs. The group created an online community and schedules events to encourage members to socialize with their dogs after hours and on weekends.
Allow occasional visits. The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., invites employees to bring their dogs into the office for occasional photo shoots, says Erin O’Neill, the organization’s people and culture manager. It’s important to communicate with staff ahead of time that dogs will be at the office, she says. “We have one staffer who is allergic, and she is super gracious about it and just stays out of the area,” O’Neill says.
Schedule animal therapy days. Once a quarter, investment media business The Motley Fool in Alexandria, Va., sponsors an “animal therapy day.” A staff member who lives on a farm brings in puppies or ducklings, says Chief Wellness Officer Samantha Whiteside. “I try to schedule them when the staff seems stressed-out,” she says.
Other building tenants are also invited to participate, she says, because “it’s a good way to create intentional collision points to build relationships.” And the company sponsors an occasional “yappy hour”—a social event in which pets are welcome—at a nearby restaurant with an outdoor patio.
Arrange volunteer opportunities. Mars Petcare offers employee volunteer opportunities with the Nashville Humane Society, and staff deliver lunches and pet food to homebound seniors with pets.
Provide bereavement leave. San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is one of a few employers to provide three days of bereavement leave following the death of a pet. Mars Petcare gives one day.
Offer pet insurance. Pet-related coverage was offered by 36 percent of companies in 2015, and that number is expected to surge to 60 percent by 2018, according to a 2016 survey by Willis Towers Watson. The Motley Fool added pet insurance to its benefits package after an employee survey indicated demand.
Consider offering a coverage discount, says Chris Middleton, president of Pets Best Insurance. The typical markdown is 5 percent, he says, and even organizations with only 20 employees can offer this benefit affordably. Keep in mind, though, that each employee’s premium will be different based on where he or she lives and the pet’s species, breed and age, Middleton says.
Genentech offers a plan that covers dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets, Villani says. Employees can pay premiums through payroll deductions, and owners of multiple pets receive additional discounts. The company has also negotiated with several local doggie day care providers to offer employees a discount on the daily rate.
No matter which options you pursue, showing employees you care about their lives outside of work—including their pets—can give you an edge when it comes to recruiting, wellness and morale. And who doesn’t want to be top dog?
Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.
Opening photograph courtesy of Trupanion.
Pet-Friendly Office Checklist
Experts at Trupanion, a Seattle-based pet medical insurance provider with a 1:2 pet-to-employee ratio (233 cats and dogs to 434 employees) offer this framework for creating a pet-friendly office.
Get executive buy-in. The CEO and senior management must agree to any pet-friendly policies.
Secure landlord approval. The Motley Fool can’t permit daily visits from animals at its offices because the property owner says the ventilation system won’t filter out all the dander and allergens, says Chief Wellness Officer Samantha Whiteside.
Create a policy. Clearly outline expectations, beginning by defining “pet-friendly,” says Patti Perez, an employment attorney with Ogletree Deakins. Do you mean just dogs and cats? What about boa constrictors and ferrets?
Pet-proof your space. This may include incorporating baby gates or tethers and hiding electrical cords. When Trupanion redesigned its offices, it included gated cubicles so office dogs and cats could enjoy being off-leash while sitting near their owner, says Erich Wuhrman, the company’s vice president of HR.
Communicate with employees. Let employees know if and when they can bring their pets to work. Some companies require employees to sign a written acknowledgment of the pet policy.
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An anniversary is a good occasion to look back on what you have accomplished. MJ, for 29 years you have been and are…terrifically tireless, exceptionally excellent, abundantly appreciated and…magnificent beyond words!
We wish you much more success in the years ahead. Happy Anniversary! Enjoy your day!
January 2, 2017 – Leadership & Learning ~ Kevin Eikenberry
Are you Playing Offense or Defense?
I recently read this question somewhere, and it stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that it is a valid question for us to ask as individuals and as leaders.
Are you playing offense or defense?
Like in sports, where you can have a strength in offense or defense and be successful, but can’t be successful with a complete lack of either one; this question isn’t an “either/or black or white” question as much as it is a “relative balance” question.
It is a question that can be asked strategically (what will our focus be for the year?) or tactically (how will handle this situation?). In either case, it is a question worth considering, because if you don’t consider it and challenge yourself with it, you will in the short- or long-term operate from your habits – which might not give you the results you most desire.
Are you playing offense or defense?
What do I mean when I suggest this question to you?
Your own definitions for the two words matter, and so my urging you to ask yourself might really be all that is needed (and would make for a short article). But if you want to hear the definitions and descriptions I have been using as I have considered the question, here is a sampling.
As you can see, what appears to be a black and white question is far from it. As just one example: there is a time to improve processes, and a time to solve problems – and there is value in knowing which will be your overall focus too.
The question has helped clarify my thinking for our team in the coming year and I hope it will do the same for you. It has also come in handy in regards to some specific situations and decisions since I have been considering the question.
So, I ask you to consider this question for yourself from three perspectives.
Which is my subconscious habit, to play offense or defense?
Which will serve me best, most often in reaching my goals for year, playing offense or defense?
Which will serve me best for the situation or decision I face right now, playing offense or defense?
Whatever your answers, make sure you don’t ignore what you didn’t choose. If you choose to focus on offense, there will be a time when defense is needed and vice versa. Asking the question will however make you more intentional and likely more successful in whatever context you use it.
Well-trained employees are the key to your small business success. Studies have shown that the most successful, productive employees are those who have received extensive training. They’re the cream of the crop, and often have the strongest stake in the company’s future.
In an ideal world, you would be able to hire people who already possess the exact skills your business needs. But in today’s competitive labor market, demand for skilled workers far exceeds supply.
That’s where training comes in. Not only does instruction arm your employees with needed professional or technical skills, but it also shows that you are invested in them and interested in bringing them with you into the company’s future. This helps keep workers motivated and involved.
To successfully launch an employee-training program in your own company, follow these 10 helpful tips:
Stress training as investment. The reason training is often considered optional at many companies is because it is thought of as an expense rather than an investment. While it’s true that training can be costly up front, it’s a long-term investment in the growth and development of your human resources.
Determine your needs. As you probably don’t have unlimited time or funds to execute an employee training program, you should decide early on what the focus of your training program should be. Determine what skills are most pertinent to address current or future company needs or ones that will provide the biggest payback. Ask yourself, “How will this training eventually prove beneficial to the company?” Repeat this process as your business needs change.
Promote a culture of learning. In today’s fast-paced economy, if a business isn’t learning, it’s going to fall behind. A business learns as its people learn. Communicate your expectations that all employees should take the necessary steps to hone their skills and stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support those efforts by providing the resources needed to accomplish this goal.
Get management on board. Once you have developed a prioritized list of training topics that address key needs within your company, you need to convince management to rally behind the initiative.
Start out small. Before rolling out your training program to the masses, rehearse with a small group of users and gather their feedback. This sort of informal benchmarking exposes weaknesses in your training plans and helps you fine-tune the training process.
Choose quality instructors and materials. Who you select to conduct the training will make a major difference in the success of your efforts, whether it’s a professional educator or simply a knowledgeable staff member. Having the right training materials is also important — after the training is over, these materials become valuable resources for trainees.
Find the right space. Select a training location that’s conducive to learning. Choose an environment that’s quiet and roomy enough to spread out materials. Make sure the space is equipped with a computer and projector, so you can present a visually stimulating training session.
Clarify connections. Some employees may feel that the training they’re receiving isn’t relevant to their job. It’s important to help them understand the connection early on, so they don’t view the training sessions as a waste of valuable time. Employees should see the training as an important addition to their professional portfolios. Award people with completion certificates at the end of the program.
Make it ongoing. Don’t limit training solely to new employees. Organized, ongoing training programs will maintain all employees’ skill levels, and continually motivate them to grow and improve professionally.
Measure results. Without measurable results, it’s almost impossible to view training as anything but an expense. Decide how you’re going to obtain an acceptable rate of return on your investment. Determine what kind of growth or other measure is a reasonable result of the training you provide. You’ll have an easier time budgeting funds for future training if you can demonstrate concrete results.
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