Have a Plan, But Keep It Flexible: Thriving Professionally After a Medical Diagnosis

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When someone is diagnosed with a serious health condition, it impacts several important areas of their life, including work. A person may start to wonder:

– How do I balance work and medical treatment?
– What can I expect from my employer?
– What are my legal rights?
– What do other people do in this situation?

One common misconception is that people who have serious illnesses do not want to work. The results of a 2018 survey of cancer patients and survivors commissioned by Cancer and Careers show otherwise. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said working through treatment helps or had helped them cope. Each person’s reasons for wanting to work vary and are often multifaceted. For some, a steady income or access to benefits drove the decision to stay on the job, while others found in their work a sense of normalcy or purpose during prolonged or intensive medical treatment and recovery.

As you think about your own reasons for working following a diagnosis, here are some strategies to make it easier to thrive professionally while undergoing treatment and recovery:

Plan for Managing Side Effects at Work

Have a conversation with your healthcare team about the specific details of your treatment and how it might affect you at work. Be sure to share specifics about the mental and physical demands of your job.

Discussing common side effects of your treatment and how to manage them can help you make informed decisions about work accommodations you might need, such as modifying your schedule, making changes to your physical workspace, etc. Keeping a work diary to monitor how you feel throughout the day/week can also help you figure out how side effects might be impacting your work — and then find ways to address them.

Understand the Relevant Laws and Study Your Options

The law is one of the many tools you can use as you figure out how to navigate work after a serious medical diagnosis. Federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as certain state laws, may be applicable and can create a framework of support.

For example, under the ADA, your company might be required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with serious health issues to help them continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Sometimes small adjustments can be all it takes to help you work while undergoing medical treatment.

Keep in mind that even if your employer isn’t required by law to provide you with an accommodation, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Typically, companies want to retain good employees, so it never hurts to ask for what you need to stay on the job. It’s also important to learn about your company’s policies on disabilities, flex time, telecommuting, and related matters before you disclose your diagnosis at work.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Sharing Your Diagnosis

Whether to tell your employer and/or coworkers is a very personal decision, and you should weigh several factors before you make a choice, including:

– What treatment side effects are you likely to experience?
– What does the law require and how might it work in your favor?
– What is your work environment like?

Answering these questions can help you figure out whether you want to disclose — and, if so, what and when. Generally, you are not obligated to share any information about your health (though there are some exceptions). If you do decide to share, start by talking to those with whom you’re most comfortable or those who will be most useful in creating a workable solution for you (possibly your supervisor and/or HR). If you think you may need to request a job modification, you might have to provide some information about your health issue, although not necessarily an exact diagnosis.

Create an Action Plan

Having a plan can help restore your sense of control, but keep it flexible because things may change over time. Start by making a list of everything you need to do; breaking each task up into small parts can make things less stressful. Next, prioritize the tasks on your list and accomplish them one by one. Try to avoid multitasking, and be sure to delegate tasks when possible.

Setting Professional Boundaries

Knowing your limitations is important as you balance your work and health needs; you don’t want to feel overwhelmed. Although it might feel difficult to decline certain requests, there are ways to say no in a professional and team-oriented way — e.g., “I appreciate that you thought of me for this project, but I’m a bit swamped this week and am concerned about my ability to get this back to you in a timely manner.”

A serious medical diagnosis can lead to a wide range of treatments, side effects, and recovery processes, so it’s important to weigh all those factors and make the right decisions for yourself. While it’s difficult to know all the variables that may come into play when you are facing health challenges at work, there are things you can think about, organize, and communicate to get the information, clarity, and assistance you need to thrive.

Rebecca V. Nellis is the executive director of Cancer and Careers.

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Get to Know Alexa — Before She Takes Your Job

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Alexa sits on my counter. Officially, the product itself (a “smart speaker”) is known as Amazon Echo. Echo connects to Alexa, a “cloud-based voice service,” according to Amazon. Amazon named her “Alexa” after the Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the most important libraries of the ancient world, a font of knowledge and information.

I originally bought Alexa as a toy, and to play music in my kitchen and living room. She connects with my Spotify and Apple Music accounts, has an excellent Bose speaker, and is fun to play with. I play Question of the Day and Jeopardy with her every day. We have her connected to our television so she can turn it on and off when we want and change the volume or the channels. We have her connected to our Nest thermostat so she can control the temperature of the house when we are not home (or even when we are home), and she can turn the lights on and off at our command.

As you can imagine, Alexa is far, far more than just a toy. In fact, she may one day steal your job.

Alexa is about to be a game changer. Amazon has sold more than 31 million of these cute little intelligent assistants. One in six Americans owns a smart speaker. With each day that passes, Alexa learns more and more skills. Her games are fun and entertaining, but they are not why Alexa is so popular. Alexa is popular because of her enormous potential — at home and in the office. She is going to make our lives easier by eliminating many of our time-consuming tasks.

Alexa Is Stealing Your JobAlexa is also an instance of artificial intelligence (AI), and many people are worried that AI will put them out of a job and render them unemployable sooner rather than later.

What Is AI?

AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines. Humans and animals have what is called “natural intelligence.” When a machine mimics natural cognitive functions such as thinking, problem-solving, learning, and understanding, it is considered to have “artificial intelligence” because it is the machine making the decisions and not a human behind the machine making the decisions.

For instance, my Alexa device can understand what I say to her. I don’t have to use a preset phrase to get her to respond. I can ask her, “What is the temperature outside?” and she will understand what that means. I can also use variations of that question, such as “Is it hot outside?” and she will understand them.

Prior to today’s AIs, we had to use very specific commands to get our computers to perform. The only way I could print a document was to use a preset command, Control + P. I couldn’t use any other sequence if I wanted the document to print. With my Alexa device, there are no set phrases I need to memorize to ensure her comprehension. She is able to interpret my words and questions.

AI can also think through complex situations, like how to play a game of chess — remember when Deep Blue became the first computer chess-playing system to beat reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997? — driving a car, military simulations, and more.

There are many people who believe that AI is the doomsday we have been fearing for centuries. In 2013, researchers at Oxford University predicted that 47 percent of jobs could be automated by 2033. In 2016, a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 9 percent of jobs in the 21 OECD countries evaluated were at high risk of being automated. In 2017, McKinsey & Company estimated 5 percent of jobs could be done entirely by computers.

For more expert workplace tech insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Naysayers claim that 800 million jobs will be eradicated by AI worldwide, thereby rendering much of the population unemployed and potentially unemployable. They claim our social systems will be exploited and AI will bankrupt our governments. Some go so far as to say that AI will eradicate humanity.

On the other hand, advocates of AI tell us we can look forward to lives of leisure while robots take care of the mundane and routine tasks that currently fill our days.

Those in the middle (myself included) recognize AI is just another step in our evolution. We have had two industrial revolutions already, as well as changes in transportation and the digital revolution (also considered the Third Industrial Revolution by some). Now, we may be facing the Fourth Industrial Revolution: AI.

Like the previous changes we’ve seen in history, AI may be disruptive in the short term, but if we are smart about what we do and how we do it, AI will not trigger humanity’s final countdown. We are evolving, just like we did 30 years ago with the digital revolution — but at a much faster pace.

Machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, and AI are having such a significant impact in what feels like a short period of time thanks to a combination of three powerful tech-driven events: the rapid digitization of the economy (we are creating trillions of gigabytes of data every year), the affordable cost of storing all that data, and an explosion in computing power. In simple terms, this all means we are creating an incredible amount of data daily, we can store it fairly cheaply, and computers have the ability to do things with that data much faster and more accurately than humans are capable of.

In light of all this, AI doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, I’m convinced it will be fantastic.

Excerpted with permission from the book Alexa is Stealing Your Job: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future by Rhonda Scharf. Morgan James Publishing (August 6, 2019).

Rhonda Scharf is an award-winning speaker, consultant, and author specializing in tech-driven people power. Learn more at On-The-Right-Track.com.

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More Than Experience or Education, Employers Want Candidates With Potential

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Recently, I interviewed a potential new hire for our tech department. This engineer wasn’t familiar with PHP, one of the primary languages used to build our company’s technology, but that wasn’t necessarily a concern.

Our chief technology officer, Michael Henderson, and I agree that the right candidate can always learn PHP on the job. There are more important things to consider: Is he a smart, curious developer hoping to grow his skills? Will he take a creative approach to solving problems? Will he fit in with our company culture?

When our team evaluates a candidate, we’re interested in their technical skills, but we’re also looking at the whole picture. If we only considered people who understood PHP, then we might not find the best person for the job.

As it turns out, we’re not alone. Based on a recent hiring survey conducted by TopResume, our resume-writing business, 45 percent of employers are placing their bets on a candidate’s potential, even ahead of their experience and education.

I wasn’t that surprised by these results. To a degree, it’s intuitive. For example, nearly every entry-level hire is based solely on a candidate’s potential. Even after an individual has gained relevant experience in a field, I’m interested in learning whether the person has taken steps to improve their skill set and, if so, how they’ve applied those skills to add value in their previous roles. In other words, I’m trying to gauge whether the candidate will be a high-potential employee at our company.

Why Potential Is Key

Potential, which is defined as demonstrating the capacity to become or develop into something in the future, is paramount. When a company is looking to hire someone, they want candidates who can apply what they’ve learned to help the company grow. Someone with high potential is a problem-solver who will bring value to the role.

Additionally, potential helps solve the war for talent and compensates for the lack of qualified candidates. Businesses may be located in areas where there aren’t many qualified individuals or, for certain jobs, hiring the most qualified candidates is too costly. Looking for candidates with high potential is a way to bridge that talent gap, allowing businesses to make hires when supply and demand are a bit out of sync.

How to Determine Potential

Through a candidate’s resume, interviews, and follow-ups, you can determine their potential. Whenever I interview someone, especially for a role they haven’t done before, I ask myself the following questions to determine their potential:

  1. Did they take the time to really research the position and our company?
  2. Do their questions reflect a genuine interest in the opportunity, and are they seeking clarity to determine if this is the right move for them?
  3. Can they draw a parallel between their previous experience and this job’s requirements?
  4. In previous jobs, did they take initiative to invest in their personal development, such as taking a course, because it opened up a new opportunity?
  5. Is this person a problem-solver?
  6. Will they fit in with the company culture?
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Experience and Personality Still Count

Our recent research confirms there’s still a lot of emphasis placed on a candidate’s experience and personality. Recruiters and hiring managers told us those two qualities rank just below potential when they assess a candidate.

Since the average corporate job listing receives about 250 applications, a person must demonstrate they have enough experience to do the job in order to stand out from the crowd. For most roles, it’s the experience demonstrated on a resume that opens up the first door, but it’s the potential revealed in the interview that lands the job. This is why it’s important to look at the candidate’s whole package before making a hiring decision.

I’ve always found personality to be another key ingredient in selecting the right candidate. You need to determine if the person is the right cultural fit for your business. Someone can have potential but not be the right match for your team. For example, a candidate may have tremendous potential, but their values might not line up with your company’s values. It’s important to consider how this person will impact the rest of your employees if hired.

Finding that Perfect Candidate

The first step to finding the right candidate is to review each resume and select those with relevant experience. During the interview process, consider the full scope of what makes a candidate a great hire, including the person’s desire and ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges at work.

This willingness to learn is described as a candidate’s “learning quotient” or “learnability quotient” (LQ). While measuring a candidate’s LQ is still a relatively new concept, many believe this practice will eventually become a standard part of the hiring process. It’s such an important component in determining a person’s potential that I recommend employers get ahead of the trend and begin to familiarize themselves with LQ now. Although there are a few standard LQ tests available online, you can develop your own ways to gauge a candidate’s LQ during the in-person interview without resorting to new tech.

Once you’ve narrowed down the candidates to your top choices, the final step is to select the person best suited for the position. This can be a challenge because every job is different, and there’s no one definition of an “A player.” What’s important for that role will determine who’s an A player for that job. As with the engineering job our company is looking to fill, the right candidate for any role will strike that balance between potential and experience.

That said, whenever I’m down to two candidates and everything else is equal, the person who is genuinely interested and wants the job is the person who lands the job. They have the most potential.

Jeff Berger is CEO and founder of Talent Inc.

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Hook, Line, and Sign ’em: How to Appeal to the Modern Workforce

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The modern workforce is dominated by millennials and Generation Z. While these two generations do have their differences, together they make up one population that has changed the world of work — and especially how we attract and retain talent.

In light of today’s tight labor market, and at the dictate of this modern workforce, workplace culture is a top priority that can make or break both the quality and quantity of your staff.

But how can companies give millennials and Gen. Z the culture they crave? The first step is understanding exactly what these job seekers are searching for and what can stop them from accepting a job offer.

What Today’s Job Seekers Want From You

In a nutshell, it is about the emotional paycheck more than anything else for millennials and Gen. Z-ers. Sure, they need salaries and benefits that support their living arrangements and lifestyle choices, but the money means close to nothing if the work doesn’t afford a sense of purpose.

According our most recent study here at Hibob, culture is extremely important to the modern workforce. When vetting a potential job opportunity, these job seekers scrutinize social media pages and company websites to determine what your culture might be like. Different types of posts can impact a job seeker’s perception of your workplace, which is why it’s crucial to share a variety of content. Images of team-building events and off-site activities, as well as celebratory posts highlighting employee accomplishments inside and outside of the office, can be especially potent. When it comes to showing off your company culture, the key is to prove to candidates that your company can offer them the opportunity to become a happy, healthy, long-term team member.

Our study also showed that 56 percent of employees rank opportunities for growth as more important than salary. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make mentorship programs and other upskilling opportunities a centerpiece of your employer branding.

Today’s job seekers also prioritize work/life balance, and it shows in their preferences. Our survey found 45 percent of employees cite the amount of vacation time offered as a key factor in their employment decisions, and 35 percent consider commute distance before accepting a job offer. Furthermore, 77 percent of millennials surveyed by Bentley University say flexible work arrangements would make them more productive.

For millennials and Gen. Z-ers, this is all a matter of convenience and compassion: They want employers that support work/life balance and set them up for success. That’s why, at Hibob, we’ve adjusted our work-from-home policies to make the commute easier for workers who do not live close to the office, and we recommend other companies do the same.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

What Deters Candidates From Accepting Your Job Offer

According to our survey, 69 percent of candidates will be wary of accepting a job offer if your employees do not seem happy in their roles. In other words: Overworked employees and high turnover are not just bad for current team members, but they can also drive away future talent.

But your culture doesn’t have to be totally toxic to make candidates reconsider. Our survey also found that 30 percent of candidates would be hesitant about a job if the company culture was simply boring.

Think about it: If you were interviewing at a company and the office vibe was dull or negative, would you feel enticed to join that team? Probably not.

Unscrupulous organizations may try to hide problems with their workplace cultures, but today’s job seekers are savvy. These digital natives will look into your current team and dig up dirt about what’s going on behind the scenes. In fact, 29 percent of candidates will contact current employees to get their firsthand impressions of the office experience.

To appeal to today’s candidates, companies should be taking active steps to build and showcase positive, powerful cultures. If your culture needs a tune-up, start at the very beginning and revamp your onboarding process. According to previous research we’ve conducted at Hibob, 64 percent of new hires are less likely to stay at a job after a negative onboarding experience. If you welcome new hires in an exciting way, you’ll be taking a major first step in retaining them for the long haul.

You may even want to reach back before the onboarding process and start with preboarding, that period of time between the formal acceptance of a job offer and the new hire’s first day on the job. Grant your new hires access to internal social networks and encourage them to start interacting with their new coworkers. This speeds up integration, instills enthusiasm, and gives them a taste of your company’s inner workings.

Dana Matalon Goren is CCO at Hibob.

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5 Effective Ways to Keep Your Team Happy

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Work is a big part of our lives. In fact, many of us probably see our colleagues more than we see our own families over the course of an average week.

It makes sense, then, that employees want to feel respected in the workplace and to truly enjoy their jobs. If you’re going to spend so much time at the office, you might as well be happy while you’re at it.

But employee happiness isn’t just a matter of your workers’ personal attitudes — it’s also a boost to your business. Research shows that happy employees can be as much as 20 percent more productive than unhappy employees. After all, a happy team is a committed, engaged team.

From a recruiting perspective, employee retention is incredibly important, and retention rates often depend on employee happiness. Unhappiness is a major factor in early exits. Given that one study puts the cost of employee replacement at around £30,000 (or about $37,000) per head, cultivating employee happiness may be key to getting the highest ROI from your hires.

But how do you keep employees happy? Competitive pay and benefits are, of course, contributing factors, but they are not the whole story. Here are five other things you can do to keep your team happy — and reap the benefits of higher productivity, more loyalty, and lower recruitment costs:

1. Empower Employees

Great leaders empower their teams. When employees have the tools, resources, and support they need, they can get more done. Empowered employees are also happier employees. When workers feel that leaders trust them to carry out their responsibilities, they feel more competent and more motivated to complete their tasks.

You should also show your team members that you value their opinions by allowing them to speak up and make changes. Employees will feel more respected when they have the chance to offer feedback on important projects and company initiatives. When employees see that you appreciate their efforts and insights, they’ll be happier about coming to work every day.

2. Be Flexible

While many of us are accustomed to the traditional 9-5 workday, advances in technology have made forcing every single member of your staff to adhere to the same time frame obsolete.

That’s a good thing, especially from the perspective of employee happiness. When you offer employees more flexible work options — like telecommuting opportunities, compressed workweeks, and flexible scheduling — you allow them to attain a better work/life balance. Your staff members no longer need to give up so much time to long commutes, and their external commitments no longer have to compete with workplace responsibilities.

Furthermore, extending flexibility shows workers you trust them. Employees will be highly appreciative of this, and in return, they’ll give their maximum effort to meet your expectations.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Provide Learning Opportunities

An important quote to keep in mind is Richard Branson’s: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Most of your employees want to improve their professional skills and progress in their careers. Instead of leaving your employees to seek growth opportunities with your competitors, offer them in-house training and education. Your employees will feel valued because you are investing in them, and your business will benefit from their new skills.

Your employees will likely have a variety of interests, so consider providing a range of training opportunities. For example, you could offer both courses on specific practical skills — such as how to use Adobe InDesign — and courses on bigger topics, such as mental health in the workplace.

4. Create Career Development Plans

Hand in hand with learning opportunities, your employees also want clear career prospects. Even if you invest in employee development, your staff members may leave if there is no room for them to climb the corporate ladder at your company.

To support your employees’ career journeys, work with them to create individual career development plans. In addition to identifying areas where employees can refine and expand their skill sets, these career development plans should clearly show employees what they can expect to achieve in the business if they are committed. When employees have transparency into how raises and promotions work, they’ll be more empowered to build the careers they want in your company. As a result, you can expect a happier and more productive work environment.

5. Praise Great Work

No matter how experienced your team members are or how long they’ve been at your company, recognition and reward can be powerful tools for keeping them happy.

Don’t be stingy about it. There’s no limit on how often you can recognize great work, so whenever you spot anything worth praising, say something! For best results, add some detail. For example, instead of “Great job!” you could say, “I’ve looked over that report you put together yesterday and it looks great. Thanks for your hard work.” When praise is tied to something specific, it makes the recipient feel even more appreciated.

Employee happiness is a major factor in company productivity and retention, and the good news is keeping your people happy doesn’t have to be hard. With open communication and a genuine desire to build up every member of the team, you can transform your office into a happy, inspiring place.

Rajesh Velayuthasamy is director of Mint Formations.

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Distractions Are Your Enemy: 5 Tips to Win at Working Remotely

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Remote work seems to be all the rage, with some 70 percent of professionals working from home at least once a week. Similarly, 77 percent of people report working more productively when they work from home, and 68 percent of millennials say they would consider a company more favorably if it offered remote work options.

It seems to make sense: Technology, connectivity, and culture are setting the world up more and more for remote work. Oh, and home-brewed coffee is better than ever, too.

But here’s the stark truth: Remote work is not a panacea. Sure, it seems like hanging around at home in your jimjams, listening to your antisocial music, and sipping on buckets of coffee would be perfect, but it isn’t for everyone.

Some people need the structure of an office. Some people need the social element of an office. Some people need to get out the house. Some people lack the discipline to stay focused at home. Some people are avoiding the government knocking on their doors due to years of unpaid back taxes.

Remote work is like a muscle: It can bring enormous strength and capabilities if you train and maintain it. If you don’t, your results are going to vary.

I have worked from home for the vast majority of my career. I love it. I am more productive, happier, and more empowered when I work from home. I don’t dislike working in an office, and I enjoy the social element, but I am more in my zone when I work from home. I also love blisteringly heavy metal, which can pose a problem when the office doesn’t want to listen to After The Burial.

I have learned how I need to manage remote work, using the right balance of work routine, travel, and other elements. Here are five of my recommendations:

1. You Need Discipline and Routine (and to Understand Your ‘Waves’)

Remote work really is a muscle that needs to be trained. Just like building actual muscle, you need a clear routine and a healthy dollop of discipline.

Always get dressed (no jimjams). Set your start and end time for the day (I work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days). Choose your lunch break (mine is 12 p.m.). Set your morning ritual (mine is email followed by a full review of my client needs). Decide where your main workplace will be (mine is my home office). Decide when you will exercise each day (I do it at 5 p.m. most days).

Design a realistic routine and stick to it for 66 days. It takes this long to build a habit. Try not to deviate from the routine. The more you stick to the routine, the less work it will be to keep sticking to it further down the line. By the end of the 66 days, it will feel natural.

Here’s the deal, though: We don’t live in a vacuum (cleaner, or otherwise). We all have “waves.”

A wave is when you need a change of routine to mix things up. For example, in the summer I generally want more sunlight, so I will often work outside in the garden. Near the holidays I get more distracted, so I need more structure in my day. Sometimes I just need more human contact, so I will work from coffee shops for a few weeks. Sometimes I just fancy working in the kitchen or on the couch. You need to learn your waves and listen to your body. Build your habit first, and then modify it as you learn your waves.

2. Set Expectations With Your Managers and Colleagues

Not everyone knows how to do remote work, and if your company is less familiar with it, you especially need to set expectations with colleagues. This can be pretty simple: When you have designed your routine, communicate it clearly to your managers and team. Let them know how they can get hold of you, how to contact you in an emergency, and how you will be collaborating while at home.

The communication component here is critical. There are some remote workers who are scared to leave their computers for fear that someone will send them a message while they are away. They are worried people may think they are just eating Cheetos and watching Netflix.

You need time away. You need to eat lunch without one eye on your computer. You are not a 911 emergency responder. Set expectations that sometimes you may not be immediately responsive, but you will get back to people as soon as possible.

Similarly, set expectations for your general availability. For example, I set expectations with clients that I generally work 9-6 every day. If a client needs something urgently, I am more than happy to respond outside of those hours, but as a general rule, I am usually working between those hours. This is necessary for a balanced life.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Distractions Are Your Enemy, and They Need Managing

We all get distracted. It is human nature. It could be your young kid getting home and wanting to play Rescue Bots. It could be checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to ensure you don’t miss any unwanted political opinions or photos of people’s lunches. It could be that there is something else going on your life that is taking your attention (such as an upcoming wedding, event, or big trip.)

You need to learn what distracts you and how to manage it. For example, I know I get distracted by my email and Twitter. I check these things religiously, and every check gets me out of the zone of what I am working on. I also get distracted by grabbing coffee and water, which may turn into a snack and a YouTube video.

The digital distractions have a simple solution: Lock them out. Close down the tabs until you complete what you are doing. I do this all the time with big chunks of work: I lock out the distractions until I am done. It requires discipline, but all of this does.

The human elements are tougher. If you have a family, you need to make it clear that when you are working, you need to be left alone. This is why a home office is so important: You need to set boundaries that mum or dad is working. Come in if there is emergency, but otherwise, they need to be left alone.

There are all kinds of opportunities for locking distractions out. Put your phone on silent. Move to a different room (or building) where the distraction doesn’t exist. Again, be honest about what distracts you and how to manage it. If you don’t, you will always be at your distractions’ mercy.

4. Relationships Need In-Person Attention

Some roles are more attuned to remote work than others. For example, I have seen great work from engineering, quality assurance, support, security, and other teams typically more focused on digital collaboration. Other teams like design or marketing often struggle more in remote environments, as they are often more tactile.

With any team though, strong relationships are critical, and in-person discussion, collaboration, and socializing are essential to this. So many of our senses (such as body language) are removed in a digital environment, and these play a key role in how we build trust and relationships.

Relationship-building is especially important if you are new to a company, are new to a role, or are in a leadership position where building buy-in and engagement is a key part of your job.

The solution? A sensible mix of remote and in-person time. If your company is nearby, work from home part of the week and at the office part of the week. If your company is farther away, schedule regular trips to the office (and set expectations with your management that you need this). For example, when I worked at XPRIZE, I flew to LA every few weeks for a few days. When I worked at Canonical (based in London), we had sprints every three months.

5. Stay Focused, But Cut Yourself Some Slack

The crux of everything in this article is building a capability and developing a remote-work muscle. Doing so is as simple as building a routine, sticking to it, and having an honest view of your waves and distractions.

I see the world in a fairly specific way: Everything we do has the opportunity to be refined and improved. For example, I have been a public speaker now for more than 15 years, but I am always discovering new ways to improve and new mistakes to fix.

There is a thrill in the discovery of new ways to get better, of seeing every stumbling block and mistake as an aha moment to kick ass in new and different ways. It is no different with remote work: Look for patterns that help you unlock the ways in which you can make your remote-work time more efficient, more comfortable, and more fun.

But don’t go crazy over it. There are some people who obsesses every minute of their day about how to get better. They beat themselves up constantly for “not doing well enough,” “not getting more done,” and not meeting their unrealistic views of perfection.

We are humans. We are animals, and we are not robots. Always strive to improve, but be realistic that not everything will be perfect. You are going to have some off days or off weeks. You are going to struggle at times with stress and burnout. You are going to handle a situation poorly while working remotely that would have been easier to navigate in the office. Learn from these moments, but don’t obsess over them. Life is too damn short.

Jono Bacon is the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting and the author of People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Team. Connect with Jono on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

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3 Key Ways to Rethink Employee Retention

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We’re in an employee-focused market. Steady job growth and record-low unemployment rates have empowered the best talent to leverage the best opportunities at their disposal. This might spell bad news for their employers, as a McKinsey report notes that only 23 percent of managers and senior executives believe their current recruiting and retention strategies are effective. The pressure is on for companies to retain top talent, but many don’t seem to have the right tools for the job.

Business leaders can’t expect to completely stop the outflow of talent under these conditions. The competition is simply too intense. But considering that the replacement cost for an employee earning $45,000 a year can be as much as $15,000, businesses also can’t just keep going through the motions.

While you can’t shield team members from attractive opportunities and savvy recruiters, you can fortify the retention framework that keeps your workforce happy. If you do, fewer of your top employees will be running for the exit.

Here are three strategies you can use to ensure you’re doing all you can to retain your best talent:

1. Cultivate a Culture Based on Core Values

A retention strategy that establishes employee loyalty and marks your business as a desirable employer starts with your company’s foundational culture.

In general, company cultures arise in one of two basic ways. Some companies aimlessly adopt some semblance of a culture based on the collected but ill-defined experiences of current team members. Other companies take decisive steps to nurture core values and goals that align with the overall vision of the company.

Both are ways to develop a culture, but only one sets a business up to successfully revamp its retention strategy. When you intentionally establish core values and actively encourage teams to embody them in their day-to-day activities, you turn those core values into a sort of occupational muscle memory as opposed to a forced workflow.

For example, the core values that we live and breathe at SecurityScorecard — and which we highlight every week at our Monday morning all-hands meetings — are our “S(CORE) values.” This stands for making sure your workday is solutions-focused and customer-centric; it highlights that we are all “one Scorecard,” that we must strive to be resilient, and that we embody security in our company DNA.

These general but fundamental building blocks are necessary to get the entire workforce on the same page. Companies that adopt clearly defined ideals show employees they are more than just space-fillers at a desk with dollar signs attached. When it comes to fighting staff turnover, the differentiator lies in the first crucial step of putting the time and energy into building a culture that is inclusive and desirable.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

2. Enhance Your Employee Recognition Efforts

Companies revamping their retention programs must think beyond what employees do and account for how they do it. The next step from establishing a constructive and healthy company culture is rewarding those who operate within it.

This concept isn’t anything new, and 81 percent of companies already have formal recognition programs in place. The real difference lies in bringing education and enrichment — professionally and personally — into the recognition framework.

That means establishing legitimate leadership and peer programs to reward a range of employees. For instance, we’re rolling out a high-potential leadership program that highlights leaders in the organization to specifically nurture and assist them in their career development through assessments and one-on-one sessions with an executive coach. Such top-level programs can be supplemented by more casual and fun peer-nominated recognition, like an “ABCD” award to showcase team members who have gone “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.”

The second, and perhaps most important, part of employee recognition is establishing a robust internal promotion practice. When you allow employees to quickly move up the company ladder through an achievable set of steps, you empower them. They have a clear potential career plan in front of them, and they can follow it without having to jump ship.

3. Offer a Unique Career Opportunity Tied to the Company’s Mission

From a code geek’s perspective, our company is about making sure that everyone is speaking the language of cybersecurity. From a higher perspective, we are all here to help make the world a safer place. Our people really hold onto that mission because it’s personal; they feel part of something bigger. Other companies worried about retention should instill such a higher calling in their employees as well.

In a niche market like cybersecurity, people are attracted to the opportunity to create new technology in a space that didn’t exist a decade ago. It’s a very different experience than simply trying to gain market share in a crowded space. As a result, workers have a unique opportunity to make an impact. For example, when a worker sees some of their code put into motion and making a difference within a month, it pushes them to strive for the next level.

The takeaway here is this: Encourage participation in the company’s bigger mission and tie talent’s experiences to the bigger picture. Your employees will be more invested in the work they do — and less likely to go searching for meaningful work elsewhere.

Trent Blanchard is vice president of people operations at SecurityScorecard.

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Gendered Language Is Tricky to Define — and It Could Be Costing You Candidates

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It has long been accepted in HR and recruiting circles that language matters. From the words you use to describe a company’s culture to the specific titles you give your roles, the way you say something can have a bigger impact on talent attraction and retention than the substance of what you’re saying.

A new report from LinkedIn, “Language Matters: How Words Impact Men and Women in the Workplace,” digs deeper into this phenomenon, with a specific focus on gendered language at work. With help from Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, the report takes a close look at how men and women present themselves on LinkedIn and in the workplace.

We’re Not So Different After All …

One of the most interesting findings of LinkedIn’s study is that there is actually significant overlap between how men and women view themselves professionally.

For example, men and women are both prone to using the same three words and phrases to describe themselves during job interviews: “hard-working” (used by 58 percent of women and 49 percent of men), “good at my job” (48 percent of women and 42 percent of men), and “confident” (42 percent of women and 40 percent of men).

Another thing men and women share: a respect for soft skills. But here the differences begin to show up: 61 percent of women associate soft skills with the female gender, while 52 percent of men associate them with the male gender.

… But We Don’t Use the Exact Same Language in the Same Ways

Diverging gender associations around soft skills are only the beginning. To backtrack to the matter of job-interview descriptors, for example, women are far more likely to describe themselves in terms of their character, using words such as “likable” and “supportive” with greater frequency than their male counterparts.

“Our data also shows that while both genders are keen to represent themselves as ‘team players’ on their LinkedIn profiles, men tend to focus more on their technical skills, whereas women are more likely to make greater reference to their education and personal attributes,” explains Sarah O’Brien, senior director of global insights at LinkedIn.

Where do these differing vocabularies come from? Media representation may be one of the key forces at work here. According to LinkedIn’s report, while both men and women find descriptors like “powerful,” “strong-willed,” and “confident” to be positive, media reports describe Mark Zuckerberg as “powerful” nearly six times as often as they use the word for Sheryl Sandberg.

“The language used in media influences society,” O’Brien says. “Nuances in language can enforce and create social norms and even perpetuate bias. An awareness of these assumptions in the media offers an opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers to look inward to better understand how their own assumptions could be impacting the way they find and hire candidates.”

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Cultivating an Awareness of Gendered Language

Perhaps owing to its murky provenance, gendered language can be challenging to combat because it is so hard to define. As of now, no one has developed a strict criteria for reliably predicting the gender associations of a given word — but that doesn’t make gendered language any less real.

“While there’s no hard and fast rule to determine how different genders perceive language use, our research has found that using certain language in job descriptions can significantly reduce the number of female applicants your company receives,” O’Brien says. “For example, we found that 44 percent of women (vs. 33 percent of men) would be discouraged from applying if the word ‘aggressive’ was included in a job description, and one in four women would be discouraged from working somewhere described as ‘demanding.’”

This puts recruiting professionals in a bit of a bind. One the one hand, using gendered language needlessly limits your reach in the talent market. On the other hand, unconscious biases like gendered language are, well, unconscious. It is doubly difficult to be aware of a bias when its definition is also hazy.

Part of the solution may be standardization. As O’Brien points out, men and women may have different perceptions of soft skills, but using a standard set of interview questions to gauge the soft skills of all applicants, regardless of gender, can make comparisons between candidates much more accurate. O’Brien also notes the power of description: The more in-depth your describe the kinds of candidates you’re looking for in your job ads and other employer branding materials, the less likely you will be to emphasize one gender over another.

O’Brien points to the findings of another LinkedIn report, according to which recruiters are 13 percent less likely to click on a woman’s LinkedIn profile while searching for talent. But when recruiters did click on women’s profiles, they generally determined male and female candidates to be qualified at similar rates.

“Cultivating awareness of this tendency can provide opportunities to spot promising candidates who have the skills you need, but may not be sharing them as prominently,” she adds. “You can make it a best practice to look beyond the candidate’s headline to get to know the person behind the profile.”

While concrete actions like the ones outlined above will go a long way toward mitigating unconscious gender bias in recruiting, the problem can’t ever be fully eradicated without frank, meaningful discussion of the matter.

“With the ‘Language Matters’ report, we hope to spark a dialogue that would, at a minimum, encourage hiring managers to take a closer look at the kinds of words they’re using in their job descriptions and talent branding materials,” O’Brien says. “The intent of the report is to encourage companies, recruiters, and even job seekers to consider how gender can impact the candidate journey. The goal is to foster balance and galvanize talent teams to implement strategies to attract more gender-balanced candidates.”

[Ed. note: As LinkedIn points out in its report, “Gender identity isn’t binary.” While LinkedIn recognizes this fact, the company’s gender data “is inferred on the basis of first name and currently does not account for other gender identities.” LinkedIn says it looks forward to “sharing more inclusive gender data” as more and more of its members choose to self-report their gender identities.]

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Why Not Both? The False Dilemma of Hiring for Culture Fit Vs. Hiring for Skill Set

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Should you hire for culture fit, or should you hire for skill set? It is an ongoing debate in the recruiting space, and both sides have advantages and disadvantages.

If you hire for skill set, you’re guaranteed to get an employee who can do the job. However, even if a candidate has the ideal skill set, they can be a detriment to the function of both the team and the business if they don’t fit the company culture.

On the other hand, if you recruit for culture fit, your new hire will fit in with their team and get along well with their colleagues. However, their skills may not be up to snuff, and they may struggle with the responsibilities of their job.

So, why not hire for both? Culture fit and skill set are both vital to a new hire’s success in their own ways. Instead of prioritizing one over the other, HR pros should be taking both sets of criteria seriously.

Hiring for Skill Set

Some hiring managers assess candidates based on skill set alone without giving much thought to a prospective hire’s cultural fit. It’s easy to understand why: Skill sets can be much easier to define, identify, and analyze than culture fit. On average, it only takes recruiters about six seconds to scan a resume — because that’s all you need to determine whether or not a candidate has the right skills.

Many hiring managers find it tempting to employ someone who has the skill set to hit the ground running because doing so means the organization will have to spend less time and money on training the new hire. Instead, the new employee can start delivering value to the company right away.

However, there is a downside to this approach. The new hire may have all the highly valuable skills you need, but if they don’t fit with the culture, their presence can be destructive to your team. A lousy culture fit can affect overall morale, causing conflicts with other team members. They may even spread their toxicity to their colleagues. While you can train an individual to develop new skills, you can’t alter someone’s attitude to coincide with your organization.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Hiring for Culture Fit

While a new hire who has excellent skills requires less on-the-job training, cultural fit is of the utmost importance when it comes to developing successful teams. That said, it’s crucial to understand hiring for culture fit doesn’t mean hiring individuals who look, act, and think like everyone else in your company. Instead, it means finding someone who shares your company’s values and exhibits the essential characteristics that will serve your organization’s mission.

A good culture-fit hire is compatible with other members of their team, but that doesn’t mean they are the same as those teams members. The best culture-fit hires are those who can bring new, diverse perspectives to your company, and your organization can leverage their unique insights for increased innovation.

Another benefit of hiring for culture fit is that employees who fit show higher job satisfaction and, as a result, tend to stay with an organization for longer. Employees who remain with your business become more loyal to your company and stick with you for the long run, helping you save time, money, and additional resources that you won’t have to spend on sourcing new candidates to fill their positions.

Often, if you can’t find someone who is both a skills and culture fit, it’s best to prioritize culture. However, your culture-fit candidate will have to be trained for skills before they can start delivering their full value, and that training will cost time and money.

Hiring for Both

The ideal situation is not hiring for skills or culture fit, but hiring for both at the same time. Previously, this was quite difficult to do — which could be why the debate began in the first place. However, thanks to advances in technology, it’s much easier for companies to accomplish this today.

In particular, organizations that want to hire for both culture fit and skill set should implement psychometric assessments in their hiring processes. With the right psychometric assessments, employers can gain an in-depth understanding of a candidate’s behavioral traits and skills simultaneously. When you have access to all that information, you no longer have to choose skills over culture fit or vice versa. You can choose both.

If you want an innovative organization, it’s time to do away with the standard, two-dimensional hiring process. Instead, hire candidates who bring both cultural contributions and adaptable skill sets to your team. You really can have it all.

Samar Birwadker is CEO and cofounder of Good&Co.

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Insecurity, Introversion, and 13 Other Unexpected Traits of Excellent Leaders

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Article by YEC

A leader is someone who, through their personality and skills, inspires others to be the best versions of themselves. While leaders may display different types of leadership styles, they all hope to achieve the same goal: motivating the team they lead to be better and to do better.

But what makes an excellent leader? To some, leadership comes naturally from an innate ability to take control of a situation and seek the best possible outcome for all parties involved. For others, it’s a special talent nurtured actively every day.

To learn more about the skills and abilities that make a great leader, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council to share their thoughts on the traits excellent leaders possess. Here’s what they said:

1. Relatability

I have always found the best leaders to be those who know how to relate to everyone. Being able to connect with everyone in the room on some level is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s important because if people feel like they can relate to their leader, they will stick with them through thick and thin.

– Colbey Pfund, LFNT Distribution

2. Maturity

While being genuine, ethical, and charismatic are all great traits for a leader, the one trait the often goes overlooked is maturity. Making informed and enlightened decisions, giving advice that empowers others, and refusing to let emotions rule you are all signs of a mature leader. Maturity is a way of building trust. It comes not with age, but with mindfulness.

– Joey Kercher, Air Fresh Marketing

3. Resilience

The ability to bounce back from tough situations is ideal for a leader because it provides the confidence and security the team may need to keep going. Being resilient also means coming up with new solutions to difficult problems, which can encourage the team to do the same.

– Serenity Gibbons, NAACP

4. Accountability

A great leader knows how and when to take accountability for their team. Ideally, team members are accountable for what they are doing individually, but if a leader steps up and shares in that accountability when things maybe didn’t go so well, it helps the team improve for next time.

– Michael Averto, ChannelApe

5. Thirst for Knowledge

As a manager or owner, it’s vital that you continue learning about your industry. The desire to learn can give you an advantage when growing your company and managing your staff.

– Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Adaptability

Being able to handle change well makes any leader more efficient. I don’t really care if someone can handle something they have already tackled before; I care if they can handle something they have never experienced before.

– James Guldan, Vision Tech Team

7. Insecurity

Although it may sound paradoxical, insecurity is an essential leadership trait. While it’s important for a leader to make decisions and stand by them, it’s also important for a leader to second- or even third-guess their decisions when necessary. A level of insecurity allows a leader to give each decision the rigorous vetting it needs, and it encourages them to consult other team members before pulling the trigger.

– Bryce Welker, Beat The CPA

8. Humility

Letting success get to your head is unattractive in a leader, whose attitude will rub off on their team. Being humble is vital to staying down to earth and being pleasurable company. When you recognize that everyone on your team is just as valuable to the company’s success as you are, you’ll encourage productivity and reap the benefits.

– Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

9. Simplicity

Simplicity helps you connect with your team at all levels. If you are overly complicated, sophisticated, or fancy, you might not work well with the team. I like to be simple yet highly visionary and approachable. It really works for my small team, as they can understand me easily and stay connected.

– Piyush Jain, SIMpalm

10. Helpfulness

Ask your team where you can help. Some leaders do not want to get their hands dirty or do the hard work, which can create resentment. When you are willing to roll up your sleeves, you set an example of collaboration and initiative that fosters both trust and engagement.

– Jessica Gibson, Ariel Precision Medicine

11. Sense of Humor

Having a sense of humor helps you get through difficult situations and stressful times. It also helps build rapport and trust with your team, who see you for who you are instead of as an imposing boss. In everything from presentations to staff meetings, I use humor to put everyone at ease and create common ground.

– John Rampton, Calendar

12. Introversion

Contrary to common misconception, introverts make very good leaders. They are reasonable and persistent, and their ability to carefully analyze every situation can produce incredible results. Also, introverts would rather listen than talk, which means they take into consideration various points of view and put more time into critical thinking.

– Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

13. Positivity

Many say they would prefer to be realistic, but practicing positivity is good for business. If you’re a negative leader, your negativity can spread throughout your company like wildfire. Good leaders radiate positivity and build their team members up instead of tearing them down.

– Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

14. Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic leaders are great because they encourage a positive attitude, and that kind of behavior is contagious. Good energy puts everyone in a good mood so they’re prepared to work efficiently.

– Jared Atchison, WPForms

15. Stability

To be a good leader requires a combination of good traits; no one trait is enough on its own. However, above all else, I believe a leader should have stability in both emotion and passion. When the company encounters difficulties, the leader is the one the crowd looks to for guidance. Being stable does not mean being stubborn. Being stable means that the leader, who is the foundation of the company, is calm in any storm.

– Yifei Yin, Human Heritage Project

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Master the art of closing deals and making placements. Take our Recruiter Certification Program today. We’re SHRM certified. Learn at your own pace during this 12-week program. Access over 20 courses. Great for those who want to break into recruiting, or recruiters who want to further their career.
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