Research Careers Blog

7 ways to welcome new employees

Editor’s note: Jen Lawrence is the author of Engage the fox: a business fable about thinking critically and motivating your team, Toronto.

Joining a new company is a high-stress time for most people. A new company has its own set of rules, a distinct corporate culture and a unique cast of characters. According to PwC Saratoga’s Human Capital Effectiveness Report 2013/2014, 22 percent of hires, or one in five employees, leave within their first year. Successfully welcoming a new hire increases retention rates and can go a long way toward building employee engagement. Here are seven ways that a company can successfully bring a new hire on board.

1. If you’re happy and you know it, tell the new guy. Often a new hire has been recruited from a good job where she was recognized for her contribution and had a certain degree of job security. Changing jobs feels scary, particularly if there is a probationary period. New employees want assurance that you recognize their talent and are excited to have them on board. Let them know that you are keen to see how they can shape the future organization. How great would it be if your new hire received a welcoming email from your CEO: Welcome Mr. X, At Company Z we pride ourselves on being the number one distributor of mismatched socks in the world. I have set some aggressive growth targets this year and am thrilled to hear that we hired you, the number one seller of mismatched mittens in the Pacific Northwest … Everyone likes to feel valued.

2. Connect the dots. Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger: it’s a key contributor to job satisfaction. It’s up to you to make the connection between your employee’s skills and the goals of the organization. A new employee orientation session – whether formal or informal — is an opportunity to link the company’s mission, vision and goals to the skills and experiences of the new hire: Here at Company Z, we pride ourselves on building deep relationships with our customers. We were very impressed with how you nurtured the relationship with The Mitten Store and created an exclusive mismatched mitten holiday line for them. That’s exactly the kind of relationship building we value here. Now let’s talk about what we can do together …

3. Assign a relevant project right away. One of the key stresses of a new job is the employee does not feel like she knows what she is doing. One of the best things a company can do is to give the new employee a project that plays to her strengths and builds her sense of competence. Allowing a new employee to achieve some results right away will also help her build credibility with clients and colleagues. You might send Ms. X out on some mismatched socks sales calls with her new boss, the VP of sock sales, so she can start to foster some relationships in the sock world right away. Set up your new hire for success.

4. Given the new employee an exit strategy – literally. On my first day at a big firm, someone explained to me how to use my card key to get into the office. They did not, however, explain to me how to get out of the office. At the end of the day, I pushed, pulled, waved my arms, and flipped every switch I could see trying to unlock the heavy glass door. Finally one of the senior partners came down the hall, asked what I was doing, pressed a small button near the fire alarm that unlocked the door, and gave me the “I work with idiots” sigh. Tell your new hire where the bathroom is, any critical policies and procedures and any other key things she should know (you must never, ever wear matching socks.) New employees are on a steep learning curve and don’t need to feel dumb about the obvious stuff.

5. Appoint a new employee ambassador. Often HR or a hiring manager will appoint someone to show a new employee the ropes. It is important that this person have both the time and the inclination to take on the task. Don’t ask the person passed over for a promotion to welcome his new team leader unless you don’t mind him taking an approach à la The Office’s Dwight Schrute: “Hazing is a fun Appoint a mentor. way to show a new employee that she is not welcome or liked.” Pick a corporate cheerleader who will make the new hire feel at home.

6. Appoint a mentor. A mentor can help a new employee reduce the task stress associated with performing new skills and duties (let me show you how the CRM system is used in the sock world), and the relationship stress associated with having a new manager, colleagues and customers (you have three tough clients: let’s go over the relationship history.) A good mentor can help a new employee integrate into a company as quickly as possible and start to focus on results.

7. Don’t be pound foolish. The hiring process costs an average of $5000 per employee in terms of interview time, training and administrative costs. When a new hire does not work out, the associated cost of legal fees, time and lost productivity can cost anywhere from one-third to five times the employee’s annual salary. The above steps are not free but spending some time and money to prepare the new employee for success is much easier than dealing with a wrongful hiring situation.

Making an employee feel valued, competent and part of something great will go a long way toward making that person feel he has made a great career move. The quicker an employee feels this way, the faster he will feel engaged and be able to contribute to your organization.

Posted in Employment Tips, Employment Trends, For Employers | Comment

Work drama? It’s time for a constructive confrontation

Editor’s note: Tomás Garza is a conflict resolution and personal development expert at The Garza Initiative, Ore. 

To successfully navigate workplace conflict, managers must be able to confront team members in a positive, productive manner. Whatever the situation, whether two people are actively quarreling or whether one person’s behavior is impacting the entire work culture, a manager must be able to step in, take charge and do so in a way that does not contribute to the drama.

How, then, do you constructively confront team members? How do you both get your team disagreementpoint across and preserve team chemistry?

For any manager, these conversations can be crucial. Ongoing conflict and drama can, of course, have a ripple effect on everyone, and the last thing any organization needs is a dip in morale. Assuming this is not a situation that calls for firing, there is a great deal a manager can do to help resolve the problem, be firm and preserve group harmony.

In having these conversations, here are three things to keep in mind:

1) Use non-accusatory language

For many of us, it is tempting to place blame and pin an entire problem directly on someone else. After all, aren’t they the ones causing the disturbance in the first place? A constructive solution, despite our first impressions, involves shelving the urge to blame and taking a step back.

How you phrase things here makes all the difference. You can make the conversation productive by focusing the language on you. For example, you can say, “I notice you missed the last two staff meetings,” or “The other day I overheard your comments about the director.” The alternative would look like this: “You missed the last two staff meetings,” or “You made those comments about the director.” One statement talks about your observations, what you saw, noticed or heard. The other puts everything squarely on them.

This may seem subtle, just a matter of semantics, but in constructive confrontation your word choice matters. When you talk about your observations, people naturally feel less defensive. When people do not have their guard up, you will be able to get more accomplished.

2) Be clear

As a manager attempting to put a stop to harmful behavior, you must be clear in this conversation. Your group cannot afford any mixed messages. Therefore, be as clear as you can about the following:

  • What you heard or saw

Make sure there are no ambiguities here. If you didn’t experience any of the events first-hand, be sure you have gathered sufficient information. The person you are talking to needs to know exactly what it is they are doing that is damaging your group chemistry.

  • How this impacts the group

Be very clear on this. Often, people do not intend any sabotage but their behavior may, nonetheless, have a detrimental impact. It is perfectly fine to be direct about this impact; often the person really needs to hear it.

  • Your expectations

If you don’t clearly state your expectations for future behavior, this conversation will be a waste of your time. Unclear expectations create needless confusion and can lead to future problems. As a manager, you must say what you expect. Luckily, this can be done in a non-accusatory manner that strengthens the group rather than pulls it apart.

3) Listen

A conversation – even one you must have with an employee about their behavior – is just that, a conversation. This means it involves two people. Though you will need to come into the dialogue with an agenda and get your point across, the process will be infinitely more productive if you give the other person a chance to speak and, more importantly, to be heard. This means you must take the opportunity to listen.

When the other person speaks and feels you have heard them, their tension level goes down. Defensive posturing that might otherwise stand in your way will disappear. The person may even feel grateful for your hearing them out, and appreciated. This can be crucial to maintaining group harmony. Provided you take the opportunity to clearly state your expectations, there is absolutely nothing to lose in taking a moment and listening.

Also, if you listen attentively enough, the other person may offer suggestions or solutions you hadn’t considered. You will never know unless they get an opportunity to speak, too.

Consider these three suggestions the next time you have to confront somebody in the workplace. In most situations, you can preserve group harmony, show respect and appreciation for the other person and be sure you have clearly stated your expectations. It is indeed possible to become a pro at constructive confrontation. Do this and your organization will benefit.

Posted in Employment Tips, For Employers | Comment

Market research makes the list of top 10 most underrated jobs

Hey researchers, think your job is underrated? Well now you’ve got proof! Many highly sought-after, fast-paced careers are overrated, according to a new CareerCast report on the top 10 most overrated and underrated jobs. Advertising account executives, senior corporate executives and public relations managers might have high appeal but difficulty breaking in to the profession, high stress levels and poor prospects are among the reasons these jobs made it on the overrated

The report suggests that individuals seeking great opportunities and high growth potential should consider the most underrated jobs. Market research analysts made the underrated list with an average annual salary of $60,300 and a projected hiring outlook of 32 percent – the highest projected hiring outlook in the underrated category.

On top of making (on average) more than overrated careers such as event coordinators and having a better job outlook than a career as a surgeon, traits such as the opportunity to make a difference and low stress levels make this underrated field more fulfilling in the long run.

Market researchers have long felt the pressure of being the underdog, but being listed as one of the top underrated jobs is far from a bad thing. “While these jobs may not attract as much attention, they can be more fulfilling than a high-stress, high-profile career,” said CareerCast Publisher Tony Lee, in a press statement. Other careers that made the underrated list: geologist, legal assistant, multimedia artist and veterinarian, just to name a few.

Find the full report and the top ten 10 overrated and underrated jobs here.

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Trends, Research Vendors | 1 Comment

Peer relationships are critical to job happiness and commitment

Editor’s note: Darcy Jacobsen is a content analyst and blogger for social recognition solutions provider Globoforce, Southborough, Mass. This is an edited version of report titled, “Globoforce survey finds peer relationships with colleagues are critical to modern work experience.”

Co-workers have a big impact on the experience of working for a company; yet how strong that impact is had never been explored in-depth until now. Globofoce’s fall workforce mood tracker survey proves how important relationships are to our overall happiness and commitment at work.

U.S. workers say that peer relationships are critical to job happiness, commitment and creating more memorable milestone experiences.

The fall 2014 Globoforce workforce mood tracker* examines the current attitudes and perspectives of U.S. employees about work friendships and how those peer relationships and peer recognition impact the work anniversary experience. The report’s key findings reveal how vital work relationships are and how companies can leverage this camaraderie to improve years of service awards, boost employee commitment and engagement and improve their bottom line.

Relationships are critical to the modern work experience and increase employee commitment

U.S. employees say work friends have become central to engagement, happiness and the quality of employees’ lives:

  • eighty-nine percent of survey respondents say that work relationships are important to their quality of life and 93 percent value the respect of work friends or colleagues;
  • sixty-four percent of employees with between six to 25 co-worker friends love their companies, compared to only 24 percent who don’t have friends at work; and
  • forty-eight percent of employees with between six to 25 friends are highly engaged, compared to 28 percent with no friends at work.


Years of service awards that include co-worker participation, emotion, and recognition yield more powerful results

As opposed to receiving a “congratulations” solely from a manager, the impact of the anniversary experience increases exponentially when peers, emotion, and recognition are involved:

  • U.S. employees surveyed are 28 percent more likely to feel appreciated if they work in companies where co-workers are included in their anniversary celebration and 44 percent more likely to identify themselves as highly engaged;
  • respondents are more than five times more likely to find the experience emotionally moving when peers and recognition are involved in the service anniversary experience
  • ninety-five percent found an anniversary with emotion and recognition to be a positive; and experience, and were three times more likely to say it made them feel more valued


Traditional anniversary celebrations paint a bleak picture; employees yearn for a more shareable and meaningful milestone experience

Being given a gold watch or lapel pin for an anniversary can negatively impact employee sentiments, as employees find little connection to this type of celebration:

  • fifty-nine percent of surveyed employees say traditional anniversaries change nothing at all when it comes to feelings about their company;
  • forty-five percent of respondents prefer anniversary celebrations that include shared memories and congratulations from co-workers and managers (more than twice as many as any other choice); and
  • sixty-five percent say shared memories and stories from co-workers would make their anniversary more meaningful, while 72 percent would prefer recognition of career accomplishments.


“Our Fall Workforce Mood Tracker survey proves how important relationships are to our overall happiness and commitment at work,” said Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce. “The current workforce is one that thrives on positive emotion. With new social technologies at the forefront, HR leaders have an opportunity to transform how employees get the emotional validation they seek for their work and tenure with a company.”

* The globoforce workforce mood tracker study was commissioned by Globoforce and conducted from August 13 to 18, 2014 by independent market research firm MarketTools, Inc., through an online panel of fully employed persons (age 18 or older) at companies with 500+ employees in the United States. There were 716 responses generated for the survey, resulting in a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.


Posted in Employment Tips, For Employers | 1 Comment

Hiring managers: Why talent isn’t always enough

Editor’s note: Walt Grassl is a speaker and author of “Stand Up and Speak Up.” Recently retired from aerospace, he now works in public speaking near Los Angeles.

Bob and Mark are new managers who are having lunch in the company cafeteria. They are discussing their respective hiring strategies for the upcoming college job fair that their company is sponsoring. The conversation turned into a debate on what type of graduate made the best employee.talent

Mark prefers to hire the 4.0 GPA graduates, regardless of how driven they appear or how well they seem to “play with others.” He figures he could instill the drive and the teamwork.

Bob believes in hiring smart, but not necessarily the smartest (3.0 and above GPAs) who demonstrate determination and good collaboration skills. He figures they are smart enough to learn and their drive and teamwork would carry the day.

Patricia, a seasoned manager, joined in the discussion and shared her thoughts about the importance of hard work and talent in the workforce. She believes that if people don’t have a minimum amount of talent, hard work may not be enough for them to be successful. Conversely, some of the most talented people aren’t successful in their careers because they don’t work hard. The most successful people have talent and they work hard.

Patricia is right. Hard working, talented people make the best employees. As an employee, we must consider what is in our control and what can we influence. We cannot control how much talent we have. But we can control how hard we work and how hard we persevere when times get tough.

Here are five character traits for hiring managers to consider:

Reaction to praise

Studies have shown that when people are praised for their intelligence, they tend to avoid risk when given a choice their next assignments. Why? If they are less than perfect in the future, they are afraid of not looking as smart. However, when people are praised for their hard work in completing their assignment, they welcome more challenging assignments. If they work hard on a task that their leadership recognizes has a high degree of difficulty and they come up short, they have a history that indicates their hard work will be acknowledged.

Ability to adapt to change

In the workplace, success often depends upon the ability to change from one process to another. Often times, highly talented people have a set way of doing things and it works extremely well for them. They do not like to change what worked in the past and made them the success that they are. Change requires hard work, and while many talented people do well adapting to change, some who feel that they have extraordinary talent are not as flexible.

Willingness to learn

Many talented people feel that they do not have anything new to learn in their chosen field. They believe what got them there is enough.

Those who are determined and who work hard often spend a lot of time and effort to maintain their skills and learn new skills. They often display the most current knowledge of new technology and ideas. Having employees who will improve themselves over and above the company sponsored training is critical to an organization wanting to innovate and improve.

Different expectations

People who are highly talented may believe they are entitled to a certain pay level, promotional opportunities and respect. They can be the workplace equivalent of rock stars and elite athletes.

Those who succeed based on hard work over talent tend to have more realistic expectations.

Those who depend on demonstrating their work ethic and their determination to succeed often will find that their hard work pays off in terms of promotions, pay increases and the level of respect they earn in the workplace. Unlike their more talented co-workers, they tend to avoid resting on their laurels.

Not everyone who is talented depends entirely on their talent to find success in the workplace. Many of those with a great deal of talent work hard, often as hard as their less talented co-workers. However, in some cases, those who are highly talented often feel that they need not work as hard to get ahead.  Nearly anyone who sets their mind to finding success can be successful, however without hard work, few will ever find a level of success that will pay off for them over time.

Goal setting

People who set goals are usually more successful than those who don’t. The best goals to set are “stretch” goals. Stretch goals are attainable and challenging, but realistic. If you set goals that are too easy, you will accomplish them more often but not be as satisfied. Satisfaction comes from pursuing a goal, not from ultimately achieving it.

Focus on one objective at a time and always have the next goal in mind. To accomplish more difficult tasks, break these down into smaller tasks. Try to have mini goals along the way and try to map out several different paths to your target: this allows flexibility if one path becomes blocked. Activity itself generates the impetus for further activity.

Studies have observed that when facing difficulties, those who believed that their performance is transformable through effort, not only persevered but actually improved, whereas those who believed that talent is everything regressed.

Determination and perseverance are important traits in the workplace. Employers want employees who are determined to get things done, to make things happen and to constantly look for better ways of doing things. We are more likely to continue in the face of adversity if we think talent is only peripheral to our future success. Persistence and purposeful effort are more important than talent.

Posted in Employment Tips, Employment Trends, For Employers | Comment

Personal or professional: simple rules for proper social media etiquette

Editor’s note: Margaret Page is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, British Columbia, Canada.

Like children with a shiny new toy, adults introduced to social media jumped in and started playing: posting personal photos to Facebook, accepting requests for “friendship” from long-lost high school pals and checking in everywhere from the coffee shop to their favorite local eatery. What fun! Suddenly we were getting an inside look into the lives of people we hadn’t connected with in years!social media

But unlike a new toy, social media didn’t come with any real instructions. We unwrapped, signed up and off we went sharing our world with… the world. As more and more people glommed onto this new way of communicating, the seeds of chaos were planted.

Rules of engagement

Without guidelines on how to use social media, disaster is just a tweet away. Many people and companies have found this out the hard way. Embarrassing gaffs, impulsive rants and misguided comments have ensued.

What you post on social media sites is out there forever. The Internet never forgets; a selfie posted after a night on the town or a tweet about a colleague can cause more damage than you think. It’s dangerous to assume privacy settings protect you. Even if you’ve locked down your Facebook page, once it’s posted to the Web you can guarantee someone who is not directly connected to you will find it. All it takes is for one of your friends to share it with their friends.

And what you say CAN and WILL be held against you! Your future boss, clients, partners, voters and vendor are watching.

A good rule of thumb, whether you are engaging on social media for personal use or in business, is this: “If you wouldn’t say it loudly, in front of your mother (or boss!) you shouldn’t post it online – anywhere!”

With so many companies supporting BYOD, it’s more important than ever that a clear social media policy is in place for employees. Your employees are representatives of your brand and in business, perception is everything. To protect yourself from the embarrassment of a social media faux pas, create a policy that clearly states what you expect from your employees when it comes to social media use. Set clear boundaries, especially for those who are part of your brand building process.

Do I know you?

In this world of connectivity, how connected are we really? Has the word “connected” lost its meaning? With our ability to connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere through social media, the term “connected” has been watered down. Think about how many of the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitations to connect you receive each month. Very few of them are from people you have truly “connected” with outside of social media. It feels a little like “the person with the most fans and followers” wins. But do they, really?

Before there was LinkedIn, you wouldn’t dream of asking a new acquaintance to buy something from you just minutes after you met. And, you certainly wouldn’t show up at a networking event in yesterday’s outfit. Just like offline networking, building relationships online, follows the same basic etiquette rules.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Be professional. On Twitter, don’t be the egg; post a professional photo of yourself on your profile. This holds true on all social media sites. A business colleague should recognize you from your online picture. Include information about yourself. Your social media profiles are the equivalent of your business card, so be sure you keep it updated as your professional information changes. Always keep your basic contact information updated and link to your other professional profiles.
  • Introduce yourself. Want people to get a sense for who you are? Post interesting, value-added content on your social media accounts to showcase your professional expertise. This is especially true with LinkedIn. When you update your status with useful information, you’re building trust among your network – opening doors for introductions to new connections.
  • Be authentic. Just like in real life, no one wants to connect with “that guy.” You know the one: the guy in the sleazy suit who spends his time schmoozing. One of the biggest mistakes people make when connecting on LinkedIn or Facebook is not personalizing the message in the invitation. Swap out the default message with something like “George. I really enjoy your blog at The leadership content you share is so valuable. I’d like to add you to my professional network and get to know more about your business.” This will let the recipient know how you found them and why you want to connect. In turn, they will know that you aren’t connecting for the sake of just adding to their numbers.
  • Listen. Building connections through social media isn’t just about pushing out content on this network or that. If you’re not taking time to listen and engage with influential people (the ones you are hoping to connect with), you’re missing an opportunity. Choose a handful of key people you want to build a business relationship with, read what they are posting, and where there is an opportunity for you to add value – jump in!

Whether you are connecting with people in the online world or at a dinner party, knowing how to present yourself in a positive way is the same. Think before you speak translates to “think before you tweet.”



Posted in Employment Tips, Employment Trends, For Employers | Comment

Steps effective leaders take when handling disappointment

Editor’s note: Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, Boston, Mass.

Disappointment is inevitable for leaders. At times your people will disappoint you, and there will also be instances where you disappoint others. So the fact that disappointment occurs isn’t the challenge. The real issue to address is how you respond to the disappointment.leadership

Unfortunately, far too many leaders react to disappointment with anger and punishment. You’ve likely seen the scenario. An employee loses a key client, misses an important deadline or does any number of common things and the leader responds by demoting the employee, removing responsibility, not allowing the employee to take vacation time, firing the employee or taking other disciplinary actions.

Such consequences are really nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the leader…and a missed opportunity for the leader to shine. In reality, how you handle disappointment speaks volumes of your leadership style and your credibility in your organization.

To make the most of a disappointing situation and use it as the coaching opportunity it is, consider the following suggestions:

  • Manage yourself before you confront the employee. Before talking with the employee about the disappointing situation, you first have to manage yourself. In other words, you have to be clear on what your intention is of the conversation. Because you’re in a position of authority, what you say during these moments will have a ripple effect. Of course, this isn’t to say that you aren’t justified in your anger or justified in your disappointment. You most certainly are. However, your expression of those feelings has an impact on how others view you and on what the employee will do in the future. So before initiating the conversation, take some time to step back and get clear about what you want to have happen as a result of the meeting. Are you simply looking to vent your anger? Is the goal on finding a solution to rectify the current circumstances? Or do you really want to help the employee learn and grow from the situation?
  • Assess your role in the disappointment. As part of managing yourself, take some time to reflect on your role in the disappointment. Before you declare, “I did nothing. It was entirely the other person’s fault,” realize that as a leader, you are ultimately responsible for your people. So ask yourself, “What role did I play?” and “How did I contribute to this disappointment?” Perhaps you didn’t give the employee enough training. Maybe you threw them into a situation that they were too “green” to handle. Perhaps you didn’t adequately prepare them for the meeting. Whatever the disappointing outcome was, chances are you had some role in it – even a small one. Acknowledge that prior to your conversation.
  • Assume good intent. When you take the stance that the employee didn’t intentionally cause the disappointment, it naturally takes the edge off of your approach and any anger you may have. And in the majority of cases, that stance is absolutely accurate – the employee didn’t set out to cause harm. They simply made a mistake or a bad judgment call, which resulted in a less than ideal situation. Additionally, realize that the employee knows they messed up and they’ve probably given themselves a thorough thrashing by now and are terrified to speak with you. Therefore, any anger you display will be mild compared to what they’ve already dished out to themselves. Of course, if there’s been an intentional violation of an important principle, value or standard that compromises the integrity of the organization, then anger is understandable. However, true anger should be reserved for the most egregious acts.
  • When talking to the employee, focus on the disappointment in terms of the outcome, not the person. Successful school teachers know that when you discipline a student, you focus on the behavior, not the child. The same is true for business leaders. Even if the disappointment occurred because the employee was negligent in some way, you need to separate what happened from the employee personally. State your disappointment in terms of the outcome and then explore with the employee the cause in an inquisitive and coaching way rather than a punitive way. Why? Because when employees feel punished or that the boss is scolding them, they become fearful, which decreases creativity and innovation on the job – the exact things you often need to rectify a disappointing situation.


Learn from disappointments

It’s human nature to lash out during disappointing times and because a leader can, he or she often does. But remember that how you handle disappointment reflects more on you as a leader than on the person who caused the situation. Additionally, realize that the majority of disappointing moments are actually coaching moments in disguise. Savvy leaders recognize this and make the most of these situations. So if you want to be viewed as a leader with courage, credibility, and reason, use the suggestions presented here the next time you feel the need to punish an employee for a wrongdoing. When you do, you won’t be disappointed in the results.

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips, For Employers | Comment

7 negotiating mistakes everyone can avoid

Editor’s note: Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is the CEO of Dynamic Vision International and author of “Think like a Negotiator.”

While even the word “negotiation” can evoke fear, stress and anxiety for many, the intent is quite simple: to discuss and ultimately agree on a deal. Whether it’s a multimillion dollar contract or just deciding where to meet for lunch, life is rife with negotiations. And, the negotiation process is a lot like a chess game where strategy reigns supreme – one thoughtfully considered move at a time. Make a careless, short-sighted, ill-conceived move and suffer the perilous consequences.

Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a “game” may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result. Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result.

To help individuals maximize their bargaining prowess in business and in life, below are the seven most common mistakes that are made during a negotiation:

1. Lacking confidence: Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections and discern what are motivators or hot buttons will resonate with your opponent. Projecting confidence also means having heart, which is endearing to others whether or not you have years of negotiation experience. This can also result in the opposition having a less defensive stance, making them more amenable to your stipulations. Without projecting a notable level of confidence and backing that up with solid, well-researched information, failure will surely prevail.

2. Thinking something is non-negotiable: When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! It’s a mind-set you have to operate from in order to become not just a good negotiator, but a great one. When you decide that the terms for anything can be changed in your favor, a world of opportunity presents. Of course, as with most things in life, there will be rules to adhere to with each deal on the table, which are needed to evade chaos and keep discussions on track. However, even rules are negotiable. They can be modified if you simply propose an ethical, viable and mutually beneficial alternative solution. Powerful negotiators are rule breakers.

3. Not building relationships first: This is probably one of the biggest mistakes individuals make in regards to negotiation and in business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard networking event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people – particularly those you might be involved in a deal with later on. Find out something about them and their lives. Get personal. Much useful information can be gleaned during casual conversation, including what they value in life, what motivates them, what annoys them, their ethics, etc. Find out something about them personally and not just their business. You might be surprised how well you can leverage what you learn through a genuine conversation with someone.

4. Not asking for what you want: There is one key truth in negotiations: you must ask for what you want. Sounds simple enough, but in practice it can often be daunting. People naturally fear rejection or were taught not to be greedy as children so we instinctually refrain from asking for thing in life. However, in business rejection is never personal – it’s merely a reflection that you did not present a viable argument substantiating why you should get what you want. It’s the offer that is being rejected, not you, so keep emotions in check and re-calibrate your approach. “No” often just reflects a need for more information. Take heart in knowing that people say no an average of three times before they say “yes.” It is important to understand that if you don’t ask you don’t receive and the only way to master the art of rejection is to get rejected and keep asking. When negotiating, make it a priority to ask for exactly what you want. Most of the time you will either receive what you want or an acceptable alternative.

5. Talking too much: Talking too much is a sure-fire way to kill a deal. Have you ever been offered a product or service and the salesperson kept talking until he or she talked you right out of the purchase? If they would have simply asked for the sale and stopped talking, their chance for success would have increased significantly. Never underestimate the power of silence. There’s an old adage that says “he or she who speaks next loses.” When discussing a deal, if you simply stop talking and get comfortable with the awkwardness of silence, your ability to win your argument, sell the product or a get concession in the negotiation increases significantly.

6. Not documenting: The importance of getting the final agreement in writing cannot be stressed enough. Even better, always consult with a contracts attorney to review contractual documents or any agreement signingthat requires a signature. The purpose of a written agreement or contract is to provide protection for both sides and alleviate any ambiguity of terms. A myriad of problems can occur when the terms of a deal are not put in writing because what you think the other party said and what they think you said can be two different things. Documenting the agreement eliminates such perception problems and protects the interests of all parties involved.

7. Signing without reading: Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s imperative you read what you are signing – no matter how large of a packet it entails. Modern life is fast-paced and people are usually engaged in multiple things at once, making it difficult to focus and causing some to sign legal documents without reading them first. The result can be nothing short of disastrous. Make sure you read any agreement or contract in full to ensure you are not confirming terms you will regret and cannot undo, which can cause copious problems for your future.

Whether you are a seasoned negotiator or avoid wheeling and dealing with people altogether, you will vastly improve your results and be motivated to get in the game by knowing how to avoid these prime pitfalls. Whether seeking to gain advantages in your business or personal life, the art of thinking like a negotiator will profoundly impact your ability to actualize your desired outcome.

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips, For Employers, Research Vendors, Uncategorized | Comment

Engaging staff with 5 easy conversations

Editor’s note: Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and CEO of Ignite Global, a human resource management consultancy based in Australia.

Did you know that only a fraction of your staff bring their “A” game to work every day? According to companies like Aon Hewitt and the Gallup Organization, this number is about one in five. The rest? At best they are bringing their B or C game to work – at worst, their main goal is to keep from getting fired.

This is the employee engagement crisis we now find ourselves in.

Countless companies dedicate a sizeable chunk of their annual budgets to solving their employee engagement issues, when in reality most engagement issues (as well as performance and behavioral problems) can be solved through conversation. Five conversations to be precise.

But most managers don’t talk to their staff frequently enough, don’t know how to talk to them or don’t know what to talk about! Managers are unaware of how to plug into their employees’ minds and figure out what they really want and what they need to be fully engaged – and productive.

There are no psychic forces at work: getting into the minds of your employees to glean the information needed to increase not only engagement but productivity in your workforce can be as simple as conducting the following five FOCUSed conversations.

Conversation 1: Feedbackfeedback

There are two types of feedback that fall under this conversation. First, give praise where praise is due. Studies have shown that a vast majority of employees do not feel appreciated enough for the job they do. Praise, it seems, is a scarce commodity in the workplace. So if your staff is doing a good job, be sure to let them know.

Conversely, one of the key factors in employee engagement is the ability to have your say. Be receptive to your staffs’ feedback. Who knows, they may just come up with a brilliant idea that makes a huge difference for the team or company.

Conversation 2: Objectives

Most performance issues stem from a disconnect between what the manager perceives as meeting objectives and what the staff member perceives as meeting them. To drastically reduce performance issues, managers must both clearly define and articulate expectations. Yet few do.

Your employees need to know what they must do to be successful in their jobs and how that success will be measured. And you need to have a clearly defined yardstick by which to objectively measure performance. Aligning their expectations with yours will result in less frustration and anxiety – on both your parts.

Conversation 3: Career development

Many studies list career development within the top three factors that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or look for another job. Yet, many managers avoid this topic like the plague for one of three reasons:

  • they don’t understand how to manage their own careers;
  • they are afraid that if they help their staff manage their career better they will surpass them on the corporate ladder; or
  • they are afraid to talk about career development because they don’t feel they can meet the employee’s expectations. This is especially true in smaller companies or niche functions where there is not a lot of vertical career opportunity available.

Helping staff manage their careers makes good business sense. Ensuring that they understand what opportunities exist within your company (something they may not recognize without your help) will inhibit them from looking outside of it.

Find out what your employees’ priorities are and have open, honest conversations around how your company can help them achieve them – even with any constraints you may have. Suggest and recommend internal opportunities to learn, grow and develop and they will at least delay – if not avoid – looking for external ones.

Conversation 4: Underlying motivators

The underlying motivators conversation helps to uncover those intrinsic factors – currencies of choice – that science has shown to be much more highly motivating than extrinsic ones such as pay and benefits. By tapping into each individual’s currencies of choice you will help uncover what they need to go the extra mile. Conversely, once they do, they need to be recognized appropriately for it. The old adage, “Praise in public, correct in private” is only half true. Many people don’t respond well to public recognition.

Identify the drivers of each individual staff member to unlock productivity and unleash potential. Then recognize them appropriately when they do go that extra mile.

Conversation 5: Strengths

According to The Gallup Organization, teams whose members play to their strengths most of the time are:

  • 50 percent more likely to have low employee turnover
  • 38 percent more likely to be highly productive
  • 44 percent more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores

Strengths can be defined as the innate abilities or behavioral patterns that are neurologically hardwired into our brains between the ages of three and 15. The context of the behavior will change over time, but the patterns remain the same. So those children who share their toys in the sand box at the age of five may very well become 15-year-olds who volunteer at the local charity. And 20 years later they may become the 35-year-olds who are the most collaborative in the workplace.

Strength identification also requires a very minor time commitment: as little as two hours per week can make a world of difference.

If you can help your staff determine behaviors that come naturally to them you will find that their stress is decreased, they become more engaged and are of course more productive.

There is no reason to spend mass amounts of time and money on engagement programs when all it takes is tapping into the minds of your personnel. By first hiring the right staff and then employing the five FOCUSed conversations, managers will significantly increase overall employee engagement.

Communicate with your staff frequently, effectively and about the things that really matter to them.

Posted in Employment Tips, For Employers | Comment

Are your employees well? If not, forget about increasing engagement

Editor’s note: Ben Egan is a consultant at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS.

“How are you feeling – are you well?” It’s a question we ask friends and family every day. However, employers aren’t asking it enough.

And even if they are asking the question, they aren’t acting on the answers. This has to change, and fast.

What’s the problem?

When was the last time you asked your team how they’re feeling (outside of an employee survey)?

Employees today are under increased pressure. The rising cost of living, reduced headcounts and increased workloads are leading to declining

Employers cannot afford to ignore unhappy, stressed or burnt-out staff. Issues like those described above, coupled with other non-work pressures, inevitably takes its toll on health and well-being.

At an extreme, this can manifest itself in serious health problems (there has been an increase in mental health conditions in the last decade or so).

To avert this and to keep staff healthy, engaged and productive, companies need to better understand and improve employee well-being.

What do we mean by well-being?

Well-being might be seen by some as a ‘fluffy’ HR topic. However, it entails issues like absence management, occupational health and good management practice. Not at all fluffy.

The UK’s CIPD defines workplace well-being as: “creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization.”

Work can (and should) positively impact both our mental and physical health and well-being. Healthy and highly-motivated employees will have a positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of a business. Of course, when the opposite is true, businesses and employees will suffer.

What affects well-being?

There are probably a number of things but I’ve focused on a few areas, in particular. Those of you with a grasp of employee engagement drivers will note strong parallels in the factors that also influence well-being:

  • An employee’s relationship with their line manager
  • Having a clearly defined job role and knowing what’s expected of you
  • An involvement organizational issues and decisions
  • The availability and acceptance of flexible working
  • Having the workplace facilities and resources needed to do your job
  • Employer awareness and understanding of occupational health issues.


Engagement vs. well-being

Employee engagement enjoys a higher profile in corporate circles compared with well-being. The truth is though, the two things are inextricably linked. You can’t have engaged employees without them feeling healthy and well.

Companies therefore need to better understand and enhance employees’ sense of well-being in order to realize increased engagement.

What action is needed?

  1. Get buy-in from senior leaders as this is essential to the success of any initiative.
  2. Secure greater investment in health and well-being programs. You must first though understand employee issues and concerns around health and well-being.
  3. Devise tailored solutions to fit the specific needs of employees. Much like measuring and acting on engagement, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving well-being.

The responsibility for health and well-being at work belongs to both employers and employees. However, employers must make the first move in addressing the problem.

The benefits of improved well-being

Today we all understand and buy into the business value of increased employee engagement. The ability to better harness employees’ efforts and channel them toward shared company goals offers a tremendously powerful competitive advantage.

The crossover between engagement and well-being means that you’re highly unlikely to increase engagement without also addressing well-being. So make sure both are strategic priorities.

Posted in Employment Tips, Employment Trends, For Employers | Comment