Posted by & filed under Behavioral Assessment.

To be a effective in the workplace, you must be able to work with a wide variety of people, who may have styles of behavior and communication that are different from your own. A strong leader learns to develop his or her adaptability to meet the needs of each situation or relationship.

You can discover more about your own communication style strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your colleagues and employees, by taking an online personality test, such as the DISCself assessment.

What is adaptability?

Adaptability is your willingness and ability to tailor your personal patterns, habits and attitudes to complement a certain interaction, while still meeting your own needs.

For example, imagine you have an employee who is an excellent team player who has strong collaboration, mentoring and communication skills but needs structure and organizational support. She listens well, works hard and is motivated to get the job done. You know she is curious and always looking to learn new skills, so you dedicate time to coach her in her areas of interest and offer leadership development and training opportunities. You also know she sometimes struggles with time management, so you set clear goals and deadlines and support her with regular check-ins. Because you are adaptable enough to adjust your management style to fit her style, she is able to thrive and do what she does best and you are able to maximize her potential as an employee.

How does an online personality test improve adaptability?

An online personality test can help you identify the qualities and behavior patterns of each member of your team. You will gain insight into what makes your employees tick, and you will receive a detailed list of:

  • Their strengths and struggles
  • What they need to be successful
  • What motivates them
  • What environments and work preferences work best for them
  • Tips on how to communicate best with them

You will learn how to recognize different types of behavior styles and modify your management profile to treat people the way they want to be treated. The online personality test will help you manage your adaptability to find the right balance for any situation so you are a credible, understanding, reasonable and tactful leader.

Posted by & filed under Career Development.

Graduation is rapidly approaching for a new class of college students, which means a huge crop of young professionals will soon be entering the workforce. The job market is looking up for both employers and job seekers from the millennial generation: research shows that more employers are planning to hire recent graduates this year than in recent years.

CareerBuilder’s annual college job forecast, which surveyed more than 2,800 human resources professionals and hiring managers, found that 46 percent of employers plan to hire recent graduates in 2011, a rise from 44 percent in 2010 and 43 percent in 2009.

Another study, from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, found that employers expect to hire 23,805 graduates this year, 19.3 percent more than they did in the 2009-2010 school year.

This is great news for members of the millennial generation who will be applying for their first job out of college. It is also promising for employers who will have the opportunity to hire recent graduates with diverse skill sets that are valuable in the workplace.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, the top skills employers are looking for from recent graduates are:

  •     Strong written and verbal communications – 69 percent
  •     Technical skills – 57 percent
  •     Project management – 44 percent
  •     Research – 30 percent
  •     Math – 31 percent
  •     Knowledge of using mobile applications and technologies –  21 percent
  •     Public speaking – 20 percent
  •     Basic accounting skills – 21 percent
  •     Adept at using social media – 16 percent
  •     Bilingual – 15 percent

4 Techniques to Hire the Right Recent Graduates

1. Take advantage of college job fairs.

Most colleges and universities host regular job fairs, where motivated students can submit their resumes and network with prospective employers and employers can meet a large number of possible employees. Career fairs operate much like an open house; hiring managers and job seekers can get to know each other in a more informal setting than a job interview and pave the way for the next steps in the hiring process. If you are looking to hire a new graduate from the millennium generation, take this opportunity to speak with job candidates to get a feel for their personalities, skills and experiences before you invite anyone to interview for open positions.

2. Interview, interview, interview.

The importance of careful interviewing during the hiring process can’t be overstated. Remember that you are looking for an employee who fits in with your company culture just as much as someone who has the knowledge and skills to do the job. When considering a candidate, conduct a series of interviews that examine his or her expertise, as well as other qualities you value in your organization, such as creativity, teamwork or communication.

3. Talk to their references.

When hiring recent graduates, be sure to speak with several of their references to get a well-rounded view of their capabilities and personality attributes. If possible, call professors and personal references as well as work supervisors and internship coordinators.

4. Look beyond traditional work experience.

Keep in mind that millennial generation job seekers are still young and just starting out their careers. They may not have extensive work experience, but take into account other factors, such as passion, curiosity and willingness to learn. Look at volunteer experience, internships, hobbies, entrepreneurial projects and other signs that a candidate might be the right fit for your organization.

Are you planning on hiring any recent graduates this year? What are you looking for in a candidate?

Sign up for the EDSI monthly newsletter for more tips on multi-generational issues.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

The best leaders are not only engaging teachers and coaches, they are also eager students who are constantly seeking out new knowledge. Keep your mind passionate, curious and challenged by reading leadership and management books that introduce you to new ideas and push you out of your comfort level. If a particular book strikes a chord with you, pass it along to your colleagues and employees to generate valuable discussion.

Overwhelmed by the plethora of leadership and management training books released in the last year alone? Start with these five recent releases that will keep you turning the pages.


5 New Leadership and Management Training Reads

1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Do you think you know what motivates people? Think again, according to Daniel Pink. Using psychological, sociological and economic research, Pink sets out to prove that people are not simply motivated by external rewards– the desire to gain more and the fear of losing what they have. On the contrary, he believes that people are inherently driven by internal rewards and will grow and reach their full potential when they are allowed to be more self-directed and autonomous. (Warning: This book may turn conventional wisdom about leadership and management training on its head.)

2. Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself by William C. Taylor

In Practically Radical, Bill Taylor, the cofounder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine, examines 25 for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to discover how they have succeeded under challenging circumstances. Taylor argues that it is no longer possible just to do what everybody else is doing and survive. Instead of supporting the status quo, he offers some radical and practical ways you can transform the way you lead, manage and work.

3. Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback

Being the boss is not always easy. You have to deal with responsibilities and expectations from employees, managers, colleagues and clients, and leadership and management training can often come with a steep learning curve. Linda Hill and Kent Lineback’s book outlines how you can become an effective leader and manager with three basic imperatives: manage yourself, manage a network and manage a team.

4. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz

In Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s second book, he gives a frank and personal account of how his company overcame a period of decline amid challenges such as the global recession, changing consumer behavior and difficult personnel changes. Schultz doesn’t hold back about the trials, missteps, stresses and emotions involved in his journey to turn Starbucks around while staying true to its values, and it is an interesting read no matter where you choose to buy your coffee.

5. The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness by Deepak Chopra

Author and spiritual guide Deepak Chopra’s new book is an unconventional leadership and management training manual that encourages you to get in touch with your core values so you can use them to become a great leader. Chopra says, “A leader is the symbolic soul of a group,” and he believes there is a great need for enlightened leaders in the world.

What is on your reading list? Share your suggestions below.

Learn more about how to take your leadership and management training to the next level with EDSI’s Leading With Credibility course.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

If you find yourself getting distracted during your work day as you try to juggle emails, phone calls, items on your to-do list, as well as all the other interruptions throughout the day, you are not alone.

Recent research is uncovering evidence that regular multitasking may result in negative effects on the brain, such as impairing focus, learning, performance, personal effectiveness and even short-term memory.

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month shows that multitasking may harm the working memory of older people significantly more than the memory of their younger counterparts. In fact, trying to accomplish many things at once may be a reason older people lose their train of thought and have trouble regaining their focus. Researchers believe that there may be a correlation between this problem and a society that depends more and more on electronic media and jumping from one screen to another.

From the New York Times:

During the study, subjects were asked to look at a scene, then were interrupted for several seconds by an image of a person’s face. They were asked to identify the person’s gender and approximate age, and then returned to answer questions about the earlier scene. Older subjects found it much harder to disengage from the interruption and reestablish contact with the scene, the researchers found…

“Technology provides so much more of an interference than what we did here,” said the researcher, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco. Indeed, the paper argues that studies like this are becoming increasingly important as aging adults spend more time in a work force with heavy multitasking demands.

Are younger generations more adept at recovering from interruptions and distractions because they were raised in a fast-paced, technology-driven culture, or is this difference based on age? If multitasking is more harmful to older people’s memory, at what age does the deterioration begin? Regardless of your age, it is prudent to examine your habits and try to engage in more purposeful, focused work.

Unplug & Focus for Greater Personal Effectiveness

1. Set a “one screen at a time” rule.

It is difficult to do your most productive work when you are switching from one electronic device to another every few minutes. Commit to one screen at a time– for example, writing a report on your computer or checking your smart phone for emails, not both at once– to avoid unnecessary distractions and keep on track with your personal effectiveness.

2. Make time to read and write.

Sometimes a little peace and quiet is necessary for critical thinking and innovation. Set aside time during your work day where you can close your laptop, shut your door and take out a good old-fashioned book or notebook and pen. Read something that interests you in your field for professional development. Brainstorm ideas for your next breakthrough as an organization. Work through potential solutions to a problem your team has been dealing with.

3. Finish one task before you start another.

Resist the temptation to abandon a half-finished project for something easier or more interesting. Focus on your most important priorities one at a time, not moving on to Task #2 until Task #1 is complete. You will accomplish more this way, and you will allow your brain to concentrate fully on each priority.

Have you noticed multitasking taking a toll on your memory? How do you stay focused in a distracting environment?

Learn more about EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

Posted by & filed under Work Life Balance.

Spring has finally sprung, and the weather is warming up around the country. Hot spring and summer days may mean relaxing in shorts and a T-shirt at weekend barbecues, but at work, you still need to maintain your professional presence with appropriate business attire.

So how do you do this without baking in heavy suits and thick fabrics? Go lighter without showing too much skin or shocking your colleagues and clients.

Where you live and where you work will obviously play a big part in your work wardrobe (for example, a small business owner in Santa Cruz, California might be able to dress a little more casually than a vice president of a large company in New York City). These are general guidelines to help you get started.

Tips for Keeping Professional Presence While Beating the Heat

For Women:

1. Don’t dress for the beach. Even when temperatures rise, it’s not acceptable in most workplaces to don flip-flops, shorts, sundresses, midriff-baring shirts or tank tops.

2. Avoid heavy winter fabrics, such as wool and flannel, for lighter materials that breathe better in the heat, such as cotton and silk. Lighten up your color palette as well, incorporating white, gray, beige and other summery colors instead of black.

3. Trade in pants for a professional dress or a skirt paired with a short-sleeved blouse and a light jacket or cardigan. You will stay cool without compromising your professional presence.

4. Ditch the stockings. You may not be able to wear sandals, but you will cool down considerably by not wearing pantyhose to the office.

For Men:

1. Wear a suit in a lighter-weight fabric (think linen instead of wool). Depending on your workplace, you may also be able to get away with wearing a shirt with an open collar instead of a tie.

2. Remove your jacket at the office (or leave it at home for a more casual office).

3. Opt for chinos or other pressed, lightweight slacks. They will be cooler and more breathable, but they will still look professional enough for work.

What are your tips for maintaining professional presence as the mercury rises?

Learn more about our Professional Presence in a Casual World course.

Posted by & filed under Corporate Culture, Employee Development.

How engaged are your employees? How does this affect the team as a whole? What is employee engagement, and how can you measure it?

These are common questions managers are (and should be) asking themselves. Employee disengagement is a problem that can create a domino effect in your organization, causing unhappiness, turnover and even profit declines. As a leader, focusing on how to improve employee engagement should be a high priority.

A new study, Employee Engagement Report 2011, from global consulting firm Blessing White defined engagement as: an employee’s contribution to a company’s success and the personal satisfaction in that role. The stud found that only 31 percent of employees are engaged in their work and 17 percent are actively disengaged (from a sample of 11,000 individuals in North America, India, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand and China).

Important Findings from the Employee Engagement Report:

  • Despite an overall increase in engagement, more employees are looking elsewhere. 61 percent say that they plan to remain in their current job for the next 12 months.
  • More employees who are considered high performers are planning to leave; 25 percent are looking at other job opportunities.
  • The biggest reason employees give for leaving their jobs is the need for opportunities to grow and advance in their careers.
  • The top two factors that drive job satisfaction among employees are: having career development and training and having more opportunities to work in areas in which they excel.
  • Only 52 percent of respondents agreed with this statement: “I have career opportunities in this organization”

How to Improve Employee Engagement as a Manager

1. Keep up an ongoing conversation.

Sit down with each of your employees individually and have a positive coaching discussion about their priorities, goals and vision for the future. Ask specific questions about how you can help them in their career goals, such as “What do you most enjoy doing in your job?” and “What kind of coaching and feedback is most helpful to you?” Seek honest responses about what can improve the work environment, such as “What are the obstacles that can hurt your personal effectiveness?” and “What can I do to support you better?” Set up another time to check in again, and keep the lines of communication open.

2. Give clear direction.

Discuss the importance of each employee’s job and role within the organization. Outline what her top priorities are and find ways to support her in these objectives. Be transparent about organizational goals; employee engagement depends on an employee aligning her values and goals with the organization’s.

3. Support talents and career goals.

Get to know each employee and his personal talents and aspirations. What motivates him at work? What roles does he enjoy the most, and in which areas does he excel? Provide career development opportunities in the areas he is most interested in, and make it clear that his career growth and success is valuable to the organization.

What are your ideas for how to improve employee engagement? Share them in the comments section.

Learn more about EDSI’s Communicating to Manage Performance course.

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Posted by & filed under Work Life Balance.

Yes, there really is a single, simple action that can improve employee wellness. In a nutshell: stand more.

Several recent studies have found that sitting for most of the day (as many of us do when we work in office jobs) can increase your risk for health conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or premature death.

Even if you exercise regularly– biking to work instead of driving or hitting the gym during your lunch break– and make healthy eating choices, sitting for the better part of your day can still make you sick. Out of the healthy people who exercise, those who sit for the majority of their time suffer in terms of employee wellness; they have larger waists and worse blood pressure and blood sugar levels than those who spend less time sitting.

One study, from scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, observed more than 17,000 people over the course of 13 years and concluded that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks. This phenomenon affects smokers and non-smokers, exercisers and non-exercisers.

Why is sitting so dangerous to employee wellness? A New York Times article explains:

Sitting is one of the most passive things you can do. You burn more energy by chewing gum or fidgeting than you do sitting still in a chair. Compared to sitting, standing in one place is hard work. To stand, you have to tense your leg muscles, and engage the muscles of your back and shoulders; while standing, you often shift from leg to leg. All of this burns energy…

But it looks as though there’s a more sinister aspect to sitting, too. Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a “physiology of inactivity”: that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.

In a perfect world, everyone would have a job that involved moving around frequently during the day (or everyone would have standing desks). But even if you have a normal office job that requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, you can still make small changes to improve your health.

Improve Employee Wellness With Daily Choices

1. Drink lots of liquids.

Keep a cup or bottle of water on your desk and refill it frequently throughout the day. Staying hydrated is good for your health anyway, plus it will give you an excuse to walk around a few times an hour (as well as make trips to the bathroom). You can also use this method to refill your coffee or tea mug.

2. Take phone calls standing up.

The next time you have a conference call or a chat with a client, stand up while you are talking. A few minutes of standing time here and there add up.

3. Hold standing meetings.

This has two benefits: it helps employee wellness by getting people out of their chairs and it keeps meetings short and productive.

4. Take frequent breaks.

Set alarms on your computer or phone to remind yourself to get up and stretch your legs. Walk around the office a few times, go get a cup of coffee down the block or take a real lunch break away from your desk.

5. Deliver the message in person.

Instead of sending an email or making a phone call to the office next door, get out of your chair and talk to your colleague in person. Face time is good for your working relationship, and it’s a few minutes you won’t spend sitting down.

What are your tips for getting out of your chair throughout the day?

Learn more about the EDSI Leading with Credibility course and how it can be applied to employee wellness efforts.

Posted by & filed under Communication.

There are essentially three types of assets all companies draw on in order to succeed: people, capital, and technology. All are valuable, but people are the critical component to success.

Download the e-book Maximizing Human Potential: 5 Ways to Foster Personal Effectiveness as a “thank you” for being part of the Employee Development Systems, Inc. community.

What do you think of the e-book? Leave your comments below.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

It is becoming more difficult to define a “standard” or “typical” workplace since many organizations are adopting practices with more flexibility for their employees. Some teams work entirely remotely, while others have the option to work from home several days a month. Other organizations allow employees to control their schedules with flex time or provide subsidies toward childcare for working parents.

Family-friendly policies in the workplace are often the subject of debate: advocates say that they are increasingly necessary for employee retention, engagement and happiness, while skeptics argue that implementing these practices can be expensive and complicated.

So are these practices worth the money? Do they result in profits, savings or other benefits that are advantageous for organizations?

A new study, based on research from professors Nick Bloom, Toby Kretschmer, and John van Reenen (from, respectively, Stanford, the University of Munich and the London School of Economics), uncovered evidence that maybe both advocates and critics of workplace flexibility are right. In short: yes, family-friendly policies are an expensive investment, but though they don’t increase profits, they do pay for themselves in terms of employee behavior, retention and work attitudes.

The study (of firms from the US, the UK, Germany and France) examined the effect of these practices on factors such as firm sales per employee and return on capital. In their initial research, they found that companies with workplace flexibility practices tended to be more profitable than those that didn’t.

They took their research a step further, however, and conducted extensive surveys and interviews to measure the quality of each company’s management. They then found that the firms that had more flexible policies already had high management ratings to start with; well-managed companies simply seemed to adopt these practices more often than poorly managed firms.

From Forbes:

Hence, Nick, Toby, and John’s models showed that well-performing firms implemented family-friendly practices, but subsequently those family-friendly practices did not increase their financial performance even further. Don’t be mistaken; this does not mean that the family-friendly practices did not improve these organizations beyond their original starting point; they probably did. It is just that these benefits did not outweigh the costs incurred; at the end of the day, financially it didn’t make any difference whatsoever whether you adopted them or not. To conclude, firms that had implemented a bunch of family-friendly practices fared well as a result of the increased employee retention, citizenship behavior, and improved work attitudes, but the amount of money they had to spent on the practices exactly equaled the financial benefits that resulted from them.

This very interesting research refuted the argument that family-friendly policies in the workplace will make a company lose money, but it also dismissed the idea that flexibility practices will increase profits. Basically, if an organization puts time and money toward creating a more family-friendly workplace, it will reap just enough benefits to pay for the start-up investment.

Do you think the initial financial investment in these policies is worthwhile if it results in a happier workplace but not an increase in profits? Why or why not?

Learn more about EDSI’s Working in a Changing Environment course.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Does email help or harm productivity in the workplace?

It has the potential to do both, and it’s up to you make it work for you instead of against you.

If you have ever taken a vacation or a weekend away from work email, only to come back to an inbox flooded with new messages, you probably understand how quickly it can get out of control and how time-consuming it can be to catch up on correspondences. Take charge of your email habits so that your email is a helpful tool instead of a nuisance that distracts you from more important priorities.

Increase Personal Effectiveness With Email Habits

1. Don’t be a slave to your email.

Be honest: how many times an hour do you check your email? If you are one of the many people who receives automatic notifications every time a new message comes in (from Outlook or Entourage, for example) or constantly refreshes a web browser tab open to Gmail or Hotmail, you may be distracting yourself unnecessarily. Set a schedule for checking your mail, ideally no more than once or twice an hour.

2. Create a system that works for you.

If your current system is to answer every email as soon as you receive it, your personal effectiveness is probably suffering. Set up an organized, easy-to-use system that helps you categorize your messages into a few different categories. For example, you may create folders, labels  or color coding for the following categories: personal, time-sensitive or priority, FYI, follow up later and archive. When you check your new messages, file them in the appropriate section so you know how to approach them. If you can take care of an email with a quick response in about a minute, go ahead and do it now.

3. Be brief.

Emails don’t need to be novels (in fact, they are more likely to be read and understood if they are short and concise). Stick to the core message you are trying to communicate, and edit out everything else. It will take you less time to write and respond to emails, and your colleagues will be grateful.

4. Unsubscribe.

The next time you have a long list of unread emails, look for repeat offenders. Are you subscribed to newsletters, listservs, groups or other notifications that you rarely open or read (even though you keep telling yourself you are going to start)? Click “unsubscribe” and cut down on your inbox clutter.

5. Consolidate email accounts.

If you have old email accounts you no longer use, save or forward messages you need, then deactivate the account. If you have a hard time juggling multiple email accounts, you can easily consolidate them all in one email inbox through Gmail. Once you do the initial setup, Gmail will fetch mail from different external servers, and you only have to check one inbox.

What email tricks do you use to increase your personal effectiveness at work?

Get more information on how the Increasing Personal Effectiveness course can improve your work life.