Choose Your Hard

Choose Your Hard

I saw a video in which the narrator raised the topic of “Choose Your Hard”. The concept is that sometimes you are faced with 2 opposite choices, both are hard, but one of them is a wiser choice. I don’t know who had this idea first, I wish I knew who to credit this notion to.

The examples given were:

  • Divorce is hard. Working on your marriage is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Being obese is hard. Getting fit is hard. Choose your hard.

Life is hard, no matter which path you walk down. Let’s explore it in more detail, this time in relation to business:

  • Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Keeping your cash in the bank and watching it earn 1% is hard. Investing in something a bit riskier where the rewards are potentially higher is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Having no new business leads is hard. Speaking to strangers at a networking event is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Finding time to do all your daily tasks is hard. Delegating and training your staff is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Watching your business stagnate is hard. Committing to increase your marketing spend is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Doing the same things over and over is hard. Writing and regularly reviewing your business plan is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Recruiting new staff is hard. Engaging a recruitment agent is hard. Choose your hard.
  • Avoiding difficult conversations is hard. Having difficult but necessary conversations is hard. Choose your hard.

Life is hard, no matter what. Sometimes the harder choice is the best one. Embrace the challenges, find time and energy to do the things you know you need to do. Look for solutions, not excuses.

Interviewing tips for the new COVID-normal

It’s an inescapable fact that majority of conversations that you’ll have with another person for the foreseeable future will most likely, at some point, at least touch on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. People tend to speak about topical issues, and job interviews are no different. Hiring managers may ask COVID-related questions so it is important to anticipate interview scenarios and prepare responses.

These are examples of some questions you may find yourself answering in an interview:

Are you set up to work from home?

Asking for too much personal information can sometimes create legal complications for businesses, so recruiters and hiring managers will most likely not pry too much into your day-to-day life. However, a company that plans to hire someone soon will probably need to onboard them even though they’re located at home. You should expect questions about your ability to work from home and the resources you have available to do the job.

You can mention that you have a dedicated workspace, reliable internet, good phone reception, and a balanced lifestyle.

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

There is the standard ‘tell me about yourself’ question, but nowadays recruiters and hiring managers may alter it or follow it up with another question to find out what you learned about yourself during the pandemic. It could be one way for an interviewer to assess your emotional intelligence and assess your natural response when faced with a crisis or a stressful situation.

A positive response is the order of the day, it is an opportunity to demonstrate how you have become adaptable, flexible, open to change, and that you can thrive in any circumstances. You could demonstrate your proactive time management skills by talking about how you have done volunteer work, additional study, or you’ve updated things like the policies and procedures manual you have been meaning to get to for years.

Are you willing to work from an office when the pandemic is over?

Over the last week there have been encouraging signs the worst of the pandemic has passed in Australia. The Prime Minister has declared that they will be gradually easing restrictions to allow people to go back to work.

Alexander Kumar, a British medical doctor once said: “Living in Antarctica is hard; coming home is harder”.  Reintroduction back into mainstream office work can be psychologically tricky. “At a reunion, I found it difficult to connect to my friends, colleagues and relatives.”

Many people are working from home during the pandemic, but what happens once the Government relaxes the restrictions and allows people to work at an office again. At some point in the not-too-distant future many people will head back to an office. You should be clear in your mind as to whether you are prepared to transition into an office when it’s safe to do so.

If you’re unwilling to work from an office, we suggest that you look for positions that are clearly advertised as “remote”. Otherwise, flexibility and adaptability are once again the key.

Do you have any interview questions for which you would like Quality People to help you to frame a response? Comments welcome.

Homeschooling while Working from Home

Homeschooling while Working from Home

Lately I’ve been seeing a frenzy of posts on social media along the lines of “I have a new appreciation for school teachers!” or “Is it ok for homeschool teachers to drink on the job?”. One thing we can agree on is that working parents who are suddenly homeschool teachers for the first time are experiencing the type of challenges we aren’t fully prepared for.

Our world has been altered by COVID19. Just a few weeks ago we had a perfect system. The office. The cup of tea. The kids at school. The routine. Now is the time to demonstrate how adaptable we can be.

I’m here to tell you that it is possible to do your job with the kids home from school. Here are some tips and tricks to get make the most of the next few weeks:

  1. Allow yourself an adjustment period. Remember that this is a new routine for you, your boss, your kids, and their regular school teachers. Try be patient with yourselves as you collectively embrace the new normal
  2. Constant communication is vital to keep the kids informed of your expectations of them, and your do-not-disturb work hours. Don’t forget that you’re still their parents despite your new teacher role, and you still need to feed them and attend to their emotional needs. At the end of the working day it’s a good idea for you to put your phone down, shut the laptop and reconnect as a family
  3. Kids usually thrive on routines. In conjunction with their regular school teachers, create a schedule for them so they know what’s coming up that day. Allow flexibility in that schedule to cater for the unexpected
  4. Prioritise your work. It has never been more crucial to attend to your most critical tasks. Understand that you’ll be more distracted at certain times of day so the more important tasks should be done when you’re distraction-free. Sometimes that distraction-free time might be at night so it’s essential to manage the expectations of your boss and your clients
  5. Allow time not only for guiding the kids through their learning tasks, but also for unanticipated shifts in priorities. Sometimes deadlines get brought forward, and that tends to happen at the same time as the dog gets sick, or the entire container of rice falls on the floor. Not to mention the wifi playing up and you have run out of tissues… These are the times to breathe, hug your child, get some fresh air and do the best you can. Some days will be hard, but some days will feel easier
  6. Give your child the tools they require to occupy their time while they wait for you to get off the phone. Leave a box of activities and healthy snacks in easy reach for them
  7. Take good care of yourself by getting enough exercise, eating healthy, meditating, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep
  8. Remember the reasons you are doing this. You are lucky to have a family and you’re lucky to have a job. The good far outweighs the bad, the rewards are worth it! Hang in there!
How to conduct virtual job interviews

How to conduct virtual job interviews

For those employers who have never done video interviews, it requires a shift in mindset. Candidates may be new at it too so you can relax them by letting them know that you’re on the journey together.

Ensure that the platform (eg Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams) is operating efficiently, a meeting request has been sent and accepted by the candidate. Ensure you log on and arrive for the interview first.

One tip is to be more candid than you might normally be. Virtual recruiting can be clumsy and awkward. A laptop might be sitting at an unflattering angle, the internet connection could lag and distractions can emerge from off screen on both ends. 

It’s advisable to set aside some time at the beginning to iron out any wrinkles. The normal ice-breaking time at the start of an interview can happen on top of this. If you normally set aside half an hour for a face-to-face interview, set aside forty five minutes for a virtual one. Take the time to ask, ‘Can you hear me? Can you see me? I understand that this might be a new experience for you, I want to assure you this is all new to me too.’ It is okay to guide them, make sure they are not disadvantaged by sitting a little too far away from the camera. If there is a lag in the connection it’s ok to let them know. You won’t be able to make a good assessment if there is a lag or you can’t have good eye contact.

In case technology fails is a really good idea to have a backup plan (like each other’s mobile numbers).

It is important to be frank about the environment candidates are joining. In times like this, you can’t afford to invest in new people only to have them jump ship during the middle of a global crisis.

If you’re hiring someone who will join your business without a face-to-face induction, you will need someone who can pick things up quickly. Focus on competency-based questions around their learning ability. This is important, especially if this outbreak drags on for months.

It may also be a good idea to assess the level of support the candidate expects before they even begin. You may consider asking candidates about their current or former employer’s response to coronavirus and how they think it has impacted the culture.

It can be hard to assess cultural fit via a computer screen, especially when you are used to looking for nuances in face-to-face interactions. More than previously, it may be prudent to ask candidates about interactions with other staff, their preferred management style, and their external interests. Get them talking.

At Quality People we’re here to help, be it with technical issues, screening questions, or emotional guidance in these troubled times. Feel free to reach out to any of our consultants at any time.

Working from Home

Working from Home

Who else is now working from home? Is it new for you?

These are a few tips for getting through the day:

1. Set up a space so you can feel comfortable, good chair, right height table or desk, good lighting and fresh air (if possible)

2. Always get up and be ready for the day have a set work start and finish time, try align these times with your regular work hours so that your colleagues, clients and customers aren’t greatly affected by your flexi-hours

3. Make sure you know how to use the workplace video conferencing, be it Skype, zoom etc

4. In light of 3 & 4 brush your hair & have a shirt on for the video! Not only will feel professional, that you’re at work, but your colleagues will get the sense that you aren’t slacking off

5. If your kids are at home with you, all of this could be a little tricky. Depending on their age they’ll need varying levels of supervision. You’re a parent despite your work commitments. Try set them up with activities that require less of your time. Take regular breaks from work to check up on them and prepare snacks for them. It’s important to stay patient with them, it may be a new routine for them too! If your kids are struggling with the “social distancing” thing, try explaining it to them by using the example from “Frozen” when Elsa had to stay away from Anna to keep her safe

6. Don’t have the TV or music on unless you normally would if you were working in the office

7. Say good morning via text or Team app to your team every day and check in on everyone regularly. Human contact is vital for your sanity!

8. Have a to do list for the day so you know what you need to achieve

9. Have regular breaks, have a coffee/ tea & stand up and walk around. Ensure you spend 15-30 minutes outside for a breath of fresh air during your lunch break! (Yes make sure you have a lunch break)

10. If you are struggling please seek help there are many resources available, it may be talking to a line manager a colleague.

How to be a successful IT contractor

With so many digital transformation and change projects occurring across organisations there is an intensifying demand for IT contractors. Employers are capitalising on the flexibility of a contractor workforce which they can easily scale up or down dependent upon project demands.

With a growing desire for flexible workforces, employers are more open to engaging with contractors and appreciate the specific value and skill sets they bring. Contractors too are realising their value in this market, and many are relishing a rewarding career, negotiating good rates for themselves as well as enjoying the benefits of flexi-working.

Clients see you as the specialist in a particular area for a position they cannot fill with current staff. The company does not have an expert as qualified as you. By fulfilling this role, you are providing the client with a productive advantage. The client isn’t forced to train someone less qualified, and there is now someone, you, present with a prosperous track record.

Whether you are applying for a position or in one already, smart contractors are always on the lookout for ways to leverage experience to gain further contracts. Here are some tips to impress both current and potential employers:

Be reliable

Being on time and completing work reliably to a high standard within agreed timeframes goes a long way toward building trust. Employers will remember you as a person they can count on to be through the door on time, handing in tasks before deadlines and showing up to meetings prepared. There’s no better way to make a good impression and become a contractor of choice.

Part of being reliable means knowing how to set expectations. Set deadlines for projects with a bit of wiggle room and you’ll impress your employers by delivering ahead of time. 

Upskill yourself

Unlike full-time employees, contract workers have fewer opportunities to upskill on the job. Often, workers pick up skills slowly over years on a job, but you won’t have this luxury, which means you need to take upskilling into your own hands.

Be sure you’re covering the basics: stay up-to-date with industry trends and standards. But beyond that, show employers that you’re committed to your profession by undertaking short courses in your free time. This will be a major boost to your CV, and allow you to negotiate higher rates based on your skill set.

Of course, any time you come across the opportunity to upskill while on the job, raise your hand. This shows initiative to your employer, and it allows you to pick up new skills while you’re being paid. 

Keep abreast of the latest tech: Contractors keep abreast with the latest technologies by attending formal courses, meetups, conferences and boot camps.

Also commonplace is reading industry magazines, subscriptions and relevant blogs to increase knowledge.

Hone your soft skills: IT contractors are also aware that soft skills are just as important as technical ability and have now become the real differentiator that characterises top talent. Additionally, the more adaptable and flexible contractors are, the easier it is for them to thrive in their roles.

Be professional

One of the benefits of contracting is the freedom it allows – you have a lot more power to set the terms of your employment than full-time employees do. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can treat a contract position as though you were working from home. Be sure you have a full understanding of the expectations of the workplace – ask about dress code and workplace policies and then strive to meet them. 

Even if you turn around the best work your employer has seen from a contractor, he or she won’t think highly of you if you can’t meet professional standards and this could negatively impact future opportunities.

Fit into the culture

While the benefits of integrating into the team might not be visible in the short term, it could lead to future hires or recommendations. In addition to being professional at all times, go a step further to find out what makes your new office tick.

You can start by asking the employer to give you a rundown of company culture: What are their values? Do they have any regular events or office functions? 

To truly get a good idea of the soul of your new company, you should start building relationships with your new colleagues. Engage with people in the office kitchen, invite your desk buddy for coffee breaks and say yes to after work socialising to get a better picture of how the office works. 

Network

Whether your contract is for five weeks or five months, it’s important to always be networking – whether that’s by building relationships with your current co-workers and managers, meeting people in other teams or divisions or attending networking events outside the company. As a contractor, your reputation for reliability and professionalism is an essential one – your reputation may precede you in your next contract.

You’ll need to develop some of your own networking tools, since they won’t be provided by your employer. This could mean designing your own business cards or building a digital portfolio that showcases your skills. 

When bringing a successful contract to a close, you’ll likely have a meeting with your manager to wrap things up. This is the perfect time to let him or her know that you enjoyed your time at the company and that you’d be keen for future opportunities down the line. 

Networking is key: Making connections and networking was considered key for upskilling by 52% of respondents. 42% said interacting with online user communities is also beneficial to help keep their skills relevant. The opportunity to pool experience and expertise, and share knowledge with millions of tech experts around the world is a no-brainer.

Utilise connections & recruiters: More than half of the contractors we spoke to are partnering with a recruiter (55%) to find their next role. At Hays, we have 120+ dedicated IT consultants working across ANZ and an average of 2,100+ IT contractors working through us on a weekly basis.

Your contracting work is only as good as your last so engage with the client, grasp their feedback, and enquire if there are other available contracting roles. There may be another role for you at the same company but with a different team. Keep this in mind during your contract term.
Ask clients to supply a recommendation and/or testimonial to post on your website and/or LinkedIn. Online referrals hold significant weight to potential and repeat customers.

Advantages of hiring through a Recruitment Agency

Advantages of hiring through a Recruitment Agency

Do you have a vacancy in your team? Are you agonising over whether to hire directly or through a recruitment agency? These are some of the reasons we think that using an agency is a great idea:

Extensive Networks
Some roles are hard to fill and the perfect candidate can be hard to find. If quality candidates aren’t responding to job advertisements it may be because they don’t see themselves as the ideal candidate, or they simply aren’t checking job ads regularly. Agencies have many networks or ‘talent pools’ with candidates of varied experiences and qualifications. They have the potential to leverage their networks to help connect you to people with a range of skills and experiences, many of whom wouldn’t be actively job seeking and potentially missing your advert. According to LinkedIn, 12% of the workforce is actively looking, but 85% would consider a change if the opportunity is right. There’s a strong chance that a good recruiter will know how to reach them.

Brand Promotion
If you’re still not convinced on why using a recruitment agency may be the right move, the decision to do so can bring some added benefits that may be difficult to quantify immediately, but are nevertheless very real. Unless you’re Google or Apple, you probably don’t have thousands of qualified candidates camping outside your door and lining up to work for you. A good recruiter will “sell” your company to a candidate.

Quality of Applicants
If you have ever advertised a role directly you may agree that a lot of applicants may not be good matches for the role. On average, over 80% of CV’s received aren’t given serious consideration by hiring managers. Significant time will be invested in filtering, assessing, matching and communicating with unsuitable candidates. Internal HR/Recruitment teams that are time and resource poor may not be able to run a thorough matching process. Using a recruitment agency should mean that you only see job seekers who have been pre-selected to match all the criteria that you are looking for and who are worthy of serious consideration for an interview.

Time Saving
There are are time constraints to performing a thorough candidate search, so it is often easier for managers to interview from an agency shortlist – in fact many hiring managers, themselves possibly placed by recruitment agencies in the past, often favour third party recruiters. There is little doubt that a hard pressed HR or in-house team can benefit from the networks of a trusted agency partner. Many will see the recruitment fee as a worthwhile investment and a significant time saver, time that can be spent more effectively, working on strategic business initiatives.

The Guarantee
In addition to the recruitment help, all good agencies offer guarantee periods. If the hire doesn’t work out, you don’t pay and they start the search over, not you. If you look back at the staff turnover you’ve had, how much can be attributed to rushed hires, lack of screening, or settling/compromising just to fill that spot? When you use a recruitment agency you stop making those mistakes on your own, and start making them work in your favor.

Quality People can save you time in sourcing and short-listing candidates; find candidates who wouldn’t find you on their own; and allow you to spend more time focusing on your job. Contact us for a free and confidential discussion about the needs of your business.

First day at a new job

First day at a new job

Starting a new job is very exciting but it can cause some
people a level of anxiety, even for the most experienced of professionals.

Here are 3 easy tips for making a good impression on day one of a new gig:

  1. Introduce
    yourself
    . The most comfortable scenario is to wait for others to introduce
    you, but there’s no harm or shame in introducing yourself to other team
    members. It demonstrates confidence and a willingness to integrate into an
    established team environment. It will help you to establish professional and
    personal relationships with your co-workers from the outset. Talking to new
    people will relax you because you’ll realise that your new colleagues are good people
    and they’ll help you settle in. They all know what it’s like to be the new kid,
    allow them the opportunity to make your transition as smooth as possible.
  2. Remember
    names.
    Name recall is a difficult skill, particularly when you’re faced
    with a situation in which you’re meeting several people at the same time.
    Remembering names requires some practice, it may help to repeat their name
    twice or three times in the initial conversation. “Hi Jane, my name is Darren.
    Lovely to meet you Jane. What is your role in the team Jane?”
  3. Smile.
    Your colleagues don’t know you yet, and the power of a warm and friendly smile
    can not be overstated. Your smile conveys friendliness, it makes you
    approachable, and it will contribute to your new colleagues’ willingness to assist
    your transition into your new role.

If you’re starting a new role soon and you’re feeling a
little bit anxious, feel free to reach out to the Quality People team on (03)
9576 6388 for some free coaching. We wish you every success for your new job!

How to manage non performing staff

How to manage non performing staff

Handling difficult conversations is one of the reasons you got where you are. Another reason is that one day you had a manager who was patient enough to teach and guide you, to accept your mistakes, and to allow you the opportunity to learn from them. Now that you’re in that position, you have the duty to your company and your staff to afford them the same opportunity.

You may be tempted to allow poor performance to slide, hoping it will improve by itself. It won’t. An underperforming employee can have a negative impact on the rest of the workplace, because other employees are forced to pick up the slack. This can lead to feelings of resentment which could ultimately lead to the wrong staff members leaving the business.


Tips to handle these situations:

Assess the situation objectively

Is this an employee who consistently does not meet performance standards, or a good employee who has hit a slump? Look at each situation in isolation. Try not to let the frustrations of missing that deadline cloud your overall picture. There could be a combination of numerous factors that contributed to the deadline being missed. It’s important not to point all the blame in one direction. Also, it may be a good time to look in the mirror, what could you have done differently during the course of the project? Take responsibility and alter your behaviour next time.

Listen

Don’t assume you know the underlying causes of the non-performance. It’s time to call a meeting and listen. Sit down with your employee and ask how work is going. What are their frustrations? Find out if your employee is aware of the performance issues or not. Only once you know what the real issue will you be able to find a solution and move forward.

Focus on Facts

Receiving negative feedback is never easy for staff members, and the employee is likely to take it personally. To help prevent that from happening, focus on the facts, giving clear examples of times when the employee failed to meet the expectations of the job. Difficult conversations should be held sooner rather than later, delaying these little chats could cause the unwanted behaviours to become a pattern.

Work on a Solution Together

This is an opportunity to collaborate with your employee to come up with a solution together. Giving your employee a chance to take ownership of the situation is empowering, and it is more likely to provide that much needed buy-in. As you work on a solution, outline clear objectives and necessary actions to meet those objectives. See if the employee needs extra training or resources that would help him or her perform better. Document these discussions and get them to agree with the suggested course of action in writing.

Work out what you can do to help

Once you’ve formulated a plan, create a schedule to follow up regularly (at agreed intervals) and assess the employee’s progress and address any challenges that have come up. Take responsibility for their training.

Actually help

Nothing like providing the support you’ve said you’ll provide. Remember that boss who nurtured and supported you all those years ago? The one that, without him, you wouldn’t be where you are today? Be that boss.

Internal Interview tips

Internal Interview tips

Sometimes in your career you might be faced with the situation
in which you’ll be required to attend an internal interview. You may need to
reapply for role after a fixed term contract officially ends; there may be a
restructure which has resulted in newly created positions; there may be a
promotion opportunity for you.

These are some tips for nailing your next internal interview:

Don’t assume that just because you know the interviewer, they’ll
do you any favours

Don’t treat your internal interview as a formality, you have no
idea how many other candidates (internal or external) are applying for this
role. It is definitely an advantage to have an existing relationship with the
interviewers, it will help you feel relaxed, but you’ll still need to charm
them! The answer to ‘why are you the best candidate for the role’ should not
simply be ‘because I’ve already been doing it”. Ensure you prepare your key
achievements prior to the interview so you can confidently demonstrate your
value to the organisation – the panel may not remember everything you’ve
achieved to date, it’s your job to remind them.

You would be well advised to mentally treat the interview as an external interview and that nobody on the interview panel has met you before.

Ensure you understand what the role is designed to achieve

It is important to have a strong understanding of the job
responsibilities and ensure you are familiar with the organisation’s strategic
direction. Familiarise yourself with the position description and the company’s
business plan. If this is a newly created role, ask for information from
managers or the project team to get a better understanding for the reason and
strategic shift.

Play to your strengths

Whilst it is not the deal clincher it is definitely an advantage
to already be in the role you’re applying for. Highlight your understanding of
the organisation’s culture, and the existing networks or relationships you have
developed whilst in the role. Provide examples of when you have collaborated effectively
with other staff members.

Prepared for questions about any gaps in your experience

If your current manager is interviewing you for the role, there’s a fair chance that they’ll have identified some areas for your future developement. Be proactive before the interview to determine any gaps in your experience and the role. Suggest ideas and solutions about how you would approach the reduction of these gaps.

Highlight your experiences from previous jobs

It is easy to only focus on your current role and the experience
you currently have, when, actually, this is a great opportunity to remind the
panel of prior experiences you can bring to the role from your previous
positions.