5 Steps to Solid Workplace Decision-Making

5 Steps to Solid Workplace Decision-Making

In business, we also admire people who are confident, assertive and quick thinking. However, the ones who are successful over time aren’t just lucky, and they don’t leap before they look. Instead, they’ve honed their decision-making skills with experience, and they are continually adding to their knowledge and experience base.

In action movies, the hero makes infallible split-second decisions. Part of what we admire about him or her is that brilliant decisiveness. There’s no self-doubt, no deliberation. They just somehow either have huge amounts of background knowledge or they’re incredibly lucky every single time.

Harvard Business Review says effective executives think in terms of what is strategic. They balance emotions with reason and see one decision as part of a bigger picture, and they follow the same basic process for making decisions large and small.

Clearly Define the Decision

Big problems can create emotionally turbocharged reactions. It’s natural to want to jump right to the fix, especially when you feel stressed, anxious or under pressure. However, successful workplace decision-making starts by making sure you clearly understand the question before you begin to formulate the answer.

Albert Einstein shared his decision-making approach when he said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” The Nobel Prize winning genius believed quality solutions came from careful research. He knew problems contain clues that allow you to better reach a successful conclusion.

Try not to see the decision at hand as positive or negative. Even if there’s a deadline hanging over your head, set that aside for a moment so your grey matter has more energy to fuel critical thinking.

The first step of solid workplace decision-making involves clearly identifying the problem you need to solve or the question you need to answer. Identify your goal as specifically as possible and set a time frame for achieving your goal or answering your question.

Research Options

Gather existing data. Brainstorm with your team to get solutions from multiple perspectives. Identify alternatives. Seek advice from industry experts or solicit feedback from customers. Consult studies, market research and, if necessary, advice from paid consultants. Check out what your competitors have done when they were faced with similar decisions.

Also, in some situations, it’s an option to do nothing, and it might be the best one. Fear of seeming indecisive isn’t a good reason to act, and it could get you in financial or legal hot water.

Identify Possible Outcomes and Consequences

Once you have a list of options, mentally and verbally walk through how each one might play out. Envision the worst case scenario, and who might be affected if that’s how things go. With that in mind, rank your choices from best decision to possibly most problematic.


Being thorough is good, but don’t get so bogged down that you end up with analysis paralysis. It’s possible to go to extremes trying to consider every possible alternative. If you’re getting overwhelmed with the possibilities, take a step back and limit your consideration to the choices already showing the most promise.

Eventually it’s time to either take action on the decision you’ve made or decide you’re going to table the deliberation altogether, at least for the time. Come up with a plan to proceed in the direction you’ve chosen.


In step one, when you identified the problem to solve or question to answer, you also should have set a time frame. When you reach that date, circle back to review whether or not your choice was a good one.

If things went as planned, were there hiccups along the way? If they didn’t, what can you learn from the mistakes? How can you unpack data and debrief with your team?

For Help With Hiring Decisions

Take the guesswork out of hiring when you work with Brelsford Personnel. We do the research, background checks, skills testing, interviewing and everything else to make sure you get the best employee for your needs. Send us a message if you’d like to know more.

Will Remote Interviewing Go Away Post Pandemic? Why We Say No

Will Remote Interviewing Go Away Post Pandemic? Why We Say No

Texas has lifted mask mandates and business restrictions. COVID infection rates are dropping, and an increasing number of people have received vaccinations. Travel and traffic are picking up.

As people return to in-person instead of virtual interactions, will Zoom meetings and online interviews become a thing of the past? We don’t think so for a number of reasons.

Employers Have Invested Heavily in Remote Interviewing

Remote interviewing technology existed before COVID but most companies weren’t using it because it was just more comfortable to stick to the status quo. Evaluating candidates through phone and video interviews wasn’t necessarily harder, but it was definitely different. Since before the pandemic the bulk of the work would be accomplished in person at the workplace, it made sense to conduct interviews there too.

Then, employers everywhere found themselves forced to shift. Conducting live interviews suddenly presented unnecessary health risks. When the CDC, the state and your local government recommends as few in-person interactions as possible, it doesn’t seem wise to have face to face interviews.

Organizations invested in technology and training to make remote work possible, and the same principles and tools were also useful for remote interviews. They had to overcome these major challenges:

  • Troubleshooting technical difficulties – Interviewers and job candidates struggled with technical aspects like audio, Wi-Fi and video conferencing apps.
  • Communicating company culture – Brands had to find ways to convey what they had to offer despite the fact hiring and onboarding were virtual.
  • Weeding through large numbers of applicants – Because geographic barriers were removed, job openings became available to a much larger pool of candidates.
  • Managing scheduling conflicts – Before 2020 we all felt like if we didn’t have to commute, we would have so much more time. But with remote work, lines blurred and business hours became less concrete.

The businesses that were ultimately successful in terms of staffing and recruiting were the ones who invested in tools and processes to overcome those challenges. Now they’ve made it through the growing pains, many won’t want to switch back.

Good Workers are Harder than Ever to Find – Geographic Flexibility Helps

Hiring managers from almost every industry we work with have expressed frustration with the difficulty of finding people who are qualified and willing to give 100 percent. What’s coming through the talent pipeline seems more like a sporadic trickle than a flood.

One of the main reasons we expect employers to keep using remote interviews is that they become able to evaluate interested candidates from anywhere in the world. Around two-thirds of the businesses that switched to remote work because of COVID-19 say they will keep work-from-home policies in place in some measure for the long term. That means new hires can come from anywhere.

Comfort Levels Have Changed

It’s already hard to remember what it felt like to interact with people before the pandemic. Now it feels more normal to talk through plexiglass or via computer. We stand far apart and think twice about shaking hands. Health officials caution even vaccinated individuals of the continuing danger.

Americans feel less comfortable walking into strange environments and interacting with others. Interviewers worry about taking germs home to their families. Hiring managers could catch something from a candidate and spread it around the office.

Even if COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow, that mindset has unfortunately become part of our culture. Remote interviewing is more cost-effective, it can save time, and it feels safer.

Simplify Your Interview Process

If the talent pool looks to you more like a mud hole and the thought of giving more interviews gives you a headache, we can help. We’ll perform background and reference checks, use state-of-the-art skills assessment and testing tools to verify skills and present you with qualified, pre-screened candidates. Contact us for more information.

What SMBs Should Know About Hiring Now

What SMBs Should Know About Hiring Now

Unemployment in America hit an all-time high in April of 2020, reaching a staggering 14.7 percent according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The pandemic was hard on everyone, especially small businesses.

While giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon were hiring, many small businesses were forced to downsize. However, gradually the economy began to improve, and businesses found the unexpected happened when they started recruiting for job openings.

Employees who kept their jobs were reluctant to make changes, even if they weren’t happy where they were. Applications dropped across industries. You would think small businesses would have a huge pool of hungry candidates to choose from, but instead, they reported one of their biggest problems was finding qualified applicants.

The hiring landscape has changed, possibly forever. Here’s what we’re hearing from Texas small businesses looking to hire in the months ahead.

Branding Matters

One thing hasn’t changed – how job candidates think about your organization has a direct connection to the size of your candidate pool. A LinkedIn survey found 49 percent of small businesses use referrals from current or former employees to fill openings. That number is even higher in our part of Texas.

When job seekers perceive your company as an attractive place to work, the cost per hire is more than two times lower. Companies that invest in employer brands also have 28 percent less turnover than companies that have weak employer brands.

Great employer brands are built by focusing on the people. They know who they are and what they want to accomplish and they communicate that message clearly. Then they hire people who feel the same and empower them to accomplish mutual goals.

Skills Testing is More Important Than Ever

Well-designed skills testing gives small businesses quantifiable insights. They might also help you hire a diverse workforce because they’re based solely on job-related criteria. Everyone gets the same evaluation on the same skills, so they have equal opportunity to succeed.

Resumes can be misleading. Skill assessments weed out applicants who claim more skills and abilities than they actually possess. It’s possible to be confident and engaging on the phone when you do a pre-interview screening and not be a good match for your opening. Skills assessments can tell you more about their ability to perform well at your workplace and whether or not they have qualities that make them a cultural fit.

These Recruiting Activities are Huge Time Sinks

Large corporations have staff members, sometimes even whole departments dedicated to recruiting and hiring, but that’s not typically the case with small businesses. Nine out of ten small business owners say they’ve been directly involved with the hiring process, and it’s enormously time-consuming. They report these tasks take hours out of their already busy work weeks:

  • Searching for candidates – 84 percent of SMBs say they have a hard time finding qualified talent even though they spend a huge amount of time searching. They feel like they spend time on recruiting, then lose top picks to larger competitors.
  • Interviewing candidates – SMB owners struggle with uncertainty over whether candidates will be successful. After time spent interviewing, 77 percent of recruiters say they go back and hire candidates who didn’t seem to be a good fit. Once they make a job offer, 75 percent of them say they have experienced candidates changing their minds.
  • Vetting candidates – Checking references, conducting background checks is essential, but being thorough takes time.

Our Staffing Agency Can Handle It For You

Businesses that work with Brelsford Personnel experience huge savings when it comes to advertising vacancies, skills testing, pre-employment and background testing, interviewing and onboarding. We already have a huge, quality talent pool with candidates looking for work right now. Send us an email and let’s talk about how we can make hiring easier for your business.

Remote Onboarding – Getting It Right

Remote Onboarding – Getting It Right

Some of the best advice for hiring top talent is harder to follow than ever. People want to work for a company that cares about them, that makes a difference in the community and that has a culture in line with their personal values. Wise employers hire for fit. But how do you expose new hires to that company culture when their first days and weeks are spent working remotely?

Today’s new hires can apply, interview and turn in paperwork without a single in-person interaction, but then what? If your offer implied they were about to experience a unique culture, opportunities to get noticed and meaningful collaboration and you don’t deliver, they might not stick around.

Even if your staff works at your physical location, things are different now. The office holiday parties, group participation in local charity races and in-person team building events aren’t happening the way they were before. In many workplaces common gathering areas are closed to protect employee health. Employers have to be more intentional with encouraging new hires to build personal connections, and it starts at onboarding.

Why Onboarding is Vital for Retention

When workers show up (or log in) for their first day, they’re already asking themselves whether or not they should stay. Here’s why your remote onboarding process is so important:

  • Only 12 percent of employees say their organization does a good job onboarding new hires.
  • Workers are more likely to quit when they’re new – turnover can be as high as 55 percent during the first 18 months.
  • Replacing and onboarding someone who quits can cost six to nine months of that person’s salary. Some experts say even more.

People decide to leave one job for another because they feel like the new job will be better than the last. Their decision-making process may have been logical, involving company research and comparing salary, benefits and perks. However, in the end, part of the decision was emotional.

Workers want to know they did the right thing, that their life really will be better. What happens during first interactions and first projects will shape their expectations of whether or not they’ll like working for your company long term.

Start Right by Showing Enthusiasm

New hires know employers are also asking themselves whether or not they made the right decision in offering them the job. They want to feel like you’re excited to have them and consider them a valuable addition to your team.

With any new hire, some employers focus on getting paperwork completed and filed away and training staff to complete tasks. All that has to take place, but before you jump into work, put effort into extending a heartfelt welcome.

Create a welcome thread using your group chat software. Encourage all staff members to join with a welcome message and brief introduction that includes their job title, where they’re working from and a friendly greeting.

Managers might start the day with a brief video call that expresses enthusiasm, then introduces them to the people with whom they’ll be working. Prompt team members to reach out through one-on-one messages to express excitement and offer support.

Assign a Mentor

Give new hires one point of contact they can trust to help them learn the ropes. Choose someone you know will be intentional about making connections and helping them adapt to their new work environment. Mentors might reach out daily at first with questions like these:

  • What are you working on today?
  • Are there any technology challenges that are causing you trouble?
  • What were the most unexpected aspects of your first day on the job?
  • If you could learn any professional skill, what would it be?
  • Where do you want to be a year from now in your career?

Create Virtual Interactions

When people show up every day at the same workplace, there’s regular built-in interaction. New hires note friendly body language and cheerful team members. They discover things they have in common from desk photos, organizational membership bumper stickers, sports team calendars and a host of other visual cues. Friendships form naturally over time.

People can still connect when working remotely, but it takes more work. For successful remote onboarding, managers should be intentional about helping break the ice.

Schedule virtual lunches or virtual coffee breaks for the first days and weeks that allow remote workers to connect. Pick up the tab with a prepaid card or allowance to order from a local delivery service.

Encourage staff to spend an hour a day working with their cameras on. Let workers know they don’t have to talk because it isn’t a meeting, but they have the opportunity to ask questions and exchange ideas.

Ask a few of the new hire’s team members to give a virtual tour of the space in which they’re working. Invite your new hire to do the same.

Send Swag

Give employees a tangible welcome with a company mug, shirt, hat, or all of the above. Send a care package with office supplies they’ll need to do their job. Add a welcome letter signed by their new manager or team and documents that outline your organization’s mission, goals and long-term vision. Make sure you’ve also provided remote hires with the technology essentials they need to get started and a contact person for troubleshooting.

Think Long Term

Your new hire might be able to complete your training videos and paperwork on their first day, but onboarding shouldn’t end so quickly. Don’t stop after a week. Onboarding should be a strategic process with stages for the first day, first week, first few months, and the first year.

One of the best ways to make sure you and your employees have a good experience is to hire the right person in the first place. At Brelsford Personnel, we specialize in connecting qualified, experienced East Texas workers with area employers for whom only the best will do. Contact us online to find out more about obtaining top-performing employees for your business.

How Mobile Apps are Changing the Workplace

How Mobile Apps are Changing the Workplace

We carry small, powerful computers in our pockets, and it has altered the way we do almost everything. Cell phones and other mobile tech affect the way we shop, communicate, spend our free time and so many other behaviors.

A survey recently revealed 66 percent of Americans check their cell phones more than 160 times a day. Much of that time, they’re using mobile apps, and employers are taking notice. Sometimes apps streamline workflows and improve engagement. Other times they do the opposite. Mobile app use for play and productivity isn’t going anywhere, so let’s look at how it’s impacting the workplace.

Apps for Workplace Communication

The pandemic forced many businesses to find ways to effectively communicate outside the office. Freelancers and field staff members had been using apps to stay in touch for years, but suddenly shut in workers across the nation needed remote work technology for their home office.

It’s been a long time since people used phones just for making calls. Now a huge percentage of work communication takes place through mobile apps for the following:

Teleconferencing – Last March, Zoom’s users went from 10 million to more than 200 million. Businesses use Zoom because up to 49 users can be on-screen at the same time, and video meetings can support up to 1,000 viewers from anywhere on the planet. Some teams also teleconferenced in virtual reality using apps like Spatial.

Instant Messaging – Employees use apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack to chat by topic or group and share files for collaboration.

Pros and Cons of Using Apps for Workplace Communication

Effective communication allows remote or on-location staff members to collaborate from wherever they set up their office. Apps like the ones listed above make it easy to share files and ideas.

Participants can share communication with everyone who has an active role. Plus, messaging apps can encourage collaboration from colleagues who might not get a chance to speak up in person.

There are also drawbacks. Larger groups might have a harder time staying focused while video conferencing. Being able to work anytime, from anywhere can make it harder to have a work-life balance. Some people find it difficult to disconnect from the constant notifications.

Also, some workers don’t hold themselves to the same standards for electronic communication as they do for in-person meetings and this can create miscommunications and misunderstandings. Employers using apps for communication can minimize problems by having clear guidelines for when and how teams use them.

Mobile Recruiting

Many Millennials and Generation Z workers are more comfortable with technology than with pen and paper. The majority prefer finding and applying for job openings on their phones. Surprisingly, mobile usage peaks among Generation X users, with 55 percent of users between 35 and 44 years old respondents in one survey saying they prefer using their phone to apply for jobs over desktop or pen and paper methods.

That means it isn’t just entry-level workers who respond to mobile recruiting. Qualified, experienced candidates also submit applications through mobile recruiting apps.

Apps for Payroll Processing

Now they’re using apps to accomplish payroll tasks on their cell phones. Instead of being stuck behind the office laptop or desktop, they can pay workers, access payroll information, enter earnings and other related tasks. Apps for payroll processing help bosses and employees like them too, because they have instant access to information they used to have to find on a pay stub.

Employee Tracking Apps

Giving employees the ability to “work anywhere” doesn’t always work. It sounds like a dream to be able to work from the couch or the beach, but the problem is, none of those places were designed for nine to five productivity. The beach and the living room aren’t for working, they’re for relaxation and recreation.

Employers who don’t want to pay workers to build sandcastles or binge-watch their favorite series are turning to mobile employee tracking apps. Geofencing apps use GPS to track individual workers’ physical locations. Time tracking apps log hours spent on tasks and jobs, and many integrate with apps like Google Docs, WordPress, Slack, Quickbooks or other programs your staff members may be already using.

Tracking apps can cut down on late starts and early finishes, extended breaks and other time theft activities. They keep the honest people honest – if employees know they’re being monitored, they’re less likely to waste company time. However, they can also seem intrusive, like an invasion of privacy or an attitude of distrust.

What These Changes Mean for Employers

The technology your company uses affects how you’re perceived by current employees and future hires. There’s competition across industries to secure top talent, some of whom live on their mobile devices. Savvy employers offer tools that encourage engagement and allow employees to be their very best.

Why Problem-Solving is a Must-Have Soft Skill

Why Problem-Solving is a Must-Have Soft Skill

You can learn to use graphic design software or run a table saw in a classroom. Someone can teach you the steps to making an omelet or baking a cake. Employers commonly train employees on following procedures specific to their workplace or equipment. But what happens when you encounter a new problem, one for which there is no manual or process? That’s when the soft skill of problem-solving becomes critical.

What Are Problem Solving Skills?

The U.S. Department of Labor says problem-solving and critical thinking are among the most sought-after soft skills. The definition they offer simply says, “problem-solving and critical thinking refers to the ability to use knowledge, facts and data to effectively solve workplace problems.” That sounds easy enough, but employers struggle to find staff with the problem-solving skills their companies need.

The Problem With Finding Problem Solvers

A recent SHRM article says almost three in four employers report having a hard time finding recent college graduates with the soft skills their companies require. When it came to critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, 64 percent of respondents said it was “very or somewhat difficult,” to hire staff that could solve problems on their own.

The article suggests a growing reliance on technology might make it harder for young people to learn soft skills. Young adults go online to click through life tasks that used to require in-person interaction. Instead of joining fraternities or sororities, participating in sports, marching in band or socializing in person, communication happens electronically. There’s less requirement for personal problem-solving and more reliance on technology.

However, the more machines take over tasks that can be automated, the more employers will need people who can solve problems computers can’t, who can think like humans instead of relying on a procedure or algorithm. Employers need workers who don’t go to a machine or computer to find the answers, but who are willing to look themselves.

How Problem Solvers Operate

People who effectively use the soft skill of problem-solving break their approach down into a series of steps.

  1. Pinpoint what’s causing the problem – That might require gathering and analyzing data, looking at what happened in the past and seeking facts about contributing circumstances.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions – Once they identify all the possible sources of the issue, problem solvers, either individually or with their team, generate possible solutions. They might call this step brainstorming, creative thinking, project planning or something else, but the process is usually creative and informal.
  3. Evaluate options – Problem solvers go through their list of ideas and pick the one they believe has the greatest chance of success.
  4. Implement plan – Critical thinkers use their problem-solving skills to find a way to act.
  5. Evaluate – Problem solvers analyze results to see if their solution worked. If it can be tweaked, they do so. If it didn’t work, they go back to step one and start over.

Developing Problem Solving Skills

If unusual problems make you feel confused or frustrated, it would benefit your career to develop problem-solving skills. Here are some actionable ideas anyone can use.

Play Logic Games

Work your strategic thinking muscles with games that require you to think through problems. Sudoku, a Rubik’s Cube, crossword puzzles and online brain training programs challenge you to work problems backward and keep trying until you find a solution.

Start an Idea Journal

Get in the habit of regularly identifying something that causes friction in the workplace or in everyday life. Generate possible solutions and explore ideas.

Change Your Language

Allow your mind to relax by using language that creates possibility. When you propose possible solutions, start with words like, “imagine if…” or “what if we tried…”.

Make Mind Maps

People who have a hard time brainstorming sometimes find it easier to sketch their way to a solution. To get started, write your problem in the center of a piece of paper. Add branches around that hub to note factors contributing to the problem. Then continue to “map” out ways to address those factors.

Hire Problem Solving Employees

Brelsford Personnel is a full-service staffing agency providing qualified, pre-screened candidates for East Texas employers. We work hard to find productive solutions to your staffing needs. Contact us to find employees with soft and hard skills to run your business at its peak.

Integrity – Still a Thing in 2021?

Integrity - Still a Thing in 2021?

What’s the most important soft skill in the workplace? Communication, teamwork, adaptability and conflict resolution all rank high on the list, but most employers put integrity near the very top. Let’s look at what integrity is and why it’s so highly sought after in all areas of life.

More Than Simple Honesty

People with integrity are honest, but there’s much more to this soft skill than just telling the truth. Basically, everything about them lines up.

When they say they will do something, they do it. Their actions are consistent with what they say they believe. Their choices and activities are driven by a strong moral character. If someone said that person lied, cheated or stole your first reaction would be disbelief because to do so would be completely out of character for them.

Examples of Integrity

Integrity can be difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. Someone who has integrity does things like the following:

  • If he forgets to pay for or breaks something, he points it out and asks to settle up.
  • She keeps promises even when unforeseen circumstances make it hard.
  • He would never consider letting a co-worker take the blame for his mistake or taking credit for someone else’s work.
  • She doesn’t gossip or start drama.
  • He doesn’t take shortcuts that would compromise quality.
  • She works when she’s supposed to, even if she could get away with using company time for personal use.
  • He feels personally responsible for making efficient use of company resources.

Integrity Matters During These Professional Life Stages

Integrity makes a difference throughout the career cycle. During job seeking, candidates show integrity by being straightforward on their resumes and during interviews. When they do, they’re more likely to find work for which they’re qualified and company culture into which they fit. When candidates stretch the truth at this stage they may think they’re just trying to get their foot in the door, but they could destroy all chances of future employment.

Integrity makes all the difference when workers are establishing themselves in a new role. When they show up ready to work day after day and do what they promise, they quickly begin to stand out. Co-workers depend on them and managers trust them.

When people step into leadership roles and continue to demonstrate integrity, their team finds them worthy of respect. They have a track record of honesty, approachability and taking pride in work well done. Because leaders with integrity hold themselves to high standards, they can ask staff to do the same.

Can You Develop Integrity?

People with integrity often credit role models who shaped and inspired them very early in life. If you didn’t have the perfect upbringing, you can still develop integrity by connecting your inner values and external behaviors.

Ask yourself where your morals and ethics come from and identify the ones on which you refuse to compromise. Find people you know who consistently act with integrity and spend more time interacting with them.

Stop making promises altogether, except the ones to which you can be 100 percent committed. If you’re not sure about something just be honest. It’s better to say no to some things than to encourage someone to count on you and not deliver.

If you make a mistake, address it immediately. Admit what you did and apologize, then take steps to reimburse losses or undo the damage. If habits like speaking impulsively or overcommitting keep you from demonstrating integrity, find ways to change those behaviors.

Interview Questions About Integrity

Recruiters and hiring managers can spot candidates with integrity when they ask questions like:

  • Can you tell me about a time you experienced failure at a previous job?
  • What do you do when you make a mistake at work?
  • Have you ever experienced negative consequences for doing the right thing?
  • What do you see as the difference between company rules and company guidelines?
  • Can you give me an example of a time when your integrity was challenged, and how did you handle it?
  • Would your previous boss describe you as trustworthy? If so, why?

Everyone makes mistakes, the key here is to uncover how the candidate responded. Candidates with integrity will answer honestly even if the questions are uncomfortable or the situation could show them in a negative light.

Brelsford Personnel is committed to the highest standards of excellence in screening and selection for our clients. We can help your company hire candidates with the tangible and intangible skills you need. Get in touch to find out more.

Active Listening – What Is It & Do You Have It?

Active Listening – What Is It & Do You Have It?

In almost every industry, if you look for professional career guidance, before long someone will advise you to focus on developing soft skills. Job seekers are wise to highlight soft skills on their resumes. Hiring managers are on the lookout for candidates who have them because those individuals tend to be more successful in the workplace. Active listening is one of the soft skills at the top of almost every recruiter’s list.

So what exactly is active listening? How do you know it’s a soft skill you already possess, and one you should include on your resume? If you don’t have it, how can you develop it?

About Soft Skills

When they say someone has good “people skills,” they’re talking about one of that person’s soft skills. Hard skills are things like your ability to use computer software, your certification to teach high school math or your knowledge of tax laws.

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills because candidates who can’t solve problems or work with a team are much less likely to be successful in the workplace. No matter what your role, active listening is one of the most important soft skills to develop.

Active Listening – What It Is

Active listening means giving people your full attention and focusing all your senses on what they’re trying to communicate. Among other actions, it can also involve repeating back or paraphrasing what they said to encourage more dialogue and to communicate your understanding.

Why It’s Important

Hearing is passive. You can be aware someone is speaking and feel like you’re getting the “gist” of what they’re saying but not be demonstrating active listening. Developing this soft skill will benefit your career for these reasons:

Active listening will earn you trust and respect. People who really listen are rare. Most people appreciate being fully “heard” because it shows their thoughts, input and concerns matter to you. Employees and team members will be more likely to communicate openly when they can trust you to be supportive and understanding.

Active listening helps staff work through conflict. When you listen with all your senses and put all your energy into truly understanding the speaker’s thoughts and feelings, the focus is on them. You aren’t defensive or judgmental. Your neutral stance has the ability to diffuse tension. Because you consistently reflect back what you hear, you avoid missing critical information or allowing misunderstandings to develop.

Active listening achieves organizational goals. People who feel understood are more engaged. Reduced conflict means more energy for innovation. You and your team are better able to talk through challenges and find solutions.

What It Looks Like

How do you know if you already use the active listening soft skill? Next time someone is talking to you, evaluate your actions, attitudes and body language. Active listening looks this way:

  • Making eye contact
  • Paraphrasing or summarizing
  • Leaning slightly toward the speaker with uncrossed arms
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Nodding to demonstrate agreement, encouragement or understanding
  • Offering brief verbal affirmations
  • Mirroring expressions and body language to show empathy
  • Waiting through periods of silence

Bad Listening Habits to Avoid

Bad listeners do the opposite of what’s listed above. They think they’re listening, but they’re really just waiting to talk. They daydream instead of paying attention. They interrupt to “one-up” the speaker. If what the speaker says doesn’t align with their own beliefs or preferences, they argue and get defensive. If the topic doesn’t interest or benefit them, they tune out.

Bad listeners don’t really want to listen at all. They demonstrate impatience with their body language and end conversations as quickly as possible. They always seem too busy to make time for conversation, and they make co-workers feel like they’re wasting too much time.

How to Develop Active Listening

Active listening is a skill you can improve through practice. When a conversation starts, think of yourself as a sounding board instead of a problem solver.

Start by adjusting your body language. Lean forward and maintain eye contact. Nod your head occasionally. Note the speaker’s body language and see what you can infer about their current emotions and goals.

Switch off your own internal dialogue so your thoughts don’t wander. Avoid thinking about the tasks you need to get to or how much time is passing so you don’t demonstrate impatience. Instead of offering opinions or advice, reflect back what they’ve just told you. Say things like, “In other words, what you’re saying is….”.

Suspend judgment and be open to new ideas. Remember you don’t have to agree with everything the speaker says to genuinely seek to understand their point of view.

Recruiting Active Listeners

At Brelsford Personnel, we try to identify candidates with strong active listening skills by practicing that skill ourselves. We’re successful at matching East Texas job seekers with employers because we don’t view open positions as simply a spot to fill. Before we send a worker to an employer, we’ve spent time learning about both the candidate and the company seeking to hire. The right candidates don’t just look good on paper, they are a good fit for that company’s culture.

That’s why comparing us to other staffing firms is like comparing apples to oranges. Contact us for direct-hire, temp-to-hire, temporary and contract staff with the skills your company needs.

Exit Interviews – Why They Matter and What to Ask

Exit Interviews – Why They Matter and What to Ask

When an employee hands in their notice, many organizations dive right in to finding the right replacement and they miss out on a valuable opportunity. A thoughtful exit interview provides insight into the employee mindset – why they leave, why they stayed as long as they did, and what they wished would have been different about their time at your company. We’re about to look at why exit interviews are so important and offer suggestions on what to ask.

Why Conduct Exit Interviews?

It’s normal for individuals to change jobs several times during their adult lives, but it benefits employers to keep turnover to a minimum. It’s expensive to interview and train new staff members. Experts estimate it might cost tens of thousands of dollars, up to twice an employee’s annual salary to cover the upfront and hidden costs. Good exit interviews help you reduce turnover because they give you an unvarnished view of the employee life cycle.

Save money

During exit interviews, you will likely uncover areas of strength and weakness within your organization you otherwise wouldn’t have known about. When you reduce waste, improve morale and streamline processes, profits increase.

Encourage frankness

Employee polls and surveys have their place, but as long as someone receives a paycheck from you, he or she will likely use caution when sharing opinions or information that might be negatively received. During an exit interview, because staff members don’t have to worry how their words will affect their chances of future employment with your company, many will share more openly.

Improve retention

As you correct problems in the work environment based on information you receive, existing employees feel happier and more valued. Increased job satisfaction results in lower turnover.

Avoid transition problems

An exit interview gives you a chance to review important documents like non-compete and intellectual property agreements. If the employee is leaving over problems that might result in legal action or reflect negatively on your reputation as an employer, you have a chance to address them. Instead, you give employees a chance to provide feedback and end things on a positive note.

Questions to Ask

A thoughtful exit interview gathers data on an employee’s overall experience, aspects of your workplace culture, insight into what drew them to your business in the first place, a peek into what the competition is offering and other observations. Conduct them in person, by telephone or through video conference for best results. If you’re gathering data on a large scale or pressed for time, a survey can also provide useful insights.

Solicit candid feedback asking questions like these:

  • Why did you start applying for another job?
  • What led you to accept your new employer’s offer?
  • Did you feel you had the support and equipment to do your job well?
  • What could we have done better?
  • Did you talk about your concerns with anyone who works here when you were thinking about leaving?
  • Would you ever consider working here again?
  • How would you describe our company culture?
  • Were you comfortable sharing needs or concerns with your manager?
  • What could your manager have done differently?
  • Did you feel your work had clear goals and objectives?
  • Did you receive feedback to help you meet those goals and objectives and improve your performance?
  • Did you feel like a valuable member of the team?
  • What was the best part of your job? The most difficult?
  • What qualities will your replacement need to succeed?
  • Can you think of other issues that should be addressed or other issues you would like to share?

Don’t just work your way down the list, really listen. If you sense your employee might have more to add, ask them to elaborate.

What to Do With Exit Interview Data

Harvard Business Review points out when exit interviews fail, it’s either because of poor data quality or a lack of consensus on what to do with that data. They found in 2/3 of organizations surveyed, there was very little follow-up, so exit interviews seemed to have a negative return on investment.

Exit interviews are powerful tools when you find reasons for turnover and act on them. If you see a pattern emerge where employees leave over frustration with their boss, provide training and feedback to help administrators adjust their management style. If exit interviews show a lack of employee engagement, help staff find fulfillment, purpose and growth in their roles. When high turnover rates are connected to money, you might need to find ways to restructure pay and benefits.

Create a targeted retention plan, then monitor exit interview data over time. Share trends with supervisors, department heads and interviewing staff. Expect greater employee retention and satisfaction in connection to positive changes.

Simplify Staffing

Employers experience lower turnover when they hire staff with the right skills and traits for their organization. Brelsford Personnel stands apart from other staffing agencies because we pride ourselves on helping each employer find exactly the right fit with every single hire. Contact us to find out more.

How to Encourage Employees to Use Their PTO (And Why You Should)

How to Encourage Employees to Use Their PTO (And Why You Should)

Before 2020, employees typically used their paid time off to travel. They saved it for summer cruises and holiday trips to celebrate with family. Then they came back to work refreshed and energized from the break. While you might have had one or two staff members who never liked to take a day off, for the most part employees were happy to put those days to good personal use.

Now people across the nation are traveling much, much less, even for the holidays. Employees might need a mental health day more than ever, but they don’t feel like they should take one. Jobs are harder to come by, and workers don’t want to appear less dedicated. Plus, when you’re planning a staycation instead of a trip, you can fit it into a weekend since there’s no actual travel involved.

While the number of hours employees are putting in has soared, people aren’t taking time off to rest and recharge, so work quality and innovation aren’t what they could be. Now is the time to review existing policies, communicate changes and encourage employees to take time to use their PTO.

Communicate Empathy

Workers won’t feel comfortable taking time off if they think doing so might damage their chances for future employment or promotion. If they aren’t taking PTO, they may need to know you recognize the challenges and stresses they face.

Fully at-home employees might feel trapped and isolated by a work environment that was once considered a perk but be afraid to step away. Workers who deal with the public have the ongoing knowledge that they could be exposed to infected people every day but not have a way to decompress. No matter where they work, employees might feel pressure to perform which makes it hard to disconnect from their responsibilities. They become exhausted and depressed.

You can help by articulating your desire that they take care of themselves. Encourage them to use their PTO by letting them know you consider people your strongest asset and you’re aware of their hard work. Explain how statistically, taking vacation time results in less stress and greater productivity, so doing so is in everyone’s best interests.

Define Organizational Expectations

Even employees who aren’t fully remote have found ways to accomplish many tasks from outside the office. As a result the lines between business hours and personal time have blurred. Many find themselves staying available nights and weekends and responding to notifications every time they chime.

They might think work is no longer confined to the hours your business is open. Plus, they’re putting off travel until they feel like more options are available, and they think paid time off should only be used for actual vacations.

Encourage employees to think of PTO as time for improving their own mental and physical health or strengthening personal relationships, not just for travel. Redefine it as a chance to pursue a hobby or learn a skill that’s not strictly work related. Ask workers to share creative ways they relax like gardening, painting, woodworking or cycling.

Then, review leave policies and communicate individually with employees about the need to take some of their vacation time. Clarify your expectations for what constitutes regular business hours. Leadership should model expected behaviors by taking their own time for rest and self-care.

Don’t Interrupt Staycations

When workers do take time off, give them space. Managers and business owners who wouldn’t think of calling their staff members while they were traveling out of the country sometimes feel like it’s okay when they know they’re staycationing at home. Respect their time off no matter where they’re spending it. Let employees know if they receive work email or group messaging during that time they don’t need to answer until they’re scheduled to return.

Document Policies

Sometimes managers ask if they can force employees to take PTO. While taking a “use it or lose it” approach might motivate staff, it also has the potential to cause dissatisfaction.

It’s better to define PTO use going forward. For example, your revised policy might require that staff take at least 10 PTO days a year, with five of them being consecutive or allow them to use time in two hour increments when they need to come in early or late.

Some employers are concerned that there’s a “PTO bomb” ticking ominously in the background. They worry once travel restrictions ease everyone will want to take a vacation at once. Diffuse the situation by documenting your policy for prioritizing and scheduling multiple simultaneous requests.

At Brelsford Personnel, experience has taught us successful job performance is directly relating to matching the right environment with the right candidate. Let’s talk about how we can help fulfill your professional, administrative and temporary staffing needs when you get in touch.