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.

Workplace Holiday Celebration Ideas for 2020

Workplace Holiday Celebration Ideas for 2020

What you did for holiday parties in the past probably won’t work for the 2020 season. “Last year we had clients booking huge, extravagant events at places like Maude Cobb Convention Center and Villa di Felicita for hundreds of people,” the owner of a Tyler event planning agency said, shaking her head. “This year no one is doing anything like that. Instead, they’re looking for solutions that allow for social distancing.”

Employers recognize they’ve asked a lot from employees this year, and they want to celebrate milestones and accomplishments. Do so safely with these workplace holiday celebration ideas that will even work in 2020.

Plan a Virtual Office Party

If your staff works remotely, a virtual office party might be the way to go. It’s cost-effective because there’s no need to rent or decorate a venue or provide transportation back and forth. You can choose to celebrate during business hours, which gives staff members a break from the work week. Or you might give them the gift of an after-hours event with zero commute time. Some of the top trending virtual office party ideas include a virtual game night, virtual happy hour or shared experience.

Virtual Game Night

Turn video conferencing into a team or individual challenge to build morale and foster a sense of comradery. Employees can participate from home or at the office to solve puzzles, answer trivia, or get in on game show style entertainment. Companies like Let’s Roam and Outback advertise virtual team-building with challenges companies can tailor to their team’s interests, size and preferred activity level.

Virtual Happy Hour

If your previous office party included libations, consider celebrating the 2020 holidays with a virtual happy hour. Ship them options from local vendors like Kiepersol or Briar Creek Vineyards and schedule a time to enjoy them together.

Or, leave the entertainment to someone else with an online hosted happy hour. Vendors like Cocktails from Home or Sourced allow corporate event planners to send employees mini cocktail or mocktail kits. Then attendees join in on a demonstration video where a mixologist or bartender teaches them to use the ingredients they received and enjoy their creation from wherever they are.

Share an Experience

Hire a local or big name entertainer to perform a live video concert that goes straight from their studio to staff homes and offices. Or send staff members tickets to an online concert and schedule to watch livestream shows together. Websites like Grammy.com maintain a list of free online concerts, while sources like StageIt allow employers to purchase tickets for paid events.

Or, make your office party an escape with virtual corporate travel. Take your group on a video trip to Paris with a free virtual tour of The Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, Egyptian Antiquities and the Galerie d’Apollon. Go on a virtual tour of Yellowstone and explore the park’s main attractions together. Hawaii has severe travel restrictions, but their online tour allows you to virtually fly over an active volcano and click and drag to explore shorelines and landscapes. Or tour Wilson Island in Queensland Australia using Google Maps Street view, then take a virtual plunge to see coral reefs beneath the surface.

If online travel isn’t your thing, plan your virtual holiday party around visiting a virtual escape room or taking a shared painting or cooking lesson.

Send a Gift

In-person holiday parties are expensive. If your company isn’t planning one this year, you might instead splurge on staff holiday gifts. Mail or deliver a wellness box stocked with self-care items from a local spa. Send foodies a carefully curated package of local, artisan foods. Or, keep things simple with gift cards for food delivery or a subscription to a snack box or streaming service.

Give Them Time

If you get the sense the last thing your employees want is another Zoom meeting, give them the gift of time. Let them know in lieu of a holiday party, you’re giving them hours or days off. Share how you hope they’ll spend the time doing whatever makes their life meaningful because you value their contribution to your business and appreciate the hard work they’ve put in throughout the year.

At Brelsford Personnel, we wish you happy holidays and look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Professional Salutations for Work Email

Professional Salutations for Work Email

Email is one of the most common communication methods for businesses and individuals, with an estimated 306.4 billion sent daily in 2020. There aren’t many rules for digital communication with friends and family members, but business email has its own etiquette. When you choose a professional salutation for work email you connect with the recipient and create an atmosphere of respect and collaboration for the rest of your message.

Which Part is the Salutation Again?

A salutation is a few words of greeting or acknowledgment. At the very beginning of an email or letter, it’s customary to address the recipient with a formal or informal hello. You might start a work email with “Dear Dr. Brown,” or “Hi Sharon,” depending on the purpose of the email and your relationship with the recipient.

Do Salutations Really Still Matter?

Digital communication strips away body language, tone and other clues that let others know what you’re thinking and feeling. A professional salutation starts your email off with an attitude of respect, friendliness or approachability, depending on the words you choose. Keeping that in mind, here are a few reasons salutations are still a pretty big deal.

  • Professional salutations make good first Impressions. The salutation of your work email sets the tone for the rest of the email, and it lets the reader know how you feel about them.
  • Your salutation is part of personal branding – When you start every work email you send with a professional salutation, you establish yourself as someone who is competent and polished.
  • Professional salutations establish connections – The wrong email salutation can alienate the reader. No salutation at all seems impersonal. A professional salutation connects with the intended recipient and encourages them to read the rest of your message.

Choosing an Appropriate Email Salutation

The right salutation depends on your relationship with the person you’re emailing. If you’re contacting a co-worker with whom you have a strong, positive relationship, someone who knows your kids’ names and where you went on your last vacation, you don’t need to be as formal as you would writing your boss or a new contact.

The less you know someone, the more formal should be your salutation. If you’ve never met a client, potential partner, company representative, department head or other contact, choose a more formal salutation.

Best Salutations for Work

If you’re writing an individual, it’s always best to use their name in the salutation. Here are a few of the best choices, going from most to least formal.

  • Dear Mr. Jones – Use “Dear” with a last name when you’re emailing someone you don’t know very well or a senior staff member. If you’re writing a woman and you don’t know whether or not she’s married, use “Ms.” Instead of “Mrs.” or “Miss.” If the recipient has a title, use it. In very formal situations, follow your salutation with a colon instead of a comma. For example, “Dear Professor Roberts:”
  • Dear Steven – The salutation “Dear” with a first name works in almost any situation if you know the person and are on a similar level, or if they have encouraged you to address them by their first name. Don’t shorten first names unless they tell you to. In other words, don’t address Steven as Steve or Jennifer as Jenny unless they’ve indicated that’s the name they prefer.
  • Greetings – This salutation is friendly but still more formal than just saying hello. It’s an acceptable choice if you’re emailing someone you don’t know very well or cold contacting a potential client.
  • Hi Meredith – If “Dear” feels too formal, “Hi” or “Hello” is acceptable.

Business Email Salutations to Avoid

Stay away from overly casual salutations like “Hey,” “Yo,” “What’s Up,” or anything that ends in an emoji or exclamation point. It’s also a good idea to avoid impersonal salutations like “To Whom It May Concern,” “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Those greetings sound stiff, and they also give the impression you didn’t care enough to find the intended recipient’s name.

Should You Always Use Salutations in Work Email?

It’s never going to leave a bad impression to use a professional salutation for work email because a greeting always adds warmth and personalizes your message. However, there are times you can leave it off.

If you’re having a dialogue and exchange emails back and forth along the same thread and the other person drops the salutation or greeting from their email, sometimes it’s acceptable to leave yours off as well. Err on the side of caution if you’re writing clients, administrators or senior staff members.

For more on professional communication, check out our article 5 Email Etiquette Rules Every Employee Should Know. We also provide resume writing tips, interview tips and dress code guidelines on our Resources page.

Workforce Confidence is Up – Here’s Why

Workforce Confidence is Up – Here’s Why

LinkedIn’s U.S. Workforce Confidence Index gathers data on how workers across the nation feel about their jobs, finances, personal investments and other factors that affect their long-term future, and a recent report shows confidence is up. That may seem surprising after extreme shifts in unemployment numbers and sweeping global economic uncertainty. However, when you look at the last month’s data, it’s an encouraging indicator of how Americans regard their abilities to face challenges, find solutions, and become stronger than ever.

What is Workforce Confidence and How is It Measured?

Workforce Confidence is more than an emotional temperature snapshot. It’s often viewed as a predictor of behaviors and outcomes. People who have positive expectations about their ability to achieve career success and grow their personal wealth are more likely to work hard, have high self-esteem and withstand obstacles.

LinkedIn conducts an online survey every two weeks that gathers data from a random sampling of around 5,000 United States-based members who are currently active in the workforce. Their answers are scored on a scale of -100 to 100 based on how they feel about these statements:

  • I feel confident about my ability to get or hold onto a job right now
  • I feel confident about my ability to improve my financial situation in the next 6 months
  • I feel confident about my ability to progress in my career in the next year

When the survey began in April, most of the nation was shut down. Americans were isolated, stuck at home and unsure what the future would bring. Unemployment numbers got worse week after week.

The Workforce Confidence Index was understandably low. But in the past few months, it has been on the upswing.

Industries Feeling Highest Workforce Confidence

Optimism has increased the most in health care, consumer goods, media and communications, entertainment, and public administration industries. Workers in those industries feel good about their job security and long-term career prospects because they faced huge challenges and found ways to overcome.

In March and April healthcare workers dealt with the possibility they could be overwhelmed by large numbers of sick patients, and they might themselves contract an illness and take it home to their families. They met one challenge after another by adding personal protective equipment and adjusting safety protocols so they could keep serving on the front lines. They found ways to offer telemedicine, minimizing exposure risk and making scheduling more efficient. Health care’s October confidence measure is seven points higher than it was in September.

COVID also had a heavy impact on workers in the entertainment industry. States and cities shut down movie theaters, concert halls and venues for months in the spring and summer. Again, challenge led to innovation.

Entertainers who were able to think outside the box turned to live online events, podcasts and online content distribution. Drive-In movies experienced a comeback and theaters rolled out plans to reopen with increased safety guidelines. Media and Communication experienced a seven-point gain in confidence, while the entertainment industry’s confidence measure went up five points.

Public administration is also noticing a confidence rise as many states have recently announced hiring plans as communities open again. The consumer goods industry quickly found ways to help shoppers feel safe by providing curbside pickup and more e-commerce opportunities. Public Administration saw a seven-point gain, while confidence in for workers in consumer goods increased five points between September and October.

Workers in a wide range of industries adjusted to remote work and found themselves optimistic about the future. Manufacturing and Transportation and Logistics also experienced workforce confidence gains.

Agile Mindsets, New Strategies

Each sector that experienced measurable improvement did so because workers and administrators were able to adapt existing strategies or come up with new ones related to their products and services. They stood out by showing they care about their communities, supporting employee health and productivity and taking steps to protect the most vulnerable. The ability to shift and adapt will continue to factor in business success during the months ahead.

Brelsford Personnel helps East Texas employers solve hiring challenges and job seekers find work. Get in touch to find out more.

Create Your Best Job – The Truth About Job Security

Create Your Best Job – The Truth About Job Security

Throughout our Create Your Best Job series we’ve focused heavily on identifying your skills, strengths, passions, and career goals because in our decades of helping people find work, we’ve come to accept a difficult truth: There is no job security.

If you’re looking for work now, it likely will not be the last time. Once you find your best job, continue to add to your skillset so your value to employers grows over time.

Average Number of Jobs in a Lifetime

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report in 2019 that tallied the number of jobs people born in the years 1957 to 1964 held from between 18 and 52 years of age. This group, often called the Baby Boomers, held around 12 different jobs in their lifetime.

That number might be significantly more or less, depending on age, ethnicity, education, industry, gender and other factors. For example, data shows that some workers currently between the ages of 25 and 34 stay an average of 2.8 years at each job. Public sector employees have longer median tenure than their private sector counterparts.

Still, whatever way you look at it, gone are the days when people work 40 years for the same employer and retire with a pension. Loyalty isn’t what it used to be. Employers hire and fire based on marketplace changes and demand fluctuation. Employees will readily leave for better pay or more attractive benefits. Local, national and global events change economies without warning.

So actually, there is no job security. The best job security is maintaining a marketable skill set. It’s best to be proactive so the next time you’re looking for work, you’re even more marketable than you are now.

4 Tips for Making Yourself More Marketable

Think of yourself as an actor or actress, currently evaluating scripts to find a job that will enhance your value. Let’s say you land what might be the role of a lifetime, a part that fits you perfectly. You throw yourself into that role and for a season, that character is your reality. However, at the same time, you know eventually the show or play will come to an end, so as much as you love the part, you’re constantly preparing for the future.

As an actor, you hone your skills. You note where you excel, and make a plan for correcting weakness as you see it emerge. And, you keep your ears open for the next opportunity, hoping to find a new job before this one ends.

It’s the same way in the job market. Once you find your current best job, prepare yourself for the future by doing the following.

Constantly Acquire New Skills

Keep track of what skills employers are looking for, and start acquiring the ones that aren’t already in your toolbox. Use online tools to add accreditations and certifications. Take advantage of employer-sponsored education whenever possible.

Learn New Technology

The more you know about computer operations and software applications as they apply to your field, the more valuable you are to employers. Technology influences almost every line of work, and it’s always changing, so it’s always a good idea to keep adding to your knowledge base.

Look the Part

Once you find your best job, don’t give in to the temptation to let things slide in terms of professional attire, grooming, posture and presentation. Maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor helps you look and feel like a winner every day. Both managers and recruiters will take note.

Keep Networking

Stay active in your professional association. Mentor others who currently are where you’ve been. Volunteer in your community. You’ll build satisfying relationships now and have useful connections should you need them in the future.

Why Use Brelsford Personnel

Even if you change jobs every two or three years, there’s still a period of searching and waiting between jobs. At Brelsford Personnel, helping East Texas candidates and employers connect is something we live every day. So perhaps we can help.

The job market can change drastically. But we’ve been a part of area employment for long enough that we’re uniquely qualified to help you know what to expect and how to navigate the waters. If you are ready to pursue a new career or have been caught in a lay-off, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help!

Create Your Best Job – Internet Do’s and Don’ts

Create Your Best Job – Internet Do’s and Don’ts

The fact that you’re reading this says you’ve already discovered that the Internet is packed with resources that can help you find a job. You’ll use online resources at every stage of your job search, from browsing job boards to research, to emailing resumes and cover letters, and following up on those emails. However, every day job seekers make online mistakes that hold them back. Follow these online best practices to create your best job.

Stay Out of Rabbit Holes

The Internet is one of the best ways to research job openings, companies, and positions. It also can be a time sucker. Be thorough, but know when to stop surfing and move to activities that will put you in contact with people who can hire you. Limit online research to no more than 30 percent of the time you spend job searching.

Proof Everything

A large percentage of employers now prefer candidates to complete an online application. It’s great to be able to apply for work from your couch, but it’s also time consuming to fill out each employer’s online forms. There’s a tendency to switch to autopilot or to rush through completing fields. Make sure you proofread carefully before you submit every application.

Follow These Email Best Practices

Often you’ll send cover letters and resumes by email. When hiring managers post jobs, they’re frequently inundated with candidates, so you might only have one chance to stand out.

Use an Appropriate Email Address

If you’re currently employed, don’t use your work email address. Send from a personal address that sounds professional and as simple as possible. If your personal email address uses a nickname or something cute, get another one just for your job search.

Write Compelling Subject Lines

Your subject line might be the most important part of your email because if hiring managers don’t read what you sent, you have zero chance of getting an interview. Here are a few examples of subject lines that get hiring managers to look at your cover letter and resume:

  • Paperwork You Requested
  • Bilingual Receptionist Job – Your Name
  • Referral From Tammy Green, Your Name, Candidate for Administrative Assistant Position
  • Job Application – Accountant Job # 45779 – Your Name, CPA

Craft Convincing Body Text

When they open your email, decision makers should find a clear, concise statement of who you are, what position you’re applying for, and why you’re qualified. Think of this as your two minute commercial formatted for email.

Stick to standard fonts and formatting, with black typeface. Avoid using emoji or acronyms. Don’t get too creative even with your signature line. Keep it simple, but include the following:

First Name, Last Name, Title
Email Address
Phone Number

Some companies prefer to receive cover letters and resumes in the email body, while others prefer candidates to send them as attachments. Follow their instructions, since some organizations block email with attachments to prevent viruses.

Send attachments as a Word document unless the job posting says otherwise. Save your documents with clear file names like “First-Name-Last-Name-Cover-Letter.doc” and “First-Name-Last-Name-Resume.doc” so the hiring manager knows what he or she is opening.

Send yourself a test email to double check your spelling, grammar, subject line, and attachments. Sometimes reviewing one more time prevents embarrassing mistakes.

Check Frequently, Reply Promptly

Check your email at least once a day, and reply to prospective employers as quickly as possible. If you can respond immediately, you may catch them while they’re still at their desk and you’re fresh on their mind. Always respond within 24 hours to avoid missing out on an opportunity.

Don’t Let (Social Media) Friends Drag You Down

At this point, you should have already gone through your social media feeds and removed any posts that don’t show you at your professional best. However, your online contacts might inadvertently make it hard to keep them that way. Let your friends know not to tag you in party photos or any other photos you don’t want prospective employers to see. Also, convey your preferences to that friend who always tags you when he or she posts political rants or inappropriate memes.

Silence Technology for Interviews

Part of technology etiquette involves knowing when you shouldn’t be plugged in. Don’t forget to turn off notifications when you’re heading into an interview. If your phone goes off you’ll be distracted and the hiring manager might feel getting a job with them isn’t your top priority.

Use Care With Follow Ups

Apply the same careful proof-reading skills, politeness, and professionalism to all follow-up communication. Don’t limit yourself to online interactions. After an interview consider hand-writing your thank you note to stand out.

Use Free Brelsford Personnel Resources

Visit our job board frequently for updates and check out our dynamic library of online job search resources.