8 Ways Job Candidates E-Sabotage Themselves

The Internet has become such an important part of the job search process. It is the most powerful tool any job seeker has for identifying career opportunities—even at the executive level for which I recruit. Job search platforms have made it easy to seek out and apply for opportunities. However, like any powerful tool, it needs to be used wisely. Otherwise you could end up hurting your chances for roles or even damaging your reputation in the workplace.

Here are eight ways candidates sabotage themselves with their online presence:

Having negative comments or unflattering images on social media. Your social media presence is your image to the public. Manage it wisely. It should be common sense, but people often fail to realize how much damage they can do to their professional life with the information they share online. The golden rule to follow here: Do not share anything online that you would not share at work. You never know who will forward your information to someone else or where the information you post might end up.

Clicking the “Apply” button without reading the details about a job. When LinkedIn or a job board sends you an e-mail with a list of jobs you may be interested in, they generate those lists based on key words in your profile or resume. That doesn’t necessarily mean these jobs match your qualifications. Hitting “Apply” without reading more than the title could create a negative impression on the other end. Look at each role and determine if you are really qualified or close to being qualified. Make sure it is something you really want to pursue. Multiple applications to the wrong role could hurt you when a role opens that you really want.

Reading e-mails quickly and not following the instructions. Employers and recruiters put details in our job postings or e-mails that are important. Often, a candidate will skim the e-mail and send us a question about something that was in the information presented. Or candidates will not follow instructions carefully for an interview and end up in the wrong place or delayed, or worse. Lack of attention to detail makes you look careless. Many hiring managers will reject you outright for that.

Applying too often to one entity. This makes you look desperate or unfocused on your true ambitions. It says, “I will take any job.” That is not the message you want to convey to potential employers. If an organization has multiple jobs open, apply for the one that best suits your background and career goals. If someone on the other end thinks you are qualified for another role, they will reach out to you or share your information with others in their organization.

Sending a resume to any recruiter you can find on the Internet. Lately, my colleagues and I are seeing an uptick in this activity. We get e-mails with a resume attached and a request from the candidate for help in identifying a new role. My specialty (and my firm’s focus) is health care and higher education. It is rare that I have a client willing to look for candidates outside its industry, and often the candidate will have skill sets that are not even close to the types of roles I fill. Submitting to multiple recruiters is a waste of your time and mine, and it also makes you look careless. Look for recruiters who specialize in the types of roles you are seeking in your field.

Arguing via e-mail with a recruiter or employer. At my firm, we try to send a note back to candidates we are not moving forward with in a search. Sometimes a candidate will e-mail me back with a request for more information about why he or she is not being considered. This is a reasonable question, and I usually take the time to give some of the specific reasons he or she did not meet an employer’s requirements. On occasion, I get an angry e-mail back stating that the requirements are invalid or not necessary. Ultimately, the requirements are set by organizations in good faith and for good reasons. Arguing about them will not help, and argumentative behavior does not help your image. It also could prevent you from consideration for other roles.

Not submitting a resume and asking the employer or recruiter to look at your LinkedIn profile. As comprehensive as some LinkedIn profiles are today, they are still not a substitute for a resume. Asking someone to refer to your LinkedIn profile says you are not serious about applying for the job.

Being careless about a Skype/Facetime/video interview. Interviewing is an important step in the process. It is important that you present yourself in a professional way. Just because you are interviewing from your home doesn’t mean you should be casual about your appearance or the setting. Dress appropriately. Make sure there are no glaring lights in the eyes of your interviewer. There should not be other people or pets in the room. Go somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. Look at what will be in the background behind you. Sit at a desk or table in a regular chair—not in a recliner. Look into the camera when you speak to the interviewer. If you have never or infrequently used Skype or Facetime before, make sure you test the technology before your interview and make sure you are properly set up to receive a call. Keep the camera stationary and don’t move it around. You want the interviewer to see a polished professional without any distractions.

The Internet gives us great tools to explore career opportunities. Use it to your best advantage.


AUTHOR: Diane Nicholas is a consultant with WK Advisors, a division of executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. WK Advisors specializes in filling innovative mid-level and other critical executive positions in health care, education, and the not-for-profit sector. 



‘Tis the Season: Use “Guerrilla-Style” eLearning to Train Holiday Hires

Holiday season magnifies the challenges of onboarding new employees. Businesses face increased pressure from an influx of customers, enormous volumes of orders or deliveries, or simply juggling regular workloads when many regular employees are away. Getting seasonal hires up to speed, fast, can help. Doug Stephen, senior vice president of the learning division at CGS, in New Brunswick, Canada, shared some best practices for creating what he called “guerrilla-style learning”—cost-effective, mobile-friendly eLearning.

Minimize, then contain, training

The best thing a company can do, according to Stephen, is no training—by rehiring from previous years. “If you can retain even a small amount of those that have been successful the year before, you’re going to maintain or increase customer service, the cost is going to be less, and you’re going to have more stability in the workforce.”

Of course, it’s unlikely that a company can retain a full complement of seasonal hires from year to year. Conceding the necessity of training some new hires, Stephen emphasizes the key to efficient training of people who will be around for only a couple of months: planning. “It’s best to contain the training,” he said. “And once you contain the training, to simplify it.” Planning allows a company—of any size—to prioritize and train only essential skills.

Turn top-performing employees into video stars

Stephen’s solution enlists valued permanent employees—and everyone benefits. “Take a look at your top regular performers that are doing what the seasonal people will be doing. Find out from them what are the ‘gotchas’ in the work that need to be addressed. Because you can’t teach seasonal employees everything,” he said.

Once crucial skills and topics are identified, those top performers “teach” the new hires—informally. “We decide what is important before we do this kind of ‘guerrilla-type learning,’” Stephen said. “We use mobile devices, and we create little tiny vignettes, under two minutes. We can either have [the selected employees] do a selfie and explain, or they can have a manager film them while they’re talking about it.”

The resulting short videos become tips and training for new seasonal hires—“the mechanisms and the methods to find out what they need to know to be able to do the job best.” As an example, Stephen described working with a home goods store, a chain with about $800 million in annual sales. Employees recorded vignettes on topics like how to properly fold a small rug for a floor display, after-hours procedures for ensuring that the stores were pristine and organized for opening, and the correct way to process customer returns.

“We take our best person or best people to explain the key to being successful,” Stephen said. “We take that information and post it on a YouTube channel.” The vignettes, tagged and categorized, are available on YouTube where new hires can search by scenario, task, and job role.

“There is still that human interaction, but we extend it out into the digital space so that people can learn it,” Stephen said. This solution “proves to be very cost-effective, and you can move very quickly as well. You don’t have to be able to set up plans to put it into the LMS and SCORM it. You just create a YouTube channel and put it up there. And it’s really effective.”

It’s a low-cost solution that any company can implement easily. “This can be a poor man’s option or a rich man’s option that can get the same results,” Stephen said.

It’s also scalable. “Name me a small company that doesn’t have an iPhone,” Stephen said. Any company can do this; the key is planning. “The issue is, even small companies need to take the time to prepare” and focus only on the most essential tasks and skills. And keep it short. “If it’s more than two minutes, we lose them.”

Engaging top-performing permanent employees has an additional bonus: “People love that. People want to be recognized as someone who is valuable to the organization. What better way to do that than to go home to your family and say, ‘The manager asked me to help the new people. And oh, by the way, let’s go to YouTube and take a look at what I’m doing,’” Stephen said. “You’re bringing in valued regular employees and really giving them kudos and something to be proud of; they’ve been selected to impart their skills to others. It’s very empowering within an organization.”

Employees or contractors?

Some seasonal or temporary hires are employees; others may be freelancers or contractors. The difference is legally significant; when providing training, employers must be careful not to treat contractors or freelancers like employees. In some locales, requiring or even providing comprehensive training, or requiring employees to perform specific tasks in defined ways, can cross that line.

For this reason, Stephen advises posting the videos to a public YouTube channel. “We can create a private area and we can provide user names and passwords to contractors if we wish,” he said. But “if you want to make it public, the advantage to that is it could help you if you bring in a person as a contractor.”

With a public YouTube channel, the vignettes become “tips that anyone in the world can view,” and contractors can access them using their own devices, on their own time. That can help establish that those individuals are not employees.

Look at new sources of seasonal workers

Cast a wide net when looking for those seasonal hires, Stephen advises. “We all have a tendency to look to students, to try to bring them in. Expand it, and look at some fantastic people who might be retirees who would also be interested—and you might have more stability there as well,” Stephen said, since more of the retirees might return year after year. “There’s a pool [of people] that are willing and just as able to do that type of seasonal work.”

Or consider staffing through an agency: A staffing agency can take on some of the training burden, screening temporary hires for needed skills and providing needed eLearning and training. “I have found that a staffing agency can be very effective in terms of pre-screening the candidates, administering safety training and assessment tests, etc.,” said Melanie Kim, a staffing consultant at AppleOne in California. Some agencies handle payroll as well. “There is, of course, a higher cost associated with temporary services versus finding the employees on their own. However, many companies find the time they save on qualifying and onboarding candidates is worth the additional cost,” Kim said.

Remember: It’s a two-way street

Posting short tips or training to YouTube works for all hires: seasonal employees or contractors; students or retirees. “Everyone goes to YouTube, believe it or not,” Stephen said. “If not, you can show them. The younger people just go there first. The others might say, ‘Where’s the booklet?’ But once you show them, and they see a real example instead of reading it, everybody embraces it. It’s a video world now; it’s all video.”

And once they’re on board, keep new seasonal hires engaged: Ask for feedback and show appreciation. If the new hires feel welcomed and as if they are a part of a bigger effort, they’ll engage more with both the training and the work. Once the season ends, Stephen advises investing a small amount of effort to stay connected using a Facebook page or other social media. When the next hiring season rolls around, reach out to previous hires and consider using incentives to get top performers to come back, Stephen suggests. That will take you full circle, back to his first suggestion: Minimize and contain training!



Should STEM Include An ‘A’ – For Art?

Science may be the basis of technological innovation, but art is what makes it appealing to the masses.

Amid companies’ focus on recruiting talent with hard technical skills in areas such as computer science and engineering is a renewed push for the arts. The development is most reflected in an effort by the Rhode Island School of Design to include “art” in the STEM acronym, widely used to describe education’s focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The University of Iowa’s College of Engineering recently jumped on the STEAM bandwagon as well. It now requires engineering students to take at least three credit hours of creative arts courses. The “Be Creative” requirement is recognition that these students will be better engineers if they are more creative artistically, according to Alec Scranton, the College of Engineering’s dean.

Scranton said that although engineering is inherently a creative field, today’s engineers need to have a broad understanding of the role art plays in design. “This type of broader exposure to the arts just helps develop that more rounded engineer that will be more prepared for success upon graduation,” he said.

It also helps the products that engineers design become more successful. Think of the success Apple has had with its products. A big reason Apple has out-performed its competitors isn’t that its products are technically better — although some certainty are — but that they are built with an intense focus on design.

Where to Start

Including the arts in business can start with something as simple as having an event. A 2012 Arts & Business paper, “The Value of Arts-Based Initiatives: How to combat the recession for Business,” showed that Arts-Based Initiatives, or ABIs, are a way that “businesses can generate value from existing relationships with the arts, as well as an opportunity to establish new relationships, by exploiting the knowledge and skills within the sector for their own competitive advantage.” ABIs, the paper said, are interventions to the organization using at least one art form to have employees experience art and embed it as a business asset. These are often experiential learning events that encourage people to be innovative and take risks.

Some companies have found unique ways to inject art in their cultures to positively influence performance. Scottish Widows, an investment firm, started its Arts@Work program in 2007, which brought together workers from two separate locations through gallery tours, art workshops and employee-produced art. Of those who participated, 38 percent said the program increased their productivity and 43 percent experienced business benefits from the creative work.

“ABIs target the businesses’ infrastructure and personnel as well as demonstrate and develop these higher-value sets” of employee satisfaction, such as engagement, meaning of work and flexibility, according to the Arts & Business paper. And when employees are more satisfied and engaged at work, their productivity rises, leading to better retention and fewer sick days reported, the paper said.

Bolstering Team Performance

But business leaders can take this effort further. Meshing art-focused talent with different fields can also boost team performance by making them more agile, according to Denis Lacasse, executive vice president of Momentum Design Lab, a user-centered website and software design agency in San Mateo, California.

Lacasse previously worked as an executive producer at Zynga, a video game developer, and when faced with a shortened timeline for a game’s development, he said getting the project accomplished required agility. So the leadership team decided to set up a “pod” structure that included workers from different disciplines and backgrounds — artists, game designers, engineers, etc. — in each of the four pods, but they shared a common link of being passionate gamers focused on the end goal.

“I think creating that environment and making them autonomous and responsible for the outcome of that specific area really allowed them to take ownership, feel like they really had an ownership and a stake in the outcome and that they were in control,” Lacasse said.

This is important because teams with more diverse backgrounds tend to make more productive decisions, Lacasse said. “Having too much of similar thought is not going to push you in the right direction, so underlining that you have to have these different points of view is important.”

The game ended up taking only four and a half months to finish, Lacasse said, whereas the company’s other games could take between six and 12 months to complete. While he said the success of the game and quick turnaround couldn’t be solely attributed to making thought-diverse teams autonomous, “I think empowering our people and having that diversity definitely was a big part.”


AUTHOR: Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy.

Reprinted from TALENT ECONOMY

Got Skills Gaps? Partner Up

Adults are struggling to learn in today’s fast-paced world, and leaders are having a tough time finding employees who already have both the technical and soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. But Mika Nash said learning leaders can find ways to elevate workforce knowledge. Nash, the Academic Dean of Champlain College Online in the Division of Continuing Professional Studies, spoke with Chief Learning Officer about how to address skills gaps and how to create an online curriculum that is highly relevant, career-focused and immediately applicable.

Chief Learning Officer: How severe is the skills gap in our knowledge-focused age? Why is it so great?

Mika Nash: Because the landscape is changing so much, particularly in technical areas, there are employees coming in, prospective employees, who don’t have more advanced expertise in the technical areas. [Employers are] hiring folks with potential and putting them through training and education to get them to the place they would like them to be. But what we hear most often is perhaps even much more serious, and that is around the softer skills — critical thinking, problem solving, troubleshooting — which [are] central to an employee’s ability to be valuable, contribute and produce. A lot of organizations and institutions aren’t teaching to fill those skills gaps in an integrated way.

Chief Learning Officer: High-growth job categories tend to require higher social skills, analytic savvy and technical prowess. What’s one way today’s learning leaders can build these skills?

Nash: Create an environment in your workplace where you encourage fast failure. It’s okay to make mistakes. Fast failure is one of those ideas that’s used in business a lot where you want people to make mistakes quickly, learn from it and move on. That kind of environment creates innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and energizes people because they don’t feel paralyzed with this fear around “what if I make a mistake?” or “what if I don’t hit some kind of arbitrary standard?” Once you release people from that fear, people often work at a much higher level.

Chief Learning Officer: Adults want meaningful ways to grow their skills and advance their careers. How should corporate learning leaders partner with higher education programs to get what employees want and what the business needs?

Nash: If you’re struggling to do something — maybe you’re not hitting numbers or there’s an issue that continues to be thorny in your work environment — a wonderful way of managing that is working with someone who is an expert in the field, and those folks are at higher education institutions all over the country. Bring those folks in to help do a gap analysis around what we have, what do we need, and then to start making connections. Where can we get those skills, those competencies? Are there programs that offer these types of outcomes, certificate programs, etc.? When we start being very deliberate and mindful about our approach to support employees, and we bring higher education into the equation, there’s such an incredible benefit to employees but also to employers.

Chief Learning Officer: How can learning leaders make sure their curriculum is career-focused, highly relevant and immediately applicable in the workforce?

Nash: The best way to manage this both for learning leaders who are internal to the business place and working in higher education organizations is, have a really free flow of information and communication happening. I’m very uncomfortable with that firewall that can sometimes exist between the “pure” education and business; like, somehow, we shouldn’t be engaging with one another. The goal is to create lots of opportunities to hear what are the problems cropping up in the workplace. Make sure your curriculum is responsive and agile to be able to respond to those changes.

Chief Learning Officer: Is there a foolproof methodology CLOs can use to create rigorous online curriculum that promotes critical thinking skills and lifelong learning?

Nash: Nothing is ever foolproof, but there is an equation that makes sense. Have curriculum that is highly applied, relevant and current, and I truly mean highly applied; we’re not living in a land of theory here. Every theory, every idea should be attached to something real. If you have that and you have faculty who are, in the best of all possible worlds, practitioners in the field, asking critical questions and engaging student in ways that makes them think very deeply about the materials, you will have a curriculum that is immediately useful in the workplace. It’s not foolproof, but it is darn near perfect.


AUTHOR:  Alice Keefe is a Chief Learning Officer editorial intern.


Why HSAs Are an Underutilized Retirement Vehicle

Lorna Sabbia is managing director and head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She recently shared her perspectives on how employers can help employees prepare for retirement, including her take on the high medical costs retirees face even when covered by Medicare. Highlights of that conversation follow.

Employee Benefit News: In talking to plan sponsors, do you perceive that they generally understand the financial educational needs of their employees?

Lorna Sabbia: I have a lot of great friends who are incredibly talented who work in other industries. Despite their talent, I’m often surprised by how little they know about some very basic financial topics, like managing debt, budgeting, the impact of inflation, compound interest and similar subjects. My point is those of us who are focused on benefits and retirement planning sometimes just want to jump right into that topic without laying the foundation of a more basic education in the fundamentals of personal finance.

EBN: When are employees most receptive to financial education?

Sabbia: That depends on what’s happening in their lives at any given time. While you need a strong communications framework around financial education and financial wellness, it’s equally important to have an on-demand education delivery mechanism. Individuals become interested when they have a need at that nanosecond. Some certainly enjoy the opportunity to become educated on a broad variety of topics over time, but when it becomes important, it’s because something has happened in their life, and therefore they’re reaching out for a specific topic.

EBN: How do you do that?

Sabbia: It has to be a combination of online tools — interactive sites that are pretty intuitive for folks to become better educated. For example, we built apps, which we want to be fun to use, around topics like inflation. More broadly, we think it’s important to help employees overcome emotional barriers both to learn and to make decisions. Automation can help with that.

EBN: I know you’ve focused quite a bit on health expenses in retirement and HSAs. Are HSAs underutilized as a form of retirement savings vehicle?

Sabbia: Yes. When you talk to employees and employers, you can see that health and health savings are key areas of concern. When you think about living expenses in retirement, healthcare is a wildcard, and people are concerned about it. What we try to do, in partnerships with outside subject matter experts, is to bring ideas like longevity and its health-expense implications to the table. Employers often say, “Yep, that’s something we think our employee base would benefit from.”

EBN: Are employers and employees thinking about HSAs as a retirement vehicle?

Sabbia: I think we’re on the front end of having employees really understand what the vehicle can do over time. It’s similar to back in the ‘90s when 529 college savings accounts were beginning to be introduced and eventually really took off. Today, with HSAs, folks are still trying to understand what they are and what they’re not. This is a topic that needs to be incorporated into the overall employee education about finances and retirement.

EBN: When an employer puts an HSA in place, should the message to employees be to contribute as much as they can, regardless of what they’re doing with their 401(k)?

Sabbia: I think we would always suggest that you max out on their 401(k)s, and to the extent that you can contribute to your HSA as well. But the “triple tax free” tax benefits of HSAs help to motivate employees to take advantage of them. We have a “health care discovery app” that deals with what Medicare covers, with dental, vision and long-term care, and cost estimates under different scenarios. It’s the most popular app that we have, even more than Social Security and lifetime income, in employee interest.

EBN: Most people with access to an HSA spend most if not all of the balance every year. Do you expect that to change, and for more employees to see it as a longer-term savings and investment vehicle?

Sabbia: The more education that happens, I do believe the balances over time are going to increase. One estimate I’ve seen [is that] of out-of-pocket health costs for a retirement that lasts 25 years is $220,600, or $318,800 for a 30-year retirement. That gets people’s attention.

Other research I’ve looked at, based on the top 100 HSA providers, indicates that about $4 billion of the $30 billion in HSAs is in longer-term investments. I do expect that proportion will grow.

I do believe that many employees will make the maximum contributions each year when they fully appreciate the benefits — pre-tax dollars that come out tax free, both principal and earnings, even better than a Roth IRA. I believe we’ll see the same evolution that we’ve seen in the 401(k) space, as far as the growth of investment choices. For example, in our program, once an employee has $1,000 in their account in a liquid vehicle, they can make subsequent contributions into 26 different mutual funds.

EBN: The maximum employer plus employee contribution for an individual who has an HSA in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan in 2016 is $3,350, and $6,750. Those aren’t big numbers.

Sabbia: Well, the limits are inflation-adjusted, but we also support the idea that they should be raised more over time. Even so, it’s a great way to save, particularly with all three tax benefits. We do make a major effort with education so that employees know the purposes and time horizons for different asset classes. You can pool diversified portfolios for long-term savings in those types of platforms.



Would a Four-Day Workweek Be More Productive?

In 1890, the United States government began tracking workers’ time on the job. It found that the average workweek for full-time manufacturing employees was around 100 hours. A half century later, after a drawn out battle between workers and government officials, the five-day, 40-hour workweek became standard practice.

Now, it appears a more radical idea is taking hold that would potentially reduce further the time Americans work: a four-day workweek.

Amid progressive efforts to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and other workers’ rights, some experts say the four-day workweek may be next in line for serious consideration.

Proponents argue that when employers allow an extra day of rest, workers will more likely to be productive in the time they spend on the job. Opponents of the concept say it is simply unattainable. Workers are being asked to complete more work with fewer resources, while many employees are paid by the hour.

Moreover, customers’ demands on the amount of services they receive means most businesses simply cannot afford to cut a day out of the workweek for employees.

While some companies, like Japanese retailer Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, allow some of its workers the option of working four 10-hour days as opposed to five eight-hour days to maintain the time worked, others argue companies should forfeit the time entirely. It’s not about the amount of time at work, they say, but the quality and amount of work completed.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that working fewer hours is actually more efficient and productive than working more hours. Workers motivated by the prospect of an extra day off are more likely to forgo typical workplace distraction or time wasted in favor of more focused work. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the practice.

Pro: Improved Efficiency

Working longer doesn’t always mean working better.

According to a recent report about productivity by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, countries like the Netherlands show extremely high productivity numbers while logging fewer hours at work than workers from any other country. The data indicates that happy employees who work shorter workweeks are more productive than stressed employees who work overtime.

Marta Stefaniuk, a manager at Merge Design + Interactive based in Chicago, experienced this years ago when she was a temp worker at a New York-based firm that offered Fridays off as a form of “summer hours” three months a year.

“The two major benefits were efficiency and work-life balance,” Stefaniuk said. “People walked into the office and got to work. Everyone worked quickly and effectively to be able to have Friday off. Much less time was wasted on unnecessary chatter, fewer people were late and meetings ran more efficiently.”

The extra day off also helped employees’ mental health.

“The three-day weekend allowed for a longer rest, more time with family and friends, less of a rush to run errands,” Stefaniuk said. “People traveled out of town more because it’s worth it and doable in three days. And a change of scenery makes a huge difference on people’s mental wellbeing. On Monday, employees returned more refreshed and excited to get back to their routine.”

Other companies, meanwhile, have institutionalized the practice.

Cosmetic company Blu Skin Care based in Los Angeles offers all its employees a four-day workweek. “For some odd reason, we are programmed to believe that working longer and harder equals better achievements in the workplace,” said Zondra Wilson, the company’s president and CEO. “I beg to differ. I’ve found that working a four-day week increases productivity and job satisfaction.”

Pro: More Work-Life Balance

Wilson said the four-day week gives her employees more time at home to rest and recharge, making them more focused and productive while they are at work. Other countries have found similar success with this arrangement.

In the Netherlands, for instance, people work an average of 29 hours per week, according to the OECD report, while people in Denmark and Norway work roughly 33 hours per week. As a result, people in Scandinavian countries report less stress, more work-life balance and more overall happiness, the report shows.

Families with children in particular will see a reduction in child care costs in addition to being able to spend more time with their families. According to HR professional association the Society for Human Resource Management, four-day weeks help retain employees as well.

“Starting a four-day workweek again would tremendously improve the business practices and health of Americans,” Stefaniuk said. “People would get to spend more time with friends they care about instead of forming artificial relationships ‘work friends’ and employees would be healthier both physically and mentally. This in turn would save companies a good sum of money.”

Pro: More Loyal Employees

Millennials, now the most populous generation in the workforce, demand more flexibility in when and where they work. As a result, companies offering the flexibility of a four-day workweek may find it easier to please this generation of workers.

The return for employers is increased loyalty. Once millennials are awarded more flexibility, they’re more loyal. Ryan Carson, founder of Treehouse Island Inc., an online education company with 70 employees, wrote an article for Quartz extolling the virtues of the four-day workweek. He wrote that his employees will  hear other tech giants about jumping ship, but most of them are unwilling to give up their four-day weeks.

Con: Increased Out-of-Work, Online Activity

Not everyone is convinced that a true four-day workweek is feasible because of the fact that most workers, thanks to around-the-clock connectivity, are likely logging time on the job outside of work anyway.

David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing and consulting firm based in Norwalk, Connecticut, offers his employees a flexible work environment in which most are logging fewer than 40 hours per week. However, he sees a major flaw in the four-day workweek concept, mainly because of workers’ increasingly work-related online activity.

“I would argue that since we are all connected, we are working seven days a week, at least for a few hours,” Lewis said. “The idea of going to a four-day week makes several assumptions that I don’t think are realistic. It assumes that the three days the employee is not working, they are also disconnected in total or mostly. And it assumes the employer will reinforce the need for them to recharge and actually cut off email and server access on these days.”

Con: Customer Dissatisfaction

The four-day workweek also might not work for companies whose customers rely on their service on those days. “The concept assumes that co-workers and clients and vendors are all going to view the employer positively when they are relegated to four days of access,” Lewis said.

This is actually the reason the state of Utah recently reverted back to a five-day workweek. It dropped down to four days for state government workers in 2008 and quickly saw a rise in productivity, employee satisfaction and morale in addition to savings on energy costs. However, customers grew frustrated that they didn’t have access to services on Fridays, and in 2011, to the chagrin of its workers, Utah went back to a five-day week.

Con: Compensation Complications

Workers who are paid by the hour are unlikely to be in favor of shorter workweeks. Similarly, industries like manufacturing require a certain level of output per day and per week are unlikely to embrace the shift. Take one day away, and the job simply won’t get done.

Retail, restaurants and utilities firms face the same dilemma. “Personally, I would love to have a four-day workweek for myself,” said Nedalee Thomas, CEO of water filtration company Chanson Water in Laguna Hills, California. “It’s always been my dream to have three days off. However, in my industry, which involves sales, technical support and shipping, a four-day workweek would mean more staff to cover more hours and cross training.”

“We’ve talked about it, and I’ve always felt that if my employees were open to something like that, I certainly would consider it,” Thomas added. “I do like to improvise, adapt and overcome. I’ve observed the lifestyles of other countries — for example, countries that take siestas in the warm afternoons. I like the concept of more balance between work and real life.”

Con: Employers Want Fewer Hours, Too

“Many employers falsely believe they can cram more work into a four-day workweek,” Blu Skin Care’s Wilson said. “In reality, Americans are already overworked. Balance in the key.”

Another problem with working the same amount of hours in fewer days is it can actually hamper performance, according to Laura MacLeod, who runs From the Inside Out Project, an HR consultancy based in New York City.

“If the same amount of work is expected, it can be extremely stressful to condense into four days,” MacLeod said. “Workers stay late and lose sleep, rush through tasks and projects or simply don’t finish all that was expected.”

Restaurant and bar staff, for example, often prefer to do overtime or double shifts, working 12 to 14 hours in a single day, as many are motivated by the time-and-a-half pay they receive in exchange for the extra work.

“That’s fine, except that a bartender or waiter toward the end of a double shift is usually tired, less engaging, less productive, and sometimes has the attitude that others should pick up the slack,” MacLeod said. “Customers and co-workers will usually get better service and treatment from a worker on a single shift.”

The same goes for nurses, MacLeod said, adding that in a health care environment, exhausted workers can actually be dangerous.

“Nurses also often work 12-hour shifts for three or four days,” MacLeod said. “Exhaustion in a high stress environment is risky for both patients and workers. Nurses and other hourly employees may also want this schedule because they have a second job or go to school. If this is the case, there is no rest at all, and workers are definitely on the way to burnout.”

It All Depends on the Workplace

While a four-day workweek is potentially beneficial when it comes to hiring millennials, reducing stress, increasing employee loyalty, performance and happiness, it’s not for every organization. Companies that have around-the-clock customer demands and pay employees by the hour are unlikely to find the prospect of the arrangement attractive.

Nevertheless, for companies that have the luxury of allowing workers flexibility in how and when they work, the four-day workweek is a lucrative benefit that could potentially attract and retain top talent.


AUTHOR:  Wendy Webb is a freelance writer based in Minnesota.

Reprinted from TALENT ECONOMY

Ten Tips for Hiring a Stellar eLearning Freelancer

Organizations looking for help with developing eLearning content would do well to tap into the fast-growing freelance market. It provides a wealth of skills and expertise that is cost-effective, flexible, and agile.

But with so much choice available, how do you ensure you hire the best eLearning freelancer?

I have pulled together this list of 10 tips on how to hire an eLearning freelancer, based on the experience of providing freelancers to fulfill eLearning projects all around the world.

1. Be ready to hire

This may sound like a statement of the obvious, but the freelance market is fast-paced, and freelancers with good skills are in high demand. That means you need to offer work that is ready to start in the next few days, not projects that are at the planning stage with a start date that could be six or seven weeks away.

2. Clearly define the task

Be crystal clear about the project and what the role is. This should provide some context about the organization, the scope of the project, and what you expect the freelancer to produce. This part of the process is critically important, as you might find you don’t need a freelancer at all—or that you need more than one. By defining the task, you define the resource capacity required.

3. Know your budget

The budget is an important filter that will help narrow down potential freelancers. Providing a range for the fee—whether it is a day rate or fixed-fee job—is a good approach, as it will mean you get interest from freelancers who will have differing skills sets and levels of expertise.

4. Set the expected time commitment

From the outset, freelancers like to know what the time commitment is likely to be for your job. It may be a few hours a week to a few days a week, and it may last a week or three months. Make sure you are clear about the immediate time commitment and whether it might flex over time. This information helps them to pick the right job, and it helps you find freelancers who can fully commit to the work.

5. Ask yourself: Do you need a freelancer on site?

Looking for people who need to be on site or at your office will dramatically reduce your choice of freelancers. So, be clear as to whether you really need freelancers to be on site, and if you do, then think about how much time you need them there. Requiring someone to be in the office one day every two weeks, versus every day of the week, will expand your choices.

6. Check out their portfolio

Gone are the days when freelancers could reasonably say that their work was hidden behind a corporate firewall or buried deep in a learning management system. Ask and expect to see one or more portfolios from a freelancer. They might have more than one portfolio showcasing their range of skills—instructional design and eLearning development, for example. Good freelancers will provide portfolios tailored to the work and skills you are looking for.

7. Set a test

You wouldn’t hire a permanent employee without assessing their skills—and the same rule applies to freelancers. Make sure to set an appropriate test or task based on the skills you are looking for. For example, a task for eLearning content development might be to make a change to the skin on a document and rewrite copy to be more scenario-led.

8. Get testimonials

Ensure you have success stories from the freelancer’s work for other clients. Freelancers need to provide evidence of the project or challenge, what they did, and the outcome. Expect to see examples of work from a range of clients—you want to see that the freelancer has worked for different organizations and across different industry sectors. Expect to see feedback from the person who hired them.

9. Communicate effectively

Set out how you would like to communicate with your freelancers for the duration of the project. This is especially important if they are based off site. Make sure you schedule regular project updates and ask your freelancers to provide a time sheet.

10. Define the tools you use

As well as setting out what tools you use for eLearning development work—such as Articulate or Captivate—make sure that you outline all the other internal communication tools that will be used on the project: Slack or Yammer, for example. This will help identify freelancers who are able to use your tools.

These 10 tips describe how to find the best eLearning freelancers for your next learning project. But remember, this is just the start of the process. Think about onboarding freelancers in the way you would onboard any full-time employee.

That means clear communication around when the job starts, what they need in advance of that happening, and what you need them to know. The more effort you put in at this stage of the process, the quicker your newly hired freelancer can get on with the job you hired them to do.



A Way for Workers to Trade In Unused Vacation

(Bloomberg) — Many Americans are notoriously bad at taking all of their vacation time. Rob Whalen used to be one of them.

In less than five years working at Cisco Systems Inc., he piled up 240 hours of paid time off. That’s a month and a half Whalen could have used to rest at home or relax on a beach. Instead he chose the office, where there was just too much to do.

Shortly after leaving that job, he was talking to a friend with an equally backed-up vacation account: “Wouldn’t it be really cool,” his friend said, “if you could use some of it to buy a hotel and airfare, and then go on a big two-week vacation?”

That gave Whalen an idea. Three years later, he is pitching PTO Exchange, a company he co-founded with Todd Lucas as a way to let workers tap the cash value of their days, weeks, and months of unused time off. The Seattle-based startup, which recently signed its first employer client, lets workers trade unused, paid time off for travel or contributions to 401(k) plans and health savings accounts.

“With so much time going unused, we realized that this is a benefit that needs to be redefined,” Whalen said.

Work hard, don’t play

When it comes to time off, Americans are in a perverse situation. The U.S. is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate paid leave. Workers in most European countries are legally entitled to about 20 days of vacation or more each year, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Swedes are entitled to five weeks, while French workers get as many as 30 days.

In the U.S., by contrast, almost a third of workers get no paid sick leave, and more than a quarter don’t get any vacation time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. That’s prompted states such as California and cities including New York to require that employers provide paid sick time.

Meanwhile, those lucky enough to get time off frequently don’t use it. Less than half of U.S. workers said they took all or most of their vacation days in the past year, and only 22% used the bulk of their paid sick time, according to a survey of 1,600 employed adults by Harvard University, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Public Radio. And it’s not just the worker bees—reluctance to be away from the office often stretches into the executive suite, too.

Instead, Americans come to work sick, spreading infection and making themselves and everyone around them miserable. Or they burn themselves out mentally by not taking vacation. As a result, millions of days intended to give people much-needed time off either get forfeited or end up on company balance sheets to be cashed out by workers sometime in the future.

“There is workplace peer pressure to minimize using” time off, said Lonnie Golden, a Penn State University economics professor who studies vacation. A company might officially offer a generous vacation package, but workers know that their bosses and colleagues depend on them to be present and productive. The tendency among companies to keep staffing lean means there isn’t always enough people to cover when someone goes on vacation.

“You get these mixed signals,” Golden said. If you leave your work for a week or two, “you feel like [work] will just pile up.”

Most employees are allowed to carry over at least some time off from year-to-year. According to the BLS, 57% of civilian workers can carry over sick time, and about one in five can carry over an unlimited amount of it. About 55% of American workers can roll over at least some vacation time, but employees still end up forfeiting about 222 million vacation days a year, according to a 2016 analysis by Project Time Off, an advocacy group. Another 436 million days are carried over to future years, which means they become a financial obligation for employers.

About nine out of 10 companies pay out cash for unused vacation time when workers quit or are fired, according a 2014 survey of benefit specialists by WorldatWork, a nonprofit association of human resources professionals.

Expensive for employers

Employees accumulating huge amounts of paid leave can create problems for both themselves and their employers. Untapped vacation can become a large financial obligation that businesses must carry on their balance sheets. If workers have banked hundreds of hours of leave time, they often have just two options to unlock its value immediately: Go on months-long vacations—something likely to displease their bosses if it’s even allowed—or quit.

Whalen said a problem with vacations is the one-size-fits-all model: PTO Exchange lets employees view online the dollar value of their untapped vacation time. That can be used to book flights and lodging through a partnership with Priceline Group Inc., deposited into a 401(k) or HSA, or donated to charitable organizations. Employees can also give their paid leave to colleagues suffering from medical issues. “The benefits someone wants in their twenties might be different than those someone wants if they’re 30 or 40,” Whalen said.

His company is currently working to implement the system at its first client—a health insurer with more than 2,000 employees—and is in talks with a large retailer and several big human resource firms.

But rather than providing an advantage for employees, Penn State’s Golden warns that services such as PTO Exchange may exacerbate the underlying problem. It will provide further incentive for overworked employees to cancel vacations or go to work sick, he said: “I don’t think that’s a real positive development for our performance and productivity.”

Bottom of Form

If PTO Exchange’s clients are worried about this, Whalen said, they can tweak the plan so that only part of paid leave can be converted to benefits, forcing workers to use the rest with their toes in the sand. Toward this end, converting some time off to pay for travel could be a way for cash-strapped people to “have a good experience” instead of doing a low cost staycation, according to Whalen, who stressed that taking time off is “hugely important.”

Lucas agreed, saying PTO Exchange is “a vacation-first company.”



Public Speaking? Yes, You Can

After I’ve given a speech, people sometimes come up to me and say, “Boy, I would love to be able to give speeches for a living.” When I ask them why they don’t pursue that dream, they say, “Oh, I could never do that.”

But the good news is yes, you can. Public speaking is a learnable skill. Even someone who feels insecure in front of a group can learn to become a good speaker.

It begins with preparation. I learned from Tony Robbins, the famous motivational speaker, that if you want to overcome your fear and learn to do something, three things can impact your performance: your belief system, body language and routine.

Belief system: The late, great speech coach Dorothy Sarnoff used to teach her students to repeat these words before giving a speech: “I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad you’re here. I know what I know, and I care about you.” Repeating these thoughts changes your belief system. You actually become glad you are there. You know what you know, so you stop worrying about not being good. And when you care about the people in the audience, you lose your fear of them and your confidence soars.

If you allow negative thoughts to take over, your mind will respond to that. So plant only positive messages in your brain. Remember, your mind doesn’t know the difference between the truth and what you tell it.

Body language: Pay attention to how good speakers carry themselves. Most hold their shoulders back and heads high. I use a lot of hand gestures when I speak. Think of a time when you felt confident and productive. How did you walk? How did you act? It’s pretty hard to feel inadequate if you walk and act like you know what you’re doing.

Routine: Now look at your routine. A routine signals the brain that all is well. If I’m going to deliver new material, I practice it several times with friends or family. I ask for feedback, and try to think of questions audience members are likely to have. I use notes until the information becomes second nature. Just before I go on, I do a little deep breathing, a quick review of what I plan to say, then I imagine the audience giving me a standing ovation.

When I was 12 years old, I ran for president of the seventh grade and had to make a speech in front of the school. My dad coached me to start with humor to get everyone relaxed, including myself. So when I got called up and the audience finished applauding, the first thing I said was, “As the cow said to the farmer when the milking machine broke down, ‘Thanks for that warm hand!’” Everybody roared. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with my winning the election, but it sure felt good.

My dad also taught me to take what you do seriously but take yourself lightly. I still live by that advice. In February, I was asked to give the dinner keynote after the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. There were more than 2,000 people there from 100 nations. The last two people on the stage before I spoke were amazing: first a hilarious singing and dancing comedian, then Jordan Smith, the talented young singer who won the TV show “The Voice.” They both got standing ovations. Then I heard, “Now here’s our keynote speaker, Ken Blanchard.” Talk about intimidating.

I decided to take the humorous route, so I said to the audience, “If any of you have read ‘The One Minute Manager,’ you know the third secret is the One Minute Reprimand. I think I have to give one of those to the organizers who made me follow those last two performers!” I immediately got the crowd on my side so they were ready to hear my message — and I ended up getting a standing ovation, too. It was quite an experience.

People are there to learn what you know. So remember, it’s not about you — it’s all about your audience. You will serve them well by seeing yourself in your best light and projecting a confidence that lets your message shine. Your audience will benefit, and so will you.


AUTHOR:  Ken Blanchard is chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Cos. and co-author of “Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster.” Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.


Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine

Mentoring in the Digital Age

Formal training and assessments are a good first level of training, but what about learning needs that are ongoing, and more subtle? For decades, companies have looked to mentoring programs to provide a second level of training. The mentor, an accomplished, usually older, employee guides the less-experienced employee in the aspects of the profession that are impossible to master from a classroom experience or textbook—how to negotiate effectively, signs that you need to alter course in business strategy, or how to win over a hesitant sales prospect, for example.

Today’s digital and online technology can give mentoring a boost by making it easier to communicate and offer just-in-time advice. Seven Training Top 125 companies share how they are using the latest technology solutions to facilitate mentoring.

“Virtually” the Same Principles

Communication is easier than ever, but the same age-old principles of mentoring still apply. “At PPD, a global contract research organization, we are used to working in a remote, virtual world. Mentoring has evolved to reflect that, and has become much more virtual. But while there may be less face-to-face interaction, the premise of providing learning and development through a relationship of mutual trust is still critical,” says Ravenna Edgar, director of Organizational Effectiveness at PPD. She says the company uses social platforms to facilitate relationships, and uses Microsoft Lync “to enable rapid/responsive information exchange,” along with Lync/Skype video meeting facilities.

PPD has created a social network, for instance, for members of its Global Leadership Network (GLN). “The GLN is an exclusive virtual community that is open to alumni of our high-potential leadership development and executive leadership programs. As part of this network, GLN members identify specific areas of expertise or competency that they are willing to share with others who may not have had the same experience or exposure,” says Edgar. “Through the GLN virtual site, they make it known that any GLN member can reach out to them for mentoring in those identified areas.”

The great advantage of technology in mentoring is it allows you to take the old principle of providing guidance and hone it further to answer the exact question the mentee has at the exact moment the need arises. At Mariner Finance, mentors and mentees can communicate in a more targeted way, thanks to technology. “Mariner Finance uses a blend of technologies that drive education/ knowledge, skills, and socialization of interactions across the program. Creation of specific mentor/mentee sites, functions, and tools create a ‘club’ feel,” say Assistant Vice President of Instructional Design and Programs Austin Meredith and Senior Vice President of Learning and Development Jeff Casey. “Using the Web tools, supplemented by items such as chat functions, video, and face-to-face, helps drive interactions not only between specific relationships, but within the entire club. This approach creates a family of mentors/mentees that expands the boundaries of the older-style mentor relationship, allowing both parties to seek guidance and expertise in a quick and specific way.”

At Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, technology is the bridge that connects mentor and mentee to apply time-proven mentoring techniques. “We use a blend of technology to meet the various learning situations inherent in mentoring. We use videoconferencing through WebEx and Jabber,” says Senior Consultant, Learning Solutions Patricia Confar. “We have connect communities available through our learning technology. Many of our conference rooms are equipped with video technology. Teleconferencing is widely used, as well.”

But with the advantages of technology come potential challenges, too, Confar notes. “Mentoring in the digital age allows us to be more inclusive and connect with experienced associates across our entire company,” she says, “but we also need the skills and patience to use the technology to its fullest potential. We have to be more sensitive to the visual and auditory cues we depend on during face-to-face communication that can seem muff led through technology.”

Assessing Mentoring Success

At Navient, technology now allows the company to take the established mentoring values and approach, and evaluate it using modern means to gauge success, says Education Manager Carey J. Foss. Within Navient’s Customer Resolution Services (CRS) department, there is a structured mentoring program that gives employees the ability to work with new hires to help develop the skills necessary to succeed in their roles. Foss says the traditional approach of having seasoned employees help new hires in training is measured electronically. “The success of our mentors is measured by recording a number of key performance indicators (KPIs). Tracking is done through reporting software and use of Microsoft Excel,” says Foss, who points out the company also uses technology that enables mentors to get a real-time feel for how well their mentees are learning their lessons. “Our mentors also use y-cords (cords that allow mentors to listen in on their mentees’ production calls) to shadow the employees for whom they are responsible and provide feedback. Feedback is provided via performance discussions, and also is saved in the employee’s development file.”

The ability of technology to give mentors a snapshot of mentees’ progress at the moment when the mentees are working through challenges is significant, says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a national staffing and recruiting firm. “Now with digital, there is more access to real-time feedback, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of scheduled meetings,” says Gimbel. “With Skype and Facetime, mentoring for role-play situations can be anywhere, anytime.”

To ensure an accurate assessment of a mentoring program, Gimbel recommends a structured approach. “Creating goals prior to implementing the program and having a proper way of tracking success metrics are crucial for the program’s long-term success. Goals can range from helping employees become ingrained in the culture, to getting them up to speed faster so they can hit the ground running. There should be a point person to manage the program, and hold people accountable.”

Technology Itself as the Mentor

In some cases, technology itself—in the form of the just-in-time information available online—can be the mentor, says Loubna Noureddin, director of Learning & Development Services for Miami Children’s Health System. “Google is one example of a ‘just-in-time’ mentor. You seek a better understanding of a certain topic, and the resources it offers are used by millions,” Noureddin notes. “While my example offers a simplification of the mentoring role, in this day and age, a mentor offers just-in-time support and advice to a mentee with minimal limitations of time and space. Digital media offers thousands of open resources for mentoring, and highly effective organizations have learned to tap into social media to provide mentoring to new employees, high-potential employees, and leaders.”

Miami Children’s Health System, which uses the Taleo performance tool and Microsoft SharePoint to manage its mentoring program, takes a multifaceted approach. “We offer a fullscope career mentoring program that seeks to support employees in developing their career goals and aligning those goals to the organization’s goals and growth,” Noureddin says. “Every employee who shows interest in self-development and career growth can self-nominate or seek the support of a career coach to better create a three- to five-year career growth plan.”

NIIT is another company that is optimizing technology’s ability to provide just-in-time mentoring in new and more visual ways. “The ability to have questions answered instantaneously through texts and e-mails by your mentor or peers who specialize in a particular area gives you access to a world of knowledge,” says Regional Vice President of Human Resources Sandra Pruitt. “Using online chats, Google, and various learning tools, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and YouTube, for research is a way of life now for all generations.”

Information sharing—the heart of mentoring— is more expansive than ever. “Teams are sharing information worldwide, from a variety of perspectives on a question or problem,” Pruitt says. “Technology has helped us become a global organization working in real time, solving real-time problems, and sharing a breadth of knowledge.”


  • Keep in mind that though there may be less face-to-face interaction in digitally facilitated mentoring, the premise of providing learning and development through a relationship of mutual trust remains the same.
  • Enable just-in-time mentoring in which mentor and mentee can connect at the moment a question arises.
  • Use videoconferencing technology on computers and mobile devices to allow for virtual “face-to-face” interaction.
  • Create internal social networks for training groups, such as for leadership development participants.
  • Set goals to track the success of mentoring programs, such as helping employees become ingrained in the culture or getting them up to speed faster so they can hit the ground running.
  • Use technology to enable employees to seek, or get matched with, internal career coaches— mentors— who can help them achieve their development goals.



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