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The Art of Good Communication in the Workplace

Considering the frequent use of email, videoconferencing, face-to-face meetings, text messages, phone calls, and hand-written notes, one could assume that employers as well as employees have mastered the art of communication in the workplace.  However, for most, the frequency by which we use means of communication has no impact on how effectively we communicate.

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently shared that small businesses lose an average of $420K and large businesses lose $62.4 million annually due to poor communication in the workplace*.

So, where does your company stand when it comes to communication?  How effective and articulate are your leaders?  How about your staff?  I want to share some ideas that should help your business identify and address potential communication problems.

Leverage communication as a recruiting tool

Before you make a hiring decision, be sure to put a candidate’s communication skills to the test.  During the interview process, be sure to ask questions that provoke critical thinking and elicit articulate answers.  You should also see how well they listen and what questions they ask.  Additionally, you may ask them to submit a draft response of a sample inquiry.  This allows you to review and evaluate their writing style, tone, grammar, punctuation, etc.

Set Expectations – establishing standards

For existing employees, you should set communication standards, based on simple, common-sense concepts.  Your communication standards should include the following components:

  • What means to use – inform your staff when to use email versus a phone call, face-to-face meeting, etc.  If writing an email, how to clearly state a request, call-to-action, and timing expectations if/when required.
  • Tone – Whether communicating verbally or in writing, the tone we use to express our thoughts is what matters most.  Finding a balance between what you want to say and how you need to say it takes practice, but it is essential for strong communicators.   Understanding your audience and their perception is vital to mastering this skill.
  • Responses – When communicating, stress the importance of clearly stating if/when a response is needed, and by when.  For customer-facing staff, you may set customer response time standards, etc.  Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings and potential problems.
  • Out-of-Office Procedures – Be clear on who does what when someone is out of the office, and make sure everyone is aware of their responsibility during your time away.  Make sure you never double out-of-office, meaning the person someone has designated as their contact also has their out-of-office reply on.
  • Conflict Resolution and Flushing out Concerns – Avoiding misunderstandings using strong communication is the best way to avoid conflicts altogether, however, it is important to set a process to address potential conflicts that may arise from time to time.
  • Escalation Procedures – Make sure you outline a clear process by which your staff can escalate matters that require attention or impartial intervention.
  • Peer-to-peer collaboration – Leveraging the skills of our peers can be a great way to collaborate and fine-tune our communication skills.  Whenever you are in doubt as to how to respond or say something, you can reach out to a peer and solicit their feedback.

You may choose to roll out your communication training company-wide or by department through a video or teleconference meeting.  Also, be sure to make it a requirement for new hires to complete.

Lead by example

Last, but not least, for this to work, it is important to not only keep it simple but hold everyone in your organization accountable to your standards. This means starting from the top down.  By doing so, you’ll send the most powerful message, backed by your actions and not just by words.  As a result, your employees will appreciate your executives and managers setting the example and will be further encouraged to work harder and to get better at communicating in the workplace.

*The cost of poor communications. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/communication/pages/the-cost-of-poor-communications.aspx

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Julia Esipova is promoted to Director of Accounting & Finance

We are pleased to announce the promotion of Julia Esipova to Director of Accounting & Finance. Under this new role, Julia will be responsible for the financial management of Walton Management Services, Inc. and Quentelle, LLC., respectively.

Julia has joined Quentelle, LLC over two years ago as the Controller. In that role, she implemented new internal systems, controls and procedures. Julia’s contributions have helped maximize ROI’s as well as operational cost efficiencies for the business. Prior to joining Quentelle, Julia held various roles in financial reporting, auditing, and client service. Julia graduated with a double major in Accounting and Finance from Brooklyn College, City University of New York. She is also licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in the state of New York.

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Walton and Quentelle Name Brian DeVido as Vice-President of Business Development

Walton Management Services, Inc. and Quentelle, LLC proudly announce the promotion of Brian DeVido as Vice President of Business Development. In his new role, Brian joins Walton’s and Quentelle’s executive board of directors and leverages his vast industry experience and contacts to accelerate revenue and expand both companies’ presence in new markets, as well as develop new channels.

“I am honored to take on this new role and make an even greater impact. Walton and Quentelle, respectively, are uniquely positioned to maximize the savings of time and resources for employers, bridging the user experience gap through advanced technology at scale,” said Brian.  “It’s great to be working with people who are passionate about what they do — helping the companies we serve achieve meaningful results,” added Brian.

Brian has been with Walton for 20 years.  He started as an individual contributor, where he successfully applied his solid sales experience to bring new clients and increase revenue. Several years later, Brian built and led the company’s credits and incentives sales team.  Prior to joining Walton, Brian worked in the staffing industry, where he managed a sales team at a leading recruiting firm.  Brian holds a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech.

“We’re fortunate to have such an exceptional leader like Brian, who brings proven sales leadership in the HR services space.  During his career at Walton, Brian has consistently led our sales team, delivering successful outcomes with his passion for helping customers and partners achieve their goals with innovative technology, backed by a team committed to excellence. We look forward to him expanding on our success.” said Mike McConnell, President of Walton and Quentelle. As Walton and Quentelle continue its forward momentum with new leadership, product innovation, and the expansion of its transformational platform, more and more enterprises are turning their point-of-hire tax credits and verification of employment to take advantage of our bundled solution.

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Mike McConnell, Appointed as President of Quentelle and Walton

We are delighted to announce the promotion of Mike McConnell.  Mike will serve as President of Walton and Quentelle, as of today, July 14, 2022.  In this new and exciting role, Mike will assume executive leadership for both companies.  Mike joined the organization in 2018, where he led several critical projects that delivered operational and technical scalability to manage our unprecedented and rapid growth.  Most recently, Mike served as Chief Operating Officer for Quentelle.

“The future of our organization is bright!”, said Fred Stiftel, Chairman of the Board. “Mike’s education, emotional intelligence, proven experience and vast skillset make him uniquely qualified to thrive in this role and take our companies to a era of success.”

About Quentelle, LLC:

Headquartered in New Jersey, with staff nationally and worldwide, Quentelle is a business and artificial intelligence technology company, and the developers of ForeSite™, a data intelligence platform that allows third-party developers and their applications to deliver state-of-the-art access to information as part of their applications. Quentelle is the developer of VeriSafeJobs™, a nationally recognized Verification of Employment/Income SaaS application that works under the ForeSite™ platform.  Quentelle services Fortune 500 and mid-size entities that require greater insight into the needs of their employees, as well as outside entities and government agencies. For more information, visit www.quentelle.com.

About Walton Management Services, Inc.: For over forty years, Walton has been a leading provider of point-of-hire tax credits and incentives.  Today, Walton leverages the most advanced technology platform proven to automate and integrate tax credits as well as employment verification, powered by a single data source.  Our integrated solutions feature a best-in-class partner ecosystem, proven to deliver optimal savings for companies across all industries, with ease.  For more information, visit www.waltonmgt.com.

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The Power of Recognition

Imagine a world where you go to work every day with a big smile, knowing that your work is important to the business and that your boss and your peers not only rely on you, but also trust you and show they appreciate your contributions.  Imagine a work environment that is productive and where you are challenged to sharpen and learn new skills continuously.  Instead, you may find yourself working for an organization that lacks a culture of recognition, leaving you in the dark on whether your hard work and contributions are truly valued.

Sadly, the reality for many employees today is a bit dire when it comes to recognition.  Below, you’ll find several staggering statistics* based on extensive research, which reflect just how important the need for recognition is in today’s work environment:

  • Studies show that 80% of employees feel they are motivated to work harder when they are recognized for their work by their superiors.  
  • In contrast, less than 40% felt that a demanding boss or fear of losing their job motivates them to work harder.  
  • In other recent studies, 44% of employees surveyed indicated they were planning to leave their jobs citing lack of recognition as the main reason
  • 69% in that same study said that they would consider staying if they received recognition and reward for their work.

Recognition and acknowledgement may not come easy or naturally for many. In fact, if you are a supervisor that is laser-focused on a task or goal, and things do not go according to plan, you might be inclined to highlight and point out the negatives by default.  That behavior can turn recognition into a task that requires additional hard work and intentional effort. 

That’s where understanding the difference between a “manager” and a “leader” comes into play. According to Harvard Business School, managers pursue goals through coordinated actions and tactical processes or tasks that unfold over stages to reach certain outcomes. On the other hand, leaders are less focused on how to organize people to get the work done and more on finding ways to align and influence them.  Simply put, managers process people almost transactionally whereas leaders inspire and influence their behavior. This contrast makes managers more likely to focus primarily on mistakes and shortcomings rather than on encouragement and recognition.  Of course, one could argue that it’s possible to be both, a leader, and a manager; however, that’s easier said than done and takes years of practice and discipline. Therefore, I venture to say that most of us are inclined to being one or the other.

Does your company have a culture of recognition?  If not, what sorts of things can you do to change that and begin to lead your employees and show them how valuable they are?  I want to share some recommendations, based on common best practices.  As with most initiatives, make sure that whichever recommendation(s) you implement, aligns well within your company values and culture. It’s also important to make sure an employee is comfortable with any recognition you plan on sharing publicly.

  1. Conduct Employee Surveys – If you do not have a recognition program in place, a good starting point is to survey your workforce and use the information you receive to design a recognition program.  Be sure to ask open-ended questions (Who, What, When, Where, How) so they can provide all the information you need to address concerns.  If you have a program in place already, consider recurring surveys (quarterly, annual, etc.), that you can use to measure their level of engagement.
  2. Develop a culture of Positive Reinforcement – This starts with your weekly one-on-one meetings, where you can see how employees are performing and identify successes and growth opportunities. You can then highlight tasks employees have done well and share those in department and all-hands meetings, giving them kudos.  You may also consider a more defined recognition program where employees can nominate one another for exceptional contributions. Remember, if you find yourself having to provide corrective feedback, it should always be done privately and accompanied by positive reinforcement.  Be sure to follow up and follow through on your commitments.  Doing this shows you have their best interest at heart and care enough to bring things to their attention.  Employees will appreciate this in the long-term and will respect you for it and show you their gratitude by trusting you and sticking around. 
  3. Make Some Noise – This is an opportunity to showcase an employee’s exceptional contributions publicly.  You should consider having the C-level or member of your executive team give them a call or writing them an email simply to thank them for their accomplishments, always reiterating how valuable they are to the organization.  You can also write a post on your company’s intranet site, newsletter company social media page highlighting their special accomplishments.
  4. Reward Employees Accordingly – While recognition is not always about money, it is another important way to let employees know they are valued.  In addition, you should consider them for promotions if/when new roles open that align with the employee’s ambitions and career path. Other things include sending flowers/chocolates/gifts with a hand-written thank you card, or a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant.  During your merit cycle, make sure you explicitly point out their accomplishments by listing the reasons why they are receiving a bonus or raise.  Other creative ways to reward them include having employees leave a few hours early on a given Friday, or the day before a long weekend, once their work has been completed.
  5. Celebrate Milestones – Never forget work anniversaries, or anytime they meet or exceed assigned quotas/goals.  In fact, you should always set reminders of all employee anniversaries on your calendar with a notable reminder days ahead so you can prepare accordingly. Other celebrations may include birthdays, weddings, or other special occasion to the employee.  You can take them out to lunch or give them a nice card commemorating the occasion.  Each of these occasions, provide an opportunity to ask them how they are feeling about their jobs, etc.

In conclusion, employees that feel valued and recognized are less likely to jump ship, even if the grass seems greener on the other side.  Remember that losing good people is never a good thing.  Often, it can feel like a bad break-up that could have been prevented, stirring regret, resentment and causing all sorts of grief for supervisors and the rest of the team.  Not to mention the financial and productivity losses that will impact your operations, customers, and morale.  In fact, a resignation from a highly influential employee may prompt an avalanche of unexpected resignations, which only exacerbates the problem.  Therefore, as business leaders, we should never underestimate the critical role that recognition plays in a business.  In today’s competitive landscape, recognition can be one of the tools that can help you retain your most valuable employees during the Great Resignation and even take your employee relations and productivity to the next level. 

*Source:  Zippia Research

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Businessperson Attracting Pawn Figures With Horseshoe Magnet

Key Elements to Retaining Your Workforce

We all know that finding top talent is difficult, but retaining top performers is proving to be equally as difficult — especially when so many other employers are launching recruiting campaigns designed to aggressively lure the cream of the crop with outrageous salaries, sign-on bonuses, stock options, and so on. As we continue to navigate through unprecedented times and ride the wave of The Great Resignation, many employers sadly continue to struggle finding and implementing initiatives that can effectively retain their valuable talent.

We want to highlight several key elements that can help your business survive (and even thrive) during these turbulent times: Risk Assessment, Compensation, and Engagement and Recognition. So, let’s dive into these!

Risk Assessment

Understanding your workforce and assessing your employees’ flight risk is the very first step in your retention journey. Communication is key to completing an accurate assessment, so you know what your employees want and how to retain them. In an ideal world, every employee should have a flight-risk score. For this, we suggest proactively conducting ongoing surveys that give employees opportunities to voice their concerns and opinions freely, having managers conduct skip-level meetings to give employees exposure and access to senior level managers, and, most importantly, conducting Stay-Interviews to ask probing questions such as:

  • Why did you join the organization?
  • How did you anticipate joining our organization would support your career aspirations?
  • Are you on track to having your career objectives and dreams realized? If not, what is preventing this from occurring?
  • Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most and find the most fulfilling?
  • Which do you enjoy the least?
  • Are you receiving sufficient challenges in your current role to keep you engaged and fulfilled?
  • Are you receiving sufficient opportunities for your career growth and development?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • Who inspires you the most within the company and why?
  • What would influence you to look elsewhere for career satisfaction?

You would be surprised at what you discover during this process. First and foremost, in an effective 30-minute Stay-Interview between a manager and employee, the managers ask those standardized questions casually and conversationally, not as a performance evaluation, but rather as a “let me get to know you and your goals” discussion. It is an opportunity to build trust with an employee and a chance to assess the employee’s degrees of satisfaction and engagement. Stay-Interviews are preferable to employee-satisfaction surveys because they provide a two-way conversation and a chance to ask questions, get a more in-depth understanding of that employee’s current motivation, and offers managers the opportunity to quickly reinforce the positives and deal with the employee’s concerns. However, be advised that sometimes topics arise that are unexpected and even uncomfortable. Therefore, it is important for employers to be prepared to address pretty much anything from hostile work environments to harassment and poor managers.

Compensation

While it is not necessarily always about the money, we cannot ignore the fact that compensation plays a very important part in someone’s decision process when it comes to employment. As such, a good practice is to be proactive and conduct ongoing reviews of your employee’s compensation and how it compares to the current market conditions. If you are unable to bridge a gap in base salary, we suggest getting creative with a bonus plan or additional benefits that employees may value even more than money to let the employee know you are taking care of them. After all, if you don’t, you run the risk of another employer enticing the employee away with a greater compensation plan.

Engagement

Another key element is keeping employees engaged. This requires a lot of work and clarity when it comes to a company’s vision. You want to make sure that your employees have a clear understanding of the company’s mission and how their work contributes to it. As previously mentioned, skip-level meetings can play an important role in doing so. Making employees aware that they play an integral part of the overall picture is absolutely necessary to develop a culture of engagement. This also requires soliciting their feedback and asking them for their input on your company’s projects, products, and services. After all, an engaged workforce is more passionate about what they do; thus less likely to leave.

Recognition

Last but not least, we can never underestimate the power of recognizing the value of an employee’s contribution. Recognizing, celebrating, and rewarding the positive impact an employee has made at work contributes to their sense of achievement and value to the company, and ultimately retention. Sadly, many companies struggle to do just that, and ultimately end up losing good people who feel undervalued. For this, we suggest developing and implementing a recognition program of some sort that allows managers and employees to recognize one another and be publicly recognized for their achievements. It can be a segment in your quarterly all-hands meeting, or an intranet site or newsletter where you can give kudos to your employees, making a positive impact.

In conclusion, while there is no silver bullet when it comes to employee retention, we believe implementing these practical solutions can make a difference and keep your employees happy and engaged. Remember that recruiters are trained to exploit every possible angle and pain point in order to get employees to consider jumping ship. Therefore, having a solid retention plan in place that includes aforementioned elements is critical to retaining the talent you have and minimizing employee turnover.

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WOTC 3.0 coming soon sign along the road

WOTC 3.0 — Coming Soon?

Could WOTC 3.0 be on the horizon?

Since the inception of WOTC back in 1996, the program has gone through several modifications; all geared toward promoting the hiring of individuals that face barriers to secure employment. For instance, what we refer to as the 2.0 version of the program went into effect several years ago. At the time, the most significant enhancement to the program was the long-awaited acceptance of an electronic signature for the time-sensitive Form 8850. Continue reading “WOTC 3.0 — Coming Soon?”

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