4 Strategies for Beating the Winter Blues 

b loehr - bluesEven with the mild winter, which much of the country has experienced, many folks are still trying to shake off a case of the “winter blues”. Despite milder-than-normal temperatures, it’s still not warm. In fact, the warm start to the season left us unprepared for the “normal” cold and snow now blanketing large parts of the country. The cold feels “colder” than usual. Days are dull and draggy. You feel sluggish and mopey. And spring seems a million days away.

If you’re plagued by a lack of motivation and your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went, don’t give into the intense urge to hibernate away the remaining days of winter. These four strategies will get you and your life back on track.

Stick to a schedule

Resist the huge temptation to while away the shorter, darker days of winter in a state of hibernation, with a plan to resume normal activities once the “weather breaks.”  Don’t skip Tuesday’s book club, Thursday’s choir practice, or Saturday morning’s power breakfast at your favorite eatery that always fuels a day of chores and errands. Put on an extra layer, or two, grab gloves and a scarf and head out for business as usual. Your mental health will thank you.

Keep your mind active

Winter is the perfect time to launch a new hobby or dust off an old one. Don an apron and try a new recipe or revisit an old favorite. Build a model with your grandchild or revive your love of painting. Tackle that drawer of photos you didn’t have time to put in an album last summer or dig out a jigsaw puzzle. Creative pursuits are a triple threat to the winter blues as they provide entertainment, relaxation and fulfillment.

Make an attitude adjustment

Continually reminding yourself how much you detest winter is not an effective way to banish the winter blues. In fact, such mental or vocal muttering will do just the opposite. Remove the “I hate winter!” mantra from your vocabulary and purposefully replace mental winter-trash-talk with winter-friendly thoughts of steaming mugs of hot chocolate and thick, soft, toasty-warm socks and sweats.

Put on some favorite music, light scented candles throughout the house and indulge in something you rarely have time to pursue in the busier months like reading, watching movies or simply getting together with friends “just because.”

Get Some Sun

  1. The cold keeps most of us inside where the sun and the vitamin D it contains can’t trigger the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Spend a few more minutes outdoors each day and utilize these other “light absorbing” tricks. Keep the shades up to let more light in, sit near windows whenever possible, and change light bulbs to “full spectrum” bulbs that mimic natural light, creating the same effects on the mind as the real thing.

Let B. Loehr Staffing, the largest independent, locally owned and operated staffing company in the St. Louis metropolitan area, be your “all-season”, one-stop-shopping staffing firm. Put our “we’re the oldest because we’re the best” slogan to the test and contact us today for all of your employment and staffing needs.

Conflict in the Workplace Part 2: Intervention and Resolution Strategies

b loehr - conflict 2Conflict has been brewing amongst the troops and all signs point to this skirmish being more than a minor squabble. Do you allow the parties involved to work out the issues on their own? It’s worth a shot. You don’t want to swoop in unnecessarily every time a difference of opinion pops up. Yet, if the pot is allowed to boil too long—and it boils dry—the billows of smoke will choke out everyone in the company.

As you weigh the pros and cons of stepping in to intervene, consider these questions:
 Has “I quit!” becomes a serious consideration for one or more of those involved?
 Has the discord caused respect to vanish in favor of personal attacks?
 Has the conflict threatened productivity?
 Does the skirmish appear to be contagious? Are other areas, departments, teams showing signs of “infection”?

When the signs point toward the need for intervention, use these strategies to bring about a resolution:

 Seek to understand the situation. Few situations are exactly as they seem. Investigate all aspects of the situation. Interview supervisors or department heads to get their feedback on the issues at hand.
 Meet alone with each individual, with listening ears fully engaged. Observe body language. Pay attention as closely to what’s not being said as to what is being said. Take some time after the meeting to ponder the findings and make a few notes.
 As you listen, and then review, the notes from the individual meetings, strive to focus on the problem rather than the person. Put aside any pre-conceived opinions or past experiences concerning any of the parties involved.
 Arrange a group discussion and establish a few meeting guidelines. Insist that all involved express themselves calmly and attempt to understand each other’s perspective.
 Allow each individual to state their side of the situation. Restate the complaints as you understand them from the speaker’s account, to be sure the speaker is adequately communicating the issues.
 Make round two about resolution. Ask each individual to suggest one or more solutions. Record all suggestions on a white board—even the outlandish ones.
 At this point, a break may be needed depending on the atmosphere of the meeting. If the energy is positive and the parties engaged, go on to round three. If tension is high and a stalemate appears likely, send each participant on their way with a copy of all the resolution suggestions. Either then or at a second meeting, discuss the feasibility of each solution, noting how a combination of solutions may be a fitting resolution.
 Conclude with a plan that all parties agree to try. Schedule a follow-up to gauge the success of the resolution. Expect adjustments or minor tweaking before reaching a final resolution.

Click here to read part I on Conflict in the Workplace

B. Loehr Staffing understands the importance of building a team of quality employees to assist your company in meeting all your business goals in a positive environment. We focus on matching your company with a best-fit employee right from the start. Contact us today to begin a partnership with the oldest staffing company in the Greater St. Louis area. Remember, we aren’t the best because we are the oldest – we’re the oldest because we are the best.

Conflict in the Workplace Part 1:  Good OR Bad?

b loehr - conflict 2Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Who hasn’t had some misunderstanding, disagreement, or clash with a co-worker or supervisor? Few companies can truthfully claim a totally conflict-free environment, and that’s why leadership must be proactive about recognizing conflict and implementing resolution techniques.

Unaddressed discord can impact productivity—negatively of course—and wreak havoc throughout the company. But did you know that a certain level of conflict can be good?

Adopt an attitude that resists the “all conflict is bad” mindset and insist your management team do so as well. Because…

  • A difference of opinion can encourage open-mindedness if both parties are encouraged to express themselves in a safe environment where opinions are respected.
  • The sharing of opposite points of view can generate new understanding in an “I never thought of it like that” way.
  • Questioning a thought, process, or opinion can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking that sparks innovative ideas.
  • An open dialogue that doesn’t run or hide from conflict can bring to light issues that have quietly lurked for years, subtly sabotaging either morale, productivity or both.

Where the status quo reigns, nothing changes. Ever! Conflict doesn’t have to be a hindrance or lead to stagnation. Rather it can be a catalyst for positive change as it represents an opportunity to mold and flesh out notions and views and theories. Imagine the possibilities… Breakthroughs. Exciting concepts. Groundbreaking visions.

If only all conflict could be labeled “good,” but assuming all conflict will have a positive end is wishful thinking. While minor disagreements may work themselves out, you can be sure more major situations will not magically disappear. It’s advisable to discover the squabble in the advertising department—or shipping or accounting—before it erupts into a screaming match and/or a fist fight in the main corridor.

The bigger the organization, the easier it is for disagreements to go undetected. Engage the assistance of your department heads and supervisors to monitor for disturbances that may either:

  1. Quickly escalate into a firestorm or
  2. Simmer at a low, slow burn, spreading a choking smoke.

If the early rumbles often slip past you, enlist the support of an assistant—someone who can easily spot dissension before it becomes toxic.

Not every quarrel needs your time and attention, and deciding when to get involved can be tricky. Next week, in part 2, we’ll explore strategies for discerning the need for intervention and the steps to resolve conflict before it damages the company.

Because B. Loehr Staffing understands the myriad of employment issues which companies face, our Client Resource Center is chock full of helpful links to assist you in finding the answers you need. With over 115 years of experience in the staffing industry, you can trust us to be your comprehensive resource for supplemental staffing and human resources management.

Could “Soft Skills” be the Reason You Aren’t Getting the Job?

b loehr - feb -news -candiate 1Your training, credentials, and hard skills are impeccable. You’ve acquired enough experience to not be considered a “newbie” yet not so much that you command a top wage. Still, you’ve been passed over for the last … you’ve frankly stopped counting how many positions you’ve applied for. Somehow, someone else edges you out every time.

Do you need a spiffier resume? A better interview outfit? A new hairstyle?

If only you knew what that “someone” has that you don’t have.

It’s quite possible neither the resume itself OR the information contained on it are the issue. Same goes for your interview attire or hairstyle—neither are likely the problem. Unless of course, you’re showing up in jeans and sneakers OR sporting a severe case of bed-head multiple times a week. Then, well, that is a problem.

But seriously if your training, hard skills, and experience measure up, the culprit is probably your “soft skills”. Or rather the lack thereof.

“Soft skills” are associated with the phrases ‘people skills’, ‘interpersonal skills’, ‘social skills’ or ‘transferable skills’. By contrast “hard skills” are the training, qualifications and experience in a particular field.

So, what “soft skills” do employers look for?

1. Teamwork and collaboration b loehr - feb -news -candiate 2

The ability to work well with others, across the organization, toward a common goal, is an enviable quality. Employers want employees who “play well with others”, sometimes in a leadership role, at other times as a follower, always as a cooperative member of the team. The person who is not consumed with “I” and “me” but rather is thought of as a team player by co-workers and management alike is indeed an asset.

 2. Flexibility that’s focused

 It happens. The best-laid plans get rearranged, deadlines must be shifted, projects shuffled between departments. Being flexible and focused means you can switch gears, with a positive attitude, and get busy moving toward the new reality. Employers are super keen on people who possess a positive, upbeat, ‘can-do’ attitude. Even better is the team player who will step outside his/her comfort zone and attack a new project head-on.

3. Critical/creative observation skills

 Collecting and presenting raw data is only half of the equation. The critical thinker can take information and analyze it via smart What? Why? and How? questions that dig below the surface. Creative thinkers allow time for the “what ifs?” that help them discover an insightful new approach that a by-the-books-only style would never uncover. Employees who see beyond what’s immediately obvious to unique solutions, alternative options, or creative outcomes put a smile on the faces of management and business owners.

4. Time management

Knowing the difference between pressing tasks and important tasks is the first step to getting everything accomplished. The ability to juggle several projects, giving each the necessary focus and attention is a skill many struggle with. Others have not mastered how to begin, and therefore procrastinate until every assignment and endeavor becomes a crisis. Employers are on a continual search for workers who can manage their time without the constant prodding of a babysitter.

5. Initiative and self-motivation

Employee to boss: “I noticed the situation in _________, and I was wondering if anyone’s tried __________. I’d be willing to _________ and report back to you.” It’s every employer’s dream when a staffer shares fresh ideas or takes a reasonable thought and runs with it.

People who are self-motivated move on to the next project without having to be prodded. They use down time between tasks to brainstorm current issues, anticipate the next venture, or tackle an on-the-back-burner matter. Management appreciates not having to provide close supervision while being assured the job will be completed on time.

Lei Han, a Stanford engineer with 15+ years of business experience has compiled a list of 28 “soft skills” she feels are essential to career success. “I wished I knew about many of these earlier in my career. I want to share them so I can empower you to work smart and achieve more,” states Han.

Citing the Chinese proverb, “You can’t eat a whole cow in one bite”, Han suggests those desiring to improve their soft skills identify one area to work on. By researching this one skill and targeting specific practice techniques toward this one area, improvement is likely. With a little confidence to encourage you, choose a second skill to focus on. Because soft skills are not something you can simply pull-an-all-nighter to learn by studying from a big, fat textbook, improvement will take time.

Being aware of the “soft skills” employers look for, and then assessing your strengths and weaknesses, will help you to hone these “intangibles” and become a more desirable employee.

B. Loehr Staffing understands how crucial “soft skill” development is in matching candidates with job openings. We specialize in placing quality candidates with the best of St Louis’ companies in short term, long term, temp-hire, part-time and full-time positions in the fields of:

Administrative – Accounting – Clerical – Office Support – Call Center – Medical Office Support – Reception – Industrial

We can offer you the freedom and flexibility your lifestyle demands. Contact our staffing experts today.

 

The ‘How-to’ of Identifying a Candidate’s “Soft Skills”

b loehr feb news clientIt only took a couple of not so great hires to convince you that “soft skills” matter. In fact, you now realize that those intangible, relational skills are just as important as the skills, training, and experience that are prominently listed on a resume. You learned the hard way that unlike technical skills, characteristics such as creativity, adaptability, and work ethic cannot be taught.

Now if you could simply figure out how to identify those “soft skills” before making an offer of employment. What can you determine from a resume? How can you draw out “soft skills” at an interview? Can you test for the most important “soft skills”?

The Resume / Cover Letter

Look at the resume as the first piece in the “soft skills” puzzle. Is it neat, error-free, and presented in an organized fashion? Those are good signs indeed. And please, whatever you do, don’t chuck the cover letter. While many recruiters admit to tossing a cover letter without a second glance, generally due to time constraints, those who don’t read this accompaniment to the resume or application are missing an opportunity to scope out “soft skills.” A well-written cover letter is a great clue as to the candidate’s ability to articulate and also provides a glimpse, albeit a small window, into this person’s written communication skills.

So, encourage the inclusion of a cover letter with all resumes. Take the time to give this document more than a cursory look-see and at this point, begin tallying a “soft skills” score. Do not ignore the red flag raised by an applicant whose documents suggest they put forth little time and effort OR who may not have the communication skills to pull together a well-written letter.

The Interview

The first step to conducting a productive interview is to prepare questions that pertain specifically to the position for which you’re interviewing. Considering that no two jobs are exactly alike, it makes sense that a one-size-fits-all interview format will not yield the best results. When you can answer, “What “soft skills” does this position require?”, you’ll be better equipped to target the interview process specifically toward this particular position.

The behavioral interview is a simple model that, by using complex questions, can uncover a candidate’s soft skills. This type of interview digs deep by focusing on specific instances from the candidate’s work history rather than wasting time on generalities. Because past behavior at the workplace tends to be a fairly accurate indicator of both future conduct and success, consider questions like the following that will shed light on a candidate’s soft skills.

Are verbal skills critical to this job?

Oral communication skills are fairly easy to evaluate during an interview as long as you ask challenging questions that require greater elaboration than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Ask a candidate to tell you about themselves and encourage them to talk about hobbies, volunteer work and the passions that drive them.

Is customer service an integral aspect of this position?

Rather than ask the generic “Are you a people person?” to which the majority of people will answer “yes,” dig a little deeper by asking the candidate to “Tell me about a time you had to deal with an upset customer.”

Will teamwork and collaboration be vital to success in this position?

The “lone ranger” who prefers to hole up in the corner and tackle tasks solo will not thrive in a teamwork-necessary environment. Delve into work style preferences by asking the candidate to describe the last collaboration effort he/she was involved in and how the scenario concluded.

Is self-motivation key to accomplishing the required responsibilities for this position?

Ask the candidate about the career goals—both long and short-term—he/she has set, the steps outlined to meet those goals and how the reaching of those goals is progressing. Probe the candidate’s level of initiative by asking him/her to share from personal experience the tips he/she has discovered for staying on task.

How passionate is the candidate about this job opportunity?

Want to gauge a candidate’s level of interest in the position? Give a candid overview of the most difficult aspects of the job and watch for body language—which can be difficult to disguise—as well as overall reaction and any verbal comments. Responses will either demonstrate a continued interest in the position or display an I’m-outta-here attitude.

As you review the notes from the interview and add up the “soft skills” pluses and minuses, reach out to anyone within the company who may have had personal, telephone or online contact with the candidate.

  • Was contact or correspondence returned in a timely manner?
  • Was the candidate courteous and professional, brusque and disinterested?
  • What was observed by staffers when the candidate wasn’t in “performance” mode such as in the parking lot or cafeteria?
  • What overall impression did the candidate leave?

Loehr Staffing recruits, tests and trains high caliber candidates who match your company’s reqirements in both hard and soft skills. Ourspecially designed Staffing Systems and Management Programs will find the staffing solution that best suits your organization’s specific needs. We’ve been specializing in doing just that since 1898. Contact us today for assistance with all of your hiring and employment needs.

Handling Conflict with Co-Workers

b loehr - conflictThe company is great. The job itself is going well. If you could just do something about that guy or gal at the corner desk who you swear has it in for you. He/she seriously rubs you the wrong way. And not just occasionally.

You grin and bear it, but pretty soon your jaw aches—from clenching your teeth. And the job you once loved just isn’t so great anymore.

A strained relationship with a colleague can certainly wear you down. Worse than that, it can wreak havoc with your work performance and even sideline well-mapped-out career goals. Before that happens, be proactive and take these steps toward resolution and reconciliation.  

Begin with a conversation—not a confrontation

A private, direct conversation is the place to start. Consider this four-step formula by Meredith Haberfeld, co-founder of the Institute for Coaching:

  1. Tell the person what hasn’t worked and generously invite their feedback.
  2. Share what your interpretations have been—recognize that this might not necessarily be the truth.
  3. Make clear requests by flipping your original complaints into forward-looking suggestions.
  4. Invite their feedback and listen generously.

Notice this approach involves the concerns of both parties and stresses generosity toward the other person. Then give it some time as a resolution is unlikely to happen overnight.

In the meantime:

 Choose to be an adult

Eye rolling, death glares, exaggerated sighing and other middle-school like behaviors have no place on the job. Be pleasant and contain the body language even if the co-worker chooses differently.

 Keep it between the two of you

Bad mouthing the annoying co-worker will shed as much or more light on you—and not in a positive way—than it does on your colleague. If you must blow off steam, share in confidence with a spouse or close friend outside of the company.

 If possible, limit interaction

To minimize frustration and tension, exercise control when and where you can. Take breaks and lunch away from the offending co-worker. Of course you don’t have a choice about assigned work, but don’t volunteer to work together on a project or co-chair an event. Consider asking for a desk reassignment.

 Take it to management

If little or nothing improves after the heart-to-heart, it’s probably time to talk to your immediate supervisor or the boss. Share the specifics of the situation, how it impacts your job performance and the steps you’ve taken to reach a resolution. Be upfront about what you feel will have to happen to bring a lasting solution.

 When enough is enough…

 Look for a new job  

If the relationship continues to deteriorate and steps to remedy the situation have been unsuccessful, it could well be time to move on. Don’t wait until the conflict has caused stress-related health issues or caused permanent damage to your long-term goals. Sometimes the best and only resolution is to remove yourself from the situation entirely.

B Loehr Staffing specializes in matching quality candidates with positions that fit their hard and soft skill sets, lifestyle, and work-life balance preferences. Whether you’re looking for short term, long term, temp-hire, part-time or a full- time position, our staffing specialists are ready to assist you in realizing your employment dreams. Contact us today.