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  1. Team meetings that run perfectly: follow the 5 Ps

    August 11, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    You probably spend a lot of your work day in meetings.  According to software company Atlassian, on average we attend a staggering 62 meetings a month, for a total of 31 hours. And we find half of them are a waste of time.

    Whether time in team meetings is time well spent or time wasted depends on the five Ps: purpose, planning, preparation, participation and P.S.

     

    Purpose

    A meeting needs to be the best way to use the hour or so it takes. Make sure the purpose is clear before the meeting begins, and start by stating what you hope to achieve in the time allotted. Be specific by saying something like, ‘We have an hour to decide between x and y, hear a report back from Z, and to revise the tasks allocations for the week.  By the end of the meeting we should have our decision and a list of seven tasks.’

    Planning

    Send out an agenda if you are responsible for running the meeting, or ask for one if you’re not. Be clear about what the outcomes should be, invite those who need to be part of the decision-making, and leave out those who don’t. Arrange the agenda items so that the most important items, or those that involve the entire team, are dealt with first.

    Allocate a time to each item and move o when the time is up. This way you will cover everything and avoid the team leaving feeling cynical and sour about wasted time. Have a designated note taker who will pay attention and record decisions

    Preparation

    Read the agenda before the meeting. Think about the issues and consider what you will contribute. Do your research before the meeting if items on the agenda are a mystery to you. Having to explain to one team member what the rest already know is a time waster, and a poor reflection on you.

    Make sure you have any reports, facts, statistics or examples with you, as well as any items to be handed to team members. Take along extra copies of the agenda. If you use a whiteboard or projector, make sure they are set up before you start.

    Participation

    Make the hour count. Concentrate and participate. Leave your laptop and devices outside the room (unless you ABSOLUTELY must be contactable, in which case switch to silent and leave the room to answer calls). Don’t ramble, and don’t introduce a topic that isn’t on the agenda. If it’s really, really important, mention it and set up another time to discuss it.

    If others are not participating, ask them for their opinion. Most importantly, don’t do other work, or daydream, or start side conversations. That merely demonstrates disrespect for others in your team.

     P.S.

    Following up after a meeting is perhaps the most important step. It’s a good idea to have the note taker record actions and decisions and who is responsible for them, and distribute them to all the meeting participants straight after the meeting, or at least by the next morning. Put a deadline against as many actions as possible, and then get them done. That way your team meetings will become surprisingly productive.

    Do you have tips to share about making time in team meetings productive? Let us know.

    Find out about Challenge Consulting’s tailor-made team building workshops here.


  2. 8-point checklist for effective online training

    July 7, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Are you using online learning to train your staff? Online learning gives staff the benefit of being able to do their training when it suits them best and dispels the need for having staff in one place at one time for training.

    Done well, online learning is engaging, meaningful and produces desired outcomes. Done poorly, it lacks sound learning strategies, achieves little towards meeting outcomes and demotivates learners. So before you invest in a training strategy for online learning, go through this checklist to assess a training program and ensure you’re not wasting precious resources:

    Communicate expected outcomes. Make it perfectly clear what your staff need to know by the time they’ve finished their training and why they need to know it – never assume that they know the expected outcomes of their training.

    Highlight critical information. Focus the learner’s attention by using headings, clear formatting, colour and plenty of ‘white space’.

    Build on existing knowledge. Help learners to recall prior knowledge so they can link new information with related information in their long-term memory.

    Cater for individual differences. 
Include different types of activities – branching scenarios, case studies, eLearning games, videos, audio and ‘chunked’ text – to engage a range of different learning styles and test knowledge.

    Ground learning to real life. Design activities that are relevant to learners’ real life roles and responsibilities in the workplace to emphasise the relevance of what they are learning.

    Give feedback. 
Let learners know how they are progressing by giving feedback on their activities, congratulating them on completing learning modules and helping them keep track of their progress.

    Encourage collaboration. Create a community of learning within the workplace by encouraging learners to share knowledge, insights and link their own success to the success of their colleagues.

    Provide sound support. Ensure that learners can access support when needed to help them with issues like site navigation, questions about the learning and strategies for completing the modules in the time required.


  3. 4 Secrets To Climbing The Career Ladder

    April 21, 2015 by Jenna

    You may feel that you are currently on top of your job and want to seek further advancement in your career. You want to step up or put your hand up for that new opportunity, but what steps do you need to take to prove to your boss that you are ready? If you were in your manager’s shoes, what would you be looking for when it comes to promoting a star employee?

    Here are five tips for climbing the career ladder:

    1. Get To Know Your Boss
    How open is your communication and relationship with your boss? Are you proactively keeping her/him updated versus waiting until they request a status report from you?

    Just as client relationships take time to develop and grow, so does your relationship with your manager. It is important to build an environment of trust and respect, so they know they can rely on you to handle tasks and responsibilities.

    If your boss believes you are not ready to progress to the next stage, get an understanding on what you need to do to achieve that goal. Agree to milestones and schedule regular meetings to keep each other informed on your progress.

    2. Keep A Running File Of Your Accomplishments
    When our office receives client and candidate feedback or testimonials that are positive we share that feedback within our office team and encourage each other as a team with support. Especially when a lot of time and effort has been put into a task, that kind of feedback is great to keep on file and is very encouraging for the organisation.

    Your manager may not be completely aware of everything that is occurring in the office so it is important to keep a record with dates for your next review.

    3. Step Up. And Up. And Up.
    Keep setting yourself goals within a time-frame and aim high to achieve them. Prove to your team and management that you can be reliable and are adaptable to take on new challenges so that you can keep progressing and learn along the way.

    Setting yourself goals will also motivate you to keep pursuing new avenues within your workplace and strive for more responsibilities/challenges.

    4. Be Generous
    You don’t need to step on others to get ahead or blame others for failures if tasks were your responsibility. Take credit where it is due, but also don’t forget to acknowledge others when they have performed, after all you all a team. Take accountability for setbacks and work on solutions for the future.

    Honesty is a workplace value that all good employers look for .


  4. Post-Job Interview Etiquette

    March 10, 2015 by Jenna

    You have applied for a job, got past the screening stage and are about to complete your initial interview. What should you do now to maximise your chance of success?

    Set the Tone

    As your interview is winding up it is time to set the tone for the next steps in the process. Outline again your genuine interest in the position and confirm that you look forward to hearing from the employer/recruiter. Don’t be afraid to ask about the rest of the process, i.e. ‘Is there a date that the client is expecting to reach their decision?’ or ‘Is there a second interview lined up?’ and even ‘Will you be putting me forward for a second interview?’ These actions show you are organised and that you are committed to taking the next step.

    Thank You

    In person – This is something that should never be overlooked. The interviewer has chosen to interview you from many applications. Make sure to thank them for their time as you leave the interview and give them eye contact when you do. If you are meeting with a panel or more than one person, make a conscious effort to remember the names of the individuals involved so that you can personally thank each of them.

    Email – Send a follow up email thanking the interviewer for their time. Let them know you would be pleased to provide any further information they require and would appreciate any feedback they had. Let them know they can contact you at any time.

    References

    My personal recommendation is to touch base with your referees prior to the interview(s) taking place. However, if this isn’t possible, make sure you do the moment you finish the interview. Provide the referee as much information as you can about the organisation and the role you are applying for. Your referees will appreciate as much notice as possible and will be better prepared to provide a quality reference. Once they have provided a reference, make sure to thank them for their assistance.

    Phone Calls

    Once you have established with the recruiter/employer their timeframe to review applications, you can then plan your follow up call. There are a number of considerations when making a follow up call:

    Time of day

    Timeframes such as first thing in the morning, lunchtime or the end of the day could prove to be tricky time periods to contact the interviewer.

    Frequency

    If the person doing the recruiting is in a meeting, leave a full message with your details but don’t keep calling back every thirty minutes. Show patience, don’t be pushy.

    Professionalism

    When I am taking calls for Consultants in our office, I find that the information passed on to me by candidates can be very vague. If you conduct a follow up call to the organisation you applied with and say to the receptionist, ‘Tell them it’s Jane calling,’ what would you think? Chances are the interviewer may have spoken to five different Jane’s that day. Provide your full name, what position you interviewed for and when you interviewed was. This will save a lot of back and forth questions and will immediately remind the employer of who you are so that they can provide you with feedback.

    Extra Touches

    While it may seem like a dying art, there is nothing wrong with sending through a hand written letter for a personal touch. If you share a common interest with your interviewer don’t hesitate to mention it. Finding any way to stand out from the crowd is advantageous. Even if you do not proceed further for the role you applied for, the employer may consider you for other opportunities if you are memorable.

    What do you consider to be good follow up etiquette? Have you tried any techniques as a candidate that put you forward for a role?


  5. Keeping an eye on your online presence – What do your networks and Google say about you?

    February 24, 2015 by Jenna

    As we become familiar with different forms of online networks and methods of communication, our personal brand begins to spread across the World Wide Web. Our data and details are collected in many ways – when we apply for jobs, create social media pages, sign up for competitions or events, etc.

    Most of the information we share we tend to know about as we tailor this information and share it through social networks. However, while we have a certain element of control over what information we share and with whom, if you were to look up your name on Google, what would you find?

    I can’t say that I am too surprised with what I personally find when I look up my name through Google these days. The three main categories I seem to find my name under are:

    • Instagram Image Sharing – As this is more open to the public, the images I share with quotes and hashtags are available to view by the world
    • Event Registrations – Whether they are charity events or races, if I have placed a registration, my name and results are there (to an extent).
    • Corporate Profile/Networks – My company profile is there, blogs I have posted, my LinkedIn profile and other business networks that I am a member of.

    Other information that I wasn’t as aware of included event photos from when I used to work in the events industry and comments that I have made on articles that I follow online. While nothing negative or appalling was revealed, it did make me want to mention the importance of being careful with what you post online.

    This includes reflecting on your emotions during a difficult time and avoiding the use of the internet to vent your frustrations to the world. For example, if you are complaining about your boss and you forget that you have other connections in your network who are also linked to your boss. You could ultimately ruin your dignity and you may also lose your job.

    Keeping a professional image is important for many online avenues. If you attend a networking function with an event photographer present, chances are images will be shared across corporate networks. It is important to keep in mind the behaviour and message you want to portray, especially when trying to establish new connections and relationships.

    It can also be important to have a look online just to see if there are any details that need to be ‘cleaned up’ or updated as well. Sometimes we spend more time on one social network compared to another and therefore we forget to update information that may be relevant. This could include current employment, skill sets, interests/hobbies or courses that you may be attending.

    Have you updated your social media presence? Have you looked up your name on Google lately?


  6. Steps to develop self-confidence when you are a new employee

    November 3, 2014 by Jenna

    When it comes to being new at any role, you can feel apprehensive and even a little bit overwhelmed with what you need to take in during the early days of training and development. You are also in a new environment with colleagues and associates to impress and that will naturally make you nervous. However, this isn’t an ongoing feeling and there are ways you can start building your self-confidence so that you can let yourself shine in the workplace.

    Jacqueline Smith from Forbes outlined ways to be more confident at work and I have chosen to outline nine key steps from this article below:

    Stay focused on you. “Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” – Paul Coelho. Remember why you are here and what it is you want to achieve and don’t let distractions get in the way of pursuing your goals.

    Identify your strengths and capitalise on them. Be aware of what your strengths are and try and utilise them in your role as much as you can. By driving your best qualities, you can feel a greater sense of accomplishment and it helps you maintain engagement and stay energised. Don’t be afraid to outline these strengths with your manager. That way they can extend opportunities that will be beneficial to those skill sets when they arise.

    Identify weaknesses, and work on them. With your strengths there are also weaknesses and it is important to be aware of what they are. At the same time, judging yourself harshly or wallowing in self-pity over mistakes will not help you overcome them. The purpose of identifying weaknesses is to discover ways to improve on issues for the future or avoid repeating bad habits and mistakes.

    Believe in yourself. How will others start believing in you and what you are capable of if you don’t believe in yourself? While this may sound like common sense, doubt will hold you back from taking risks and pursuing opportunities. Set yourself achievable targets, mentally motivate yourself to keep moving forward and don’t be afraid to sell your personal brand to those around you in the right light.

    Closely monitor your successes. Keep track of your daily accomplishments from a to-do list or in writing. It helps you keep track of what you are achieving on a daily basis and as you progress whether you feel you would like to take on more responsibilities. This is also advantageous when reviews take place by management or even once the probationary period is reached to present your written accomplishments.

    Seek encouragement from others. This doesn’t mean that you are trying to seek constant praise. Ask people you trust or management to evaluate you on what your strengths and weaknesses are. You can also ask for feedback and direction on projects to see if you are meeting or exceeding expectations.

    Challenge yourself. As a new employee you will not need to rush this process as you can attempt this over time with baby steps. Accomplishing new challenges can be a great way to boost your confidence. Find projects and assignments that give you an opportunity to use your strengths and projects that stretch you once you feel further established in the role. Don’t be afraid to also raise your hand if colleagues or management need assistance on tasks as it shows initiative.

    Be a role model of positive attitude. By showing a positive attitude you will see how positivity will spread within your working environment. This doesn’t mean you always need to be smiling and acting cheerful. It can also be your attitude when you approach a challenging task and showing resilience at times of change. You need to be wary of how you react to situations as it can affect the outcome of assignments and relationships with colleagues or management.

    Don’t let failure or setbacks take away your self-confidence. Great successors didn’t get to where they are today without failing their first attempts and sometimes second or third attempts. It can bruise our confidence a little bit when things don’t go according to plan. However, the worst thing to do about it is to shrink away, hoping it all blows over and say to yourself, ‘Well I’m never doing that again!’ Admit that you have failed at the time, assess the situation and brainstorm areas for improvement. Taking a step back to review things is sometimes the best way you can move forward.

    How do you set yourself up in a new role? What are some of the struggles that you had to face and how did you overcome them?


  7. When it comes to setting goals, don’t let obstacles hold you back

    October 14, 2014 by Jenna

    We have all been guilty of setting a goal and getting side tracked. But when it comes to your career progression it is important to break through the barriers that may be preventing you from achieving success.

    So what are some of the main obstacles that could be holding you back from achieving your goals? Is there something that you can think of right now? More importantly, what can you do to overcome them?

    While conducting research on the topic, I sourced an article on the top obstacles to your goals and added my personal perspective on ways you can overcome the obstacles:

    1. Procrastination – Are there certain items that you have been avoiding and you notice the paperwork and emails are slowly piling up? Do you keep telling yourself – I’ll do it this afternoon, tomorrow or next week? Does it suddenly become urgent and you wish you had tackled it sooner?

    Try this instead:

    – Firstly, be aware of it, admit it to yourself, and take action to change it.

    – If it is a tedious task that you don’t enjoy doing, get it out of the way first and don’t keep putting it off.

    – Set up a list of tasks and put them in order of priority for the day.

    – Set a timeframe in which to complete it, this will give it a sense of urgency and a deadline for you to achieve the task.

    – Repeat this process for longer term goals as well

    2. Lack of time – Whether it is work, family commitments, the daily commute etc. Different commitments will pull at your attention and dedicating time to your goals can be difficult. However, it is important to make sure that you are managing time to balance everything on your plate before you add more to your to-do list.

    Try this instead: Firstly, establish what you currently have on your to-do list and narrow down your top three priorities of the day. By setting yourself three realistic priorities to accomplish you will feel a greater level of satisfaction completing those items as opposed to trying to tackle 54 items at once with no results.

    3. Lack of organisation/motivation – Sometimes when we let projects and paperwork build it can appear overwhelming and you often don’t know where to begin.

    Try this instead: Pick one project and work on a specific goal around it. Get clear on what you need to do to achieve this goal – do research, seek training, and then write out a time frame in which you need to achieve it by. And most importantly, hold yourself accountable for it so that you are continually driving yourself and not losing focus on the task at hand.

    4. Distractions – Meetings, phone calls, emails, reminders, social media connections or a colleague or manager asks you to drop what you are doing to complete and urgent task. Does this sound familiar? Wish you could block out the world long enough to complete that project? But how?

    Try this instead: Sometimes it can be as simple as advising your colleagues that you are working on an important assignment for the next hour or two and to approach you only if it is urgent.  You may need to divert your calls to voicemail for a period of time or put an out of office reply on your emails until you are done. And if your phone or other devices are set to make noises to remind you of appointments or when you receive a message, it may be best to set them to silent. Allocating the amount you wish to shut out distractions is up to you, as long as you can make the most of that time to be productive and achieve your desired results.

    What do you find are some of the major obstacles that you find come up with goal setting or pursuing a goal in your career? What steps have you taken previously to overcome them? What did you learn from the experience?


  8. Team Leadership – You will get out of it what you put in

    July 29, 2014 by Jenna

    The team leader makes or breaks the effectiveness of the team. A great team leader has the power to motivate the team to achieve beyond what each team member thought possible. As a team leader, the more you look after the members of your team, the more you will get back from them in return.

    When I am establishing a team, I need to anticipate what my team needs and expects of me so that together we can work together to reach the same desired outcome. I ask myself some simple questions to get on track:

    • Does each team member know their role in the team? And even more importantly: Does each team know the importance of the impact that role has on the overall team goal?
    • Do team members have sufficient information about what is expected?
    • Are the deadlines set realistic and have they been clearly communicated to the team?

    From my experience of leading teams, I have learnt an overall goal or purpose is needed. If I am not showing passion towards the goal, then others too will lack passion. To motivate others, it is important to have a clear purpose as to why the team has been brought together, when everyone is engaged in this purpose it helps the team remain motivated and to keep pushing towards this overall goal.

    But defining the purpose is not enough to keep the team engaged in the long-term. Team members also need ongoing support and encouragement. You can’t just allocate an assignment and walk away, delegation is more than that. You need to be observant, review results, and pay credit where it is due. Individuals want to be recognised for the effort that they put in. In sports, teams heavily rely on the support of their fans and coaches and that is what drives them to perform at their best. Each of us needs to feel supported to perform at our best.

    Lastly, when the job is done, you need to evaluate the outcome. Collect your team members for a meeting, usually soon after the task is completed so that ideas are fresh in everyone’s minds. Have an open discussion with your team, this can include: how they felt the overall task went, what they liked or didn’t like about the experience, and what could be looked at to improve for the future. Just as we started on a high note, it’s also important that we close on a high note too. I like to thank all of those involved, perhaps provide an incentive for a job well done. I also like to leave it open so that if in the future we can collectively work together again, the opportunity is there to ask.

    The more I put into being a great team leader, the more results that are produced by my team. Each team member improves their skills, knowledge and experience to anticipate and respond to difficult situations and develop a greater awareness of what they are capable of. Having great team members that deliver great results makes you feel proud that you get to be a part of it. This is when you start to realise the value of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

    Have you had to manage a team on a project? What has it taught you?

     


  9. If you’ve never considered using Temporary Staff in your business, maybe it’s time to join the bandwagon… By Lauren Eardley

    July 14, 2014 by Jenna

    The world of temporary work might be completely unknown to you or one you might not fully understand, however the use of temporary workers is on the up in Australia and has firmly established itself within labour markets worldwide. Challenge Consulting has offered temporary staff to our clients for over 21 years and we’ve noticed a significant and consistent increase in awareness and demand for temp staff across most industries.

    What is a Temporary Worker?
    A ‘Temporary Worker’ is an employee who is only expected to remain in a position for a limited amount of time. Temporary workers may have the opportunity to obtain a permanent position after that or they may have a set end date. They:

    • Work the hours that you need (Full-time/Part- Time)(Minimum 3 hours per day)
    • Get paid for the hours that they work and are not entitled to holiday pay or sick pay
    • Do not have a contract with the host company
    • Are on the agency payroll (i.e. Challenge Consulting pay them for you)

    Significant research has gone into the use of temporary workers as part of the workforce globally (www.staffingindustry.com). If you are wondering why you would ever need to use a Temporary Worker, research has found that the main motivation behind employers’ use of temporary workers goes further than just answering short-term demands. The numbers are compelling and the most common reasons for the use of temporary staff are:

    1. Flexibility (89.4% of employers voted this the number 1 reason);
    2. Value in answering short-term needs (87.8%);
    3. Benefit in identifying candidates for long-term positions (75.7%);
    4. Cost-effective solution to HR challenges (61.2%)
    5. Bringing external expertise into the business (49.1%).

    From the candidate’s point of view, there are significant benefits for professionals who offer themselves for temporary employment. The research found that professionals who chose temporary employment or an interim management position over a specific permanent assignment did so for pragmatic reasons;

    1. Availability of short-term employment positions even during times of economic difficulty (72% of employees);
    2. Opportunity for individuals to develop their professional network (70.7%);
    3. Opportunity to develop professional skills (66.7%)
    4. Possibility of finding stable employment (59.1%).

    Out of the 17 countries surveyed for the report which included the USA and UK, Australia had the most positive attitude towards temporary employment. Generally, the positive response was more common in countries where Temporary Employment has been more established. On a global scale, Australia has the 2nd largest proportion of temporary employees as a percentage of the total working population (2.8%), just behind the UK (3.6%). Employers and employees now know and understand the benefits of temporary employment and accept it as a positive fact of working life.

    Whether you are using temporary employees to replace a member of staff taking leave or to cope with an unexpected increase in activity; the speed of turnaround from agencies providing temporary employees was listed as the most important factor for employers seeking to recruit. Previous relationship and cost were both secondary factors.

    Temporary employment in Australia is predicted to increase and temporary staffing agencies like Challenge Consulting are likely to become more essential to support business. The ability to provide highly trained employees to sophisticated sectors at short notice is valuable and Challenge Consulting has the experience and resources to respond to your need quickly. If you are looking to employ temporary staff for your business over the Christmas period or any time of year, please contact our Temporary Services Recruitment Specialist – Melissa Lombardo on 02 9221 6422 [email protected].


  10. How do you feel about change?

    March 18, 2014 by Jenna

    ‘If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.’ – Gail Sheehy

    I really like this quote because I find it to be a a good prompt to why we need to embrace change – whether we are instigating the change or not.

    While discussing the topic with my manager, he stated, ‘If you have any ambition, you need to accept change. Not just accept it, but embrace it, make the most out of it. Change can even help improve your current situation.’

    He went on to describe that, ‘In business, if you do not grow or adapt to a rapidly changing market then your business will die.’ Don’t you agree?

    I decided to look into reasons that may cause an individual to reject change as a means to help foster a more positive mindset and help others embrace change. I found an article by Sue McKee on 3 Reasons People Hate Change:

    Comfort

    I can relate to getting comfortable, settling into a routine, feeling secure and cosy with the way life is going. And then BAM! Change has hit, and that way of life you were once used to is now out of sorts. ‘Why now?’ you may ask yourself, but change is inevitable.

    You may also be comfortable in a routine or situation that may not be healthy or enjoyable, but to avoid being uncomfortable you don’t do anything about it.

    Myth Buster: Any big target or goal worth achieving will put you outside of your comfort zone. Your comfort is not a measure or whether or not you’re on track towards your goal!

    Fear

    Entering into change without knowing the exact path it will take you on is a scary feeling!  We often convince ourselves that moments of uncertainty or unpredictability will have a negative outcome.

    Myth Buster: Change is constant so it is easier to work with it, rather than fight it!

    As an organiser, especially for group activities, I can relate to this. I like having an element of control over the task, setting schedules, preparing items and having an idea of the outcome. However, over the years I have learnt to accept the fact that there are going to be elements that change my plans at the last minute, that are out of my control and I just need to embrace those situations when they arise.

    There hasn’t been one moment of change that didn’t teach me something new about myself.

    Motivation

    Without the right mindset it is hard to compel yourself to accept change or take active measures to progress with the new changes taking place. New changes can include a new role, new responsibilities, challenges etc. and often if you are not putting in 100% effort, the outcome of change can often be less favorable.

    You can receive advice from management and mentors on how to address new changes, but it is up to you to ignite your passions, look upon change in a more positive light, and create the best outcomes for your career and lifestyle.

    Myth Buster: If you don’t like the way things are, it is your job to change it! Craft a new vision for yourself to pull you forward to a brighter future!

    If you feel that you are at this stage of your life where a change needs to take place, try asking yourself one of the following questions:

    • What is not working in my life right now that I need to change? or

    • What change is occurring that I am resisting?

    By embracing the fact that change is constant, you can open yourself up to new opportunities that come your way.

    What are your previous experiences with change? What decisions did you make when the change occurred and where did it lead you?




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