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  1. Return of the Intergalactic Admin Manager

    September 9, 2014 by Kate Dass

    Several years ago, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess, who happens to be a die-hard NRL fan, took it upon herself to create a NRL staff tipping competition. “YAY” no-one said. But, when the incentives of a Jurlique gift pack for the winner and, even better, an actual wooden spoon for the loser, were dangled in front of us like the proverbial carrot, we were all in.

    Of course, this required selecting tipping comp aliases. I chose the subtle “Intergalactic Admin Manager”. The tipping comp is still going though, I must admit, having only returned to Challenge on a temporary basis after an absence of two and a half years, I am a less-than-enthusiastic participant (or is this just a cunning ploy to get my hands on the until-now elusive wooden spoon?)

    The point in all this is that I am back. Why am I back? How am I back?

    Let’s start at the very beginning.

    People are generally astonished that, until I resigned in late 2011, I was Challenge Consulting’s Administration Manager for 11 years. The common question is: why did I stay that long?

    The co-founder and original Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, is, quite simply, the number one reason. I worked directly and closely with her, literally and figuratively, and was given more and more professional development opportunities as the years went by. As my skills and competencies expanded, I was challenged to expand them further. I learned how to manage payroll, the company banking, staff superannuation, website management, social media communications. I became a qualified Career Guidance Counsellor and Psychometric Testing Administrator. I ran workshops and wrote business proposals. I was trusted, I was encouraged, I was challenged, I was made to feel like my duties made a genuine difference to the success of the company.

    Another key component was Elizabeth’s uncanny ability to select the right people for her company’s culture. Every time she took even the slightest risk and went against her instincts, the person never lasted long. This rarely occurred, however, and this meant that the team working for her and, crucially, with her, was happy, supportive and willing to work hard and with excellence as its standard.

    Thirdly, Elizabeth’s willingness to be flexible in the working arrangements of her staff members meant that when, in September 2008, I left to have my first baby, she left me in no doubt that there would always be a place for me in the Challenge team, in whatever capacity suited my new responsibilities as a mother. In early 2009, I returned to work first one day per week, then, two, then three. The balance between work and family was perfect. When, in 2011, I discovered that another little person had decided to join our family, Elizabeth was the first person, other than my husband, I told. As her employee, I wanted her to be able to plan for my successor (I did not envision being able to return to work as quickly as the first time, so I made the decision to resign). As her friend, I had no hesitation in sharing my news with her, knowing that she would be nothing less than overjoyed. I left with sadness but no regret in December 2011 and threw myself into mummy-ness once again.

    Now, I adore my children. But, something no-one ever mentions for fear of being placed in front of a firing squad for daring to suggest that motherhood is not always a complete joy, it can be somewhat lacking in intellectual stimulation. Astonishing, I know. What, you mean you can’t understand why changing your seven thousandth nappy and watching In The Night Garden ad infinitum might be, I don’t know, a tad boring?

    I needed to do something. Anything.

    I did bits and pieces of casual work during 2013 and early 2014. And then – the aforementioned Narelle celebrated her 10th Challenge Consulting anniversary in July. Whilst nibbling on a piece of excellent cheese and sipping on a glass of fizzy wine, I silently sidled out of the boardroom and took a wander around memory office. It was all familiar, yet different. It was also somewhat, ahem, disorganised. My reputation as the Office Cleaning Nazi remains to this day. No-one has yet dared to remove my whiteboard reminder, written I don’t know how many years ago. Challenge’s current owner and Managing Director, Stephen Crowe, approached me with, was it fear?, and said, “I bet you hate that state of the office.” I replied, “It didn’t have look like this in my day.”

    The team repaired to a very nice dinner washed down with quantities of wine. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my innate need to clean and apply order taking control of my brain, but I said to Stephen, “You know, I’d love to come in and sort things out for you.” We met the next week and had a (sober) chat about what I could and would do. Our current Administrator / Social Media Coordinator, Jenna, just happened to be departing for a month in Canada the very next week. And so here I am, just for the time being, looking after things at Challenge Consulting once again, every Tuesday.

    I love it. Things have changed, of course, but I still feel comfortable, welcome, and capable of making a difference, even in a small way.

    Here are some key words and phrases to take away from this personal perspective on staff retention and why people stay, and even return:

    – Professional Development Opportunities

    – Making a Difference

    – Team Spirit

    – Challenged and Trusted

    – Selecting the Right People for the Company Culture

    – Management’s Willingness to be Flexible

    – Facilitating Work/Life Balance

    – Feeling Welcomed, Valued, and Trusted

    [Thank you, Stephen, for this opportunity. I cannot express how much I appreciate it.]


  2. What is the #1 thing that would make you feel truly welcome on your first day in a new job?

    August 16, 2011 by Jenna

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

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    One wit I know maintained that “having songs written and sung in my name” was a perfect introduction. Another suggested “a fruit basket”.  

    Lovely, apt even, if one is beginning work with a fruiterer, but perhaps not #1 on most people’s list of first-day expectations. 

    So, what was #1 in our online poll last week? 

    #1 = In-person introductions to your key colleagues, junior and senior – 32.7%

    #2 = Being assigned to a “buddy” for your first week while you learn the ropes – 24.5% 

    #3 = Feeling expected by your new workplace and colleagues when you arrive – 13.1% 

    =#4 = Having a desk, equipment and a computer ready for you – 9.8% / Immediate involvement in “real” work or a team project – 9.8%

    Nothing makes a new person feel more like part of a company than warm, personal welcomes from the people they’ll be working with and, perhaps more importantly, for. 

    “Make sure that the first day’s schedule is full of meeting people and onboarding activities. Schedule a good portion of the morning with the new employee’s boss and mentor. Don’t let the day go to waste and contain nothing but paperwork and HR meetings. The day is for bonding with the boss, the mentor, and coworkers.”* 

    After one week on the job, the employee should begin to feel comfortable with her responsibilities, have met at least one new business contact each day, be familiar with team members (inside her department and outside) and be able to walk into your office with any questions. Arrange an informal session of drinks, cake, or something similar with the other team members at the end of the week so the new hire can assess what she has learned, ask the group questions and hang out in a less formal setting. 

    And what of the notion of being assigned to a “buddy”, which came in at #2 in our online poll? What is a buddy? What do they do? And why can they make such a difference? 

    A buddy is an experienced employee who partners with a new employee to provide guidance and encouragement during a defined period, typically the first two to three months of employment.  A buddy helps reduce new employee uncertainty by being available to answer immediate or routine questions. They relate new employee information to actual situations, and can suggest experiences and provide information to help the new employee become an “insider.” 

    To be a buddy, an employee should know and be committed to their department or work area, understand the company’s culture, have good interpersonal skills, be a respected performer and role model, be a peer of the new employee, and want to help.  A buddy must also be given time to support the new employee. 

    Of course, the flip side of this equation is that it’s not just up to your new company and colleagues to ease you into your new role. You are a professional. You are there to do a job and you are getting paid money for it. So, it’s also up to you to make the best impression you can during your first days in a new job.

    Here are some top tips for all newbies (and, quite frankly, some of them can be applied even if you’ve been in your job for a while!): 

    Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression**

    1. Have a Positive Attitude: Nothing works better – in all situations – than having and expressing a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show to everyone you interact with. And always leave non-work problems at home.

    2. Dress Professionally / Blend in With Co-Workers: You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally in your new job. And in the beginning, even if your department has casual days, you should dress professionally because you never know when you’ll be called out to meet a top manager or key client. “Dress how you want people to perceive you because it plays a huge role in how you are initially treated,” advises Desiree Devaney, a financial analyst with GE Capital Credit.

    3. Show Your Team Spirit: You are now part of a work team, and teams work together to solve problems and get the job done. Show loyalty to your co-workers and focus more – initially at least – on sharing any recognition you get with the team. Always give credit to the team.

    4. Learn Co-Workers’ Names Quickly: No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first day or week, but if you are bad with names, now is the time to research some of the neat memory-aid tricks you can try to use. 

    5. Ask Questions/Ask for Help: No one expects you to solve all the organisation’s problems on your first days on the job – nor that you know everything – so, relax a bit, and always ask questions or ask for help when you need it. Remember that it’s better to ask before you’ve completed the task the wrong way and wasted all that time. 

    6. Take Notes / Go to Orientation: Unless you have a photographic memory – and few of us do – consider taking notes on all the various systems and rules of the organisation. And no matter how boring they may sound, attend all orientation sessions. Nothing gets old faster than someone repeatedly asking how something works; such behaviour shows a lack of attention to detail. 

    7. Be a Self-Starter; Take Initiative: In most situations, in your first days on the job, you will be given small doses of work – to let you get your feet wet. As you finish assignments and are ready to handle a bigger workload, take the initiative and ask for more assignments. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there waiting for your next project. 

    8. Discover Everything About Your New Employer: In theory, you should have already done your homework during the interviewing process, but there is always more to learn now that you are on the inside. “Get an employee handbook” exhorts a MBA grad with an information-technology concentration. “Don’t act or think you know more about everything than your peers.” In addition, gather all those reports and company literature and read up and become an expert on your organisation. 

    9. Work Full Days: There’s nothing that can affect your reputation faster than routinely coming into work late or leaving work early. Especially in these first days/weeks on the job, be sure you get to work early and leave no earlier than when the majority of your co-workers leave. 

    10. Establish a Good Attendance Record: Just as with working full days, it’s important to show up to work every day and establish a good attendance record. Yes, there will be emergencies, and yes, you may get sick, but as best you can, try to make it to work every day during those first weeks/months on the job.

    11. Avoid Office Politics and Gossip: As with any social organisation, the workplace is full of rumours and gossip. Your mission is to keep your nose clean of all of it – and be sure not to associate too often with the office gossips or risk having your image associated with them.

    12. Keep Personal Business on Company Time to a Minimum: Studies show that just about everyone conducts some amount of personal business on company time – checking email, making dinner reservations, buying stuff online. Your goal is to keep your personal business to a minimum and stay focused on work. 

    13. Take Advantage of After-Hours Activities: Many organisations have formal or informal after-hour activities, such as sports leagues. Get involved – even if only as a cheerleader – because these types of activities are great ways to bond with your co-workers. Do be on your best behaviour during these outside-work activities, though.

    14. Show Appreciation: Nothing works like kindness and genuine appreciation. So, show your appreciation to everyone who helps you learn the ropes during your first days on the job – from your co-workers to receptionists to the human resources folks. 

    15. Find a Mentor: You don’t need to jump on this task your first day, but as you get introduced to senior staff, begin thinking about developing a mentoring relationship with a member of management above you – and outside your department – in the organisation. Mentoring has numerous benefits, from a simple sounding board to someone who helps direct and advance your career within the organisation. 

    16. Get and Stay Organised / Set Goals: If you’re one of those super-organised people, this tip will be easy for you. The rest of us, however, need to develop a system for keeping track of meetings, appointments, assignments, and projects. Get an organiser or planner and keep on top of all your work. You certainly don’t want to miss an early key deadline or meeting. And as you look ahead, set goals for yourself s- and then strive to achieve them.

    17. Keep Your Boss Informed – of Everything: Your boss is not a mind-reader, so keep him/her informed of how you are doing. Especially in those early days, meet with your boss to further establish a rapport and relationship. 

    18. Meet and Network with Key People in Organisation & Profession: Join an organisation outside of work. Take additional classes to stay ahead in your field. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession – attend staff meetings, professional organisation conferences, trade shows – every opportunity to meet colleagues in your field. Just because you have a new job does not mean you suspend your network; constantly manage and grow your network of contacts because you never know when a problem or opportunity will arise. And networking with key people can also help you in finding one or more mentors. 

    ______________________________

    * How to Welcome a New Employee 

    ** Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression




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