5 Things That Make Exceptional Employees Stand out

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The lifeblood of any organization for better or worse runs through the group’s workforce, so identifying exceptional employees allows you the opportunity to nurture those seeds of their enthusiasm, energy, and drive to take maximum advantage of their potential. Building a stellar team does not materialize out of whole cloth, but rather is stitched together over time with the individual threads that your employees represent. Unfortunately, employee dissatisfaction often results when talents go under-utilized or unappreciated, so spotting the exceptional team member is the first job of the manager.

Standard interview questions and performance reviews do very little to single out the exceptional employee from the rest of the herd. For the managerial team looking to identify those candidates, it is always better to monitor daily attitudes and motivations of your employee over the quarterly review scores emerging from the human resources office. Keep an eye out for these five distinctive behavioral and performance indicators that indicate an exceptional employee.

1. View their Job Description as a starting point

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The exceptional employee views their job description as a mere starting point when it comes to taking on the daily challenges that any growing or established company might face on a day-to-day basis. Their primary goal is to get the job done when they see that their assistance will help get the project to completion. Once this behavioral pattern begins to assert itself, you know that you have a dedicated team member placing the organization’s goals above the petty complaints of employees who jealously guard their time behind the safety of their job description.

2. Quirky and Independent Personalities

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A quirky and independent personality is not only refreshing in the confines of the typical business environment, but its presence also signals the confidence of the owner because quirky personalities naturally tend to push the status quo in innovative directions while shaking up the “group think” that can fester around the boardroom table. Such a personality type looks at the world from a different angle than the employee sitting in the next cubical, and that altered perception helps fuel constructive attitudes throughout every office in the building. Conversely, the excellent employee also knows when to place those quirky traits in a drawer when the job at hand calls for pure reasoning and professionalism. In short, they know when it is time to play and when it is time to work.

3. Diplomacy and Tact

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It’s been noted that most people learn the basics of their social skills by the age of five, and it is as good a starting place as any when it comes to analyzing your employee’s ability to get along with supervisors, subordinates, and peer groups. The exceptional employee understands that social interaction goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of camaraderie that helps propel the organization’s goals. Free with praise, they offer congratulations to co-workers who have earned it, and are supportive to those in need of bolstering to complete their tasks. Identifying exceptional employees that practice these socially interactive skills is important because these actions serve to elevate the entire work staff and act as a marker of managerial talent.

4. Understand How to Read “the Room”

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The savvy employee is capable of “reading the room” and acting and thinking quickly on their feet regardless of the situation at hand. Team members that exhibit the ability to roll with the punches means that that employee can respond to a wide array of circumstances and that will prove an advantage for the entire organization. Utilizing their education, experience, intelligence, and talents, the exceptional employee stands out from the crowd on a daily basis.

5. Asks Questions and Willing to Explore

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The exceptional employee is not afraid to ask questions and explore options. Unfortunately, many team members are afraid to express themselves to the group as a whole and oftentimes even in private. Similarly, exceptional employees look at company policies and procedures with an eye toward improving the mousetrap that they inherited in an effort to make all aspects of the company’s systems more efficient.

Identifying and cultivating superior talent should be your first job in the managerial role, so look beyond the pencil and paper evaluations of the human resource department, and keep your eye on the day-to-day behavior that shows the true potential of your employees.

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10 Tips to Stay More Organized at the Office

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Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your workday seems to get away from you. With so much to do and so little time to get it all accomplished, it’s easy to find yourself feeling frustrated, lost, and unsure of where to start. Staying on top of your many responsibilities at work can be a challenge, but with these tips, you’ll be better able to prioritize your tasks and make sure every day is efficient and organized.

  1. Start the day with a clear mind

When you come to work worried and anxious, it’s going to reflect on the rest of the day. Even if you’re stressed from the moment you walk through the door, take a few moments just for you before you get moving. Check your email, brew some coffee in the break room, or swing by your pal in accounting’s desk to chat for a moment; find a way to relax, and make it a part of your routine.

  1. Tackle the hardest jobs first

It’s only natural to dread the hardest tasks on your agenda, but there’s no reason to let them ruin your day. No matter how much you’d prefer to put off the biggest, most challenging projects, taking them on first thing in the morning when you’re still fresh can give you the motivation to get things done while eliminating stressors before they have time to wear on you.

  1. Make a to-do list – and stick to it

There’s a lot on your plate, but that doesn’t mean it has to overwhelm you. Instead of letting the pile of work in front of you get you down, make a to-do list. Write down everything you have to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, and stick to it. Add new tasks as they come up, and cross out the ones completed successfully.

  1. Cut down on meetings

You may feel as though all of those meetings on your calendar are of the utmost importance, but take a good, hard look and ask yourself how many you could miss with minimal consequences. Instead of spreading yourself thin attending non-mandatory gatherings, appoint a coworker to take notes on calls and conferences that aren’t essential.

  1. Take time to clear your mind

It can be hard to rationalize a break when you’re busy, but it’s a big part of staying calm and focused. When the pressure is on, take a few minutes and take a walk, get some water, or use the bathroom. Simply stretching your legs and briefly directing your attention elsewhere can give you the mental reprieve you need to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

  1. Keep your desk clean

A messy desk may not seem like a problem, but when you’re losing important papers, struggling to find agendas, and having trouble remembering what you stored where, it can only add to your stress. Do your best to keep your desk area clutter-free, even if that means requesting a filing cabinet or a set of drawers to put your paperwork in.

  1. Stop multitasking

Multitasking may seem like an inevitability in the business world, but it doesn’t have to be. Even though it may not feel like it, multitasking splits your attention in a consequential way, leaving you unable to give 100% to any one task. Handle a single task at a time, and keep working on it until you are completely finished.

  1. Don’t be afraid to delegate

When you’re used to handling everything yourself, giving over the reins can be very overwhelming. However, it’s also a big part of being an effective manager or team member. If you have tasks you know someone else could take on, don’t be afraid to delegate some of your responsibilities. Give clear directions and a deadline, and move on to something else.

  1. Cut down on email

When you have a quick question for another member of your team, email is often the go-to form of communication. As convenient as it is, however, it can leave you with more work later while you sit around waiting for answers. Instead, make it a point to call or instant message whenever possible, keeping your inbox clear for more important communications.

  1. Ask for help

When you’re stumped and aren’t sure where to turn, it can feel frustrating, especially when it’s starting to impact your productivity. Instead of spinning your wheels, get in touch with a supervisor or another member of your team. Sometimes, talking things out for a minute or two is all it takes to get you back on the right path.

Staying organized can take some commitment, but changing up your routines and focusing on the end goal can keep you attentive and hard at work, even on the longest, busiest days.

What do you do to stay organized? Leave a comment and let us know!

Five Ways to Create a Positive Work-Life Balance

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In today’s tech-intensive world, it’s easy to be drawn into an ‘always working’ state of mind. Many employees and contractors feel pressured to constantly check their emails, respond to texts, and log into their social media feeds – even when they’re ‘off the clock’. This constant stress can lead to a loss of productivity, burnout, and serious health consequences, both mental and physical.

The stresses caused by these digital demands is so great that in France, the government is attempting to pass legislation that provides legal protection for workers, giving them the “right to disconnect” from work-related devices in the evening and on weekends.

Of course, not everyone lives in a country where lawmakers place a high value on work-life balance, so it’s up to each individual, manager and company to make downtime a priority.

Here are five things you can do to achieve a positive work-life balance:

Set Boundaries

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Landing and keeping a good job these days has become highly competitive, driving workers to constantly stretch their limits in an effort to stand out. Unfortunately, non-stop over-achievement leads to burnout, so it’s important to know what your personal limits are, and stick to them. Once you define your boundaries, you’ll feel a greater sense of control over your life, and your colleagues will know exactly what to expect from you.

Learn to Prioritize

Take inventory of what’s really important in both your career and your personal life. What are your goals and what are you doing to achieve them? By assessing where you are at and where you’d like to be, you’ll be able to identify and focus on the activities that add value to your life and eliminate the ones “that don’t enhance your career or personal life.”

Create a Buffer between Work & Home

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With the increase in mobile offices and work-at-home arrangements, the lines between your workplace and your home can get pretty blurry, leading to that ‘always on’ feeling that plagues so many workers these days.

Try to create a separation between your workplace (or work-related activities) and your personal life by building a separate space in your home for a home office, enjoying some relaxing music during your commute, or marking the end of the work day by reading the paper, watching a quick video, or taking a walk.

Power Off Electronic Devices

People who have successfully achieved a positive work-life balance consistently take control of their time, and one of the ways they do this is by turning off their electronic devices when they want to fully appreciate the people and places around them. Mobile connectivity has created unrealistic expectations that everyone should be accessible 24/7, leading to a non-stop barrage of notifications, updates, requests and information that can prevent you from ever truly relaxing.

By powering down your tablet, smartphone and laptop at regularly-scheduled intervals, you’ll be able to live ‘in the moment’, and take a step back from the constant demands of multi-tasking. People who make a point of ‘unplugging’ report feeling a “greater sense of control over their lives,” which ironically, leads to greater productivity and achievement.

Schedule Downtime

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It’s all too easy to work through your lunch hour, take on extra projects that eat in to your breaks, and dismiss downtime in favor of extra job-related duties. Make a point of actually scheduling in a date night with your loved one, booking social time with friends, and even include some alone time on your calendar.

By focusing on achieving a positive work/life balance, you’ll enjoy better physical and mental health, be more productive, and protect yourself against both personal and professional burnout.

These days, it’s not hard to fall into an unhealthy pattern of working too much – by focusing on what’s important to you and recognizing behaviors, attitudes, and activities that negatively impact your career and personal life, you can look forward to greater satisfaction and a heightened sense of control in all aspects of your life.

Save Money in 2016 by Building a Return-To-Work Plan This Spring

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Written by guest blogger, Roseann Collins, L&I Employer Services

Are you ready to bring injured workers’ back to work with medically-appropriate light-duty jobs?   Many employers are not ready. Spring is a good time to start building your businesses’ return-to-work plan.  If you don’t have a strong return-to-work plan, you could be losing money.

Returning to work supports injured worker recovery and reduces the financial impact of a workers’ compensation claim on the worker and the employer by helping the worker keep a workplace connection after an injury.

A good place to start with your return-to-work planning is to create modified or light-duty job descriptions to keep on file in case of an injury.

Other action steps to consider include:

  • Create a return-to-work policy if you don’t already have one.
  • Before an injury occurs, think about what light-duty assignments an employee could do if they were injured on the job.
  • Ask your employees for their input in creating light-duty assignments.
  • Tell new hires that your business has a return-to-work policy, so should they get injured at work, you will bring them back as soon as possible.
  • Tell physicians you have light-duty available and want to bring your injured workers back as soon as medically safe and possible.
  • Use the Washington Stay at Work Program to get reimbursed for up to $10,000 to support light-duty wages.

Use L&I’s Washington Stay at Work Program Incentives

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Washington’s Stay at Work Program can reimburse employers for a significant portion of the costs to support medically-approved light duty.

The Stay at Work Program can reimburse:

  • Fifty-percent of the base wages you pay to the injured worker (up to $10,000 or 66 days of light duty, whichever comes first).
  • Some of the cost of training, tools or clothing the worker needs to do the light-duty or transitional work (up to $2,500 for equipment; $1,000 for training; and $400 for clothing per claim)

To date, L&I has reimbursed over $42 Million to keep over 16,000 workers working and receiving wages.

For more information, go to www.lni.wa.gov/StayAtWork

Changing weather means new safety hazards

Spring can be a time to celebrate warmer temperatures and sunshine.  Remind your workers to be aware of new hazards that come with Spring weather, such as more pedestrian traffic and storm-related hazards like flooding and dangerous driving conditions. Discussing safety-related topics about spring hazards is a great way to help everyone stay safe and working.

For more information, go to L&I’s website at www.lni.wa.gov/Safety and check out these topics:

Seasonal Safety: Spring

Ladder Safety

Hand & Portable Power Tools

Chemical Use

Landscaping

Green Building Safety Awareness Training

Mentoring Millennials

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor & Writer

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Determining the proper way to train and lead a millennial is a common concern for many business owners. How do you hire and retain the generation that grew up so different from your own? Before we take a deeper look at the millennial worker we must first identify who millennials are exactly.

Millennials were born between 1980 and 1995. They watch YouTube videos on iPads, they use multiple social media sites and prefer talking via text message. Studies have shown they aren’t too keen on leaving voicemails.

And for the past decade or so millennials have been given a bad rap. Some call them the “We Generation” believing them to be lazy and entitled. But that isn’t always the case. In fact, members of the millennial age group have shown great leadership and entrepreneurial skills. They are the generation that brought us Facebook, Dropbox, Blue Apron and even Airbnb.

It is important to remember that this young group of scrappy go-getters aren’t just entering the workforce —they are the workforce. According to a survey conducted by PayScale.com, they account for 45 percent of the workforce. In comparison, Baby Boomers account for 31 percent and Generation X’ers (those born between 1961 and 1979) make up only 21 percent. The final three percent comes from the Silent Generation, which are seniors 68 years and older.

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So how are these different groups with different life experiences supposed to work well together? Let’s begin by taking a look at some common problems that arise when hiring a millennial and how you can remedy the issue.

One-on-one Training

The problem: They’re green. Or to use a term millennials are more comfortable with —they’re “newbs.” They might have a few years of real work experience under their belt, but it can’t hold a candle to the 20 or so years many of their colleagues have.

The Fix: Tit for Tat mentoring. Find a seasoned team member you can partner them with as part of a mentorship program. Choose someone whose opinion you value, but who doesn’t work in the same department as your new hire. It needs to be someone the millennial can learn from, but also isn’t afraid to make mistakes in front of. Mentoring doesn’t have to be one-sided. Allow the millennial to teach their “mentor” a few new things and both employees will benefit from the experience.

Being Supportive

The problem: They need constant reassurance. This is the generation where everyone got a participation trophy and were constantly being told how “special” they are. So what happens when they are no longer shining stars? Will they be able to handle the stress of balancing work life and personal life?

The fix: Look, we can’t all be Beyoncé. However, millennials aren’t alone in wanting an “attaboy.” Everyone likes to know they are doing a good job and everyone can benefit from consistent feedback. A simple solution is to check in on your young employee and make sure they’re satisfied with their work. Remember, they prefer a boss who is more of a coach than a dictator.

Encourage them to Invest

The problem: They aren’t loyal. This one actually has some statistics to back its authenticity. According to the PayScale report about a quarter of millennials surveyed said workers shouldn’t be expected to stay in a job a year or less, before looking for a new position. That’s a stark contrast to the 41 percent of Baby Boomers who believe you should be with a job for at least five years before moving on.

The fix: Help them grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to guarantee career advancement. Instead, look at growth as a way to provide additional skillsets to your new hire. When employees get bored in their work they’re more likely to move on, but challenged and motivated employees typically stick around for the long haul.

While there may be drawbacks to hiring millennials, there are also plenty of advantages. Millennials are flexible and approach their job with an open mind. Very rarely will you ever hear them say “because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Also, they aren’t afraid of emerging technologies. Technology is changing at a rapid pace and no one understands this more than millennials. They’ve been using computers since they could sit up and are able to adapt to new software. What’s even better is they can turn around and teach your older workforce how to use it.

For additional resources to help you work alongside millennials consider checking out Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World by David D. Burstein and the Harvard Business Review’s article on Mentoring Millennials.

For fun, here’s a quick 15 question QUIZ created by the Pew Research Center that figures out just how “Millennial You Are.”

For the record, I scored a 76.