Mentoring up: Can junior employees help senior managers improve?

Could your junior workers help your senior managers be better at their jobs?

Reverse mentoring could improve employee development.

Reverse mentorship relationships benefit both senior and junior employees

Traditionally, less experienced employees are paired with more established mentors, with the understanding that the former will benefit from the accrued professional wisdom and experience of the latter. However, some career counselors are now advising turning that formula on its head, with a concept commonly known as “reverse mentoring.” Here are some ways your junior workers could actually help your senior managers be better at their jobs:

  • Attitudes: A recent article in Fast Company suggests relatively green employees may invigorate those who might have become a little jaded over the years, by rejuvenating their attitudes and stimulating their engagement.
  • Cooperation: Encouraging mutually beneficial interactions between upper- and lower-level employees can promote overall cooperation and support, by reminding everyone that they are ultimately on the same team.
  • Creativity: Once you have achieved a certain amount of success in your career, it is easy to fall into a rut. Discussing ideas with coworkers outside of your usual circle can give you a creative jumpstart, leading to new ideas and innovations.
  • Perspectives: Newer workers may also give you, as a seasoned supervisor or executive, a better handle on what is happening “on the ground” at your company. This may empower you to make better, more strategic and productive administrative decisions.
  • Technology: Junior workers are sometimes the first to embrace new technologies, making them great resources for those looking to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the tech world.

There is an art to establishing and facilitating productive mentorship relationships that promote employee development. To ensure these interactions — whether informal or part of an official corporate program — are benefiting both involved parties, as well as the larger company, invest in cost-effective, efficient learning courses through Mastery Technologies.

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Tis the Season…Why Stress?

Fall is here, although for a lot of people it already feels like winter! It’s a time for family, fun and the celebration of nationally recognized holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve, all a month apart. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays approaching, the stress level within the workplace can have a tendency to rise.fall2

In 2006, it was reported that two-thirds of full-time workers nationwide said they experienced workplace stress around the holidays, and at least 25 percent had taken at least one day off in the past due to holiday stress. The survey also stated that forty-four percent of employees want employers to be sensitive to work/life balance.

In Forbes article “Five Keys to Transform Workplace Holiday Stress From the Inside Out”, it’s mentioned that stress within the workplace during the holidays could contribute toward the economic climate and challenging marketplace. Being cautious of employee stress levels can help your organization keep your workplace stress free during the holiday season. Forbes’ five keys to transform workplace holiday stress within the article include ideas such as, learning to acknowledge your own feelings without taking things too personally, how to determine priorities to avoid over-extending yourself, and the importance of taking time to recharge yourself. überarbeitete junge frau

Here are a few of our suggestions for managing stress during the holiday season:

  1. Give Back – We have often heard the saying “Sharing is Caring”. This holiday season, find a way to incorporate giving back in your workplace. Adopt a family this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Volunteer at a shelter, soup kitchen or nursing home as a group. This will place the focus on something or someone greater than the stress or pressure you are experiencing.
  2. Zone Out – One of my personal favorites! When you are feeling overwhelmed, put on your favorite song and have a jam session at your desk. It is said that the right music can lower your blood pressure and provide music therapy.
  3. Get Organized  – Don’t live your work life in chaos. Cleaning serves as a stress reliever. Try to keep your area clean by organizing your papers and prioritizing your to-do list.

Mastery offers many courses to help your organization stay stress free this holiday season:

For a complete listing of Mastery courses, visit www.mastery.com

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Are you a good manager? Here’s how to be a great one

Mastery Technologies' online learning courses can help you become a better leader at work.

Craft a strategic plan to become a more effective leader.

Being a good boss is harder than most people realize. You’re juggling administrative tasks, managing staff members, setting long-term goals and addressing unexpected crises all while ensuring that your team is making daily progress on immediate projects. As a manager you may sometimes feel like you need to be a coach, a parent, an executive and a warden all in one day!

Many people mistakenly believe leadership is an innate skill — rather, it is acquired through extensive study, hard work, dedication and practice. No matter how effectively you manage your team, it’s important to realize you always have room to improve. Whether you are a new boss or a seasoned supervisor, a little time and effort can take you from being a good manager to being a great one.

Here are some tips for stepping up your leadership game:

Be frank: As a boss, it’s better to be frank than to be unclear. If you are concerned about an employee’s performance, for example, don’t dance around the issue. This will only create anxiety and tension, since the worker will not know exactly what you are trying to say. It’s much better to be unemotional but straightforward. While this might not always be pleasant, it will ultimately build trust, as workers will always know exactly where they stand with you.

Celebrate: Celebrations keep work from feeling like drudgery, so when your team accomplishes something noteworthy, make sure to acknowledge it in a special, festive way. Don’t underestimate how much a little celebrating boosts morale.

Communicate: Many mishaps in the workplace stem from a simple case of poor communication. As the boss, you have the chance to set the tone, establishing a culture in which employees expect and encourage each other to communicate clearly.

Decide: Wishy-washy leaders tend to make their subordinates feel uneasy and insecure, like they are at sea without a captain. Hone your ability to make good decisions quickly and confidently. While it’s important to involve other team members when making some choices, be careful not to make every small decision by committee or productivity will suffer as workplace politics flourish.

Delegate: You’ve probably heard “good bosses delegate,” but great bosses do so with a clearly defined plan of action in mind, complete with short-, medium- and long-term deadlines. They thoroughly understand the task at hand, assign it to an employee who has the skills and experience necessary to complete it, outline detailed expectations and follow-up periodically to offer support and encouragement.

Inspire: You may not have signed up to be a motivational speaker, but great managers are skilled at inspiring others. Learn how to verbalize your vision with passion, which will, in turn, improve performance. People work harder and smarter when they feel they have a “mission,” or big-picture reason to push onward.

Invest in yourself: The best bosses approach leadership like they do anything else — strategically. If you know that some of your managerial skills are not as strong as you would like them to be, invest in an online management training course from Mastery Technologies. Mastery offers cost-effective, efficient resources on a wide array of topics, designed to help managers become stronger leaders.

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November’s New Training Course Releases

This month we released a selection of new Video On Demand courses covering some of our best-selling topics. Many of these new titles feature HD-video, and all of them are on the VOD3 platform, making them accessible from any desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone!

This month’s new VOD courses include:

We also released several new Partner courses, they include:

Browse through Mastery’s entire catalog of over 1,400 courses here.

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Inside Mastery: Meet TaQuinda Johnson

The communications department at Mastery Technologies is full of professionals ready to tell the story of Mastery and our amazing network of content providers. If you enjoy reading our blogs and social media posts, TaQuinda and Rachel are the team supplying you with the inside scoop! Learn more about TaQuinda below:

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Is your company driving away its most important asset?

Forbes estimates that replacing a single employee costs between 70 and 200 percent of that person's salary.

Are you losing promising employees to high turnover rates?

While many executives openly acknowledge that human capital is a company’s most valuable asset, few actually follow through with initiatives to cultivate morale and improve employee retention rates. As Entrepreneur magazine contributor Brent Misso writes, “many organizations struggle with and cannot seem to shake a business outlook that views people as interchangeable parts or as mere job descriptions.”

Could that, to some degree, describe your company’s outlook on staffing? When was the last time a promising employee threw in the towel? Whether you have lost many workers to turnover or just one or two particularly valuable ones, your business is likely suffering because you’re driving away your most important asset. Aside from the incalculable loss of a dynamic staff member’s contributions over the coming years, Forbes estimates that replacing any given employee costs between 70 and 200 percent of their annual salary.

Here are two ways to turn the tide:

Improve management

Even if everything else about a job is great, a bad manager can send employees running for the door. Management training courses from Mastery Technologies allow supervisors to inexpensively and efficiently improve their leadership skills, which can in turn decrease turnover rates.

It’s not about the money

While a salary that is significantly below market-range will certainly not help you, don’t make the mistake of thinking money is the only way to motivate employees. On the contrary, creative benefits that cost the employer relatively little can go a long way toward improving worker happiness. Demonstrate you are invested in your team’s professional and personal growth by making continuing education courses available for their use. Mastery Technologies offers a wide array of courses to motivate and engage employees.

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Companies spent 15 percent more on employee training in 2013

Online training courses allow you to reap the benefits of employee development programs without the typical cost.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to reap the benefits of employee development programs.

American companies across all industries are increasingly recognizing the importance of ongoing employee training and learning opportunities when it comes to safety, worker retention, productivity and morale. In fact, a recent report from Bersin by Deloitte shows that in 2013 alone average training budgets increased a staggering 15 percent.

Why is this trend on the rise? Numerous studies have shown employees who are given the chance to continue their education, improving and expanding their existing skill sets, have higher levels of professional satisfaction and are less likely to leave their jobs. Lower turnover rates alone can save businesses thousands upon thousands of dollars every year. Increased morale and higher levels of worker engagement have also been show to lead to dramatically improved productivity. In other words, executives and managers are realizing that continuing education programs have considerable return on investment and positively impact the bottom line.

It’s important to remember that learning opportunities are important across every department, division and level.

“No matter their role or level, everyone wants to feel like their strengths are appreciated, effectively utilized and built upon,” writes Andre Lavoie, a contributor to Entrepreneur.

From an entry-level employee to a top executive, constant learning is a key ingredient in the recipe for professional success. A new worker’s first introduction to your company should include comprehensive safety and job training, positioning them to meet expectations and do their job well. Once that basic threshold has been reached, managers can meet with employees to discuss short- and long-term education goals.

Ongoing training among supervisors is particularly crucial, as they set the tone for the entire company and in many ways determine its success or lack thereof. (For example, if you have unusually high employee turnover in one specific department, an unskilled manager might be to blame.) The importance of cultivating effective supervisors is apparent in the Bersin by Deloitte study, which found that, on average, 35 percent of last year’s learning and development budgets went to leadership training.

Across the country, the average company spent $1,169 per person on learning initiatives last year. The good news is that you don’t have to invest anywhere near that much money to reap the rewards you want. Rather than committing to expensive tuition reimbursement programs, sending your team offsite to pricey conventions and seminars or bringing guest lecturers to the workplace, explore the many cost-effective online learning courses available through Mastery Technologies.

Our employee training and development resources are efficient, engaging and effective. Whether your workers want to improve their so-called “soft” skills, like leadership and teamwork, or are looking to make strides in a specific area of technical study, such as computers, we have a course to meet their needs.

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Why your employees are your company’s most important asset

Employees are a company's most valuable asset.

Do you have a strategic plan to maintain your company’s most valuable asset?

We have previously discussed on this blog how to improve employee retention, for the good of both morale and the bottom line. In fact, many business experts argue a company’s employees are actually its most valuable asset, outstripping even infrastructure, information and inventory.

Leadership consultant and Forbes contributor Rodger Dean Duncan points out that if you got to work one day and discovered someone had stolen your computers and files, you would probably instigate an extensive investigation to determine what happened, and then draft a plan of action to make sure it didn’t occur again. Yet most employers accept the loss of valued staff members as par for the course, whether they are “stolen” by a competitor or just decide to seek employment elsewhere.

In some ways, your employees are even more important than your company’s proprietary files. Here are four reasons they are so valuable :

  • Action: In our tech-centric world, it’s easy to forget that behind every great computer is a great employee. While infrastructure and resources are important, remember that it’s your team that is ultimately responsible for your business’ success or failure. This is particularly true if you work in a client- or customer-facing industry, where consistency in staffing is key.
  • Expense: Don’t forget salaries and benefits are almost certainly some of your biggest expenses. If you don’t maximize bang-for-your-buck in this area, you are simply throwing good money after bad. On the other hand, talented employees represent an enormous return on this investment, helping their companies meet and exceed goals.
  • Innovation: Innovation is the lifeblood of a business, more so today than ever before. While industry leaders and top executives may spend the most time talking about innovation, the big “light bulb moment” that ultimately sets a company apart from its competitors often stems from an observation made by an on-the-ground worker. If your turnover at this level is high, you could be missing out on innovative ideas that would propel your professional interests onward and upward.
  • Institutional memory: The kinds of companies where people want to keep working have the strength of solid institutional memory. Employees who have been with a business through thick and thin for years, or even decades, understand its mission, vision and identity in a way that new workers simply will not be able to. This is incredibly powerful when it comes to strengthening your company’s brand. Ultimately, all successful organizations have compelling stories, and no one will tell your business’ story better than the people who have helped build it and make it what it is.

Once you begin viewing your workers as one of your company’s most important assets, it becomes clear how important it is to protect your return on investment where they are concerned. If you made a big monetary investment in a computer system, you would likely spend at least some time and money making sure it continues to work smoothly and operate efficiently. Do the same with your people, checking in with them periodically to be sure all is well.

It’s also crucial to show your team how valuable you believe they are by investing in their professional development. Mastery Technologies provides a wide variety of employee development training courses to appeal to workers in almost every industry imaginable. Whether you want to give your team the chance to learn specific technical skills or general business knowledge, browse our course offerings today!

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Anthrax incident underscores importance of employee safety training

Dozens of CDC workers were at risk of live anthrax exposure thanks to a serious safety violation.

A serious safety lapse could have exposed dozens of CDC workers to live anthrax.

In a stark reminder of the importance of employee safety training, a recent incident at a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lab may have exposed dozens of workers to live samples of anthrax. In a press release, the CDC says it does not believe anyone was actually exposed, as none of the workers have since exhibited symptoms of anthrax poisoning.

Regardless, the incident’s implications are serious. According to the news release, it occurred when one lab attempted to deactivate live anthrax for use in a lower-security lab. However, the proper sterilization procedures were not followed, which means the anthrax could still have remained viable. The material then went to the other lab, where employees were not wearing the personal protective equipment that would be necessary to protect them from live anthrax.

This was doubtless a disturbing lapse in safety procedures that could have had serious, even fatal, consequences. However, Forbes contributor and leadership expert points out that when such dangerous mistakes are uncovered, it is important that leaders leverage them to create a safer workplace.

Here are some key points:

Don’t play the blame game: Cancialosi says that the CDC was right to move quickly and decisively in the wake of a serious safety incident. However, he argues that the tone of the response was too negative, focusing on who was at fault for the lapse rather than how it was even possible in the first place. He recommends organizations avoid playing “the blame game,” pointing fingers and punishing those deemed responsible. If a dangerous error seems to be the result of a systemic flaw, then it is often counterproductive to lay the fault at the doorstep of specific individuals.

Encourage workers to report concerns: A culture of blame will ensure that employees will not come forward if they notice a safety concern. Instead, try to create an environment in which people are encouraged to report issues. “Consider adopting an approach that puts the focus on accountability and honesty rather than blame, such as the Aviation Safety Action Program, which many U.S. airlines use to encourage individuals to foster an environment where employees are incentivized to report safety issues,” says the leadership expert.

Invest in training: Cancialosi strongly recommends investing in the necessary training to keep your team safe on-the-job. The good news is that you don’t have to upend your budget by sending employees off-site or bringing in an expert. For example, explore Mastery Technologies‘ cost-effective, time-efficient online training courses. Whether you work in a lab, hospital, office or oil field, we have resources to meet your needs, helping you to prevent accidents and save time and money in the long run.

Focus on resolution: Instead of looking for a “fall person,” focus on how your company can improve procedures so that the workplace is safer. Problems can be some of your greatest assets if you use them to improve. While the CDC was investigating the anthrax incident, they also discovered that an inactive sample of avian flu came in contact with a live sample of H5N1 influenza virus and was shipped to another laboratory. Fortunately, no one was exposed. While the worst-case outcome in such a scenario is unsettling, it is more important to implement procedures so that such an event does not happen again, than to determine who was at fault.

Check out all of Mastery’s courses on Laboratory Safety to learn ways you can help keep your lab a safe work environment.

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Inside Mastery: Meet Mastery’s Kirk Berry

Behind every great organization, there is a successful sales team. Behind every great sales team, there is a great leader. As a part of our Inside Mastery series, we would like to introduce you to our Vice President of Sales, Kirk Berry.

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