4 questions to ask employees during performance reviews

Effective managers ask the right questions during performance reviews.

Performance reviews should be a two-way street, with managers asking about ways they can improve.

Managers often mistakenly believe they have to have all of the answers, but one of the keys to leading a successful performance review is asking the right questions and listening. It’s crucial that you go into the meeting with a curious attitude and an open ear, making it clear that you want to find out more about life from your employee’s point-of-view. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Do you feel you’re doing “the best work of your life,” and if not, what can we change? Human resources thought leader John Sullivan writes for talent management publication TLNT that top workers are most likely to stay if they feel they are doing meaningful work. If they don’t believe they’re doing the best work of their life, ask what you, as a manager, can do to change that.
  • How do you like to be rewarded? Many managers spend countless time and energy trying to determine how to best motivate their employees. To make things even more complicated, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. One worker might like a lunch out with the boss, while another prefers a bigger Christmas bonus. Regardless, you’ll never know until you ask.
  • What are your long-term goals and how will you meet them? Oftentimes employees become disenchanted with their jobs when they start to feel “stuck,” without the opportunity to learn, grown and achieve. The Harvard Business Review recommends giving your direct report the chance to share any professionals goals, along with their strategies for meeting them. This gives you the chance to offer support and assume a mentoring role, helping to craft a plan for advancing their careers. A good follow-up question: How would you like to measure your progress in this area?
  • What can we change to improve productivity? Inc. Magazine suggests asking each employee what one process should be axed or edited. If two out of three say that they see the biweekly departmental meeting as a time-suck, for example, you might consider changing or eliminating it. By addressing something you might not have even realized was a problem, you could dramatically improve office morale and worker productivity. Of course, your direct report may mention something unrelated to a process. Perhaps the office is too cold for them to concentrate or a person at the next cubicle plays music too loud. All of this is important information you are unlikely to get without requesting it first.

Asking questions to elicit valuable feedback, giving employees insight into their own behaviors and helping them improve their professional performance is easier said than done. The good news is this skill can be learned. If you would like to get better at leading your direct reports through the review process, explore Mastery Technologies’ dozens of management training courses. These efficient, cost-effective learning tools can help you lead your team onward and upward.

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Improving communication skills with diversity in mind

As the number of companies embracing diversity and inclusion rise yearly, topics such as these continues to dominate boardrooms. Many intense situations and conversations can result in productive and unproductive conversations.

diversityIntense commentary or conversations involving ethnicity, generational takeover and sexual orientation can present an uncomfortable environment for all parties involved. Intense situations like these can arise from something said that is taken out of context, even if the intent was not to cause confusion, hurt feelings or conflict within the workplace.

Diversity thought leader, Dr.Roosevelt Thomas stated, “Dialogue should be conversation with a purpose.”  Controlled conversations can bring about great results and lasting relationships between coworkers. Identifying how one is feeling during an event can reduce a person’s emotions and make it easier for them to manage the situation and atmosphere. Training your employees on inclusion will also make it easier for them to have more productive conversations with their co-workers.

Going into 2015, Mastery Technologies wants to help your employees dominate the art of inclusion. In Mastery’s newly released course, Gateways to Inclusion  trainees learn how to create better relationships, gain more understanding, and decrease tension within the workplace. The course also teaches employees the importance of setting productive goals, assessing the intent of a conversation with caution and the importance of communicating in a demeanor conducive of both parties resulting in respect.

For a complete list of diversity courses, visit www.mastery.com.

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A Holiday Treat from Mastery- New Training Courses This December!

This month a selection of new Video On Demand courses were released, covering topics including cold stress safety, inclusion, stereotyping, and complacency in the workplace.

Check out these new titles:

All of these Video On Demand courses play across all devices – computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones!

For the complete list of courses Mastery offers check out mastery.com!

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What animal trainers can teach us about improving office culture

Want to improve your office productivity and employee morale? Think like an animal trainer.

Believe it or not, animal training techniques can help make your team more productive.

When looking to boost employee morale, increase team productivity and improve your work environment, the last place you’d likely look for inspiration is the zoo. However, most American professionals can learn a lot from animal behavior experts.

Several years ago, Fast Company published an article called “Your Boss Is a Monkey” that shared tips for handling a difficult manager based on well-established animal training techniques. The advice is equally helpful for supervisors interested in handling challenges within their teams. Here are some strategies you might consider:

Don’t reinforce bad behavior: 

Writer Amy Sutherland shares in The New York Times how, after shadowing trainers handling exotic animals, she walked away with a greater understanding of how she could manage people (specifically, her husband). Sutherland says one of the most important lessons is to ignore undesirable behavior, meeting it with nothing but momentary stillness and an expressionless, “Zen” face. Any reaction, whether positive or negative, is in interaction that could trigger a hard-to-break pattern.

In contrast, we often unknowingly reinforce bad behavior at work. Sometimes our reactions are negative (yelling, frowning or complaining), while other times they seem positive , or even altruistic (picking up the slack to help a team member who never seems to finish their own work). However, either action serves as reinforcement. As much as possible, take Sutherland’s lead and ignore undesirable behaviors.

Reward, don’t punish: 

Instead of responding to undesirable habits, reinforce good ones. Punishment is rarely productive, whether at the zoo or in the workplace, as it breeds negative feelings and frustrates both monkeys and professionals. On the other hand, almost everyone responds well to rewards.

“There are only so many times you can punish an elephant before you wind up a splinter,” write Fast Company contributors Dan and Chip Heath. “Instead, trainers set a behavioral goal, and they reward every tiny step along the journey. At first, the skateboarding baboon gets a chunk of mango for not freaking out when the board is put in his cage. Later, he gets another one for touching the board. And then for sitting on it. Then for letting the trainer push him back and forth on the board. Many sessions later, you’ve re-created Tony Hawk as a mango-bloated baboon.”

The key here is to break down your big goal into micro-goals by reward even small behaviors that represent steps in the right direction. Imagine an employee who chronically misses deadlines. Every time they complete something on time, be sure to praise them. Try setting short-term deadlines they are more likely to meet, and then dish out the rewards.

Training is fun:

Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that man’s best friend loves to learn. Learning a new trick helps to alleviate boredom and promotes bonding between pet and owner. Similarly, employee training allows workers to feel that they are developing their skills and advancing their careers, which is good for morale. In contrast, unhappy workers often point to few opportunities for professional development as a major reason for their discontent.

While sending your team to off-site training seminars can be prohibitively expensive, you can now access all of the materials you need from the comfort of your own work space. Mastery Technologies provides a wide array of course offerings for employee development. Visit mastery.com to browse the course catalog.

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Employee training helps perpetuate ‘circle of retention’

One Ohio-based construction company uses intensive, ongoing employee training to improve retention rates.

As part of its “circle of retention,” one major Ohio-based construction company sets a goal of 40 hours of training per employee per year.

Regardless of the field or industry, employee retention is a key element of any company’s success. Hiring workers is expensive, and every time one leaves, your business loses money. Additionally, high turnover hurts team morale and can also take a significant toll on overall productivity. As a manager, it is in your best interest to create the kind of workplace where people want to stay.

A recent article in Equipment World magazine explored the ways in which one Ohio-based construction business, Kokosing Construction, has created what they call “a circle of retention.” In fact, the company makes low employee turnover such a priority that all managers are taught and practice a very specific set of policies and guidelines to recruit and keep high-quality workers.

One of the most powerful tools for improving retention rates is comprehensive and ongoingemployee training and opportunities for continuing education. Kokosing Construction Manager Carl Uhinck says that the company has a goal of 40 hours per year of training for every employee in a technical field.

“Many times we exceed that based on what our needs are,” Uhinck told members of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals, in a presentation on the subject. “Its easy to fill up those 40 hours with all the opportunities available.”

Kokosing Construction makes training opportunities available to employees on both an individual and a group basis, to maximize engagement. Kokosing Construction’s story provides a great example of how training benefits an organization’s success.

If you are interested in improving retention at your company, consider providing your team with resources for continuing education and employee development. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune sending workers to expensive offsite classes or bringing instructors to your workplace. Instead, invest in Mastery Technologies‘ remarkably cost-effective, efficient and productive online learning courses. Explore our offerings today!

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There is a such thing as being too cold!

Is it really possible for a person to be “too cold”? Yes! Based on where you are in the country, extreme cold weather conditions can vary. Being in a cold environment forces the body to work twice and sometimes three times harder to maintain its temperature.

According to OSHA, due to the shifting of blood flow within the body, cold environments can expose your body to cold-induced illnesses and injuries such as hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot.

cold workThe United States averages 1,301 deaths per year due to ailments related to the exposure of excessive natural cold, such as hypothermia. Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low body temperature, typically one classified as dangerously low. Not taking the necessary precautions while working in cold can place your employees at risk.

OSHA recommends the following tips to help you protect your workers during this cold season:

  • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
  • Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
  • Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Use the buddy system – work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar-water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
  • Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
  • Remember, workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

Mastery offers a selection of courses to help you prepare employees to recognize and protect themselves against the hazards of winter weather. For example, Mastery’s Cold Stress: Working Safely in Cold Weather,  Working Safely in Cold Weather and Defensive Driving: When Good Weather Goes Bad will help your company provide employees with instructions on the effects of Capture2cold stress, how to identify cold stress, the importance of wearing proper protective clothing and the impact of maintaining a solid diet in efforts to keep one’s energy levels high.

For a complete list of Mastery courses on a range topics such as weather preparedness and driving safety, visit www.mastery.com

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Be Prepared: Working In Cold Weather

Did you know every year on an average there are over 5,870,000 vehicle crashes, with about 23% of the crashes being weather-related? As the seasons change, Mastery Technologies wants to help you ensure the safety of those working or driving under inclement weather conditions.

Cold stress takes place when an individual gains body heat from food and muscular activity and loses it through convection, conduction, radiation and sweating to maintain a constant body temperature. Did you know that when your body temperature cold-weather-hazards-employee-safetydrops a few degrees below its normal 98.6°F, it can cause the body to go into shock, reducing the heat loss from the surface of the skin? Weather conditions such as low temperatures, high/cool winds, dampness and even cold water can cause this to happen to you.

In an article Risk Insights by Diversified Insurance Services, here are a few precautions employees should take while working in the cold or dangerous weather conditions:

  • Take breaks to get warm
  • Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid smoking, which constricts blood flow to skin
  • Be aware of any cold weather related side-effects their medication may have
  • Know and understand symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries
  • Stretch before physical work to prevent muscle pulls and injuries
  • Wear protective clothing:

weather captureTo assist management with equipping employees with the tools necessary to stay warm while working in inclement conditions, Mastery released it’s new course, “Cold Stress: Working Safety in Cold Weather.” Available on Mastery’s Video On Demand (VOD) platform, the course, explores the effects of working in cold conditions, the hazards presented from working in cold weather, and how employees can protect themselves from maladies such as hypothermia and frost bite.

For a complete listing of Mastery’s weather preparedness courses, visit www.mastery.com

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Staying Productive This Holiday Season

Signified as the “busiest time of the year”, everyone is focused on holiday gatherings, shopping, gift giving and to many, vacation time. For some, the change in the weather can present distractions within the workplace. While external and internal stress may be at an all time high, companies must find a way to keep their employees productive during the winter months.

One way of keeping employees productive during the holidays is by implementing the  “Work-Life Balance” concept. A true work-life balance is described as one that contributes to two very important areas to an employee, their personal life and career life. If implemented correctly, the concept serves as a cohesive flow to assist employees with aligning their passion, skills and talents within their job descriptions or assignments. Utilizing a work-life balance concept will help your employees stay productive during the holiday months.

With so much to do and so little time to do it, Mastery wants to help you be productive this holiday season with a few practical tips to assist you and your employees with establishing a cohesive work-life balance this holiday season:work-holiday-signpost

  • Remain stress free – Our recent blog post Tis the Season… Why Stress?” provides some suggestions to remain stress free in the workplace, such as taking a “timeout” or finding an opportunity to give back through volunteering.
  • Prioritize – Managers and supervisors are encouraged to get with their employees and establish some common goals for the end of the year. Get organized by prioritizing your work and even at-home priorities. Determine what on your to-do list is of high priority and what is scheduled for after the holidays. With prioritizing tasks, timing is everything.
  • Be Flexible – Working on a group project? With many traveling for the holidays, schedule a meeting with your workers to coordinate your schedules. This will help take the weight off of each person and remain on task to get the project completed.
  • Use your break wisely – Still have shopping or other random tasks to do? Use your lunch break to get some of that done. Visit your local department store, mall or even online shop via your tablet to find some last-minute deals.
  • Simply, encourage yourself! – Didn’t complete a project in time? Or, find yourself getting behind? Look up motivation quotes or rehearse words of wisdom that others have instilled in you! Even print off your favorite inspirational quote and hang it up by your desk. This will help you stay focused and productive within the last months of the year.

Mastery offers a list of courses to help your organization stay productive during the holiday season. For a complete list of courses, visit www.mastery.com.

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How employee development initiatives can make your company better

Offer your employees the chance to build their professional strength, through online learning courses from Mastery Technologies.

Mastery Technologies’ professional development courses can help your employees strengthen their skills.

We have previously discussed on this blog how continuing education can dramatically improve staff retention rates, which ultimately bolsters your bottom line. Employee development initiatives help workers reach their goals, while also advancing the interests of the larger company. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of such opportunities can lead to high dissatisfaction levels and turnover rates. One recent study found that as many as one in three American employees feel disappointed in the opportunities they have in the workplace to build their skill sets.

Some businesses go so far as to hire in-house career counselors to offer support on issues ranging from landing a promotion to quitting smoking. Chief Executive Officer and founder of Auction Systems Deb Weidenhamer tells Fast Company that her team’s full-time business coach has helped them make huge strides.

“I think it’s probably one of the biggest differentiators for us when we’re hiring into our company as to why candidates accept the position,” Weidenhamer tells the source. “I think they get really excited about the prospect of having someone help them move toward being better. It also pays off in terms of retention. It’s something that most people aren’t going to get when they go to a new company.”

Most companies do not have room in their budgets for a full-time, in-house career coach, and nor should they! The good news is you can achieve similar benefits simply by investing in cost-effective, efficient online training courses from Mastery Technologies. By providing your employees with these learning resources in a group setting, you can promote a sense of camaraderie and accountability, as they strive to improve and build their skills. This, in turn, improves worker engagement and morale.

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