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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Safety must become top priority, as construction faces greater OSHA regulation

Safety needs to become a top priority.

OSHA has been increasing its safety and compliance monitoring of the construction industry.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has been increasing its regulation of the construction industry. Seeking to cut down on work site accidents and injuries, OSHA has launched the Fall Prevention Campaign, to emphasize that falls are preventable. Through planning ahead, providing the right equipment and training employees in safety procedures, construction firms can reduce and eliminate falls on their work sites.

Planning ahead

Planning ahead requires that employers determine in advance how jobs will be done safely. This involves assessing the details to determine what individual tasks go into the job, and what equipment may be needed for each task. Moreover, cost estimates need to include this contingency, and employers must make this equipment readily available.

Providing the right equipment

The particular type of work should dictate the solutions employers implement. For example, with a roofing job, employers need to consider different fall hazards, including holds, skylights and leading edges. Accordingly, project managers or contractors should select fall prevention equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems.

Similarly, if you have workers who are six feet or more above lower levels, you need to use the right equipment, which includes ladders, scaffolds and safety gear.

Depending on the job, you will need different ladders and scaffolds. For roof work, in which your workers are using personal fall arrest systems, make sure each worker has a harness that ties off to the anchor. In addition, perform regular inspections of your fall protection equipment to make sure it’s in safe condition.

Training employees

Finally, it is critical that you train everyone in the proper use of equipment. OSHA highlights the fact that falls can be prevented by training employees on how to use specific equipment and in hazard recognition so they can spot and prevent any risks.

Compliance and safety are critical areas for all organizations, especially construction firms. Mastery Technologies provides employee training and safety training programs, including those directed towards those in the construction industry.

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Managers: This simple phrase could transform your workplace for the better

Does your office have a culture of gratitude?

A culture of gratitude can boost employee morale and improve worker retention rates.

Does your workplace struggle with low employee morale and high turnover rates? If so, ask yourself how often you hear managers say these simple words: “thank you.” You don’t necessarily need expensive incentive rewards or grand gestures to show your employees that you appreciate them. Sometimes simply verbalizing your gratitude is enough, and best of all — it’s free! In fact, a 2012 survey found that 67 percent of workers are most motivated by praise from a manager. Yet far too many supervisors fail to take advantage of this tool.

“Saying ‘thank you’ to employees is not just polite, it is critical for keeping them engaged,” writes Joyce Russell in The Washington Post’s “Career Coach” column. “Acknowledging their efforts can serve to motivate them and inspire them to want to keep working at your company. In fact, many say that a personal “thank you” means more than other things you might do for them.”

While it might be tempting, as a busy executive or supervisor, to put off saying “thanks” until more pressing action items have been addressed, it’s always better to express gratitude in real-time. If you adopt the habit of doing so, you will likely also get into the habit of expressing appreciation more often.

If your managers and supervisors aren’t leveraging the power of “thank you,” remember that it is not productive to point fingers or engage in the “blame game.” After all, for most people, management is a learned, acquired skill, rather than an inborn talent. Help them hone their leadership skills through a series of cost-effective, efficient online learning courses from Mastery Technologies that can be completed from the comfort of your normal workspace, with no need to bring in an expensive instructor. We offer a selection of courses on feedback and recognition.  You’ll be amazed at how even a single learning course can transform team culture!

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Inside Mastery: Meet Ilene Rappaport

From managing and providing consultation regarding areas such as benefits, labor relations and compensation, Mastery’s Human Resources manager Ilene Rappaport keeps Mastery running like a well-oiled machine. Learn a little about Ilene below:

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Driving training may reduce employee crashes by nearly 60 percent

Defensive driving training saves lives and money.

If your employees spend anytime on the road while on the clock, invest in defensive driving training.

Defensive driving training, like the kind we offer through Mastery Technologies, can significantly decrease the likelihood of on-the-job collisions for both professional drivers and workers who only occasionally get behind the wheel. If your employees spend any time at all on the road, even if it’s just once a year, it’s worth investing in regular safety training. This can save lives, prevent injuries and stop expensive accidents — which sometimes prompt even more expensive civil lawsuits.

According to some federal studies, certain types of training interventions for professional drivers may reduce serious on-the-job crashes by up to 59 percent, reports Chicago’s CBS affiliate.  That figure comes from a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute report advocating for “drive-cams,” which film both semi-truck drivers and the road in front of them. Supporters of the cameras, which are typically affixed to windshields, say that reviewing footage of unsafe habits can dramatically improve overall safety, while also providing insight into what went wrong if an accident does occur.

A recent accident in Texas involving a professional tractor-trailer driver and the executive director of a prominent non-profit highlights the importance of defensive driving training. The 59-year-old leader of a group that advocates for women in politics was a passenger in a car involved in a six-vehicle accident in early June. She and a coworker were driving together from Austin to Dallas to attend a work-related function when the truck reportedly slammed into them from behind. The other non-profit employee was injured. The driver of the tractor-trailer was arrested for criminally negligent homicide.

This is just one example of the thousands of tragic accidents that occur on our roads and highways each year, causing victims’ friends, family members and coworkers unimaginable heartache. Such crashes can also be incredibly expensive,  leading to costly medical bills, equipment repairs, insurance hikes and legal fees. Invest in safety training now to avoid immeasurable losses — both personally and financially — down the road.

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Report: World Trade Center construction falls seriously injured workers

Construction falls are one of the leading causes of death in the industry.

Construction falls reportedly caused multiple injuries at the World Trade Center work site.

In a stark reminder of the importance of rigorous and regular safety training, The New York Daily News is reporting that accidents at the World Trade Center construction site in New York City left dozens of workers seriously injured.

In 2011, construction worker Nick Giovinco reportedly fell 18 feet from a piece of scaffolding onto the concrete floor below. Witnesses say the work area was shaky and lacked the proper bracing and ladder. Giovinco suffered multiple injuries to his back and head, requiring staples in his skull. Carpenter Paul Giordano, 46 years old, also fell from scaffolding at a nearby work site, plummeting 35 feet to the ground. He survived, but needed spine and ankle surgery.

Another man suffered a traumatic brain injury after a pressurized pump hose came loose and struck him in the head. Ironworker Robert Deacy tells the source that he fell from a 20-foot ladder that was leaned almost vertically against a wall. Deacy’s coworkers say he almost became impaled on a rebar on the way down.

“When I was approximately one-third to one-half of the way down the ladder, I don’t remember exactly, I remember losing my grip on the ladder and falling backward while my feet were still on the rung because of the pitch of the ladder,” Deacy tells The New York Daily News. “I fell off the ladder. I don’t remember landing.”

Job sites like the one at World Trade Center are massive in size and scope. However, whether your construction job is small or large, incidents like these illustrate the importance of investing in regular safety training to prevent construction falls and other dangerous accidents. If you are interested in improving your team’s safety knowledge and skill set but can’t afford to spend a lot of time and money, invest in the easy-to-use, cost-effective training courses from Mastery Technologies.

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6 tips for giving employee feedback

Giving valuable employee feedback is a learned skill.

Dread giving performance reviews? Mastery Technologies can help you become a better boss.

Workers consistently list opportunities for advancement, clear job expectations and consistent feedback from managers as some of the top predictors of professional satisfaction. As a result, your company’s success in these three areas almost certainly influences workplace morale, employee retention rates and ultimately, the bottom line.

However, providing regular, meaningful and constructive feedback is certainly not easy. That’s why Mastery Technologies offers dozens of online management training courses to help you and your colleagues hone your ability to assess worker performance, using those assessments to advance the interests of your team. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Ask questions: Don’t feel like you have to do all the talking! Start off the conversation with open-ended questions about what the staff member in question feels is going well in their work and what they would like to improve. This frames the discussion as collaborative rather than combative.
  • Be consistent: While it might be tempting to wait until the annual performance review to offer feedback to your subordinates, it’s important to give praise and constructive criticism year-round. The more directly an employee can link your words with their actions, the more likely they are to take the former to heart. It’s more effective to reference something that happened earlier this week than to talk about a project that concluded six months ago. Remember frequent feedback doesn’t have to be formal. Rather, it can be as simple as a quick email congratulating someone on a job well done.
  • Delivery matters: Try to deliver even negative reviews in a positive way. Tone of voice, body language and general attitude all matter enormously in these situations, so be mindful that you are not coming off as overbearing or angry. Belittling or shaming someone is unlikely to trigger the change you want. In fact, it will probably result in high employee turnover!
  • Determine your goal: The Washington Post’s “Career Coach” columnist, Joyce Russell, reminds us that, in forming our feedback, we should always have a specific goal in mind. Typically, that goal will be to help an employee improve their professional performance, which, in turn, helps improve the company as a whole.
  • Do your homework: Before sitting down for a formal review, be sure that you have done your homework. You should have notes on hand along with a brief outline of points you want to cover. Your employees will appreciate that you came prepared and value their time. It can also be helpful to keep a running list throughout the year of each worker’s strong and weak points, complete with the specific examples we discussed above. This will eliminate the need to “cram” before performance reviews and will make the time more substantive, meaningful and productive.
  • Give concrete examples: If you are going to provide constructive criticism, Forbes contributor Erika Andersen advises staying away from generalizations like “you have a bad attitude.” This is too vague to be helpful, and it is likely to immediately put the recipient on the defensive. Instead, have some concrete examples ready to share. Andersen calls this the “camera check.” If you were to show the employee a video tape of them engaged in problematic behavior, what would they see? Perhaps they are on their smart phone during a company meeting or routinely miss project deadlines. The same applies for positive feedback. Discussing specific instances of strong performance show that you notice and appreciate a worker.

If you’d like to learn more about how to give stronger feedback, improving your business and its bottom line in the process, explore Mastery Technologies‘ cost-effective, efficient course offerings today.

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3 ways to improve your non-verbal communication skills at work

"Power poses" can actually make people behave more confidently.

What does your body language say to your coworkers and supervisors?

Many people think of professional communication as primarily verbal—however, our body language can also communicate powerful messages about what we are saying, feeling and thinking at any given moment. In fact, your posture, eye contact and other nonverbal cues could be sabotaging your professional development and long-term potential!

If you would like to develop a more effective presence at work—which could in turn lead to increased opportunities for advancement—consider these tips for improving your nonverbal communication skills:

  • Maintain eye contact: Poor eye contact can make you seem untrustworthy or weak. According to Forbes, American business professionals are expected to hold eye contact about 50 to 60 percent of the time.
  • Straighten up: Standing up straight and holding your shoulders back makes you look more assertive. Harvard Business School researcher Amy Cuddy found that just standing in a “power pose” for five minutes increases one’s testosterone levels and lowers cortisol levels. Testosterone is thought to boost confidence and cortisol is associated with stress, so keeping your chin up could actually help keep your spirits there too!
  • Uncross your arms and legs: Crossing your arms and legs is associated with postures of defeat, defensiveness or low self-esteem, so keep both feet planted firmly on the ground and your arms by your side.

As an executive or supervisor, remember that the success of your individual team members also helps you reach your professional goals. To foster employee development and improve communication in your department or company as a whole, consider investing in some of Mastery Technologies‘ cost-effective online learning courses. Mastery offers a selection of courses on communication skills here. These efficient training resources can efficiently improve the quality of communication at your workplace from the comfort of your office.

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Inside Mastery: Meet Rachel Custer

From internal to external communications efforts, each element is key to building and publicizing the message of any organization. Mastery’s Communications Coordinator, Rachel Custer understands the importance of this role. When she’s not developing key messages or assisting with marketing efforts, she’s trying to learn the ways of the Cake Boss. Learn a little more about Rachel below:

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Fatal trench collapse underscores need for safety training

If you work in trench excavation, invest in cost-effective, efficient online training courses from Mastery Technologies.

Without safety training, trench excavation can be deadly.

A 59-year-old Michigan contractor was killed in a recent trench collapse at a work site in Grosse Point Woods, just outside of Detroit. The accident underscores just how dangerous even routine jobs can be, highlighting the importance of ongoing safety training even for those who have spent years working in the industry.

A crew was reportedly using a backhoe to dig 20 feet down to do work on a sewer line when the trench collapsed, killing one man and injuring a police officer. The former was an experienced contractor and the owner of his own construction firm, The Detroit News reports. The first time the earth fell, emergency workers were able to quickly reach the man, holding his hand and keeping him calm as they gave him oxygen and attempted to dig him out. They had succeeded in uncovering his neck and shoulders when the trench collapsed again, burying and killing him.

One search and rescue leader told the newspaper that the trench was highly dangerous and appeared to lack the proper safety protection. A city public safety official, visibly shaken and covered in mud after aiding in the attempted rescue, also spoke to The Detroit News at the scene.

“Whether (the trench) was done properly will have to be determined after there is an investigation,” he told the source. “There are things I would have liked to see in place that weren’t there.”

The police officer who was hurt in the second collapse is reportedly in good condition.

Our thoughts go out to everyone involved in this tragic accident, from the victim’s family to the emergency responders on scene.

Accidents  happen, but ongoing, aggressive training can help you be prepared when they do. If you work in trench excavation, make a renewed commitment to safety today by investing in excavation, trenching and shoring courses from Mastery Technologies.

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