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Hiring managers must work within their budgets to hire the staff their companies need in order to remain productive and competitive. Once you’ve determined a need for acquiring talent, the next important question is often whether you should hire a permanent employee, or a contractor.

Each choice comes with advantages and disadvantages. When making this decision, it’s important to understand the needs and core requirements of the position you’re hiring for, and know which type of employment arrangement will be a better fit for both your organization, and the candidate.

What full-time employees can offer

Depending on the type and responsibilities of the position you’re filling, hiring a new permanent employee can allow you to strengthen your organization and improve overall productivity and performance. Some of the advantages of full-time employees include:

  • Collaboration: Employees typically work from a central location, enabling your company to foster collaboration and connectivity among staff
  • Communication: Most full-time employees share similar work hours, which improves organizational communication
  • Long-term productivity: With a full-time employee, the company receives continuous output by dictating all or most of the employee’s assignments and work projects

When should you consider a contractor?

Independent contractors can benefit your organization in a variety of situations. Hiring a contractor is typically a better choice when:

  • You’re hiring for a project with a set start and end date
  • Your company’s current employees can’t handle the entire project workload
  • The current project has tight deadlines for deliverables
  • You need temporary, specialized skills or expertise on a project basis, but not for day-to-day company operation

Hiring considerations for independent contractors

Before you begin searching for a contractor, confirm that you have the proper approval for hiring more staff. With project work that requires a contractor, determine your budget ahead of time, and include the target bill rate for the contractor in your calculations. Depending on the type of contractor you need, you may have to adjust your budget and the expectations of management prior to looking for talent.

Armada provides real-time, accurate snapshots of your local market conditions that will help you gauge supply and demand for specific IT employees, both permanent and contract. Accurate data on direct hire salaries and hourly rates can help you create an effective budget for your staffing needs. Contact us today to learn more.

11 5 Tips for Running More Effective Weekly Meetings

Weekly meetings can be a great way to track company metrics and keep everyone accountable, solve problems by drawing from the collective intelligence of the team, and review customer feedback and issues that can help your organization improve performance. But they can also be a boring, non-informative, mandatory gathering that everyone in your office dreads.

Of course, you want your weekly meetings to be more like the former, and less like the latter. These tips will help you conduct more effective and engaging meetings that keep your team informed, productive, and looking forward to the next session.

1. Start with the executive team

In mid-sized or large companies, there may not be a need for every department to have a weekly meeting — but regular sessions with the executive team are a must. Smaller companies can condense weekly meetings into a single, company-wide event, while those with more staff can cascade up or down as needed from the executive meeting.

2. Know your priorities

One of the most important keys to effective weekly meetings is to know what you’ll be discussing ahead of time. For best results, determine your top three to five company priorities at the start of each quarter, and for each priority:

  • Assign accountability for various goals and results
  • Establish metrics and success criteria

You can then structure your meetings around these priorities, and leave each week with measurable results and detailed action plans.

3. Keep a log

Have some way to record the meeting or take notes, so you can refer back and review to look for issues or problem areas that will help to streamline future meetings. Make sure the meeting log includes who said they would do what, and when, to help continually track accountability and stay on point throughout the week.

4. Structure meetings intelligently

For best results, weekly meetings should be relatively short and follow a preset schedule. By planning ahead of time, you can hold effective weekly meetings in 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the group.

Business coaching firm Positioning Systems suggests a strategic and highly effective weekly agenda that includes:

  • Good news: (5 minutes) Open the meeting by having everyone share two positive stories — one business, and one personal.
  • Numbers: (5 to 10 minutes) Review individual or team weekly productivity metrics, without conversation or comment.
  • Customer/employee data: (10 minutes) Discuss recurring issues or problems facing either teams or their customers, and assign at least one issue to a person or group to investigate in the coming week.
  • Review accountability: (10 minutes) Review the accountability notes from the previous meeting, reschedule or reassign tasks as needed, and discuss commitments for accountability for the next meeting.
  • Collective intelligence: (10 to 30 minutes) Choose a top priority and ask for everyone’s input on the matter. You can also use this section of the meeting for a presentation on one of the company priorities, led by the person who’s accountable for it.

5. End on an informative note

At the close of the meeting, ask everyone in the group to offer a word or phrase that describes how they felt about the meeting. This gives you the opportunity to gather feedback that can be used to adjust future meetings, and ensure that things go smoothly for everyone. Try to end with positive encouragement, so everyone looks forward to next week.

07 Recruiting an IT Project Manager Make Sure You Look for These Important Skills

In order to make sure your IT project is completed on time and in budget, you need a great project manager. But how can you spot one? Unfortunately, holding the title of project manager doesn’t always mean that a person can effectively manage projects.

Here are the skills a good IT project manager should have to complete projects successfully, without wasting your time or money.

Organization and multi-tasking

A project manager’s organizational skills can make or break a project. A strong project manager will be able to juggle multiple tasks, or even multiple projects, and track project issues on a daily basis — so they’re spending less time looking for information, and more time managing the project productively.

Leadership skills

It goes without saying that project managers should be good leaders, but it’s important to realize that there’s more to manage than the IT team. A great IT project manager is able to take charge of the team, and also lead vendors and stakeholders in order to reach a collaborative consensus.

Good project managers inspire their team to realize the project vision, and maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders that ensure alignment with project goals.

Effective communication

Key personnel in any project will include both technical and non-tech professionals. Good project managers are excellent communicators — able to clearly explain even complex concepts to key stakeholders, and ensure that communication is maintained among all stakeholders as well as between stakeholders and the project team.

Effective communication encompasses more than the ability to translate tech speak. Great project managers will be able to relay both good news and bad news to all staff levels, in a timely and tactful manner. They’ll also understand who needs to know what, when, and how — and ensure that the appropriate information is delivered to the right people, at the right times.

Negotiating skills

A good project manager will know both how and when to negotiate. With most projects, the IT project manager is working with people whose interests may not align with their own, or who don’t seem to be interested in understanding the goals of the project — or why they should help accomplish them.

Successful project managers develop relationships with stakeholders and determine their interests, which enables them to negotiate cooperation by appealing to the stakeholders’ needs — while still remaining within the objective parameters of the projects.

An eye for detail

When it comes to IT project management, details count. A great project manager will take a meticulous approach to handling project details big and small, and understanding the impact every detail will have on the overall success of the project. Failure to pay attention to details can mean failure of the entire project.

Decisive problem-solving

In every project, issues and obstacles will arise — and some will require an immediate solution. A good IT project manager must be able to make critical decisions quickly, arriving at the best possible solution in the shortest amount of time to avoid delaying or derailing the project.

Relevant technical skills

While project managers don’t need high-level IT skills to be effective — after all, the skills brought to the table by the IT project team are crucial to success — an effective project manager must have a firm understanding of the programs, software, and platforms that are involved in the project, or that the company works with regularly.

Great project managers will have enough technical skill to be able to take on some of the project tasks themselves. By completing project tasks personally, project managers can earn the respect of the team, which enables them to work more effectively as leaders.

Behavioral Questions to Use in Your Next Interview

Traditional and behavioral interviews are very similar to one another, with the only difference being the type of questions that are asked. But behavioral interviews can provide keen insight into the skill set and workplace behavior of your potential candidate. This set of questions is more complex, encouraging the interviewee to provide immediate, unrehearsed answers. If you ask the right questions, you can get a more complete picture of your candidate’s previous success on the job and how they could replicate those efforts at your company.

1. Tell me about a tough problem you’ve faced recently.

This question will not only illuminate the candidate’s previous work experience, but will also give you an idea of the way they think and solve problems. Interviewees may describe interpersonal dilemmas, issues with their work, or even struggles with professional skills like meeting deadlines or leading meetings. It’s a bad sign if they aren’t able to think of an answer — everyone faces problems in the workplace, regardless of the nature of the issue.

Questions that will give you similar insight include:

Describe a time you made a risky decision.

Tell me about how you’ve worked well under pressure.

2. Describe a conflict you’ve experienced with a co-worker or customer.

Behavioral interviews are as much about learning a candidate’s social skills as they are their technical skills. This question will delve into their ability to manage interpersonal conflicts. It’s a good sign if the candidate admits responsibility for the conflict or describes actively trying to resolve the issue. On the other hand, it’s a bad sign if they put all of the blame (and responsibility for resolution) on the other party. After they answer, you will have a good sense of their ability to accept responsibility and their interpersonal skills in the workplace.

Similar questions include:

Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?

Describe a time you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor.

3. Describe a time you dealt with a workplace policy or guideline you didn’t agree with.

With this question, you’ll learn how your candidate navigates the complicated world of workplace diplomacy, as well as the strength of their problem solving and interpersonal skills. Look for interviewees who were able to work creatively with restrictions or were (respectfully) open with their supervisor about this conflict. Take it as a warning sign if they chose to break policy at the cost of their job performance because they felt they were right. Even if this displays initiative, it shows a lack of respect for authority and can be a bad sign of future behavior.

These questions will provide similar background:

What do you do when you disagree with your boss?

Give an example of a time you disagreed with your supervisor’s opinion.

These (and similar) questions can provide vital behavioral information on your potential candidates. They will give you a solid idea of the interviewee’s work history and ways in which that history might inform their future with your company.

Brand Yourself as a Best Place to Work in 2015

More and more employers are beginning to see the impact of workplace happiness on the efficacy of its employees. Higher morale results in increased productivity, lower absenteeism, company loyalty, and a myriad of emotional and mental benefits for staff members. Prioritizing the well-being of your employees can earn you a reputation as a desirable place to work, attracting new, talented candidates and retaining your existing workforce. Below are four strategies that will brand your company as a best place to work in the coming year.

1. Treat your employees like adults.         

Treating your employees like grownups can manifest itself in a variety of ways. On one hand, you can give them the flexibility to determine how they work best, whether that’s their office hours or their desk configuration. Always assume that they are responsible enough to manage their individual workloads without constant supervision. You should also try to strike a work-life balance, allowing your employees to focus on their families or their health when necessary.

2. Think outside the box with benefits.

You should always provide your employees with a comprehensive benefits package, but there are other nontraditional benefits that you can offer to improve employee morale, satisfaction, and even their health. If you have the space, offer access to a gym or fitness center, and encourage employees to use these facilities whenever they need to re-energize. Provide healthy food, whether it’s from an on-site café or well-stocked vending machines. Consider offering rare, highly sought after benefits like paid parental leave for new parents.

3. Support education and professional development.

Employers can accomplish this in a variety of ways. You can host on-site professional development seminars, reimburse education expenses, or provide training programs for employees looking to further their skills. You should also use support mentoring programs to nurture underrepresented demographics, such as women and minorities. These methods will help provide employees with a sense of forward momentum and a constant challenge that improves their well-being and satisfaction within a company.

4. Give back.

Many people prefer to work for organizations that give back to the community or demonstrate environmental awareness. Your company can provide volunteer opportunities for employees, organize fundraisers for good causes, or find creative ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This will instill pride in your employees, while bringing about social and environmental benefits.

Implementing some of these tips may require more work, but you can improve your company’s work environment in dozens of small ways. Let in more sunlight, fill the office with potted plants for higher air quality, or provide ergonomic office equipment. Develop the right strategy for your business and make it a goal to improve employee satisfaction and well-being in the coming year.

Monday, Jan 19 2015

What to Do About Severance Pay

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What to Do About Severance Pay

As an employer, one of the things you may consider doing for your employees is providing severance pay. But what is it exactly, how does it benefit you, and how should you implement a severance pay program that achieves the right goals for your company?

What is severance pay?

Severance pay is money that’s provided to an employee who is leaving the company for reasons other than retirement. Typically, the circumstances surrounding severance pay are layoffs, elimination of a position, and a mutual agreement to part ways — for a variety of reasons. The purpose of offering severance pay is to help the employee stay afloat and maintain a decent standard of living while they’re looking for a new job.

How much is severance pay?

A typical severance pay package offers one or two weeks of salary for every year the employee worked at the company. In some cases, the package is higher — executives, for instance, may receive up to one month’s salary for each year worked.

Some senior positions may have an employment contract that dictates the amount of severance pay. And for some companies or certain positions within them, severance packages can include an extension of benefits and/or outplacement assistance for finding new employment.

Most severance pay packages are given as a lump sum following termination of employment, rather than as weekly payments. This is because receiving weekly payments can make an employee ineligible for state unemployment benefits, or severely reduce the amount of unemployment assistance they receive.

How much are you required to pay?

Currently, there is no law in the United States that requires employers to offer severance pay. The only requirement for paying departing employees is under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires that employers pay terminated employees any regular wages that are due, as well as any accrued, paid time off. This includes vacation time, but not sick days.

The only instance where severance pay is required is when an employment contract or official severance policy is in place. In general, offering severance pay is a goodwill gesture on the part of an employer — and in some cases the offer may be rescinded.

What if your employees try to negotiate severance pay?

Sometimes, most often with employees who have been laid off, an employee may try to negotiate a higher salary or additional benefits than what was offered in the severance package. In these cases, as an employer you would be legally allowed to rescind the offer and refuse to pay severance, since technically the employee has turned down your offer.

However, you may not want to rescind a severance package if the receipt of severance pay is contingent on the employee signing a release of claims — which protects you from any legal obligation or responsibility arising from the employee’s termination. If this is the case, you can either tell the employee that the offer is non-negotiable (usually the best choice if multiple employees are being laid off), or you can consider negotiating, provided the severance package is not guaranteed in writing.

What is a release of claims?

Commonly, departing employees sign a document that releases the employer from all claims as a condition of receiving a settlement package. This release states that you are not liable for the employee’s lack of employment, and frees you from potential future lawsuits. An important note to keep in mind here is that employees over 40 who are leaving the company must sign a separate release for age discrimination lawsuits, which aren’t covered under a standard release of claims.

Providing employee severance pay is a generous act on the part of the employer, and it’s also a means to protect yourself and your company from potentially damaging employee lawsuits. Offering a severance package is a positive and supportive gesture that can build goodwill for your company among both departing and current employees.