Unless you operate a one-person show, your company likely heavily relies on communication to get things done during the workday. Being able to collaborate effectively makes teamwork possible and quality lines of communication ensure everyone is in the loop.
On the other side, inefficient communication harm your business greatly, including your bottom line. A recent survey on poor communication in enterprises determined that the annual impact of subpar communication could result in a cost of $11,000 per employee. That means a loss of $1,100,000 per every 100 workers on the payroll.
The effects of inefficient communication are far-reaching. It can lead to increased stress, reduced productivity, higher levels of frustration, lower morale, poor decision making, reductions in innovation, and even legal disputes.
To help you identify which communication methods may be harming your company’s success, here are a few points worth considering.
Over-Reliance on Email
In many cases, employees are bombarded with incoming email throughout the workday. While they are simple to create, emails are also easy to miss, intentionally ignore, or accidentally delete. Additionally, multi-person email threads can quickly become confusing, especially if not everyone is responding to the latest message.
When it comes to effective collaboration, email isn’t the ideal tool. Instead, choosing an appropriate tool can help avoid the pitfalls of email, allowing full teams to communicate more efficiently and with easier tracking.
When it comes to giving instructions, clarity is key. However, many managers and team members leave important details out, creating points of contention and fueling misunderstandings. For example, the vague “as soon as possible” deadline may not mean the same thing to the writer as the reader, and its subjective nature can cause conflict. Additionally, deadlines may be missed, harming productivity, because the work wasn’t aware of the actual timetable involved.
To avoid this form of miscommunication, it’s critical that all instruction be clear and specific. Providing step-by-step instructions, hard deadlines, and even estimated time to completion can all help ensure everyone is on the same page.
Lack of Timely Feedback
Feedback can be incredibly powerful in the workplace, but only when it is delivered at the right time. By providing information in real time, employees have the opportunity to quickly correct issues or change courses, keeping productivity up and improving the overall quality of their work. Additionally, timely feedback can improve engagement and reduce turnover, as staff members don’t feel left in the dark when it comes to their performance or progress.
For businesses that want to increase their use of real-time feedback, consider implementing training programs for managers or using HR software designed to prompt for project- or task-oriented performance reviews once certain duties are completed.
By improving communication in the workplace, your company can experience productivity gains, boosts to morale, and more effective teamwork throughout the organization. Ultimately, those are all great for the bottom line, ensuring you get the most from every moment an employee is on the clock.
If you would like to learn more or are interested in adding a new member to your team, the skilled professionals at The Advance Group can assist you in reaching your goals. Contact us to see how our services can positively impact your bottom line today.
There are many business applications still running on Cobol, but new developers would never base their career solely around learning Cobol. Even for developers who are working with more modern languages and methodologies, specializing in a single technology isn't the best basis for a career.
Besides the fact that technology changes rapidly (Cobol aside!), developers with a skill set across the technology stack are more valuable to their organization. These developers can step up and pitch in wherever help is needed, and their understanding of the challenges of different technologies provides a foundation for working in architecture, project lead, or managerial roles in addition to a varied programming career.
Software ultimately runs on physical facilities, so understanding the limitations of hardware and networks helps engineers make appropriate design decisions. Projects can either take advantage of, or be limited by, the specific operating system they are running on, so understanding this is key. Network configurations raise performance issues and security concerns, especially with growing use of the cloud. Mobile devices offer unique challenges as well. Applications won't succeed unless developers understand these issues and handle them appropriately.
There are fads and trends in programming, so while knowing a specific language is helpful for a while, having a solid foundation in good software engineering practices is more important. Developers need to fully grasp the concepts of object-oriented design in order to write reusable code that speeds projects. Debugging skills are often overlooked, but crucial. So is the ability to reverse engineer and work with existing code, so developers should practice reading and analyzing code they didn't write.
Ultimately, most applications require manipulating data, so developers should be comfortable with a variety of databases. Developers should be able to write SQL queries and work with stored procedures. Although many data-dependent projects will have DBAs to fine-tune the database, developers should be comfortable with the basics of database design and performance tuning. Because "big data" is increasing in importance, developers should learn how to work with very large datasets.
Understand Front Ends
Applications aren't useful until someone uses them, so developers need to understand what makes an effective front end. A designer may polish the look and feel, but developers should understand what works well on different platforms – thick clients still exist, and web applications and mobile apps present different challenges.
Given the shortage of qualified IT candidates and the comparable wealth of open positions, many tech contractors find themselves moving quickly from one project to the next. A 2013 survey found that 32 percent of these IT and engineering specialists receive their next offer within two weeks of completing a project, while 84 percent received an offer for their next job or project within three months.
When searching for your next IT candidate, then, it’s important to remember that time is of the essence. While you should certainly never rush into a decision, hiring managers in the tech industry simply don’t have the leisure of others in less-competitive fields. You’re never going to find the perfect candidate (or, if you do, consider yourself very lucky), but there three things you can do to help narrow it down to your best possible option.
Shorten Your List of Desired Skills
If you’re searching for an IT candidate, there’s likely a very long list of skills that you’d like interviewees to possess. This long list can hurt you in several ways, however. On one hand, very qualified candidates are likely to skip over your job posting if they find that they lack two or three (or more) of your desired skills. Even if they’d do the job admirably, you may never even see their resume because of an over-ambitious job description. On the other hand, you may fail to consider talented candidates because they don’t perfectly align with your ideals.
To counteract these negative effects, you should narrow down your list of desired skills to three or four key competencies. This ultra-focused list will help you define your expectations and hone in on the skills that matter most for the position. You won’t be disappointed when each candidate falls short of the “dream candidate,” and they’ll be more likely to apply to a reasonable description.
Plan & Prioritize
An unorganized review can cause you to miss out on important aspects of a candidate’s qualifications or character, or it can result in a biased, subjective perception that can harm you and your company in the long run. Develop an objective, consistent system for gauging each interview. For instance, you can refer back to your list of desired skills and rate each candidate on their abilities in relation to your requirements. Based on the importance and priority of each skill, you can objectively choose the right person for the job based on your metric system.
Evaluate Your Needs & What You Can Offer
While it would be nice to have that Ivy League-educated, highly experienced engineer, those may not be the needs of your company, and you may not be able to pay the salary that caliber of candidate would require. Be fair to your interviewees and your company, and honestly evaluate your needs for each position. Do you need a full-time IT worker, or would a contractor better suit your needs? This will help you adjust the job description and accurately articulate the details of the position to each candidate.
IT and engineering specialists often command high salaries, so look into the market value of the position and offer something in a similar range. If you offer too low, it’s unlikely that you’ll attract a qualified candidate, while aiming too high may put a financial strain on your company. IT workers know what their skills are worth, so make sure your number is accurate if you want to attract talent to your business.
These three tips will help you seize the moment while you’re searching for the right IT candidate. If you make your job description concise and realistic, prioritize your interview to get an accurate picture of each interviewee, and create a sensible, attractive salary offering once you’ve chosen a candidate, you increase your likelihood of selecting the best person in a timely manner.
The idea that the IT staff remains tucked in the back room surrounded by machines, emerging only when some technical problem occurs that no one else understands, is rapidly becoming a myth. Today’s IT shops are moving toward greater collaboration, with the understanding that when users and IT work together, better systems result.
Increased collaboration between IT and customers is best-accomplished through greater integration with the rest of the business. This organizational collaboration can not only improve the technologies being used, but also help IT pros advance their careers through better soft skills and more recognition.
Here are four ways your organization can bridge the gap between IT and its customers, whether they’re business users or company clients.
Partner IT staff with other departments
In an organization with multiple departments, IT typically serves a function for all of them. One of the best ways to bridge tech people with the rest of the company is to assign IT staff to a specific department, allowing them to partner with a business unit and focus on solutions for that unit.
By working directly with another department, IT can solve problems more efficiently. In these types of partnerships, technology may actually be the last solution IT turns to — the partner should first consider whether the issue can be solved by bringing in different people, or implementing new processes. This improves IT efficiency, reduces costs, and diminishes wasted time and resources.
The partner approach can also help IT professionals enhance their careers. Opportunities to work directly with another department allow them to broaden their soft skills and increase problem-solving abilities, while exposing them to different processes within the company.
In larger organizations where IT is responsible for keeping multiple departments up and running, creating centers of innovation can vastly improve processes and efficiency. Build small, specialized IT teams, each focused on working directly with one department, and maintain a core IT department to oversee the individual teams.
This type of structure works best in organizations that rely on innovation and integration, such as medical facilities, corporations, and large-scale or industrial production. A decentralized IT program also encourages tech employees to participate directly in other aspects of the organization, and develop a greater understanding of their focus areas to streamline operations and drive innovation.
Connect IT with end users
Even integrated IT staff are often confined to working within the organization, and rarely have the opportunity to interact with the people who use the company’s products or services. By facilitating interaction between IT employees and end users, you can encourage fresh ideas and stronger motivations to perform.
There are several ways to connect IT people with customers. Regular visits to other business units is a good start, but you can also send IT staff out with sales reps or other external-facing employees to shadow their interactions, or even organize business functions where the staff and customers have the chance to mingle. When IT is able to see the impact their work has on real people, they’re more engaged and motivated to deliver the best possible experience for end users.
Come out of the cave
In small to mid-sized companies and more integrated work environments that don’t necessarily have many departments, IT employees should be encouraged to leave the back room and spend time on the shop floor, so to speak. The more interaction IT has with the rest of the employees and the rest of the business, the better their understanding of their own function within the company.
Through direct observation of business processes, IT professionals can often spot issues that no one had been able to pinpoint previously, and make changes that will improve efficiency. Encourage IT staff to ask other employees questions and listen carefully to the responses, so they can develop a sense of the real needs of the business — and come up with more creative ways to meet them.
Regardless of company size, frequent interaction with other employees and end users can help IT professionals further their careers. They’re able to develop skills that are underused in direct IT work, and demonstrate that tech people are people, too — breaking down the stereotypes and perceptions that would otherwise prevent them from advancing.
A relatively new type of technology is making its way into businesses and organizations across the country. Some are referring to beacon technology as “GPS for indoors,” and in effect, that’s what these devices do — though the potential applications for beacons go beyond offering locations and directions.
What are beacons?
Beacons are small, inexpensive pieces of hardware that connect via Bluetooth, enabling them to transmit data directly to mobile devices. As usual, Apple is setting the popularity trend with its iBeacon, but other companies — some of which have been using beacons before Apple launched their version — are already making waves with this technology.
How can beacons be used?
Through the combined use of beacon hardware and specialized software, beacons can be used to locate mobile devices indoors and transmit messages or prompts according to a set of targeted criteria. This enables real-time, segmented in-person marketing for consumers with mobile devices.
The most obvious applications for beacon technology are in retail. Beacons can target shoppers in certain areas of a store and send personalized deals, product information, and more directly to their smartphones or tablets. This technology can also simplify the shopping experience, allowing customers to use a completely contactless payment system that’s tied to their mobile device.
But retail isn’t the only possibility for beacon technology, which has potential applications for enterprise, event organizers, transit systems, and even educational institutions.
One potential barrier to widespread adoption of beacon technology is the required permissions. Retail locations can’t simply send messages to any mobile device that happens to be inside the store. Generally, customers have to enable Bluetooth, permit location services on the relevant beacon app, and opt-in to notifications from the store.
Who’s using beacon technology now?
Apple’s iBeacon is already being used for personalized shopping experiences through a partnership with marketing platform Swirl, which is used in several stores throughout the United States and Canada — including Lord & Taylor, Timberland, Alex and Ani, and Kenneth Cole.
A Silicon Valley-based shopping app called shopkick has used beacon technology since 2009, rewarding users with “kicks” or retail points just for entering certain stores. The shopkick beacon platform is currently used in stores like Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, JC Penney, American Eagle, and more. Brands like Ritz, Levi’s, and Oreo also use shopkick to send alerts that draw customers to their product locations inside stores. Macy’s recently announced an expanded partnership with shopkick that represents the largest beacon deployment to date, with the technology to roll out to 4,000 Macy’s locations — bringing the total number of locations using shopkick to 7,500.
Several other companies are also getting involved in beacon technology. Both PayPal and Qualcomm tend to roll out beacon hardware of their own to compete with the iBeacon, and vendors similar to Swirl, such as Estimote and GPShopper, are offering beacon management and consulting along with software platforms.
With the prevalence of mobile devices, beacon technology provides a convenient new way to direct people — shoppers, students, travelers, and more. To learn more about this technology, or how it pertains to your company, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group today.
Most IT departments are, by nature, results-driven. And because IT loves numbers and formulas, you’ll find myriad combinations of analytics and KPIs and data charts designed to measure success — usually in terms of output or dollars. But how good are these measurements in gauging the success of your career on a day-to-day basis?
If you’re an IT pro, and you want raises and promotions and accolades (and who doesn’t?), all those analytics won’t help you much in the way of personal advancement. There are better ways to track your progress that can alleviate the daily stresses of your job and help you become more satisfied, productive, and promotable.
Here are three of them, relating to the most common issues IT professionals face in the workplace: prioritizing, communicating, and building relationships.
Prioritize: Measuring where all your time really goes
For an IT pro, there are never enough hours in the day. Your workload always seems to exceed the amount of time you have to spend on it, and every week you feel further behind. But the good news is, you’re probably spending a lot of time on tasks you don’t need to worry about — and you can focus your efforts to increase productivity and decrease stress.
Take the time each day to write down your top three-to-five priorities. Then keep track of what you do all day, and how long you do it. Once you have these lists, figure out what percentage of time you’re spending on your priorities versus everything else, and prune out the clutter. If your workload is actually too heavy to accomplish your core tasks, you can show this data to your boss and ask to have non-essential activities reassigned.
Communicate: Measuring the effectiveness of what others are hearing
Good communication is essential in the workplace. As an IT pro, you need to communicate not only with the rest of your team, but also with your supervisors, management, people in other departments, or even customers. And the most common barrier to communication is that not everyone you need to convey information to speaks the same language.
When you’re communicating something, the tendency is to think only about what you have to say. But the key to effective communication is to understand how the other person needs to hear it. If you’re speaking to a non-tech person, you can’t use jargon or complex terms. If your style is straightforward and to the point, a less direct person may find you abrasive or intimidating — and therefore will only hear your tone, not the words you’re saying.
Consider the communication issues you’ve experienced in light of your audience. Is it possible they could have misunderstood you because of their listening style? To measure your effectiveness in communicating, pay attention to nonverbal cues that suggest they’re confused by the terms you’re using, or tuning out your words in favor of your tone. You can adjust the way you convey information to make sure everyone’s clear, resulting in smoother daily operations all around.
Relate: Measuring your workplace relationships
Relationships make the working world go ‘round. When you have strong relationships in the workplace, your career will flourish — but weak relationships can hamper or cripple your progress. You may get along great with like-minded people, but what about those from different generations, different cultures, or even different departments?
Improving your workplace relationships will help you get ahead, and make for a more harmonious environment for everyone. It only takes a few minutes at a time to build rapport — you can choose a day to sit with a different group at lunch, or invite a co-worker you don’t know well for a cup of coffee. Make it a point to offer authentic compliments on other people’s work, especially those in different departments, and send a quick thank-you when another person does something that positively affects your work.
Charts and analytics are great for measuring the technical ROI of your work, but these real-world measurements can help you achieve personal satisfaction and advancement. Speak to the experts at The Armada Group today to find out how to take a better measure of your IT success, and enjoy lowered stress and higher productivity.
Mobile payment technology is supposed to be the wave of the future, but so far smartphone payments haven’t gained much traction. PayPal and Google have both made starts with mobile wallet solutions, though neither has seen widespread adoption. Now, as Apple may be getting into the game, the iOS solution just might kickstart the entire mobile payment industry.
Apple and the mobile wallet
According to a new report from The Information, smartwatches and iPhones with larger screens aren’t the only projects in Apple’s pipeline. The tech giant – with more than 40 percent market share of mobile phones in the U.S. – is reported to be in talks with payment industry companies to develop a mobile wallet solution that may be ready in time for the 2014 holiday season.
The report states that the integrated solution would allow iPhone owners to pay for purchases in stores using just their phones, and would involve a “so-called secure element” that’s projected to refer to the iPhone 5S Secure Enclave, which stores and protects Touch ID fingerprint data from access outside the phone, reverse engineering, and transmittal over the Internet.
Deal with Visa reported in place
The Information’s report says that Apple has already reached a deal with major credit card processor Visa for its mobile wallet solution. With more than three-quarters of a billion iTunes and App Store customer accounts — most with stored credit card numbers — Apple is uniquely positioned to make such a deal work.
But a direct partnership between Apple and Visa is not likely to be an exclusive arrangement. This powerhouse combination could serve as the first step for encouraging massive numbers of retailers to accept Apple payments, which in turn would interest other major smartphone brands like Samsung, LG, and Sony in exploring integrated mobile wallet solutions to meet market demand.
Apple and the ripple effect
When it comes to mobile technology, Apple has been a pioneer across every segment. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad each introduced groundbreaking features and technologies that other companies were quick to follow. If Apple enters the mobile wallet arena, this ripple effect is likely to bring the competition along for the ride.
The credit processing industry may experience a similar effect. Typically, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express work to capitalize on new fields the competition is entering — so if the Visa-Apple partnership succeeds, other major credit card companies will follow their lead.
Mobile payments have been projected for years, but the technology has not quite realized its potential. Apple’s entry into this new frontier could provide the push other companies need to make the mobile wallet a reality for the majority of smartphone owners.
If you are looking for candidates who are at the top of their technical fields, or are looking for a career in one of the most innovative companies in the nation, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today!
The job description looks great. You research the company, and the culture seems like you’ll fit right in. You send in your resume, nail the interview, and accept the job offer — only to find that the job itself is nothing like you thought, and you hate it. But you can’t leave now, or you’ll be branded as a job-hopper.
This scenario is all too common, but it can be prevented. Here’s how you can dig deeper and find out the truth about a company’s culture and actual working environment before you say “yes” to that tempting IT job offer.
Ask questions — and listen to the answers
During an interview, most job candidates are so focused on answering the questions in a coherent and hopefully impressive way that they fail to ask enough questions of their own. Employment experts consistently recommend that you have at least one inquiry prepared for what’s usually the final interview question, some form of “Do you have any questions for me?” But you should be ready to ask more than just one.
Ask the interviewer scenario-based questions about the company’s culture and available career paths. Find out how the IT department interacts with other departments in the company. Ask about top performers in the organization, what it takes to be considered a top performer, and what kinds of qualities are rewarded.
In addition to asking lots of questions, really listen to the answers. Trust your instincts on whether the answers sound genuine, if the interview offers natural-sounding stories to back up their claims, and whether the responses align with what you want or expect from the position.
Learn what you can from current and former employees
There are few better sources to learn about company culture than the people who work there, or have worked there in the past. Use LinkedIn or other online resources to check out the company pages, and particularly the profiles of current employees. Look for indications of a clear career path, frequent promotions, and other signs of career satisfaction. This type of research can also help you prepare the right questions to ask an interviewer.
In addition to research, try to connect with the company’s employees. Talk with current employees and ask for an honest assessment of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask questions that are related to what’s important to you in a new job.
With former employees, you can learn more about company culture by asking why they left, and if they would ever consider going back. Just keep in mind that organizations change, and an issue that drove an employee away may no longer exist at that company.
Read company reviews and engage them on social media
In the age of transparent and abundantly available information, job seekers can find plenty of resources to help them learn more about the companies that interest them. Career websites like Glassdoor and Indeed offer company reviews, usually written by current or former employees, that can help you make your decision. However, remember to take these reviews with a grain of salt — the anonymous nature of online reviews allows for shills and disgruntled people alike to express biased views.
Another way to get a good picture of a company’s culture is to follow them on social media, and pay attention to how they respond. Many companies share information about their culture through social networks, and those who don’t can give you insight by looking at the way they treat customers and job candidates online.
Accepting a new job is a big decision, and one you shouldn’t take lightly. Make sure you’re diligent in learning the true nature of a company’s culture before you say yes to that seemingly great job offer, and you can avoid the high cost of accepting a job you hate. If you need more assistance in your job search, contact the career experts at The Armada Group today!
As technology continues to take over the world, there is a continuing and massive demand for skilled software developers. Employers are seeking software engineers who are talented with both core technologies and emerging IT areas, as innovation leads to better mobile devices, wearable tech, and even robotics.
While there is demand in nearly every area, some skill sets are particularly sought after in software developers. Here’s what employers are looking for now to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technology.
The top 5 foundational skills
The hot new thing is always in demand, but some developer skill sets simply don’t go out of style. Recent research from IT career service Dice.com states that the five highest-searched skill terms for software developer candidates are:
- Java / J2EE: The Java platform retains its place as the most in-demand skill for software engineers — which isn’t all that surprising considering how many applications and systems are powered by Java.
- .NET: Microsoft’s user-friendly framework comes in second, thanks to an overwhelming majority of businesses that run on Microsoft.
- C++: This high-level, general-purpose language is versatile enough to remain in demand for many employers.
- C#: Designed in the tradition of Java and implemented primarily on Windows, C# is the fourth most sought-after skill set on the list.
- SQL: Database software is a primary objective for numerous businesses, especially those looking to capitalize on Big Data — so this database language enjoys high demand among employers.
The search terms that round out the top 10 on Dice.com’s list include “senior,” HTML, “web,” C, and Linux. These skills are essential must-haves for businesses across every industry, and demand for them won’t drop any time soon.
The hottest emerging software skills
In addition to core skill sets, employers are looking for software developers with up-and-coming talent. Current and near-future technology development in fields like the Internet of Things and wearable tech is driving demand for fresh new skills that are still “in beta,” so to speak, compared to core skills.
Some of the most sought-after emerging IT skills include:
- Mobile technology, including Android and iOS platforms
- Embedded systems and the Internet of Things (IoT)
- Wearable technology
- Big Data
Software developers with mastery of traditional platforms, who’ve incorporated one or more of the hottest emerging skill sets, can likely expect their pick of careers as employers compete for top talent. In addition, the modern business environment prefers software engineers who also have a great business sense and strong soft skills.
For help finding candidates who posess these skills and more, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today. We understand the skills candidates need to have to succeed in today's IT environment, and maintain a vast network of talented candidates who can fulfill all the requirements of your business.
No one enjoys an audit. You know that compliance and security are vital areas for your IT department, but facing an audit in these areas is like heading to the dentist for a root canal. Audits always seem to come at the wrong time. And it doesn’t help that no matter how prepared you think you are, the compliance auditor is going to find something wrong — after all, they have to keep their job.
Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer with anxiety every time a security or compliance audit is announced. By proactively addressing compliance and security issues, and performing regular checks that make compliance a year-round focus instead of an annual scramble, your IT department can rest easy when the auditor shows up.
Here’s what you can do to handle compliance issues regularly and stay prepared for audits 365 days a year, while also handling your day-to-day IT project load.
Plan (and budget) compliance work for IT every year
Like most of the IT industry, compliance and regulations change continually. It’s essential for your IT department to work proactively on compliance every year, rather than simply catching up before (or after) an audit. The best solution here is to plan realistic budgets and implement new compliance measures as they come up, instead of waiting for an auditor to point out the fact that they’re missing.
Designate a compliance control point
Rather than spreading compliance tasks through your IT team on an as-needed basis, which often results in a last-minute rush before an audit, appoint one person as your compliance central command to plan and budget your needs. This ensures someone is always keeping an eye on compliance, and you’ll know about potential problems before they become major issues.
Some of the responsibilities for your control point should include:
- Reading the latest compliance and security publications
- Attending conferences on new or changing regulatory and security measures
- Scheduling the IT work required to ensure consistent compliance
Perform regular self-audits
Waiting for your regulators to show up for an audit can throw your IT department into a minor panic. To help control audit fever, create a regular audit schedule and perform “dry runs” with either internal auditors, or a third party that is separate and distinct from your regulators. In addition to helping your department understand and experience audits, these practices also help to strengthen your company’s security and governance positioning.
Prep a single file for your documentation prior to an audit
When you have an upcoming audit, prepare a single binder or efile that contains all of your documentation for compliance, including procedures, policies, system flow diagrams, and anything relevant that pertains to governance or security. Presenting this file to an auditor not only makes their job easier, but also creates a favorable first impression of your preparedness — which can positively impact your overall assessment.
By taking proactive steps to address security and compliance issues before audits happen, you and your IT department can ease audit anxiety and come through the experience quickly and painlessly. Speak to the staffing experts at The Armada Group today, to ensure your company is compliant and to ensure all your staffing needs are met.