Blog

You hired your people for their brains. They have the ability to develop great ideas and the skills to execute and organize all the bits and pieces to bring that idea to fruition.So when the time comes for the team to brainstorm, as it inevitably does with each big project, why is it feeling a little forced? Maybe even a little stale?

brainstorming_tips

Brain power is not a never-ending source, and if you're running a pretty high-octane ship, there's a good chance the traditional "brainstorming session" just isn't cutting it for your team any more. Lucky for you, it's already a fluid activity so trying something new can't hurt. Whatever you do will bring some fresh ideas to the table, but here are some places to start:

1) Split Into Groups

One of the biggest problems with typical group brainstorming is that success leans towards those who are outgoing. A situation like this doesn't lend itself to introverts providing input, as introverts tend to be more comfortable with observation rather than participation. Quieter people sit back, more confident people speak up. Simple as that.

Breaking into groups gives everyone a fighting chance to have their voice heard. Once solutions and ideas are discussed, one person from each group reports their decisions back to the whole team. It allows everyone to have more of a say rather than ceding the floor to the chatty people, and gives people some time to consider ideas rather than be bombarded with them.

2) Sleep On It

Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. Run a standard brainstorming session but rather than ending it there, send everyone home to sleep on it. Tell them to keep a notebook by their bed, and think a little bit as they're falling asleep. Any ideas they have when they wake up can be written down and shared with the group which reconvenes for a short time the next day. While traditional brainstorming sessions leave people feeling rushed about their decisions and wishing they had more time to spend on it, this method allows everyone sufficient time to wander their brainwaves.

3) Ambassador Method

This method turns "splitting into groups" on its head and gives it some more structure. Divide your entire team into two groups to meet for 10 to 15 minutes - one group will brainstorm silently, and the other will discuss aloud (people can choose whichever group they'd like to be in). Each team then spends 5 minutes organizing, refining, and clarifying their ideas as a group, and sends one member to the other team to present their ideas.

After presenting their ideas, the members return with the feedback, and the groups have another round of brainstorming. At this point, anyone can join either group– people may want to switch it up. This back and forth can go on as long as you'd like, but more than three times probably isn't going to get much more of a return.

It's important to have a change of pace or a change of scenery for brainstorming to be effective. So give your employees just that, and spice up your brainstorming style once in a while. You never know what might result!

Posted: 4/19/2017 2:37:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


If you've ever been on an interview, you know the deal. There are standard questions that get asked and you feel like you've got your answers in the bag. You've heard these questions a thousand times, right?

interview_questions

Just because you're familiar with interview questions doesn't mean you should rifle through your mental filing cabinet and pull out the same answer you've given everyone. Some of these questions seem innocent but your answers speak volumes to the hiring managers. Don't mess them up by assuming these are just checkboxes on their question list. They're asking for a reason, so your answer had better be good enough.

Q1: What are your salary requirements?

It seems straightforward, but it can be tricky if you're asking for too much or too little. Nobody wants to be the first to throw out a number, especially early on in the process when you have yet to convince them that you are the perfect fit.  But here's the thing – you both have a number in mind and those numbers are probably (at least a little) different.

If they ask what your current salary is, you should be honest. If asked for the salary you're seeking, say that salary is important but you're really looking for the right role at the right company. If you're pushed to name a specific amount, say that you'll take all components of a compensation package into account (base pay, bonuses, stock, and paid time off), and give a range. Then you won't be nailed to a specific number, and neither side will feel like there isn't a possibility of compromise.

Q2: What will your references say about you?

All positive things. Do not bring up anything negative, even if you think a reference might be a little too honest. You should be calm, collected, and confident in an interview, and your reference probably would not have agreed if they had plans to portray you in a negative light.

Q3: Why do you want to work here? 

This answer needs to be a cornucopia of information and thoughts. Err too much on the "you guys seem like a great team" side and they'll think you're coasting, and spewing facts about the company will make them think you're trying too hard. Don't focus on the perks and salary. Go with an answer that speaks to the company's core values (you read those on their website, right?) – if the company is mission- or cause-based, tell them why you care about it. It doesn't hurt to refer to any past work or projects they've done, but don't go crazy with the details. They want you to fit into the company culture as much as they want you to care about the company, so keep your response as balanced as possible.

Posted: 4/6/2017 10:58:35 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Getting the interview is the first part. It's a foot in the door, a face-to-face, and Once They Meet You They'll LOVE You, right?! Well, hopefully. Forget about the other people they're interviewing and there's a chance that yes, this meeting will land you the position. Your resume got you a seat at the table, but the interview is still the best way to convey your excitement for the work, your enthusiasm for the company, and your ability to successfully perform the job and fit in with the team. No pressure.

difficult_interview_questions

But what do you do if the interviewer isn't lobbing a slew of easy questions at you (hint: this will never happen)? The hardball questions are the real testers, and if you aren't prepared they can throw you for a loop. We've gathered some of the most common "tricky" questions, and have some tips for how to throw back some answers that are sure to impress.

Q1: Why did you leave your last job? 

This one might have an unwanted story behind it, so keep it short, sweet and neutral. Try to avoid saying anything that could be interpreted in a negative way – leave out any comments on your old boss or management and don't mention if you're looking for more money (it's probably assumed that you are). It's fine to admit a company is going through layoffs, but no need to get into specifics. And even if you're looking to climb up the career ladder, saying so might make your prospective employer wonder why you're leaving that company to do so. Pivot the conversation to what excites you about this position and what you think you bring to the table and call this answer a slam dunk.

Q2: Which part of the job sounds the most challenging, and why? 

Lying about your skills will come back to bite you. You and the hiring manager both want you to succeed in this job, so let the employer figure out if your strengths and their biggest needs align. Be honest about what area you could use a little work in and emphasize that you are working to improve in those areas. It'll also let them know if some extra training in certain skills could help you from the get-go.

Q3: What is your biggest weakness?

Sorry, I think "working too hard" is off the table. We all know the answers to these questions are usually just reworded strengths. You're a perfectionist, you work too hard, we get it.

So, think about a way to be specific about, for example, being a perfectionist. Does this mean you are very focused on details when the big picture needs some attention? Maybe you spend a lot of time organizing processes and files during a project when that should happen afterwards. If you "work too hard," admit that your biggest weakness is checking email after you leave the office. We think a good rule of thumb is to avoid the phrase "too much" in your answer (a la "work too much," "pay too much attention to detail") – your version of "too much" and their version of "too much" might be different.

Posted: 4/3/2017 2:02:40 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Ever seen one of those movies where someone gets kidnapped and people find a note indicating that the kidnapper demands X amount of money in order for the person to be freed? Picture this: the things being kidnapped are every file, every photo, and every project on your computer. And you have to pay if you ever want to see them again.

It's called cyber-ransom, and it works a little differently than the suspicious typo- and link-ridden emails you know to look out for:

cybersecurity

Ransomware is a type of malware that can be picked up from malicious links in emails or drive-by download attacks by visiting certain websites. Once it infects your computer, all of your personal files are hidden behind a virtually impenetrable wall of encryption. The only way to get access back? Pay them.

Cyber-ransom is a relatively new threat to Americans: previously, digital crimes like these were much more common in Russia or Europe, but tides and have turned and attention has veered towards the U.S. According to a report by Radware, 49% of businesses fell victim to cyber-ransom attacks in 2016.

More and more businesses are also at risk of what's known as DoS/DDoS extortion, where a company's website is overwhelmed by hackers bombarding the site with data requests, forcing the site to shut down. Companies have to pay a big fee if they want the attack to be stopped and the site up and running again. This doesn't just put companies at risk, but also consumers – the attack also includes data theft, meaning sensitive consumer information is also up for grabs.

Now, if you're part of the 40% of businesses who don't have a plan in place when a cyber ransom incident occurs, you might be wondering: what can we do?

1. Make sure software is up to date.
2. Plan ahead – would you be willing to pay if your system was attacked?
3. Be prepared to remove infected machines from your network.
4. Train staff on company practices for cyber security (don't open unknown links, etc.)
5. Backup data daily to off-network or off-site location.
6. Split up your network so an attack cannot affect the entire company.

Being aware of the problem is already a step ahead of many – keep a close eye on your network and you'll at least catch a problem early!

 

Posted: 3/29/2017 3:37:09 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


It's true! It's a real thing! You're not dreaming (or maybe you are?).

Based on the fact that we all lost one precious hour of sleep this past weekend, it feels fitting that we should be allotted an hour to make up for it – smack dab in the middle of the work day.

cat-1551783_1920

No, the day is not as nationally recognized as it should be, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate in any way you see fit (ok, napping is the only proper way to celebrate). If you don't happen to work in a fancy space with napping pods, what's an employee to do?

Luckily a lot of companies are on board with the Napping Increases Productivity idea, with new data and products being released every month to back that theory up. It might be cool for you to nap but that doesn't necessarily make it easy, especially if there's no designated area to do so. We've got some suggestions for you! Disclaimer: we are not responsible for consequences resulting from your napping.

Get an Ostrich pillow.

Did you know ostriches sleep with their head in the sand? Your neck isn't quite long enough, so this company has brought the head cover up to you. Keep it quiet and dark with almost your whole face covered. Just bring a hair brush for a quick post-nap fix-up.

 

 

 

Sleep in your car.

We know, it sounds pathetic. BUT think about it – you have the privacy of your own space, and the security of knowing that you won't be caught looking like you're slacking. You're just on your lunch break and that lunch happens to be the consuming of some serious Zzzzs.

Get a desk hammock.

We're jealous of anyone that owns this thing, because it looks WONDERFUL. It hangs from underneath a desk, so not only can you sleep in comfort, but you also stay pretty incognito. Someone walking by might not even notice you.

Put your head down and a little sign up.

A simple "Ten Minute Power Nap. BRB." will do – putting your head down on your desk gives your eyes a rest from the screen and your brain a rest from the stress. The best marketing jargon in the world are the words "Power Nap," repositioning a quick snooze as a productivity booster rather than a catch up for an exhausted employee.

There you have it – happy napping!

 
Posted: 3/13/2017 4:14:20 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments