Less Personal Space at Work

We live in an era of the cubicle worker, with each employee isolated in their own personal space. Rather than increasing productivity, however, this practice stunts creativity and collaboration in the workplace. Fortunately, millennials are fighting back against the culture of isolation and demanding more flexibility and mobility in their work space. Here are the upcoming changes and their impact on personal space in the office.

1. Collaborative Spaces

Not only is the new generation of workers changing the way we work, but they are changing the physical spaces we work in. Rather than dividing an office into cubicles, forward-thinking companies are developing collaborative, shared work spaces for their employees. This may be an open area in their office or a rented space for remote workers to gather and share ideas. Large desks, whiteboards, projectors, and other collaborative tools are becoming more common in the workplace.

2. Telecommuting

We’re incredibly connected as a culture, and as a result, companies are starting to see the appeal of a remote workforce. Employees can have the same level of engagement, but without the overhead of office spaces or the stress of a morning commute. This structure satisfies the millennial’s need of flexibility, while maintaining a strong connection with their peers through the use of technology. Because of this, companies may have work forces scattered all over the country (or the globe), increasing their ability to share ideas and establish a creative think tank.

3. “Gig Culture”

Not only are employees more interested in picking up freelance work in addition to their full-time jobs, but companies are starting to see the benefit of hiring contract workers for projects both large and small. As a result, the regular staff will have exposure to new and interesting coworkers, encouraging the sharing of ideas and techniques that they may not encounter on a daily basis. This can be a great learning opportunity for full-timers and freelancers alike.

4. More Technology

Each of these developments demands an increased use in technology. Telecommuters and freelancers need video conferencing software, instant messengers, and project management tools to stay on track, while collaborative spaces require the ability to share screens and ideas in a constructive, effective way. As a result, companies will begin investing more time and money in new technology, and employees will spend more time interfacing with these technologies.

Millennials are taking the working world by storm, and in many ways, the changes they cause are beneficial. The working environment is more creative than ever and it fosters a sense of collaboration that makes the development of great ideas possible. For millennials, this is a very exciting time to be developing a career, as you have the very real opportunity to change the way your company works. So embrace these new changes and look forward to the new opportunities and challenges to come.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

Never underestimate the effect networking can have on your career. It isn’t about schmoozing your way into promotions; it’s about learning from others and sharing your value in return. This can improve your leadership abilities and a variety of other skills that can be invaluable to your professional growth and development.

The benefits of networking include:

  • New opportunities. By broadening your professional circle, you’ll find more opportunities come your way– from new positions to client referrals to unique experiences that can inspire and motivate you.
  • Shared knowledge and skills. Exposure to new ideas and new knowledge can be one of the most beneficial effects of networking. You’ll be better at what you do and more able to contribute to your company and industry in a meaningful way.
  • Long-lasting connections. As you continue to grow your network, you’ll find yourself forming lasting relationships with your peers and mentors that can transform the future of your career. As these connections develop, you’ll have a long list of friends to call on if you ever need anything.

Let the Networking Begin

With launchbox’s EXCELERATOR peer groups, you can give your millennial employees what they want and need… NETWORKING and business skills, PEER support and personalized COACHING.

The pay back? You get employees with expanded professional networks that can deliver more opportunities and revenue for your business.

Send your employees as our guests to our upcoming EXCELERATOR meeting on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. They can check it out and report back on the value EXCELERATOR can deliver to them and to your organization.

Email Ann@launchbox365.com to register your guests today.

 

15 Ways to Know if You’re on the Right Career Path

Whether you’ve been in your position for years or you’re just starting out, you may find yourself questioning whether you’ve made the right decision. It often goes much deeper than whether or not your company is right for you—you may wonder if your career path is the right choice for your personality, background, and skillset. Here’s how to know if you’re on the right path.

1. You look forward to going to work. The “Sunday blues” don’t apply to you, and you never dread heading into the office. This is a surefire sign that you love your job.

2. You enjoy what you do. When you finally do get into the office, you enjoy your day to day tasks and missions. Your work is meaningful to you and doesn’t create unnecessary stress in your life.

3. You have the opportunity for creativity. Even if you get to challenge yourself in small ways, the ideal career path will test your skill and your creativity with each passing day.

4. You don’t mind putting in more time or effort. The boss asks you to stay late? Not a problem. Do you have to work hard to meet your goals? All in a day’s work.

5. You recommend your company to others. If a friend is looking for work and you’re quick to recommend your company, you can rest assured that you’re in the right place.

6. You identify with your company and/or its mission. It’s important that your goals, morals, and ambitions align with your company. This will keep you loving what you do, and help you stick with it long term.

7. Work isn’t keeping you up at night. If work concerns have you lying awake and worrying, it might be time for a change. At the end of the night, you should feel rested and accomplished.

8. The money is right. Money should never be your main priority, but with the right career path, the salary meets your financial needs.

9. You have fun at work. Whether it’s what you do or who you do it with, work should be fun. After all, you spend a good chunk of your time there.

10. You talk about your job at home. And we don’t mean you rant to your friends or family. If you can’t wait to tell your pals or your significant other about your day at work, that’s a good sign.

11. You like the people you work with. Who you work with is just as important as the work itself. Do you enjoy being around them? Do you have similar goals? Do you want to spend time with them outside of work?

12. You feel accomplished at work. No one likes to feel as if their skills are being wasted. If you feel that your talents are being put to good use, you’re in the right place.

13. You’re excited about your future. Whether you’d like to stay with the same company or branch out in your field, you’re excited to see where your career path will take you.

14. You’re proud to tell people what you do. Introducing yourself with your job title just feels right. You’re proud of what you do and the company you work for.

15. You can’t imagine following another career path. If there’s nothing you’d rather be doing, that’s the clearest sign of all. You’ve found the right career, so stick with it.

So what do you think? Are you on the right career path?

Eat to Nourish Your Brain (at Work)

No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, eating a bag of chips at our desk does not count as lunch. Unfortunately, professionals often find themselves struggling with a heavy workload, and lunchtime can be the first thing to go. As a culture, we need to stop seeing a solid, well-balanced lunch as a luxury, and see it as more of a necessity. After all, food has a direct impact on our cognitive function, and eating the wrong meal—or failing to eat at all—can derail our work performance. So what can we do?

Plan Your Lunches

Plan for a lunch that will actually recharge you during your workday. Salads, wraps, and sandwiches are simple main courses, and you can supplement with small, nourishing snacks such as fruit, nuts and vegetables. Try planning out your lunches for the week (and doing the shopping) on Sunday, so you’re not scrambling the morning-of for something to bring to work.

Eat the Right Foods

Research has shown that certain foods can actually improve your cognitive function, so if you find that you feel a little foggy as the day goes on or even want a nap, try to work a few of these food items into your daily lunch. Brain-friendly foods include:

• Wild Salmon
• Blueberries
• Nuts and Seeds
• Avocadoes
• Whole Grains
• Beans
• Pomegranate Juice
• Freshly Brewed Tea
• Dark Chocolate

Salmon and nuts can easily be added to a salad for a delicious, healthy lunch, while blueberries, dark chocolate (in small amounts), and guacamole can be enjoyed as a light snack at your desk.

Eat the Right Portions

It can be difficult to strike a balance when it comes to your lunch portions. It’s important not to overeat, but it’s just as important that you get the right number of calories to fuel you throughout the day. Read a nutrition guide, and instead of guessing, be sure to measure each portion of your lunch. This will not only help you avoid overeating, but it will ensure that you’re eating the correct amount of protein, vegetables, and other foods on a daily basis.

If you aren’t getting enough calories—or you’re eating the wrong calories—your work performance can suffer. Help your brain keep up with your busy schedule by eating healthy, nourishing foods, and you’ll see your productivity and overall health improve.

What foods fuel your brain at lunch? We want to know.

Getting Rid of Negative Self-Talk: Words Become Your Experience

While it can sometimes be helpful to criticize yourself, so you can aspire to do better, it can be hard not to cross the self-criticism line into damaging, negative self-talk. There is a huge difference between telling yourself that you need to work on your organization skills, and berating yourself for being the world’s biggest failure because you lost a file at work.

Negative self-talk is not only counterproductive, it also increases your stress levels and can lead to depression over time. Here’s how you can silence the negativity committee in your head, and turn self-directed trash talk into positive motivation.

Use a “box” to put negativity in perspective

If you make a mistake, negative self-talk can inflate that small blunder to world-destroying proportions. Instead of stewing over what happened, take a deep breath and create a mental “box” to put the problem in. Make it as small as possible—in the example above, “I lost a file” should not equate to “I’m an idiot and my career is ruined.” Simply tell yourself you need a better system for organization, so the mistake won’t happen again.

Put a spin on it

In public relations, there are people whose job it is to turn negatives into positives—or neutrals, if positive isn’t possible. You can use something like this to change your thinking with a simple change in semantics. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m so disorganized that I’m never going to get anything done,” learn to say to yourself, “I’m having a thought that I won’t be able to get this done.”

This allows you to focus on the problem at hand, instead of going off on a self-berating tangent and stressing over your organization issues until it’s impossible to move ahead.

Think possible, instead of positive

Everyone knows that positive thinking is supposed to be powerful—but if you’ve ever tried to “think positive,” you may have discovered that you’re one of many people this strategy simply doesn’t work on. In fact, research shows that when you’re discouraged and trying to think positive, you actually feel worse—because your inner lie detector tells you there’s nothing positive going on.

So instead of positive, think “possible.” Focus on what you can actually do to move in a positive direction, even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, tell yourself “I know how to lose 10 pounds, and I’m going to do it” to banish the “I’m a hideous, jiggly blob” line of thinking.

Be your own best friend

If you told your best friend that you’re disorganized, would he or she gasp in horror and tell you that if you don’t fix that problem right now, you’re going to get fired and end up living in your car?

If you find yourself piling on the negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself what your best friend would say when you mentioned the problem. This also works in reverse: never tell yourself anything you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Treating yourself like a friend helps to cut down negativity and generate more self-confidence.

Embrace your flaws

Flawless people are boring—and they don’t exist. Nobody is perfect. Look to any hugely successful person in any profession, and you won’t find a perfectionist. You’ll find someone who recognizes that they’re a flawed human being, but focuses on their strengths.

Trying to achieve perfection in everything will only lead to frustration, and an inability to finish anything because it’s not “perfect.” So understand your flaws, accept them, and spend way more time understanding your strengths and looking for ways to capitalize on your uniqueness. You’ll soon find that negative voice in your head doesn’t have much to say.

 

6 Ways to Ace an Interview

Resumes are important tools for your job search, but interviews are the key to moving from job seeker to happily employed. Right now, millennials in the job market are facing tough competition from both their peers and an older, often more experienced workforce—so knowing how to ace the interview is crucial.

Here are six ways you can make a strong, positive impression at your next interview, and land that perfect job.

  1. Do Your Homework

Career expert and Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel states one of the biggest problems employers have with millennials is that they aren’t prepared for interviews.

Thorough research is one of the best things you can do to prepare for job interviews. Find out as much as you can about the company and the person you’re interviewing with ahead of time by reading their website, searching them on Google, connecting on LinkedIn, checking out company reviews on sites like Glassdoor, and talking to current and former employees.

While you’re researching, think about how your skills and experience will benefit this company in particular.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Did you drive perfectly the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? If not, why would you go to an interview and expect to be amazing if you’ve never done it before (or you’ve done it once or twice, but not very well)? Just like any other skill, practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing.

There are several ways you can practice interviewing before you go for the real thing. Mock interviews with a professional can not only help you get some interview time in, but also provide you with feedback to improve your interviewing skills. You can also try practice interviews with a friend, or video yourself answering interview questions so you can review and analyze your performance.

  1. Bring a Business Card

To most millennials, this advice might sound archaic. After all, everything is online these days, and no one carries around those little rectangles of paper with printed contact information when you can just text or email.

In an interview with Business Insider, Schawbel recommended that millennial job seekers can benefit from having a business card to hand interviewers “because people don’t expect you to have that.” Where business cards used to be an expectation, they’re practically a novelty in the digital age—and employers will remember you for having them.

They’re also very affordable, with sites like VistaPrint.com offering 100 custom business cards for around $10.

  1. Bring Samples of Your Work

Chances are, you’ve already sent potential employers a link to your online portfolio or other samples of your work when you submitted your resume. But if you’re looking to ace the interview, bring copies with you—especially if you’re applying for a creative position like marketing or design.

Directing employers to a link or website during an interview can be awkward, or even annoying. Instead, have a thumb drive you can hand to the interviewer with your work pre-loaded, so your accomplishments can conveniently speak for themselves.

  1. Ask Great Questions

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for an interview is to come up with great questions to ask your interviewer. Use all that research you’ve done on the company to formulate interesting, well-informed questions that demonstrate your knowledge, and prove you really want to work for this company.

Virtually every interview is guaranteed to end with the interviewer asking whether you have any questions for them—but don’t save your questions until the end. Keep an ear out for strategic, relevant openings during the interview to ask your questions, and pay close attention to the responses.

Some sample questions you might ask your interviewer include:

  • Why did you choose to work for this company?
  • What is the workplace culture like here?
  • How would my performance be evaluated?
  • What challenges are facing [the department you’re interviewing for] right now?
  • Does the company encourage collaboration and innovation and how?
  1. Know Your ROI

When it comes to hiring, nearly every employer is looking for a return on their investment. When you arrive at an interview, be prepared to show them the numbers.

Your resume should contain this information as well. Make sure you can demonstrate ways you’ve been able to decrease costs, increase revenues, improve processes, or boost returns for past employers. If this will be your first job, have some prepared ROI statements for school accomplishments or personal projects.

Keep in mind that an interview is your chance to show an employer why they can’t afford not to hire you.

The Power of Thanks

You know how much you appreciate your employees, but do they know? Every workplace can get hectic and it’s easy to take things for granted, including the great work your employees, co-workers, supervisors and even clients do. But if you make a conscious effort to say “thank you” more often, you’ll realize powerful results.

Research from advisory services firm Bersin & Associates has added numbers to the common-sense idea that saying thanks is good for you, and your business. The Bersin study found that companies with excellent employee recognition skills are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results than companies that don’t.

The specifics of thanking employees

According to Bersin & Associates, businesses that focused on rewarding their employees realized a 14% improvement in employee engagement, productivity, and customer service. The study looked further at these gratitude-prone companies, and found that they all share three common traits:

  • Focused recognition programs that include feedback and thanks from both managers and peers
  • Recognition that ties directly to business goals and company values to reinforce strategy
  • Open and transparent access to the recognition program, allowing employees to recognize anyone, and see who else is being recognized

 

Here are some tips on the best ways to thank your employees, co-workers, customers, or anyone in your business environment—and boost your productivity and profits.

Don’t just say thanks—mean it

People can tell when you’re not being sincere, and offering empty praise just because you feel like you should can backfire. Thank your employees when they do something you appreciate, in a general and heartfelt manner.

Include the why

The best thanks are specific. A lot of employees have heard “great job” or “keep up the good work,” but this vague praise really doesn’t mean anything. Instead, spell out exactly what you appreciate—you might say “thanks for handling that difficult customer in a tactful way,” or “I appreciate you staying late at the office yesterday, we wouldn’t have finished that project on time without you.” Get in the habit of starting your gratitude with “thank you for…”.

Break out the stationery

In a world brimming with texts, emails, posts and tweets, a handwritten thank-you note is really something special. Written thanks, whether presented on a nice sheet of paper or a simple thank-you card, can mean a lot to the recipient. They’ll not only appreciate that you took the time to write a thank-you note, but they’ll also have something they can show others—concrete proof that they’re appreciated.

Make your handwritten thanks personal, and vary your message so you aren’t writing the same thing to everyone. Here are some example thank-you note starters you can use:

  • We really appreciate your help with…
  • I’m so grateful for…
  • Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to…so thank you.
  • I’ve learned so much from you…
  • I think others will benefit from your work. Can I share it with…
  • You always give 100 percent, and I really appreciate it…
  • We’re so lucky to have you as part of our team…

 

Don’t wait to start saying thank you more often in the workplace. The more often you offer your genuine and heartfelt appreciation, the happier your employees (and clients) will be to work with you—and they’ll work even harder to keep receiving thanks.

5 Surprising Benefits of Manager Employee Interactions

Employee motivation is the key to a happy and productive workplace. But unless your managers are interacting with your employees, the potential for motivation is slim.

It’s important to remember that money isn’t the only motivator—it’s not even necessarily the biggest. Motivation is often personal, driven to a large degree by individual circumstances, but there are some universal motivators that can fuel any employee’s performance. Among them are recognition, non-financial rewards, increased autonomy, and simple human connections, all of which can be achieved through greater manager-employee interaction.

Here are five ways managers can interact more with employees, and the motivational benefits these interactions achieve.

  1. Make Interaction a Daily To-Do

In the business world, nothing happens unless it’s a priority. Managers are often pressed for time and will focus on work-related issues before less urgent matters like talking with their staff.

Employee interaction can become a priority if managers realize that it truly is a work-related issue. Talking with your employees daily helps you build rapport, get to know them better, and lets them get to know you—so that “open door” policy you have truly feels like an open door.

It doesn’t take much. Simply greeting employees at the start of the day, saying goodbye at the end, and working in a few quick conversations about your employees’ work projects, personal life, or even weekend plans can go a long way toward building a happy and productive work environment.

  1. Help Employees Manage Themselves

Autonomy and a sense of purpose can be powerful motivators. Managers can help to build these motivational tools by empowering their employees to self-manage performance, development, and career progression.

Ask each of your employees to draft a yearly set of goals and development plans, and make the time to sit down with them individually for discussion and refinement. When your employees play an active role in their own career performance, they’ll be more motivated to deliver—and less in need of direct management.

  1. Reward Employees on a Personal Scale

Financial rewards for great performance is standard and accepted, but not all of your employees may need, or even want, extra money. Instead of defaulting to monetary rewards, ask your employees directly what they’d like or appreciate in return for recognition-worthy efforts.

Some may still want money. Others might prefer an extra day off or flexible scheduling, branded items or company stock, or even public recognition. Personalizing rewards and recognition for your employees demonstrates that you care about their interests and truly value their contributions to the team.

  1. Take the Time to Talk Shop

You may be surprised to discover that your employees can have valuable business insights that may benefit your department, or the entire company.

Employees are the closest people to actual work processes—and the customers you serve. They’re often able to identify the best opportunities for improvements, innovation, and increased customer satisfaction. So turn your small talk into shop talk, and stay tuned for important insights into your organization.

  1. Make the Little Things Count

No matter what kind of overall environment your company has, it’s the little things that make the difference. When interacting with employees, keep in mind that small, day-to-day actions—from the way you manage performance in general to the tone you set by greeting (or not greeting) employees each morning—can have the greatest impact.

Often, all it takes is a heartfelt “thank you” to restore disengaged employees and spark motivation. The more effort you put into manager-employee interactions, the more your company will benefit from happier and more productive employees.

 

What creative ways have you discovered to motivate and recognize your team members?

The #1 Most Important Communication Tool

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “communication tool”? Most people might think of phones or email, or apps that streamline communication. Some might even think of speaking or writing as basic, essential tools for communication.

But in reality, the most important tool we have for communication is our ears.

Listening is the key to effective communication. The ability to truly pay attention to what someone else is saying improves not only the quality of what we hear and understand, but also the enthusiasm and engagement of the other person involved in the communication.

Here’s why listening is crucial, and how you can improve your listening skills to significantly increase the effectiveness of your communication.

Being present in an age of distraction

Everyone has tried to hold a conversation with someone who’s busy texting, checking their messages, or using an app on their mobile device. Smartphones and tablets are fully integrated into our culture—so firmly that many people aren’t even aware of their reliance on these devices, or how often they’re using them.

If you’re used to multi-tasking, the first step to improving your communication is teaching yourself to listen without distractions. This means putting the phone down while you’re talking to someone, whether you’re at work, at home, or out and about. Implementing this practice yourself can also encourage others to ignore their devices and be more present, which strengthens your relationships.

Catching non-verbal cues

When you’re truly listening, you’re able to interpret non-verbal cues that can be easily miss if you’re distracted or not paying attention. Communication experts say that up to 85% of communication is non-verbal—including physical movements, eye contact, posture, and physiological presence.

Non-verbal cues can help you understand what someone is really saying, even if the context isn’t clear. Another important part of active listening is paying attention to your own non-verbal signals, and making sure you’re demonstrating your interest levels through good eye contact, attentive posture, and a lack of distracted gestures.

Speaking in listening mode

Great listeners are able to demonstrate their attention through verbal as well as non-verbal cues. Verbal listening strategies include extending an open invitation to talk, encouraging the other person with a few brief words, and asking open-ended questions.

Inviting someone to talk can be as simple as reading their body language and asking about it. For example, if a person seems upset, you might say, “You look like something is bothering you. Want to talk about it?” Or if someone seems happy or excited, you could say, “It looks like you’ve had some good news. Do you want to share?” Once you’re engaged in a conversation, you can use short, encouraging phrases like “I see,” or “Go on,” to indicate that you’re listening and want to hear more.

Finally, great listeners use questions to connect and engage with others. They ask an open-ended question—one that invites a more thorough answer. For example, instead of asking, “Are you worried about the meeting tomorrow?” a good listener would say, “How do you feel about the meeting tomorrow?”

 

Developing your listening skills can vastly improve your communication, and help you advance in both your business and your personal life. How do you show others that you’re listening?

 

4 Ways to Connect Employees to Your Brand, Using Social Media

As a business, you’re looking to brand your products or services in ways that appeal to your target audiences. An effective branding strategy is consistent across every channel and touch point where customers interact with your brand—and that includes your employees.

Employees who are knowledgeable and excited about your brand can be your most powerful assets. These brand ambassadors will spread the word about your company without being told, increasing your brand’s visibility and strengthening its credibility.

But how can you turn your employees into brand ambassadors?

Here are four “real world” ways you can engage your employees to connect to your brand, and create an army of ambassadors to drive word-of-mouth and increased revenues.

  1. Encourage employees to share your brand: use social media at work

For a long time, most companies limited or banned social media usage in the workplace. Sites like Facebook and Twitter were considered unproductive, and even potentially damaging to the company’s reputation.

However, these restrictive policies end up backfiring more often than not. In addition, keeping employees away from social media is closing off a potentially powerful avenue for building your brand and engaging customers. Instead, invite employees to use social media in a positive and constructive way. They’ll spend less time hiding their social media usage, and more time developing great relationships with customers and generating leads.

Not everyone is comfortable using social media, so it’s a good idea to offer training for employees who may be interested in promoting your brand through social networks, but aren’t sure how to get started.

  1. Communicate openly and clearly with your employees

One of the biggest challenges employees face in using social media for business is what they should share publically, and what should stay internal. You can make sure employees know what’s acceptable by communicating frequently, and maintaining transparency about appropriate social media usage.

When you have something that employees can share with their social media networks, broadcast the information on every channel at work. Some people might miss a company email, but attend a meeting. Some may not check the bulletin board, but read every email that lands in their inbox. When you make a concerted effort to get the word out, your employees will follow suit.

Employees feel much more comfortable sharing company information on social media when they know the company approves. Don’t keep them in the dark about what to share, and what to keep private.

  1. Focus on the right channels – know your audience

You can amplify the effectiveness of your employees’ branding efforts by finding out which channels are best suited for your particular business, and asking employees to work through those channels.

The audiences for various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can be very different. Your company might flourish on Facebook, but flop on LinkedIn. You may drive great engagement on Pinterest, but fizzle out on Twitter.

Look into the various social media platforms and find our which are most effective for your business. Then, share that information with your employees so they understand not only which platforms they should be using, but how they will drive success.

  1. Make it easy for employees to engage others

Everyone wishes they had more time in a day, including your employees. While some may want to participate in your company’s social media program, they may not have the time to figure it all out, or to come up with interesting content and status updates to share across their networks.

Make it easy by providing content for all of your employees to share. This will not only save them time, but will also help you ensure that your employees maintain a consistent company voice across platforms and channels. Ask employees to follow the main company pages on various social media sites, and repost any content their individual networks might enjoy. The easier it is, the more often they’ll share.

 

Let’s connect our companies on social media – follow launchbox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.