Author: LMJA Blog

The Value in Training Employees

When the batteries die in your remote control, do you just throw it in the garbage and buy a new one? No, of course not! You replace the batteries, which enables you to save money and enjoy better and faster service from your remote. The same can be said for providing training for existing workers. It’s so much more cost efficient to consistently train the employees you already have than having to find new workers.

When it comes to training existing team members, many agencies come up with every excuse in the book not to move forward. And it’s one of the costliest mistakes they can make. Here are just some of the top reasons why so many agencies don’t take the time to train workers:

  • Training takes a lot of time
  • Training is expensive
  • Fear of ineffective training or lack of a standardized training program
  • Fear of workers leaving after they’ve received training

So many agencies are ignoring the real question: what is the cost of not training employees? It’s easy to see training as an expense and not as an investment. Failing to continually train workers leads to a host of issues, including increased security risks, decreased efficiency, more mistakes and a lack of motivation. Untrained and unhappy employees who feel like they’re not building their skills are more apt to become frustrated and may start looking for employment elsewhere. And we all know how costly turnover can be!

On the flipside, training and development programs include a host of benefits, including enhancing employee performance, boosting employee productivity and improving department culture. But getting started is the first (and most challenging!) step. Don’t let the old excuses hold you back. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to create consistent training programs or improve the ones you may already have in place. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Providing Adequate Training

When was the last time you provided training to your existing team members? Some of you may be able to answer this question quickly – “oh, we did some training and development about six months ago.” But if you’re like most, you’re probably scratching your head trying to remember the last time any training took place. It’s a common issue. According to the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing Multiple Federal Agencies” report released by the Council of the Inspectors General, providing adequate training is a key area of concern.

Where are we seeing this? It seems to run rampant. The Department of State (DOS) reported that under qualified staff developed, “deficient performance work statements that led to multiple poorly designed projects and millions of dollars in wasted funds.” The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stated that sensitive information was put at risk because they had failed to provide employee training programs. Those are just a few sobering examples. Quality training is such an integral workplace component. Here are just a few ways reasons why:

  • Addresses Employee Weaknesses: Training programs enable you to strengthen employees’ existing skills and address areas that need improvement. Efficiency and productivity are increased. Employees can work better independently and in teams without constant supervision.
  • Improves Employee Job Satisfaction: No one likes to feel confused and out of the loop when they’re at work. Consistent training builds skills, knowledge and confidence. It also makes employees feel like they’re valued and supported. If an agency is willing to make an investment in their workers, those workers are probably less likely to jump ship for another job.
  • Eliminates Wasted Money and Addresses Security Concerns: As mentioned earlier, a few agencies reported poorly designed projects due to a lack of proper training, as well as sensitive information put at risk. The Defense Intelligence Agency specifically noted that providing a standardized training program could help them in “identifying, assessing and mitigating counterintelligence risks to mission-critical acquisitions.”

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about training or putting it on the backburner. Agencies must ensure that workers are continually kept up to date with policies, processes and procedures. A structured training program ensures that employees have consistent learning opportunities and a chance to build knowledge and skills. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to look at your current training programs, what’s working and what isn’t and address and fix any weaknesses. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Hiring In Today’s Market Requires Innovative Strategies

When it comes to hiring highly specialized workers, are you facing challenges finding strong candidates for open positions? If so, you’re not alone. According to the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing Multiple Federal Agencies” report released by the Council of the Inspectors General, recruiting and retaining highly skilled staff is a key area of concern. Several agencies reported that they’ve faced difficulties finding and retaining people with the right skills, abilities and knowledge to fill vacant positions. One of the main reasons cited is competition from the private sector and the higher salaries they can often offer sought-after candidates.

It can certainly seem like highly skilled workers are in the driver’s seat these days. When it comes time for an interview, these candidates are interviewing YOU as well as you interviewing them. Just like you want to know about their experience and background, they want to know what it’s like to work for your department. Here are a few areas they may be interested in and you should be prepared to answer:

  • Potential for growth: Highly skilled candidates want to know why they should change jobs and how making a change is going to benefit them, particularly in relation to the growth of their career.
  • Department culture: Candidates want to know that they’re going to be a good fit for the overall culture of the department and their work team.
  • Flexibility: In a post-COVID world, workers are more interested in ever in areas such as ability to work from home, work/life balance and other employee perks.

However, be careful not to oversell! Yes, it’s important to outline the perks, but it’s also essential for candidates to have an understanding of the challenges that may come with the position. This allows the candidate to make a fully informed decision and cuts down on the likelihood of high turnover.

In today’s competitive hiring market, it’s essential that agencies develop innovative strategies and take advantage of available employee incentives to attract and retain the highest level of talent. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you on ways to “sell” your open job opportunities, as well as outline and communicate the benefits of working for your department. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Recruiting and Retaining Highly Skilled Staff

As the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting and hiring is a top concern over the next year, according to research from the online HR resource site XpertHR. The inability to attract highly skilled staff in key areas of IT, healthcare, national security and intelligence can cause skill gaps and greatly affect Federal agencies’ ability to meet their mission.

What do employers look for in a candidate? The answers vary. Some will say experience, skill and education. Others will look more closely at personality and interpersonal skills. What it comes down to is that employers want a complete package: a candidate who knows how to communicate effectively, is skilled, intelligent and educated and has a pleasant personality on top of it all. Sometimes, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Hiring someone is the most costly decision a department will make. Choosing the wrong employee can affect morale, culture and a well-established team dynamic. It can also cost tens of thousands of dollars to find and rehire a replacement. Before you start searching for highly skilled candidates for hard to fill positions, it’s important to outline the skills, attributes and experience of your ideal candidate. Creating this “candidate persona” can help tailor your recruitment strategy. Here are some areas to keep in mind when coming up with an “ideal candidate”:

  • Soft Skills: What are the main personality traits needed for the position? (strong communication skills; self-motivated; ability to work in a team setting; flexibility)
  • Hard Skills: What are their primary attributes? (education; professional experience; professional certifications)
  • Motivation: What are their primary motivators when choosing a new position? (reputation of department; workplace culture; professional development; mission and values; career advancement)
  • Job Search Channels: How do they search for jobs and where? (social media; referrals; career pages)
  • Possible Objections: What would cause them not to want to work for your department? (company culture; reputation; salary/benefits; flexibility)

Are you experiencing challenges when recruiting for highly skilled positions? Many agencies are reporting that competition from the private sector makes it even more difficult to find and retain talent. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to outline your hiring strategy, define your department’s culture and unique attributes and help you attract and retain the best talent to enhance your team. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

The Challenges of Reentry

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, what did you think of when you heard the word “reentry”? Perhaps a space shuttle returning to the Earth’s atmosphere came to mind. These days, “reentry” means something different. It’s all about bringing workers back into the office in an effective and safe manner. After the challenges we’ve faced over the last year and the lifestyle changes that workers have become accustomed to (and many are enjoying!), the issue of getting employees back in the workplace can be complicated and stressful.

Last month, we looked at why many workers are hesitant to return to workplace life post-pandemic and we also outlined steps employees can take to ease their “reentry anxiety”. But what can employers do to ease workers’ fears and hesitations, particularly in a tight labor market? With some planning and patience, there are a number of ways employers can make the back-to-office transition easier on everyone. Here are several suggestions:

  • Ask workers what they want and need to feel safe and listen carefully to the answers.
  • Work with employees who want to explore a hybrid working model and continue working from home in some capacity.
  • Examine ways to support employees’ needs issues, such as safe commuting and childcare.
  • Encourage and support managers to look for signs that workers need more support or different options to feel safe and productive.
  • Set up an employee advisory board to keep an eye on how people are doing once they’re back in the office.
  • Modify physical workspaces as needed to create more space between employees. Also, look for ways to boost collaboration between in-office and virtual workers.
  • Redesign office common areas to create a healthy environment.
  • Amend workspace policies and procedures (ie – implement staggered arrival and departure times for employees to reduce congestion in elevators, enforce new cleaning protocols for the office, make sure hand sanitizers and soap dispensers are kept full and accessible)

While we keep talking about “getting back to normal”, the workplace as we know it will probably never be the same in a post-COVID world. Moving forward, it’s vital to invest in the health of your employees and the future health of your business. Leah M Joppy and Associates can help with ways to transition your team members back to the office and make the process smoother and less stressful for everyone. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

 

Anxieties in a Post-Pandemic World

In a post-pandemic world, does the following situation sounds familiar? Let’s say you’re fully vaccinated and so is your closest friend. Your community has low COVID numbers. Your friend invites you to dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Although you haven’t seen her in person in over a year and should feel excited, you just feel anxious and stressed. Your mind starts down a path of “what ifs”. You decide to decline your friend’s invitation and instantly feel better staying in the protection of your own home.

If this situation hits a chord, you’re probably experiencing some COVID “reentry anxiety”, aka anxiety about returning to your typical daily activities post-pandemic. We just spent the last year living in fear of doing things that could put us or our loved ones at risk of getting COVID-19. The length of time we lived through these changes, combined with fear, means it won’t be easy to just pivot and go back to “business as usual”. Here are a few ways you might be experiencing reentry anxiety after COVID quarantine:

  • Being unable to enjoy yourself while you’re in public places because you’re focused on your fears.
  • Avoiding invitations to do things you used to enjoy with friends and family.
  • Feeling like socializing isn’t worth it when you feel so much anxiety when you go out.
  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic, such as nausea and sweating, feeling short of breath, jittery or lightheaded

There are a number of options to help with your feelings of anxiety, such as: maintaining a lower daily stress level through exercise and meditation; connecting with one or two people in a quieter, more remote location; or exposing yourself incrementally to your fears and advancing to the next level of exposure once you experience improvement. Most of all, be kind and patient with yourself (keep moving in baby steps!) and don’t be afraid to seek outside help if you feel like your anxiety is getting worse.

There are so many reasons why people are dealing with reentry anxiety and everyone is acclimating to a return to normal life and activities differently. It’s going to take some time to undo the feelings of fear we’ve been experiencing. If you’ve been reevaluating your priorities over the past year and would like to work with a coach that can help you move forward, Leah M Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to the Office

For many people, the silver lining to the pandemic has been the ability to take a step back from the stresses of everyday life, stop commuting and work from home. As the economy is revving back into gear and staff is being asked to come back into the workplace, re-entry anxiety is a very real issue. While some are ready to get back, many are hoping to continue these new routines and are dreading the return to an office environment. A recent survey of professionals by staffing firm Robert Half really paints a picture: they found one in three professionals currently working from home would quit and look for a new job if required to go back to the office full time.

Not all of us have the option of continuing to work from home full time. So, what can you do if you’re about to return to the office and are experiencing anxiety? Here are a few tips to help:

  • Talk to your employer about whether you can work from home part time: The past year taught many employers that working from home in some capacity is possible and brought out the best in many workers. The hybrid work model is increasingly popular and many employers are embracing the concept to increase worker morale and reduce turnover.
  • Do a few trial runs and visit the workplace without having to work: The anticipation of “what’s going to happen” is often worse than the reality. The more you put yourself in the environment that you’re worrying about, the easier it will be to make the transition.
  • Use breaks to de-stress: Take 10-minute breaks throughout the day to focus and ground yourself. If you started a meditation practice during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep it up. Even some deep breathing exercises can be calming if you find yourself feeling anxious throughout the day.
  • Be patient with yourself: Getting back to ‘normal’ takes time and be patient with yourself as you adjust. The length of the transition varies from person to person. Remind yourself that going back to the office will eventually feel like a normal part of life again and will have advantages, as well as challenges.

Going back to the office may seem like just as big of a life-changing transition as it was to switch to remote work. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to acknowledge it! Leah M. Joppy and Associates can work with your office to find productive ways for team members to feel safe and comfortable returning to the workplace. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

The Future of Work; The Feelings of Anxiety

As more and more people are fully vaccinated and we begin to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, office buildings are starting to open up again. But not everyone is excited about the prospect of giving up their “new normal” in exchange for their old routines and way of life. There is been so much focus on what we’ve lost over the past year, but so many of us have gained a lot too (more family time, flexibility, new hobbies, etc.). We’ve also dealt with so much uncertainty and stress over the past year and it’s going to take time to adjust to the world opening up again. All of this is adding up to very real anxiety about returning to the office and employers need to recognize it.

What are some of the major anxiety-inducing areas people are experiencing when it comes office re-entry? Here’s a look at a few:

A Loss of Time and Flexibility

Not everyone has had the luxury of working from home during the pandemic. But for those who have, there have been some silver linings during the past year. Not sitting in traffic and saving money on gas. Spending more time with family. Making more home cooked meals. Those are just a few of advantages many have experienced during an otherwise difficult year. And many workers are not eager to give up that newfound flexibility.

Fear of COVID-19 Spread in Closer Quarters

We know we have effective vaccines, but we still don’t know how long they’re effective. There is still a lot to be figured out and that’s causing anxiety for many people returning to the workplace. What will be the cleaning protocol for the office? Will people be required to wear masks? There are still so many questions. In fact, a survey released in March by the American Psychological Association found that 48% of people who have been fully vaccinated feel uneasy about returning to in-person interactions once the pandemic is over.

Better Focus and Less Distractions Working from Home

Yes, it took many of us a while to adjust to working from home and develop new routines. For those with small children, that may have been next to impossible. But for many, working from home offered a better chance to focus without the distractions of office life, particularly in the age of the open office plan. For introverted people, working from home may have been a dream come true! A recent survey of professionals by staffing firm Robert Half found that only 25% of people want to return fully to the office.

Our next article will touch on ways that employees can reduce anxiety as they return to office life. If you’d like help transitioning your team members back to the office, Leah M Joppy and Associates can help with ways to make the process smoother and reduce stress for everyone.

Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Pivoting To A New Way Of Business

For the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many workplaces to upend traditional office environments and pivot to a new way of doing business. These changes looked different across various industries, but one thing is certain: work life will never be the same again.  Many of the workplace changes that became necessary because of the pandemic will likely impact the way we work for the long-term. This month and next, we’ll look at a few of the workplace trends you can expect to see. Here’s a look at 3 of the biggest:

  1. Continuation of remote work or moving towards a hybrid model: According to surveys from the IBM Institute of Business Value, 83% of people want to continue working from home in some capacity. Many organizations have seen the light and have determined that some degree of remote work can be a win-win for everyone. It’s a retention tool for present employees, as well as a recruitment perk for future talent.
  2. Bigger focus on employee wellbeing: The pandemic has required organizations to rethink what it means to have a healthy and safe workplace. Many are improving benefits related to employee mental and physical health, childcare and paid time off. Workspaces will be reimagined to maximize both safety and employee collaboration.
  3. Improving schedule flexibility: Prior to the pandemic, flexibility was seen as a perk. For many, it’s now a necessity. Employers are finally understanding the need to accommodate families who have school-aged children at home, particularly those who will continue with some form of online learning. After a year of working from home, many employees have grown accustomed to more flexible working hours and are going to be resistant to going back to more rigid hours. Now is the time to look at present policies and implementing changes to accommodate your team members.

Have you started thinking about how your workplace will look moving forward? Now is the time to rethink your old systems and habits and create a better environment for your team. Leah M. Joppy and Associates can help you take a look at your old ways of doing business and where you can make improvements – all while continuing to maximize productivity. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com.

Re-imagining How Work Is Done

When we think about how our lives have changed over the past year, our work life is probably one area where we’ve felt the greatest impact. The pandemic forced many offices to adopt new ways of working in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees – and they had to do it virtually overnight. For many people, it meant working from home exclusively and the numbers prove it. According to a Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans working in some form from home jumped from around 25% to more than 60% during the height of the pandemic. As more people are fully vaccinated and life begins to return to some sense of normalcy, many employees have started to return to the office. However, the future of traditional work life and workspace will likely be impacted for the foreseeable future.

Some employees are eager to return to the office and have face-to-face contact with others and enjoy post-work happy hours. Others have adjusted to working from home and don’t miss their long commute. Companies are realizing that there are advantages to both work from home and office time. That’s why the hybrid model where employees can work at least a few days from home may likely become the new norm. It’s one of several workplace trends that we’ll discuss in the next article.

There are a lot of questions businesses must answer about the role of the office moving forward. It differs across industries and there is no one-size-fits all approach. However, there are some universal steps organizations need to take to re-imagine how work is done:

  • Decide how and where people work: Can some workers be fully remote? Does a hybrid remote model make more sense? Or does work need to take place on site?
  • Redesign the workplace to correspond with company priorities: Looking at spacing issues between desks, meeting space, the airflow of the office and upgrading technology to collaborate with people working from home are just a few areas to consider.
  • Look at the footprint of the office and resize creatively: Now is the time to take a fresh look at how much space is required and the location.

Across industries, leaders will use the lessons learned from the pandemic to reimagine how and where work gets done. Employees will demand it. Organizations must use this time to break from the old habits of the past and reinvent what a collaborative and productive work environment looks like moving forward. Creative and bold organizations will be the ones that meet the challenge and retain and attract employees.

Is your organization poised to make challenging workplace decisions that will create a better experience for your employees? Leah M Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.