by Caitlin Clement | Apr 19, 2021 | Business Analysis and Strategy, Coronavirus Response, Marketing and Communicatons, Project Management
From project workflow to employer expectations, check out these five tips on how to streamline your company’s internal communication.
As more and more workers are vaccinated and companies start preparing a return-to-office plan, hopeful to start implementing by summer, virtual communication among teams is going to be pivotal for a smooth transition.
This pandemic has been anything but predictable, so who’s to say our return to the office is going to be any different? According to an article by the New York Times, many companies plan to implement a hybrid return-to-office plan. Meaning, workers will come to the office, for example, three times a week and then work virtually the other two. With workers no longer being in one place, either online or in the office, this could lend itself to some communication problems.
Pre-pandemic, we were still heavily reliant on technology and virtual communication. Since then, however, we’ve definitely upped our game. It’s going to be important that teams continue to keep up with virtual communication as return-to-office plans start going into effect.
Pitfalls of Poor Communication
I think it’s safe to say that good company communication leads to a more successful business. So, when your communication is lacking, the effects can be felt company-wide. In an article by the Harvard Business Review, it is said that poor communication can prevent innovation and engagement among workers – two highly prized commodities as an employer.
As a result, it’s hard to receive constructive collective feedback or brainstorm that next big campaign idea. This ineffective collaboration can also slow employees down––helping facilitate a negative company culture. The pandemic isn’t all to blame though. According to a pre-COVID survey by Gallup in 2018, 53% of employees said they were “not engaged” in their work. Thirteen percent even said they were “actively disengaged”; up from previous years of the survey, but still leaving a lot of room for improvement.
Here are five ways to steer clear of communication pitfalls:
1. Demonstrate Empathy
As an employer within your company, it’s important to realize that outside stressors can affect a person’s engagement at work. We’ve all been through it, especially in this last year. Letting your employees know that you care and are there to listen tends to make them feel more valued in their roles, increasing productivity.
A good way to reach out to your employees is to take a minute or two before a meeting and build in some casual conversation. Ask them about their day, family, kids, hobbies, etc. Opening up that door to conversation can help you connect with them as people, not just as workers. This can be especially valuable in strengthening relationships between you and your employees virtually when you don’t have the same organic opportunities.
However, as offices start to open back up again, you may get to utilize the elevator run-in or quick cubicle chat from the past depending on your company’s plans.
2. Utilize Communication Platforms
If you’re not already using platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and/or Adobe Connect, you should consider it. These tools offer organization through chat channels and video chat platforms, which allow presentation and document sharing capabilities. Basically, it makes communicational organization easy.
These platforms can also give your team a place to catch up with co-workers by utilizing chat channels or direct messaging in a remote working environment. Set up channels that are strictly for casual chatting or jokes to help employees bond. It’s an easier, less formal alternative to email yet more professional than a text message. Platforms like Slack can also promote collaboration amongst teams, once again increasing productivity and creating an overall more positive and productive company culture as a result. This is especially true as people start to transition to a more hybrid working environment.
3. Consider Employee Feedback
Give employees multiple outlets where they can share their feedback. Oftentimes you can’t see or hear everything, so it’s important to create an environment where your employees feel encouraged to give their thoughts and feedback.
In an article by Bloomfire, they suggest conducting stay interviews to understand why people stay, what is working for them, and what they’d like to improve. Perhaps the information they give you could lead to better employee retention for your company.
Another thing to consider is creating an anonymous feedback form. Let’s be honest, not everyone is going to say what they really think when their boss is right in front of them. It’s important to realize that some feedback is going to be negative, but that’s okay. Recognizing and fixing the problem earlier is always better than later. This will be especially important when companies start their transitions back to the office. Hearing employee feedback on the process and organization will be key in knowing if what you’re doing is effective and keeping them safe.
4. Keep Workflows Transparent
Whether a big project is coming up or you’re working on day-to-day tasks, workflow transparency is super important to mitigate any miscommunications. Does the team know the project deadline? Who is responsible for what parts? When do they need to send it off to the next team member? At one point or another we’ve all been a part of a group or project where nothing seems to be nailed down and no one really knows what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
Clearly and concisely communicating expectations and workflows early on will give your employees a more positive working experience. Not to mention they’re more likely to produce better work as a result. To further streamline communication, utilize programs like Trello or Asana to keep track of projects and collaboration. These services send alert updates and make it easier to track progress as projects move forward. With people soon to be both in the office and remote, clear communication regarding projects has the potential to get messy in the coming months.
5. Stay Consistent
Employees need consistency to work productively. If they’re constantly trying to figure out a new workflow or operation, then they aren’t focused on innovation and collaboration. While it’s good to change things up every now and again for the sake of company growth, the way that it’s communicated needs to be consistent every time. Don’t leave them to figure most of it out on their own. Properly train and educate them on the new change.
Also, be consistent in your expectations. Do your employees know what you expect to see from them in their work? Have you been communicating check-ins and deadlines? For an employee, one of the most frustrating things is finding out your employer or supervisor wanted something completely different for a project. Not only is that defeating, but now the project isn’t going to meet its deadline because of inconsistent communication.
As things become a little more transitional in this next half of 2021, keep these tips in mind when thinking about your internal communication. Even if you’re implementing most of these things already, it’s always good to check-in and reevaluate your company culture. Successful communication is at the core of every successful company.
by Caitlin Clement | Mar 29, 2021 | Business Analysis and Strategy, Coronavirus Response, Marketing and Communicatons
Entry-level jobs are down, but that doesn’t mean you’re out
Here we are. Another round of college graduates are about to head off into the professional world in the wake of the pandemic. As more vaccines become available in these next rollouts, it opens the door for new groups of people and gives hope of a more normal life to come. But the economic affects of this last year haven’t left the door quite as wide open for entry-level positions essential to college graduates.
The reality of it is, even in a normal year, major matters. A study that was recently completed by Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman using data from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analytics firm, showed that those in the visual and performing arts and communications/journalism industries dropped 43 and 42 percent. It’s important to note, however, that all job markets have seen drops to their labor-market. Something I, a soon-to-be journalism grad, can feel in my current job search.
All is not lost in the post-grad job search though. The study suggests looking into “target occupations”, professions across a range of majors with solid salaries and where employers continue to hire at the entry level. They also suggest “lifeboat occupations”. These jobs typically require less than a bachelor’s degree but allow employees to gain important skills they can use to transition later.
Find a job with sellable skills
“When it comes to future prospects, there’s a big difference between taking a job on an IT help desk versus winding up as a barista.” Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman said in an article by the Wall Street Journal.
While there’s nothing wrong with working as a barista for a dream job, in fact service industry jobs provide great customer service experience, it’s important to make sure that it’s helping to build your resume in the right ways. If your major lends itself to a 9-to-5 office job, you’ll want to find work that puts you into that environment. Knowing how the culture and structure of an office works while getting used to the hours is going to benefit you when you finally land that dream job.
Using the communications and journalism majors as an example, the study suggests targeting industry occupations such as reporter, web developer and writer/author for their slightly higher availability. But let’s face it, there isn’t enough for everyone. “Lifeboat jobs”, albeit not everyone’s #1 choice, can offer you skills that employers are looking for. The study shows “lifeboat jobs” like a computer user support specialists and loan officers can make a salary up to $55,000 with some benefits. It’s worth it to take a deep dive into job search sites like Indeed or LinkedIn to find entry level jobs that match key resume builders. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that you can see if any of your connections also work at the companies you’re applying to. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you never know where a connection may take you.
There’s nothing more true than the age old saying of “who you know matters”. Having that one mutual connection can be the difference between getting the job or not. That may seem a little dramatic but it’s true. Reach out to old bosses, past coworkers, your parent’s friends, older graduates, alumni, the mail man (okay maybe not that one), but you get the idea. Ask if they know of any opportunities that would be good for you and set up an informational interview. If you can, get in touch with someone in the company you’re applying to and ask them out for a zoom coffee. you could even send them a virtual gift card to their favorite coffee place as a way to “buy” them a coffee on you. The Starbucks app offers a lot of themed gift cards and Venmo is always an option as well.
Then, when you finally get that informational interview, come prepared with questions and make a good impression. You are the one who asked them, don’t make them carry on the conversation. Also, don’t log on looking like you just rolled out of bed either (we’ve all done it). Get up, eat a good breakfast, and put on a professional outfit that you feel confident in. If you can, casually mention that you’re applying to a position in their company, but don’t push it. It’s up to them whether or not they mention you to recruiters.
Lastly, get their address. No, this does not mean go to their house. Once the informational interview is done, you want to send a follow up thank you email and then send them a handwritten thank you letter. SEND. THE. LETTER. People love to receive handwritten letters and it shows that you’re proactive. Stamps and stationary are cheap and writing is free. It’ll be worth the investment.
For those college students that still have a year or more left in their studies, look into classes that may not be in your major but could be sellable skills that will make you stand out. Take an app design class or take a class that teaches you software systems such as Adobe Suites, Excel, and some CMS systems to name a few. You can also check out Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utilizing for more ideas.
However, even if you are graduating at the end of May 2021, don’t think that your learning needs to stop there. Look into online courses and programs that can teach you these sellable skills if you didn’t get to them in college. Many industry professionals continue to attend webinars, speakers, classes, and other informational sessions to keep up with trends and changes in the marketplace/industry all the time. Zoom has also made it so much easier to attend such events by removing travel time and increasing accessibility.
The hard reality is, they are just not that many jobs right now. As someone who is about to graduate, I am all too aware of that fact. But there are things we can do to obtain that workplace experience so that we can end up in the jobs we went to college for. Try out your top jobs first, you may actually get them––but if you find yourself struggling in the entry-level job market, use some of the tips above to help you find something that will still benefit you in the long run.
by Phil Dunshee | Aug 28, 2020 | Business Analysis and Strategy, Coronavirus Response, Organization Management
If you work in the field of economic development, and more specifically if you have an economic interest in the real estate industry, then you know the value of stability in the marketplace. Significant events with adverse economic impacts, such as COVID-19 and a derecho, can have a cascading effect on jobs, families, and the economy generally. That is why it has been important for government, non-profit organizations, and businesses to support activities that collectively create a safety net – to provide some measure of economic stability. It’s one of the reasons the State of Iowa, local governments and community organizations created their own economic recovery grant programs. Other nationwide support systems, such as unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program and various forms of natural disaster assistance, have also been important.
To be sure, these are imperfect systems, and one can debate the effectiveness of various policy alternatives or the extent to which we can borrow from the future to pay for them. But there is no question that they have provided an important lifeline to many during these challenging times. While some programs have ended or are winding down, there are some that will continue for a few months longer. Two of them are designed to help people stay in their homes and businesses by assisting with rent and utility expenses.
Iowa COVID-19 Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention (EFP) Program
The Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) reported last week that rental assistance has been provided to just over 2000 applicants equaling approximately $4.8 million. On the foreclosure side, the EFP Program has awarded nearly $135,000 to 61 applicants. Approximately $15 million in funds remain in the program, which will remain open until funds are exhausted or until December, 2020, whichever comes first.
IFA reports that the program has seen a significant increase in the number of applications being submitted since August 1. On Tuesday, August 4, it was announced that Iowans who have been receiving $600 a week in federal unemployment stimulus benefits may now apply for the rent and mortgage assistance. For more information, visit https://www.iowafinance.com/covid-19-iowa-eviction-and-foreclosure-prevention-program/.
Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program
The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently announced that more Iowa small business owners and nonprofits are now eligible to receive financial assistance with electric and natural gas utility bills. Eligibility criteria for the Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program has been expanded to include utility assistance for eligible small businesses and nonprofits for electric or natural gas service provided between March 17, 2020 and October 15, 2020.
To be eligible, small businesses and nonprofits must have experienced a COVID-19 loss of income. Financial assistance of up to $7,500 is available. Payment’s would be made directly to an applicant’s utility service provider. The program will accept applications through October 31, 2020 or until all funds have been exhausted. The state allocated approximately $14.5 million of federal CARES Act funds for the program when launched in early July.
For more information, visit https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/energy-recovery or call 515.348.8914 (toll free: 855.300.2342).
The Enterprise Iowa team encourages our clients and affiliated organizations to share this information with everyone in their various networks. Let’s do what we can to ensure that the individuals and businesses in need of this assistance get connected with these resources. It is the type of help that can increase economic stability for the benefit of all.
by Morgan Kirby | Jun 15, 2020 | Business Analysis and Strategy, Coronavirus Response, Marketing and Communicatons
In a world forever changed by a global pandemic, we are also experiencing a business world forever changed. While COVID-19 has obviously given businesses a whole slew of challenges, there are also key takeaways that can be applied to improve business operations in the long run. These are not necessarily new technologies, but they all deserve an extra round of applause for helping our team and other teams continue to make it through our time away from the office. They will also certainly have a new face even after the pandemic dissipates.
With that said, here is our list of the most helpful tools for continuing remote operations:
Videoconferencing has largely made the transition to remote offices possible. There are many videoconferencing platforms out there, but Adobe Connect has primarily been what our team has used. It’s an essential communication tool to more closely mimic that in-person conversation as well as explain more complex tasks and issues. It comes in handy both for internal and external meetings that would typically happen in person.
Slack (or a similar platform) has been pretty much essential for any business to continue operations through these times. It is arguably the best way for teams to instant message each other to keep projects flowing. Our team utilized Slack before this all began, but this pandemic gave Slack a newfound purpose for our team at Enterprise Iowa.
Microsoft SharePoint has been another essential technology our team has used away from the office. It’s a web-based shared library that allows each member of our team to access files outside of the office. Prior to the pandemic, we mostly had to be at our desks to access company-wide files. This has truly allowed our team to operate fully remote.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Like SharePoint, Adobe Creative Cloud has a shared library feature. When creating graphics for a variety of uses, the library is helpful tool to keep themes consistent across all design elements. This means that from anywhere, anyone on our team can create new themed designs without having to access files on the network in the office.
Mailchimp has been another life-saving communication tool in the times of COVID-19. It has been our best and easiest way to share information with our audience. This not only includes updates about continuing business through these times, but also serves as a relevant information tool for the virus itself.
Much like Mailchimp, Hootsuite has been another way to keep our customers and audience updated through social media platforms. Hootsuite is an easy place to manage all social media platforms, schedule reminders, and allows access for our team members within the account. Again, it allows us to update everyone regarding our business and COVID-19.
I’m writing this blog with WordPress right now! WordPress has been another essential tool to keep everyone updated and informed. Aside from the blogs, the websites we run are also created with WordPress. Again, websites are a fantastic way to update everyone about continuing business as well as finding relevant information about COVID-19.
This one is different because it is hardware rather than software, but docking stations paired with laptops have been incredibly useful through the pandemic. As companies look to new technologies for their offices, docking stations allow much more flexibility when working from home as well. Rather than having a stationary desktop, having a laptop that you can connect to a docking station for all office files, programs, etc. that you can also disconnect to take the laptop anywhere allows for a lot more freedom away from the office.
As you can tell, the age of communication is changing—and that change has been expedited by this global pandemic. COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we operate our businesses, and many of these practices will likely carry over to a post-pandemic world. While some jobs will return to what they once were, and some jobs never really changed throughout this pandemic, a lot of jobs will likely be transformed forever by technology used remotely to grant employees more freedom when it comes to the workplace.
Remember, while more and more of the country begins to reopen and businesses may be returning to normal, or our new normal, COVID-19 has not just disappeared. Cases are still on the rise, so it is important to still be taking safety precautions even as we ease back into our typical day-to-day lives. Throughout these changing times, stay happy and stay healthy.
by Morgan Kirby | May 18, 2020 | Coronavirus Response, Marketing and Communicatons
As I finish up my internship with Enterprise Iowa, I have also graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University. In a world forever changed by COVID-19, not only is health on the line making last semesters and graduation ceremonies look very different, but there are millions of graduates looking for jobs in one of the most insecure economies we have seen in history.
Advocates for the character of this generation will say that we are a generation of activism. I remember a professor of mine sending admiration to my classmates and our generation saying something of the following nature:
“My generation and generations before you guys understand that the world can be a dark place, but we tend to accept that’s just the way things are. Your generation understands that the world can be a dark place, but instead you do not accept that’s just the way things are. Instead you see an opportunity to change it.”
So, as we have seen exemplified by this pandemic in multiple ways, the world can sometimes be a dark place. But if anyone is prepared to enter a world of uncertainty, my generation might just be the ones cut out for the challenge.
Although industries as a whole may be scaling back labor costs and become cautious of new hires, it is important to note that jobs are still out there. More importantly, there are companies who are finding increased demand and a need to scale up their business in light of this pandemic. Also, many of these companies are offering phone and video interviews and allowing new hires to work from home as they train and get accustomed to their new job until it is deemed safe to return to the workplace. I have also seen more fully remote positions than I ever remember seeing in the past. And, in the age of technology, it is much easier to find these jobs–and find these jobs safely from your couch–with company website career pages and online job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster. Additionally, LinkedIn is a great source for job postings tied in with a social media aspect. With these resources, it is easy to browse a wide variety of jobs that may pique your interest and match your qualifications. Personally, I’m a big user of Indeed, LinkedIn, and company website career pages.
This is a post targeted towards 2020 graduates, but there is also a record number of unemployed Americans since the Great Depression. Therefore, here are some basic tips for anyone who is in need of employment:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network. Employment is largely about who you know, not what you know. Even if your mom’s best friend is currently unable to bring you on at her office, she may know someone else who is hiring. And, the worst answer you can receive is no, and the answer will always be no if you don’t try.
- Create an aesthetically pleasing resume and cover letter to represent your personal brand. The content, while it does have importance, is probably less important than you think. It is more important to catch the employer’s eye when sifting through a stack of applications. A black and white page filled with 10-point text will probably be overlooked simply because it is boring to look at, not because your resume isn’t impressive. So, keep things simple, easy to read, and add something interesting to catch the eye.
- Be open to applying to and accepting jobs that you may have not previously considered. Especially if you are struggling to find employment, have an open mind when applying for jobs and broaden your horizons. You may be surprised to find out what you enjoy doing, and even if you later figure out that you don’t like it, you can always search for new employment down the road when the opportunity presents itself.
- Apply, apply, apply, and then apply some more. You can expect to hear back from just 10% of jobs you apply to. Additionally, it is unlikely that all of that 10% will result in a job offer (and that 10% statistic is under normal economic circumstances). This statistic is not meant to be discouraging or daunting, it just goes to show that applying to a multitude of jobs is important. So, when it comes to the success of job applications, you will find safety in numbers. And remember, you will face a lot of rejection, so try not to take that too personally.
Here are some other notable facts and pointers to consider while you continue your job search:
- Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federally administered student loan payments are suspended until September 30th of this year. This act only applies to federal loans and not private loans; however, if applicable, contact your private loan provider to ask about payment relief.
- Research COVID-19 relief scholarships. These funds are obviously not a guarantee, but it may be worth it to apply. Some websites worth checking out are Scholarships.com, Scholly, and FastWeb.
- For immediate relief, see if you qualify for unemployment benefits while you continue your job search. Unemployment benefits and qualifications vary by state, but Iowa’s fact sheet and application can be found here.
All in all, it is important to stay hopeful. That may be easier said than done in the current times we are facing, but try to hone in on the things that bring you joy while keeping sight of the bigger picture. Eventually, something good will come to us all—in this case in the form of a new job—and we will all settle into our new normal.
Quick links to websites mentioned in this article:
Iowa Workforce Development: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits