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First Impressions and Why Small Talk
Is Such a Big Deal

By Brenda Smyth

   Seven seconds. Experts tell us that’s how long it takes to make a first impression.No pressure … really. There you are, stranded in the elevator with a coworker you’ve never met. Neither of you say a word … the elevator stops, and you both exit.  That’s a lost opportunity.
   In an article for Psychology Today, Karla Starr simplifies first impressions as a way your brain “assigns a value to a person … based on how important they are to your own motivations. Our impressions factor ineverything from what we’ve heard about them to howoften they blink.”
   Small factors can change the way someone views you. A lack of eye contact may make you appear dishonest. Constantly checking your phone can make you seem disinterested. So, how can you make the most of a situation where you’re thrown together with someone you don’t know? Starr’sadvice: “Give people a reason to trust and value you.”
Here are some of the key factors in first impressions:First Meet

  • Appearance
  • Manners
  • Body language
  • Conversation
  • Attentiveness

   Back to that coworker in the elevator …. You’re tidy. You hold the door for them. You smile. You make eyecontact. You introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Brenda. I’m new. I work in marketing.” They will likely respond with the same information. As they reach their floor, shake their hand, repeat their name, and say: “It was nice to meet you, Robin.” If the ride is longer than that, you could mention a recent company event. You could ask a question about their department. You could ask how long they’ve been with the company.
How hard is this really?
   Now, let’s up the ante … it’s the CEO in the elevator with you. You’ve been with the company a few months. You recognize her, but you’re not sure she recognizes you. You smile. You make eye contact. You say, “Hi, how’s your Monday going?” She responds with a quick, “Fine, and you?” Here’s your chance to make a little small talk. “It’s good. Just taking a breather from this month’s (task). I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Brenda. I work in the marketing department with (your boss).”   Elevator ride ends …  You say, “Nice chatting with you,Barbara.”  Other topics you could mention: a speech she gave that you watched, a company event you attended and liked, an email about something new.“I’m really excited about the work we’re going to be doing with….” or “I had a chance to check out the new video you posted to the website and really enjoyed it ….” Or “I totally loved that last company event.  It seemed like everyone was having a nice time.”
   Small talk leads the way to more meaningful conversations. It’s a key component in making a good first impression and the first step to friendship or a solid business relationship. Starr suggests bringing up shared social connections … shared activities, mutual acquaintances, or connections … all with a SMILE.  Here are a few additional tips for making small talk:

  • Be willing to start the conversation. Chances are you’re both a little nervous.
  • Keep your comments positive. No one wants to be approached by a complainer or someone who’s talking bad about another person or the company.
  • Listen and focus on the person (not your phone). Make eye contact and listen completely. This will help the conversation bloom in a more natural way. Allow the other person to speak more than you do.
  • Use his or her name.
  • Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions. “What do you do?” is not the most interesting way to begin.
  • Don’t give yes-or-no answers if you’re asked aquestion, even if it’s a yes-or-no question. Expand on your answer so you’re not putting all theconversation pressure on the other person.

   Every business relationship begins with a firstimpression. So think about the impression you want to make. Our brains are primitive (and fast). So, your goal is to make it OK for the person to get close to you.

Eat Healthy to Cut Cancer Risk

By Allison Horton

The best cancer-fighting foods:
Legumes: Lentils and beans, such as red, black, pinto and kidney are a great source of protein other than meat.  Legumes are also rich in fiber and a good source of folate.
Broccoli:  It is an excellent source of Vitamin C, folate, fiber and potassium, among other nutrients.  It is considered anti-cancerous.  Broccoli is one of the cruciferous vegetables, which includes   Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collard greens.
Nuts and seeds:  Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are healthy fats and have omega 3.  Walnuts, especially, contain high amounts of polyphenols, phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants provide cell protection from damage caused by free radicals.  Seeds such as flaxseed provide        magnesium, protein and fiber.
Grapefruit:  Contains phytochemicals, which can have             antioxidants and provide cell protection.  Papaya, mango and   citrus foods are high in vitamin c and are very beneficial.
Spinach:  Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf   lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard have fiber, folate and carotenoids, which have   antioxidants.  Spinach is high in protein and an alternative source instead of meat.
Whole grains:  Brown rice, oatmeal, corn, whole-wheat bread, barley and faro are some of the whole grains that are high in protein and fiber.  Whole grains provide more fiber, nutrition and phytochemicals than refined grains.
Blueberries:  Contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which give the  berries their blue color.  High in antioxidants, blueberries also contain vitamins C and K, and         manganese.  Besides containing antioxidants, blueberries can also help people to focus and are heart healthy.Wheat Bread
Carrots:  These vegetables can be found in the colors of orange, purple, red and yellow.  Very high in vitamin A, carrots also contain vitamin K, beta-carotene, fiber and phytochemicals.  Carrots help with the immune system, are anti-cancerous and protect cells.
Garlic:  A common ingredient in food across the world, garlic is part of the same family of vegetables that includes onions,       scallions, shallots, leeks and chives.  It is anti-cancerous, good for your gastrointestinal health and protects your cells.
Salmon:  One of several types of fatty fish that contains omega 3, which is anti-inflammatory.  Also good: mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, shrimp and scallops.
What to avoid:
Sugary drinks such as sodas and juices.  Swap sodas for flavored sparkling water or add fruit like melon,    berries or citrus to your water.
Red meat, beef, lamb and pork.  Eating more than 18 ounces of red meat weekly increases the risk of        colorectal cancers.
Processed foods: Consuming sausage and hot dogs regularly increases risk of colon cancer.  Processed foods often contain added fat, sugar and sodium as well as low in nutrients and fiber.  Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid boxed items that are high in sugar and chemicals.

Build Your Strategic Thinking Skills

From the Managers Minute   

   Strategic thinking is a highly valued leadership quality.  Maybe you’re not a leader … yet.  So, you’re thinking, “no need to worry about that.” But, strategic thinking doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that takes practice.  So now is actually the perfect time to start practicing … every day.  It’s comfortable and easy to attach yourself to your day-to-day tasks. Putting out fires is a daily occurrence for many of us. And getting all those things done is important to keeping the job you were hired to do. Your top priority is obviously getting the work done.
   The trick is to not get so caught up in the work that you don’t stop to consider if there’s a better way to do things … or how your actions are helping to achieve goals. Strategic thinkers consistently ask why and when. They gather information. They solve problems objectively. They innovate. They plan ahead. They adjust. They recognize how their actions affect other departments, the company as a whole, customers, etc., not just now, but long term.
   If you haven’t focused on big-picture thinking before now, that may be by unintentional design. Most companies reward  employees based on short-term solutions and accomplishments. These incentives are designed to keep you focused on the       immediate demands of your job.  But, while companies do need that focus, they also greatly need your innovation and ideas.
   Talk to your boss about your desire to expand beyond the    required job skills. Ask for big-picture information that might help you better understand the role you play in organizational goals. Then, here are some ways to get you started in your strategic thinking.

  • Take time to think about problems you face at work — delays, bottlenecks, people, slow procedures, certain customers, etc.
  • Select one of these problems — one problem at a time usually works best.Strategic Thinking
  • Study that problem. (Be sure to choose a problem that you have control over, so you could potentially solve that problem.)
  • Determine what information you need to help solve this problem, and do your best to get it.
  • Analyze and digest the information you’ve collected.
  • What are your options? Are there short-term solutions? Long term? Are your choices limited by budget, time, or power?
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
  • Make a choice and monitor what happens. Be ready to change your approach if the outcome doesn’t shift.

   Repeating the same actions day after day will usually give you the same results.  That’s great in a world where nothing changes. Gradual industry shifts can sneak up on organizations. Noticing these slight trends and calling attention to them makes    organizations stronger.  And, practicing your strategic thinking now helps you develop this vital leadership quality.


By Dan Rose

 Many, many years ago … before it was called onboarding … companies used to call the process of welcoming new employees, “orientation”, and they did it even worse than what companies do now.  Maybe it was because those Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations of workers were brought up with the “grow old and die with the company” mindset? Organizations didn’t put that much effort into welcoming new people because buzz words like “employee engagement” and “retention” weren’t on the minds of management. Profits were.
 However, times have changed and so have workers. Today’s research shows that a successful onboarding process for new hires dramatically increases their engagement, loyalty, and the odds of them sticking around long-term. So, if the data shows how important onboarding is for organizations everywhere, why oh why do so many companies screw it up?
 There are several reasons why companies have trouble with their onboarding procedures, but they usually boil down to one thing: If you make it as impersonal as most companies do, you’re sending a strong message to your new employee that all that sweetness and light and “We are Family” talk they heard during their recruitment, may have just been a smoke screen.
Show interest in your new hires if you want them to reciprocate
Think about your last two or three jobs … how did those companies handle you coming aboard? Probably not as well as you would have liked, which is why they are now your FORMER employers! Let’s see if this sounds about right ….

  • You accepted the job offer and told your new boss that you wouldn’t be able to start for two weeks because you wanted to give your current employer notice.
  • Nobody contacts you from your new company for the two weeks, except for an email from HR telling you to report to their office bright and early on your first day.
  • When you arrive, you sit by the receptionist’s desk out front for ten minutes until an HR person comes to retrieve you. Then you spend the next 90 to 180 minutes filling out employment paperwork, I-9 forms, getting info-dumped about your health and insurance benefits, and maybe watching one or more cheesy “welcome videos” with a brief history of the organization. You don’t want to say anything, but it’s obvious these videos are probably a decade old.
  • When you’re pardoned from HR prison, your manager comes down to get you and takes you up to your new cubicle/office/workspace.

But wait … the onboarding process gets better (not)Office Keys

  • Your new manager either: a) has an important meeting to get to, so he or she leaves you in the care of the department’s administrative assistant. The admin gives you a quick tour of the department and takes you to your new desk. She’s surprised when the drawers are full of old junk from the previous occupant, including one entire drawer packed with old pens, highlighters and markers … only four of which actually work. She apologizes and promises to get you some things from the supply closet later. There is nothing on your gray cubicle walls except a copy of the company phone extension list. The admin hands you another bunch of pages on how to use your computer, telephone, other office equipment … etc.
  • Or, b) walks you around herself and introduces you to 30-40 people you’ll be working with, both in and out of your department. By the time you’re done, your head is about to explode from trying to put names with faces and job titles. All you want to do is find the bathroom and decompress for five minutes. Oh, but the desk is still in its gray, lifeless, multiple pen holding state, so you still have that going for you.
  • But at least they’re taking you to lunch, right?

That is a lot of brain-scrambling, mind-numbing and head-swimming stuff going on, and you haven’t even begun to tackle the actual work you’re going to do for this company. Needless to say, this example above is an ineffective onboarding process and all but guarantees increased turnover in the future if it doesn’t improve.
Onboarding can save you from the high cost of employee turnover
 Most industry experts believe that American corporations have turnover rates around 20-25 %, while some industries see 30-40 % churn. That’s a staggering amount of turnover, but it is common in most industries and even expected in some, such as retail, customer service and hospitality. While opinion varies on the cost to replace an employee, it is generally accepted that mid-level workers (those that make $30K to $60K) will cost employers about nine months’ salary to fill the empty position. So a manager earning $60K a year will cost $45K to replace. Higher-paid management and executive positions consistently cost 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary.
 Proponents of onboarding say that bringing a new employee on the right way can significantly reduce the chances of them leaving. In a 2007 survey, it was found that new hires going through a structured onboarding process were 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years. A 2009 study by the Aberdeen Group of senior executives with HR, staffing and recruiting duties, found that 86% of respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment.
Millennials are a key driver for the current emphasis of better onboarding
 With the growing number of Millennials entering key positions, gaining their loyalty right off the bat will become even more critical over the next 15 to 20 years. Why? Because Millennials will make up more than 50 % of the workforce by 2020, and are far more likely to job hop even when things are going good. They’re the polar opposites of the Baby Boomer generation, who grew up with the idea that you stayed with a company forever, no matter how miserable you were. (Joking … but not by much!) But, don’t think onboarding is just about retention. It’s also a key component to an employee’s productivity. The Aberdeen Group reported that—for companies with onboarding programs—66 percent claimed a higher rate of successful assimilation of new hires into company culture, 62 percent had higher time-to-productivity ratios, and 54 percent reported higher employee engagement. Those stats are like sweet music to management and Human Resources ears.
What is the first step to improve your onboarding process?
 So, what can you do to make your onboarding efforts more effective if you’re not satisfied with it? First, take off the rose-colored glasses you wear about your company and have serious exit interviews with employees who leave. If they’re going to be an ex-employee in an hour or two, they’ll likely give you the unvarnished truth if you have a non-confrontational discussion. You may not want to hear what they’re saying, but successful companies absolutely want to know why their people leave … and they act on what they hear.
 Next, schedule time to talk to all your new hires from the last year and ask them what they would have changed about their onboarding experience. Make sure they know that nothing they say will come back on them later. If you have to, set up an online survey where they can anonymously answer your questions and have a chance to tell you what they really feel and not what they think you want to hear.
Figure Out Your Onboarding Objectives
 If your onboarding program doesn’t answer all of the questions below, upper management and HR must get together to come up with solutions. Otherwise, it will be tough to gain team and management buy-in or ultimately, your new hires:

  • When will onboarding start and how long will it last?
  • When the employee goes home at the end of the first day, what impression will they have?
  • What is the “must know” part of the culture and work environment for the new hire? What is the “nice to know”?
  • For the most effective onboarding at our company, what roles do HR, direct managers and even co-workers play in the process?
  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
  • How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

Effective Onboarding Starts Before the New Hire’s First Day
 Instead of swamping them with a pile of paperwork their first day, send them out to the employee beforehand, for an electronic signature. Provide them with all their benefit information up front, giving them time to look it over and formulate questions that they can email HR with before they start work. If your company has an online employee portal for regular employees, create an onboarding portal for newbies.
 Give them content designed to engage them, such as a letter from their manager, first day information, directions to the office and where to park, and welcome messages and photos from their new co-workers. You can give them an electronic copy of the employee handbook, a complete job description, company acronyms and much more.
 Set up the employee’s desk, phone and computer and password logins before they arrive. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being wooed throughout the recruitment process, and then show up the first day to an empty desk with an old, ill-fitting chair that doesn’t work.
Get to the Root of Each Job
 In a recent survey of 1,000 respondents 23 % said they had left a previous job within six months because they never fully understood the responsibilities of their new job. Spell out job responsibilities often during the interview process, and then make it crystal clear (again) after the employee is hired. Hiring professionals must make this a priority beginning on Day One! Your two main effective onboarding goals that first day should be setting expectations and introducing objectives for both sides. Organizations that don’t focus on familiarizing new employees to their corporate culture are at a significant disadvantage. Employees who know what to expect from their company’s culture and work environment make better decisions. Period.
Give New Hires Attention, but Don’t Forget the Current Staff
 Much like the toddler who gets a new baby brother or sister, jealousy can flare up if too much attention is spent on “the new guy.” To keep existing team members from resenting a new employee, make sure roles and responsibilities are outlined for the entire team. Existing team members can feel threatened that someone new could take over their responsibilities. So, clarify the position of the new hire, as well as the positions of co-workers whose work is closely related. Go over how they’ll interact with each other, reporting hierarchy, and how future projects will run. This also keeps an ongoing dialogue between management and staff on how things are running in the department. That can have significant and beneficial long-term effects to productivity, harmony, and the well-being of the department.
Stay In Touch
 HR should take the lead on this part and schedule regular check-ins with the new hire at one month … three to six months … one year … and even beyond, depending on the new hire’s role.  Remember that most employees make their decision to stay with a company in that three- to six-month range. Yet, only about 15 percent of companies continue onboarding after three months. And, 83 percent don’t even make it that far. Continual updates keep the employee engaged and lets them know the company cares. In conjunction with their first annual performance review, have the conversation about their future career development. Use their one-year anniversary to transition the employee from the onboarding process to retention and engagement.
 Yes, effective onboarding can be difficult and time consuming, but not nearly as much as constantly having to replace employees who leave or get fired. However, once your process is up and running, the turnaround in productivity and engagement will be worth every cent spent and every minute devoted to it.

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