Author - Rachel Everett

Time For Spring Cleaning – Refresh Your Website For Higher Google Ranking

2015-03-28 19.14.15As tulips bloom, April deadlines loom.  Not that dreaded Tax Day, but rather Google’s April 21st Mobile-Friendly Website deadline. In recent news, Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in search results.  Per Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

If this is news to you, then here are few points to get you in the game:

So what does that mean for your website? If you’ve put off developing your website in either responsive design or a separate mobile site, then your site will have difficulty ranking in mobile search results.  If traffic to your website is predominantly mobile and your website is not mobile-friendly, then your traffic will most likely be decreased due to low ranking. 

Just how much of the traffic to my website is mobile?  There are several tools available for answering this, but the obvious choice is Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is able to segment the number of hits from desktop users versus mobile users.  Once you have the facts, you can determine if a responsive website becomes a high priority for Q2.

Try a few links using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.  The test  provides clear results as to whether your site is mobile-friendly or not.  In addition, it provides potential issues, a view of how the page displays on a mobile device, and suggested changes to your website.

Bottom-line: Don’t panic.  There’s still time to ensure your website ranks highly. Keep in mind that updating the mobile friendliness of your website doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Google’s algorithm will look at the mobile friendliness of each page.  If you have a page that gets more hits on mobile devices, start with that page and then address the remaining pages of the website. It’s these little updates that keep you fresher than the competition.

Women Approach Tipping Point in Tech

Womantech

Is the industry in for a gender reversal?

As a female CEO in the male-dominated IT industry, I spend a lot of time at the corner of Women and Technology. I watch that intersection, try to read the signs, see which way the traffic is going. Lately, there’s a lot of talk on the block.

Recent articles have asked “Are Women Advancing in IT?” or describe “What It’s Really Like To Be a Woman in Tech” or tell us “The Secret to Getting More Women Into Tech” or warn of “Tech’s Man Problem” or explain “Why We Need to Keep Talking About Women in Tech,” to pick just a few headlines.

Yes, this is yet another article on women in tech, but it occurs to me that all this talk may signal the last thrashings of issues that are going away, as women really come into their own. We may be approaching a tipping point for gender issues in technology—and by that, I mean the point at which they’re no longer issues at all.

Bigger and Better Numbers

One remarkable statistic from all that recent research: 60% of 2013 tech hires were women, doubling the 2012 rate. ±30% has been the plateau figure for years. A leap of this magnitude suggests that companies are not only hiring women for new positions, but replacing women in existing jobs with more women. (Quit rates for women in tech remain higher than for men, especially at mid-career.) Gender is clearly not the obstacle it once was—and the number of indisputably qualified women has jumped significantly.

These are reasonable conclusions, given recent success stories in academia. A lot of schools sat up and took notice when Harvey Mudd College quadrupled its female computer science majors in four years. It’s not lost on me that this took place after a woman became president of the college. But her strategies for the computer science program are based on common-sense ideas that both schools and workplaces can use (and are using) in cultivating a more diverse base of tech talent.

Closing the Gap

Women still earning 77 cents on the male dollar in other fields may begin to flood into technology, where the like-for-like pay gap is narrowing faster than elsewhere. Those mid-career quit rates do tend to reinforce the glass ceiling and keep average pay lower for women. But we’re far closer to parity in IT than in other private-sector industries.

The pay gap is smaller for federal government workers, too, which accounts for some private-sector attrition in tech fields. And in all three studies of government employees conducted over the past two decades, women have received more promotions and quality step increases than men, on a percentage basis.

Fairer treatment may be one reason I find far more women in director-level IT positions at federal agencies than in the private sector. This is anecdotal (and an impossible BLS search, triangulating high-level jobs in the information category with gender data on top of a public/private comparison), but I’m not the first person to make the observation. The federal government has made great strides toward gender equality following a 2010 EEOC report that identified obstacles to employment opportunities for women, specifically targeting federal-sector technology in recommendations to agencies.

Diversity Wins in the Marketplace

These encouraging signs bode well for federal institutions, if women improve government as they do technology businesses. According to ground-breaking research by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT), women significantly boost useful innovation. Technology teams comprised of both women and men produce IT patents that are cited 26 – 42% more often than similar patents developed by men only. Related research shows that companies with the highest representation of women in senior management average 35% higher returns on equity and 34% higher returns to stockholders than those with the lowest numbers of female senior managers.

These are really just the benefits of diversity. Larry Page of Google has said, “We’ll more than double our rate of technology output to the world” by recruiting more women. Still, only about 20% of Google’s engineers are women. As the benefits of diversity become clearer and women drive more (and more measurable) positive business results, the competitive advantages of inclusiveness and equality will become clearer as well.

Toward Solutions

Larry Page’s remark reminds us that women’s issues are ultimately a guy thing, too. To get beyond an industry defined by “techstosterone,” we need men in our corner. Some companies already recognize this. The NCWIT study cites the famed IBM Women Inventors Community, which had sponsorship from a male executive and has always included men in its mentorship program. I like IBM’s approach on this a lot. The fundamental concepts—mentors, support networks, focused brainstorms—can work for any industry, but seem especially useful in IT, where the pace and detail-orientation often create an obliviousness to larger issues of diversity and equality.

As we deepen our understanding of the need for gender diversity at every level, more tech companies will begin to look less like boys’ clubs with a few dismayed female faces here and there. Maybe we’ll stop talking about women in tech and find ourselves conversing at the corner of Technology and People. That will be good for everybody.

Winning Government Contracts and Steering the Future

BooksBudget reductions at government agencies can heighten competition for federal contracts. Old programs are discontinued; departments are restructured; experienced workers leave, jeopardizing existing relationships. What expertise do you offer potential agency partners, and what are the terms that will define how that partnership works? Understanding contract types can help you level the playing field for your business and aid you in winning contracts and developing business relationships that last.

A recent article published by the Department of Defense offers some great insights into pending budget cuts and restructuring. Moving forward, the government will be looking for specialists in smaller quantities. A contract with single-digit full time equivalents may not offer a high enough payout for large companies seeking scale and high price to offset their costs. The small and nimble company may be just what some agencies are looking for. Being nimble means you make it look easy — and making it look easy means you’ve done your homework.

Are you ready for the “road less traveled” of specialized, smaller-scale projects? Understanding contracting needs and procedures can get you running at top speed down this road.

Four Ways of Getting There

Companies like Viderity — agile, able to structure and execute projects with continuity, speed, and precision (and leap white marble buildings in a single bound!) — often top the list of competitors for government contracts. Let’s review a few contract types that we typically see:

  • Firm Fixed Price
  • Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity
  • Professional and Administrative Services Support
  • Time & Material

A Firm Fixed Price (FFP) contract provides stability for both parties. The government receives flexible expertise, while the vendor is assured of adequate money—which vendors tend to appreciate! All fees are rolled up into direct labor rates. Well-defined deliverables are advertised and may include Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) as part of the requirement. FTEs are sometimes used to determine the best price for a project; using FTEs also helps to calculate how many employees it would take to meet contract obligations.  FFPs allow for adequate price competition, reasonable price comparisons, and realistic estimates. This type of contract can streamline the source selection process. FFPs are governed by Federal Acquisition Regulation Subpart 16.2.

The Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract acts as a control for potential individual task orders. Details of the contract are specified by Technical Objectives for precise needs delivered during a defined period of time. This contract provides delivery control and is great for quick, short-suspense requirements. A Task Order (TO) can be derived from the IDIQ to support specific labor categories or specific services.

Professional and Administrative Services Support contracts set terms for program management and administration. Contractors are experts, highly skilled and knowledgeable in specific labor categories, e.g., IT Specialist, Program Manager, etc.

Time & Material (T&M) contracts assist requirement holders when they are uncertain of extent, duration of work, or costs involved. The default to use for cost projection would be the labor hour at a specific fixed hourly rate.

Who You’re Working For

As you navigate the details, it’s easy to lose sight of what this work is really all about. Get familiar with “The Basics of Government Contracting,” if you’re not already. Study the agency you’re hoping to work with. It’s surprising how many companies come in unprepared, focused only on their own needs and not on those of their potential partners.

It may sound old-fashioned, but government contractors are supposed to serve the public interest! Approach each contract as if it were your first, with the care and precision taxpayers deserve. For Viderity, on any road we’ve traveled, that has made all the difference.

Top 8 Technologies to Improve Workplace Health

 


8 technology advancements office healthTechnology
advancements improve our workplace productivity, but may have unintended
negative consequences on our bodies.
Health hazards of the office are often hidden and surprising, yet once identified
– hi-tech solutions are quickly developed in response. Here are eight
innovative technologies to improve your health in the office.

8. Video Games Relieve Stress

Work
is always stressful, but for some, this stress can be dangerous. One-sixth of
workers report that workplace anger has led to property damage. Another 2 to 3
percent of U.S. workers (about 3 million people) have admitted to pushing,
slapping or hitting someone at work. Twenty-two percent of U.S. workers report
being driven to tears because of workplace stress (Source).

Video
games may help relieve stress and prepare individuals for work. One study
suggests that workplace playfulness improved communication, creativity, problem
solving and team building. Video game play-time should be
kept to 10 – 15 minutes to maximize health benefits. Studies also suggest that particular
video games may also help children concentrate. 

7. Arm Rested Mousepad Improves Posture 

Repetitive
motions like typing and clicking can cause injury or pain and if this becomes
tingling, numbness, itching or even sharp pain – this could be carpal tunnel
syndrome. In addition, leaning forward to reach your mouse and keyboard can
strain your back.

A
mousepad is now available with an armrest, allowing you to
sit back and not lean forward – to help maintain better posture. One source says that this specialized arm-rest mousepad may help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and other
Repetitive Stress Injuries while releasing tension in the neck and upper back.

6. Computer Screen Advancements
for Eyestrain

Computer
Vision Syndrome (a.k.a. computer eyestrain) involves symptoms of burning, dry and
strained eyes, headache, neck ache and blurred vision. It’s caused by overuse
or misuse of computer monitors, bad lighting and other environmental factors. Repeated
physical discomfort due to one or more of these symptoms cuts your productivity
sharply over time.

The
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends trying a
different monitor. A wide variety of monitors with distinctive visual
experiences are available to choose from including CRT monitors, flat-screen,
wide screen, high definition, LCD and screens in matte and glossy finishes.

5. Antibacterial Keyboard Defends Against Germs 

Beware:
your desk may be 400 times dirtier than your toilet (Source). Eating at one’s desk is the
leading cause of bacteria because breadcrumbs and other food remnants get in
between keyboard keys, attracting rats and leading to germ exposure.

To
combat germs, use antibacterial wipes to wipe down your work-station daily.
Also, check out this state-of-the-art silicone portable antibacterial keyboard.
The keyboard’s light-weight flexible design makes it easy to carry
anywhere.

4. Track Lifestyle Habits with Fitbit

When busy at work, exercise and sleep can get squeezed – consciously or
subconsciously. Yet lack of exercise and sleep will hurt your daytime
productivity.  To ensure that you are
maintaining healthy lifestyle routines, check out the upcoming Fitbit product, Flex is a wireless activity and sleep wristband coming out in Spring 2013.

3. Touch Screen
Products/Tablets Replacing Desktop Computers

Repetitive typing and
clicking cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other Repetitive Stress Injuries.
Sitting in one place for long periods of time causes back pain.

In some work
setting, touch screen tablets are replacing desktop computers – reducing typing
and increasing flexibilty to move around the work space. Microsoft’s upcoming
Surface Pro perhaps marks the next generation in PC and tablet technology – promising
to be both a touch-screen tablet and a PC running software like Photoshop,
Microsoft Office and iTunes.

2. Smart Pens for
Creativity

Starring
at a blank computer screen can cause writer’s block and stunt creativity. Smart
Pens like Livescribe allow you to write on paper while
your words are being transcribed onto your computer. In addition, Livescribe
pens record audio so whether you can’t make our your handwriting or got sleepy
during an important meeting, you can re-trace over the spot in your notes to
listen to the audio-playback from this exact moment.

Wacome’s Inkling is an
novel tool for artists and designers who like to draw on regular paper – the
Inkling captures a digital likeness of your work while you sketch with its
ballpoint tip on any sketchbook or standard piece of paper.

1. Upright Desks Increase Movement and Reduce Major Health Risks

Hunched over a computer all day?
While putting in solid hours of hard work, you may also be putting your health
at risk. On average, people are sitting for nine or 10 hours a day – at work,
in commute and at home (Source).

Without regular movement, sitting can
lead to back pain, which is a major cause of missed work for adults of all ages
(according to the Georgetown University Center on an Aging Society). Sitting tightens the hip flexors, the muscles than help pull your legs toward
your body (according to the Yoga Journal). Tight hip flexors contribute to back
pain by forcing the pelvis to tilt forward, compressing the back.  

Even scarier, research shows that just one hour or more of sitting causes the enzymes that
burn fat in the body to slow down production by up to 90 percent. Extended
sitting also slows our metabolism of glucose and lowers our levels of good
(HDL) cholesterol in the blood – major risk factors for heart disease and Type
2 diabetes.

In response, standing desks are gaining popularity in some offices, including Wired
Magazine headquarters with executive
editor, Thomas Goetz and other staff members using the desks. A wide variety of styles and price ranges are now available on the market.

Interestingly, standing at work isn’t
actually “new” but rather a return to old ways. In the nineteenth and twentieth
century, office workers such as clerks, accountants and managers, stood while
working. Sitting was considered slacking. In fact, many intellectual leaders
have been known to stand while working – including Leonardo da Vinci, Ben
Franklin, Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov and Philip Roth.

Treadmill
desks
take things a step farther. By walking very slowly on the treadmill while
working, you can incorporate physical activity into your busy schedule and
lower your heart rate considerably.

In conclusion, technology may sometimes negatively impact our workplace health, but technology may also be part of the solution.

Post by Julie Flygare, a leading health advocate and writer.

How to Avoid the Seven Deadly Project Management Sins

Project management planning relies on the proper
communication of ideas as well as the give and take in vetting those ideas
among the creative team you’ve assembled to tackle the project. Standing at the
helm of this team, the project manager has the power to bring the project down
by turning the ideas and team against one another, or leverage it by using a
few guidelines that might seem elementary, but are often forgotten in the fray
of project management scenarios.

1)  Drill
Down on Specifics:
Make clear to your team what is expected of thSeven-sins-of-pmem. You
might want to save time by dolling out the minimum of information for them to
work on, but they’re not mind readers. Just because they’re on the same team
doesn’t mean they inherently know what’s going on in every scenario. Take the
time to fully inform each team member of all the details they’ll need to add to
the project.

2)  Respect
Your Team:
Spirited projected management meetings can get intense, but
always respect the opinions of those on your team and use a tone that conveys a
sense of acceptance to the ideas that are being tossed around. Sarcasm has no
place in the project management planning process, nor do rude, condescending or
threatening behaviors.

3)  Embrace
Conflict:
Great ideas are born out of a necessity to defend one’s position.
Sometimes the best idea is the only one that is offered and it’s a total
failure. Empower the team to come up with original ideas that might defy
convention. This doesn’t mean good ideas need a counterbalance, but never
stifle an idea because it challenges your favorite solution.

4)  The
Process Isn’t Everything:
Rules are meant to be broken. The project
management outline is an important piece of the puzzle, but don’t let the
outline dictate the outcome if the positive flow of the process begins to drift
outside of what was originally intended. Often times, the project management
team feels secondary to the process. Don’t forget that it’s the team that
delivers the goods, not the strictly structured outline of the process.

5)  Vote
Early. Vote Often:
What’s true in crooked elections is true in successful
project management planning. Each task the team embarks upon needs to be
analyzed and tested to see if they’re actually making an impact. Testing will
provide the systematic alert system that will raise the red flag when something
is going south.

6)  Helicopter
Bosses are a Distraction:
We’ve all heard about helicopter parents who
hover, watch, listen, and swoop in the take control of a situation, thus
micromanaging every process of their children’s life. This happens too often in
project management. The project manager needs to lead, not wait for a train
wreck to clean up after. In some cases, the project manager can actually cause
the wreck when they suddenly become a working “member” of the group without
having spent the hours in the trenches with them.

7)   Focus on
the Positive:
Don’t be a downer; you’ll sink the team. Acknowledge the
failures but don’t dwell on them. Reward the behaviors that you see as
desirable instead of harping on the negative. This type of behavior has a “pay
it forward” effect and can infect the team.

Remember, it is possible to create, facilitate and support a project management
environment without conflict, but the tone must be set from the top down. If
you make professionalism and success your priority in the strategy you create,
adjusting as needed, you’re bound to enjoy more profitable operations.

 

Zen Leadership

If you master Zen you’ll be a great leader. But if you study Zen just to become a great leader you’ll never master it. – August TurakZen

The practice of Zen in both business and daily life is centered on the paradoxical acceptance above. As instinctually conflicting as it may seem, to truly be a great leader you must release yourself of your innate desire to lead. We no longer live in a world where the business model of leadership is intimidation, and seeing oneself as the all-controlling dictator will only lead to failing performances of your employees. Demands and thre

ats only create fear and sub-par work. If someone is only concerned about being ‘adequate’ enough to maintain their position, then they will never have those singular breakthroughs that occur when they are genuinely interested in the success of the business.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to brew up some green tea and roll out the yoga mats though. Zen leadership simply means that the success and well-being of the entire team has to come before your own personal needs. Experiential wisdom should be the driving force in your organization’s growth, rather than a focus on theoretical knowledge and pre-formulated business models. You need to be willing to grow, adapt, and expand right along with your staff. Here are the 10 Keys to Zen Leadership that will help reveal the potential Steve Jobs inside us all.

1) Lead by Example

– Make sure that you personally are living up to the same expectations you have in others. If you insist on punctuality and enthusiasm, then you too need to be on-time and excited in order for others to live up to your requests. No matter how loud you may talk, people will always be more apt to do as you do then as you say.

2) Communicate Clearly

– You want everybody on board to have the same vision of objectives and success that you do. If Bill Lumberg taught us anything in Office Space, it’s that silence will get you nowhere. On the flip-side, you also don’t want to over-complicate things with too much information. Be clear and as simple as possible. Honesty is essential, as you don’t want anyone to think you are trying to manipulate them in any way.

3) Encourage Constructive Argument

– Allow for open debate and questioning within your personnel. Not only does vocalized disagreement lead to potential problems being resolved before they happen, but it also alleviates any potential angst between co-workers. People should feel free and willing to discuss issues with one another.

4) Accept Input and Welcome Change

– It should be as easy as possible for persons to give you feedback – both personal and business related. You should have an open channel for any and all comments, and you can not have any fear in potentially revising your vision. The best idea you haven’t thought of may come from the most unexpected employee, and they should not be deterred in any way from expressing their concept. Always believe in the potentiality of someone coming up with a better or more-efficient plan.

5) Give Credit and Acknowledge Others

– Never let anyone doubt that they aren’t an essential member of the team. Acknowledging everyone’s addition to the project, no matter how menial the task, will only improve enthusiasm and work-output from all angles. Do this throughout the course of a project, not just at completion. If praise is lavished upon you, then redirect it to people for whom the credit is actually do. Show pride in your team, while remembering there is no shame in being overly humble.

6) Review and Adjust – Don’t Rank and Punish

– If a goal wasn’t met, then figure out what errors occurred and how they can be resolved. Punishing someone for mistakes will only make them fear thinking out of the box again. Finding the problem and making the necessary adjustments will not only prevent a repeat of the error, but will promote further expansion of new ideas.

7) Have a Clear Vision of Defeat

– Make sure to have a clear understanding of what the warning signs are for a potential disaster. Rather then deny any occurring down-slope, recognize any happening failures before they completely fall apart. Don’t be afraid to start again from the beginning.

8) Be Willing To Adapt

– Feel no necessary commitment to previous business models. Evolution is constant and more rapid than ever – feeling that you need to stick with only one game-plan will result in you losing out to newer and upgraded networks. If there’s an easier way to do something, don’t be afraid to embrace it. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Don’t make things more complex than they need to be.

9) Relinquish Power

Your goal as a Zen leader is to enable your team to operate successfully without you. Levels of trust should be utilized for maximum output from your employees. You should feel secure in your people’s abilities, and be confident enough to delegate more responsibility once they are prepared. An appreciation for worker’s efforts will make them want to live up to the confidence you hold in them, and subsequently create a desire within them to do as much as they can for the team.

10) The Zen Leader is In All of Us

– Forget the notion of being a ‘natural born’ leader. The true Zen leader can arise from any and all of us. When leading through Zen, you are not controlling a group of people but rather uniting a group in a way that brings out the full potential of what their combined efforts may produce. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the Zen leader has the delicate vision to know how to correctly add them up. The humble desire for the overall success of the greater good is the first and most important step. Once these notions are realized, the beneficial ramifications, both business and personal, are vast and expansive.

12 Questions To Ask Your Clients Before and After a Project

Getting to know your client is an important part of determining if you’re a right fit for the project. Not Question only that, but you should always ask questions before-hand to compile information that you will later use to accurately design a website or logo for them. Wef you quote a client for a project without knowing what it truly entails, then you’re setting yourself up for the possibility of loosing valuable time and money.

Now we know that asking questions before you begin a project is vital, but what about after you’ve completed a project? Although this may seem somewhat insignificant it’s actually an important step to finalizing the completion and delivery of your project. Below you will find various questions that you can ask your client, even though you may not use every single question, make sure you select the ones you believe both you and your client will benefit the most from.

Questions to Ask Before You Begin a Project
Generally these questions are asked before you begin a project, however, you can also ask some of these mid-way through your project as well. Analyze your clients answers and get to work with the information you’ve put together.

1. What Does Your Organization Do and How Do You Do It?

This is an important question because it’s the first step towards getting to know your customer’s business structure. Wet will help you assess the company’s needs in terms of relative design, and it is also a gateway for strategic brainstorming.

2. What are your five biggest challenges?

Ask about the client’s overall challenges—beyond the immediate subject at hand. By getting a sense of the larger challenges facing your client, you can be prepared to offer insights and draw connections that the client might have missed.

3. What are your five biggest opportunities?

Find out what the client is truly excited about! Where are some interesting new growth areas for the client’s business? What are some new trends shaping the marketplace? What are some of the most compelling new developments that the client has in store?

4. What keeps you up at night?

Connect with the client’s challenges on a visceral level. What is it that keeps this client from getting a good night’s sleep? What are the “worst-case scenarios” that this client might be confronting? If you phrase the question in these stark terms, you might help prompt the client to answer with greater candor and specificity, allowing you to help your client focus in on the biggest problem areas.

5. What is Your Typical Customer Like?

This question will help you get a better idea of what the company comprises of. Wes the typical customer foreign to the market your client targets? How does the client interact with its customers? Does the typical customer speak a different language? These questions are vital to the aesthetics and/or usability of your design. Wef you were designing a logo for example, and your clients typical customer doesn’t speak your clients language, then you would have to make sure the logo is able to communicate effectively on a further level.

6. What Is Your Target Audience?

Different from what the typical customer is like, you must have a deep understanding of what audience your client is currently trying to target. Maybe their trying to steer away from their typical clients and move into a different niche, or your client is looking to redefine and expand their customer base, whether one or the other it doesn’t matter, knowing exactly what audience your client is aiming to target is key to the development and success of your design.

7. Do You Have Any Competitors, if so, How Do You Differ?

Although this may have an obvious answer (if you’ve done a fair amount of research) you should still ask this question to get a feel of what THE Client believes is their competition. More than likely they have a much better idea of who their competing with. Knowing your clients competitors will allow you to rule out any similarities between all of their existent designs. This will help you create a more unique and centric design for your client.

8. How Often Would You Like Me to Update You With Progress?

You don’t want to come off as annoying or dependent of your client for your every move. This question will help you align with your clients wants and update them only when they want to be updated. Excessive updates can easily discourage a client from using your services in the future.

9. How Do You Envision the Finished Project?

If you’re designing a website then it’s important to ask your client what THEY intend to use their website for, and how they envision it will look like. What good would it do if you were to complete a project only to find out it doesn’t do any of the things your client intended for it, or it doesn’t behave the way your client had thought it would?

Questions to Ask After a Project’s Complete
These questions can be asked right before your deliver your project, or immediately after it’s complete. The purpose of the following questions to make the transition from the beginning of the project to its completion as smooth as possible.

10. How Satisfied Are You With the Results?

This question will help you analyze the quality of your skills and how well you’re able to develop a design based on what your client needs. As you advance in your career, you’ll have plenty of chance to improve your skills, this question will create a chance for you do just that.

11. Do You Plan on Having Any Revisions and Updates Done to This Project?

Ask this question to avoid frustrations that can easily arise if a client believes they can abuse of you by excessively asking for changes and further revisions free of charge. Wef your client plans on having you heavily revise and make several changes to a project, then this question will allow you both to agree on a reasonable fee you may collect for additional services.

12. How Well Would You Rate Our Services?

Similar to the question asking your client how satisfied they are with the results, this question will allow you to assess and improve the quality of your services. This plays an important role in the succession of your business.

The Performance Review Checklist

Performance-review A performance review is one of the best tools a manager has to fine tune the performance of subordinates. A performance review is a regularly scheduled recap of the day-to-day engagements between managers  and employees. It should always include a plan, large or small, for the employee’s continued professional growth. A performance review is not about money. Raises are about money.

A performance review is not about filling out forms. Audits and inspections are about filling out forms. The review – or appraisal – is about feedback. It is a conversation about how much meaning and purpose a manager can create with an employee. No performance review can be successful unless the manager has already given good feedback and direction regularly throughout the year, making assessments and adjustments along the way, and building rapport and confidence with the employee. Only then can it all be successfully summarized into a concise review. In other words, the review itself is the culmination of the interactions between the manager and the employee throughout the year.  If a manager is saving things up for a year to spring on an employee all at once, well, that’s a performance review that won’t be helpful. In fact, it could probably do more harm than good. Do you know the vital steps to take before conducting an employee performance review? They’re at least as important as the steps you take during the review. With that in mind, here is a six-part checklist that covers all vital phases of the pre-review.

1. Hold periodic informal feedback sessions.
Your best bet for accomplishing this is to mark your calendar with dates and notes such as “Hold a ‘how ya doing’ talk with Hank” to remind you periodically throughout the year to sit down with employees to discuss their performance – outside the formal appraisal setup. That promotes a “no surprises” environment when you do the actual face-to-face appraisal later on. These informal talks create “check-up” points along the way, and help keep the manager and the employee focused on the worker’s development.

2. Keep a record of the informal sessions.
Nothing fancy, but try to keep notes of what was said, what was agreed upon and when you talked. Notes like that can help resolve disputes that might come up later during the formal review. This kind of documentation will allow you to respond with comments like, “When we talked in August, you said …”

3. Standardize your evaluation criteria as much as possible.
If you have two or more employees doing similar jobs, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the same standards to judge their performance – whether it’s straight productivity numbers, quality levels, revenue generation or other measurable criteria. The reasons for standardizing are threefold:
* It’ll make your life easier, in that you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for every review. You’ll have a predetermined set of standards that you can use each time.
* It’ll make more sense to your employees. They’ll have a clear understanding of what’s required and what they’re being judged on.
* It’ll help avoid lawsuits and charges of favoritism or discrimination. The main cause of complaints is fuzzy measurement. If Employee A thinks he’s being held to a different set of standards than Employee B, expect Employee A to complain – to a lawyer, in some instances.

4. Study the employee’s previous performance review.
Were goals laid out? Were promises made? Did subsequent events change any of the employee’s circumstances since the last review? It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the components of the previous review, especially if the review was done by another manager. You don’t want to be caught off-guard or appear to be unaware of major agreements or problems.

5. Ask the employee to do a write-up of accomplishments.
Some people may expect you to remember everything. Fact is you can’t. No one can. That’s where the employee’s write-up, or “self evaluation,” comes in handy. You’ll (a) get a reminder of what the employee has accomplished since the last review and (b) have a basis for comparing your evaluation and resolving differences. The last thing you want is to walk into a review and get surprised by the idea that the two of you have totally different views on what happened since the last review.

6. Talk to customers, relevant co-workers and other points of contact for the employee.
Just about every employee does tasks that go unnoticed by a supervisor. It’s unavoidable, and no supervisor can be expected to know and see everything. A supervisor is, however, expected to do a little  legwork to learn as much as possible about the employee. Did she, without being asked or recognized, help out another employee with a difficult project? Did she go the extra mile for an important customer? As a responsible supervisor, you’ll want to find out about those instances. And the more you can find about, the better. Multiple sources will give you a better balanced view, rather than relying on one source who says the employee is great – or terrible.

 

PERFORMANCE REVIEW PREPARATION CHECKLIST

Prior to the meeting

  • Identify a time and date that is mutually convenient. Avoid re-scheduling!
  • Reserve a private place free from phone calls and interruptions!
  • Get employee input on his/her accomplishments, concerns, goals.
  • (Optional) Get employee-provided list of references: co-workers, customers, etc.
  • Seek input from those who interact and work directly with employee.
  • Review and compare performance: expectations versus actual.
  • Review skills, work experience, training/future training needs.
  • List major positive and negative incidents (Be specific, do not generalize).
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses.
  • Prepare and prioritize a tentative development plan.
  • Establish meeting objectives/agenda.

Conducting the meeting

  • Establish an open and positive climate.
  • Review the purpose of the review – Goal setting and problem solving.
  • Discuss performance goals and achievements.
  • Discuss strength and competencies, areas of potential growth.
  • Discuss area of development/opportunity/formal training (if any).
  • Encourage employee response.
  • Seek agreement on appropriate goals, development and timetable.
  • Summarize the meeting. If it is positive, end on a positive note. If it is not
  • positive, reinforce what must occur and set clear deadlines for
  • improvement/consequences.

Meeting follow-up

  • Prepare a formal, written review document.
  • Get employee signature, agreement.
  • File copies in personnel file, HR file.
  • Provide copy to employee.

 

Thank You Letters

Thanks Writing a thank you letter is a common courtesy. There are various times when writing a thank you letter is appropriate – anything from a formal, post-interview thank you letter to a casual, from the heart thanks to the person you went above and beyond to make a project a success. Writing a thank you letter will always serve as a kind and conscientious gesture.

A thank you letter demonstrates thoughtfulness, which is a characteristic many employers and people value. Since so few take the time to write a thank you letter, someone who does will indeed be remembered. Your thank you letter does not need to be lengthy. Just a few kind words will show that you put some time and thought into your message.

Please click here for some free sample thank you letters covering a variety of situations.

Leadership for Those Who Remain

After layoffs it’s difficult yet important for managers to maintain high morale anJoined handsd productivity for the  remaining. Their collective head is
spinning with fear and anxiety that you need to replace with confidence. It’s important to:

  • Stress the fact that the layoffs were not a reflection of the performance of the staff who were laid off.
  • Be open and available  assist with reprioritizing and rebalancing workloads among the remaining staff.
  • Focus on addressing relevant employee concerns and how the company will move forward.
  • Keep the programs and initiatives that serve to align employees and provide a return on investment. Examples include celebrating success and the achievement of milestones at a company and individual level.

Read “On the case: Go team! Pretty please?” for ideas on how to boost employee morale after a series of layoffs.