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Tags: Improve File Security, Improving File Security, Keeping Digital Files Secure, Safety of Digital Files, Securing Digital Files
Think your business is too small or unimportant to attract a hacker’s attention?
As large employers improve data security with sophisticated (and yes, expensive) systems, cybercriminals are “moving down the proverbial food chain” and targeting small and mid-sized businesses more frequently.
Even worse, these guys have effectively automated web hacking, using malicious bots to probe sites for vulnerabilities. The problem has become so massive, that as much as 80% of all traffic on sites with fewer than 1,000 visitors per day comes from automated bots.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security! Even if your business is small, you’re not “small potatoes” to a cybercriminal. Use these practical tips to guard against a malicious attack and keep your business data safe from hackers:
Know what you need to protect.
Start by assessing the prime targets. Credit-card information is the most obvious type of data hackers seek, but consider the other kinds of information you store which could harm you, your employees or your clients/customers if compromised. Prioritize your efforts to secure your most sensitive information first.
Scan your site the way hackers do.
Regularly use a web scanner to detect key vulnerabilities cyber criminals look for. Doing so minimizes opportunities for SQL injection or Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks, and provides insights for engineers to help you remediate other vulnerabilities.
Entrust experts with highly sensitive data.
If yours is a small or mid-sized businesses, don’t try to store extremely sensitive data (such as credit-card information or personal data) yourself. While you do incur some risk when handing it over to a third party, it’s far safer to leverage experts’ proven encryption and security protocols.
Turn your employees into data defenders.
Unfortunately, many attacks are the result of simple human negligence. But thankfully, that makes them highly preventable. Explain the importance of using secure passwords – and provide clear instructions for setting them (i.e., using a mix of upper and lower case, as well as including non-alphanumeric characters). Share examples of suspicious emails – and tell employees to never open attachments without scanning them first. Educate employees about the types of attacks out there, so they can help protect you.
Consider how secure your partners are.
When it comes to data security, never stick your head in the sand. Ask for proof that businesses you share information with (e.g., vendors or other third party providers) take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of your data. Ask how they manage security, and request proof that they’re compliant with security best-practices.
Is your business safe?
Give our technology experts a call. Serving businesses throughout North America, we can deliver the talented IT professionals and end-to-end tech solutions you need to reduce security risks and protect your business data.
You need to talk to your boss.
Does the proposition excite you, or make you break out in a cold sweat?
If you and your boss have vastly different communication styles, even the most mundane work conversations can be stressful. When you’re worried about how to phrase things properly, or how your boss will interpret what you say, it’s tough to relax, listen and communicate effectively.
Boost your confidence and your skills with these four communication tips from Exact Staff:
Adapt your communication to your boss’ natural style.
In a recent Forbes.com article, Mark Murphy describes the following four communication styles:
- Analytic. Likes to communicate with facts, data and specific language.
- Intuitive. Wants to cut right to the chase and get a clear understanding of the big picture before discussing details.
- Functional. Prefers to communicate in a step-by-step fashion, using processes, timelines and well-thought-out plans.
- Personal. Values emotional language and wants to know how people feel (not just what they think).
Determine which category your boss falls into, and then try to provide information in a way that resonates with him. For example, if he’s a functional communicator, plan your conversations as much as possible. Provide the detail and logic he craves to ensure that conversations go smoothly.
Be an active listener.
When speaking with your boss, it’s natural to worry about what you’re going to say next. Instead of planning your next move in the conversation, try to stay in the moment as much as possible. Pay close attention to what your boss says, and take good notes (either mental or written). Ask relevant questions and paraphrase him to ensure full understanding.
Don’t get too emotional.
Even if your boss is a “personal communicator,” keep your emotions in check when engaging in work conversations. If you’re angry, anxious, frustrated or upset about something, take a 10-count before approaching your boss. Wait until you’re clear-headed and calm enough to discuss the issue professionally.
Recognize the importance of nonverbal communication.
Your nonverbal cues can impact a conversation with your boss as much as, or even more than, what you say. Make sure you pay attention to the following aspects when speaking with your manager:
- Posture. If you tend to slouch or fold your arms across your chest, be aware of the negative ways in which these signals can be interpreted. Sit (or stand) upright when speaking with your boss, and lean slightly into the conversation.
- Eye contact. Avoid extremes (i.e., staring at the floor or glaring intently at your boss) when it comes to making eye contact. Too little conveys disinterest or insecurity; too much conveys aggression.
If communicating with your boss makes you uncomfortable, try mirroring his body language. Subtly adjust your own hand positions, posture or general body orientation to match his.
On the job hunt?
Exact Staff can connect you with career opportunities at every employment level and in a wide variety of fields including administrative, accounting/financial, legal, medical/dental, technical, sales, and engineering. Search jobs here or connect with an Exact Staff recruiter.
Dead ends. Blank pages. Mental blocks.
The struggle to solve problems is all too real. Sometimes, inspiration is in short supply. Other times, you may have plenty of great ideas – but no process for seeing them through.
What’s a savvy business professional to do?
Creative problem solving is much more than brainstorming; it’s a well-defined process for every step of problem-solving. And it’s incredibly important in business – helping you to overcome challenges, improve on existing ideas, and continually generate new ones.
Want to give it a try? Below, we describe two techniques you can experiment with to solve business problems:
This Entrepreneur.com post describes a unique problem-solving strategy that works on a simple assumption: most of the time, you already know something that will help you solve your problem. The key is to find the right memory cue to retrieve the information you need.
To use the re-describing technique, try changing the way you describe your problem to yourself. The more unique ways you can find to frame your challenge, the more memories your brain will unlock – and the more likely you’ll be to develop a great solution. Ask these two questions to get the process started:
- What kind of problem is this? Take off the mental blinders that limit creativity and memory, and try to think more abstractly.
- Who else has faced this kind of problem? Find parallels to your own challenge, and then consider the ways others’ solutions could be applied to your problem.
The Inversion Technique
This approach to problem-solving is similar to reverse-engineering. It starts with imagining worst-case scenarios, and then using those scenarios as the basis for developing solutions.
To use the inversion technique, start with the absolute worst outcome you could imagine to your problem. Then, imagine everything that could possibly go wrong which would lead to that disaster scenario. By working backward from a worst-case scenario, you can reveal hidden problems, opportunities and potential solutions you might otherwise miss.
Improve Problem-Solving by Boosting Creativity
No matter which problem-solving approach you select, use these quick tips to amp-up your team’s creativity (and solve problems faster!):
- Get everyone involved. More people can generate more ideas.
- Make your work environment more interesting. Hang art. Play music. Expose employees to scents like lavender or peppermint (which are thought to increase brain power). Engaging their brains in novel ways will spur new emotions, abstract thinking and fresh ideas.
- Play creativity games. With a simple Google search you can find several free resources for engaging your team’s creative faculties.
Have a Tough Problem to Solve?
Give the experts at Exact Staff a call. Our national staffing agency provides a full complement of staffing and placement services to help you get the most from your team and your career.
Is bigger really better?
When it comes to work teams…not so much. This Forbes.com article presents a wealth of research which suggests that smaller teams are better than larger ones when it comes to:
- Engagement. 42% of employees working at companies with 10 or fewer employees were engaged at work, compared with just 30% of employees at larger companies.
- Effort. As team size increases, individual effort decreases (mostly because people believe they don’t need to work as hard when others can “pick up the slack”).
- Problem-solving. One study showed that teams comprised of two people accomplished a task in an average of 36 minutes, while teams of four finished in an average of 56 minutes.
These findings make sense. With less bureaucracy and fewer opportunities to slack off, small teams have clear advantages over large ones. Small size, however, doesn’t guarantee efficiency; it takes discipline, good work habits and smart management to get the most from team members.
Need a few ideas to get you started? Try these tips for supercharging small-team efficiency:
Set clear team goals.
Do more than just send an email with a list of objectives. Assemble your team in a single room (use videoconferencing technology for remote team members) and get everyone square on what you’re trying to accomplish. Make sure that each member understands their role and buys into the shared goals.
Trustfulness and trustworthiness can only exist if managers like you set the example – and then foster trust internally. Be transparent. Treat team members like partners. Share your mission and values. Do what’s right for your team, and your team will give their best effort for you.
Empower team members.
Provide the tools, training, guidelines and resources employees need to do an amazing job for you. Then let go of the reins. Give employees the autonomy and authority to accomplish their work free from micromanagement – and their productivity and motivation will soar.
Require individuals who want to schedule meetings to submit a valid purpose and agenda before putting one on the books. Keep team meetings short and intimate, supplementing them with informal check-ins to see how individuals are progressing.
Help individuals use time effectively.
From productivity apps to email hacks, share efficiency tips that will help team members work at peak productivity. Give them the permission and ability to plan uninterrupted time for focus work, so they can accomplish critical activities free from disruption.
Build more efficient work teams by choosing the right staffing partner.
With a national presence, and a full complement of staffing and placement services, Exact Staff can rapidly deliver exceptional people to build your core team. Improve efficiency. And seamlessly flex your workforce to match changing demands.
What can we do for you?
Contact a staffing expert at your local Exact Staff office today.
Want to make your business stronger? More agile? More resilient?
Stop hiring clones!
Scientific research provides support for the very real (and troubling) tendency managers have to select candidates who are similar to themselves in terms of leisure activities, social markers and personal tastes. Even when companies have high levels of demographic diversity, they still often have deep-seated homogeneity when it comes to the ways employees think and behave.
Why? Because our brains prefer the familiar. And without a rigorous, objective set of criteria against which to judge a candidate’s merit, we tend to favor people like ourselves.
While hiring people who mesh with your company’s culture and share similar interests is comfortable, it can also be dangerous. Over time, a company comprised of people who think and act in the same ways experiences less constructive conflict – and as a result, less innovation.
So if you want to strengthen your organization, stop hiring people exactly like you – and do these things instead:
Broaden your definition of diversity.
Typically, employers think of diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, age, gender and/or sexual orientation. Take things a step further by also seeking out candidates who are diverse in terms of their skills, attitudes, interests, experiences, backgrounds and beliefs.
Guard against “mirror bias.”
As the name implies, this is the tendency of interviewers to favor candidates who remind them of themselves – regardless of those candidates’ skills and experience. Without proper training, interviewers often seek out evidence supporting their initial reactions to candidates while filtering out conflicting information. As a result, perceptions turn into reality, and talented individuals are removed from consideration simply because they’re too different.
Make sure that interviewers and hiring managers alike understand the negative hiring impact mirror bias can create. Teach them to guard against premature judgments, and to wait until all the evidence is in before making a decision about a candidate.
Structured processes, standard questions and objective evaluation criteria all protect your organization from the negative effects of interviewing biases. To further enhance results, require interviewers to support their candidate evaluations with specific examples – as opposed to opinions or “gut feelings.”
Choose the right staffing partner.
With a national presence, and a full complement of staffing and placement services, Exact Staff can rapidly deliver exceptional people to build your core team: diverse, independent thinkers who mesh with your culture, but who also bring complementary experience and fresh perspectives to tackle your toughest challenges.
What can we do for y-ou?
Contact a staffing expert at your local Exact Staff office today.
Wearable pain-relief technology.
Eye-tracking software that controls computers.
They’re all real. And for the smart risk-takers who have driven their success, they’re extremely profitable.
Why doesn’t every company develop game-changing products like these guys? Mostly because they don’t understand these keys to driving innovation:
Challenge the status quo.
Instead of shying away from threats or change, discuss your organization’s toughest problems with employees. Challenge your team each day to share new thoughts (even contrary, far-fetched or unpopular ideas), and teach them to disagree without being confrontational.
Don’t wait for 100% consensus.
Nothing thwarts innovation like waiting for everyone to agree before moving forward with a fresh idea. Make sure your team leaders have enough independence in decision-making to innovate. Foster a culture in which individuals are respected for creating – even when they don’t have full consensus on their methods.
Likewise, streamline innovators’ efforts by eliminating unnecessary interim rounds of approval and feedback during the development stage. When you trust employees to see their own work through to completion, you help them maintain critical confidence and momentum.
Increase tolerance for uncertainty.
Help employees get more comfortable with making decisions and taking action, even when information is incomplete. To push through indecisiveness, ask questions like: “How much to we really need to know before it’s acceptable to make a decision?”
Have your team’s back.
Build internal relationships based on respect, trust and shared confidence. Make it clear, through your words and actions, that you are an advocate for their best ideas. Most of all, make it okay to fail:
- Outline acceptable parameters for taking calculated risks.
- Do not demean or punish employees for trying something that does not work out.
- When an employee fails, help your whole team learn from the mistake.
Nix whining, criticism and other innovation-killing behavior.
Not surprisingly, an oppressive culture stifles creativity. Instead of punishing mistakes as a way to promote success, celebrate employees who find solutions to problems. Encourage “can do” behaviors. Enlist your biggest critics and whiners in developing a more supportive environment that encourages new ways of thinking.
Drive innovation with intelligent staffing.
As a leading national staffing agency, Exact Staff can provide the talented people and smart staffing solutions to turn your innovative ideas into reality.
To develop the best strategy for your organization, we invite you to schedule a free workforce consultation with us. Together we can assess your needs, brainstorm options and design creative solutions to help you overcome whatever workforce or hiring challenges you face.
Debbie Downers. Negative Nellys. Haters.
Most organizations have them. But whatever you call them, one thing is certain: workplace negativity is like a disease. Let it creep into your corporate culture, and it will rapidly fuel disengagement, distrust, turnover, diminished productivity – and sheer misery (who wants to work in an environment like that?).
Your bottom line will take a hit, too. According to this CCP Inc. study on workplace conflict, U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict and other negativity. This equates to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), equal to 385 million working days.
Is there a cure for all the griping, hostility and backbiting? Absolutely. Follow Exact Staff’s “prescription” for preventing negativity from undermining the success of your team:
Encourage constructive conflict.
One of the best ways to eliminate negativity is by channeling it in a healthier way. When employees disagree and “lock horns,” train them to view the situation differently. Teach them how to understand the other’s viewpoint, appreciate differences and focus on solutions. Though discussions may become heated and contentious, they can lead to positive outcomes if managed properly.
Want to really make positivity a permanent part of your corporate culture? Add it to your organization’s list of core values. Make it a hiring requirement. Share positive work stories in weekly business meetings. Have more fun at work. Do whatever you can to weave optimism into the fabric of your organization.
Keep your ear to the ground.
Banishing negativity isn’t a once-and-done event; it’s a continual process. To keep it at bay, check in with your employees several times each year. Discuss their observations and concerns about your corporate culture. If you learn about potential problems, take feedback seriously – and act decisively. Proactively combating negativity sends a clear message that you take corporate culture seriously – and truly care about your employees.
Sometimes you just have to cut bad apples loose. Make it a goal to release chronically negative employees and systematically replace them with staunch optimists. Look for individuals who can engage in healthy conflict with a positive attitude, respect others and are upbeat even in tough circumstances.
Need more positive people on your team?
Exact Staff’s recruiting experts will refer candidates with the personality traits and soft skills to help you build a more positive culture. Contact our national employment agency today to get started.
Time for a quick reality check: when a co-worker walks into your office with a request, do you treat him as well as you would like to be treated? Or as well as new client you’re trying to land?
If so, no need to read this post – you’re already treating employees as well as customers. But if you hesitated in your response (even for a fraction of a second), you need to read this.
When organizational leaders like you apply the “golden rule” to the way they treat employees, it’s more than polite or good etiquette. It’s great for business – improving motivation, productivity, loyalty and even your bottom line.
But while enhancing your employees’ work experience isn’t rocket science, it does require a focused approach to yield the results you want. Below, you’ll find four ways to apply the “golden rule” and improve your staff’s work experience (boosting your business in the process):
Understand what a great experience really means.
In other words, know what matters to your employees. Whether it’s a front-line worker or a mid-level manager, people typically look for the following essential elements at work:
- Clear, honest, respectful communication in all forms (even when work becomes challenging).
- On-time delivery. People in your organization should honor their commitments, doing what they say they will do, when they say they’ll do it.
- A commitment to excellent internal customer service. Employees in your organization should take as much pride and care in serving one another as they do in serving the needs of your external customers.
If you’re unsure what matters most to employees, just ask them! Conduct an anonymous survey to encourage candid feedback. Make it clear how the information will be used, and provide employees with an overview of what you learn and plan to implement.
Trust creates a solid foundation upon which to build a great culture. Read this earlier post on fostering employee trust to drive innovation, efficiency and retention in your organization.
Find ways to make employees look good.
How would you feel if one of your peers went to your boss to tell him what a great job you’re doing? Pretty great, right? Not surprisingly, your employees would feel the same way. So be the start of something great in your organization. Find ways to: support your employees’ success; make their jobs easier; and make them look great (internally and externally).
Provide the support they need.
When your staff has adequate support, they’re free to do their best work. Whether it’s a single temporary for a day or an entire project team, Exact Staff provides a range of staffing and placement services to increase motivation, improve productivity and create a healthier bottom line.
“Mentally Checked Out.”
“Headed to an Interview with a Competitor.”
“Just Got Off the Phone with a Recruiter.”
“One Foot Out the Door.”
Wouldn’t it be great if employees who are disengaged or actively seeking work elsewhere would walk around your office with signs around their necks?
Oh, to dream…
Most of the time, employees attempt to conceal their job-seeking behavior. Who can blame them? Until they have solid offers in hand, they need to maintain the status quo and not rouse any suspicions.
But while you’ll unlikely see anything as obvious as a sign around the neck, it pays to pay attention. Employees who are on the job hunt often display subtle differences in behavior which a trained eye can spot.
Could your top employees already have one foot out the door? Here are a few telltale signs:
Less time on Facebook; more activity on LinkedIn.
Noticed that a key employee recently uploaded a new headshot? Updated his professional accomplishments? Garnered several new recommendations? While this isn’t necessarily cause for concern from an avid LinkedIn user, any marked increase in activity could signal an employee is prepping his profile for a recruiter’s scrutiny.
Increased focus on the short-term.
Did that formerly ambitious team member fail to “step up to the plate” when creating 2017 plans? Has he neglected to ask about his annual bonus? Is he skipping the next company get-together? When an employee is planning to leave you, his thoughts and activities shift to the short-term. Keep an eye out for employees who have taken their eye off your company’s (and their position’s) long-term horizon.
They become ultra-efficient.
High performers typically do great work all the time, so this may be a tough sign to spot. However, if a good employee suddenly starts doing a really GREAT job – tying up loose ends, finishing key projects, and then gathering key metrics about them – put him on your radar. He may be prepping for a positive reference from you and want to leave on good terms.
Even if employees aren’t exhibiting any of these signs of disengagement, you should still be proactive in your retention activities. One of the best ways to keep top employees happy is by building a great workplace culture – and that starts with a smart staffing strategy.
Offering a full complement of staffing and recruiting solutions, Exact Staff is uniquely equipped to support your core team – and create a positive work environment:
- Recognize a deserving employee’s accomplishments by treating him to a paid day off. We can provide a replacement worker for the day!
- Bring in temporary workers during your busiest times, to alleviate the stress on your direct employees and keep them working at peak efficiency.
- Offload low-priority tasks to qualified temporaries, freeing your best employees to learn, grow and further their careers within your organization.
- Allow us to recruit exceptional full-time candidates whose work ethic and attitude complement your culture.
Ready to get started?
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
–James Humes, author and former presidential speech-writer
Clear communication – speaking, listening, writing, understanding and resolving conflict – is essential to building and maintaining a successful business. When you communicate with your staff effectively, you:
- Facilitate collaboration, teamwork and knowledge transfer
- Prevent unnecessary mistakes and misunderstandings
- Increase efficiency and productivity
Are you making great communication enough of a priority? As a leader in your organization, it’s up to you to keep your skills strong – and overcome areas of weakness. If it’s been awhile since you’ve examined your communication skills, take a quick inventory of your proficiency in the following areas:
The ability to clearly explain requests, instructions and ideas – as well as your underlying reasons for them – is critical to leading, motivating and orchestrating the activities of your employees. Polish your verbal communication skills by:
- Organizing your thoughts first. While most daily verbal interactions are not scripted, give thought to planned conversations so you present your ideas in a logical way.
- Checking understanding. Repeat and paraphrase what you say, and then ask questions to be sure that your message is understood.
- Practicing frequently – whether it’s giving a quick summary at a meeting or presenting at an industry conference.
To make your reports, emails, memos and other forms of written communication more effective:
- Choose your words carefully. Context, semantics and diction dramatically impact the meaning of what you write.
- Choose the right format for your message.
- Provide complete information the first time.
- Review every word you write with a critical eye, to make sure it conveys exactly what you mean.
Posture, eye contact, intonation and body language have as much impact on your communication as the words you use. When speaking with employees, make sure that your non-verbal cues support what you’re saying – otherwise, you run the risk of sending mixed messages which can easily be misinterpreted.
The ability to understand others is just as important as saying the right thing. As a leader:
- Listen as much as you speak.
- Ask questions that elicit productive responses.
- Encourage others to share their ideas – including dissenting opinions and criticisms.
- Pay attention to what others don’t say – not just what they do say.
Adapting Your Message to the Audience
Should you speak to a client the same way you’d speak to an entry level employee? Obviously, it depends! In every communication, make sure that you consider your audience – their background, beliefs, expectations and level of sophistication – when crafting your message. Doing so ensures that your message will be understood and interpreted as you intended.
Looking for other ways to ramp-up productivity?
Exact Staff is here to support you. Whether you’re up against a deadline, tackling a big project, or want to build your core team, our national employment agency provides a full complement of staffing and placement services to help you get the most from your workforce.