In our communication with other people the challenge is "What do I say?", "How do I start the conversation?", or "What will make a good impression?" Many times, we end up asking 'formula' type questions that lead to limited conversation backing us into a 'conversation corner' and ultimately ending the conversation altogether. The responses confirm our worst fears: that we look awkward, uncomfortable, and lame.
The answer to avoiding being backed into a corner - how we ask questions. This can fall into two categories of questions we ask. The first type of question we can ask ends with a response of 'yes' or 'no'. This is called a Closed-Ended Question. We get limited response, information, or conversation from the other person. You receive 'yes' or 'no' for responses. The Closed-Ended questions we are asking can put us into a 'corner' that is difficult to get out of. It begins to sound like your questions are 'nosy' for information and antagonize the conversation resulting in it ending altogether.
The second category of questions is called Open-Ended Questions that will make you a very interesting conversationalist. Open-Ended Questions begin with key words of who, what, when, where, why, and how. The two easy favorites that will make you an expert conversationalist are what and how. Questions that begin with 'what' or 'how' allows the other person to speak and expand on your question. You will gather more information, gain more insight, and be easy to talk to!
So let's try an example:
Stay out of the 'corners' and be an expert conversationalist with questions that begin with 'what' and 'how'!
By: David Hansen
The holiday season can be such a busy time for all of us! It is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and put other things to the side – like your future career! The holidays typically bring people together that you wouldn't see throughout the year – family, friends, spouse's co-workers and many more. These gatherings are the perfect opportunity to network with people you don't normally see, and build relationships that could eventually lead you to a career you've been searching for! As we all know, it is all about your "network." Tips to build professional relationships in your network:
By: Marissa Williams
Since my first psychology class in high school, I have been fascinated by human behavior and how our minds work. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs particularly resonated with me because they made sense. If I am starving, I am going to focus on my empty stomach and filling it before I type another line in this blog. My brain will not let me forget my hunger until it is satisfied, or it is overridden by another stimulus. Once basic needs are met, our brains can focus on higher thinking.
In the early nineties, Maslow's Hierarchy spilled over into the learning world with the concept of brain-based learning. Brain-based learning postulated that our brains can change over time, are affected by diet, stress, exercise, environment, and, most importantly, how our brains work plays a role in how we learn. Simply stated: if I am hungry, cold, or sick, learning will not be a priority. Expecting children, or even adults, to sit in a chair and absorb information does not help them learn. Their minds are way more complex and need different approaches to help make learning happen.
Decades after Maslow and brain-based learning, neuroscience of learning has emerged. Technology now allows us to map brain activity during certain stimuli. We can literally map what our brain looks like when we are hungry! Fascinating and a little freaky. Neuroscience of learning studies how our brains create and respond to learning.
So that is a lovely short story of psychology, learning, and a little peek into mind invasions. Why should learning practitioners care? So that we can create more impactful learning experiences! Neuroscience is another tool that can help us optimize learning. For more information, ATD has a great article on why learning neuroscience matters. Growth Engineering has an interesting info-graphic to inspire your synapses.
By: Michele Hillary
Have you ever had a professional mentor of your own? If you don't have a mentor to help you conquer professional roadblocks yet, I suggest securing one! Though there are many ways to do this, here's the story of how I successfully found my professional mentor!
Real talk, when I first started here at GROWMARK, Inc. just a couple weeks after graduating college, I did not have a professional mentor. It wasn't until one of my colleagues mentioned she was getting lunch with her mentor that the light bulb went off in my head. Immediately I thought to myself "Lunch with a mentor? I need that in my life! How do I identify a mentor in my life? Where do I sign up for that?" I started to think about the people closest to me: family, friends, and my work team. I soon realized if I wanted to get the most out of a professional mentorship, it couldn't be with any of those individuals. Instead it needed to be with someone who would give me honest feedback and not sugar-coat situations. I think we all seek guidance, but it's important to make sure we seek the right kind of guidance.
I started making a list of professionals who had impacted my life through internships and past work experiences. I identified my top three mentor picks. I reached out to my first pick… within 24 hours I had a response verifying that I now had a professional mentor! Immediately I knew this was going to be an excellent fit for both of us I was so excited to embark on this journey! My mentor and I meet for lunch once a month. We each bring a list of questions to ask one another, eat lunch, and then discuss the topics we bring! It's that easy. A year later, we still make a pact to meet every month! It always gives me something to look forward and we never run out of topics for conversation.
After reflecting on my time with my mentor, I cannot imagine my professional life without her. Since I have had someone to seek out for professional advice, I have become more confident in my career leading me to improve my performance in the workplace. I hope this inspires you to seek out a professional mentorship as well!
By. Tori Streitmatter
In the Training Industry there is a great debate on who is "responsible for employee development". This debate seems rather simple at its core, but requires a fundamental understanding of the difference between two key concepts; employee training and employee development.
Simply stated, employee training is the responsibility of the organization. Employee training should incorporate the skills that are going to help employees do their job as it relates to achieving organizational goals. In other words, training should be provided (and required) so employees are able to meet the basic competencies for the job. Likewise, employee training offerings should mirror strategic goals of the organization. By offering programs and learning opportunities that mirror the strategic goals of the organization, we can be sure that employees are receiving the training they need to drive business results. Whether or not an employee takes ownership to learn and then apply the new skill/behavior is dependent on several factors, but the most important factor is the willingness of the employee to apply what they learned back on the job.
Employee development is a shared responsibility of management and the individual employee. The responsibility of management is to provide the right resources and an environment that supports the growth and development needs of the individual employee. It requires an understanding of what skills an employee needs to develop to take the next steps in his/her career, the person's future goals and a desire by the manager to take an interest in developing employees. From the employee perspective, it is important to understand that some key learning opportunities lie outside formal training in a classroom and to take advantage of learning that may not seem "traditional." Some examples include job rotations, job swaps, mentorship, committee participation, etc.
Organizations that understand the true value of employee development also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base to ensure they are prepared for today and the future. These "learning organizations" are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the work environment. Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy can also be seen as a key for engagement and recruiting.
For employee training to be successful, management should:
For employee development to be successful, the individual employee should:
By: Andy Schuster
It's the night before your formal interview, the one that you have been dying to land; you've known all along exactly what you are going to wear. You've played this scenario over and over in your head and have picked out every detail of your outfit from head-to-toe. You are going to look fabulous!
It all comes crashing down when you think you are on top of it by getting your outfit all laid out and trying it on just for good measure so, you know; you don't realize the DAY OF that it doesn't fit. But really, you should have prepped well in advance.
In general, today's workplace is more casual than the typical formal interview attire and it may have been a while since you have even worn those pieces. Regardless though if you were on the ball and purchased in advance a brand new outfit for the interview or you find yourself in that last minute scramble; here are some simple tips for helping you dress to feel your best during the interview. (So you can focus on other jitters, like when they ask you "Tell me about yourself." – Just kidding, we've got you covered with that too!)
Step 1: Do your homework.
When you get the call that a formal in-person interview is being extended, it is ok to ask about the culture and dress code of the workplace. This will help you determine what is appropriate and start you off right to figuring out if pieces you already have can be used or direct you in what you need to purchase. Every employer will be different in what they expect and they don't expect you to already know.
Step 2: Keep it simple.
Focus on staple pieces like solids and neutral colors; like black, white, gray, navy, or brown for majority of your outfit. This will help you repurpose those pieces in the future and keep the interviewers focus on you (and your rock star answers) during the interview and not your outfit. Dress slacks or chinos, a button up collared shirt, sweater, tie, suit jacket (if formal), and/or a skirt or dress are all typically appropriate; along with coordinating dress shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in. (Incorporating one statement piece to the outfit such as a tie, necklace or earrings, or a patterned shirt under a solid jacket or sweater can be a nice touch; but you want to be sure those standout pieces are limited.)
Step 3: Show up polished and pressed.
Make sure that your outfit is clean; free of stains, wrinkles, and is not ripped or tattered. Style your hair in such a way that it will be out of your face and distraction free. Proper hygiene is a must and again will help ensure you feel confident in your outfit. You don't want to be blindsided by that morning's breakfast making a guest appearance in the interview room.
Step 4: Let your skills stand out – not your scent.
Moderate use of cologne or perfume is ok, but don't let the scent of that takeover and cloud the interview because it filled up the room more so than all of the great conversation around the reasons you are qualified to do that job.
Step 5: Put it all together.
Give it all a test run. Don't end up in a scenario like how this story kicked off. Coordinate your outfit and try it on (shoes, accessories, even hairstyles included) so that you are prepared for any malfunctions.
When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being overdressed. You will feel more confident knowing you are dressed for success! If you find yourself still unsure, this overview of common dress codes will help:
Business professional: In this environment suits are the norm. Women might typically wear a skirt or pantsuit with heels, and men it is common to wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie, and dress shoes.
Business casual: A suit is not needed. Men might consider dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might wear a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.
Casual: It is still important to look polished and professional. Again, err on the side of being overdressed and go with a business casual outfit. (There will be plenty of time to rock the jeans, tennis shoes, and/or tees when you get the job!)
Want more clarity? Check out the '9 Things You Shouldn't Wear to a Job Interview'.
By: Allison Stephey
As parents, coaches, managers, leaders we all have certain things that we value and expect from the people who are looking to us for leadership. Often, we refer to these values as our 'standards' whether they be for performance, obedience, action, follow through, etc. How we set these standards matters in respect to how successfully they are met. But how do we define these standards? Where do they come from? More importantly, how do we put standards in place that people will actually adhere to?
I would like to offer 3 tips for setting standards that will be upheld no matter what role you are in.
Keep it simple - The first one is pretty basic. Make sure that your standards are simple. Simple means easily explained. The more complicated the standard, the less likely it is to be lived up to. You should be able to explain it clearly and articulately to your people. "But my standards are complicated. We have a very technical environment. Our team deals with high-level information. The safety standards include so many steps, the manual is 3 inches thick!" Ok. Break it down into steps. Have simpler standards that combine to your overall standard. The activities that we want to be held as a standard must be actionable and realistic. Unrealistic standards will frustrate your people so quickly. Not only that, but unrealistic standards get talked about. Or worse yet (but a better way to say it) they get complained about. Just as quickly as people get frustrated, the complaints spread, and morale goes down.
Let's look at an example of the impact this has.
A new employee who begins working for a manager who has high, unrealistic, complicated standards for behavior is defeated. They feel like they can't live up to the expectations and are constantly letting down their boss. It could be hard for them to take on new challenges or push themselves to try new things. If left in that environment long enough it can have long term effects on their self-value and work performance. If the standards are too high, you get underachievement and loss of confidence or high turnover. On the flip-side, if your standards are too low, you will see complacency and lack of drive which has a similar effect on morale and drive.
Know the WHY - Standards are most effective when the purpose is well known. People are motivated by WHY. Simon Sinek talks about the power of WHY in his TED talk. It's a must watch for any leader.
The purpose of your standard should drive the definition. It puts value on the standard. With value placed on the standard the result is that much more satisfying and it creates buy-in for the people expected to meet it. They will likely be motivated to not only meet that standard, but exceed it because they are now invested in the outcome and understand it's impact.
Tell Show Observe Verify - In order to ensure people truly understand the expectations placed on them, it's important to follow this simple model.
First Tell them what is expected. Clearly articulate the standard, being sure to explain the why behind it and the impact it has.
Now Show them what you mean. This may be doing sales calls with an employee, leading a meeting, or developing a report. Show them how the work needs to be done or how quickly you would like them to respond when a customer calls. With each example, you must model how to perform the task/behavior at the level you expect. People will do what you show them. Keep in mind that your standard is what you're willing to accept.
Next, observe them performing the behavior at the standard level you model and expect. Provide feedback and coaching. This is your time to make sure they really understand what the standard is and fine tune their performance.
Finally, verify that they are performing at the standard level. Come back after some time has the past and observe again. Ask people who are close to their work. Follow up with one of their customers or review survey data. Or simply go check their work. We need to inspect what we expect!
This is not a time for shaming when you find that the standard hasn't been met. Rather it's a time to praise when you find the standard has been met and reward when the standard has been exceeded. If you find the performance lacking, this is a coaching opportunity. Ask questions. Find out why they missed the mark. Encourage them.
Love your people and set them up for success by providing realistic standards that have a true purpose and value. Then hold them to it.
By: Andy King
You've done it!
You got the call asking you to come in for a face to face interview – you've received the kickoff.
You've done your homework and researched the company's website thoroughly – You're at the 50 yard line.
You've thought about what behavioral questions could be asked of you, and you've prepared several great examples – The 30 yard line.
You've written down a list of questions that you'd like to know more about regarding both the company and position – The 20!
You've taken a test drive to see where exactly to park and enter the building – The 10!
You've dressed for success, and your confidence is sky high – The 5!!
"Thank you for coming in today, please tell us about yourself." – FUMBLE!!
As a recruiter, I've seen this time and time again. The deer in the headlights look after the infamous "tell me about yourself" question. Why does such a seemingly harmless question become such a difficult one to answer? Well, we all tend to skip over things we feel like we know well. So in preparation for an interview, it is easy to tell yourself, "I'll know what to say when they ask me this question – because who knows me better than me?" When you take this approach, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Here's why. This is your first chance to make an impression and essentially set the tone for the interview. You can either set a positive, well-meaning tone that impresses the interviewer(s) and make them more interested in you, or you can fumble the question entirely and have to work your way back up.
Here is a possible scenario:
"So, tell me about yourself."
"Oh boy, where do I start?" (As if you never knew that the interviewer would ever ask such a tricky question). Well… (INTERNAL DIALOGUE - where do I start, where do I start? Let's see - do I go back to where I'm from or where my first job was? OK, I grew up 40 miles away from here in a small community, wait a minute, how is that relevant? No, I'm not going to start there. How about a touching story about my first dog, Buddy – WHY WOULD I SAY THAT!? No….maybe that is good. Now I'm starting to get emotional about Buddy, I miss him so much! Wait a minute, what was the question again?)
OK – so that is an extreme scenario, but hopefully you get the point. Things can start spiraling quickly if you're not prepared to answer that question.
Brace yourself because I'm going to share some outrageously powerful advice and insight. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. As an interviewer, this is a way to see how the candidate communicates. Every interviewer is different, hiring managers are all looking for different things and they all have different personalities, so there is not a singular correct response. If you follow the below guidelines however, you will at least set yourself up well for the rest of the interview.
Touchdown! You're now ready to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question. Now keep going, win the game, and get the job! Good luck!
By: George Moore
With inarguable certainty, if you are reading this blog you are probably reading it on some form of electronic device. Perhaps a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This era of pulling out your tablet in an airport or being consumed by a mobile device at a coffee shop is becoming the norm. It's a fast and furious world we live in where we expect information to be sent and received instantaneously. We literally are addicted to our devices. Whether it is checking the instant feedback we get on social media, what the temperature is in our house, outside our house or even in Beijing, or that growing number of emails we have; our devices are constantly vying for our attention.
Email is an example of how our communication methods evolved into the electronic world, all thanks to one man who had an idea. Ray Tomlinson was a pioneering American computer programmer who implemented the first email program. His first email, sent in 1971 was a test message from one computer to another, while the machines were sitting side-by-side. At first, his email message system was not considered important by him or others, as he had only pursued it because "it seemed like a neat idea." Now, roughly 47 years after that "neat idea," within a couple of seconds, you can send a piece of mail electronically to almost anywhere on the globe.
Electronic platforms play a role in nearly every move we make. We have eLearning, eCommerce, eBooks, eSports, eDistribution, eProcurement, ePrescribing (eRX), eVoting, even eWaste! Everything that is anything seems to have an "e" in front of it. As for my role here at GROWMARK, I am focused on eLearning. I use specialized software to create complex, interactive web-based training programs you can take with you anywhere you go. You can take a one-hour online course at home on your phone instead of attending a half-day program that may require transportation and other costs to attend. eLearning opens up the world of possibilities to make it easy for anyone to grow their knowledge, skills and abilities with any given amount of time that is available.
So next time you are waiting for a flight, your coffee, or picking up your kids from practice, consider using that time and your technology to learn. And then, when you are done, you can eFile your taxes and check your investments on E*TRADE, or whatever other "e" action you want to take. The real "e" word behind all of this is: embrace it. The "e" is here to stay; anything less than electronic seems archaic.
By: Rhonda Catalino
What is my brand? What does personal brand even mean? How do I come up with this stuff? These may be some recurring questions flooding your brain while you're on the quest to define your professional career.
How do I want to be seen by others?
Ding, ding, ding! That's the big question to consider before you begin identifying your personal brand. Answering this question may seem daunting, right? Well, here are some suggestions to help you begin defining your personal brand:
Build your platform
Grow your network
Social media management is key
By: Kayla Portwood
If I said you could make tomorrow the best day ever by implementing a few simple habits, would I have your attention? Most of us would say yes, but the reality is most of us wouldn't make the necessary changes. The way we start the day impacts how we finish the day. So, to make the day great we must win the mornings!
Those who live great lives experience the power of the morning by creating strong habits and routines that set them up for an unbreakable day. The goal is to develop a routine that works for you. Here are some suggestions to help you win the morning so you can win the day:
Life is a journey and we want to enjoy it. Find the routine that works for you, so you can conquer the morning and the day!
By: Brandon Umphrey
We've all heard it before: it's not what you know, it's who you know. How true do you think this statement is? I never thought much of this phrase until I started working in recruiting. I am here to tell you this statement is important and could not be more accurate. It is amazing to me how networking creates connections that can impact your professional life in such big ways. Every time you turn down a chance to network with someone new at work, in the industry, or in general, you are turning down a future opportunity to grow as a leader or professional.
One experience that comes to my mind is a networking exercise I took part in at Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference years ago. Over 70 agriculture students from around the country were sitting in a hotel meeting room in Kansas City. The speaker threw a large ball of string at our group. We were confused. He had us go around the room and state our overall career goals and one fun experience on our bucket list. As we did this, others from the group would raise their hands to signal that they had a connection within their network that could help the person holding the ball of string complete their career goal or cross the identified item off their bucket list. The person holding the ball of string would throw the ball to one of the individuals with their hand raised. It was amazing. We heard so many different conversations starting. "I want to raise alpacas once I retire." "I want to work in Ag Law." "I want to hike the Appalachian Trail." "I want to work for Kraft-Heinz as a food scientist." As these statements were said, hands shot up in the air, and people identified their go-to people in the room and had the chance to network with them after the exercise concluded. By the time we were done, the room looked like a giant spider web. There wasn't a single statement mentioned in that room that someone didn't make a connection through.
This exercise opened my eyes to how important it is to take the time to get to know the people around you as they can help you reach your dreams. I would argue that networking is not only important, but more so your best linking to success.
By: Tori Streitmatter
Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is so rich in content that I find myself still using and learning from it 11 years after my initial read. I cannot count the number of times I have referenced "begin with the end in mind" when coaching Subject Matter Experts (SME's) to develop training, advising colleagues on how to create powerful presentations or creating training myself. It's not just a cliche. It can be a powerful tool in the presenting and training worlds.
As an instructional designer for over 10 years, each time I sit down to create a training, I "begin with the end in mind". What do the learners need to know, do, and apply when they walk out of training? What is the end experience you are striving to create for them? There is so much information on every topic imaginable, it is often difficult to sift through it all to decide what is important.
Whether you are creating a training, a presentation or simply an agenda for a meeting, there are some helpful questions to ask yourself that will allow you focus on the end goal—thereby saving you time, while producing an impactful facilitation.
Step 1: Analyze
Who is my audience? What are the audience's characteristics that affect the content and how it is delivered? What is my topic? What is the amount of time allotted for the facilitation? What is the goal of the facilitation? Why would the participants want to attend the facilitation?
Step 2: Create/Develop
What are the objectives that will fulfill the goal of the facilitation? What do participants need to know/be able to do when they leave? How do you plan to accomplish the objective(s)?
Step 3: Execution/Delivery
Is PowerPoint visually helpful for this facilitation? Is this meeting necessary or will an email accomplish the goal(s)? Would an activity help the participants better understand the content? Does this facilitation need to be face-to-face, or can it be online or a webinar? How can I deliver the content without being a boring lecturer?
Asking yourself these questions before you even begin to sift through the plethora of information will help you focus and create a better product.
After all these years, I still get lost sometimes in the sea of information. I get caught up in reading, learning, the "ooh shiny" moments, and the "that's not what I'm looking for" frustration. What do I do? Take a deep breath. Regain focus. And remind myself to "begin with the end in mind".
By: Michele Hillary
Careers take twists and turns making your professional experience a path unique to you based on your aspirations and experiences.
While in college I was told, "Your degree will help you get placed in your first job – after that it will be based on your experiences." At first, I was unsure how this was possible due to my degree being the career path I was wanting to take. I knew the skillset it equipped me with prepared me to take on a communication based career. However, as my career path began to evolve the above statement has never been more true. GROWMARK has a variety of positions available across multiple facets of business. No matter the position you are in, you are developing valuable transferrable skills to prepare you to take on your next career move. Transferrable skills can be applied whether you are in accounting, energy, agronomy, etc. If you find an area interesting, talk with the team currently in place and learn more about it. Determine the skillset you need to develop that could be applied to a similar position.
Recently I took a different position in the company and many people saw the switch as an extreme change. Yes, it is very different from my former position. However, I was able to apply skills gained from one role and build new skills in my current role. All of which are preparing me for my future career goals. Again, the path is unique to you and no two people may have the same path.
A path is there for guidance not set in concrete. It is meant to be flexible and allow for the individual to make his or her decisions based on interests and new discoveries along the way. It is not meant to be straight and narrow but allow for curves along the way. If you have an interest don't be afraid to pursue it because you could end up finding a position that fulfills a passion you may not even realize you had!
By: Amie Hasselbring
Every day we engage others in conversation, presentations and meetings. You engage in communication where you need to make key points about your perspective, thought or idea. Your intent is to have credibility and impact with the direction or outcome of the interaction. You need to ERASE all doubt in communicating your key points that will increase your influence and outcomes. Below are five different forms of evidence to support your key ideas. The acronym ERASE will help you remember them.
Before your next conversation, presentation or meeting; take a few minutes to identify your key points you want to make, then select one of the five ways you can ERASE all doubt to increase your impact and credibility.
By: David Hansen
"I don't know why you are so excited to graduate. You're going to be working for the next 50 years of your life" – stated my senior year college professor. I am now several years out of college and still refer to this as one of the best statements I had ever heard. Like a smack in the face, this rather blunt statement put my future career into perspective and prompted me to think of what I do and the company I work for with a different approach.
I believe it is not only important for every person to find passion in what they do, but also important to find a connection to the purpose of the company... What makes you complete your best work? What keeps you walking in that door every day? What makes you stay the extra hour – or four to accomplish the task? The big reason that rises to the top for me is my connection to the big picture – what is the company's impact on the world? I may not have grown up on a farm, but I find the agricultural industry a place where I can see a real impact on the world. I connect to the work I do because I work for a company that is making a difference in the world by providing. The ways we impact the world range from supplying propane to heat the house on a cold winter day, feeding and fueling the world by providing the best products and services to farmers and growers, and by being the best we can be for our customers daily.
I'm proud of the company I work for and the industry which it does business. I find passion in what I do daily because I know the difference the GROWMARK System is making on the world. Although 50 years is literally a lifetime, the days go fast when you work for a company whose business you are truly connected to on a deeper level!
By: Marissa Williams
On any day of the year, you can guarantee there is something being celebrated or remembered on a national or global level. The month of May is no exception and presents quite the variety of interesting and unusual things to remember or celebrate. Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, graduations, and Memorial Day are a few well-known ones. But did you know that May also includes Star Wars Day, World Red Cross Day, National Eat What You Want Day (celebrated all year long in my case), and World Turtle Day?!
We can argue that some of these days are more important that others, but regardless, it seems on any given day there is something to celebrate. In the workplace, it doesn't have to be any different. Celebrating and recognizing the good work, efforts and progress of team members creates a positive work environment, increases team morale and creates a more engaged workforce. Whether you are the leader of a team or an employee, we can all do our part to build each other up and take time to celebrate successes.
Here are some simple ways to celebrate those successes:
By: Carrie (Kuhns) Harshman
It is one thing to enjoy the work you do, but another thing to enjoy the environment you work in. My inspiration for this blog came from a somewhat recent situation with a friend. It was similar to this:
Person A: "I love my current employer, but I found a career elsewhere that pays more and I really want to take a chance on this opportunity. I could use a pay increase."
Person B: "Oh really? What have you heard about their company culture? Are you sure you want to leave everything about this company for a little more pay? You do realize companies like this are hard to come by…"
Person A: "The company didn't score very high on their review when I looked them up on Glassdoor, but I'm sure it's fine. Again, I really need this pay increase."
Person B: "Well, I hope you're making the right decision. I'm not sure I would give up the amazing culture at your current employer simply for a little more pay. I guarantee if you're patient and work hard, good things will happen for you at your current workplace!"
*TWO MONTHS LATER*
Person A: "I have really tried to be positive about all of this and not complain, but the culture at my new job is unbearable. This may sound terrible, but I wish I had never left my former position. I think I am going to try to leave here soon. I'm sick of being treated like another number here."
Is leaving a highly respected company for a little more pay a smart decision? Not in my book. You don't realize how impactful company culture is. At GROWMARK, our culture is one of a kind. I have been spoiled with compassionate teammates, a plethora of ways to directly engage with our CEO, and many opportunities to get involved with employee programs that host annual walking challenges, recycling programs, food drives, and numerous employee recognition events. (Honestly, this list could go on and on.) I think everyone would agree that it feels good to work for an employer that truly cares about me and my well-being. There is something special about working for a place that puts forth effort to make their employees feel appreciated. I've learned you can't put a price tag on that!
The next time you are forced to make a new career decision based on career advancement, pay increase, or length of commute, be sure to stay mindful of just how important company culture can be.
By: Tori Streitmatter
Adult Learning Practitioners are often asked if pursuing professional certifications are worth it? The answer is not so simple. Some professionals will tell you YES! absolutely certifications are worth it and can lead to advancement. Others will say NO! certifications are a waste of time, money and mean very little. As a steadfast advocate for lifelong learning, my recommendation is to pursue opportunities that best align and support your interests and growth - whether you experience a certification program, job rotation, mentoring relationship, reading professional journals/blogs, or take a risk and change professions all together – continue to grow.
If you do find yourself reflecting on the possibility of pursuing a professional certification program, here are three key points to consider:
Remember when selecting the most suitable certification program for you, it's not about the piece of paper you received. It's about the experience of the process and the integration of new skills and knowledge. No matter your choice, continue to remain a curious learner.
By: Stacey Curry
I utilized the GROWMARK Tuition Aid Program to complete my MBA at Illinois State University from 2014 to 2016. I had not really considered obtaining an advanced degree after receiving my bachelor's degree in 2012, but after learning that GROWMARK offered a Tuition reimbursement program, I decided to look into it. I eventually decided to get my Master's degree on a part-time basis.
The approval and submission process for reimbursement for the program was simple. All I needed to do was fill out a form at the beginning each semester with the courses I was planning to take, and gain approval from my supervisor and division manager. Then, at the end of each semester, I submitted the same form, but with my grade and billing information included. I received a reimbursement for the courses I took on my next paycheck. To make it even more convenient, the money was automatically deposited into my primary bank account that was already on file for my paycheck.
I was grateful to receive the reimbursement each semester, to help pay for the following semester. The program gave me the opportunity to continue my education, and do so without any debt or financial worries. I was motivated to do well in my classes not only for personal achievement goals, but also to make sure I was reimbursed for the courses. The GROWMARK Tuition Aid Program made an advanced degree affordable for me, and I'd recommend that other employees utilize this fantastic opportunity that is offered!
By: Madison Ruff
We're in the middle of basketball season with all kinds of games. Age group, grade school, junior high, high school, college, professional games, intercity games, county tournaments, conference tournaments, state playoffs, March Madness, and NBA Playoffs.
As a spectator, do you ever see a player who has great court awareness?
What kind of players do you enjoy watching? My favorite player was Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan had great basketball acumen, yes acumen.
The word acumen is most often applied to the business world, hence "business acumen". Business Acumen is having an awareness of what's happening inside a company. It's the ability to make good judgments that benefit the operations of the company, specifically the financial impact. Increasing business acumen can help anticipate the ripple effects and impact of decisions, in relying on experience, knowledge, and skills.
We all need to anticipate the ripple effects of our jobs and the business decisions we make. Try to increase your acumen within your company by learning more about your job and how it fits within the financial statements. Improve your awareness of what is going on around you and make better business decisions by increasing your business acumen.
By: Greg DeGraaf
Earlier in my GROWMARK career, Jim Spradlin explained to me the best way to showcase your leadership abilities and advance your career is to "leave your mark on the organization." At the time Jim was my supervisor in Agronomy and he has since become the CEO of GROWMARK. Those words have really stuck with me and I think about them often. I have since realized this "mark" can be outside of your job description. So, a few years ago I began seeking out additional opportunities in which I could "make my mark" on GROWMARK.
It began when I was invited to join GROWMARK's Diversity and Inclusion initiative. What started as a think tank, turned into a task force with me serving as a co-chair because of my personal interest and the time and effort I was willing to invest. About that time, I learned of an opportunity with the IAA Credit Union's board. I had inquired previously and learned the board consisted of employees from the IAA Family of Companies. After getting involved on the board, my desire to make an impact led me to serve as the chairperson. More recently, I was asked and accepted an opportunity to join a GROWMARK advisory committee which helps navigate the balance between the need for information security and employee productivity with systems and processes.
Leadership comes in a variety of forms beyond holding a specific job title or being a supervisor. Sometimes being willing to take on additional responsibilities, outside of your position, department, or even company, is a great measure of your traits and capability as a leader. There are multiple variations of the phrase "say yes and figure the rest out later." While I don't believe this is a great rule to live by without question, remember stretch assignments and opportunities will not appear every day or forever into the future. I highly encourage all employees to think strongly before just simply responding with "no, I don't have time" when an opportunity presents itself.
By: Jeff Frank
“Employee development doesn’t happen inside one’s mind”
Learning is not the same as growing. Learning becomes growth only when it is applied, practiced and sustained over time and in new situations. Understanding the purpose of learning is just as important as understanding that learning must occur. A KEY fundamental of learning is cultivating and growing new skills to ensure you are meeting the workplace challenges of today AND tomorrow. Without a focus on developing defined knowledge, skills and abilities (aligned to business drivers and a competency model) a path to greater achievement becomes unclear. Skill building is a behavior, and behaviors change by learning new skills or adjusting old ones to conquer new challenges. Competencies are the language of leadership/employee development, and are a key tool to help employees better understand where to focus their training activities.
It is important to remember that formal training alone isn't going to drive development if you aren't actively engaged in practicing and implementing skills learned in the classroom back in the workplace. Formal classroom training does not create more skilled employees. It simply focuses, and brings to light, what you need to learn and develop in order to be a better and more effective employee.
The goal in leadership/employee development is NOT to achieve complete mastery over a skill, but to build enough capacity and understanding to apply that skill back in the workplace. This practice will ultimately lead to the mastery of certain skills and behaviors that have a positive impact inside the workplace.
A common challenge we see in our formal training programs is that when employees move into new roles, they rely on old skills and behaviors to do a new job. With the new position, they are unclear of what they need to focus on. Their development goals become nonspecific with no ties to learning outcomes which can lead to a stall in development, and frustration in the new role.
A clear understanding of what knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities are needed to perform effectively in one's current position is an imperative part of training. Becoming clear about what training you need, when you need it and how to apply it back in the workplace will ultimately lead to greater satisfaction and personal growth as an employee. As the great book titled, "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There (Goldsmith)" states, having a clear understanding of your development needs will ultimately help you achieve success.
Understanding Your Development Needs – Where to Start
How do you ensure you're building the right skill set for your current position and for future opportunities? The key to answering this question is to identify what skills and abilities you need to develop, obtain an understanding of how to improve them, and then implement. It is as easy as 1-2-3.
Step 1: What skills do I really need to understand or develop to be more effective in my job? Taking the time to asses where you are in terms of skill development is important. Be honest with yourself about where you need help and what you need to do to improve. Your manager should be involved in the conversation to help coach and guide you in terms of where they see potential deficiencies, competencies and skills you need to focus on. Once you understand what you need to improve, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Based on your understanding of what you need to improve to drive your growth, determine what competencies you want to focus on and create a plan of action on HOW you are going to learn these new skills. Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can be a powerful tool to help you formalize this process. You may need to take a formal training class to obtain a better understanding of how a particular skill should be used in the workplace. If that is the case, then by all means attend a training class! Remember, training is often a very small piece of your development. Consider what else you might do at work to help grow your skills. Experiential learning is a concept that has proven very valuable in helping employees grow on the job, gain invaluable experience and learn from mistakes. What is experiential learning? It is a method of educating through first-hand experience. Skills, knowledge and experience are acquired outside of the traditional training setting, and may include the following:
Once you have created an IDP and begun to implement experiential learning in the workplace you are ready for step 3!
Step 3: How are you doing? Work with your manager to ensure that you are applying what you have learned, and understand the mistakes that you are making and why you are making them. Confirm that you are continuing to focus on the skills you want to improve. Reviewing your IDP regularly with your manager is a great way to ensure that learning transfer is taking place. By understanding what you need to do to improve as an employee, you can be assured that your growth will continue.
By: Andy Schuster
I always knew my true passion was to serve others, but I had no idea where to begin finding a career path where I could make a big impact. Here are four tips that are continually on my mind as I navigate my life and career.
1. Always Stay Curious
I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I was in Kindergarten, I recall very vividly wanting to be a mad scientist when I grew up. I thought each of these would be my career path at one point of my life: farmer, youth pastor, DEC officer, soldier. I researched and explored just about any career path that sounded good to me; I wanted to find my place. I knew I loved the outdoors and I knew that I wanted to make a difference. (Pretty cliche, I know). Eventually I discovered that agriculture was the perfect fit for what I was looking for. With the help of a family friend, (who to this day continues to be a career mentor for me) I found my life calling.
2. Take Risks
I needed a summer job and applied for a Seed Research Technician position at GROWMARK FS. I had zero industry experience, but I was ambitious. I had an insatiable desire to get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and succeed. I was hired and had an amazing summer with my first true exposure to agriculture. I was originally studying Criminal Justice at Buffalo State College, but ended up transferring into Morrisville State College's Agricultural Business Development B.B.A. program after that first summer. I refused to accept that I would be at any disadvantage not having grown up on a farm or having an extensive background in agriculture since this was what I knew I wanted to pursue.
3. Overcome Doubt
Without a traditional agriculture background and with my future goals of getting involved in the farm service sector, I did not want to be ignorant to the fact that I needed to be able to understand my future customers, the growers, and their needs and concerns. I ended up going to a local dairy farm in college and taking a job as a farmhand during my semesters there. Passion forms its own path. If the passion is there, you will be able to find solutions and form a path to be successful. In my case, I leveraged my soft skills, problem solving abilities, and work ethic to be successful in agriculture. Doubt from others (and even from yourself) is imminent if you are pursuing something new. True character reveals itself in the midst of trials like these.
4. Stay the Course
I have held numerous roles in my five and a half years in the GROWMARK System in both New York and Illinois. I have been an Agronomy Intern, Customer Service Representative in agronomy, and most recently a University Relations Recruiter. While for some it may look odd going from a technical role to now being in human resources at the corporate office, it made perfect sense to me. I wanted to become a more well-rounded employee and leverage the skills and experiences I have had to succeed in the company and grow personally and professionally. This career in agriculture has allowed me to serve others in so many ways, from addressing grower's issues in New York to helping manage the GROWMARK Internship Program and match passions with opportunities. In 2017, I took on a role with GOYA Ministries as an Agricultural Advisory Board Member and Co-leader on my second agriculturally focused mission trip in Nairobi, Kenya and the surrounding areas. Seeing firsthand how what I have learned could help address food security issues and feed starving children has been nothing short of life changing for me.
If I would have let my concerns and doubts make my decisions for me in my career, I never would have been able to experience a fraction of what I have. Throughout my childhood, I was very unsure of the future, including my future career. I am still unsure of where this career path will take me, but I know that passion forms its own path into amazing opportunities.
By: Luke Martin
With the new year just around the corner, lots of us start focusing on the goals we want to set for 2018 and how we plan to achieve them. To keep you on track as you progress towards your personal and professional goals, here are 5 tips you can use to maintain productivity during the new year:
Cheers to achieving your 2018 goals and wishing you a happy, healthy and joyful new year!
By: Brittany Piepenbrink