4 Ways to Cultivate Talent in Your Teams

AT&T helps millions of customers connect with entertainment, mobile, high-speed Internet, and voice services.

Employing nearly 300,000 people worldwide, AT&T is committed to both hiring and shaping talent. AT&T University, an executive-taught leadership development program in the company’s Dallas headquarters, trains emerging leaders through in-house and satellite campuses across the U.S.

But AT&T needs more than just training; it needs innovation. So, in partnership with Georgia Tech and Udacity, Inc., AT&T created the first-ever Online Master of Science in Computer Science degree and self-paced, fast-track technical credentials called Nanodegrees across web and mobile development, data analytics, and tech entrepreneurship.

“We can’t depend on just hiring and the traditional educational system as sources for retooling or finding new talent,” said corporate communications manager Marty Richter. “We’re focused on aligning company leaders to strategic business innovation and results, skilling and re-skilling our 280,000 employees and inspiring a culture of continuous learning.”

Great managers are organized, courageous, and encouraging. But to maximize the team potential, they need another critical skill: finding and developing talent.

Strategy, Soft Skills, and Coaching

The ability to see and unlock talent is crucial to running a top-notch team.

But growing talent is not always easy. It may fly in the face of traditional hiring practices or may require you to go against your gut when evaluating current employees.

As you look to maximize the impact of your team, here are four steps to consider:

1. Plan Strategically

While individual employees are often asked where they see themselves in five years, few leaders project how they’d like to build their team in that same time-frame.

Most leaders are good at recognizing potential, but they rarely think ahead on long-term staffing. If you know the areas of your organization that need the most help, focus efforts on strategic long-term staffing to make it happen.

What skills, abilities, or experiences will your next employees need? Dream it today so you can hire it tomorrow!

2. Focus on Soft Skills, Not Expertise

Did you know that the World Economic Forum predicts 65% of today’s jobs will no longer exist in 15 years?

Often when people look for talent (either in or outside our company), they put too much emphasis on performance or expertise. But since we can’t know what tomorrow’s challenges will be, the most important skills aren’t technical abilities. Emotional intelligence, a passion for learning, and the ability to relate with others are essential traits for future success.

3. Develop Talent Through Coaching

Good managers are invested coaches.

No matter how skilled your team is, continually look for ways to help them grow. This may mean offering on-going training opportunities, mentorships, or “baby steps” toward leadership. Do your leaders delegate parts of their job to younger professionals so people can learn side-by-side? Hands-on leadership training can increase employee engagement while infusing passion into your organizational DNA.

4. Evaluate as You Go

Often managers are the cap that reduces growth and creativity.

Does this sound like you? If so, why?

Perhaps you’re not sharing the load or challenging team members to grow. Provide employees with tools to assess professional goals and offer critical feedback to address poor performance or new responsibilities. Meet with other managers to assess progress regarding developing talent. And keep the dialogue flowing about business strategies and people’s individual roles within this vision.

Become the Chief Talent Agent

Great managers are also great talent agents.

The most important factor in your company’s future is your ability to recognize and develop potential. No other factor will make such a significant impact in shaping high performing teams!

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Tackle Big-Picture Projects Using a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Start at the bottom.

That’s what legendary basketball coach John Wooden did every year. Wooden did not start with layups or defensive strategy – he started with shoelaces.

Coach Wooden, who won 10 championships in 12 years with U.C.L.A., had a reputation for fortifying the fundamentals before moving forward. Before his athletes played, they had to practice pulling up their socks, leaving no loose flaps in the sneakers, and pull laces tight to avoid ankle sprains.

 “He didn’t want blisters,” said former player Rich Levin. “I mean, that’s not a serious illness, but you could miss a game or two.”

Whether you’re a new business owner or a seasoned veteran, sometimes we all need to start at the bottom.

Have you refreshed the fundamentals of your business plan lately? Managing finances is essential to success, and one tool of the trade is a cost-benefit analysis. Whether you’re considering a new venture or weighing a staffing decision, a cost-benefit analysis can help you decide which projects to tackle and what resources are needed.

The Basics of a Cost-Benefit Analysis

When you perform a cost-benefit analysis (CBA), you make a comparative assessment of all the benefits you anticipate from your project and all the costs needed to implement and support the changes this brings.

Here are four steps to account for revenue and expenses in your CBA:

1. Prepare a Balance Sheet

Begin by carefully examining your costs and expenses (or money-in, money-out).

After you categorize expenses in your balance sheet, you are ready to weigh upcoming business decisions with a rubric that puts potential benefits and costs in context.

2. Give Dollar Values to Anticipated Costs & Benefits

A CBA, in a nutshell, means adding money in benefits plus money in costs over a set period of time.

A functional CBA seeks to express benefits and costs in monetary equivalents. Some CBA’s are easy to quantify. For example, adding new seating to your restaurant might incur a one-time expense of $60,000, but result in $7,000 of extra sales each month.

Clearly, those benefits outweigh the costs. 

Some CBAs are more complex. Perhaps hiring a team member will cost $40,000, but the increased sales and productivity are hard to estimate. In this case, do your best to express benefits and costs in monetary terms to facilitate the assessment of a project’s net value.

3. Weigh Future Values or Expenses

As you build your CBA, remember to make projections for all phases of the project.

Some of your costs may occur only once (like capital investment, equipment purchases, etc.), and others will be recurring (like staffing, maintenance, or increased utility bills). The farther into the future you look, the more important it is to convert the net value (of benefits over costs) into today’s dollars. As you refine your CBA, consider inflation, interest rates, and even opportunity costs (the potential benefits that might be lost by passing on a different project in favor of this one).

Here you may want to run a sensitivity analysis, which is a “what if” analysis that goes back to your CBA and plays around with assumptions. For example, if you had uncertainty about sales projections, you could vary projections by several percentage points before re-running the analysis.

4. Make an Informed Decision

Now it’s time to compare total costs to total benefits and make a decision.

Do benefits outweigh costs? Do they do so significantly? In this case, you should green-light the project. If more capital is needed, you’ll need to rethink your goals or form a new strategy.

No matter what the decision, a CBA can be critical to the success of any project, allowing you to make non-critical choices and keep your business running smoothly!

Beyond Fitness: 5 Ways to Foster Well-Being in Your Workplace

According to the World Health Organization, health is central to human happiness and well-being.

Healthy populations live longer, are more productive, save resources, and make important contributions to sustainability, a better world, and economic progress.

But well-being involves more than just fitness. It includes physical comfort, mental stability, and emotional connectivity. In short, well-being is the “feel-good factor.”

5 Workplace Well-Being Factors

Companies that prioritize safety, work environment, and the emotional well-being of employees will improve morale, reduce absenteeism, and be more productive in the long run.

Aside from fitness incentives, here are five factors that contribute to well-being in the workplace.

1. Physical Comfort and Safety

Do you do your best work when you are shivering or dripping with sweat?

The physical comfort of employees has a significant effect on company outputs each year. The design and “unwritten rules” of a workspace are key factors in meeting employees’ most basic needs – including everything from temperature control, air quality, access to daylight, ergonomics, noise control, and safety risks.

Allowing for discussions about problem areas and individual control for the adjustment of conditions can be critical to overall well-being.

2. Autonomy

Difficult co-workers are hard, but micro-managing bosses can be harder.

When managers are too controlling, employees fail to excel in their collaborative environments. This disengagement has high costs over time: studies show that apathetic workers have rates of absenteeism 37% higher than average, and they work with a dampened sense of creativity. Strategic leaders need to keep a close eye on how company managers are encouraging or squashing employee morale.

3. Remote Work Options

When autonomy is given full expression, there is a permissiveness for working off-site.

This may seem insignificant, but allowing employees to flex their schedule, work around a sick child, or extend family vacations with remote work days can do wonders to keep people motivated. When there is a greater balance between office and domestic life, conflict is reduced, and productivity grows.

4. Positive Culture

Do you work well when you’re having more fun?

Workplace well-being spikes when social connections are strong. The Harvard Business Review found this so necessary that they identified six characteristics of a supportive work culture:

  1. Caring for colleagues as you would friends
  2. Providing support and compassion
  3. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
  4. Inspiring one another
  5. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work
  6. Instilling trust, integrity, and gratitude across all levels of the organization.

Whether it’s monthly lunch cookouts or goofy employee awards, strong companies prioritize transparent relationships from the top down.

5. Collaborative Competition

Why are shows like The Amazing Race or Dancing with the Stars so engaging?

Maybe it’s because watching teams work toward a common goal fosters community – even between reality TV stars and their audience!

When companies encourage supportive competition, it can build bridges between employees, generate untapped creativity, and spark engagement or support that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Whether you post department “step counting” challenges or have people compete for the best new marketing hook, collaborative competition is one of the easiest ways to boost the physical, mental, and social environment at work.

The Long View of Well-Being

The core of every strong well-being program is behavior change.

If you launch a well-being initiative, identify a long-term impact that you are targeting as well. The best programs are good at helping people adopt AND maintain healthy behaviors, including how they feel about work, and if they’re giving their best each day.

Addressing all levels of well-being optimizing company potential and allows each individual to be personally fulfilled.

6 Ways to Speed Up Your Next Print Project

Do you have a print deadline that needs the fastest possible turn-around time?

If speed is of utmost importance, here are several ways you can improve efficiency as you take your project to print:

1. Plot Your Course and Communicate Early

Early planning and communication are vital when starting a print project.

When possible, get your printer’s input early regarding design, project checkpoints, and final editing. Setting a schedule with your printer regarding design, estimated turnaround, and print presets can directly impact the speed with which your project is finished.

As soon as you coordinate these details, you’ll establish a timely framework that both parties can stick to.

2. Ask Questions Upfront

When partnering with a design professional, be sure to clarify the contract at the get-go.

Will you be paying a project fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in this fee? Clarify how long the project will take, how often you’ll review the work, and how many revisions are allowed in this agreement.

3. Allow for More Margin on Larger Projects

Professional printers are very efficient, but big projects still take time.

Designing one piece can be quick, but re-branding or crafting large-scale exhibit pieces can take a significant amount of time, especially if there is confusion about the parameters or design presets for a particular project. One costly mistake can disrupt an entire campaign, so allow extra time for big projects, and both parties will have leeway to handle hiccups in the most efficient, cost-effective way.

4. Assemble All the Elements

Attend to the precise details of copy, timeline, and photography at the get-go, and be sure those in authority have given these elements the green light before the task proceeds.

Your project will involve many pieces, and when they are aligned from the start, it will allow your design dollars to be maximized with fewer delays. While you may not have precise details ironed out, clarifying project parameters is key to finishing on time and on budget!

5. Err on the Side of Simplicity

Creativity is cool, but if swiftness is your goal, you should keep designs simple.

Don’t go overboard. If you’re short on time, design something that is easy on the eyes and uses very basic graphics, fonts, and materials. If you have templates on hand (from previous projects), consider whether you can adapt or edit these for the fastest possible output.

If you are pressed for time, consider using an online design tool. Or your professional print specialist may be willing to combine a pre-ordered template with the custom design you want. This may be the simplest (and cheapest!) way for everyone to get a project across the finish line.

6. Avoid Alterations Once a Design Has Been Sent

Check your design before sending it to the printer.

Proof everything with multiple editors before it leaves your office. Every alteration or edit can cost you valuable time. Once the design has already been received by the printing company, there should be no need to make changes unless it is vital to do so.

Better Together

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Whether you need high-level graphic design or full-service printing, our capable team is dedicated to providing you with prompt, knowledgeable, one-on-one service, and bringing you carefully printed materials you can be proud of.

We’re here to make things flow as smoothly as possible!