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Archive for the ‘Healthy Practices’ Category

Taking on the Resume

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BY: Lisa Borchert BA., RVP. Vocational Rehab Consultant. Independence Incorporated

Why it is a difficult but mandatory tool to the return to work process

Remember the old expression – “if I had a nickel for every time I heard that” Well, I wish I had a nickel (or a loonie) for every time I heard a client say “I have no skills” or “I’m not good at anything” and “there’s no job out there for me….”  

The return to work is difficult, often frightening and challenging on many levels. And that’s going back to the pre-disability job! A job where you know the people, the routines, the culture, the physical layout and you know your position and its expected outcomes. You have a coffee buddy, people smile and nod and say hello and know your name. You know where the bathrooms are. You know who rules the water cooler. You know what the company does and what your role is or has been. You know the bus route and where to park.

Now imagine going to a completely new job – different job different employer – doing work you’ve never done before, probably using skills you haven’t used extensively in your work history or using newly acquired skills. You know no one, can’t find the bathroom or the lunchroom without help, don’t really know what it is you are supposed to be doing and don’t know who to ask, or even if you can ask. New jobs are scary to some degree for everyone, whether you are a seasoned executive making a planned job change or an average guy getting hired at a new place. Every first day produces stress at some level. So imagine, if you will, that you’ve been injured, can’t do the only job you’ve ever done and you know in your heart your company isn’t going to take you back. Wouldn’t take you back / couldn’t take you back, doesn’t matter – there’s no place for you there and now you have to live through yet another potentially traumatic event – transitioning to a new job.

I’ve done it. Twice. It was hard each time. And what did I say the first time…”I’ll never get hired, no one will hire me, I have no skills”.   What was it my friend said at the time, “No one wants to hire 40 year old women like us”……    wrong!

So now we come to the title of this little piece. The resume. The little tool that does it all, the true multitasker.   Working with your return to work clients to create a resume can be so much more than simply creating a document for answering job ads. The resume is a clearly laid out statement of skills and abilities that spotlights what each individual client is good at. It doesn’t matter if it’s putting up drywall or programming firewalls every person has talent. As a voc rehab provider it’s my job to help each client recognize and identify those talents.

The resume process is at least as important and rewarding as the finished product. By moving the clients to the point where they recognize and believe that they have talent, skills and abilities they begin to believe that they are deserving of a new job; that they have something to offer, that someone might actually want to hire them and that they have not worked 20 years for nothing. I have seen it proven many times that the resume process can be a powerful shot in the arm for lagging confidence and low self-esteem.

What is the resume process? Simple and sometimes not so simple, it’s all communication. Sit down with your client, no time limit and be prepared to dig for information. I never let a client get away with things like ‘I did the morning mail’, ‘I assisted the manager’, I was responsible for’…no skill is identifiable in those phrases, there are no verbs. (Action words, I love them!) I dig for specific tasks; as I recently told a client the word ‘assisted’ could mean anything from ‘I brought coffee’ to ‘I did all the work and got none of the credit’. Probe for verbs, did your client research, proofread, build, program, lead, delegate, teach, measure….you get the picture. It’s an action film.

For many clients this process is difficult and very emotional. Routine jobs done over long periods of time with little or no recognition wear away self confidence and can make workers feel like they don’t have any skills any more. They just do the same thing every day, by rote and possibly with their eyes closed and one hand tied behind their back. It is important to remind clients that while they see it as routine, potential employers see it as a desired skill. Being able to do it well with minimal training on the new job is a benefit for everyone – less training time for the employer and an easier, quicker transition for the client.

For clients who can no longer use long time skills and must seek alternate employment the resume process can be even more difficult. It is important to identify the transferable skills and identify how the client did their job, what professional traits do they exhibit on the workforce – patience, detailed, organized, efficient. What does the client do in their life or in volunteer activities? The resume can’t change a work history but it can highlight skills, talents and abilities that are relevant to where the client is going right now.   And that is what a good resume does; it is a forward thinking document designed to get someone where they want to go, not keep them where they’ve been.

Some clients will fight you every step of the way. I think there are two main reasons.

  1. Lots of people think they are fabulous resume writers. They can use the template from MicroSoft Word. They have a friend or relative in HR or management and they get good advice. They don’t need you nor do they want to be part of the process.   Definitely putting up barriers.
  2. Creating a resume is hard work. Emotionally. Not only does it demand thinking of oneself in a whole new light, but it also means that a job search is imminent. It is concrete evidence that they are leaving the past and moving to the future, the scary unknown future. When clients feel they are not ready to return to work the resume, or even the thought of the resume process becomes frightening and up go the roadblocks.

Resistance is futile. In the end no one can resist a good voc rehab provider. Here’s where that communication comes in. It’s important to explain to a client that writing a resume is a process and that the finished document has no best before date. Wherever the client is in return to work planning there are benefits to at least beginning the process. One is identification of skills which leads to job discussion which leads to the realization and belief that possibilities exist. The second benefit is increased self awareness that begins re-building the confidence that leads to that glorious moment when the client sees themselves reflected in the resume as a viable, hirable professional.

So that little resume has accomplished a number of important tasks. The process helped create a solid working relationship with you and the client, it brought the client on board to see themselves as being in the process, it demonstrated the value of the client for a new employer and right there in black and white that little resume showed the client a skill set he never knew or had forgotten he had.

That little resume, crafted uniquely with, and for each client now spotlights possibilities for a successful job search or at the very least (or most) helps move the client to the point where the very words job search don’t bring on a cold sweat. The client is moving forward.   And that is what it’s all about.

Now I wish I had a loonie for every time I heard…”If I were an employer, I’d hire me”.

6 Steps To Retraining Returning Employees

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Employee trainingWhen it has come time for a worker to return to his or her job after a long absence, it is understandably difficult. It’s not just difficult for the employee, however. It requires a great deal of effort from the employer to ensure that his or her returning staff member is given all of the tools necessary to do the job. This often means that retraining is required. It stands to reason that someone who has spent a lot of time away from the job will need to become reacquainted with it.

As a result, an appropriate training regimen needs to be put in place. And this type of training should be tailored in such a way that it addresses the various needs and potential limitations of the employee that is returning to work. In many cases, there may be sensitivities that need to be respected. So what is the best way to retrain a returning employee? Well, it’s a process that takes several steps. Here are six important ones.

1. Clearly define the job. It’s important to make clear to your returning staff member what is expected of him or her. In some cases, the role may have been changed to suit the skill set and physical abilities of the employee. On Blogging4Jobs.com, Eric Friedman offers some insight into the approach. “Itemize the main points or duties of the new task or policy,” he advises, “You’ll need to manage your employee’s knowledge, skill, and ability to perform the new task or adhere to new policies while training.”

2. Get the right trainer. A good retraining program is important. But it’s only as good as the individual doing the training. It’s important to select a knowledgeable and friendly member of your staff who is good with interacting with others. “The trainer needs to be sensitive to the situation of the trainee,” writes Lynn A. Emmert on MasterControl.com, “but s/he also must keep in mind the goals of the retraining and the needs of the organization.”

3. Provide regular follow-ups. Don’t leave your returning employee in the dark. Be sure to check up with your staff member to foster a strong comfort level with being back on the job. This will be especially important once the training schedule has been completed. “Once the trainings have come to an end, make sure to set a follow-up appointment with your employees 3-6 months out to see how they are doing with the new material or changes,” recommends Friedman.

4. Ask for feedback. The only way to know that your returning employee is taking well to the training is to ask about it. Accept feedback readily and do your best to curb the training program so that the information is being properly absorbed. “This is one of the most effective ways to re-train your employees,” Friedman insists, “Unless management is open to feedback, trainings will come and go without information being retained.”

5. Adjust for learning styles. Everyone learns differently. You may assume that your training program is ideal for employees to learn the various ins and outs of the job. But it’s important to remember that there are different types of learners. “By recognizing and understanding their employee styles, you will be able to use better techniques suited for their needs,” Friedman tells us, “The most common learning styles are visual, verbal, physical, logical, social, solitary, and aural.”

6. Be a good communicator. “This seems like a no-brainer,” admits Friedman, “but clear communication is the biggest item on this list. Without being able to communicate the purpose, relevance, and value the training has to your employee, there won’t be a connection.” It’s especially important to listen. Listening, some people forget, is the most important element of good communication. Be sure to know that your employee understands what is being taught while also having his or her concerns respected.

6 Ways To Welcome New Employees To Your Staff

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Business man introducing new employee to the companyOn behalf of everyone here at Independence Incorporated, we wish you a very happy new year! And yes, we know 2015 is now a week old. Please forgive us for being a tad late on the well wishes. But as you can imagine, we keep pretty busy. As do the many great business owners that exist all over Canada. And this is especially true for those who have started the new year off by hiring new staff. “Growing the company” is likely a New Year’s Resolution for many.

With our many years of experience assisting individuals back to the workplace after long layoffs due to illness or injury, we have learned quite a bit about the importance of making the transition a smooth one. Often, it’s not at all unlike starting a job all over again from scratch. If you’re in the position of hiring new staff or welcoming back an employee who has been away, you may want to consider some important steps in making the process as comfortable as possible. Here are six tips.

1. Offer a welcoming treat. Making your new staff member’s first day on the job a pleasant one will definitely go a long way. To really make a new or returning employee feel right at home, you may want to offer a kind gesture of some sort. On Inc.com, Lou Dubois writes that you should engage your new employee “by communicating and asking how things are going and by taking them to lunch or coffee, even if it’s just in the office.”

2. Present a comfortable working environment. Remember that there is only one opportunity to give a great first impression. The more comfortable you make your new hire or returning worker, the more productive he or she will be in the long run. Katie White of AssociationAdviser.com suggests that you “treat the training room/building as if it’s your home and you are welcoming out-of-town visitors.”

3. Be accessible and approachable. One of the top reasons that employees will find their work difficult is because of their inability to communicate effectively with their managers. Too often, they are intimidated to do so. To avoid this, Dubois recommends that you maintain “an open-door policy as a manager and ensure that this is communicated to every employee, not just the new hire. This exudes that if they have questions, you’ll be there for them.”

4. Pace their entry on to your team. You may really be eager to get your new employee or returning worker to engage with the rest of your staff members. These relationships, however, will take time. Try not to rush things. Creating a comfortable environment means not doing too much too early. White advises that you “introduce new employees to just a few people each day so they are not overwhelmed with new names and faces.”

5. Define job requirements early. Naturally, it’s all well and good to make your employees feel comfortable at work. But you’ll also need to be firm about what you expect from them. “Include both short- and long-term projects for the new hire from an early stage,” writes Dubois, “New employees feel an inherent desire to contribute to the business right away. You don’t want them working on the big projects, though, until they’re really up to speed on the way your company works.”

6. Keep them informed. Employees like to be in the know about what’s happening with the business they work for. But this goes double for those who are new and still trying to get a grasp of the lay of the land. You’ll want to make sure they are aware of who they can speak to for help. To assist with this, White recommends that you “provide a management contact sheet with details on who does what. It can be overwhelming at first to know who does what.”