Staffing 360: Exploring the World of Staffing From All Angles

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 @ 08:01 AM

Thanksgiving.jpgHappy Thanksgiving!

Another year has passed and it is time again to take stock and give thanks.  

Given recent events, it seems obvious that those of us who live in relative peace and safety have much to be thankful for and we have been reminded of that in the cruelest of ways. While we give thanks for our family and friends, for a roof over our heads and food on our table, we are also saddened by the knowledge that many do not have these basic needs met reliably. It can be challenging to be not just thankful but optimistic when not everyone shares the same bounty and blessings.

But this is also a good time to remember that humans are remarkably resilient and determined. Human life has always been precarious, and yet, we continue to strive for better, as individuals, communities, and a world. We continue to work to overcome each challenge, to eliminate danger, to fight evil and wrongdoings where they occur, and to work to ensure that all are fed and clothed and free to live in safety and peace. And it’s critical to remember that we do make progress.

Compared to 100, 500, or 1,000 years or more ago, things have improved – often wildly. Life expectancy, freedom, democracy, access to education, general health and welfare – all are significantly improved. Of course we can see that things are better in numerous ways compared to many years ago. Technological advances like indoor plumbing, electricity, and medical improvements obviously make most of our lives significantly better than those of the Pilgrims for example. But even comparisons of now vs. 50 or even 25 years ago are favorable in many ways. To be sure, better doesn’t mean perfect or even good enough. But there are proportionately fewer people in such circumstances and that is a reason to be thankful and hopeful.

Better is only achieved by all of us working towards it. It is achieved by individuals, communities, and nations alike striving to improve things – big and small. It is improved through technological advances and difference in human behavior. It comes about because of changes in how we value human life, our commitment to human rights, and an increased respect for each individual regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality or sexuality. For centuries people have faced the problems of the world and won many of the battles. Take inspiration from those who came before us and met these challenges bravely to help create the better place we live today.

As you travel to see or welcome into your home your friends and family, be thankful. Be thankful for our forefathers and mothers – those who lived and helped create the better world we live in today. Be thankful for all the obvious reasons and all the blessings of your life. Be thankful that as sentient beings with free will and determination, we have the power to change things; to continue to improve ourselves and our world.

Be thankful and commit yourself to improving what you can, in small ways and big. Reach out and help however you can: support a local charitable organization or a neighbor; support the men and women in the armed forces, and police, fire and medical personnel worldwide who provide safety and security and respond when those are threatened; vote; appreciate and preserve nature; be kind. Don’t underestimate how little it can take to affect change and how much each of us can contribute in our own way to a better world for everyone. Be thankful and hopeful that next year, more of us will be thankful, all over the world.

This year, as always, I am thankful for my wife, daughter and extended family. I am thankful that my parents had the determination to work hard to always provide for my sister and me, including having the courage to move our family to the United States from Poland in search of freedom from post war totalitarianism. I’m thankful for my friends, colleagues, and clients, and the continued opportunity to run a successful business that allows me to help provide a better life for others. I’m thankful for the changes and improvements in the world that I have been privileged to see and be a small part of in my lifetime. I am thankful that I have the ability to help improve the world, to continue the work that those before me started and build on their achievements. All in all, plenty to be thankful and optimistic about.

Enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO 

Tags: thanksgiving

The Power of Participation as a Minority Business Enterprise

Posted by Angelique Solorio on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 @ 08:56 AM

participation.jpgAs the year end draws closer, I’ve been reflecting, and I want to focus this post on the value and power of being involved with your local NMSDC council. Over the past three and a half years of being active with our local council, the WRMSDC, I have had the chance to witness firsthand what positive things can come from just a little time and dedication. Being involved beyond simply getting certified is the key to getting the most out of your certification.

My personal involvement for our company, ATR International, has included serving on the Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC). The MBEIC is a group of certified MBE representatives, from all classes, who provide counsel and recommendations so that programs and projects implemented by the NMSDC network are relevant and supportive of minority business development. I attend the monthly MBEIC meeting, as both an Ad Hoc and voting committee member, providing experience and Class 4 support. We also sponsor annual luncheons, share ideas and feedback that influences the development of training programs, webinars, and networking opportunities, and help promote and coordinate the MBEIC LinkedIn page, as well as provide assistance and advice to other sub committees.

This is a snippet of the support needed to have a strong local council. I have been fortunate to have the privilege of working and establishing friendships with many driven and smart business owners in the Bay Area. These dedicated professionals give their time and energy to help one another succeed as diverse suppliers. I know for me, and I think they all would share this perspective, volunteering my time to help, and seeing the bottom line growth and genuine success we achieve together, is incredibly rewarding.

Further, while Supplier Diversity is about the fresh and diverse perspectives that bring strength and unique value to the table, which makes businesses more competitive and successful, it also makes individual people better. I can honestly say that some of my personal growth has been the result of learning from so many of these individuals and the wonderful, diverse perspectives they have shared.

We all know that corporations have many requirements that small, diverse, women, and veteran owned businesses need to meet, from insurance requirements, to communication preferences, size, scale, talent, etc. There’s a lot to learn and it can be challenging just starting a dialogue with large companies. Getting your questions answered and communicating with the right people can be tough sometimes. Where can you voice your needs and find help? Your local MBEIC committee is this resource; it’s where you can be heard.

The committee hosts monthly meetings open to ALL certified MBE’s. We want to hear from our member MBEs about their challenges and how we can help. We are the voice that speaks on your behalf when we work with National representatives to develop programs and liaise with corporate members. We need to hear from you so that we can best represent your needs and interests. Attending an open meeting and sharing your views and concerns can help not only you but the larger MBE community as well.

There are many reasons to consider attending an open MBEIC meeting though. Here are some of the best:

  • Friendship, mentoring and advice. Regardless of MBE classification or size, the business friendships made through council involvement can bring value to your company and your role within it. There are professionals who attend from different industry backgrounds that bring years of experience who are happy to provide friendship and guidance that any business can benefit from. These MBEs have been through similar challenges. They’ve experienced the different stages in the supplier process, they’ve developed relationships with buyers, and they’ve generally been involved in the supplier diversity community in some way or another, often for years. Their experience can help you.
  • MBE Business to Business Spend. At every MBEIC meeting, or really any council event, you get the opportunity to share with others a little about yourself and your company. This gives MBE companies the opportunity to get to know each other, do business and buy from one another. Many MBEs have diverse spending goals themselves and this is a great way to find MBEs providing the goods and services you need. Help be the change needed in Supplier Diversity by supporting other MBEs!

  • Potential referrals. There have been many success stories that resulted from businesses that got to know fellow MBE businesses through council involvement. If we are not able to do business with a company I meet, I do everything in my power to either advocate their business with a corporate contact that I already have a relationship with or forward an opportunity I come across to that MBE to pursue. Perhaps it’s an RFI that does not apply to staffing but does for a product or service that an MBE I know sells. If it weren’t for me meeting and getting to know them through the council, I wouldn’t be able to make the referral.

For 2016, the NMSDC has a billion-dollar spending goal. It’s ambitious but definitely reachable. It will be driven by an increase in MBE business opportunities and a rise in MBE-to-MBE spend, and the committee is reaching out more than ever to NMSDC’s corporate members, regional councils, and MBE companies, to help achieve this goal. Be a part of this exciting growth initiative by actively participating in your local council’s efforts.

There are so many benefits to participation, and many of them are better experienced in person. I encourage you to attend an upcoming function – whether it’s a committee meeting, training session, or luncheon gathering – and share your feedback with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts as to what you took from the event and how they can be better.

I hope and truly believe that you’ll have a good experience: know that the benefits may seem small at first but will accrue and show more results the longer and more you are involved. It is never too late to come build new friendships with motivated, likeminded people that can help you grow!

Come get the most out of your certification and help yourself and other minority owned businesses be strong and successful in 2016.

I hope to see some new faces in our local area soon!

Angelique Solorio
Corporate Outreach Manager, Supplier Diversity

Tags: AngeliqueSolorio, SupplierDiversity, MBE, nmsdc

Learn Why ATR International Offers it's Internal Employees Unlimited Vacation.

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

What do General Electric, Netflix, Twitter, and ATR International have in common?

Well, one thing we share is a vacation policy! Commonly referred to as unlimited vacation, flexible vacation is more accurate. The “flexibility” part is that these policies generally do not strictly proscribe the amount of time off, they don’t dictate when or how time off has to be used, or carefully track that time. In general the policy applies to salaried workers, and has been offered mostly at startup or smaller companies but that’s changing.

People’s first reaction is often, “so you never have to come to work?” They’re joking of course, but there’s also a real question underneath. It seems too good to be true. Taken to the extreme such a policy would result in bedlam but in the extreme isn’t where or how it works. For starters, you still have to get your work done, just like you did when you had a set number of days. If you are taking time off, things need to be in good shape and/or appropriately covered in your absence.

But beyond that, it is up to the employee to make the decision on when to take time off. If you want to take every Friday and beat the traffic to your cabin in the mountains or beach house, and you can get things done with that schedule, that’s fine. If you want to take the month of February and July off so you can ski and surf, that could be ok too.

Not every company does it the same way. Some still require approval from a supervisor for longer periods away, at others no prior approval is needed. You can’t expect to take 3 weeks off in your first six months of work and not have issues. Common sense has to rule. But at the heart of it, the individual has significant autonomy over their own schedule.

There are several reasons why it works:

It is empowering to your employees to be treated as adults and trusted to make smart decisions. You are giving people full autonomy over their schedule, with the only stipulations being that work is getting done and commitments are met or exceeded. Overall it makes them feel a stronger commitment to the company and helps build a culture of trust that increases satisfaction and productivity.

It recognizes the changes in technology and the way we work.  With our increasingly connected world the boundaries between being at work and not being at work have blurred. This is not always a bad thing. Many employees relish the opportunity to leave the office at 3:00 to attend a child’s dance recital or coach a team and then check email when they return home to stay on top of things at work. Others beat weekend traffic and happily join a conference call from their back porch.

Some might question whether this is just a management ploy to get people not to take as much time off, again, funny but a serious question at the same time. These policies usually encourage a minimum amount or have other levers in place to ensure this doesn’t happen. Also, like any policy, it must have the full support of management and be modeled in their behavior for it to be believed and succeed.

But isn’t that true of any vacation policy? If the company culture discourages leaving work, expects people to be always and instantly available, and discourages taking time away, it doesn’t matter whether you have 2 or 200 days, you won’t take them. For those who worry that no one would ever come to work, there is a similar answer. If your company is not providing a respectful workplace with the opportunity to do interesting work for reasonable compensation, than people are not going to come to work whatever your vacation policy is – morale will suffer along with productivity and eventually they’ll quit.

The point really is that people want to work; they want to do the job they were hired to do and they want to do it well. Most of us take pride in what we do and want to work hard and succeed as the company succeeds. Instead of monitoring and scrutinizing people, companies should encourage them, trust them, and provide the best environment for them to succeed.

The flexible time off policy at ATR is just another part of our efforts to treat our employees as the adults we all are; with dignity and respect. It’s the same reason that we greatly changed our performance review process several years ago (The End of Performance Reviews). It’s the same reason that we give our employees a week of time to use to volunteer in the community if they want. I want to provide the best possible work environment that encourages everyone to try and achieve their best, to contribute to the collective success of the company.

At the same time, I want everyone to have a happy and successful personal life. Work life and personal life don’t have to be in opposition. They can not only co-exist, they should support each other. Work/life integration may be a better description than work/life balance. But the integration will only truly work when people have significant autonomy and are trusted to be the talented wonderful people they were hired to be!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO

Tags: JerryBrenholz, employment, ATR International, benefits

Your Resume: How to Write the Perfect Work History Section

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

The content of your resume will take the most time to get right. But it is time well spent. Work History, Work Experience, Professional Experience – whatever you call it, it is the most important part of your resume, so spend the time to get it right.

There are a few basic things that you must include:

  1. the name of the company,
  2. the city and state where you worked,
  3. the title/position you held (in instances where you were promoted, only list the last one), and,
  4. the beginning and ending dates of employment (written as Month/Date – Month/Date) for each job/place of employment that you are including.

Full-time, part-time, self-employment, work study or internships, contract positions – all of these can and should be included in this section. Volunteer jobs or other unpaid charitable work should not. If you have experience of this type that you think is relevant you can put it in a Relevant or Other Experience section.  

The trickier part is how to present your actual experience. Your resume should only be one page (maybe two, if you have a lot of experience or are applying for a senior position), so you need to get across the most relevant information in the most effective and succinct way possible. Use an active, not passive voice, and don’t be vague or too general.  

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your job description or a list of responsibilities will do the job. It won’t. It’s boring to read and gives no details or important information that someone can truly evaluate your suitability on.  

One reliable way to develop good content is to use the PAR approach – Problem, Action, Result – to develop bullet points that present your experience in a meaningful way that hiring managers will notice and respond to.

So, how do you do it?

First think about a problem that occurred at work. What action did you take and what was the result?

For example:

Problem: Sitting down and completing the paperwork for the on-boarding process was consistently given a poor rating by new hires.  

Action: After much research, I moved the process online allowing new hires to complete and submit the paperwork on their own time.

Result: This not only improved the rating by new hires but also improved the accuracy of the paperwork.

Now you have the details to develop a great bullet point that could read something like this:

Optimized the onboarding process by moving the paperwork online and implementing e-signature capabilities. This reduced errors to almost zero and increased the survey rating of the process.

Continue to think of problems that you helped solve to develop other bullet points. It doesn’t have to be a problem necessarily either.  Focus on any actions that resulted in tangible results. Look at your current resume and see if there are things that you can improve.  For example:

Basic:  Managed team and project successfully on time and on budget.

Better:  Managed matrix team (3 Business and 2 QA Analysts, 4 Developers, 2 Project Coordinators, etc.) on an enterprise loan application project from beginning-to-end. Project completed under budget ($4.5MM vs. $5MM) and ahead of projected deadline (22 vs. 24 months).

Basic:  Developed and improved website traffic by bettering the site efficiency and SEO.

Better:  Lead improvement of web development project utilizing (HTML, CSS, JavaScript); developed site with a more modern, clean overall layout, and worked to enhance the SEO  – this lead to 37% increase in web traffic in the 1st quarter.

You want to quantify your results as much as possible and add data or other measurements or KPIs to make your statements more meaningful and helpful to the reviewer. Anyone can say they “managed” projects or “improved” something, but how? And by how much?  What did you actually do to improve things?  Did you improve efficiency? Sales? Customer Service? Production time? Did you reduce errors or downtime? These kinds of details are what hiring managers will notice.  It gives them something consequential to evaluate instead of just overused platitudes and vague phrases.

Potential employers want to know that you can do the job, perform the work they need done, and help them address their specific problems and projects. Tailor your content to the particular job you are applying for and give examples of things you accomplished at past companies that match their needs and requirements. Show them you’ve done it before and done it successfully.  

Develop multiple bullet points for each of your previous positions, more than you need even, and choose the ones that make sense to include based on what you are applying for. Sometimes you may decide to develop something entirely new, but often you may find you can swap out examples of your work that stress your project management experience more than your development skills, or show your familiarity with one system or software over another. This will allow you to tailor each resume without spending too much time.

This section is the most important part of your resume, therefore it is critically important that you spend the most time and effort on it. Create the best examples of your experience. Give the facts and figures that matter and make sure every word counts. It could be the difference between getting the job, or not!

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Tags: job search, resume

It’s critical to have a great summary section

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

A while back we wrote about how Objective sections in resumes are outdated and recruiters don’t find them useful (Get Rid of that “Objective Section” on Your Resume ASAP).  So, what should you have instead?

A great Summary section.

A Summary is your opportunity to answer the “tell me about yourself” question succinctly.  It’s a chance to emphasize your key skills, experience and career highlights so that a recruiter can quickly see your potential suitability to an open position.  The Summary is the first, and often one of the only things a recruiter reads.

A good summary statement should be a part of every resume but it’s particularly useful if you are:

  1. A recent college graduate.  You can highlight the skills that are most relevant to the job.  The positions you held previously and the companies you worked at might not match what you are applying for but you can highlight the skills you learned that are transferable.  It’s also a place to showcase your education and academic achievements up front, instead of only at the end where education shows up.

  2. Someone making a career change or switching industries.   Again, you have the chance right up front to feature what you know that is relevant and transferable to the position.  Without this, a recruiter or hiring manager might assume you’re not a fit because your work experience isn’t traditional or what they expect to see.

  3. Experienced professionals with diverse experience or a lengthy work history.   In this case, the Summary serves as an “executive summary” of your resume. You can pull the most relevant and impressive skills and career accomplishments and present them at the top.  A recruiter can get more detail if they read your specific work experience but this overview is a helpful way to pull them in.

How do you create a Summary section?

Think about the most critical skills and experience that you have – three or four is enough.  What are the most important things that you would want to tell a recruiter about yourself if you were speaking with them?  Make sure that they align with the job description and requirements.  Are you familiar with the term Elevator Speech or Pitch?  Think of your Summary as a personal elevator pitch, an opportunity to tell the reviewer about the strengths and accomplishments that truly make you stand out as a candidate.

For example, you might highlight your expertise in drawing engineering plans, your ability to manage large technical projects, or your years of managing an IT department or team.  Depending on the length of your career these will vary.  Senior IT professionals and managers should definitely include business skills along with their technical expertise.  Write your statements using specifics to support your claims.  Consider the difference between these:

  1. Significant technical experience

    - or -

  1. Leverages technical expertise on hardware setup and configuration to ensure exceptional user support and resolve operational issues.

  1. Experience with security and classified information.

- or -

  1. Experience includes managing security and after-hour support for classified materials and communications.

Provide enough detail that it makes your statements meaningful and tells the recruiter something real that allows them to truly understand your qualifications.  But while you want to include details don’t make your summary too long.  The recommended length is not more than 4-5 lines.  Remember the idea is to catch the reviewer's attention not turn them off with a block of heavy text.  Don’t give in to the temptation to go longer than this!  Another don’t?  Don’t write in the first person – no “I dids” allowed.

Your Summary is a good place to:

  1. List technical skills like programming languages you know and have worked with.  Something like “Proficient in the following: C++, Java, C#, Python” can tell a lot about you in a few words.  It’s provides very relevant information that an IT recruiter wants to know about you right away.  Does it tell all the good stuff in detail?  No, but that’s not the Summary’s purpose.  It’s to attract the recruiter’s attention and keep them reading on to your Experience section.

  2. Let them know about any certifications that you have, especially if the job description makes it clear that’s important to them.  If you’re PMP or CompTIA Project+ certified, put it in the summary.  Generally certifications end up in their own section after Education, which is fine and they should be listed there as well, especially if you have many.  But many recruiters aren’t going to make it that far so bringing a few key ones up to the top isn’t a bad idea.  Remember, you have a minute or less to make an impression in most cases.

  3. Optimize your resume for an ATS reader using keywords from the job description.  Take a look at the words and phrases they use and adjust your copy to match where it makes sense.  Many companies use ATS software and while it can be frustrating to think about being “evaluated” by a machine, it is a reality that you need to consider.  Optimizing with keywords in your summary is a relatively easy way to address this.

  4. Tailor your resume to the job position.  Advice from everyone and everywhere is to tailor your resume to each position as much as possible.  Keywords are one way to match your resume to their job description, as we note in #3.  Read the job description and make sure that you have something about yourself that matches up with the key skills and experience they are looking for.  The Summary is an easy place to edit and change things and if you are only making changes to one part of your resume, it can also be easier to proof and avoid mistakes.

The top of your resume is your first chance to make a great impression and establish your unique value as an employee and a Summary section is the best way to do that.  Simply saying something like “I’m looking for a position,” a typical opening for an Objective section, doesn’t do any of that.  You have limited space, so it’s critical to carefully plan what you write. It needs to be concise AND convey the best of your professional accomplishments in a way that makes the reader want to know more.

Creating a great Summary will open your resume with a bang and help you get noticed more by recruiters, hiring managers, or anyone reviewing it.  If you don’t have one already, get busy creating one today!

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Tags: job search, resume, summary

The Things You Must Do As Your IT Contract Job Nears Its End

Posted by ATR International on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

There’s a lot of attention paid to the beginning of a contract assignment and most of us are aware that there are things that must be done to get off to a good start. Once you’re on the job though, your attention is rightfully on getting the work done and it can be easy for the end of your assignment to catch you off guard.

Don’t let this happen. As your assignment draws to a close there are several things you should do to make the transition to your next job as easy and painless as possible. Typical IT assignments last about 12-18 months, and in that case you should start with about 3 months left on your assignment. You want to know what your future holds as much as anyone possibly can and while sometime between gigs is something many contractors welcome, many others want to avoid any break in service. This gives you a reasonable amount of time to secure a new assignment.

What should you do?

  1. Call the recruiter who placed you.  This is ABSOLUTELY the first step. Of course they should be tracking when your assignment is up and get in touch with you, but don’t wait. Be proactive. Very often there is the possibility of extending your contract and finding out if this is the case is the first thing your recruiter, working with the client account manager if there is one, will do. This could be all it takes to ensure that you continue working for another six months, a year or longer. You should never directly ask your manager or supervisor if your contract will be extended. You work for the firm that placed you and it is their job to liaise with the client.

  2. Share information with your recruiter.  The more information you can give your recruiter about the current status of the project, the better off they are.  Knowledge is power. They may also be able to share back. Perhaps another position is coming up at that client or they already know your position will be extended. Often a simple reminder to the hiring manager is all it takes.

What if your contract is not going to be renewed or extended?

  1. Think about what you want to do next.  Do you want another contract position? If this was your first time working as a contractor, hopefully you know now whether or not this work style suits you. Maybe a direct position is more to your liking.  Either way, ask yourself these questions. What’s the next step in developing my skills? What kind of work would I like to do next? What company do I want to work for? Do I want to change industries?

  2. Share information with your recruiter.   No, this is not a mistakenly repeated comment. Share your goals for your next assignment with them. Be honest and as specific as you can be. The more information they have about what you want, the better able they will be to find you something that fits right. Discuss what positions are available or will be. Set expectations. Let them know if a slight (or even longer) break between assignments is ok or potentially desirable, or if it is critical that you experience no downtime.

  3. Start monitoring your staffing firm’s website.  We always want to keep our contractors employed and do everything we can to find a new position they can start as their old contract ends. You can help us by monitoring the openings on our website and paying attention to emails advertising positions. Again, be proactive. Don’t wait for us to match you to a position - if you see something that you are interested in, reach out. It may not be a fit in the end but it’s always worth a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  4. Update your resume.  Add this latest assignment and any special skills or experience that you gained while working there. This may seem like an obvious one but it’s easy to forget or put it off until suddenly your recruiter calls with a great opportunity and you have to rush to update it before sending. Rushing produces mistakes!

  5. Ask your manager(s) and colleagues for references.  Only ask for a reference where it’s appropriate. It is much easier to do when you are still there instead of after your assignment ends. Don’t overstep your bounds or annoy anyone. It might be helpful to check with your recruiter and make sure there are no restrictions on what the client’s protocols allow in this area. This should be done in the last month or weeks of the assignment, certainly only after it is clear that your contract really is ending. If you ask too soon it may give the impression that you are checked out and not focused on the job at hand that needs finishing.  

Doing all of this will go a long way to ensuring you stay on the job, employed without any hiccups or breaks in service. We are also realistic. We know that finding a new assignment can take time, and that we may not always have a suitable position for you. We may not recruit for a firm or industry that you really want to work in. We know that the things that we have recommended you do in conjunction with your current staffing employer, you should also consider doing with others.  

You may want to contact another recruiter or firm that you have worked with successfully in the past. You’ll want to monitor their openings too and other job boards as well. If there is a company you want to work for and we don’t recruit for them, you will want to find a firm that does. It would be somewhat foolish of you not to and ridiculous for us not to acknowledge these things. But keep in mind, the firm you currently work for may be in the best position to navigate some of the problems you might foresee.  

For example, if another company needs someone to start 2 or 3 weeks before your current assignment ends you might assume that your current staffing firm would be more interested in having you finish your assignment and would not consider you for the position. In our case, you would be wrong. We want both our contractors and our clients to be happy and we want you to be gainfully employed as much as you want to be.  

Often a simple conversation with one or the other of the clients can take care of things. One might be able to end things early or start a little later. We’re in the best position to negotiate between the two and secure a good outcome for all parties involved if you’ve been working with us to secure a new position. The point is, we want to keep you working and will do what we need to in order for things to work out. You would probably find other firms accommodating as well. And if your contract is ending and we’ve been unable to find something else suitable for you, we’d rather see you employed and continuing to provide for yourself and your family than not. We’re not interested in stringing people along or keeping them in our clutches “just in case.”  

There is a lot of demand for good IT professionals and certain skills sets are in such high demand that you might feel you don’t have to worry about your next assignment too much. This probably isn’t as true as you think, and it certainly won’t last forever. More importantly, even when you’re in high demand, you have a better pick of assignments when you start planning sooner. If you don’t have the hot skill of the moment, then it makes even more sense to be proactive. Really though, it just makes sense to take control of your next career move in any situation.

So if your contract assignment is going to end soon, get started!


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Tags: temporary staffing, jobs, job search, IT Consulting

The End of Performance Reviews

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

There’s been a flurry of news over the summer about some big corporations abandoning the traditional annual Performance Review (PR), joining others who’ve made the same decision over the past several years. Microsoft, Adobe, Medtronic, and most recently Deloitte and Accenture, have all jettisoned the traditional annual PR and its accompanying forced ranking requirement, up or out process, and other common components. About 6% of the Fortune 500 have made this move.

A variety of research and studies show that the process does not reliably improve employee performance (presumably the goal), and the costs are very high in dollars and morale, as the process often drives resentment and bad feelings in both managers and employees. According to the management research group, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their performance measurement systems, and 90 percent of HR department heads believe they do not yield accurate information.

None of this surprises me. Anecdotally, I’ve known what all these studies have shown because like most of you, I’ve been on the receiving and giving sides of annual reviews, and disliked both of them. As a senior business executive and manager of people, I used to have one of those systems but I replaced it several years ago. It’s interesting to see others coming to the same conclusion and to understand some of the reasons why these more complex systems don’t deliver the best results.

If you have the time to read the full article about some of the latest brain research, and what it shows, it’s very interesting, but in short, even employees who get positive news can suffer negative feelings; the process often triggers disengagement and inhibits creativity and growth. Studies show this is because “labeling people with any form of numerical rating or ranking automatically generates an overwhelming “fight or flight” response that impairs good judgment. This neural response is the same type of “brain hijack” that occurs when there is an imminent physical threat like a confrontation with a wild animal. It primes people for rapid reaction and aggressive movement [and] is ill-suited for the kind of thoughtful, reflective conversation that allows people to learn from a performance review.”

We have a system now that is akin to Adobe’s Check In. Once a year our employees evaluate their accomplishments, think about what they want to do for the next year, and what training or assistance they need, and then set goals. Throughout the year, everyone keeps in touch and talks on a periodic basis about how both long and short term projects are going. We do this in real-time to both teach and guide, as well as to provide feedback and constructive comments for improvement as needed. And that’s it. Everything repeats each year. For me, this type of system is just an example of putting our values into action.

Respect for the Individual.

It’s one of three core values that underpin what we do at ATR. Everyone wants, and deserves, to be treated with respect and courtesy. It seems to me that the PR process too often is inherently disrespectful. Think about it – ranking people, literally turning them into a number, how can that be respectful?

I value my employees as people. I am not here to look over their shoulder constantly or second guess and judge them once a year. To me traditional PRs always felt like “gotcha” moments, again, the epitome of disrespect. Respectful to me is approaching it this way. We’re both adults, let’s act like adults. You’ve been hired to do a job. Let’s figure out what that entails, what your responsibilities will be, what specific projects and day to day activities are involved, and how you’re going to accomplish all of that in a meaningful way.

As the time progresses let’s have honest two-way conversations where you are encouraged to identify issues, ask questions, suggest solutions or simply ask for help. In turn your manager can provide guidance and instruction on a real time basis. Simple, straightforward, and much better for everyone involved. It’s also smarter for business. If you aren’t doing your job well and need guidance or training, providing it retroactively once a year isn’t going to cut it. Periodic check-ins and continuous feedback help ensure that both projects and the individual stay on track.

As a business executive, I know that each company needs to make the decision that works best for them. I also know that we are always looking for information on best practices and hoping to learn from other successful companies. So it’s interesting to see some of the most successful business organizations making choices similar to the one we made at ATR. Mostly though I’m glad to reaffirm my commitment to a more respectful, and it turns out more effective, performance management process.

Jerry Brenholz
President & CEO
ATR International, Inc.

Tags: JerryBrenholz, staffing, performance review

Philanthropy Is Good For Humanity And For Business

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

“Whoever saves one life, it is as if he [or she] has saved the whole world.”
- The Talmud -

charityThis beautiful quote is especially true when you think about it in terms of supporting the charitable organizations in our communities. Whatever time or money you give in support of these institutes is automatically multiplied by the good that each organization does. This multiplication principle exists whether you give one dollar or a million, help one person or a thousand. The possibility of what each human can accomplish is unknown and limitless. As long as your act of charity and kindness changes one life for the better, you’ve helped nurture that limitless human possibility.  

As a business executive, I can also tell you that what holds true for the personal, applies to the corporate. Many might think that a company has a duty to give back, and I agree, but it is not only out of duty that corporate philanthropy is a good idea. It is actually good for business – good for your bottom line. A well-planned, contextually strategic philanthropic strategy can lead to:

  • Improved name recognition and a better brand reputation with your customers
  • Increased sales and positive customer feelings 
  • More effective recruiting and retention of talented employees
  • Better quality of life in communities where you do business

Increasingly, consumers and employees, especially the millennial generation, care more than ever about the charitable efforts of the companies they purchase from and work at. This means that if your company’s philanthropy results in more people knowing who you are and how you benefit the community it can result in happier, more productive employees, and customers who feel positive about your firm and good about buying products or services from you. These are all things that will propagate increased business success. 

I want to really emphasize the point about attracting and retaining millennial generation employees through highlighting your philanthropic efforts. Over the past several years, like me, you have probably read that making a difference and working at a company that has a positive impact on the world is of critical importance to this generation. I have found this to be absolutely true. Each time I’ve interviewed a candidate for a position here at ATR International, they are really excited to hear about our commitment both as a firm and in supporting our employee’s individual efforts through our Volunteer Time Off program.  If you are trying to hire recent graduates to work at your company, your philanthropy can be a differentiating factor. Google and Facebook aren’t the only ones who can inspire people!

Helping to build stronger, safer, more desirable communities to live in can help attract the talented workforce you need. Ensuring that the schools, colleges, and universities in your area are strong and functioning at the highest level also means that businesses have a pool of educated workers needed to keep their firms profitable. When you make your community, and the world, a better place, you make a better place for you and everyone else to work and do business, to raise a family, to be creative and innovative, to live and love in peace and prosperity. 

The list of causes that need our support is long but our resources as individuals, as companies, and as nations, are deep – endless when it comes to spirit, commitment, and energy. Who knows what the person whose life you change will accomplish? Perhaps the homeless child your support lifts will be the one who helps discover a cure for cancer. Perhaps the man who your support helps overcome cancer will be the one who teaches and influences a future president. There is no limit to what investing in the people and communities you do business in might lead to but there is strong evidence that the baseline achievement is one that will make you feel good and your company more successful.

What we do for a living does not define us as much as what we do to connect with others and how we make a positive difference in their lives. Through charitable thoughts and deeds, we create greater meaning and satisfaction in our own daily lives as well as in the lives of others. We create a better world for everyone. It turns out, that’s just good business!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO

Start Your Contract Job The Right Way w/ Senior Recruiter Josh Selinar

Posted by ATR International on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

josh-1You just got off the phone with the staffing agency and your recruiter had great news: you’ll soon be starting your contract assignment!

You’re probably feeling both excited and a little nervous, especially if this is your first time working as a contractor. That’s to be expected. Now that you’ve got the job you want to make a good impression and start off strong. What can you expect from now on? What can you do to make sure everything goes well?

Staffing 360 came up with the following list and asked one of our senior recruiters, Josh Seliner, to share his thoughts as well.

Before your first day:

The onboarding process. The first thing you’ll do is go through onboarding, which is the process for completing any pre-employment paperwork that is necessary. We’ve automated our onboarding process, through Docusign, as have many others, but whether it’s online, via email, or in person, there are forms to be completed. You need to get onto the payroll system, and sometimes something client specific like an employee handbook or safety manual needs to be signed off on.

Set up any appointments that are necessary ASAP. Some jobs require drug testing, fingerprinting or health screenings. Get this taken care of as soon as possible to avoid any delay or problem in starting your assignment on time.

Know where to go and who to report to on the first day. Your recruiter should provide you with all the information you need ahead of time: where to be, what time, what to wear, who to meet with, etc. The manager or administrative person you meet with will handle internal IDs, security, card keys and other such stuff.

Josh told us, “It’s crucial to stay in touch with your recruiter or the agency HR person and respond to messages as quickly as possible during onboarding. Open communication will move things along and ensure a smoother start and more successful assignment overall.”

On your first day:

Don’t be late! It seems obvious but still bears repeating so that no one makes this mistake. Today is not the day to miss the train, run out of gas, or for your alarm clock to fail. Check the schedule, fill the tank, and set a backup alarm but do whatever it takes to get there on time.

Dress professionally. You’ll probably have gotten a clue from your interviews what the dress code is and your recruiter will also advise you, but unless you are totally sure that casual is a must and anything more will make you look foolish, you should dress to impress the first few days. It is always better to err on the side of caution.

Expect a call from your recruiter at the end of the day. They should check in with you to see if everything went as planned and if you have any questions. Be honest with the recruiter. Hopefully it all went well but if there were any hiccups, let them know. Josh concurred, “If it’s something logistical, knowing about it will help me fix it for the next person. If it’s a bigger issue, knowing about it right away makes it easier for me to nip it in the bud and ensure everyone ends up happy.”

During your first week, and beyond:

Get to know your new co-workers. As a contractor getting to know the people in your department or on your team is critical, and you need to do so faster than a permanent employee. Pay careful attention and figure out everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Don’t necessarily wait for people to introduce themselves; be friendly and personable and talk to people at the coffee machine, the water cooler or in the break room. Don’t waste anyone’s time but don’t be standoffish or too quiet.

“This is a really important point and highlights one of the differences in being a contractor - you don’t have months to get up to speed. Quickly establishing good working relationships is a must.” “But,” Josh cautioned, “No gossip or drama. Absolutely none.”

Ask Questions. Sometimes human nature makes us feel as though asking questions makes us look stupid or like we don’t know what we’re doing. But in a very real sense, you don’t know what you’re doing and asking questions can help you learn more quickly and avoid mistakes that cost time and money. Smart questions are never a bad thing and making sure that you fully understand the project, your role and the specifics of a task are all good things.

Take notes. Again, some people may think this looks weak or as though you are not paying attention to the speaker but the opposite is true. Don’t rely on your memory for everything, especially that first week. As Josh pointed out, “You’ll be bombarded with information those first few days, which is exactly when something might slip through the cracks.”

Don’t go overboard or try to record everything verbatim but taking judicious notes while fully listening will be your friend in the long run. Consider reviewing things at the end of each day to further imprint important information.

Don’t be too opinionated or act like a know it all. There’s really no good time to behave this way, but especially as a contractor, and particularly in the first week or two, you don’t want to come across in a negative light. You are there to help out, to become a member of their team as seamlessly and with as little disruption as possible.

Even if they do have the worst process or software or system ever, the first week is not the time to point that out. Constantly referring to what impressive thing you did at another company or what cool program you know isn’t going to win friends either. Even if you were hired to critique things and your actual job responsibilities include “telling it like it is,” take the first week or two to build up some good will and make a few new friends. Josh laughed at this one and agreed that “diplomacy is a good quality to develop and nurture, for all of us!”

Get used to tracking and reporting your time. This is another of the big differences between a contract and a permanent assignment. If you don’t submit your hours, you won’t get paid. Don’t disrupt your life by missing a paycheck because you forgot to submit or you did so too late for them to be approved. Understand how things work and when you need to get things to your manager for approval, and to your staffing firm for processing, and then meet those deadlines.

Josh advises his contractors to add a calendar reminder or other weekly alarm. “Setting up direct deposit is a good idea too. It’s a huge time saver even if the first 1 or 2 checks still come by mail.”

Everyone worries about making a good impression and doing a good job but when you are a contractor, you have a compressed time frame that makes it even more critical and a bit more challenging since you want to get up to speed and be valuable to the company as quickly as possible. Being prepared for what to expect and following a few simple guidelines can really make a difference.

Be a star from the moment you start your assignment!

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10 Great Websites To Learn Programming

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

Our goal at Staffing 360 is to give our clients and contractors news, information, and advice that is relevant and useful. We’ve often written about the importance of staying up to date on your skills, or developing competency in new technologies, platforms, or programming languages. Just wanted to share the article 10 Great Websites for Learning Programming from Information Week in case you missed it.

The author, Thomas Claburn, rightly points out that:

“You need a foundation, some level of familiarity with the syntax and patterns in whatever programming language or framework you [need to work in]…you need some sense of basic programing concepts and the scope of possibilities. The Web, a labyrinth of code, is full of educational resources that can help you lay that foundation.

We second the author in pointing out the caveat:

“If you want to create your own browser, programming language, or machine learning system, you'll probably be better off enrolling in a reputable computer science program than trying to cobble the necessary skillset together through online tutorials.”

But, if you are a senior IT professional who just wants or needs to learn a particular new language or system, online courses could be a great answer. Similarly, if you are in the early years of your career, this can be a free, in most cases, relatively inexpensive in others, way to add to your skills. If you have that computer science degree and a few years of experience, these kinds of classes and tutorials can be a real option.

Keep in mind also that this is not a comprehensive list and is presented in random order not preferential. Different needs and interests will be better served by one or another option. No one of these is the answer to all your needs and none of them may be right for you but knowledge and options are power.

You can get all of Claburn’s comments about learning programming online in general, and each of the sites specifically, by reading the full article. For those of you who would like to fast track to the list, here you are:

If you’ve been thinking about learning something new – one of these might be right for you.

Happy learning!


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