Author Archive for Michael Adams


How to start a corporate training program for next to nothing

Bringing on new team members is always happening when you have a grow business. You have to bring on sales reps, account managers, marketing help, and maybe even some operations guys to keep everything running smoothly.

And you have to train your staff members, too. Sounds like a ton of work!

When you’re investing thousands of dollars into payroll, there’s not much left to properly train your growing team. Simply put, you make do with that you have and see where the gaps are.

That’s where being resourceful and frugal come in handy.

There are a ton of free resources on the web to get you started. But, as I’ll argue below, your training may not even have to make it to the internet. Your training material might just be sitting in front of you.

Here’s five strategies to jumpstart your training for cheap:

1. Have 1-on-1 meetings (Free)

Training doesn’t have to fall under learning new skills and reading books. It may mean improving emotionally and personally. At the root of personal improvement is the ability to speak with your manager or boss 1-on-1. Why? Because your employees are more likely to let you know what’s truly going on in their head when it’s just you and her – not a group of coworkers.

2. Cross-train other departments (Free)

Have you thought about your marketing employees spending a day in the sales department to see what they do for the day? This helps forge better partnerships and collaboration between areas. Plus, it helps team members learn new skills and explore moving horizontally through your organization.

3. Use the power of collective knowledge (Free)

Your team knows a lot about various subjects. And what they know may not be in-line with your employee training vision, which is fine. But, give team members a chance to show their passions, their love for something other than work, and allow others to learn from them. Whether it’s learning to play the guitar, build a MySQL database, or learning to play cribbage, it’s still training. Not only does it build morale and your company culture, but it’s a unique way to better one’s self.

4. Invest in online training (Free – $100/month+)

You can learn anything on the internet. And it’s inexpensive. When you wanted to learn something, you typically looked for a course at your local library or found a class at your local community college. Problem is, they cost thousands of dollars. Luckily, the internet has solved this problem with online training. You can learn anything from design skills to world history, and how to build a business.

Here are a couple of tools for your learning pleasure:

5. Buy Kindle books (Free – around $20/book)

Monthly book clubs are the “in” thing to do if you want to build a company that loves to learn and improve. Pick a book and have the team gather for lunch to discuss what they gained from the book. Empower your employees to make book suggestions, too. It always feels good to be part of the decision making process.

Just because you wear suits and ties to work doesn’t mean you have to blow thousands of dollars on a corporate training program. There are plenty of free and low-cost ways to bring your team to the next level.

Let’s review the list:

1. Have 1-on-1 meetings

2. Cross-train in other departments

3. Use the power of collective knowledge

4. Invest in online training

5. Buy Kindle books

Now, it’s just a matter of getting started.

As I mentioned in my last post about how to find the perfect employee, you have to start small. Taking on any training initiative is a lot of work – regardless if it costs $100 or $10,000. And you want to make sure you’re going to do it right.

Here are five questions to ask yourself before starting a new training program:

1. What do you hope to gain from the training?

Write down 3 – 5 goals or objectives. Maybe you want to get your team trained on Google AdWords or how to use the new forklift. Whatever it may be, get goals written down on paper and let the team know what you’re looking to accomplish.

2. Who needs/wants training?

Some people don’t like training. And some crave self-improvement. Survey the team to see who wants to participate. But also recommend training and certifications to other team members who you believe it’ll benefit. They’ll be happy to improve their skills. Plus, it builds a better relationship with your team.

3. What resources do I have available?

Check to see what’s available. Do you have any books around the office? Or how about team members willing to teach a class? Survey what you have in-house before you purchase a large training package for your company.

4. What will the training system look like?

It seems many corporations have systems for everything. And training is no exception. Get a plan together. How are new team members on-boarded? What’s the training look like over the first year of employment. How do you build a resource library for veteran employees to explore? Take a couple hours to build your company framework. That way everyone knows where how to access everything.

5. How will I evaluate my company’s training program?

It makes sense to continue training initiatives if they’re working. Plus, it helps if they’re beneficial to your team. But, what does success look like? How will know you if your training program is working? A couple of ways to measure could be team engagement, skills improvement, or employee surveys.

Once you’ve been able to answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of how to build your program. And remember, what you set up now isn’t a permanent solution. Programs can change with the needs of the company.

Have you trained your employees on a tight budget? Let me know in the comments below.


Make our Own Multiple Choice Quiz Just Around the Corner

make your own quiz

No, you don’t need your glasses! We’re working on fill-in-the-blank as our next question type!

We hear you guys loud and clear! You want more question types. It’s without further adieu, I let you know on a secret. A secret so secretive, you can only tell 1,000 people. Ok, that’s crazy-talk. Tell everyone! Here it is:

Scott, our incredibly talented programmer, is currently working on not one, but two question types:

1. Multiple Choice

2. Fill-in-the-blank

In just a couple weeks, you won’t be limited to just to answers on your questions. You get as many as you want. Plus, if you want to use fill-in-the-blank questions, that’s possible, too. Look for some true whiz-bang in these question types. We’re moving right along with making these types not only fun to use, but easy for you to make your own quiz.

What else are you looking for? Let us know in the comments below!


7 ways to screen employees before the first interview

Have you been struggling to fill open positions at your company? Want to find a better way to get the A-talent joining your team?

Building a talented workforce is top of many recruiter’s to-do lists. A solid team gets work done, strengthens company culture, and improves their skill set.

But finding these individuals is tough.

You have to wade through an endless amount of resumes, field calls from interested candidates, and find time to make offers and negotiate salaries.

How do you make that process more efficient?

By pre-screening candidates. Instead of interviewing everyone who applies, why not do some pre-screening and only bring in the best candidates for the job.

Here’s 7 ways to pre-screen employees:

1. Call them up

The phone is a lot less intimidating than an in-person interview. A quick 2 or 3 minute interview to get an idea of how they answer basic questions and communicate tells you a lot about a potential hire. Here are a couple questions to ask:

These are are all soft-balls. Avoid asking challenging questions. Often, candidates take these calls while they’re running out of the office or driving. Keep it quick and easy. After all, it’s just a screening phone call.

2. Check LinkedIn

Almost every college grad or mid-career worker has a LinkedIn profile (and if they don’t, I wouldn’t invite them in for an interview). A strong online presence is necessary for today’s unemployed because practically everything happens online these day. What should you look for on their LinkedIn profiles? Here’s a couple tips:

LinkedIn provides a wealth of information for recruiting teams. Use it as a reference, but not an all-knowing source of information.

3. Call references

Some HR professionals discount a reference’s opinion (because 99% of the time they’re stellar). I take a different stance. References offer an objective view of the benefit and value they received from their former employee or coworker. It’s likely they’ll be able to provide the same value for your company. Here are a couple questions to get the most out of references:

And no, there’s nothing wrong with calling references prior to the interview. It just means you could hire the candidate on the spot if you wanted to.

4. View their personal blog

Oh, they don’t have a blog? I can understand if you’re trying to hire a material scientist or custodial engineer, but if your job is full of work on the web, I would expect an established web presence. Here’s a couple things a personal blog tells you about the candidate:

Blogs are one of my favorite ways to see what makes candidates tick. They may be applying for a job in product management, but write a blog about their travel adventures. You learn a lot about people by looking at their writing.

5. Read their cover letter (hopefully there is one!)

I can’t believe the number of people who skip over the cover letter. The candidate wrote it for a reason. It explains why you should hire them. A resume doesn’t do that. Take time to read the cover letter. Here’s what it tells you:

6. Compare them to your job listing

There had to be an obvious one in this list, right? Do side-by-side comparison of your job candidates and the listing. Do they match up. While it may not be perfect, here’s a three things to keep in mind when you’re comparing:

Whatever you end up doing, decided on your hiring strategy for this position early. Is an 80% going to cut it for an interview or are you looking for the candidate to meet all of your requirements. This makes a difference on who you’re going to bring in.

7. Give them a test or project

Back in college, I applied for an art internship with a popular brewery. I was a marketing major with zero art experience. But I understood the importance of a consistent brand. While I did have some self-taught Photoshop skills, the Art Director wanted to see how I put those skills to work. She sent me a test to turn an ugly beer distributor poster into a poster that better represented the brewery. And I passed with flying colors.

Finding a test to send to potential hires is a fantastic way to separate the experienced candidates from the rest of the pack. Stuck with what to do? Here are a couple of ideas:

The hunt for the best employee takes time. That’s why pre-screening is so important. Rather than waste your hiring team’s time on unfit candidates, do work beforehand to bring in the A-players.


Six Ways to Use Online Quizzes in Your Classroom

Are you tired of looking at your student’s slumped over their desks waiting for the period to end? Have you been looking for a way to keep your students motivated to participate in class?

As a teacher, getting your students excited for test time can be a drag. They don’t know what to study or how much of the material will be covered. Plus, it’s a lot of organization just to get things up and running.

Online quiz makers are perfect for this.

Quizzes are one of the best ways to test student’s mastery of specific material without letting them feel overwhelmed about a full test or exam. In addition to better mastery, online quizzes further support adoption of technology in the classroom.

Take advantage of online learning opportunities.

With today’s interconnected world, students are already familiar with the web. They use smartphones, tablets, and computers to interact with friends and family, learn about the world around them, and discover new and interesting things.

So, how do you incorporate online quizzes into your classroom? While there are tons of options, here are five of my favorite applications:

1. History Lessons

What happened in 1956 vs. 1978? That’s where online quizzes come in. For your history students, quiz them on what happened in certain time periods, famous quotes or even town history.

2. Chapter Recap

Are your students having trouble giving you summaries of what happened in the last chapter? Use online quizzes to help them remember events, characters and plot lines. This way, when they read the rest of the book, they’ll have better memory of what’s already happened.

3. Chemistry Class

Chemistry was always tough for me in grade school. Having a quiz to know the difference between electrons, protons and neutrons would have helped. Or better yet, how about a quiz on ionic bonds vs. covalent bonds or even lab safety protocols before new experiments?

4. Foreign Language

Think online quizzes can only be in English? Nope. They’re perfect for learning a foreign language. Create quizzes on different types of product at the market, how to navigate a city, or French vs. Spanish. The repetition helps your students memorize new words and apply what they’re learning in a real-life conversation.

5. Quotes by Writers, Speakers, and Activists

Almost everyone loves inspiring quotes. Here are a couple examples of how to incorpotate quotes into online quizzes: Quotes from a famous speech like Martin Luther King, Jr., quote comparisons from Emerson and Thoreau, or for fun, quotes from comedians or favorite role models.

6. Class Project Participation

The most exciting application for online quizzes is encouraging class participation. Get students who are normally quiet to interact with a fun and engaging online quiz. Or, if you’ve got group projects coming up, make an online quiz part of the rubric.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use online tools in the classroom. Online quizzes are just one way to get started integrating technology into your lesson plans.

How have online tools influenced the way you teach?

Picture credits from Phil Roeder

25 Quick & Easy Quiz Ideas to Use Right Now

America’s classroom has become a hotbed of technology. From netbook and iPad pilot programs to online classrooms, the web is changing the way teacher’s communicate with their students.

This means you’ve got to embrace the tech wave and discover new ways to get students using the internet as early as possible.

One of the best ways to do that is through online quizzes. You get to assess student learning and subject comprehension. Your students get to know their score faster than you could grade papers in a weekend and discover new material in the process. It’s a win-win.

So how do you make an online quiz that’s not going to put your students to sleep? Here are 25 ideas to get you started, no matter what subject you teach:

English

1. Character Quotes

2. Fill-in-the-Blank Grammar

3. True/False Chapter Recap

4. Adjective or Adverb

5. Types of Sentences

Science

6. Melting Points of Different Solutions

7. Fun Facts About Elements

8. Characteristics of Rock Types

9. Different Brain Functions

10. Planet Characteristics

History

11. Quotes from Historic Leaders

12. Compare Time Periods

13. True False About Specific Events

14. Local Events and History

15. Comparing Two Wars

Geography/Social Studies

16. Compare Two Countries

17. Fun Facts About Rivers

18. Countries on Certain Continents

Math

19. Prime Numbers

20. Two Numbers – Different Equations

Business

22. Famous Quotes from Entrepreneurs

23. Company Names – True or False?

24. Characteristics of Company Formations

25. Did this Really Happen? True/False in Business

Online quizzes are an effective way to get your students engaged in any subject. What class do you teach? Have you used quizzes in your classroom?


The only way to find the perfect employee

Finding the Perfect Employee

Have you decided to bring on a new team member recently? Maybe you need marketing help or a bookkeeping assistant. You set out write the job requirements down.

Let’s take the bookkeeper for example. Your requirements may be:

Of course, there’s more. But, let’s press on. When you’ve got your requirements list, you post the opening on Craigslist, let your followers on twitter know, and start talking to colleagues in the area.

You get a phenomenal batch of candidates.

Three to five are given two rounds of interviews. And you end up hiring Jessica, a bookkeeper with several years of experience and a bubbly attitude. She’ll talk to anyone.

But is she perfect?

Probably not. Can you remember a time when you hired the perfect employee? They probably met 85-90% of your expectations. But, she gets the job done.

The problem is that a lot of companies stop at the 90% mark. They accept 10% imperfections. But, don’t you want your team firing on all cylinders?

Of course you do!

A team made up of 50-60 percent team members and a couple of star players simply isn’t going to propel your company forward. So how do you make your team the best they can be?

By training them in the skills they’re lacking.

Surprisingly, employees want to learn. It keeps them motivated and sharpens their skill set. They want to spend a day learning about better accounting principles. They want to research better ways to get more customers into their software. Or, maybe the want to experience a different department.

Giving them the opportunity. The benefits far outweigh the costs. Let’s explore how training development helps your team.

How does training and development help your team?

1. Cross-training

What if the employee who runs the cash register in your retail store calls out sick? Someone has to run the register! That’s why you train Cindy in receiving how to run the register. That way, she can jump in to run the register to help out when your employees call out or need back up.

2. Opportunity for advancement

To make it to the next level, employees often need to acquire new skills. When you train them to advance – whether to another department or management position – they’ll not only be motivated to learn, they’ll appreciate you chose them to move to a position with more responsibility.

3. More productivity

One of the main reasons behind hiring a new employee is so you can grow your business and get more work done. By acquiring new skills, team members may be able to simply get more work done. And what’s wrong with that?

4. Motivation

Learning new skills is a natural source of motivation for almost any employee. They’re not only developing their own skillset, but they’re able to add a new piece of software to their resume or build up a list of certifications. Now, that’s pretty motivating!

This whole training thing sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  The only downside is, although you may want to, the transition to a training-first company can be challenging.

Embarking on a huge training blitz will overwhelm your team. Some team members may not want to learn new skills and others might not think they have the time.

How to work with one person to turn them into the perfect employee (and get the rest to follow suit):

1. Identify a team member who wants to improve

It often just starts with one employee who wants to learn. An employee who wants to improve their skill set. Find them in your team – or another manager’s and proceed to step two.

2. Find out what they want to improve on

The best way to get a team member interested in learning more is to see what they want to learn. Maybe they want to spend the day in another department or maybe they want to get Google AdWords certified. Write a couple learning goals down together and move on to step three.

3. Discover tools and resources to help them get there.

You can learn practically anything online. There are millions of blogs, videos, online tutorials, classes, and conferences to attend. Get a learning plan together and pay for the resources if you need to. Your beta employee shouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket to learn new skills.

4. Follow up

Once your employee has gone through the training, ask them how it went. What did they learn? Is it something they think other team members would benefit from? Gathering this feedback is useful when you roll out a company-wide training program.

One team member is a great start. Use his or her experience as a launching board to a larger team initiative. With several team members on board learning new skills, you’ll be well on your way to eventually working with the “perfect employee”.

How have you used training to help your team get to the next level?