10 Back to School Tips From a 20-Something (With Plenty of Experience)

Back to School

The month of August is a crazy month for much of America. Almost everyone is trying to shove one more vacation to the beach in. And to complicate everything, it’s also back to school time.

Back to school can be a crazy time. The lines at Staples and Office Depot are a mile long (everyone wants notebooks for a dollar). And who wants to deal with that? So, you look for advice to do the shopping schlep better.

Unfortunately, all much of the advice is something like “buy more pencils”, “get a new backpack”, etc. It’s the same every. single. year.

This needs to change. You know how to buy school supplies. But, there’s rarely advice about how to tackle the school year. You do want to make it a successful school year, right?

How do you get actual advice your students can use?

Out of my 25 years on this earth, 16 of them have been spent “going back to school”. As veterans say, that’s a lot of experience! Here’s what I recommend to make the most of the next 180 days of school:

1. Get to know your teachers

Probably the most important on the list (and why it’s number one). Get to know your teachers. Start conversations about your life, their life – whatever. Go to them for help and build up rapport. Why put all this effort it in? It’s because you never know when you’re going to have to call upon them. It could be help with a problem outside of school, a job recommendation, etc. Stay well-connected!

2. Use technology to learn faster

If you’re still handwriting note cards for tests and using a pad of paper to keep your to-do list, it’s time to upgrade your technology. You can make your own quiz to help you remember concepts. Plus, use one of these to-do list apps to help keep your life organized. Technology is here to help you get more done. Take advantage of it.

3. Find the right friends

Your school is packed with other students. Some you’ve met and some you haven’t. Others are close friends, acquaintances, and enemies. Don’t try to be friends with everyone. It’ll make your social schedule too hard to handle. Make this the year to get a core group of friends – 5 or 10, that have your back.

4. Pack your lunch

Even though getting hot lunch daily is easy and delicious, it costs you (or your parents) a pretty good chunk of change. It’s time to brown bag it. Bringing your lunch to school has it’s benefits: it’s cheaper, you have more control over what you bring (read: healthy), and you can trade with other students for what they brought.

5. Make recess mandatory

You’ve got to have time to play. Whether that means hanging out with friends, building a fort in the woods, or playing kickball after school, recess (or outdoor activity) is a chance to recharge, get a breath of fresh air, and keep your body moving. Don’t have recess anymore? Go for a walk at lunch or hit the gym (for the older students).

6. You don’t need a new backpack

Parents get their kids a new backpack every year (and new clothes, shoes, etc). Gotta make that first-day-back fashion statement. Honestly? I don’t think you have to. Save your pennies. Don’t get all new stuff. You’re in school to learn, to become a better citizen, and find your personal path. Who cares if your zipper is broken?

7. Participate in class

It’s nerve-racking to raise your hand in class. You’re labeled as the nerd for answering the teacher’s questions. And you might even be wrong. But class participation (as it may be part of your grade) is crucial for back-to-school success. And an even better idea? Challenge the teacher. If you’ve got a different opinion, put it out there. Debates keep it interesting.

8. Take a class out of your comfort zone

If you’re able to select the classes you take, I urge you to take a new class. Something you would have never considered. It helps you think outside the box, learn something different, and meet new people. For me, it was architecture & drafting in high school and African pop-culture in college. Both classes ended up being one of my favorites – and I would have never taken them otherwise. What’s it going to be for you this year?

9. Resist Senioritis

I remember not caring about the end of 8th grade. I was going to high school next year. 8th grade didn’t matter anymore. The same with senior year of high school and college. But, senioritis hurt me academically. I needed to keep my grades up to get good placement in high school, a college to accept me, and – the most important – a job after college. Don’t slack off, if it’s your senior year. Finish strong and it’ll pay off. Do it for your future.

10. Have fun (obviously!)

This one’s obvious. But, seriously – smile a lot. Have fun. Do something new, take some risks, and enjoy this school year. If you’re in 8th grade, ask a girl out. In high school? try out for a sports team. Entering your senior year of college? Get off campus and explore the city with some friends.

Hopefully these tips were refreshing – regardless if you’re a parent, teacher, or student. Sure, you need to have enough binders and sheet protectors, but back to school is so much more. It’s a chance to start fresh, do thing you’ve never imagined, and find who you are.

What tips would you add? Let us know in the comments.

PS: Have you tried QuizBean – it’s a free online quiz maker.

Photo from Flikr, courtesy of reikhavoc

 


5 benefits of cross-training your employees

Do your employees work in a silo? No, not the silo you find at a barn in upstate Vermont (although we do have a lot of those). I’m talking about the silo of knowledge. The silo that blinds your team from other company operations.

Employees who operate in silos know one thing: marketing, accounting, product management, accounting – whatever their skill may be.

And that’s a challenge.

It’s tough to find time to get your team trained up on more than what they’re good at. You’ve got to invest time, money, and resources into something you’re not sure will pan out or benefit your company.

So, why try?

Here’s five reasons you should send your marketer to the programming side, and your HR guy over to finance:

1. Improve your employee’s skill set

Having a hand in several skills is almost always better than being amazing at one thing. That way, Mary in business development doesn’t have to get help from Mark in accounting on how to print QuickBooks reports. When skills are improved, and the company pays for it, it’s likely to increase employee retention and morale (two things that aren’t exactly easy).

2. Meet new people in the company

One of of the drawbacks of a large company is you only end up knowing coworkers in your immediate area. This means you’re talking to human resources (or whatever department) all the time. But, what if someone in marketing has a great idea to recruit new team members? By cross-training, your team meets people on the “other side of the building” or forges new relationships with the developers (It’s always a great idea to make friends with the programming team! You get a lot done).

3. Discover your employee’s strengths

Did you know Tim from accounting has an eye for interface design? Or that Jessica, the CEO’s assistant, can dress teddy bears faster than half the production staff? When you let your employees learn about other sections of the company – and possibly improve them – you find hidden talents suddenly surface. That really means during busy season, Jessica can increase production of teddy bear dressing by a significant amount. Get her on the floor!

4. Save money by hiring less people

You really don’t want to add someone else to the payroll for a 5 hour/week job, do you? Cross-training allows you to fit the job into another employee’s job description without increasing headcount. What that really means is keeping your health insurance premiums down and your team motivated to get work done.

5. Recover after losing an employee

Let’s say you had an employee leave. This employee was crucial to the company. They knew the whole team, how the company worked, and their work was top-notch. What would you do if that particular employee quit? Would you panic and wonder how you’re going to fill the position? Or, would you be confident in your team’s ability to pick up where he left off? This is the beauty of cross-training. You can fill the gaps with other team members while you work to find a full-time replacement.

Are you convinced cross-training is the way to go? I hope these reasons have led you to believe it’s a valuable initiative for your company your staff, and overall morale.

After deciding whether or not to move forward, there’s one big elephant in the room: making it happen.

It’s easy to make a decision. However, implementing a cross-training initiative at your company can be tough. It’s time consuming, and it’s an investment in human capital. Not to mention it’s unchartered territory – you’ve never done it before.

That’s why I wanted to jam-pack more value into this post and let you know a couple tips to get your cross-training program started:

How to start a cross-training program:

Cross-training takes on many different meanings. For construction, it could mean the forklift operator learning how to pour concrete. Or for a retail business, it could mean the stock boy learning how to use the register.

Regardless of it’s many facets, there are certain steps to follow to make sure your cross-training initiative is a success.

Let’s take a look at step 1:

Step 1. What are your cross-training goals?

A cross-training program is useless if you’re not achieving your goals. Write down what you want the program to accomplish? Is it every employee gaining a new skill? Is it certain departments? Do you have a budget? When you have goals in mind it helps you make better decisions that align with those goals.

Step 2. Pick two departments to work with

In order to cross-train, you need two different departments. These should be polar opposites so everyone is learning something brand-new. That way, it keeps interest levels high.

Step 3. Pick a couple of employees to test the concept on

Not everyone in your chosen departments is going to participate. That’s why you need to test this concept with team members who want to learn. They want to gain a new skill.

Step 4. Do the training

Can’t forget the most important step! Arrange a day for each department’s employees to shadow each other and get trained on how the other department works. Make sure to pair like-minded people up so you’re whole experiment doesn’t end up in flames.

Step 5: Gain feedback

Now, your cross-training has happened. Hopefully it went well. It’s time to get feedback. How did your employees like the training? Did they learn something? How would they improve the program? This feedback is super valuable for your program. It not only gets the kinks out, but it creates the foundation for a stellar program.

Step 6. Roll the program out to the company

When you’ve gotten some feedback and had the “beta” launch of your cross-training program out of the way, it’s time to roll the program out to the whole company. But, with one word of advice: make it optional.

And now it’s your turn. Have you been able to implement a cross-training program at your company? How is the team liking it? Let’s get a conversation going in the comments below!


How to make an easy transition back to school

Back to school

It’s Summer — chances are it’s beautiful out. Blue skies and mid 80’s – not a cloud in the sky. You’re at the beach playing with your kids. A book in one hand – and ice cream in the other.

Life could not be better.

And then you get that nagging feeling. Just as you’re starting to enjoy the last few days of summer vacation, back-to-school time creeps into your thoughts.

There’s always a l

ooming calendar date for back-to-school. It hangs over you like a dark cloud, waiting to rain. You know it’s going to happen. But, you want to put it off as long as possible. Go away back-to-school thoughts, go away.

But, shouldn’t you be excited to get back to school?

School means a time to catch up with other teachers, impart wisdom on young minds, and well, get a paycheck. But it’s tough to muster up the energy to start your school year off with a bang.

Get in the swing of things quickly with these tips:

1. Check your email prior to school starting

Email overload is inevitable for the first few weeks of school. There’s emails from teachers, your principal, the principal’s assistant – pretty much everyone. Take a couple hours to sort through email before you head back. That way, you’re starting the year at inbox zero, instead of inbox 1,000.

2. Get together with other teachers before the year starts

Invite a couple teachers over to your house for a potluck or small gathering. Talk about what your summer has been like, but try to avoid talking about the upcoming year. While it’s great to chat about students you dislike, it puts you back into school mode. Enjoy the time with your colleagues before you start in August.

3. Review your student roster

Find out who your students are going to be for the upcoming year. Maybe you have a former student’s younger sister. Or, you’ve got a trouble-maker in your class. Either way, it’s exciting to learn about who’s going to be in your class for the next year.

4. Decorate your classroom

Pick up some paper and scissors and get creative! Decorating your classroom is not only fun for you, but it’ll make your new students feel welcome in their new digs. Back-to-school supplies are on sale for the next few weeks. Take advantage of the sales and decorate your classroom to the nines.

5. Plan a creative lesson

There’s nothing like getting your first lesson plan up and running. It’s exciting to try something new, see how your students take it, and adapt. After all, that’s what being a teacher is all about. But, this first lesson is different. Let it be something fun, creative, and inspirational. Maybe it’s a project about your student’s summer vacation. Or, you could see what they want to accomplish this year if your students are in middle school or high school.

6. Schedule your fun time before it’s too late

If I know anything about teachers, it’s that there’s limited time for fun once school starts. You’ve got lessons plan, papers to grade, and parents-teacher conferences. Solve the work slump by planning your vacation time or nightly outings ahead of time. That way when you’re in the middle of a hectic week, you can look forward to your long-weekend in Chicago.

7. Find tools to make you (and your student’s lives) easier

Many technology companies are revolutionizing the education space. With computers and tablets present in a lot of classroom across the nation, companies are looking to make your life easier. Here are a couple examples: QuizPoo (our tool) helps you instantly assess your student’s comprehension of a subject. Science360 has a collection of neat science videos, and ReadWriteThink, a tool to create crossword puzzles for your students. And there’s hundred more.

Once you’re back in school, everything is a whirlwind. You start falling asleep at 5:00pm when you get home from grading papers. Plus, dinner is nothing more than microwaved leftovers.

Don’t fall into this back-to-school slump. Start your school year off right. Use these tips to ease back into school life after your summer off.

Now, it’s time to turn it over to you. What tips do you have to make back-to-school time exciting?

Photo from flickr

QuizPoo is now QuizBean (same easy quiz maker)

You don’t get many chances to rename your baby.

But, that’s just what we’ve done to QuizPoo. Starting today, QuizPoo is now QuizBean. But, don’t worry. The only thing changing is the logo. You still get the same great quiz maker you’ve come to know and love – unlimited questions, explanations, and pictures.

Obvious Question #1: Why the name change?

1. We’re no longer just a fun side project

In our first life, we’re a team of guys and gals who build beautiful custom websites for amazing Vermont companies. But, there was a desire to build something fun and flexible. And QuizPoo met the bill. We launched the early version at TechJam in Vermont (a technology jobs fair, basically) to much fan fare. Now, it’s ballooned into something much bigger and people are spreading the word. We just want to make sure they’re spreading the right word.

2. Teachers and trainers don’t really like poo

As we worked to spread the word about QuizPoo, teachers and corporate trainers caught on. And the feedback was unanimous — the name needed to change before many teachers were going to use it in their classrooms. No way, they were taking quizzes about poo (and we don’t blame them). That’s what prompted the name brainstorm.

Obvious Question #2: How did you come up with QuizBean?

1. Weeks of brainstorming

We had all kinds of names spread out across, whiteboards, Basecamp docs, and Google docs. It seemed like every day, our team would throw in new name (QuizPoodle, QuizCopter, and QuizCrafter, just to name a few). After pushing off the decision for several weeks, we just had to make a decision. And we used the next tool to help us out.

2. Random domain name generators

These are just plain fun. You can enter in any word, pair it with a noun, adjective, or verb of various lengths, and out comes a list of available domain names. And yes, we did spend countless hours on chat across the company IMing funny (and available) domain names. Here’s one to try out if domain name generators are your thing.

Obvious Question #3: What does this mean for the future of QuizBean?

1. More features you requested

In a recent survey we sent out, you let us know what you’re looking for in QuizBean – student progress analytics and student management. Oh, and multiple choice. We’re totally on it. In the coming months, we’re building all those features into QuizBean. Get your cone-shaped party hats ready for the launch party.

2. Same great company & product

We’re not going anywhere. Same great team, same great features. Plus, there will always be a free account. Just like a fine scotch, QuizBean will only get better with time.

What do you think of QuizBean? Let us know in the comments below.

 


How to start an employee training program

how to start an employee training program

Do you struggle with building a powerhouse team? What about training them to be future leaders in your company?

Making sure your team is equipped to handle any situation means one thing: employee training. Yep – I said it. Training. I know, for the rest of this article, I have to tread lightly.

When you think about corporate training, what comes to mind? Probably one of these two words: boring and useless. Two words you never want associated with anything, right?

So, let’s fix that.

Employee training programs don’t have to be dry. They can be the life of the party. But only if you set your program up to make your employees want to learn – not scare them away.

How do you get started training your employees?

You need the basics down. And that starts answering a couple questions.

Start by asking yourself these four questions:

1. Do I need an employee training program?

Of course, we think so. But every company is different. Your team may have all the experience they need and you could supplement with annual conferences and industry publications.

Even if you have a small team, you should have some kind of program in place. Many small teams believe training can happen on the fly. Au contraire. Small teams need training, too. When you have a team of less than 10, each person wears multiple hats and there’s always an opportunity to get better at what you do or learn a new skill. Provide the opportunity for them to do so.

2. What do I want to gain from training my employees?

Don’t train your team just for the sake of “training your team”. It’s a waste of money unless you’re aiming for an end result. What do you want out of your training. Here are a couple examples:

Whatever your goals may be, use them to help shape your training program. It keeps you focused on what you’re trying to achieve.

3. What’s my budget? Can I effectively train my employees?

A lot of managers and corporate trainers have budgets. And your company is probably similar. How much can you afford? How many team members can you train? What resources inside and outside your company are available to you? Budgets answer these questions. Plus, they help you get creative within monetary constraints. Almost always a good skill to have!

4. Does my team want to learn?

Not everyone is keen to self-improvement. They’re just fine with where they are personally and professionally. As much as you need to respect an employee’s decision, not to better themselves, there’s an opportunity to turn your company culture around. Think about how your program will make an impact on the company and certain team members. It may be for the better!

Stop!

Seriously, write down the answers to these questions. A scribble is better than nothing. Grab a pad and start writing – right now. These questions are important to answer because they help

Done? Cool – let’s move on.

Find your first test subjects…errr, employees.

Many employees love to just get their work done and leave. It’s a job. It pays the bills. They may not want anything to change.

That’s why rolling out a brand-new initiative is tough for just about any company. There’s a lot of organizational issues to work through. The bottom line is getting team buy-in is hard.

Even if your team is “on-board” they might not take the program seriously or devote the necessary time to get value out of it.

So how do you bring everyone together to accomplish a goal?

Here are a couple pointers for getting your team to say yes:

Ask certain employees

Let’s face it. There are going to be certain employees who are going to want to do the training. They’re the easy ones to enroll. You want the team members who are likely not to invest in training because they’ll help you improve your program the most.

Give them an incentive

Why would any employee do something for nothing? Yep – I don’t know either. Your team needs a reason to go through the motions of training. It could be a certification that makes them do their job better and charge higher rates, the day off from work, or simply all-expenses paid. What’s your incentive?

Group buy-in

Often times, when other members of your department are going to a training, peer-pressure works it’s magic. Simply let your non-commital employee know everyone else is going and it’d be great if she came along, too. Chances are, she’ll say yes just because the whole group is attending.

Buy-in can take time. It won’t happen overnight, so make sure you’re ready for a long slog of finding people to jump start your program.

Your next task: get 3-5 employees to agree to test your employee training program out (yes, before you have designed it).

Why would you do that?

Well, let’s look at a more likely story. You wouldn’t get a crazy flavor of ice cream without asking for a sample first, right? You want to make sure what you’re getting (or building in this case) is going to fit your goals from earlier in this post.

Wouldn’t you rather screw something up with three people, than with your entire company? I’m thinking yes. But you won’t screw up! Success is imminent with this employee training plan. Here’s the next step:

Get feedback

When you’re testing things out, it won’t go well. Hate to burst your bubble, but 99% of the time, things go horribly wrong. That’s where feedback is most valuable.

It’s not about your success of the program. It’s about where you can improve. What can you change to make the program better for everyone else?

Here are a couple questions to ask:

Notice how these questions don’t lend themselves to yes or no answers. That’s because yes-no questions don’t give you the feedback you need to improve your employee training.

Keep in mind, this is a small group of team members. Ask them to be honest. Otherwise, they’ll see everything went great when it really couldn’t have been worse.

What do you do with your feedback? You make changes and start your employee training program.

Take the feedback you received and put it to work.

By this point in time, you’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. Now, you can begin to build your training program.

Here’s a quick 10-step plan to launch an employee training program:

1. Determine the structure

How do you want to build your employee training program? What does the outline look like? Start with writing down a list of outcomes – what you want your team to learn by the end of the training. That way you plan your training by unit, chapters, activities, and assessment.

2. See what resources you need

There’s a lot to pull together for employee training. Do you need people from other departments, books, conference space, etc? This list could be quite long, but writing it down should help you plan for everything.

3. Find those resources

Did someone recommend a book to you? How about the marketing speaker who did a presentation at the last business association meeting? Would they be the perfect for your training? Get your resources ready before you pour a lot of time and energy into planning. You want to make sure you have everything to pull the training off without a hitch!

4. Find a good way to measure employee retention

Employee training is useless if there’s no way to make sure your employees understanding what they’re learning. That’s why you need a way to measure how much your team remembers. Periodic quizzes are the great way to do that. With QuizPoo, you’re able to create and share your own quiz in minutes. It’s perfect for companies both large and small.

5. Find a place for your information to live (organization is key)

The cloud is a wonderful invention. Store all of your materials online and access them from anywhere. And your team can get them, too. Look into solutions like an internal wiki, Google Drive or a company-wide Dropbox account.

6. Determine incentives for training completion

As I mentioned earlier, what’s in it for them? Why should they complete the training. Even if it’s a requirement of employment, still reward them for completion. Maybe it’s a bump in pay, an extra day off, or a trip to lunch with your co-workers. Whatever it may be, the least you can do is say “congratulations!”

7. Launch to the team

With 1-6 in place, you’re ready to launch the training to your team. There’s been a lot in the works. Now, it’s the fun part. This is where you can see if the training is working and where you may need to improve.

8. Keep writing training materials

As long as you’ve got the first couple hours or days squared away, nothing says you can’t keep writing material. Write as you go along, make edits to previous material, or add-in resources from another website. With every edit and addition, you make the training better than it was before.

9. Get team member feedback (always)

As your team works through the training, whether it be a weekend-long event or just a couple hours on the computer, keep asking for feedback. That could come in the form of real-time polling, face-to-face feedback, or end-of-training surveys. Use the feedback to build a better employee training program.

10. Rejoice in your accomplishments

You’ve made it! You built a corporate training program from the ground up. It’s a lot of work, so you should be proud of what you’ve built. Sure, it’s a work in progress, but you’ll have a better team because of it.

After these ten steps are complete, you’re ready to train any new team member, regardless of what department they’re in.

Employee training programs aren’t easy to put together. They require time, money, and resources to get off the ground. Hopefully with this guide, you have a better understanding of how to build your first training program.

And now it’s time to turn it over to you: do you have any tips for making an amazing employee training plan? Let us know in the comments below.

Looking to assess your team’s training? Discover why QuizPoo is the perfect way to train assess and retain employee knowledge.


Why your new employee is scared to ask questions (and how to fix it)

Getting employees to ask questions

It almost always energizes the company when a new employee joins the team. There’s new opportunities for collaboration, brilliant ideas floating around, and another smiling face to see on Monday morning (ok – maybe not the last one!)

When a new employee starts, you’ve got one problem: they need be trained quickly.

While it’s not possible for an employee to everything about your company, they should be expected to know a good amount of workplace etiquette, have a solid understanding of customer service, and be able to handle a team project.

To bridge the gap between what they know and what you want them to know is where a solid training program comes in.

But even with good training, employees are going to have questions.

And that’s ok. Questions are an opportunity for you to fix your training. One employee asking a question means the next employee won’t have to ask the same one. Hooray for productivity!

Unfortunately, you’ve got to figure out a way for employees to ask questions. And that’s one of the hardest parts of improving your training.

Not to mention, new employees are nervous for 8 hours straight. Especially during their first few days.

Why are your employees so nervous? You’d think it would be an exciting time for them? They’ve got a new job!

Yes, it is exciting. I’m sure they couldn’t be more thrilled. But, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be open with you from the get go.

Sometimes, pulling questions out of a new employee can be like pulling teeth.

Here’s why your employees won’t ask questions:

1. They’re nervous

Employees mull questions over in their head all the time. But, they never pull the trigger and ask them. It’s because they’re nervous. They don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their boss and co-workers.

2. There are such things as stupid questions

To an employee, there are stupid questions. These tend to be questions like “Where are the bathrooms?”, “When can I take my lunch?”, and “How do I get to the accounts payable office?”. But, they need to be asked. Employees resist asking questions like this because they have absolutely nothing to do with their job. Therefore, they think they’re stupid.

3. They want everyone on their team

The last thing new employees want is to irritate their co-workers. Being the pesky new employee means they’ll be asking questions all. the. time. Instead, they avoid it to become buddy-buddy with everyone on the team (even if co-workers let them know they can “ask you anything.”)

4. They don’t know what to ask

Sometimes employees are stumped. When faced with a lot of information at once, it takes time to process and adjust. Early in the game, it’s likely they don’t know what to ask – or, they may not have questions at that time.

5. They’re afraid being honest will hurt their chances of success

Some employees don’t want to share what they’re truly feeling because being honest can help and hurt. It can bring your team down and it can ignite passion in your employees. If employees play the honesty card too early, they fear it may reflect poorly on them. Plus, they may not get the promotion they’re hoping for if they let you know how they truly feel.

See how important it is to make your employee’s first day stellar? It makes them better prepared to tackle their next project. Plus, you eliminate a lot of the first day jitters if you can figure out how to get your employees to ask questions.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had some strategies to get your employees talking?

Conveniently, there’s a couple right here in this article. And they’re all quick and easy to implement. You’ll have an improved training program, plus a better rapport with your new hire. And who doesn’t want that?

How to get your employee to ask (lots) of questions:

1. Be the change you want to see in the world

A culture of curiosity and questioning assumptions is tough to maintain – especially if it’s a major cultural shift. But, as Ghandi always said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” Your questions pique curiosity. They get other team members thinking. And pretty soon, they’ll ask their own questions – either to challenge or support you.

2. Make time for employee 1-on-1’s and/or group settings

Have you thought about changing the setting your employees are in? Some team members are more honest in a 1-on-1 setting, while others speak-up in a group setting. 1-on-1’s are typically more effective because employees won’t have to worry about backlash or embarrassment from others.

3. Get team members to be supportive

Not every team member is a fan of the new guy because it takes away from their time to get work done and they may get annoyed. This reflects poorly on your team member and stops the new guy from ever asking questions. To counteract this, make sure your team is on-board with helping out. Designate someone in each department to be the question-guy. This person should be friendly and willing to help others.

4. Compile a new hire FAQ

A list of questions from past new hires not only eliminates the need to answer a bundle of questions, but it could prompt new ones. Simply keep a running Google Doc of questions and have your team members review it to make sure it’s up-to-date.

As you can see, these are small changes. I’m not asking you to make major shifts in company policies or how you on-board new team members. These strategies are quick and easy. They’ve worked for us and hopefully they’ll work for you.

How have you fostered a culture of questions at your company? Let us know in the comments below.

Speaking of questions – have you tried making a quiz on QuizPoo yet? It’s the most engaging way to train your team.


Top 5 Quizzes You Created for July 2013

With activity picking up on the quiz-making end of QuizPoo, we thought we’d highlight a couple quizzes you’ve been making. Here’s the top five quizzes created by you guys for the month of July 2013:

1. EdSurge Asks: Edtech Startup or Pokemon?

2. A quiz about my dogs

3. Is this a prime number?

4. Real Animal or Photoshop Creation?

5. The Two Gentleman of Messina

Want to get your quiz featured here? Get creating and make your own quiz – it’s totally free!


5 ways to make a quiz your employees want to take

There are thousands of quizzes on the internet. Some are about Justin Bieber. Some are about what to name your baby. And unfortunately, some are about corporate training.

And those corporate training quizzes are just plain dry. Why?

Because no one looks forward to training.

It’s something everyone needs to go through. For several days, you read lengthy documents, view horribly filmed videos, and take assessments to make sure you’re absorbing as much of the dry material as possible.

So, how do you make it so your team looks forward to learning new skills?

With quizzes!

Quizzes are one of the best ways to test your team. They’re quick and easy. They don’t take a lot of time to put together. And you get an idea of where your training needs to be improved.

But, quizzes don’t solve everything. They can be dry and boring, too.

Seeing as we make a quiz application for fun, we thought letting you know about several ways to make your quiz more fun would be appropriate.

Read on corporate trainer, read on:

1. Use different question types

There’s a reason “variety is the spice of life” is such a popular saying. As humans, we crave variety. Doing the same repetitive task over and over again drives people nuts. And that’s why you should have different question types in your quiz. If every question is true/false, going through the quiz becomes pretty boring. But if you throw in multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank quizzes, you keep your team guessing. And in a good way.

2. Use questions that make them think

A lot of training quizzes have simple questions. Questions employees might call “easy” or “stupid”. The problem is, quizzes are meant to educate and assess – not get shoved aside. Make sure you have questions that make your team think. This means your employees will put time into studying (see strategy #3). Plus, it makes it harder to guess.

3. Allow study time

Being thrown right into a quiz is a tough situation – especially just after learning the materials. It’s hard to remember what you just learned. And if it requires a lot of reading, give your team member time to digest the information, process it, and push it to short-term (maybe even long-term) memory. The more times they read over the data, the more they’ll remember it. And that’s good for any employee – even if they don’t do well on the quiz.

4. Make it a team quiz

Not many employees work solo  on projects these days. Often times, they’re working with a team to accomplish a goal. To empower your employees to work together, let them take your quiz together. They’ll learn from each other and hopefully get into some critical thinking to arrive at the best answer.

5. Time Your Quiz

It’s no secret many people like to perform under pressure. And more work gets completed when the clock is ticking. Plus, it’s just another reason to time your quiz. Not only does it keep your team on their toes, but it makes for healthy competition. Who can finish the quiz faster? (Makes us think you need a leaderboard!)

Making your own quiz is one thing. Getting your team to take you seriously and take the quiz is another.

Quizzes are meant to be a quick and easy assessment of your team’s knowledge. And at QuizPoo, we try and make it fun and engaging (bright colors make you happier).

Give it a shot – Make your own quiz right now.


How to make your new hire’s first day unforgettable

new_hires

Do you remember your first day on the job? You were fresh out of college, living with your best friend, eating ramen, and working at your first big-boy job to pay the rent.

But, do you remember your first day on the job?

(I’m sure there are funny stories)

How about when you showed up under-dressed. Or, the fifteen questions you had about how to setup your computer (or your typewriter). Or, finally, the time at lunch your voice cracked when a coworker asked you a question. Good times, good times.

In reality, though, it was lonely. It was awkward. And it wasn’t fun.

Your first day makes or breaks the experience you have for the rest of your career with the company.

Make your employee feel welcome. Here’s 5 ways to make your new hire’s first day unforgettable.

1. Give them a real project

The last thing new employees want on their first day is to feel like they’re just getting the grunt work. Give them a project you need help on – maybe it’s market research, resume scanning, or designing a business card. And tell them why it’s important to you. They’ll feel like they’re making a difference on day one!

2. Take them out to lunch

Sure, new employees almost always bring their lunch to their first day. It’s because it’s one less decision they need to worry about come noon. But, this is also an opportunity for you to make your new team member feel welcome and appreciated. Offer to take them out to lunch. And it’s ok if they say no out of fear. Later in the week works, too. It’s a great way to check-in with them to see how their doing.

3. Introduce them to management

Most new employees just want to make sure they’re getting their bosses work done – and done well. But they also want to see how they can move up and grow from within the company. Introducing them to members of management or a C-level executive is a great in-roads to not only possible mentorship, but it might just be the foot in the door they need to get promoted in 6-12 months.

4. Have all new hires start on the same day

What’s the advantage of having 2 or 3 new guys start on the same date? Well, for one, they are going through the same feelings. “How am I doing?”, “Am I making a good first impression?”, “What if I goof up in-front of my boss?” Having new team members starts on the same day gives the new people someone to talk to – to form their first friendship at the company.

5. Make training exciting and engaging

Reading the employee handbook isn’t training. It’s torture. Have them read it on their own time or during their lunch break if you need to. Get into the training – the learning – to ramp up your new employee for ultimate domination of whatever their job may be. Examples of fun training are group demonstrations (have them do it, with a co-worker watching over them), engaging corporate training quizzes,

Keeping your team motivated to do awesome things for your company starts the second they accept your job offer. Making sure they feel welcome and comfortably adjusted on their first day is key to success.

How have you helped your new employees become part of the team on their first day?

Photo courtesy of Zlatko

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.