How do you make sure you're constantly connected to your customers and employees? By staying on top of trends and the changing workplace. This is especially true if you're a small-business owner, says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, in his new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.
According to Schawbel, there are five changes in the workplace that entrepreneurs must know about to stay competitive.
1. Hire candidates with the in-demand skills of the future. Most employers hire for skills when they need them, but to truly be successful, you need to pay attention to the skills of the future. Hire talent with those skills before you are 100 percent sure you need them, says Schawbel. This is how you stay ahead of your competitors.
In our rapidly changing workplace, skills that are in demand today might not be in demand tomorrow. Schawbel says the best thing you can do for your company is to stay flexible and pay attention to what's going on around you.
Two questions you need to be asking yourself regularly: What skills are more in demand now than before? What skills are you using less frequently than you did in the past?
2. Hire for soft skills. It's true that you need specific "hard" technical skills to do the job, but top employers have started demanding that colleges pay more attention to developing students' "soft skills," including critical thinking and problem-solving.
Most employers hire for hard skills with the idea that candidates are capable of doing the job because they have the technical skills to back them up. However, it's important to consider the candidate's ability to communicate, lead others and integrate into a company's culture. Without a cultural fit, candidates will have a harder time making things work.
Schawbel says, "To be perfectly blunt, people with hard skills are a dime a dozen. A high-school kid can probably learn most of the hard skills that would be required to do just about any job, but it’s doubtful that he or she would have the emotional maturity and people skills to make it in a Fortune 200 company."
Soft skills are even more crucial if you have remote workers. "It's hard to build soft skills and real relationships through technology," Schawbel says. Without soft skills, there's a higher chance that these workers end up slacking off and not efficiently communicating crucial information with you.
3. Remember that young employees want to constantly learn. "Smart companies have learned that in order to attract and retain young people, they have to provide opportunities for advancement. Otherwise, young workers are going to move on to an employer that values them more," Schawbel writes.
How do you do this? Map out your expectations. Provide younger workers with a short-term career roadmap, and tell them when they should expect a promotion and what their salary will be once they accomplish specific goals.
You can also offer workshops, webinars and conferences as ways to develop new skills for your workers, including leadership skills and skills that are relevant to the future economy.
4. Learn to criticize constructively. "Some people love to jump down people’s throats," Schawbel writes. "They actually look forward to being able to knock people down a peg or two and aren’t above reducing someone to tears. They’re insensitive jerks. Don’t be one of them."
Instead, find a way to get your message across while encouraging your employees to be better and more efficient workers.
"The best way to do this is to start the conversation on a pleasant note," he says. "Find something to compliment the person on, something she does especially well. Then move on to the main event and return to something positive before finishing up the discussion."
5. Start a blog. This is not only good for you, it is good for your company. Consumers want to feel like they know the faces behind a company and what they stand for.
"Blogging doesn’t just bring attention to you; it can also bring eyeballs to your company," Schawbel says. "According to a 2009 survey by Technoratixx, 71 percent of bloggers surveyed said their blogs have increased visibility for their company, 63 percent converted prospects into purchasers through their blog, and 56 percent said their blogs bring recognition to their company as a thought leader in the industry."
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