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Talent Management Blog
December 04
Tapping Into Brain Power

Since my first psychology class in high school, I have been fascinated by human behavior and how our minds work.  Maslow's Hierarchy of needs particularly resonated with me because they made sense.  If I am starving, I am going to focus on my empty stomach and filling it before I type another line in this blog.  My brain will not let me forget my hunger until it is satisfied, or it is overridden by another stimulus.  Once basic needs are met, our brains can focus on higher thinking.

In the early nineties, Maslow's Hierarchy spilled over into the learning world with the concept of brain-based learning.  Brain-based learning postulated that our brains can change over time, are affected by diet, stress, exercise, environment, and, most importantly, how our brains work plays a role in how we learn. Simply stated: if I am hungry, cold, or sick, learning will not be a priority.  Expecting children, or even adults, to sit in a chair and absorb information does not help them learn.  Their minds are way more complex and need different approaches to help make learning happen.

Decades after Maslow and brain-based learning, neuroscience of learning has emerged. Technology now allows us to map brain activity during certain stimuli.  We can literally map what our brain looks like when we are hungry!  Fascinating and a little freaky.  Neuroscience of learning studies how our brains create and respond to learning.

So that is a lovely short story of psychology, learning, and a little peek into mind invasions.  Why should learning practitioners care?  So that we can create more impactful learning experiences! Neuroscience is another tool that can help us optimize learning.  For more information, ATD has a great article on why learning neuroscience matters.  Growth Engineering has an interesting infographic​ to inspire your synapses.

By: Michele Hillary

November 15
Seeking a Mentor: Who, How, Why?

Have you ever had a professional mentor of your own? If you don't have a mentor to help you conquer professional roadblocks yet, I suggest securing one! Though there are many ways to do this, here's the story of how I successfully found my professional mentor!

Real talk, when I first started here at GROWMARK, Inc. just a couple weeks after graduating college, I did not have a professional mentor. It wasn't until one of my colleagues mentioned she was getting lunch with her mentor that the lightbulb went off in my head. Immediately I thought to myself "Lunch with a mentor? I need that in my life! How do I identify a mentor in my life? Where do I sign up for that?" I started to think about the people closest to me: family, friends, and my work team. I soon realized if I wanted to get the most out of a professional mentorship, it couldn't be with any of those individuals. Instead it needed to be with someone who would give me honest feedback and not sugar-coat situations. I think we all seek guidance, but it's important to make sure we seek the right kind of guidance.

 I started making a list of professionals who had impacted my life through internships and past work experiences. I identified my top three mentor picks. I reached out to my first pick… within 24 hours I had a response verifying that I now had a professional mentor! Immediately I knew this was going to be an excellent fit for both of us I was so excited to embark on this journey! My mentor and I meet for lunch once a month. We each bring a list of questions to ask one another, eat lunch, and then discuss the topics we bring! It's that easy. A year later, we still make a pact to meet every month! It always gives me something to look forward and we never run out of topics for conversation.

After reflecting on my time with my mentor, I cannot imagine my professional life without her. Since I have had someone to seek out for professional advice, I have become more confident in my career leading me to improve my performance in the workplace. I hope this inspires you to seek out a professional mentorship as well!

By. Tori Streitmatter

October 31
Who is responsible for employee training and development?

​In the Training Industry there is a great debate on who is "responsible for employee development".  This debate seems rather simple at its core, but requires a fundamental understanding of the difference between two key concepts; employee training and employee development. 

Simply stated, employee training is the responsibility of the organization.  Employee training should incorporate the skills that are going to help employees do their job as it relates to achieving organizational goals.  In other words, training should be provided (and required) so employees are able to meet the basic competencies for the job.  Likewise, employee training offerings should mirror strategic goals of the organization.  By offering programs and learning opportunities that mirror the strategic goals of the organization, we can be sure that employees are receiving the training they need to drive business results.  Whether or not an employee takes ownership to learn and then apply the new skill/behavior is dependent on several factors, but the most important factor is the willingness of the employee to apply what they learned back on the job.

Employee development is a shared responsibility of management and the individual employee. The responsibility of management is to provide the right resources and an environment that supports the growth and development needs of the individual employee. It requires an understanding of what skills an employee needs to develop to take the next steps in his/her career, the person's future goals and a desire by the manager to take an interest in developing employees. From the employee perspective, it is important to understand that some key learning opportunities lie outside formal training in a classroom and to take advantage of learning that may not seem "traditional."  Some examples include job rotations, job swaps, mentorship, committee participation, etc.

Organizations that understand the true value of employee development also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base to ensure they are prepared for today and the future. These "learning organizations" are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the work environment. Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy can also be seen as a key for engagement and recruiting.

For employee training to be successful, management should:

  • Provide employees a clear understanding of the organization and department goals and objectives and the skills needed to succeed in reaching those outcomes.
  • Provide training required by employees to meet the basic competencies for the job and ensure employees are getting not only on the job training but formal classroom training.
  • Look for learning opportunities in every-day activity. Managers should take time to communicate and coach to these learning opportunities every chance they get.
  • Explain what the employee needs to do in order to grow and develop in his/her role.   Individual development plans are a great starting point.
  • Support employees when they identify learning activities that make them an asset to your organization both now and in the future.

For employee development to be successful, the individual employee should:

  • Look for learning opportunities in everyday activities – if you don't know how to do something then ask!
  • Identify goals and activities for development and prepare an individual development plan.
  • Communicate with management about career desires and future opportunities.
  • Attend formal training that enhances future opportunities for advancement and growth.
  • Take ownership of developing yourself to be the best employee both today and in the future.

 By: Andy Schuster

October 15
What to Wear to the Interview

It's the night before your formal interview, the one that you have been dying to land; you've known all along exactly what you are going to wear.  You've played this scenario over and over in your head and have picked out every detail of your outfit from head-to-toe.  You are going to look fabulous!

Your outfit…doesn't…fit.

It all comes crashing down when you think you are on top of it by getting your outfit all laid out and trying it on just for good measure so, you know; you don't realize the DAY OF that it doesn't fit.  But really, you should have prepped well in advance. 

In general, today's workplace is more casual than the typical formal interview attire and it may have been a while since you have even worn those pieces.  Regardless though if you were on the ball and purchased in advance a brand new outfit for the interview or you find yourself in that last minute scramble; here are some simple tips for helping you dress to feel your best during the interview.  (So you can focus on other jitters, like when they ask you "Tell me about yourself." – Just kidding, we've got you covered with that too!)

Step 1:  Do your homework.

When you get the call that a formal in-person interview is being extended, it is ok to ask about the culture and dress code of the workplace.  This will help you determine what is appropriate and start you off right to figuring out if pieces you already have can be used or direct you in what you need to purchase. Every employer will be different in what they expect and they don't expect you to already know.

Step 2:  Keep it simple.

 Focus on staple pieces like solids and neutral colors; like black, white, gray, navy, or brown for majority of your outfit.  This will help you repurpose those pieces in the future and keep the interviewers focus on you (and your rock star answers) during the interview and not your outfit.  Dress slacks or chinos, a button up collared shirt, sweater, tie, suit jacket (if formal), and/or a skirt or dress are all typically appropriate; along with coordinating dress shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in.  (Incorporating one statement piece to the outfit such as a tie, necklace or earrings, or a patterned shirt under a solid jacket or sweater can be a nice touch; but you want to be sure those standout pieces are limited.)

Step 3:  Show up polished and pressed.

Make sure that your outfit is clean; free of stains, wrinkles, and is not ripped or tattered.  Style your hair in such a way that it will be out of your face and distraction free.  Proper hygiene is a must and again will help ensure you feel confident in your outfit.  You don't want to be blindsided by that morning's breakfast making a guest appearance in the interview room.

Step 4:  Let your skills stand out – not your scent.

Moderate use of cologne or perfume is ok, but don't let the scent of that takeover and cloud the interview because it filled up the room more so than all of the great conversation around the reasons you are qualified to do that job.

Step 5:  Put it all together.

Give it all a test run. Don't end up in a scenario like how this story kicked off.  Coordinate your outfit and try it on (shoes, accessories, even hairstyles included) so that you are prepared for any malfunctions.

When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being overdressed.  You will feel more confident knowing you are dressed for success!  If you find yourself still unsure, this overview of common dress codes will help:

Business professional:  In this environment suits are the norm. Women might typically wear a skirt or pantsuit with heels, and men it is common to wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie, and dress shoes.

Business casual:  A suit is not needed.  Men might consider dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might wear a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.

Casual:  It is still important to look polished and professional.  Again, err on the side of being overdressed and go with a business casual outfit.  (There will be plenty of time to rock the jeans, tennis shoes, and/or tees when you get the job!)

Want more clarity? Check out the '9 Things You Shouldn't Wear to a Job Interview'.


By: Allison Stephey

October 01
How We Set Our Standards Matters

​As parents, coaches, managers, leaders we all have certain things that we value and expect from the people who are looking to us for leadership. Often, we refer to these values as our 'standards' whether they be for performance, obedience, action, follow through, etc. How we set these standards matters in respect to how successfully they are met. But how do we define these standards? Where do they come from? More importantly, how do we put standards in place that people will actually adhere to?   

I would like to offer 3 tips for setting standards that will be upheld no matter what role you are in.

Keep it simple - The first one is pretty basic. Make sure that your standards are simple. Simple means easily explained. The more complicated the standard, the less likely it is to be lived up to. You should be able to explain it clearly and articulately to your people. "But my standards are complicated. We have a very technical environment. Our team deals with high-level information. The safety standards include so many steps, the manual is 3 inches thick!" Ok. Break it down into steps. Have simpler standards that combine to your overall standard. The activities that we want to be held as a standard must be actionable and realistic. Unrealistic standards will frustrate your people so quickly. Not only that, but unrealistic standards get talked about. Or worse yet (but a better way to say it) they get complained about. Just as quickly as people get frustrated, the complaints spread, and morale goes down. 

Let's look at an example of the impact this has.

A new employee who begins working for a manager who has high, unrealistic, complicated standards for behavior is defeated. They feel like they can't live up to the expectations and are constantly letting down their boss. It could be hard for them to take on new challenges or push themselves to try new things. If left in that environment long enough it can have long term effects on their self-value and work performance. If the standards are too high, you get underachievement and loss of confidence or high turnover. On the flip-side, if your standards are too low, you will see complacency and lack of drive which has a similar effect on morale and drive. 

Know the WHY - Standards are most effective when the purpose is well known. People are motivated by WHY. Simon Sinek talks about the power of WHY in his TED talk. It's a must watch for any leader.

The purpose of your standard should drive the definition. It puts value on the standard. With value placed on the standard the result is that much more satisfying and it creates buy-in for the people expected to meet it. They will likely be motivated to not only meet that standard, but exceed it because they are now invested in the outcome and understand it's impact. 

Tell Show Observe Verify - In order to ensure people truly understand the expectations placed on them, it's important to follow this simple model. 

First Tell them what is expected. Clearly articulate the standard, being sure to explain the why behind it and the impact it has. 

Now Show them what you mean. This may be doing sales calls with an employee, leading a meeting, or developing a report. Show them how the work needs to be done or how quickly you would like them to respond when a customer calls. With each example, you must model how to perform the task/behavior at the level you expect. People will do what you show them. Keep in mind that your standard is what you're willing to accept.

Next, Observe them performing the behavior at the standard level you model and expect. Provide feedback and coaching. This is your time to make sure they really understand what the standard is and fine tune their performance.

Finally, Verify that they are performing at the standard level. Come back after some time has the past and observe again. Ask people who are close to their work. Follow up with one of their customers or review survey data. Or simply go check their work. We need to inspect what we expect!

This is not a time for shaming when you find that the standard hasn't been met. Rather it's a time to praise when you find the standard has been met and reward when the standard has been exceeded. If you find the performance lacking, this is a coaching opportunity. Ask questions. Find out why they missed the mark. Encourage them.

Love your people and set them up for success by providing realistic standards that have a true purpose and value. Then hold them to it.

 By: Andy King

September 15
Score a Touchdown by Answering "Tell me About Yourself"

You've done it! 

You got the call asking you to come in for a face to face interview – you've received the kickoff. 

You've done your homework and researched the company's website thoroughly – You're at the 50 yard line. 

You've thought about what behavioral questions could be asked of you, and you've prepared several great examples – the 30 yard line. 

You've written down a list of questions that you'd like to know more about regarding both the company and position – The 20! 

You've taken a test drive to see where exactly to park and enter the building – The 10! 

You've dressed for success, and your confidence is sky high – The 5!!!!  

"Thank you for coming in today, please tell us about yourself." – FUMBLE!!!!!

As a recruiter, I've seen this time and time again.  The deer in the headlights look after the infamous "tell me about yourself" question.  Why does such a seemingly harmless question become such a difficult one to answer?   Well, we all tend to skip over things we feel like we know well.  So in preparation for an interview, it is easy to tell yourself, "I'll know what to say when they ask me this question – because who knows me better than me?"  When you take this approach, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.  Here's why.  This is your first chance to make an impression and essentially set the tone for the interview.  You can either set a positive, well-meaning tone that impresses the interviewer(s) and make them more interested in you, or you can fumble the question entirely and have to work your way back up.

Here is a possible scenario:

Manager: "So, tell me about yourself." 

You: "Oh boy, where do I start?" (As if you never knew that the interviewer would ever ask such a tricky question).  Well… (INTERNAL DIALOGE - where do I start, where do I start?  Let's see - do I go back to where I'm from or where my first job was?  OK, I grew up 40 miles away from here in a small community, wait a minute, how is that relevant?  No, I'm not going to start there.  How about a touching story about my first dog, Buddy – WHY WOULD I SAY THAT?!?!No….maybe that is good. Now I'm starting to get emotional about Buddy, I miss him so much!  Wait a minute, what was the question again?) 

OK – so that is an extreme scenario, but hopefully you get the point.  Things can start spiraling quickly if you're not prepared to answer that question.   

Brace yourself because I'm going to share some outrageously powerful advice and insight.  There is no right or wrong answer to this question.  As an interviewer, this is a way to see how the candidate communicates.  Every interviewer is different, hiring managers are all looking for different things and they all have different personalities, so there is not a singular correct response.  If you follow the below guidelines however, you will at least set yourself up well for the rest of the interview.

  1. Keep your response somewhere in the 2 – 5 minute range. (Don't tell your entire life story!)
  2. Align yourself with the company's values (that you've researched), and keep it as professional as possible.  Do not read your experience from your resume. Know what you want to talk about, keeping in mind that the interviewer is looking at how you will benefit their department/company – not about how many marshmallows you stuffed in your mouth one time when you were 12.
  3. Talk about how your experience is relevant to the position and why you are interested in this job.  "I see that you're looking for someone who is detail oriented. This excites me because in my previous job I was responsible for…."
  4. It's ok to say what YOU did specifically. Do not give all of the credit to your teammates, and do not be afraid to say "I."  Your teammates are not interviewing for this job – you are.  You can give examples of teams you've worked on later, but this is your time to shine.
  5. Confidence!  Be confident in your response.  Don't say "Where would you like me to start?"  Dive in with what you prepared with confidence.

Touchdown!  You're now ready to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question.   Now keep going, win the game, and get the job!  Good luck!


By: George Moore

September 04
It's an eWorld After All

With inarguable certainty, if you are reading this blog you are probably reading it on some form of electronic device. Perhaps a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This era of pulling out your tablet in an airport or being consumed by a mobile device at a coffee shop is becoming the norm. It's a fast and furious world we live in where we expect information to be sent and received instantaneously. We literally are addicted to our devices.  Whether it is checking the instant feedback we get on social media, what the temperature is in our house, outside our house or even in Beijing, or that growing number of emails we have; our devices are constantly vying for our attention.

Email is an example of how our communication methods evolved into the electronic world, all thanks to one man who had an idea. Ray Tomlinson was a pioneering American computer programmer who implemented the first email program. His first email, sent in 1971 was a test message from one computer to another, while the machines were sitting side-by-side. At first, his email message system was not considered important by him or others, as he had only pursued it because "it seemed like a neat idea." Now, roughly 47 years after that "neat idea," within a couple of seconds, you can send a piece of mail electronically to almost anywhere on the globe.

Electronic platforms play a role in nearly every move we make. We have eLearning, eCommerce, eBooks, eSports, eDistribution, eProcurement, ePrescribing (eRX), eVoting, even eWaste! Everything that is anything seems to have an "e" in front of it.   As for my role here at GROWMARK, I am focused on eLearning. I use specialized software to create complex, interactive web-based training programs you can take with you anywhere you go. You can take a one-hour online course at home on your phone instead of attending a half-day program that may require transportation and other costs to attend. eLearning opens up the world of possibilities to make it easy for anyone to grow their knowledge, skills and abilities with any given amount of time that is available. 

So next time you are waiting for a flight, your coffee, or picking up your kids from practice, consider using that time and your technology to learn.  And then, when you are done, you can eFile your taxes and check your investments on E*TRADE, or whatever other "e" action you want to take.  The real "e" word behind all of this is: embrace it. The "e" is here to stay; anything less than electronic seems archaic. ​

By: Rhonda Catalino

August 15
Living out your brand -- defining yourself and sticking to it


What is my brand? What does personal brand even mean? How do I come up with this stuff? These may be some recurring questions flooding your brain while you're on the quest to define your professional career.


How do I want to be seen by others?


Ding, ding, ding! That's the big question to consider before you begin identifying your personal brand. Answering this question may seem daunting, right? Well, here are some suggestions to help you begin defining your personal brand:


  • Define yourself


Start with identifying what it is you want people to think about when they see your name. Think about the people you admire. What common characteristics do they have? What makes them unique? Why do you continue to read their content, interact with the social channels, listen to their podcasts?


Make a list of qualities you want linked to your brand. Come up with a strategy around how you can add value to those around you.


  • Build your platform


Now that you have defined yourself and a strategy is in place, it's time to build your platform.


Some options to think about:  LinkedIn Twitter Instagram blogs and other websites to showcase content built by you.


The most important consideration is choosing a platform that will assist in engaging the audience that aligns with your brand.


  • Grow your network


You know your brand and how to showcase it, now let's grow your network.


Be purposeful in the information you share to attract the appropriate audience. Build relationships with thought leaders, industry professionals, and others within your niche. There is power in being visible!


You have your personal brand… what's next? Here are some suggestions to help you stick to it:


  • Social media management is key


Engage with your followers, don't leave people hanging out there if they are commenting or interacting with you – 'like' their posts, comment when you have insights!


  • Be Consistent


There is power in consistency! Be timely in your posts and replies. People may come to expect a weekly blog post from you – don't let them down!


Remember, it's an ongoing process. Your personal brand is something you must cultivate over time. Brand management is vital!


By: Kayla Portwood


July 30
Win the Morning = Win the Day

​​If I said you could make tomorrow the best day ever by implementing a few simple habits, would I have your attention? Most of us would say yes, but the reality is most of us wouldn't make the necessary ​changes. The way we start the day impacts how we finish the day. So, to make the day great we must win the mornings! 

Those who live great lives experience the power of the morning by creating strong habits and routines that set them up for an unbreakable day. The goal is to develop a routine that works for you.  Here are some suggestions to help you win the morning so you can win the day:

  • Wake up early: Set your alarm for half an hour to an hour earlier than you normally would and get up when it goes off. If this means putting your alarm in a separate room, then do it. Rise before the chaos of the day can start. Most of our days feel rushed because we start them that way.
  • Be grateful: Successful people have a heart of gratitude. Be grateful for the opportunity to take a breath because someone didn't have that same opportunity today. Be grateful for the chance to make today great. Say thank you.
  • Insert positive thoughts: Stay off social media first thing in the morning. There will be time to check what your friends are eating later. Tell yourself that today will be the day where you crush your goals and then prepare yourself for great things to happen. The power of positive thinking will change the course of your day. Remember to smile and see if you can make someone else smile today.
  • Exercise: Strong body, strong mind; get yourself up and moving. Investing in your body leads to a mind that is strong and able to handle obstacles that may come its way. Start small and find the exercise routine that works for you. (Exercise disclaimer: always consult a physician before engaging in any exercise program.)
  • Read: Fill your mind with information that will allow you to be great. Don't have time? Listen to an audio book or a podcast while exercising or on a commute. Take time to invest in your brain – we only get one.
  • Write: Put your goals, dreams, fears, challenges down on paper. Writing gets things out of your brain, so you can focus on today; it is a way to clear the clutter that consumes our minds so we can focus on what is most important.
  • Go: The toughest part of making changes is actually doing it. Tell yourself I'm going to invest in myself to make my life great. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we are too busy or it is selfish to take time for ourselves. Taking time in the morning for yourself will allow you to invest in others, which can have a positive impact on their lives.

Life is a journey and we want to enjoy it.  Find the routine that works for you, so you can conquer the morning and the day!

By: Brandon Umphrey

July 15
How Important is Networking?

​We've all heard it before: it's not what you know, it's who you know. How true do you think this statement is? I never thought much of this phrase until I started working in recruiting. I am here to tell you this statement is important and could not be more accurate. It is amazing to me how networking creates connections that can impact your professional life in such big ways. Every time you turn down a chance to network with someone new at work, in the industry, or in general, you are turning down a future opportunity to grow as a leader or professional.

One experience that comes to my mind is a networking exercise I took part in at Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference years ago. Over 70 agriculture students from around the country were sitting in a hotel meeting room in Kansas City. The speaker threw a large ball of string at our group. We were confused. He had us go around the room and state our overall career goals and one fun experience on our bucket list. As we did this, others from the group would raise their hands to signal that they had a connection within their network that could help the person holding the ball of string complete their career goal or cross the identified item off their bucket list. The person holding the ball of string would throw the ball to one of the individuals with their hand raised. It was amazing. We heard so many different conversations starting. "I want to raise alpacas once I retire." "I want to work in Ag Law." "I want to hike the Appalachian Trail." "I want to work for Kraft-Heinz as a food scientist." As these statements were said, hands shot up in the air, and people identified their go-to people in the room and had the chance to network with them after the exercise concluded. By the time we were done, the room looked like a giant spider web. There wasn't a single statement mentioned in that room that someone didn't make a connection through.

This exercise opened my eyes to how important it is to take the time to get to know the people around you as they can help you reach your dreams. I would argue that networking is not only important, but more so your best linking to success.


By: Tori Streitmatter

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