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Talent Management Blog
April 05
Getting Things Done

With spring upon us, we know that many employees throughout the GROWMARK and FS System are gearing up for the busy spring season to hit! During busy times, it can often feel like we don't have control of our time or our to-do items. Recently, through one of GROWMARK's leadership development programs, Aspiring Leaders, the participants read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. The book provides some simple concepts that have a big impact on taking charge of our time, our state of mind, and our productivity! Here are some tips to try:

The 2-minute rule: If it can be done in 2-minutes or less - do it right away! Often times things slip through the cracks because we think we will remember to come back to it. If you are reading an email and it just needs a quick response - do it and be done with it!

Capture: Anything that needs to have action taken upon it - capture it on a list. Write it down or add it to a to-do app. Don't rely on your memory to keep track of it! Capture applies to every action or task, big or small, personal or professional. Need to buy stamps to send out a birthday card? Need to respond to a customer's email? Need to call grandma? Capture it. If you have captured the task or action, it frees your mind from having to remember it.  You are then more likely to be present with your grandma on the phone call instead of thinking about how you can't forget to do those other important tasks.

Next Action: Identify the next action that needs to be taken on any project. We typically have large, multi-step projects that we push off because they are so daunting. Instead of thinking about the project as a whole, identify what the very next action is that you need to take. That helps to break it up, and you are more likely to make continual progress versus waiting until the deadline to crank it all out.

​To learn more about the Getting Things Done process, check out the book or check out the GTD (Getting Things Done) podcast channel. 

By: Carrie Harshman

March 04
PowerPoint? Or, eLearning?

​The movie "Hidden Figures" brought attention to the historical contributions three brilliant women made to John Glenn's mission to orbit the earth and provided insight as to what goes on behind the scenes. Spectators see the memorable images of the rocket blasting off and the impressiveness of the event. When, behind the scenes, people were tasked with making such an event come together.

Although on a much smaller scale than a rocket-ship, it is an eLearning Designers job to make eLearning experiences memorable for the learner (or spectator), and we are tasked with the mission to make it come together. To do that, we use software created specifically for eLearning design. For you, as the learner, it may resemble the simplicity of a PowerPoint presentation, but the functionality is different and more complex.

Have you ever played a video game that, based on your interaction, took you to a different part of the game? eLearning design is similar because unlike PowerPoint, it is a responsive environment. The designer is tasked with writing the scripting/coding that tells the program what to do and how to do it based on interaction.

Different than PowerPoint, where all the screens appear in order, eLearning courses jump around within themselves with interaction. You may be at the beginning of a course but clicking on any responsive item might send you to the end of the course where a specific location is housing interactive items. You never see it happen.  All you see is that it popped up, and when you closed it, you were back on the original screen.

Because it runs seamlessly, it brings the misperception that eLearning courses can be used as PowerPoint presentations and printed for handouts, but they are not similar in structure or design. For example, when printing PowerPoint presentations, the slides will print in order. On the contrary, eLearning software doesn't offer a print option because the pages are not in order. They function on the scripting/coding behind the scenes and printing an eLearning course from the software would result in a nonsensical order of pages.​

When you take an eLearning course, watch the items you click on. Each one is moving you around in a self-contained-environment and you never see it happening. But rest assured, somebody, somewhere, worked behind the scenes to provide you with a memorable, interactive experience.

​By: Rhonda Catalino

February 01
How to Crush Your Goals in 2019

Let's face it: most of us make our New Year's goals around 12:00am on January 1st  and by February we are wondering what we've gotten ourselves into. Each year we look toward the next 365 days and say, 'this year I will accomplish [blank].' Business Insider recently posted an article stating 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February with some failing as early as January 12th. We get so excited about the New Year and our new selves, but this excitement quickly fades with the busyness of life and discomfort of change. 

Sticking to our goals doesn't have to be that complicated if we can understand three simple ideas when making and setting our goals. By following AAA (Accountability, Attainability, and Action) we can crush our goals and see them through January 12th and beyond.  I have unpacked in brief detail the AAA's below:

Accountability – Thinking of a goal can often be the easy part, it's like creating a Christmas list. We put down what we want and expect Santa to leave it under the tree. It takes a little more thinking and planning then just writing it down. To achieve our goals, we must create a plan and then share the plan and goal with someone else. By sharing our goals and plans we now have others to hold us accountable. When we make a public commitment, we gain the sense of a community supporting us and cheering for success. Others hold us accountable, our plans hold us accountable to the tasks.​

Attainable – Start small and keep it specific. Most goals fail because they are too vague and lack any meaning to us. Identify what you are passionate about and your pursuit won't feel like a punishment. Start with the end in mind, answer the question 'what will my life look and feel like if I accomplish this goal?' After you answer the question pursue that dream with all that you have.  Small achievements day-by-day turn into big accomplishments over time.

Action – Like Nike says, "Just do it!" Begin every day with a positive attitude. Know that change is uncomfortable but through discomfort comes great things. If you slip up, forgive yourself and get back at it. People that do great things and crush their goals persevere through failure and see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate and begin again.

Follow these simple steps and make 2019 your greatest year yet!

 By: Brandon Umphrey

January 15
Be "that" person

Its 2019, and with the change of the year, certain things will come into and out of style. Self-driving cars are on the rise. The Tide Pod challenge (remember that 2018 story?) is a distant memory. Boot-cut jeans are making a comeback, and tablet devices (when is the last time someone bragged about getting an iPad?) are on the decline. 

You know what is never going to go out of style: being the person who creates the world’s best PowerPoints. Being the girl who can identify any weed or pest, just from a picture. Being the guy who can take an underperforming department and turn it into a well-oiled machine. Being “that” person is never going out of style, and here’s why.  

The Information Era 

Modern technology (mainly the internet) can provide any bit of knowledge we want right at our fingertips. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to learn enough Spanish for our trip to Mexico, or how to tie a couple of fishing knots to impress your father in law, all from our phone. But with all this information at our disposal, we can find ourselves without anything to make us “that” person.  

Many people want to take their professional skills a mile wide, but only an inch deep; want to learn everything and impress everyone. In a world where learning a little bit about a lot of things is easy, why not take the other route? Why not learn as much as you possibly can about a couple of things? Be the person at your company who knows everything there is to know about the accounting software you use. Be the person who knows every single customer in a specific trade territory. 

Going a mile deep on a couple of topics will separate you from the crowd. It gives other members of your team or company a person to rely on. You become the subject matter expert. And when you are the go-to person on a topic, the undisputed master, you become indispensable. Your knowledge and/or skills are harder to replace, and that can make the difference during lean times.  

The Social Media Effect 

Social media isn’t going anywhere. It has permeated every aspect of our personal and professional lives and it’s never been easier to communicate who you are and what you do. Although this is a very positive thing, there is a down side: being able to walk the walk isn’t a requirement anymore. 30 years ago, the only way to be labeled a marketing expert was to learn the field, impress clients and gradually work your way up to larger and larger projects until you gained recognition.  

Now, it takes no time at all to hop on your favorite social media platforms and rebrand yourself as a marketing expert, regardless of whether you have the experience. “Marketing is my passion and I want people to know that!” Great, just make sure that you can back up that label. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where people look to you for expertise, and you can’t provide it.  

Instead, be a breath of fresh air to all the companies out there looking for a marketing expert. Go a mile deep on your topic, and then hit a home run when someone gives you the opportunity to be “that” person.  

Make 2019 the year where you find something that makes you “that” person. Your company will recognize your effort, your clients will value your expertise, and your future-self will be very grateful.


By: Tim Callahan

December 28
Avoid Conversation Corners

In our communication with other people the challenge is "What do I say?", "How do I start the conversation?", or "What will make a good impression?" Many times, we end up asking 'formula' type questions that lead to limited conversation backing us into a 'conversation corner' and ultimately ending the conversation altogether. The responses confirm our worst fears: that we look awkward, uncomfortable, and lame.

The answer to avoiding being backed into a corner - how we ask questions. This can fall into two categories of questions we ask. The first type of question we can ask ends with a response of 'yes' or 'no'. This is called a Closed-Ended Question. We get limited response, information, or conversation from the other person. You receive 'yes' or 'no' for responses. The Closed-Ended questions we are asking can put us into a 'corner' that is difficult to get out of. It begins to sound like your questions are 'nosy' for information and antagonize the conversation resulting in it ending altogether.

The second category of questions is called Open-Ended Questions that will make you a very interesting conversationalist. Open-Ended Questions begin with key words of who, what, when, where, why, and how. The two easy favorites that will make you an expert conversationalist are what and how. Questions that begin with 'what' or 'how' allows the other person to speak and expand on your question. You will gather more information, gain more insight, and be easy to talk to!

So let's try an example:

  • Are you happy?                                                 (Closed-ended question with a limited response)
  • What makes you happy?                              (Broad response and unique answers)
  • How do you feel when you are happy?   (Additional information will be included)

Stay out of the 'corners' and be an expert conversationalist with questions that begin with 'what' and 'how'!

By: David Hansen​

December 15
Networking at the Holidays

The holiday season can be such a busy time for all of us! It is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and put other things to the side – like your future career! The holidays typically bring people together that you wouldn't see throughout the year – family, friends, spouse's co-workers and many more. These gatherings are the perfect opportunity to network with people you don't normally see, and build relationships that could eventually lead you to a career you've been searching for! As we all know, it is all about your "network." Tips to build professional relationships in your network:

  • Make a personal connection: establish a relationship with the person through something you have in common– how will they remember you and you remember them?


  • Stay connected: don't let your relationship slip away after the holiday season. Connect with the person on LinkedIn, stay in touch over e-mail, grab a coffee or lunch together!


  • Helping hand: just as that person may help you in the future, think about how you may be able to help them – in their job, career or personal life.


  • Put yourself out there: volunteer around your local community (holidays are all about giving!), get to know areas of business/other people in your current company, get involved in a local group of interest


By: Marissa Williams

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

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