Four Common Distractions That Decrease Productivity

April 8th, 2016

For most IT workers, avoiding distractions at work is impossible. It’s inherent in the way the workplace is designed with low-walled cubicles that mean there’s no such thing as a confidential conversation. You probably can’t do much about the office layout, but there are things you can do to reduce these other four common office distractions and help your team stay focused and productive.

Massive Email Blasts

Keeping everyone informed is important, but massive email blasts that cc: everyone on a project are more distracting than useful. Target your emails to only those who need to respond to them. If there’s valuable information you want to make sure doesn’t get lost, use a collaboration tool and either save a document or create a discussion thread that will be archived and searchable for future reference. That way, the knowledge is saved and accessible, but it doesn’t clutter up email inboxes and require everyone to figure out whether they need to respond, decide whether they should save the message, and create a filing system to keep things organized.

Ban Smartphones From Meetings

Keep meetings on track by banning smartphones from the conference room. This lets everyone focus on conducting the business of the meeting, rather than reading unrelated emails or stepping outside to take personal calls. You can minimize the withdrawal symptoms by having a concise agenda to keep the meeting brief. Make sure that having a meeting is the most effective way to achieve your goal. And start meetings on time, even if you’re missing some attendees; otherwise, you’re wasting everyone else’s time.

Funnel User and Support Requests

Requests from end users for help can pull developers off project work into production support. Don’t let end users call their favorite developers for help directly. Have a support hotline to call and assign one person to staff it (possibly on a rotating basis). That person will buffer everyone else on the team from user interruptions, bringing in them in for assistance only when needed. It’s important to have a cookbook of common problems and solutions to help the support person resolve issues without involving the rest of the team.

Automate Routine Tasks

Routine tasks often take longer than they should, because employees find them boring and look for ways to avoid doing them. Instead, use technology to free up routine tasks like packaging releases or deploying them into a test environment. That will help the tasks get done quickly and consistently, and reduce the need for your team to seek out distractions during the process.

The time you spend searching for employees is a distraction from your main job responsibilities. Working with a staffing agency like InReach IT allows you to offload this distraction to an experienced team of recruiters who will focus on finding the right people for your open positions. Contact us to learn how we can help streamline the hiring process and make you and your team more productive.

Preparing for an IT Employee’s Departure

April 1st, 2016

Like it or not, employees have lives outside the office. Eventually, their lives will pull them away from the office—whether to focus on family or because their career ambitions can’t be achieved with their current employer. So every business needs a plan for coping with employee resignations. Some parts of the process are common whatever the employee’s responsibilities, but there are also some steps specific to IT workers.

Finalize the logistics of the employee’s resignation. Agree on the employee’s last day of work. Two weeks is traditional and still standard, but some departing employees may have the flexibility to offer you a longer notice period if their project is at a critical point. Agree on who will announce the departure to the rest of the team; the way the news is shared can impact the morale of the employees who remain.

Plan to transition work. Identify everything the employee is working on. This can include work assigned and tracked in tools like JIRA, but almost every employee has informal responsibilities that aren’t tracked in project management tools. Decide which tasks will be completed before their last day of work and which need to be handed off to other employees. Make sure employees are cross-trained.

Gather all development artifacts. Be sure you get all work in progress from the departing employee so their efforts aren’t lost. This can mean having them check in code even if it isn’t complete; you can consider creating a new branch in your version control system so it doesn’t impact builds that pull code from the trunk.

Start looking for their replacement. Take time to think about what you want in a replacement employee. You might not simply want a replacement; you might want a person who brings a different skill set to the team or use the headcount for a different purpose. Tailor the job description so it accurately describes the responsibilities and skills of the new position.

Be sure to speak to the departing employee throughout their last two weeks. It’s almost certain you’ll have missed something during the initial planning. By checking in regularly you can make sure you find out about those items and get them handled. With good communication, you won’t discover a gap in your transition plan the day after the departing employee’s last day at work.

Working with a staffing agency can reduce the time it takes to find a replacement employee and reduce the impact after someone’s departure. InReach IT Solutions has more than 20 years’ experience helping companies find the staff they need. Contact us to learn how we can help you fill your open positions, whether you need to replace an employee who resigned or you’ve expanded headcount due to company growth.

Why Open Source Projects Set Candidates Apart

March 25th, 2016

When you review job candidates, their employment history isn’t the only thing you should look at. Their activities outside work giveyou insight into their interests and motivations. When those outside activities include open source projects, you should view that as a strong positive factor. Here’s why:

  • Contributing to an open source project shows a candidate has strong motivation and is self-directed. There’s no requirement for a candidate to work on an open source project, so their participation is entirely voluntary. And once they’ve signed up, their work is entirely self-directed; there’s no specific work assignment and no project manager assigning a deadline.
  • Shows a candidate keeps current technically. If they’re working on a widely used open source project, they’re also implementing leading-edge technology. Most open source projects focus on packaging new software techniques to make them easy for wider use.
  • Working on open source projects require strong communication skills. Open source projects are highly collaborative; they’re also highly distributed. The workers aren’t in a common location and communicate almost entirely through collaboration tools.
  • The candidate understands agile development. Almost all open source projects are structured as agile projects. Besides being comfortable with working in an incremental fashion, working on an open source project makes developers familiar with the typical tools that support that methodology, including source code control tools and bug trackers.
  • Boosts the candidate’s technical ability. The best way to learn to code better is to write more code. Contributing to open source projects lets candidates write more code, plus have it reviewed by a community of top programmers. That feedback can only help them become a better developer.
  • This type of work showcases passion. The candidate probably already has a job they spend at least 40 hours per week on. They wouldn’t spend their free time working on more technical projects unless they really loved it. Bringing their enthusiasm for technology into your workspace can only boost morale.

When you need to hire a new employee, consider all facets of their experience. At InReach IT Solutions, our candidates have strong resumes, including work at their jobs and contributions to open source projects. Contact us to learn more about how our Dallas IT staffing professionals can help you find the right employees for your open positions.

Tips for Managing Remote IT Employees

March 18th, 2016

IT projects are collaborative efforts. There usually isn’t a solo programmer sitting alone in a room, cranking out code. Even if there is a single programmer, getting an application from concept to deployment requires other people to perform testing, packaging, and support.

When the tech workers are remote from each other or from the product owner defining the project requirements, coordinating and collaborating becomes more challenging and effective management of a team is even more critical. Use these tips to ensure that your remote IT workers are able to succeed despite being separated from the rest of the organization.

  1. Make sure local and remote employees communicate about the project. Include the remote team in team meetings through videoconferencing and conference calls. Solicit input from the people on the phone as well as the people in the room. Use other collaboration tools to encourage team members to communicate no matter where they’re located.
  1. Make sure remote employees know what their responsibilities are. Because there’s less opportunity to intervene with a remote team, it’s important that they know from the beginning what they’re expected to do and how they’re expected to respond to problems they encounter, particularly if they’re in a different time zone from the rest of the team.
  1. Don’t expect a remote team to perform functions that are best handled locally. Some IT functions, like requirements analysis, require spending significant time talking with a business expert. It’s best to perform that task in person, so that nuances of tone aren’t lost in static during a bad connection.
  1. Take advantage of time zone differences. When possible, assign work so that dependent tasks are in different time zones. For instance, if testers and coders are in different time zones, testers can send a bug report at the end of their day and find fixes ready to be retested when they come back in the next morning.
  1. Make sure remote employees have all the technical tools they need. It’s hard to work effectively when you don’t have the tools. Give remote employees the software and licenses they need to perform their tasks.

Whether you need to staff a local office or want to hire a remote employee, InReach IT Solutions will apply its 20 years of IT recruiting experience to help you find the best possible worker. Contact us to learn how our Dallas IT staffing services can help you meet your hiring needs.

IT Hiring in Dallas

March 11th, 2016

Dallas is ranked number two in the technology job market. Technology employers and job seekers in the Dallas area will find the search for employees and employers in 2016 impacted by national and local trends that are both positive and negative.

Trends Indicate More Competition for Top Employees

One survey placed both Dallas and Plano among the top 25 cities for job seekers, with Plano actually topping the list. While that’s good news for job hunters that means employers may need to work harder to convince candidates to accept their offers. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that hourly wages for computer systems analyst in Dallas-Fort Worth are currently slightly below the United States average for these workers, though surveys by other firms report salaries that are higher than average for the most in-demand technical skills.

A contrary trend is due to Dallas’ dependency on oil and energy firms; the current low prices for oil may reduce job growth in Texas, according to the Dallas Fed. Although the energy slowdown started in 2015, the effects will continue to be felt through 2016 and even into 2017.

Most companies report that technology staff will stay level or increase in 2016; an emphasis on digital transformation is forcing companies to increase their IT budgets. For employers, the biggest challenge remains finding quality employees. Unemployment in Dallas remains relatively low.

Staffing Agencies Help Employers Beat the Competition

Working with a staffing agency is an effective way for companies to identify top talent in a competitive job market like the one in Dallas. Staffing agencies have large databases of candidates and actively network to expand their contacts. By working closely with their client companies, staffing agencies reach a deep understanding of the requirements for each open position and are able to effectively screen candidates. Only the most suitable applicants get passed to the company for further evaluation. Staffing agencies also know what the market rate salaries and benefits are for every job title, helping companies generate attractive offers that candidates are likely to accept. Through these skills, staffing agencies reduce the time and cost of a company’s recruiting efforts.

InReach IT Solutions has more than 20 years of experience recruiting information technology specialists. We focus on helping companies and candidates find the best match for their needs, placing the right candidate in the right job to benefit both the employer and the employee. Contact us to learn how our services can solve your Dallas IT staffing problems.

Evaluating an IT Candidate’s Personality

March 4th, 2016

Sometime in the future, robots may replace all workers, even IT workers. When that time comes, employee personality won’t matter. If a robot worker doesn’t fit in, you’ll just have them reprogrammed. Until that time comes, though, employees are people, not robots. Personalities can’t simply be reprogrammed, and an employee whose personality doesn’t fit in can have a surprisingly large impact on the rest of the team.

Conflict With Employees and Job Responsibilities

There can be a personality conflict between employees and their bosses, between employees and their co-workers, and even between employees and their customers. All of these conflicts make it difficult to work together to achieve the goal of a project. Conflicts with customers can even result in a company’s losing business.

Even if an employee’s personality doesn’t cause conflict with others in the workplace, it can get in the way of performing the job. For example, a very introverted worker wouldn’t be a suitable fit for a position that requires lots of public interaction, even if they are experts in every technical skill the job needs.

Assess Personality Before Hiring the Candidate

To ensure the candidate has the right personality for the job, make sure your hiring process doesn’t focus only on technical skills. Certainly, keywords on a resume may suggest you should bring in the candidate for an interview, and the interview should prove the candidate’s expertise in those skills. But the interview is also a time to evaluate the candidate’s soft skills and interpersonal capabilities.

Personality tests can rate candidates on measures including intro- or extroversion and ability to lead or propensity to follow, and behavioral interview questions can help you understand how the employee would react in specific situations they’re likely to encounter at work. You can also learn about the candidate’s personality by finding out how they spend their free time away from work.

Because the candidate will likely work as part of a team, have more than one person interview them. Getting multiple perspectives from different members of the team will give you a sense of how well they’ll fit in to your organization.

Work With a Staffing Agency

Staffing agencies like InReach IT Solutions understand both the formal qualifications needed for a job as well as the personal characteristics needed to succeed. With our 20 years of experience and a deep pool of potential hires, we can help you find a candidate who will excel both technically and personally. Contact the Dallas IT staffing professionals at InReach IT Solutions to learn more about our services.

Does Your New Hire Have Growth Potential?

February 26th, 2016

Coping with holes in your staff is challenging. It’s easy to wish for a new hire who’ll come in, do a good job, and stay there so you never need to fill that role again. But to benefit the company most, you should be looking for employees who’ll stay a while and then make a move—not move on, but move up.  That means hiring with growth potential in mind. When seeking employees who’ll excel over time, look for the following characteristics.

Core competency. The candidate has to do a solid job in the position they start out with, no question. Without baseline technical skills, they won’t get the job done. They also won’t earn the respect of their teammates and colleagues in other departments, which is critical for more senior jobs that require more interpersonal and leadership skills.

Interest in the industry. Moving up the ladder often means moving away from a hands-on technical role and gaining more knowledge about the business side of the work. Candidates who express an interest in the business problems being solved as well as the technology used in the solution will be more successful in filling other roles.

Desire to grow. No matter how much potential you see in an employee, it doesn’t matter unless they want grow into new opportunities. Look for candidates who are enthusiastic about the ways the current position will let them learn and grow. Especially look for candidates who are open to growing in new directions—not just learning the latest version of a technology, but learning entirely new subject matter.

Flexibility and adaptability. To succeed in multiple positions in your organization, the new hire will need the ability to adapt to different responsibilities and different ways of doing things. Look for someone who’s held multiple roles within a project, or who offers suggestions on how things could have been done better rather than holding the attitude that “that’s just how we did it.”

Good interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are needed for senior roles that are more about communicating and coordinating with others than doing work themselves. Beyond that, if the hire doesn’t have good interpersonal skills, they may not build solid relationships with others in the company—relationships that can help or hinder success over the long term.

InReach IT Solutions helps businesses keep an eye on the long-term picture while solving short-term staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can help you find employees with the skills you need to solve problems now and the growth potential to solve new problems in the future.

Should You Praise or Criticize?

February 19th, 2016

There are two approaches you can take to getting the most out of your employees: You can criticize work that needs improvement, or you can praise work that was done well. Actually, managing effectively requires both.

Avoid Unconstructive Criticism

Negative feedback can’t always be avoided, and criticism has value when it’s done constructively. This means placing the criticism in context and making sure an action is being criticized, not the person. Constructive criticism should be specific and related to a particular situation. There should be suggestions on how to improve, but you should collaborate with the employee to come up with a plan.

If done well, constructive criticism will leave an employee feeling like you’ve partnered with them to help them improve, and they’ll see the value of the improvements to the business and to themselves.

The Benefit of Praise

Offering praise makes employees feel good and boosts morale and self-esteem, which in turn boosts motivation and commitment to their work. Public recognition of an employee’s good work makes a clear statement about the employee’s value to the organization.

Using praise effectively doesn’t mean handing out trophies just for showing up at the office every day. Praise can even be used as part of coping with negative behaviors; you can use a “positive reprimand” where you offer examples of how the current behavior doesn’t match up to the employee’s normal good behavior. (If the employee hasn’t had any good behaviors or results to point to, there needs to be a specific improvement plan or a termination).

Determine Your Goal When Deciding Your Approach

To decide whether to take the positive or negative approach in giving feedback, think about what you hope to accomplish. Negative feedback can change behavior, but it doesn’t motivate or inspire. Positive feedback and praise motivates employees to put forth their best efforts. In the long run, that may have the most value to your organization.

Looking for employees you won’t need to criticize? We can’t guarantee that, but with 20 years of experience in helping businesses hire top employees, InReach IT Solutions knows how to match candidates to the right position. Contact our experienced IT recruiters to find praiseworthy employees in our database of candidates.

Evaluating a Candidate’s Enthusiasm

February 12th, 2016

The skills and experience a candidate brings to the job are important indicators of how qualified they are to perform the task, and you’ll want to consider them seriously when you make your hiring decisions. You’ll also want to consider factors like the candidate’s personality and their enthusiasm. If two candidates are equally qualified, consider hiring the more enthusiastic candidate. If two candidates are not equally qualified, but the difference in qualifications is slight, you should also consider hiring the more enthusiastic candidate. Here’s why:

  • Enthusiastic candidates are more likely to pursue training and improvement. People who are excited about the work they’re doing want to get better at it. These candidates will invest time in training and learning, both on the job and on their own time, letting them develop new skills that bring more value to their work.
  • Enthusiastic candidates will do better work. When you don’t like what you’re doing, you don’t put much effort into it; you aim for the minimally acceptable level of quality. Enthusiastic candidates who enjoy what they’re doing take pride in their work and want it to be exceptional, so you can expect they’ll put more effort into it. You can also expect an enthusiastic employee to go above and beyond in other ways, looking for ways to contribute outside the strict boundary of their official role.
  • Enthusiastic candidates will fit in and be team players. If their positive, enthusiastic attitude carries over from the interview into the workplace, the candidate will be a positive, enthusiastic employee who is fun to be around. Their good energy will be beneficial to the team as a whole.

Finding an enthusiastic employee means paying attention to job candidates’ attitudes during their interviews. You shouldn’t expect them to be enthusiastic about their current job—they’re looking to change, after all—but they should be able to be enthusiastic about something they’ve achieved. They should also sound excited when asked about what they’re looking for in their next position; hopefully, what they’re looking for matches what you have to offer. You can also gauge enthusiasm by how thoroughly they’ve researched your company prior to the interview and the kinds of questions they ask.

It can be hard to maintain your own enthusiasm when searching for a new employee. Working with a staffing agency like InReach IT Solutions can help you stay positive by sending you top candidates to interview. Contact us to learn how our services can help.

Questions to Help You Understand a Candidate’s Employment History

February 5th, 2016

A resume presents a picture of a candidate’s job history, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Candidates present their work in the best possible light, and may mention projects and technologies where they had little involvement. Resumes that aren’t organized chronologically can make it difficult to see the progression of the candidate’s career. Because of these issues, it’s important to ask good questions during an interview to get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s work history. These questions will help:

Walk me through your positions and how your career has developed.

This question gives the candidate a chance to clarify the sequence of their jobs and explain how they’ve developed new skills through each new job.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

This question lets candidates tell you what they are best at. The technologies they mention are likely to be the ones they’re most skilled at; follow-up questions can help confirm that.

Why is there a gap between jobs?

As long as the answer isn’t that the candidate was in prison, the most important factor is that the candidate seems to have a prepared response. Candidates should expect they’ll be questioned about gaps in their resume, so if they stumble over an answer, it indicates a lack of preparation that might extend to their performance on the job.

Why are you leaving your current position?

This question will help you understand what the candidate doesn’t like about what they are currently doing and whether they will be happy with the work you have available. Don’t settle for boilerplate answers like “it isn’t challenging”; ask the follow-up question to find out why it isn’t challenging and what kind of challenge they hope to find in a new position.

Tell me about how you used technology X on project Y.

Questions like this let you probe whether a candidate really has experience in the technologies and business domains they claim, or whether they’re simply throwing buzzwords onto their resume. It’s appropriate to ask more detailed technical questions in the areas they claim expertise.

When you work with a staffing agency, candidates are prescreened to make sure they have a solid employment history. Contact the experienced IT recruiting team at InReach IT Solutions to learn how our screening process ensures we send you the best candidates to fill your open positions.