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Professional Development

7 Tips to Become a Better Virtual Communicator

By | Corporate Culture, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

According to The Washington CPA, 70% of managers say they are more open to a flexible working model now than they were before the start of the pandemic. If any good came from the last two years of turmoil, it is that companies are now recognizing that employees can be as productive and responsive when working from home as they can when reporting to an office.

Given that the world isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic work norms, it makes sense to focus on improving communication skills in a remote working environment.

Barriers to Effective Virtual Communication

There are several barriers that must be overcome when communicating virtually with team members. Virtual communications differ from in-person communication in several ways.

When people converse in person, they rely on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey deeper meaning than words alone can convey. Virtual communication removes these added layers of information-sharing and puts the emphasis on written words alone. Even with videoconferencing, some nuances are lost, and not all work can be shared effectively during video conferences.

Best Practices

The skills you’ve come to rely on for effective in-person communication differ from those needed for effective virtual communication. Here, we share several tips to help you become a better virtual communicator.

  1. Use technology to enhance communication: Most companies choose one project management system, one instant messenger system, and add email and videoconferencing to the mix. These four basic technologies cover most day-to-day needs. It doesn’t really matter which ones you choose, as long as you use them consistently.
  2. Set expectations and boundaries around technology use: Establish response timelines and share them via written documentation. For example, you may request that during the business week, all instant messenger communications and emails are answered within 24 hours or that the project management system is updated by a certain day of the week. Share these expectations and hold team members accountable for following through.
  3. Select specific channels for different types of communication: Instant messenger tools such as Slack and Skype are great for quick responses, but unsuitable for longer discussions. Learn when to use specific types of communications. Some good rules of thumb are:
    • Quick questions or updates: instant messenger channels
    • Project updates or information sharing: project management channels
    • Formal communication, reports, or updates: email
    • Brainstorming, team meetings, large briefings: video conferencing or conference calls
  4. Provide frequent feedback: Another important element to virtual communication is frequent, regular contact with team members. Providing regular feedback on project updates, messages, and initiatives is vital for effective virtual communication.
  5. Close communication loops: Don’t leave anyone wondering what’s going on. Along with frequent feedback, “close the loop” by ensuring you alert others when a task is complete, a project is finished, or a customer situation has been addressed.
  6. Write in a short, succinct, and direct manner: Since so much of virtual communication is conducted via typed or written words, it must be impactful. Avoid extraneous thoughts, off-topic asides, and trying to convey emotions via writing. Humor and sarcasm may be suitable for your personal communication but added to a business communication can seriously twist a message, often to the point where it can be misconstrued. Use shorter sentences, plenty of bullet points, and other written communication techniques to ensure shared understanding.
  7. Keep everyone informed: A good rule of thumb is to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Include anyone who may need the information in an email as a Cc line, or forward information to team members who may need it.

As the world continues to embrace flexible work arrangements, more workers will demand the ability to work remotely. This is especially true as the so-called “great resignation” shows no sign of abatement. Offering virtual work options, flexible work arrangements, and telecommuting options allows you to hire outside of your immediate geography and find excellent candidates. But, in order to make it work, you and everyone else at your organization must improve your virtual communications. Become a whiz at that, and you’ll be set up for a strong future.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Update Your Nonprofit’s Career Development Programs

By | Nonprofit, Professional Development | No Comments

Career development? What career development program?

If that was your response to this article’s headline, you’re not alone. Many organizations have set career development programs on the back burner or never got them off the ground in light of the many challenges they’ve had to overcome during the past 18 months.

Career development programs are vital for attracting and retaining top talent. According to one report, 94% of employees say that career development programs are “very important” and a good reason for staying with a company. And, if you want to attract and retain younger talent to your nonprofit, 87% of millennials rank career development programs as very important to their decision to join and organization.

For those nonprofits who haven’t launched a career development program or who set it aside to cope with the challenges brought about by the pandemic, now is the time to rethink your organization’s training programs with an eye to keeping them going no matter what challenges the new year brings.

What Makes a Good Career Development Program?

Good career development programs share certain characteristics:

  1. Caters to all levels of the organization: Career development isn’t just for newcomers to the nonprofit world or those just entering the workplace. It’s for everyone. Good career development programs include specific programs for leaders, too.
  2. Involves virtual training: The new world of work means including your virtual team in training and development opportunities. Technology connects workers to your organization and can connect them to training and development opportunities. Seek out hybrid or virtual models that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
  3. Offers mentorships: One of the best ways to enhance career knowledge and skills is to partner with an experienced person in the profession. Mentorship programs provide an excellent opportunity for networking, skill development, and career growth.
  4. Focus on what employees want to learn: It’s not enough to offer professional development programs in matters that the organization believes employees should learn. Find out what your team wants and needs to advance their career development and find the right programs to suit them.
  5. Don’t forget fun too: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and it makes for a boring workplace. Career development programs should also include time for socializing and networking so that people feel connected to the organization, their teams, and their coworkers.

Focus on Virtual Career Development

Virtual career development opportunities must focus on overcoming the barriers to communication among virtual employees. This can be done through video calls, phone calls, instant messaging, and other technology that aids communication.

One thing to bear in mind when creating and launching virtual career development programs: frequent communication is very important to effectively include everyone on the team. Schedule weekly touch-base calls and consider partnering your virtual team members with experienced employees who can help them grow into their jobs.

Personal, one-to-one time is essential for virtual workers. Many refrain from asking questions in group chats or calls. Having time just with their mentor or manager to ask questions, even if it’s only 15 minutes a week, can help them ask what’s on their minds. These quick touch-base calls can take the place of visits in a physical office space where teammates often drop by an office or desk just to chat and can make people feel better connected to their team members.

Short, Frequent Connections Are Best

Career development isn’t “once and done.” It’s better to provide short, frequent programs than long, occasional ones, especially if using videoconferencing technology. People can become fatigued from too many video conferences. Keeping connections short, focused, and frequent helps keep professional development top of mind, rather than a chore.

When your organization prioritizes career development as part of its approach to personnel management, you can create a desirable workplace with better connections and teamwork. Not only will your employees be happier, but your organization will thrive, with more engaged and connected employees.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Working from Home and Managing Your New Work-Life Balance

By | Professional Development | No Comments

Working from home may feel like a dream come true—or a nightmare unfolding. It all depends on your perspective.

For the past year, ever since most states announced mandatory stay-at-home orders, many accountants have been working from home. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it may be compounding our stress levels.

A 2017 report from the United Nations indicates that people who work from home report higher levels of stress than people who commute to an external office every day. It’s not the home environment that increases stress, but the interruptions, lack of specific business hours and frequent use of mobile devices that is adding layers of stress to the already pandemic-stressed-out population.

While we may still be many months away from a full return to business as usual, there are many techniques to reduce stress and avoid burnout that you can try … from the comfort of your home.

Establish Clear Work and Home Boundaries

One of the biggest areas of added stress for accountants working from home is the blurring or blending of “home” versus “work” time. When commuting to the office every day, there is a clear distinction between work and home hours, with the time to commute the transition period between each. Move work to your kitchen table and suddenly there is no transition between work and making dinner, or helping kids with their homework, or any of the other homemaking tasks waiting for you.

If having a home office (with a door that closes against noises and distractions) isn’t possible for you right now, establishing clear and definite “work” and “home” hours is necessary. Create your own “after work” ritual. One CPA shuts her laptop each night and says aloud, “Mission accomplished.” It sounds silly, but this is her psychological cue that work is done for the day and it’s time to transition back into her off-duty self as a wife, mother, and avid yoga enthusiast.

Stagger Video Conferencing Hours

Zoom fatigue is real. Whether it’s everyone’s new favorite video conferencing tool or one of the many options available, feeling exhausted and drained after too many video conferences in one day is reality. Humans are hardwired to pick up a multitude of social cues, from facial expressions to posture, that may be lost or misunderstood on a small video screen. Add that to feeling like you’re on a stage or a movie set every day with the cameras rolling and it’s easy to see how video conferencing fatigue is more than a myth—it’s reality.

To avoid feeling frazzled and burned out from too many video chats, leave plenty of time between each call. Get up and walk around your house or go outside if you have a garden or place to get away from your computer for a few minutes. Note how many calls per day feels comfortable for you and seek to balance urgent requests against the need for your own time away from video conferencing. It may not always be possible, but at least knowing why you feel so exhausted after four hours of back-to-back video meetings can help.

Find Your Happy Place

Lastly, find your own happy place. It may be in your rec room listening to your favorite music or in the kitchen baking an apple pie, but there is some place or activity for you that is very freeing and relaxing. That’s finding your happy place. And while it may be limited right now since we cannot gather safely indoors with many people, an alternative might exist that lets you shed some of that stress and feel like your old self again.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

 

Networking From Home: Here’s How

By | Professional Development | No Comments

COVID 19 has put a damper on many activities nonprofits typically use for fundraising. Among them is networking.

How often have you used networking events in the past to connect with new talent, mentors, and potential employees, not to mention donors and others interested in your work? If you’re like the typical nonprofit owner, the answer is “Frequently!”

Now, however, with so many events canceled and local orders to shelter at home to avoid spreading the virus, networking options are limited. But are they really? Or are we looking at networking the wrong way?

Consider Networking Goals

The goals of networking are to increase your circle of business acquaintances and friends so when opportunities arise, you’ll be able to tap into your network. This includes filling staff positions, adding members to your organization, or finding new resources like a local marketing firm to handle your print ad campaign, and so on.

When you look at the goals of networking, it soon becomes clear that you don’t necessarily need to network in person. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone stuck in line with you at the bank but it’s not necessarily the only place where you can strike up conversations.

Online Networking Offers Great Possibilities

Many are finding opportunities to network online. Social networks, of course, are the obvious choice. But networking online isn’t limited to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Many in-person groups have moved their networking online. Zoom, Go2Meeting, and Facebook Live offers opportunities for people to gather from the safety of their homes. Although not as much fun (and the snacks may not be as good) it’s still a great way to meet new people.

To get the most from online networking events, be sure to be a friend to others first before asking for something in return. The more you give, the more people will be receptive to requests you make. Look for opportunities to solve problems. If someone mentions they need a good local designer, offer to connect them to a graphic designer you know. It is these actions that lead to a network you can count on when you need something.

Work Your Social Networks

Social networking remains an excellent place to network with others. Not only can you increase your personal connections, you can join groups to meet new people, learn what’s happening in your industry, and share your knowledge.

To network effectively on social media, share information that is useful to your audience. This may include links to articles, tips, and resources. Like in-person networking, online social networking relies upon give and take. It’s not just broadcasting your message out but listening to what others say, responding, and sharing helpful resources and information.

Virtual Coffee, Anyone?

Coffee is like the oil that runs the business engine—it’s ubiquitous. Meeting new contacts for a coffee used to be part of the typical business day. Now, however, with many eschewing in-person visits for virtual visits, you can still “meet for coffee” via video conferencing.

Extend the invitation to others to gather on your favorite video platform, mug in hand, and socialize at a predetermined time.

Keep in Touch With Past Contacts

Lastly, networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s also keeping in touch with your network. Take time each week to go through your contacts and reach out to say hello to others. During these times when people can feel isolated, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear from someone you worked with a long time ago. Reach out, say hello, and see if it sparks conversation.

Online Networking: Here to Stay?

Networking online probably won’t take the place of in-person networking for good but, for now, it’s helping many people connect and share resources, time, and care. Make time this week for online networking. Which one of these techniques will you try?

 Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.