What You Need to Know about Windows 10

By Chris Kidd, Sr. Remote Desktop Specialist, Enterprise Solutions, TSP

Windows 10 was just released to consumers last summer, and this year the update is rolling out to enterprise environments from admins to desktops. Upgrades can be great, but they also come with an inevitable learning curve, and as some features are added, others have to be readapted. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best Windows 10 tips and features and some starter tricks on how to make them work for you.

Goodbye Internet Explorer, hello Microsoft Edge.
Internet Explorer takes a lot of us back to simpler times, but Microsoft decided Windows 10 signaled the moment to finally move on once and for all. The new Microsoft Edge isn’t just another version of Internet Explorer, but a browser all its own with a goal to simplify the web experience and added functionality. Microsoft Edge comes with a streamlined, easy to use interface that emphasizes web content, making the browser experience accessible to everyone, from first-time novices to the most experienced tech. Extra bonuses such as Reading View and Web Note can also be productivity boosters in enterprise environments, and with the added integration of Cortana (see more about this feature below), it looks to make web browsing a more productive, less time consuming experience. (Look for more tips, tricks, and best practices for on Microsoft Edge in later blog posts.)

The start menu is back.
When Windows 8 released, Microsoft removed the traditional start menu, opting instead for a start screen. This caused an uproar from unhappy PC users everywhere, leading Microsoft to reintroduce the start menu in Windows 10. The good news is that whether you are a fan of the start menu or the start screen, Windows 10 is a win. A few personalization adjustments in settings allow the user to customize which option they use, plus resize the start menu if its too small to hold all the titles they want to see, choose menu colors, and select exactly what they see in start.

Cortana is built in.
Cortana, Microsoft’s new personal voice assistant, is a key part of the Windows 10 environment. This makes it easier to search the web for quick answers via traditional methods, such as typing and now voice. Users can perform basic search functions, as well as add calendar events, set reminders, and create cards that post information on stock updates and news headlines. Bottom line, the Windows 10 operating system is more dynamic and robust, with a lot more room for customization thanks to new bells and whistles.

Remove almost any app from the start menu.
If you didn’t want to see an app listed on the start menu in previous Windows versions, you were basically out of luck. Now, Windows 10 lets you get rid of any apps you don’t want to see with a quick right click and uninstall. It’s also easy to search a complete list of apps and features in the start menu to get a full view of every application you have installed.

Hacking Productivity with 5S Methodology

Recently we blogged about how some of our teams are using the KanBan productivity hack, specifically, the Calhoun team. KanBan represents one of five pillars of an even more robust system: 5S.

So what exactly is “5S”? It’s a structured program that helps implement organization and standardization in the workplace. It was developed in Japan and is a methodology developed in the 1960s and 1970s (particularly at Toyota). The 5S system is one of the techniques that enabled Just in Time manufacturing at Toyota to reduce flow times with production and allow for a quicker response times from suppliers and to customers.

The five pillars (each starting with the letter ‘s’) are derived from a list of Japanese words (also starting with ‘s’): seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

Let’s walk through the five pillars:

  1. Sort (seiri)

This step includes removing unnecessary items, trash, unwanted materials, and parts not in use. By going through this sorting process, you reduce your chance of distraction, disturbance and obstacles.

  1. Set in order (seiton)

Now that you’ve sorted and eliminated unnecessary materials, you’ll want to arrange the necessary materials in a way that makes sense for use. Tools and equipment should be placed near you, so they are easy to find and pick up, ultimately creating a smooth workflow.

  1. Shine (seiso)

We all want to work in spic and span workspaces, right? Numerous studies show that clean environments will increase productivity. This step of 5S is designed to give you some time to clean your space and make sure machinery and equipment are in top shape. Per the methodology, anyone not familiar with your environment should be able to detect problems in five seconds and within 50 feet.

  1. Standardize (seiketsu)

This is the portion Serena detailed in her blog post about KanBan boards. The idea is to maintain high standards and workplace organization at all times. Everything has a place, and every process has a standard. The entire team is aligned with the processes.

  1. Sustain (shitsuke)

This pillar involves training and discipline. Everything must be kept in working order and regular audits should be completed, to keep everything moving along correctly.

While the 5S system is highly effective in a tech or manufacturing environment, it can also be used in any workspace, and even in the home. Think about the way your space is set up – does it contribute to or hinder your productivity? If it gets in the way of you doing your job, even if that just means running your household, it might be worth applying the pillars of 5S!

Culture Naysayers…They Do Exist!

Hire a champion of your company culture, and you could be set up for monumental success. Hire a culture naysayer, and you could be doomed.

You don’t have to look very hard to find a study that mentions “culture” as a top factor in why people are choosing to initially join and consequently stay with a company. In the coming years, a company’s culture will continue to become more and more important to a candidate’s decision making.

According to Ryan Scott, a contributor at Forbes, “When millennials are considering applying for a job…what matters most to them is the company’s work culture, involvement with causes, office environment, and attention to diversity and HR standards…Culture is everything; for Millennials.”

This will be even more important with our evolving workforce as we continue to see baby boomers retire and millennials take their places. A recent study by Ernst & Young states, “By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials.”

The Impact of your Hiring on Your Culture
Culture is created and sustained by employees, so employees that you hire either add to or take away from your culture. Arguably, employees hired and/or promoted as the leaders of the organization are very important in shaping the culture. These individuals have an impactful relationship on not only how the company’s culture is perceived, but also how it’s propagated.

Unfortunately, the effects of a leader who also is a culture naysayer are sometimes felt long after that leader has exited the organization. Employees that reported to that leader have undoubtedly experienced some trickle-down effects and you will need to regain that trust to get those employees back in your culture good graces.

The Low-Hanging Fruit
We’ve all been personally guilty of taking the low-hanging fruit option, and so do many companies, especially as they grow. The important question to ask yourself is, “will the short-term gains of taking the low-hanging fruit, be worth the potential long-term disruptions?”

Take for example hiring a person with an established book of business. This scenario is great from a financial angle in that the company is going to instantly be on the receiving end of increased revenue. However, what if that person is a jerk and doesn’t fit into your company culture and share your values and visions? There is absolutely a tradeoff that deserves to be recognized.

We would argue that generally speaking, short-term gains are not worth the long-term disruptions.

 Identify Culture Naysayers Early On
Those short-term gains can certainly be tempting; however, we ask that you resist the urge. Below is a short list and some key questions to ask yourself and help you recognize a culture naysayer sooner rather than later:

  1. How do they interact with other people at your organization?
  2. Do they talk about other people with you when those individuals are not around to defend themselves?
  3. Even in non-standard business settings (happy hours, networking events), do you want to be around that individual?
  4. How do you feel after leaving a meeting with them?
  5. Do you ever wonder if your message isn’t making it whole-heartedly to the rest of the team?
  6. When the person is not around, is there a different feeling and general demeanor change?
  7. Do you ever find yourself being “guarded” and watching what you say?
  8. Is there a real possibility what is being said to your face differs with what’s being said when you aren’t present?
  9. Do you ever feel that individual’s personal success, ambitions, and aspirations, are greater than those of the company?
  10. Have you become an expert in avoidance in order to not interact with the individual?

Certainly this isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list of questions, however, these are a few questions, if answered honestly, that might save some heartache down the road. You can’t prevent every bad hire, and sometimes the low-hanging fruit option is also a culture fit – a win-win! However, always staying true to your company culture is the best solution for long-term success.

The Kanban – A System for Controlling Chaos

By: Serena O. Conour, Systems Specialist, Industrial Automation Solutions, TSP

We could all benefit from a little more organization in our lives, right? Well, with items you probably already have in your workspace or even your home office, you can redefine productivity. Some of TSP’s teams have adopted a technique that proves a dry-erase board, some post-it notes and motivation is all it takes.

Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed a uniquely productive tool called a Kanban board, which is Japanese for billboard. Based on supply and demand, this system helps organize the logistical flow of a process. The effectiveness of this tool became immediately evident to the world, and it has since been implemented in industries across the globe. Our team, the industrial automation solutions (IAS) business unit on-site at Calhoun, was one of the first TSP crews to implement this practice. Once we found it was extremely successful, we shared with other team members, and it has spread like wildfire!

One of the most valuable aspects of this tool is its diversity, as it can be tailored to fit almost any industry: from retail to manufacturing, and even organizing the minutia of everyday households.

As a technician, the Kanban can be utilized for things like parts management, maintenance tracking, or production.

The premise behind our task board is simple – we divide tasks into three categories: needs to be done, doing, and done. We can generate new ideas, assign them a priority and attribute them to a specific technician. Once dispersed, the technician will follow the task until it is completed and a CSR is generated and closed. The different color note cards represent a “Fix,” “Improve,” and “Maintain” structure, which helps us stay on top of tasks that aren’t necessarily applicable to the preventative maintenance system. “Improvements,” for example, would be writing procedures, building test benches, or finding other ways to improve the process. “Maintain” would include activities like: new ideas for down days that aren’t listed on the shutdown list, picking up office supplies or organizing the parts lockers. The “Fix” category is meant to note things we find on the machine that need to be repaired, or parts that have been replaced due to failure, but have not yet been fixed. Once notes are completed, we sign and date them and collect them for using on our next quarterly business review (so the customer can see how great #TSProckstars are)!

Here at Calhoun, we also use a Kanban for parts management. From the moment a part is pulled from inventory to when the replacement part is picked up from receiving, it is tracked every step of the way.

The use of Kanban for tracking parts has vastly improved our consumables replenishment and helps keep our site on top of the day-to-day parts orders that tend to fall off the radar. Tracking parts from multiple vendors, across various systems, can be time-intensive. Having a visual representation of those parts orders helps keep a timeline of where the parts are and when they are supposed to arrive.

Our note colors for this chart are based on vendors: yellow for one vendor, red for another vendor, and blue for TSP. As data on an order is received, the note is updated with order numbers, tracking info or RMA numbers. Once a part has been received, the notes are used to fill in an inventory spreadsheet at the end of the week and then discarded.

Both of these Kanbans have become invaluable tools to complement our 5S plan for creating a lean, organized workspace. The Kanban board is just one small step in the progress we are making in our Calhoun office. The Kanban board symbolizes the “standardize” pillar of the 5s system (Standardize, Sort, Shine, Set in Order, and Sustain) that we implement here at Calhoun to improve operations. Look out for a future TSP blog on the 5s system! We encourage every company to customize and implement the Kanban board in their own unique way. It has truly helped us improve productivity, stay on top of tasks, and not let anything fall off the radar for our customers.

How Does TSP Keep Service Costs So Competitive?

by: Chris Hainey, Critical Teams Operations Coordinator, Enterprise Solutions, TSP

My official job title is “Critical Teams Operations Coordinator.” In other words, I help manage the engineers who are there to stop the bleeding and resurrect functionality when technology doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. My focus is on issue resolution for the end user, keeping maintenance schedules in line, implementing new systems, making sure ticket turnarounds are quick, and documenting everything so the next problem solver can find the answer even faster.

For more than ten years, I have been working in IT with companies such as Texas Instruments, Bank of America, and PepsiCo, but one thing has really made TSP stand out as a great company. TSP is stellar when it comes to choosing awesome team members, then using the people they already have to meet emerging needs.

So many companies see a need develop and automatically bring someone in from the outside to take care of it, but TSP looks inside the organization first to find the right resources and solve problems. It’s easy for us to shop for solutions in our own pool of talent because we know we already have great people who can handle new challenges and are eager to keep developing their skills.

TSP deliberately scouts employees to train for extended service, which is part of why we’re able to be so agile when it comes to meeting developing needs. Looking inside first is part of why we can start helping clients with additional services so quickly, and internal talent scouting and continual cross training is why we can cover extended PTO time for employees when they need it. We can do more with less without disrupting service to the client, and we also deliver incredible services at a lower cost than competitors.

Using what we have empowers engineers to spot other areas where we know we can make life easier for clients. We’re diverse and continually achieving updated training, so we’re more likely to notice ways we can improve the way we help clients. We put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and try to think of how we can make things better.

Every company has their own way of doing things, but TSP’s philosophy of investing in internal talent is part of what makes us special. Rather than spend more time and resources shopping outside when a need emerges, we save time and money by focusing on the talent we have. It’s a philosophy that makes employees happy and gives clients better service at a great cost.

Encouraging a Proactive Attitude in Company Culture

At TSP, our product is our people. We don’t write code, manufacture anything, or create a product that ships in a box—we serve clients, solve problems, and try to make life easier for the people we work with. When your business creates and sells a product, everything you do is focused on that product, but when your “product” is service, you have to stay focused on the people who are actually carrying that service out every day.

A product is simple. It is one thing and does one thing, and changes in the product are concrete. But people are complicated. Human beings have unique perspectives. We can make decisions and interact with environments and other people. Human beings can solve complex problems and offer innovative insights.

Company culture is the way a company feels to work with and the way people on the team generally treat one another. Culture is an essential component to every business, but at TSP, because people are our product, culture is paramount. The way we feel about what we do and how we interact literally affects the way we work with clients and one another, which is the heart of our business.

We don’t believe in pigeonholing people.
Many companies operate under strict systems where employees are expected to do specific jobs that uphold “the way things are done.” TSP doesn’t quite work like that. TSP is all about solutions, and in the service world, nothing makes you more cutting edge than being able to see creative ways out of a problem. That’s why we encourage proactive thinking that gets the job done better, faster, and with fewer roadblocks and headaches.

You have to trust your employees.
So many companies don’t truly trust their employees. They want people to do what they’re supposed to and remain in narrow roles. But running a business this way keeps opportunities at bay. We want to be open to new opportunities that can only be seen by the people working onsite with clients. It’s a leader’s job to set the overall vision of a business, but leaders can’t do every job within a company, so we want to be open to every employee’s perspective. Great companies trust employees to think of new ways to make things better.

You have to listen.
TSP trusts our engineers to see great opportunities, and when they bring up an idea for an improvement, we pay attention. If you don’t give people a chance to speak and really listen to what they say, people will stop innovating.

“Proactive” doesn’t necessarily mean “rogue.”
Fostering a work environment that encourages independent thinking doesn’t mean you’re creating a workplace where anything goes and people do whatever they want. So many companies fear independent thinking because they assume employees will go too far off the map and they just want things done a certain way—their way. But independent thinking doesn’t equal thinking that derails processes. When you empower people to come up with creative solutions, the team is stronger, and systems develop naturally. There is almost always a better way to do something, and extra perspectives will help you find it.

Just Starting With Social Media? We Can Get Through This Together

“I’m not on social media.”

“I have an account, but don’t post or share any content.”

“How could I possibly have a personal brand, no one outside my family and immediate co-workers knows who I am.”

Do any of these statements ring true for you? Read on.

“Brand or be branded.” I first heard this from the incomparable J.T. O’Donnell at Talent Connect 2014 in San Francisco and it really struck a cord with me. J.T. was talking about companies building an employer or talent brand, but the same concept applies to building your personal brand. Social media is an integral piece of the branding puzzle.

Join the Social Media Revolution
Every day, millions of tweets, status updates, snaps, vines and pictures are generated out into the interwebs for anyone to consume. If you aren’t taking part in this digital conversation, you are seriously missing out.

“Where do I start?” Great question. I wish more people asked this before they created profiles on every single social media platform known to man and then did nothing with them. The number of social media platforms available today is daunting…not to mention the new lexicon you have to familiarize yourself with in order to use the platform correctly.

My advice is to start small. Become proficient at one or two platforms, build a follower base and confidence level with them, and then branch out from there. There really is a skill associated with a strong social media account, and you need time to develop those skills and get comfortable. If you try to come into the social media world “guns blazing,” you run the risk of falling on your face and more realistically getting discouraged and becoming another casualty of the inactive social media profiles graveyard.

Do yourself a favor and conduct a little research to find out what social media platform a) is best for your brand and b) will allow you to genuinely engage with the right audience for your brand.

What Social Media Platform Is Best For Your Brand?
Not every type of brand and/or business makes sense on all social media platforms. For example, if you’re a photographer, you better believe you should be on Instagram, which is known for it’s photo-centric interface, at the very least. You’re a blogger? I would strongly suggest Twitter due to the brevity the micro-blogging platform allows, as well as the ability to post hyperlinks to your original content.

Like most things in life, you have to start by defining your purpose. Are you trying to become an authoritative voice, do you want to build brand awareness, do you want to let your freak-flag fly and have a little fun?

What Is Your Purpose?
Whatever your answer, by first defining what you are trying to accomplish with social media, you can save yourself some heartache later. Identifying your purpose upfront is like figuring out a roadmap for your posts. Keeping that purpose front-of-mind allows you to post content that always stays true to your brand.

Generally speaking, when someone follows you on social media, they are expressing an interest in what you have to offer and digitally saying, “I want to know more.” Don’t let them down! The worst thing you can do is open a handful of accounts, generate some content, and then waste away to periodic and/or non-existent updates. It’s not fair to you or the followers that want to engage with you.

Starting small and focused builds the proper foundation setting you up for social media success. Happy posting, gramming, vining, tweeting, updating, videoing or whatever social media mechanism it is you discover is best for your brand.

The Best Way to Gut Check Your Company Culture = An Employee Referral Program

An employee referral program may be the single best indicator of a successful, thriving, and envious company culture. If employees want their friends to work at your company, KUDOS, you’re doing something right! Your company should take it as a huge compliment if your people are referring their friends. Not only should you take it as a compliment, you should encourage it.

According to our good friend Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of a friend is a person who you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something (such as a cause or a charity).

I’d be highly suspicious of anyone who I called a friend recommending I come work at their horrendous company and be subjected to the terrible environment and culture. It just doesn’t happen: friends don’t let friends work at bad companies. That should be a bumper sticker or something!

I’ll readily admit, we were skeptical of implementing an employee referral program at TSP. Would we get hundreds of unqualified resumes? Would employees be upset if we didn’t interview/select their referral? Would turnover increase and cliques form? If you dangle the almighty dollar in front of someone, would integrity be thrown out the window and referrals get submitted just to earn a buck? The list could go on and on.

Even with all the unknowns, there are many advantages to implementing a robust employee referral program. For one, referred employees are already somewhat connected. They aren’t walking into a completely strange environment. Sure, the referring employee gets some money in their pocket, but they get something much more than that. They get to say, “I got my buddy a job!” and “I helped our company fill a position!” That kind of satisfaction is priceless.

The other thing we found out is when an employee refers their friend, they are putting their neck on the line too. They are vouching for their friend saying, “I trust this person and you should too.” We’ve found employees take that aspect very seriously. Good employees don’t let bad employees work at good companies!

Liz Ryan, a contributor at Forbes, said it best, “Employee referral is the best recruiting channel I know. It is certainly not the only one, but it’s the only one that reinforces and celebrates your employees in a tangible way for contributing to your company’s success.”

Since we started the program just under two years ago, 144 candidates have been referred by our employees. Of those 144, we’ve hired 43 employees and to date paid out $14,750 to our referring employees. While we’ve seen some great initial success, and for that we are proud, there is definitely more work to be done. Many of our employees are remote and with one physical office location, communicating open positions to employees scattered across the country can be challenging.

Bottom line, we love to pay employees for a job well done, whether it be through our Caught In The Act recognition program or through employee referral bonuses. We are glad we implemented an employee referral program and look forward to it growing in referrals AND payouts in 2016 and beyond.

Do you know someone?…We’re hiring!

Complex Processes = Organizational Laziness

TSP’s philosophy of service, and the way we do business, is short and sweet: we like to keep it simple. We try to do things right the first time and always look for new ways to improve the customer experience. When it comes to organizational processes, this means we continually strive to simplify.

So many times, in both huge companies and small ones, processes evolve to the point that they’re inscrutable. It makes sense. As a company evolves, it’s natural for processes to evolve to comply with changing demands. Growth, expanding or contracting divisions, and updated services can all add steps to “the way things are done.” However, if no one takes the time to examine processes regularly for redundancies, red tape, or unnecessary zigs and zags, processes can become complicated and convoluted.

When everyday processes become cumbersome, the result is generally frustrating. New hires struggle to learn illogical systems, time is wasted, and energy is consumed for no good reason.

Building and maintaining simplicity isn’t easy. In fact, the direct opposite is true—when something is at its simple best, a tremendous amount of effort was usually devoted to that single streamlined process or idea. Simple means eliminating waste, getting rid of extras that don’t add to the whole, and making every single component meaningful. When something is simple, everything counts for something, and what’s there was added for a purpose and earns its keep.

Perhaps it’s not entirely fair to say that complex processes are a sign of organizational laziness. They might just be a sign that your organization has grown over time. Getting to the core of what needs to happen—and why—is hard work. Everyone who uses the system has to have a say and participate in cleaning house. It’s a task many people don’t have time to do, don’t feel empowered to start, or both.

Running a business is incredibly complex, and there are a lot of factors to take into account for even the smallest choices. Change can be frightening, and it’s easy to let systems stay as they are even if there might be a better way of doing things. Even if a process is tedious, it can be more tempting to keep the status quo intact than to tempt fate with new ideas.

No matter how simple your processes may be initially, they’re going to develop over time to adapt to customers, growth, and changing technologies. The best thing any business can do is to regularly ask employees for ideas on how processes can improve. Though updating and improving processes will create a learning curve in the short term, in the long term it will make employees and clients happier and lead to a better bottom line through less waste.

Transforming the Central Help Desk to a Central Heroes Desk

Part of our vision is to honor our employees, and you’ll often hear people at TSP say our product is our people. This couldn’t be more apparent during customer service appreciation week, a week-long celebration for some of our employees in our enterprise solutions business unit. According to the official customer service week site, during this week, your organization can:

  • boost morale, motivation and teamwork
  • reward front line reps
  • raise companywide awareness of the importance of customer service
  • thank other departments for their support
  • and, remind customers of your commitment to customer satisfaction

This annual appreciation week is held nationally the first full week of October. However, TSP celebrates the first week of November due to customer commitments and to coincide with the Help Desk Institute banquet ,which is held the first Thursday in December.

Under the leadership of Celita Ewing, TSP field service manager, help desk operations; the central help desk was transformed into the central heroes desk this year. Employees enjoyed snacks, cold drinks and fun activities throughout the week. Breakfast and lunch were also brought in on various days for the entire team.

In all, about 35 TSP employees enjoyed the festivities, and recognition included teams from our level I support, critical teams support, remote administration desktop support, and operators.

This year every employee recognized as part of this week received at least a $10.00 gift card…a fact Ewing is very proud of.

A tradition for TSP during customer service appreciation week is the Wii bowling tournament. Employees pair up and brackets are completed – it’s our own version of March Madness, just in November! Teams bowled strikes and spares until eventually the winners were crowned. Raul Ramos and Jeff Brown officially get Wii Bowling Tournament Champion bragging rights for the upcoming year.

The week led up to a Friday photo booth where support teams donned superhero gear and took photos with one another. We also announced TSP’s nominations for the local DFW HDI chapter awards. Alex Ayad and Kristopher Rodriques were nominated for Analyst of the Year and Kennedy Maranga was nominated for Desktop Technician of the Year. There were 32 people in the DFW area nominated for Analyst of the Year and 20 people nominated for the Desktop Technician of the Year award.

 

The 2015 Awards Banquet was held Thursday, December 3, 2015 at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. Each year the banquet takes the time to recognize those industry professionals that go above and beyond to make the customer experience one of a kind. Attendees this year had the opportunity to network with industry professionals, enjoy a great meal, and participate in some casino games.

Customer service appreciation week was a huge hit, not only in recognizing our employees for a job well done, but galvanizing them for another fantastic support year ahead of us.

Regardless of Your Role, Everyone is a Salesperson

When you work for a company, whenever you interact with someone outside your organization, you represent the company. That makes every single person, regardless of his or her job title, a salesperson of sorts.

No matter what industry a company does business in, sales are at the core of success. Sales are obviously the main focus of the designated sales team, but real sales opportunities often present themselves to people in all positions. The differentiator is whether people recognize those opportunities and feel empowered to act on them.

Daniel Pink, who gave one of the 20 most-viewed TED Talks, says every single person who interacts with others is involved in sales: “All of you are likely spending more time than you realize selling in a broader sense—pitching colleagues, persuading funders, cajoling kids. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”

At TSP, we encourage a collaborative culture that wants everyone to see sales opportunities and follow through on them. On-site service professionals are a huge part of this idea, since they have the best on-the-ground view of how our clients operate and know where we could fulfill additional needs. The motivation for engineers to sell isn’t based on commissions, but on the overall attitude of helpfulness and problem solving that sets TSP apart in the technology services and industrial automation solutions industries. Every “sale” leads to more work, more opportunities to grow, and better long-term company health. That’s good for everyone.

A great way to encourage salesmanship in every employee is to recognize a job well done. When clients write glowing reviews, we pass them on to the people who did the work so they know how valued they really are. When people know they’re part of a team, they’re more motivated to play ball.

We want our employees to get to know clients personally and truly listen to their needs. A designated sales force can come up with great ideas for service opportunities, but the engineers are the ones who have an unparalleled perspective on gaps in client processes that we could fill.

Sales isn’t about selling, it’s about finding ways you can help a client and helping the client accomplish what they want to accomplish. That’s what TSP is all about.

The Digital Communication Challenge

Digital communications have changed the way people convey information. Email is fast, free, and easy, and texting can save time when it comes to quick questions, updates, and appointment confirmations. However, though email and texting are vital modern communication mediums, each comes with its own set of problems that often outweigh their benefits.

Emails can be so long that the point is buried, and texts can be so brief that they make little to no sense. For all the time texting and emails are supposed to save, using them inefficiently leads to tons of wasted energy.

Take a moment to think before you write.
You are very busy and it’s almost time for lunch and you should just send John a quick text before… Wait! Stop. Don’t just type out something and hit send. First, think about the reason you’re writing. What’s the main point of what you want to say? Remembering the core reason you’re sending a message will help the wording stay focused.

Texts should be brief, yet include enough information to make sense.
Texting is quick and convenient, but often, texts are written so quickly that they don’t make sense or have enough information. The best thing you can do to become a better texter is to read messages before you hit the send button. Autocorrect often rewrites words, so taking a second to proofread will save time later if you don’t have to rewrite a conversation explaining what you meant by “I will arrive shirtless” instead of “I will arrive shortly.”

Don’t lean on abbreviations.
Texting has led to its own insider language of abbreviations—ykwim? Texting abbreviations, emoticons, and emojis are fine for friends, but they don’t really work in a business environment. Leave the lols to your bffs and stick to business language if you need to send a text to someone you work with.

Double check your tone.
Texting is brief, which is the whole point, but sometimes brevity can sound like rudeness. Because texts are short, it’s easy to sound harsh. Writing in complete sentences is a simple way to avoid sounding abrupt.

Most emails should be three sentences or less.
Writing well is hard, especially when you’re doing lots of tasks at once and just need to fire off a quick message. It’s easy to flood the keyboard with your thoughts, click send, and assume the recipient will understand. Instead, work on being succinct. Challenge yourself to write every email with three sentences or less.

 

Brown Bagging It: How to Take Packed Lunches to a New Level

One of our core values is “Employee Safety,  Health and Happiness.” What you put into your body to fuel it for breakfast, lunch and dinner is vitally important to your health. Lunchtime should be a chance to break up the day with a few relaxing bites that energize the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, when things get busy or we’re just plain stuck in a brown-bag rut, lunchtime can become a monotony of leftovers, fast food repetition, or the vending machine crunch.

Putting together gourmet-level lunches that are actually worth looking forward to doesn’t have to take a million years or a million bucks. These healthy “recipes” are quick, easy, and cheap, and they can be mixed and matched at will for diverse flavors. It’s easy to experiment until you find favorites, and best of all, you don’t need measuring cups, which means less to wash later.

DIY Hummus
Lots of people are impressed by homemade hummus, but that’s only because they’ve never tried to make it. Amazing, creamy, protein-packed hummus is as easy as chucking a few basic ingredients into the food processor. Take two cans of chickpeas (also called garbanzos) and pour the liquid out of one. Empty both cans into the food processor and add a few pinches or small handful or raw or toasted sesame seeds, a drizzle of olive oil, a few squirts of lemon juice, and one peeled garlic clove. Blend until creamy, and enjoy!

Once you try your fist hummus blend, you can add a huge variety of ingredients to spice it up or boost the vitamin count. Consider throwing in ground cumin, salt, pepper, spinach, parsley, fresh or sundried tomatoes, fresh or roasted red peppers, creole seasoning, Italian seasoning, mint—anything you want. Hummus is filling and delicious as a snack or lunch addition, and you can make it any way you like.

DIY Pita Chips
Pita bread is delicious plain or toasted. Pita chips have also become popular in the deli line, but if you love their crunch, you don’t have to spend extra money on premade ones. Grab your pizza slicer, fire up the toaster oven, and make them yourself!

Slice pita bread into triangles or squares (or, if you want to make someone’s day, stamp in shapes with a cookie cutter). Toss in a covered bowl with a little melted butter or olive oil, or for sweeter chips try coconut oil. Lay slices flat on a baking sheet and sprinkle on some seasoning, whether you’re in the mood for Italian herbs with Parmesan, plain salt, spicy cayenne pepper, or cinnamon sugar. Bake just until golden brown, checking halfway through to see if chips need to be flipped over. Cool, bag into snack portions, and you’re done.

Start with basics, then add extras
These two simple foundations—pita and hummus—can combine into tons of lunchtime combos. Spread hummus on toasted pita bread and enjoy as-is, sprinkle crunchy nuts on top, or add fresh greens and dressing for a new foldable take on salad. Break pita chips in pieces to add extra crunch and flavor to a bowl of your favorite greens. Cinnamon sugar pita chips are great with a little cream cheese for a sweet breakfast or snack. Or dip chips in peanut butter and honey for a remix on the classic PB&J.

Mastering the art of lunch doesn’t have to be hard. Find a few quick basics you love, then play with them to discover exciting new ways to refuel during the day.

 

Hey You, Yes You…You’ve Been Caught In The Act!

By:  Jaime Johnson, HR Generalist

Who doesn’t want to be recognized for a job well done? Recognition and appreciation are great motivators for employees, and often regarded as key factors in why employees initially join and end-up staying with a company.

TSP’s Caught In The Act, CITA for short, is an employee recognition program that churns out points to employees many times throughout any given week. Whether it’s positive feedback from a client or a show of gratitude from a manager or peer, the CITA points are generously doled out to our #TSProckstars. And this makes perfect sense considering the program itself started based on direct employee feedback and TSP’s commitment to honor its employee-unified voice.

The process is simple. First, an employee is recognized by a peer, client or management for going above and beyond. Any manager in the company submits the name of the employee and justification for the CITA. Points are then awarded which can be redeemed by logging onto Awardco, an employee recognition software. Employees can cash-in points immediately, or are able to bank their points for larger purchases at a later date.

Awardco offers a simple-to-use, reward system that integrates with Amazon Prime, Walmart.com, sites for hotel bookings, and a storefront to redeem great TSP-branded gear! It’s very important to remember that CITA recipients are also eligible for consideration of the Employee of the Quarter (EOQ) award. The EOQ winner(s) are selected by our executives who meet quarterly to read every CITA submission.

The original goal of the CITA program was to show TSP’s deep appreciation for its workforce, but the benefits of the program have surpassed our expectations. Ron Kilmer, TSP operations coordinator out of Washington with our shared solutions business unit, received a CITA this past July for his outstanding contribution to his team’s success on a project.

“I am an individual contributor but ultimately I am a team player and my team makes me successful. We will succeed or fail as one team,” said Kilmer.

Ron can attest to the fact that the recognition program fosters communication, increases morale and loyalty, and deepens a sense of pride in one’s own work. Add a little retail therapy to the mix, which Ron’s wife appreciates since he cashed in his points for portable ham radio handsets that they use while camping, and you’ve got yourself an amazing recognition system where everyone wins.

 

Can Personality Tests Lead to Happier Workplaces?

TSP co-founder and president Rick Skaggs, co-founder and vice president Frank Gonzalez, and CFO and vice president, Keith McElwain, have worked closely together since 2003. They get along easily, work together daily, and know each other well. But even though they have a lot in common, when they took personality tests together, their results couldn’t have been more different from one another.

The three key TSP leaders achieve continual balance, especially when it comes to making big decisions for the company. Even though the way they think and approach problems can be different, their strengths compliment one another. Taking a personality test didn’t directly change their group dynamic, but it did help them give one another a little extra consideration when their differences came out.

Personality tests aren’t perfect pictures of who we are, but they can give us some information about who we are and how we relate to others. They can also give people extra confidence in their way of doing things, refine inclinations toward passions and talents, and help us build stronger relationships.

What is a personality test?
Personality tests are designed to ascertain someone’s behavioral style. There are no right or wrong answers, and each test is different. TSP’s leadership team most recently took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, which is one of the most common tests used for the workplace.

Personality tests can help us see ourselves more clearly.
We all have innate needs, and personalities tend to be the evolution of our various internal inclinations and requirements. For example, though introverts enjoy time with others, they often retreat to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, are refueled by lots of time with lots of people. If an introvert tried to live exactly like an extrovert, they would be exhausted, and an extrovert living like an introvert might feel lonely and bored. When we understand more about who we are, it’s easier to make better choices about how we can work most productively and eliminate unnecessary stress. Personality tests may show us things about ourselves that help us break negative patterns and improve the way we work.

Personality tests can help us understand one another better.
It takes a long time to truly get to know someone, and even those we are closest to can continue to surprise us. A personality test won’t deliver a complete picture of who someone is, but it can offer insights into why certain people are more likely to cooperate or clash. For example, different personalities may have different communication styles, so planning meetings with a good blend of personalities may help the meeting run more smoothly.

TSP leaders have great natural intuition when it comes to cooperating, working together, and making big choices that everyone can agree with. They each have different styles, which only makes the team stronger. Personality tests don’t dictate what we do, but the results were interesting and helped our team function that much better.

What College Grads Should Look for in an IT Job

The job market is still tough, especially for young graduates just starting out. Breaking into the workforce for the first time is a challenge—employers always seem to want “more experience,” but how can you get experience if no one gives you that first break?

Lots of recent graduates start out working at ho-hum jobs that keep basic bills paid, but don’t really satisfy. However, even though you’re eager to find something, it’s better now and in the long run to find the right fit. Finding the right job could make the difference between a bad year (followed by another job search) and a position at a company you’re happy to work at for years.

Will the job turn out to be “as advertised”?
Some companies will lure in recent graduates by highlighting certain aspects of a job, but once you’re signed on, it turns out that the actual position is starkly different from what was advertised. Don’t be distracted by a position’s title. Instead, ask proactive questions in the interview about what the job really entails. Getting a clear picture of the nitty-gritty will help you make the right decision and avoid getting stuck in a job that doesn’t work for you.

Do you have room to ask questions in the interview?
Nothing makes someone seem more passive and less interested than failing to ask questions during the interview. Sometimes, recent grads think of interviews as a one-way street where they’re on display and have to prove their worth. However, interviews are a chance for candidates to see if a company is really the right fit. If you aren’t given the chance to ask questions, it’s not a good sign.

Does the company have a solid mentorship program?
As a graduate, you’re looking for work experience and a paycheck, but great companies offer more. Recent grads are at a key time in their careers when decisions could affect the rest of their career path. A good company will not only provide great work opportunities, but also open doors for you to find a mentor who can help you make great choices and succeed along the way.

What kind of ongoing training is offered?
In the tech industry, staying on top of the latest technologies is vital to your success. Ask about how the business trains new employees and what continuing education options are sponsored later on. A company that has great educational benefits is much better than than one that wants to pigeonhole employees without giving them the change to learn and grow.

Will you actually be happy at the company?
For hardworking former students looking to make their way in the world asap—and those with pressing student loans and electricity bills—it’s tempting to leap into the first opportunity that comes along. However, though employment for employment’s sake has the merit of a paycheck, you invested too much in your education to waste away at a company where you’re going to be miserable. You will spend a huge chunk of your life at work, so look for a company that feels like a good fit. If the culture feels off and you get a bad vibe, keep looking until you find a place you’re excited about.

TSP offers a compelling opportunity for recent grads – Want to become one of our #TSProckstars? Read more on our Careers page.

 

How to Get a Sense of Company Culture in the Interview

Company culture is a key component to how happy people are in their jobs. “Company culture” is a phrase that’s thrown around so often it can feel like a cliché, but in reality, company culture just means whether we like the people we work with. Daily tasks in a job are one thing, but if you actually enjoy the people you’re working with and for, you’re going to enjoy coming to work, too.

Interviewing for a job is stressful, and most people fail to get a feel for the culture in that narrow window. Most candidates are so busy thinking about salary, growth potential, and whether they might have something in their teeth that they don’t evaluate one of the biggest factors in their future happiness at a company: Culture!

Human resources articles and blogs are always discussing the importance of finding the right candidates and creating a great culture, but as job seekers, spotting the traits of a solid culture is difficult. These tips may help you figure out if a business is a great place or a disaster waiting to happen.

Use the wait time to do some recon.
Chances are that you’ll have some time to wait before the interview, whether that’s in a lobby, office, or conference room. Instead of tapping your foot nervously, use the time to look around and get a sense of the company. What does the space feel like? If it’s comfortable and clean, that’s a good sign. Decorating taste aside, the way a space feels says a lot about how much the people who work there care about their jobs.

Hit the restroom.
If the interview goes well, ask to use the restroom on the way out. If there are paper towels on the floor and it’s dirty, that’s a sign employees may have given up. Plus, the restroom is a good place to see the people you might be working with. You may overhear conversations that give huge clues about the culture, and you might even be able to say hi while washing your hands or getting a drink at the water fountain. If people are friendly, that’s a great sign. If they look like zombies who keep checking their watches to see if it’s 5:00 yet…not good.

Do some social media research.
Logging onto Facebook and Twitter may seem counterproductive to a job search, but social media outlets can show outsiders another side of the company. Does the business have a social presence, and if so, what impression do you get from their posts? Social media can be a great way to research a company’s vibe. Our #TSProckstars hashtag gives potential employees a good idea of TSP.

Ask for examples of perks.
Lots of companies like to talk big about benefits, but the details are vague until after you sign up and find out that the “wellness perk” is just a $5 discount at the gym. When the interviewer describes the upsides of the company, ask for specifics. For example, if they say employees are up for promotion after a year, ask for an example of someone who started your same career path and has been promoted. Getting a clearer outline of the upsides will help you find out if a company’s culture is hot air or the real deal.

Does IT Outsourcing Make Sense For My Business

Outsourcing IT services is becoming more and more common for companies of all sizes, but some businesses are still on the fence. Entrepreneurs often want to do it all themselves, but as a business grows, managing key business functions such as IT and benefits becomes a bigger burden.

Once a luxury of mammoth companies, outsourcing has become a mainstream option for companies everywhere thanks to technology that makes communication easier and remote work capability accessible.

How will outsourcing affect my company culture? Many businesses worry that outsourcing will depersonalize their culture and make employees feel disconnected. However, great outsourcing partners know how to educate and empower their engineers on customer service, which includes encouraging engineers to blend in with every client’s culture and become a true part of the team. Ideal IT outsourcing partners won’t splinter a client’s company culture, they’ll actually help make it stronger.

Won’t employees be frustrated by working with outsourced IT help?
It’s hard for one person or a small group to be experts in everything required to manage and maintain a complex IT system. However, outsourced groups not only focus solely on their core areas, they have quick access to other trusted professionals in their company who can help if unfamiliar issues come up. If there is an emergency, it’s also easier to pull in more assistance from additional engineers to resolve problems quickly.

How much does IT outsourcing cost?
Some businesses shut down at the idea of outsourcing because they believe the cost will be too high, but many times outsourcing is actually more cost effective than hiring professionals in-house. Hiring involves human resources and benefits hurdles, and you risk someone wasting time if there isn’t enough to do or not being able to do jobs well if there is too much to do. The right outsourcing partner will evaluate your specific needs and prepare a custom package that uses your dollars efficiently.

When a new business is small, entrepreneurs often have to wear every hat, but as a company grows, learning to lean on partners to help with key functions becomes more necessary. Every company needs experts on their side, and working with outsourced partners can take a lot of the stress out of essential business needs so managers can focus on actually running the business.