How to Get Employees to Act Like They Own the Place

Commitment and pride are characteristics that are difficult to measure when interviewing prospective employees.  However, once you’ve found people who have great attitudes and hire them, it’s up to you to take it one step further and build commitment.   If you’re limited in what you can pay, or opportunities for advancement are scarce, how do you get employees to act like they own the place?

First, are you willing to work at bringing out the best in your employees?  It’s a full-time job.  Most employees want to be successful, but they sometimes lack the skills and know-how.  As long as people have bills to pay, businesses will be able to hire people.  But without structure, systems, and attitudes, employers will never be able to develop and retain what is every manager’s dream—motivated employees.

Second, getting employees to act like they own the place is accomplished in several ways.  The reality is, once fair wages are set, more money or better fringe benefits have a negligible impact on employee loyalty.  Loyalty is defined by the quality of the relationship of an employee to the organization.   There are a number of ways to build employee loyalty, but none of them come without effort.Employees with Confidence

This article is about what you can do to get your employees to emotionally commit to you and the goals of your organization—admittedly, no easy task—but proven to be doable if you’re willing to work at it.  The ideas contained herein are not meant to be all-inclusive.  However, they represent a cross-section of ideas that I hope you find helpful.

Behind the success of any thriving business are a number of key principles related to employee loyalty.  The late Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said it well:  “There are two things people want more than sex and money - recognition and praise.”  With that light-hearted, but powerful thought, I’d like to share some ideas that HR personnel can use and share to keep top-notch employees committed and loyal to the task and the company.

1. Let them know they count.  Don’t fail to overlook the use of low-cost or no-cost incentives as a way to show appreciation.  Why?  Because everyone needs to feel valued from your managers to your office personnel, and beyond.  A simple “thank you” can go a long way to get commitment from the people that you depend upon day in and day out.

2. Include “fun” in your organization’s core values that should already include respect, trust, excellence, balance, ethics, adaptability, empowerment and calculated risk-taking.  Don’t give it “lip service.”  Live each and every one of your core values to the fullest!

3. Create a recognition program that might revolve around any of the following: exceptional customer service, meeting or exceeding departmental goals, best overall new idea for increasing customer satisfaction, most creative cost-saving idea, or cleanest work area.

4. When someone leaves your company don’t ignore the fact that the loss of an employee puts a burden on your other employees.  Anticipate the fact that your existing employees will be willing and able to pick up the slack only so long before they become frustrated.  You then you run the risk of losing them too.  Show your appreciation for the fact that they are holding things together until you can hire someone to replace the person(s) that left.

5. Acknowledge customer praise of your employees by posting and/or reading letters of thanks from customers.   Everyone wants to be recognized when they’ve done a good job, especially when it involves customer-relations.

6. Support an Employee Retention Council.  Everyone benefits when turnover is kept to a minimum.  This cross-section of employees meets as a team to discuss ways to reduce employee turnover.  Their suggestions are presented to management for further consideration.

7. Promote new responsibilities when there’s no place to be “promoted to.”  Many organizations have limited room for advancement.  However, it doesn’t have to mean the end of the challenges.  Get input from your employees and together decide what new responsibilities they might be interested in pursuing.

8. Recognize and reward employees who work on non-scheduled days.  These are the people you call on to work on weekends, holidays and/or their day(s) off.  We often take these people and their loyalty for granted.  Treat them special.  Don’t ask the same people to make this kind of sacrifice all of the time or you run the risk of losing them, especially if you fail to recognize and thank them.

9. Write a personal note to employees from time to time.  It’s a simple, yet effective way to show your employees how much you appreciate them and the work that they do.

10. Be your own cheerleader.  Set the example.  If you’re having a bad day, get over it.  Your attitude is contagious; your employees will model what you do and feel.

11. Promote from within whenever practical.  Most people would like the opportunity to be considered for other jobs within the organization.  Overlooking your current employees and going outside your company for new hires is a real morale buster.  One of the most successful organizations that I know ALMOST NEVER goes outside their company to fill vacancies.  As a result, their turnover is exceptionally low.

12. Make employees a part of your weekly “to do” list.  Add the names of the people who report to you to your list of goals to accomplish.  Then cross off names as you recognize them with positive feedback.

13. Lead your team of employees in a standing ovation for an employee(s) that has done an exceptional job.  It not only gives everyone a chance to stretch, but it’s fun and costs nothing.

14. Implement “no-pay-day” paydays.  On the week that employees don’t receive a paycheck, hold drawings for small prizes.  Keep this up for three months.  If it continues longer than that it may get boring.

15. Give “Super Server Awards” to the employees that best exemplify superb service to your customers.  Co-workers determine who receives the awards and employees at all levels of the company are included in the contest.

16. Write a year-end letter to your employees sharing the organization’s or department’s success for the year.  Include something about everyone on the team.  Part of the text might say:  “Let me express my sincere thanks for the dedicated and skilled work that was performed throughout the year.  We couldn’t have reached our goal without your help.  Here are some examples of your major accomplishments…”

17. Celebrate everything you can - exceeding goals, meeting an exceptional challenge, attaining a good safety record, improving customer relations, eliminating waste, managing costs, or any other employee heroics.  You don’t have to be a large company to celebrate.  Small businesses can do this too, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

18. Implement a  “Shining STAR” employee recognition program.  Recognize and reward employees who consistently go the extra mile to provide professional, quality customer service.  The focus of the program is the S.T.A.R. Standards of Excellence—Service, Teamwork, Attitude and Respect.  Recognition goes to employees who distinguish themselves by their exemplary performance in these areas as determined by their managers and peers.

In conclusion, people naturally want to grow in their work and in their lives.  Give your employees the opportunity to do both while having fun.  When employees seek growth in their jobs or areas of expertise, or in anything that personally interests them, the end result is happier and more productive employees who become loyal members of your team.  In addition, everyone wins when you regularly praise and recognize your employees.  Rewards, incentives, and positive feedback are like carrots; they’re there to get people motivated and on task.  They can be critical in getting your employees to act like they own the place through their loyalty to you and your organization.

About the Author: 

Carol Hacker is a human resource consultant and seminar leader who ranks among the experts in the field of recruiting and retention issues. For more than two decades, she’s been a significant voice in front-line and corporate human resource management to small businesses as well as Fortune 100 companies. She’s the author of 14 highly-acclaimed business books including the bestsellers, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People and 450 Low-Cost/No-Cost Strategies for recognizing, rewarding & retaining good people. Carol can be reached at 770-410-0517, or

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Hiring Manager

Realistic Expectations: How your competitors are successfully hiring today

#Shouldabeenacoder. My favorite hashtag du jour quickly sums up the market for software engineers today. The tech talent shortage, as it is being called, is a pretty big deal. Not only is it all over cool kid media but it even has the US Government debating changes to legislation. Heck, there is so much talk about it that some in academia even claim the whole thing is a big myth. It seems everyone has an opinion these days. But in today’s labor market, it is commonly accepted that the demand for skilled software engineers exceeds the supply. I agree.

To test the market last month, I partnered with a talented .Net Developer in Dallas, Texas. Dude is seriously in demand. I’m talking MVC 4, Jquery & HTML5 experience – a true dreamboat as some of our recruiters would say. He agreed to post his resume on Dice and Monster and share the corresponding voicemails and emails. The results were staggering. Within the first week he received over 50 voicemails and 70 emails recruiting him for more than 40 unique jobs. Talk about an ego stroke.

Despite all the competition and craziness in this job market, a few companies are excelling at hiring the engineering talent they need. So what is their story? How are some thriving at hiring engineers while most continue to struggle? Realistic Expectations.Realistic Expectations

In analyzing our client data on software engineering positions, we found a unique corollary between time-to-fill rate (the average number of days to fill an open position) and realistic expectations. In general, our clients with the lowest time-to-fill rates also have the most realistic expectations (do what it takes attitude) in their hiring approach. Not surprisingly, across a variety of industries, most of them are growing revenue and capturing market share as well. These are the companies winning the war for talent.

So what do Realistic Expectations look like in hiring engineers today? Here are a few themes common to companies currently achieving success:

  • Clear hiring profile - These companies know who they are targeting. They plan the projects & apps a new hire will work on Day 1 and understand the skills and level of talent required to be successful. Today, too many companies are trying to hire a rock star for a position that is budgeted for an average coder or involves maintaining crusty code. Companies hiring successfully are not. Also, these companies look for potential and think outside the box on who can actually do the job effectively. Cisco is doing a solid job of this within their UX team.
  • Compensation - These companies pay market rate for talent. They understand current market values and make appropriate offers. You would think this one is a no-brainer, but often we see companies who think their brand or culture or technology or work from home program enables them to pay less than market rate. Unfortunately, some of their competitors offer all that and pay the cash.
  • Speed - Interviews are a top priority for managers. Internal schedules are adjusted in order to shorten the interview cycle. When they find the right candidate, they move fast.  SOW’s do not get dusty. Executive leadership is brought in and provides needed approvals quickly when required. These companies do not lose good coders to red tape.
  • Partnerships - Corporate recruiters are communicating with existing engineers consistently and the engineers know the hiring strategy. Current employees are compensated and celebrated for their referrals. Also, a small number of local, trusted recruiting firms are engaged to help locate talent. The recruiting firms are viewed as trusted advisors and both sides operate with transparency.

In many cities across our country, the demand for engineers simply exceeds the supply. In order to win at hiring today, companies must be willing to adapt and change their processes. If you understand who you are trying to hire, pay market rate, streamline the hiring process, and partner with the right people, you are positioned to successfully hire engineers in 2013.

About the Author: 

Justin Thomason is the Director of Recruiting for the MATRIX Western region. His expertise includes hiring, training, and leading world class recruiting organizations. With a focus on innovative delivery strategies, Justin's recruiting teams specialize in leveraging social media to develop lasting relationships with talented IT professionals.

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Hiring Manager

The Hardest Interview Question: What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

Your main goal in an interview is to show the company your strengths and tell them why you would be the best fit for the job. When the tables turn and the interviewer asks what your biggest weakness is, many candidates freeze. You do not want them to know why NOT to hire you! But there is an easy way to answer this question without ruining your chances.

First, be honest! But counteract that weakness with its corresponding strength. By using the list below, recently posted on LinkedIn by Dave Kerpen, you can actually turn this question into another chance to show off your strengths.

  1. Strong ManDisorganized ---> Creative 
  2. Inflexible ---> Organized 
  3. Stubborn ---> Dedicated
  4. Inconsistent ---> Flexible
  5. Obnoxious ---> Enthusiastic
  6. Emotionless ---> Calm
  7. Shy ---> Reflective
  8. Irresponsible ---> Adventurous
  9. Boring ---> Responsible
  10. Unrealistic ---> Positive
  11. Negative ---> Realistic
  12. Intimidating ---> Assertive
  13. Weak ---> Humble
  14. Arrogant ---> Self-Confident
  15. Indecisive ---> Patient
  16. Impatient ---> Passionate

[By Dave Kerpen, CEO, Likeable Local, NY Times Best-Selling Author & Keynote Speaker]

Some examples of how this could work for you during the interview:

  • My biggest weakness is I can sometimes be stubborn, but this shows how dedicated I am to every decision I make and every task I encounter.
  • My biggest weakness is that I am extremely passionate. Unfortunately, sometimes that comes off as slightly impatient, but I truly am over-passionate about everything I set my mind to.
  • My biggest weakness is that I am an incurable optimist. In most settings, my positivity is appreciated, but sometimes this can lead to unrealistic goals and aspirations in the workplace. It is something I am continuously trying to improve.

By using this question to show you know you are not perfect and still have room to grow in your new position, the interviewer will hopefully be able to see the real you. Hopefully this list will help you feel more comfortable in your next interview and show your interviewer more of your strengths. Best of luck!

About the Author: 

Leah Antonoff, fresh out of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, is the new social media guru. Leah consulted with companies on their marketing and social media campaigns in the Bloomington, IN and Atlanta, GA areas.

Connect with Leah on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Job Seeker

It's Tax Season Again

The 2013 tax filing deadline is fast approaching. With that in mind, the IRS has been sending out information to assist tax filers with this task. Below are 10 Tips that the IRS has provided for tax time.

IRS Offers Top 10 Tax Time Tips

1. Gather your records. Round up any documents you will need when filing your taxes, including receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you will be claiming on your tax return. Store them in a safe place.

Tax Time2. Report all your income. You will need all your Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statements, and 1099 income statements to report your income when you file your tax return. To ensure you don’t misplace them, add them to your other records.

3. Get answers to questions. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool available on the IRS website to find answers to your questions about tax credits and deductions.

4. Use Free File. There is at least one option available for everyone to prepare and e-file a tax return at no cost. Let IRS Free File do the work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at If your income was $57,000 or less, you qualify to use free tax software. If your income was higher, or you are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Visit to review your options.

5. Try IRS e-file. IRS e-file is the best way to file an accurate tax return. It’s safe, easy and the way most taxpayers file their return. Last year, more than 80 percent of taxpayers used IRS e-file. Many tax preparers are now required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you have the option to file early and pay by April 15.

6. Weigh your filing options. You have several options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free, face-to-face help at a volunteer site. Weigh your options and choose the one that works best for you.

7. Use direct deposit. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way for you to get your refund.

8. Visit the IRS website. The IRS website at is a great place to find everything you need to file your tax return. This includes many online tools, filing tips, answers to frequently asked questions, the latest tax law changes, forms and publications.

9. Remember number 17. Check out Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, on the IRS website. It’s a complete tax resource that includes information such as whether you need to file or how to choose your filing status.

10. Review your return. Don’t rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double check all Social Security numbers and math calculations on your return as these are the most common errors. If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is here to help. Start with

Helpful links:

MATRIX Consultants


About the Author: 

Charise has been the Payroll Administrator at MATRIX Resources since 2004 with over 12 years of experience in payroll. If you have more questions, you are welcome to email Charise at Charise has also made several helpful videos on the Payroll Information website.

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Job Security? What's that?

Question: Do you believe in “job security”?

My answer to this question may shock you because I do believe in “job security.” Now wait before you stop reading this post, let me explain. If you think about job security in the terms of working for a single company for 30+ years and then retiring from said company with a nice pension, then yes, this type of job security is long gone. However, this is not the type of job security I am talking about. When I talk about job security, I am talking about a brand of job security that rests solely in your capable hands. YOU are your own job security! Job Security

Job SecurityCompanies are looking for more in their IT professionals than ever before. They are looking for IT professionals that can communicate their ideas effectively in written and visual form; know how to network in professional environments; have a solid on-line and off-line presence (brand) and technical know-how. In short, they are looking for well-rounded IT leaders.

As you know, we now live in a global market where your coworkers can live halfway around the world. Basic IT jobs are being outsourced to offshore companies. It has been a growing trend over the last few years for companies to use offshore resources to cut costs. Whether you agree with this method of cutting costs or not, it is a trend that is not going away anytime soon (if at all). Your job security depends on your ability to stand out from the global competition. To do that you will need more than just your technical skills. You will need to become that IT leader that companies are looking for! Now, you may be thinking that becoming an IT leader does not apply to you because you are not in management. If this is your thought, you are wrong! Everyone is a leader, regardless of their role.

Question: How do you become an IT leader?

There are tons of books and blogs that you can read on the topic. And like any endeavor you chose to undertake, you should study and learn the mechanics of that endeavor. You must not only learn how to be a leader, you must practice being one. For example, by joining and volunteering with a professional organization like the Atlanta chapter of BDPA (Black Data Processing Associates), you can gain the opportunity to build your leadership skills.

Atlanta BDPA is a non-profit 501(c)(6) professional IT organization dedicated to developing career-minded IT professionals through networking and education, transforming them into leaders and innovators in the IT industry. The group’s programs and initiatives are designed to support IT professionals and help them achieve the next level in their careers as leaders. There are various groups and associations around the country focused on a wide variety of IT related topics that will help you grow your leadership skills if you get involved with them.

IT Leader

Many professional organizations will host events specifically created to help you further your career and develop your professional skills. Recently, the Atlanta BDPA chapter hosted a professional development boot camp which was hosted at MATRIX Resources’ Atlanta office. Attendees participated in a full day of intense sessions on topics like marketing and branding yourself (online and offline), how to lead and run a meeting effectively, and how to network and give an effective presentation. Participants also had an opportunity to review their resume with IT recruiters and participate in mock one-on-one and panel interviews. Boot camp attendees walked away with valuable feedback, a strategic plan of action, and a video copy of their mock interview for their review.

Participating in workshops like these, even if you are not currently job seeking, can help you build the confidence and skills you need to be successful in your career. On the MATRIX Resources’ Opportunities website, there is a calendar where you can find the schedule for many cities’ IT user groups. Attending professional associations and user groups can help you gain leadership skills crucial to building your personal job security.

About the Author: 

Sharnecia Williams is an innovative IT application developer that has over 12 years of experience in creating and developing technical solutions to complex problems for Fortune 500 companies.  She is also serves as the VP of Marketing and Public Relations for the Atlanta BDPA organization.

Posted in: 
Job Seeker