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Professional Development

Creating Activities that Help your Virtual Team Feel Like a Team

Because employees of a distributed workforce are in different locations, it is tougher for them to feel a part of the company and team. Feeling like a member of a strong team is critical to their overall motivation and drive behind company initiatives.  Establishing or reinforcing the company culture when managing remote employees can be a challenge for even a seasoned manager, but a concentrated effort yields the reward of a cohesive team that knows they can rely on each other when circumstances call for it.  Social engagements and team activities are key in this effort, but what activities can you design that build a strong virtual team? Know your Goals When you begin to design a team-building activity, try to build it around one (or more) of these important goals: It’s Virtual, so make it Virtual As these activities are about virtual teams, you will want to create activities that can be done in a virtual format. Some tips along those lines: Things to keep in Mind As you create these team activities, keep in mind that you are working to create a sense of team identity, so that your team members can feel proud to be part of something. That is a very human desire. After all, it’s why we buy logo wear for our favorite sports team, or sing the team fight song at a game. A sense of belonging to a strong team is a great motivator for team members to follow through on tasks while on the job. Make sure your team activity is one in which everyone has to participate, rather than one in which some can sit quietly while others dominate the conversation and/or tasks. Also, avoid activities that are likely to recreate that grade school sports team feeling – No one wants to be the last picked for the dodge ball team. In a remote work environment, the most outspoken members on conference calls are likely to be the most well-known (“popular”), but those who are shy at a meeting still can have plenty to offer their team. Setting up a situation that makes them feel like the unpopular kid is not likely to get them more engaged with the team. Keep the activity fun and light. Avoid things that tend to separate people, like politics or religion. Team activities that can carry over into the ongoing work environment can be especially impactful.  Try to create activities that might be fun and light, but help change the way the team sets goals, or tackles problems, or thinks strategically. For example, there is a brainstorming technique where people physically wear different hats to take different sides of an issue (virtually, this can be done by team members creating labels representing each role to affix to their hats).  One person plays devil’s advocate, one is the financial/cost watcher, one is the overly optimistic, etc.  With each role defined by the label, people won’t get upset with the team member adopting that role during a meeting, because it is the role talking, not the individual.  Roles are changed up each meeting or problem-solving session.  This helps team members get better at looking at all sides in the future when they try to solve problems in their regular work. Finally, your team’s regularly scheduled conference call is an opportunity to have your team engage in a group activity, but you need to make sure that no one is waiting to rush out into the field, or “get to work” in some other way. You may find that a separate training session is a better time to engage in team-building activities, if the activity is time intensive. As your team gets a better understanding of each member’s strengths, through these types of activities, they will be much better able to work together to reach project goals and overcome obstacles, as they tackle their work in the field. Want to learn more about the best ways to manage your virtual team? Check out our our self-paced Remote Employee Management course. To upgrade your career skills, we offer a wide range of Professional Development courses.

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Remote work dog
Professional Development

Remote Workforce – Is a Transition Back to In-Office Necessary?

As the pandemic continues its cycles of waning and resurging like a bad storm that won’t end, companies are weighing the options of remote workers versus in-office employees. Even as we look forward to the hopeful future, when the pandemic storm finally ends, we have to ask what is the best solution for a workforce that has gotten into the routine of working from home? Do you bring them all back? Do you keep them working remotely? Or is there a hybrid approach? Many companies were pleasantly surprised by how successful they were when they were forced to quickly transition to an all-remote work situation. Many companies thought that remote work would result in an unengaged and low productivity staff. In fact, the opposite is true, as remote workers are statistically much more productive than those that work in an office. Statistics have shown that remote workers are 7-13% more productive than their in-office counterparts. Also, offering remote work-based positions aids in company hiring and retention, as it is a highly desirable benefit: If a company doesn’t allow remote work, three in ten employees said they would seek another job. According to a Gallup poll in October 2021, 91% of workers in the US who were working at least partially from home hoped to continue to work from home in some capacity, even after the pandemic ended. Overall, 54% of employees said they would like to work in a hybrid arrangement (where they could split their time between an office and home), 37% said they would like to work from home exclusively, and only 9% wanted to return to the office full time. If this is the case, why transition back to an in-office situation? It’s important to weigh whether bringing employees back in-office is based on a valid reason, or on outdated fears and policies. Most fears of keeping to a remote environment, such as a negative impact on productivity, communication, or culture, are unfounded. All of these things can be overcome by using management methods designed for a remote workforce. It is easy to keep that culture and cohesion alive in remote teams with the right techniques. If a hybrid approach is taken, it’s important to manage the entire team with management styles that favor the remote worker. Too often, hybrid approaches, if not managed correctly, fall short of what the remote team needs, leaving them disconnected from the rest of the company, and passed over for growth opportunities. To avoid the whiplash of employees trying to adapt to in-office as well as remote policies, it might be worth considering a permanent remote work solution. The remote work approach will remain more stable and safer as the pandemic ebbs and flows. What do you really want? Productive, happy workers in a thriving company culture? It can be obtained more optimally with a remote workforce. As the pandemic storm ends, the companies that thrive in this new climate will be working remotely. Learn more about the best management techniques for a remote workforce with AdvantEdge Training’s Managing Remote Employees course.

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Professional Development

Excel data in PowerPoint with a live connection

PowerPoint is frequently used as a presentation tool for Excel data. Instead of manually updating the figures in the weekly report presentation every week, you can link that presentation to the Excel spreadsheet. To create this connection: Open both your Excel file and your PowerPoint presentation and navigate to the slide on which you want the data to appear in PowerPoint and to your data in Excel. Select the data in Excel and Copy it with Control + C. Put your cursor where you want the data in PowerPoint. Under the Home tab, click on the down arrow beneath Paste and choose Paste Special… Select Paste Link and Choose Microsoft Excel Workshop Object. The data will appear. Whenever you make changes in the Excel workbook, PowerPoint will be immediately updated. Charts and graphs work the same way. For more power point techniques see our PowerPoint Tips.

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Start page numbers on page 2 in Microsoft Word

This tip is applicable for all versions of Word including 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365. How do I start page numbers on the second page of my Word document? Word by default starts page numbers on the first page of a document, but in some cases, this doesn’t make sense. If the first page is a cover page, or a title page, then the second page of the document should be page 1, and the first page shouldn’t be labeled at all. In order to start page numbering on the second page in Microsoft Word, follow the instructions below. (Follow the additional instructions at the links on the bottom of the page for other page number formatting such as roman numerals). • Insert page numbers by clicking on the Insert tab on the Ribbon, and then clicking on the Page Number option in the Header & Footer group • From the menu options, select the location on the page where you would like the page numbering to appear (such as the bottom or top of the page) • This will open the Header & Footer Contextual tab of commands on the Ribbon. In the Options group, select Different First Page. (This may start page numbering on page 2, but the second page will be labeled “2“. This isn’t what we wanted. There is an extra step to making this page say “1“.) • Next, select the Page Number button in the Header & Footer group on the Ribbon, then choose Format Page Numbers • In the resulting window, change the number at the bottom in the Start at: field to 0. Then click OK • Now, because you selected to have a Different First Page in numbering, you can now delete the “0” from the first page and it will not effect the numbering on all of the subsequent pages. Additional details: By selecting the Different Frist Page option, you basically created a different Section for the first page from the rest of the pages. This allows you to format and number them differently. Sections are a powerful tool in Word that can help with outlining, page numbering, and other custom Header and Footer formatting. You can insert sections into various parts of a document by using the different Breaks, in the Page Setup group, on the Layout tab of the Ribbon. Then after you have created the different sections, you can create different footers or headers for each section. If you need to get creative with your page numbers, check out our tip on Page Numbering in Word with Different Formats, which will give you some additional options. Also, check out this tip on Start page numbering on page 2 in Microsoft Word with Roman Numerals. Learn even more tips and tricks with a Word training class from AdvantEdge Training & Consulting.

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Professional Development

Preserving a Strong Team Culture with Remote Employees

With the pandemic, came a new shift in work conditions, with many businesses going to a remote work situation.  This has turned out to be surprisingly successful for many companies.  However, there has been one key concern that has arisen, as the remote work situation continues to persist along with the pandemic – how to ensure that strong team cultures cultivated in the office environment, continue in the remote work environment.  There are some key things that can be done to help culture thrive with remote teams. Collaboration – When employees work remotely, they can easily fall into a more isolated work habit.  So, it is important to create and encourage opportunities for them to collaborate.  This can keep them connected to each other, the company, and you.  It can be as simple as having a small group come up with some ideas around an issue and then share it with the team.  It can also help to create forums and platforms for idea sharing such as using Microsoft Teams or a discussion board on a company intranet.  Create Team Visibility –Remote employees often have a fear that they will not be recognized in the company because they can be “out of sight, and out of mind.”  Managers need to make sure the entire company knows what their team is doing.  They need to foster an environment where all employees (from their team to others in the company) feel like they are all working side-by-side, even when in different locations.  Managers also need to let employees to know they are an important part of the company, and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.  Managers should find opportunities to mention accomplishments or ideas of individuals, using their specific names, to foster familiarity – either during meetings or in emails to others in the company.  As well, they can post employee successes or status updates on a company Intranet or in a newsletter. Mentoring – Additional team strength is built through mentoring between its members and with other teams and managers.  This can be fostered in a virtual work environment by assigning and scheduling mentoring programs that are conducted through webinar platforms rather than face-to-face.  This will take management effort to make this happen, as it usually won’t happen naturally without it. Celebrations & Social Engagements – When employees were all in the same office, it was easy to celebrate birthdays, have Halloween costume contests, and have “bagel breakfast Monday.”  However, these things do not need to stop when employees are dispersed; only the format has to change.   Have a team breakfast together by sending everyone a Starbucks gift card, and having them pick up coffee and breakfast, to have together during a team call.  Have a costume contest by having them submit pictures in their costumes. Celebrate personal things like birthdays or children’s successes, on a group call.  The goal is to acknowledge the humanity and celebrate our small victories in everyday life.  Create virtual water coolers – It is important for employees to build their work relationships by knowing about their co-workers outside of just what they do on the job.  This helps foster empathy and stronger work bonds.  Managers can do this remotely by creating environments for employees to have small talk.  Spend additional time in all virtual meetings and 1on1 calls talking about things outside of work.  Conduct monthly virtual team Ice breakers and getting to know you exercises, to take a mental break and have fun together. Communication – Because managers don’t see their employees on a daily basis when they work remotely, they can easily feel like they don’t know what is going on.   As a result, managers can feel like they miss out on coaching and feedback opportunities with limited communication.  A common misconception is that managers of virtual teams will have less communication with their employees because of their distance – since they can’t just walk down the hall to talk with them.  However, successful managers have more communication with their remote employees than those that might be in the same location.  Because of the distance, increased communication is needed.  A good benchmark for managers is to consider how much time they would spend communicating when in the same office, and make sure that they increase that when employees are working remote.  A good rule of thumb is to have a weekly team call and weekly 1on1 with each employee. Managers also need to try to ask more questions and increase listening time.  This will keep them in-tune with what is really happening with their team and will enable them to be more pro-active in solving issues or re-pointing the ship, when needed. There is a company fear of a culture erosion with dispersed workforces.  However, remote teams can have even stronger bonds and cultures than those based in the same office.  Management needs to take an active role in ensuring these various key initiatives are happening, in the remote setting, to foster a strong culture.  Take the online course, register for a seat in a class in our virtual training center, or have us come to your location for a private group training for your management team.

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Positive Thinking
Professional Development

Emotional Intelligence – What is it?

Emotional Intelligence: “The ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others.” — Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso Emotional Intelligence – What is it? By now, we have all heard the term Emotional Intelligence. But what is it really and why is it important? At its most basic, Emotional Intelligence (alternately referred to as “EQ” – as in “emotional IQ”) can be understood as the ability to understand, express, and control your emotions, as well as have an awareness of other people’s emotional responses, and using this understanding to effectively navigate interpersonal relationships. We all have that relative or acquaintance that reacts explosively to every one of life’s little annoyances, or who seems to be reduced to uncontrollable tears when everything isn’t going perfectly. These people seem to be unable to self-regulate their emotional states, or even possibly be unaware of them; they have little understanding of how their emotional affects those around them. In a nutshell, they have very low emotional intelligence. To be around such people can exhausting; to BE those people is probably even worse. Obviously, for those emotional timebombs, delving into EQ training could vastly improve the quality of their lives, their relationships, and even their ability to succeed in their career. But what about individuals that don’t approach life with an emotional hair-trigger? Does EI training have anything to offer? Is EI for me? -As much as 80% of adult “success” comes from EQ. — Daniel Goleman Emotional intelligence means a lot more than being able to keep yourself from having a temper tantrum on your challenging days. Possessing a high EQ means you are self-aware, and able to regulate your emotional state, and that you can express your emotions appropriately; you know how to identify your motives and goals, and can work towards those ends without stepping on others, or falling into destructive habits. Perhaps most importantly, possessing a high emotional intelligence means you can build healthy and productive relationship with others, collaborating for the good of yourself and your community. Sounds nice, but what’s the payout? Get that job – Emotional Intelligence is now a determining factor in hiring for many corporations. It is generally viewed by HR departments as a better gauge of future success than past work experience. Possessing a high EQ often means the difference between getting that job or promotion, or being passed over for another applicant. Get that love – When you are better able to communicate your needs, and are able to anticipate or meet the emotional needs of other, it is much easier to build healthy relationships. This can mean romantic relationships, of course, but it also means building a stronger support network at work, as well as being able to foster friendships with people who you know will “have your back.” It can even help you find the means to navigate relationships with those emotional timebombs, so that they don’t blow up in your direction. Get that influence – Emotional intelligence allows you to better read others and understand their reactions, as well as their motivations. You will also have the skills to communicate effectively, and adjust how you present your ideas, so that you can get more buy-in. These can be key factors when you need to move people from a “No” to a “Yes.” Get that happiness – We all want to be happy, right? Knowing how to get there is another matter, entirely. This is an area in which Emotional Intelligence training can be helpful. An Emotional Intelligence training course can give you the techniques to build a roadmap to achieve a happy and content life. And who wouldn’t want that? Get the Skills AdvantEdge Training & Consulting can help you develop the skills you need to increase your emotional intelligence to gain more success in both your work and personal life.

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Live Business Training
Professional Development

Why Live Training is Best

As online learning platforms have become more available in recent years, many companies jumped at the opportunity to offer low cost, low infrastructure learning to its employees, in place of more traditional training. The self-paced online training industry has grown dramatically in the past decade, even seeing industry heavyweights as LinkedIn jumping into the field to offer their own training platforms. But how well is this new model of employee training serving students, as well as their employers? The traditional model was to send employees to training seminars for intensive instructor-led, hands-on training to get the skills they needed to keep the company’s skillset competitive and advance employees’ careers. Generally, employers sent their staff to such training when they saw a need to develop specific skills within their workforce. Students could raise questions, and get answers from their instructor; if they didn’t understand how material was being offered, they could ask for clarification. The instructor was even in the position to tailor the training method to the specific real-world scenario of the student. The new model has involved into a one-time (or possibly subscription) investment in a library of online training content, encouraging employees to take courses from the library on their own time, and often as their interest dictates. The upside of offering a training library is that employees could choose to engage with training that may be outside of their current position, in hopes of transitioning to other work within the company, that they may feel more engaged with. One of the obvious downsides is that finding uninterrupted time to focus on training modules, while sitting at their desk during working hours, is often impossible for busy employees, and the incentive to do so on personal time is small. Another drawback of virtual learning libraries is that the training usually comes in the form of videos, recorded PowerPoint presentations, or text to read. The student can, obviously, watch the video multiple times, if they feel they missed something the first time through, but if they are truly failing to grasp the information as it is presented, there is no way to request clarification. Also, the information tends to be presented in broad universal language, that often fails to tie the skills into the student’s specific work scenario. This lack of context can make a student fail to connect with what could be useful knowledge, disregarding it as irrelevant to their job. A recent article from reported one client that invested in a massive online learning library for their 200,000 employees. A year later, they found that less than 100 employees had accessed the library at all. A recent publication from a leading online learning platform, found that 57% of students who engaged with the platform’s training library only completed one course, with another twenty percent only completing two. They also reported that their most successful courses contain one to three lessons, and that the courses were most often completed (90% completion rate) if they had a duration of 15 minutes or less, with a dramatic drop off in completion (42% or less) if the course took more than two hours to finish. The above statistics reveal that employees are not finding much value in dedicating time to courses offered via virtual learning libraries. Given that virtual lessons must be kept short for employees to engage at all, there is an inherent lack of complexity built into knowledge that can be conveyed through such a platform. Virtual learning may be a viable option for a sales force to be kept abreast of new features of this year’s product line, but the platform’s limits mean that learning a complex skillset, or wrestling with paradigm-shifting knowledge, is just simply beyond what can reasonably be offered via an online learning library. In recent years, many employers have shifted their focus when it comes to what skills they desire in their employees; this is a shift away from specific task skills toward “soft skills,” such as flexibility of thought, curiosity, and emotional intelligence. The thinking, here, is that task skills can often be learned on the job, while soft skills are more difficult to develop, and often take more dedicated effort to master. Soft skill are another area in which the virtual library model falls short. Often, when it comes to developing these skills, our usual behavior and assumptions need to be challenged, and then the desired behaviors need to be practiced for them to become our new norm. For example, one soft skill valued by employers is the ability to communicate effectively, and an essential component of effective communication is learning to read how our message is being received by our audience. This is a skill that must be practiced with actual people, often with a knowledgeable trainer to steer us through interactive exercises. Such an exercise cannot be done via a prerecorded computer module. Employment Council recently conducted a study to find out what training models Millennials prefer. One could assume that, as a generation that grew up immersed in online culture, that they would prefer online training. In fact, they found the exact opposite to be the case: “In-person training is very important when learning is from a subject matter expert. Keep the trainings varied, interactive, with hands-on exercises and a personal touch. A key component to training for Millennials is information needs to be applicable, so it applies to the real world. Millennials appreciate an explanation of why something is relevant.” Such training helps with retention, as well as the ability to translates the new skills to their current work. What is true for Millennials applies to the rest of the work force, as well, as those statistics cited earlier suggests. Students want to be able to ask questions, apply what they just learned with interactive activities, to ensure that they “got it,” and they want to understand how this new knowledge is related to their real-world scenario. These are goals that simply cannot be met by

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Two Unique Ways to Use Excel

When you think of Microsoft Excel what comes to mind? Accounting spreadsheets? Using formulas to calculate numbers? Generally, we think of Excel only as a system to manage our numbers, but you might be surprised by some other things that you can do with this program. We are going to look at two uses for Excel that go outside of our assumption of accounting spreadsheets. We will look at a personal use to track a home wine collection and a business use to track marketing campaigns for an ongoing growing contact list. Learn more about the things Excel can do for you, in both your career and your personal life, with Excel classes from AdvantEdge Training.

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Automate Excel Without Macros

Many students come to us wanting to learn how to create macros in Excel to automate their spreadsheets.  However, they often don’t realize that formulas can be used to create most of the automation they want. Although we can use macros to automate steps, there are limits to macros (especially the simplistic ones that are created by recording steps), and we still need to remember to run the macro. Thus, recorded macros are not full automation. Full automation would mean not needing to click a button, using a shortcut, or adding a quick step to the Quick Access Toolbar. Fully automated macros can be created but require the use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBA is a smaller version of Visual Basic, added to each Microsoft application, and is limited to the application in which it is being used to create the modules or macros. This type of automation is very powerful (and is offered in our 2-day VBA course), but you are now talking about learning code to create these macros.  Also, one character out of place in the code can make a macro inoperable, making it not the most efficient way to automate, in some cases. Using macros is not the only way to automate Excel.   You can often use functions and formulas to fully automate an Excel workbook. Functions and formulas do not require any shortcuts or buttons to make things happen; they only require data. As soon as data is entered, the functions and formulas go to work. A Different Approach to Automation Functions and formulas can be built into a template. This means that the areas where data is to be entered is empty and waiting for input. Then the functions and formulas create the magic after the data is entered. Since all the formatting, reports, and pivot tables can be built into the template as well, you can create a template for a finished workbook that will display robust visuals and calculations after a few pieces of data are entered.  This can turn hours of work into mere minutes. Microsoft has spent many years making Excel more robust, and has added a ton of functionality that can make full automation a reality. However, if you have not read about all the functionality available or had someone show you, then there is a whole world of possibilities you didn’t even know existed. Let AdvantEdge Training show you what Excel can do for you with an Excel training course.

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Professional Development

Time for You

Let’s face it: Summer just isn’t the time to work on you. With the kids out of school, family gatherings for the Fourth of July, backyard barbecues, and trips to the local pool, the closest you likely could get to working on self-improvement was working on your tan. Now, however, we are settling into the routine of fall; kids are going back to school, Labor Day is the last summer holiday to worry about, and the local pool will soon be drained for the winter. What better time is there to focus on yourself? AdvantEdge Training & Consulting has classes that are all about working toward a better you. Whether you want to make better use of your time, take the next step forward in your career, learn to better access your emotional intelligence, or even just find and build on your strengths, AETC has the professional development courses for you. Our Management 101 class can build your management skills, so that you are ready to take the next step up the corporate ladder into management. AdvantEdge Training’s Effective Business Communications course addresses common obstacles to effectively communicating your ideas and needs to others. Effective Presenters 1 and Effective Presenters 2 can help you master the important art of speaking in front of an audience. Our popular Emotional Intelligence course will help you develop the skills to be more effective in communication, manage conflicts better, and encourage more positive response from the people in your life. Time Management with Outlook will teach you important concepts toward maximizing your productivity, without increasing the length of your work day, as well as show you how to utilize the powerful organizational tools available through Microsoft’s Outlook application. Now is a great time to make a fresh start. Get the skills you need to build a better you! Check out AETC’s full online course schedule to see all of the classes we offer. Register online, or contact our sales office for more information, including private group training, at (303) 900-8963, or [email protected].

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