Thursday, February 9, 2017

Educate Your Workforce

Are you educating your workforce? Do you know what it means to educate your workforce? It is more commonly known as professional development. But I like to focus on the education piece for a main reason. Most employees have some sort of education; whether it's a high school diploma, bachelors degree, or doctorate degree. But, just because their education ended does not mean their learning should ever be over. I don't know a company that doesn't want to be an attractive choice for future employees, to have a top of the line workforce, talented employees, and a productive and engaging environment. Maybe your company is already there, but if not, how can you achieve this?

Workforce education does not mean getting all of your employees in a classroom and giving a lecture on Communication 101 with a follow up paper. It's providing your employees with the opportunity to learn what they want and need to be successful. The mere presence of the option for training and education to an employee shows them that you value their contribution to the organization and want to help them be successful in their position. There are also trends that show an increase in employee engagement and retention when companies invest in education for their workforce.

It goes without saying, that if you do not provide the training for an employee to do their job, there's a pretty good chance they will leave. If you're looking for a place to start, ask your employees what they want to learn. What would help them be most successful right now?

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to invest in your employees. While there are many valuable options, professional development and education are vital. Consider a doctor, if they only used what they learned during their schooling, we would have many unqualified doctors out there. The field of healthcare is constantly changing and doctors must keep up on their education if they are going to keep their jobs.

The same goes for any profession. The world is ever changing, new technologies emerge, and your workforce needs to keep up, or you will get left in the dust. Provide them with opportunities to engage, learn, and to grow. Stay ahead in the global market, and show your employees you care.

Atomic Learning offers that solution, Atomic Connect.

Connect with Elise Bourdeau ( to learn more.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How Well do You Listen?

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Are you a good listener? Few of us are because of all the interruptions, distractions, and overall noise that we are inundated with on a daily basis.
In an article on 8 Reasons You're a Worse Listener Than You Think (And How to Get Better), author and speaker Minda Zetlin calls out several reasons people fail to listen effectively—which can act as key indicators to help you identify how well you listen.
Without further ado, Zetlin's signs of a poor listener:
1. Planning your response while the other person is talking.
This is just plain human nature. We don't want to appear dumb, so we try to be ready with an intelligent response the moment other people finish what they have to say. The problem is that, as we now know, the human brain can't really multitask. So while your brain is thinking up your answer, it's letting whatever's being said slip by.
The best way to fight this tendency is to slow yourself down, Hess says. Ideally, do this before the conversation even starts. "Put yourself in a listening frame of mind with calmed emotions and a quiet ego," he advises. "Take some deep breaths and say to yourself: 'Listening is not about me. Don't rush to conclusions. Seek to understand.'"
The best way to improve your listening is to be in the moment with the other speakerlet go of all plans for what you'll say next, look the speaker in the eye, and focus completely on what he or she is saying. Even if there's a moment's silence while you compose your thoughts, the other speaker will notice and appreciate your focus, and it will make your whole interaction more effective.
2. Assuming you know what the other person is about to say.
Finishing another person's sentence out loud is rude and we usually don't do it. But most of us are guilty of finishing that sentence inside our heads. We think, "Oh yeah, I've heard that many times, I know what you're about to say."
And we may be right. People are repetitive by nature so there's a good chance we do know what's about to be said. But there are subtle differences and underlying messages that we miss when we mentally check out on something we think we already know. Also, we may be wrong. The other speaker may be about to say something completely new that we will miss out on because we've stopped listening.
The best way to fight this tendency, Hess says, is to be aware of your own assumptions. Test those assumptions by asking questions that will dig deeper into the question. Your questions may make the speaker stop and think more deeply as well.
3. Interrupting.
Most of us have enough common courtesy not to start speaking when someone else is in the middle of a sentence. But interruptions can also be non-verbal. Hess recalls that in school, he would wave his hand vigorously while his teacher was still talking. He would do this for so long that eventually she would interrupt herself and call on him. That way, he could be the first to give the right answer, much like someone hitting the button first on Jeopardy! He wanted everyone to know how smart he was.
Hess contends that when we interrupt others, seeming smart is usually the motivation. "Either we're interrupting to correct the speaker or to get to a key point before the speaker does," he says. He adds that it was an effort for him to curb his own interrupting habit. "I learned that others would not think less of me if I listened until they were through talking and reflected on what they said before responding." On the contrary, other people felt they had his respect. "That made my meetings more productive and my relationships stronger," he says.
4. Letting your mind wander to something that seems more important.
In today's busy world, it's highly tempting to zone out and focus on more urgent matters if someone isn't holding your attention. And if you've never stolen a sneak peek at your email while someone was droning on, well, you're made of sterner stuff than I am. But this is a bad, bad habit. You're in the conversation for a reason which means you should be focused on the conversation so that whatever you want to accomplish actually happens. And if a conversation truly is a waste of your time, then you should be looking for a polite way to get out of it.
5. Interpreting the speaker's message to match your own views.
Unfortunately, this too is human nature. Faced with the massive jumble of information that comes at us every day, we pay attention to that which supports our existing beliefs and tend to ignore the rest. The fragmented nature of our public conversation just makes things worse: If you're a liberal who watches MSNBC or a conservative who watches Fox, you're never in danger of having your beliefs challenged.
Don't go into your conversations this way. Try to keep an open mind about everything you hear so that you can truly absorb what the other person is telling you, rather than seeing it through the lens of your existing assumptions. Don't worryif you temporarily set aside your understanding and expertise about the subject, you can pick them up again when you need them to analyze what you've heard or render your own opinion.
6. Sharing your own experience rather than asking about the speaker's experience.
It's a common impulse—someone tells you about a car accident and your first instinct is to describe one of your own. And while there's certainly value in letting people know they aren't alone, or that you understand what they're going through, the truth is that every experience is different. The other person will want to know that you've heard and understood, and care about their experience.
"This is another situation where asking questions will serve you much better than talking over someone or trying to interject your way into the conversation," Hess says. So make sure you ask more than you tell.
7. Offering advice before being asked.
Everyone has done this at one time or another but it is usually a bad idea. "Maybe you think that a colleague or friend is sharing a story with you precisely because they want your advice," says Hess. "Well, that might be the case, but chances are what they need more is for someone to hear them out, to truly listen to what they have to say. Never, ever offer advice before being asked."
8. Getting defensive about negative feedback.
This is a particularly tough habit to break. When faced with negative comments about ourselves or our work, our instinctive response is to deny, defend, or deflect in order to protect our egos, Hess says. Overcoming that automatic response can be a powerful tool, though. That's because genuinely thoughtful negative feedback is a rare commodity. "Rather than getting the kind of specific, constructive feedback that can help us improve our skills, most of us will receive guarded or politically correct feedback that is fairly useless in practice," he says. "Thoughtful and constructive feedback is a valuable thing."
So don't waste it when you get it. Take in the feedback with as much of an open mind as you can. Give yourself some time to think about it and evaluate whether it's helpful. Remember, it's ultimately up to you whether to act on feedback or not. But if you can give it serious consideration and look for ways it can help you do better, you'll be ahead of the game.
If any of the above statements sounded like something you would do in conversation, don't worry! Atomic Connect can help with our online training course on Effective Listening, which are a part of our Career Skills training included in most subscriptions.
Don't have access? Contact

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Did the Time Go?!

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How many times have you said or thought these words?

At work? At home? 

The real question is, have you used that time wisely and to your full advantage? There are so many distractions that can hinder our time. And the fact is, time is completely out of our control, it doesn't stop. However, there is an upside, you get to control what you do with that time.

Consider a work day, do you set goals first thing for the day or week? Do you have a to-do list of your priorities and what needs to get done? These are just a couple of the first things people who are very successful with time management do to take control of their time. And when you think about it, it's not that hard. I bet you could write up a list of 5-10 things that have to be done in the next week. I dare you, do it. Now, prioritize them, and just like that, you're beginning to take control of your time.

But then, your phone beeps, an email pops up, a phone call, a co-worker stops at your desk...suddenly all of your planned time is getting eaten up distractions! Know your distractions, because it will take you about 20 minutes to get back to the level of focus you were at before you got pulled away. (Read more here on interruptions) Do you feel the need to pick up your phone every time you get a text, open your inbox when you get an new email? Guess what, you don't need to. Set aside time for these distractions. Maybe set a half hour at the beginning and end of your day to go through email, that way, you can focus on the tasks at hand instead of being pulled into you inbox. Be sure to think of other distractions that steal your time and how you can mitigate them as well.

Now, to really hone in on time management, learn to use the word "no". If you don't, chances are that to-do list is going to get out of control, just like your time. Sometimes saying "no" feels rude, but you're not the only one that's busy, everyone is entitled to say no. I've been there, I used to say yes to everything because I felt guilty saying no, but it showed. My work may have been done, but it was sloppy, things got missed from time to time, I felt like my job was out of control. But actually, it was just my time management that was out of control. Once that was back in control, it took work, but I was free from those stresses time.

It's also important to take breaks. Let your mind rest for bit. Don't thrive on always being busy, you will burn out. Take time for those distractions you're keeping at bay. Respond to texts, scroll through a newsfeed, whatever you need, use this time to re-fuel, whether it's 15 minute break or your hour lunch. Time is one of your most important assets, learn to use it to your advantage and be the master of your time!

Check out this course for a deeper dive into learning to managing your time!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Space

“A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind” is an adage I’ve heard many times in my life. On a scale from one to twenty on tidy desktops, I’m happy to say that I would still be in the single digits, but have always been envious of those who are able to keep a desk at a 1 - perfectly neat and orderly. However, there is one thing I notice… (if I may use a broad sweeping generalization)... many people I know with absolutely tidy desks are great at efficiency, but often are lacking in the area of creativity and free-association.

Does space matter?


Robert Dillon and Rebecca Hare covered the use of space in learning environments in their book “The Space: A Guide for Educators.” If you’re a teacher, this is a must read. Whether you are a math teacher (who tend to have the tidy desk), or an art teacher (who may have a desk, somewhere under that pile over there), you will be challenged, stretched, and inspired to build learning spaces that reflect the learning and not a 1950’s idea of desk and rows.

But wait, business mogul… don’t check out yet. There’s something in it for you. If you are worth your weight in quarterly reports, you know very well that the best office is a learning environment. So check out these adapted tips from the book that can be applied to your workspace:

Shared office or cubicles? Tear down the wall! Most cubes have modular construction that do not have to be put together in the same fashion. Rather than a huge open space sucked up by rows of identical stalls, build cube spaces that reflect teams. It means that they won’t all look alike, but hey, at least it will be easier for visitors to find the right space. “I’m in the second pod;” rather than “I’m in the ninth identical cubicle, 14 before the end of the row.”

Need your teams to collaborate more? Economize your work space to create more collaborative centers. Convert that closet to a private room for those who need to make a sensitive phone call. Put a table in the center of room with a roll of butcher paper. Tape it down when you have a group session, and write down great ideas together. Capture with a camera and email those who were on PTO that day. Create a “Grassy Knoll” (taken directly from the book)... A space like you see on college recruiting brochures with students sitting together on the lawn in front of a beautiful campus building. Well, that might not be possible, but put a small coffee table and some bean bags in a circle in that unused space. Next, actually have a meeting there! For those whose stapler must be precisely at 90° to the edge of the desk between the pencil sharpener and Post-It®, it will blow their minds. For those who just found that form you asked for three weeks ago on the heap known as their desk, you may see where they truly shine… in an unencumbered space.

Change it up! Routine is a good thing for the most part. But, you don’t want to be in a rut, nor do you want to fish-tail all over the place (for those not from Minnesota, that’s when your car is traveling overall north and south, but your back tires are also traveling east to west on snow packed roads). Find your groove by changing it up when the project dictates, or just when you feel a rut being made in the road. Some businesses change their office space every 100 days, calling on employees to submit proposals on what the office should look like.

Keep it clean. Don’t go nuts by always being in flux or not having things where you can find them. A cluttered shared workspace can become a cluttered team mindset. If you have some creative and innovative work spaces, make sure it’s something that can be cleaned up easily. Respect the margins… some cannot work on a cluttered desk, just as some cannot be creative without things they need right in front of them. Acknowledge that people need to find the middle ground as well as challenge their own expectations and limitations.

We had the good fortune of shooting this video series with Robert and Rebecca. While it confirmed some of my assumptions and challenged others as a former educator, the project helped me realize that all of our collaborative spaces are learning spaces, and should be designed intentionally.

So challenge your own assumptions and think intentionally with colleagues on how you design your individual or shared workspaces.

Guest Author: Garrett Lathe, Alliance Manger - Atomic Learning

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Workplace Culture


We’ve all heard about it. A lot. For some, you may even be tired of hearing it. But guess what, it is not going away. In fact, over the last few years the topic has only grown and we can expect it to remain a hot topic in business for a while. Why? You might ask, because with the rising number of millennials in the workplace and places like Google revolutionizing the look of the work place, everyone needs step up their game when it comes to workplace culture.

So what exactly is culture? Well, it is a vague term, considering nations have their own culture, select peoples have their own culture, even family has its own culture. In this case, it is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization (according to Webster’s Dictionary). Culture is also something you can feel, you see it in people’s behaviors, their actions, and even how they communicate.

Why should you care? Your bottom line, and the talent you hire may depend on it. I came across an article once that said, “millennials will know within 6-8 months if they will stay with an organization.” That’s a short time frame, what on earth could make of up their minds so quick? Culture. I’ve been in organizations where it is obvious the culture is hostile, they see a lot of turnover and can’t keep people on staff. Culture must be valued and is at the top of any job-seeker’s “must-have” list.

We urge companies to start putting higher value on their culture, and in turn their employees. Develop a culture of purpose. One way to improve culture, invest in your employees. Give them the support and training they need to succeed and love their job. Check out these awesome courses that could be part of your culture face-lift:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for 2017? Have you considered making them for your business or professional life? Are there skills you would like to improve or learn? Whether you are the employer or employee, we all have something we could work on to achieve our goals this upcoming year.

Consider this, only 30% of the American workforce feel engaged at work (according to Gallup). That means a loss $450-$550 billion dollars in productivity. Even more concerning, of the companies that rank in the top 10 (based on employee surveys) only 38% of their employees feel fully engaged at work. Were you as stunned by those numbers as I was? It’s never too late, if your organization is in need of tools to increase engagement and productivity, we have them. NOW is the time get your employees engaged!

And, lucky for you, we, the Atomic Connect team, have put together some ideas to make creating New Year’s resolutions even easier. Make sure that training is a part of your New Year’s business resolution. Training is a way to make your plans stick: set your employees up for success in 2017!

  • Time Management  - Use your time more effectively to make you more productive at work and at home.
  • Personal Finance - Spend too much over the holidays? Get back to the basics of budgeting.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back-to-Campus: Tips College Students NEED to Know

Tip #1: Balancing it All
Not only are you trying to balance classes, study time, group work, and tests, but there is the social aspect of college life to fit in as well. On- and off-campus activities, including everything from hanging out with friends to intermural sports, make up a big part of the college experience. While managing your time can be tricky, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Try using an agenda or planner. There are plenty of apps out there, or you can even utilize the calendar on your smart phone. (There is also nothing wrong with pen and paper planner.) Utilizing such tools can help you manage your time and keep it all straight.
Additional Resources:

Tip #2: Where and How Long to Study
You know you best. Whether you study better in your dorm room with your headphones and your favorite music or in a quite space in the library, find something that works for you. Once you find your sweet spot, break up your studying into time blocks. Try studying for 30-50 minutes and then allowing yourself a quick break in between those studying times. This approach can help you stay energized and focused.
Additional resources: