All posts by Kerri McCartney

When BlackFox Solutions Caught Up With Will Doggart

We sat down with Northern Irish-based member of the Irish Wheelchair rugby team Will Doggart to find out about his experience playing in Australia, his plans for the future and how he felt when our CEO Max Mackin made a generous donation that helped him achieve his dreams of traveling to Australia to play in the worldwide competition.    

Great to see you again Will! How did you feel when the money was raised for you to go to Australia for the wheelchair Rugby World Cup?

It was a huge shock! I was always hopeful but never thought I would reach the total needed. It was my last hope to raise funds and when I discovered that Black fox made a donation that helped me get past the total I nearly fell out of my chair!

Tell us about your experience taking part in the worldwide competition.

It was a bit surreal. I remember a nurse showed me wheelchair rugby. I sat watching this new sport in awe and 8 years later I’m lining up against the same guys I watched on tv. I feel we underperformed, the experience was amazing but the results just were not good enough, I think our inexperience at this level cost us but hopefully it will prepare us for the future.

What is your favourite memory from Australia?

My favourite memory would have to be lining up for our first match against Japan and hearing the national anthem. I remember looking over and waving at my wife and best friend as they cheered me on and it was an amazing feeling.

Are you still playing rugby?

Yes I am, I took a small break to figure out my career outside rugby. I now am coaching the Ulster barbarians wheelchair rugby team in Antrim as well which I really enjoy and want to continue.

What are your plans for the future?

It’s all been very exciting, I just started a new job and bought a house. I really hope we can build an Irish team that could challenge for a spot at the 2024 Paralympics, but it’s so hard to compete against larger and powerful countries who have more money. Which is why the support I got from black fox and the public gave myself and my team a chance to show the world what we can do. I will always be grateful for that.

What would be your advice to others wanting to become part of wheelchair rugby or another similar sport?

What are you waiting for? Jump in, try it out and you never know where you can go, what you can achieve. When I suffered a spinal injury years ago,  I never thought it would end up in me travelling the world, meeting so many amazing people and achieving so much. Without rugby I’d never have done all this.

Look After Your Employee’s Mental Health at Work

No matter what industry, what role or what level on the hierarchy an employee is on, they may be silently suffering from mental health problems. While many focus on the importance of maintaining physical health, mental health is just as vital to be aware of.

After all, as mind.org revealed it does affects one in six of us in the workplace, so the question you must ask yourself is, are you doing enough to support your employee’s mental health?

2019 has seen a rise in people speaking out about their struggles with mental health with influencers, celebrities and charities such as makeitok.org backing the ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ campaign and stating that it’s time to take about mental health more frequently, which covers many issues including stress, depression and anxiety.

It has been highlighted that these are the most common problems for workers in a workplace, with a survey from mind.org revealing that 21% agreed they had called sick into work due to stress and the option of resigning crossed the mind of 42% of workers when stress got too much.

Josh Krichefski, from Campaign often highlights the importance of breaking the stigma of mental health, especially at work. He says that “most workers present an image of themselves in the workplace” and that the extrovert ones are assumed to be able to brush stress off easily, but this isn’t always the case. There needs to be more office support, with Josh revealing only 36% of UK businesses currently doing so.

However, there are measures you can take to prevent these issues from becoming prevalent in your company and keep your team fighting fit.

Recent developments from The Economics Foundation has shown that simple steps such as talking to someone instead of emailing, asking them how they are and properly listening and speaking to someone new can really help improve wellbeing in the workplace.

Having an open-door policy in your workplace will help employee’s feel more comfortable to speak about issues they may be having. However, you can’t expect openness if you don’t emphasise the importance of it. Mention occasionally during meetings that if anyone is feeling over-stressed or anxious, that you would rather they come to you instead of keeping it in. Staff who feel supported are less likely to take time off, resulting in a more productive workforce.

Ensure your company culture is positive, as fostering this environment will help more staff with work. A happy workforce equals a motivated workforce.

Incorporate a mental health section into your company policy, you should also offer your team counselling and training sessions focused on awareness of mental health. Encourage staff to be productive during the day, make sure their workloads are realistic and keep check over those who seem to be acting differently.

Make New Recruits Feel Welcome in Your Company

When a candidate accepts your job offer it’s extremely important to make them feel welcome from the get-go. This starts with phoning the recruit to express your delight that they have decided to join your team and that you are looking forward to working with them. After the phone call send them an email, this email should include the company handbook which gives an insight into the policies they need to be aware of.

You should also mention benefits that will be offered, such as commission, holiday pay etc, include their start date, start time, office dress code and any other details that the new employee needs to know sending this information will help establish the employee’s role before they start.

Make a list of tasks that need to be completed before the new employee starts, this includes assigning a new computer or buying a new laptop. Installing any programmes and setting up a company email, LinkedIn page and so on.

Delegate a current employee to act as a mentor, this should be a manager or experienced employee that has some authority. Ask the assigned mentor to take the recruit on their first day for a coffee to chat about the company, this will help the new hire settle in.

Leave a welcome pack on their desk, this will make them feel appreciated. This may seem like a small gesture but it’s a fantastic strategy to help them get started, giving them high motivation levels from the get-go. This can include a company mug or notepads, pens with the logo on it.

After they have received their welcome pack, give them a tour of the company premises and introduce them to their colleagues. Organise a work lunch or after work drinks to help the new employee get chatting to the rest of the team and start building up work relationships.

Have a catch-up with them after their first week and then again after a month, this will give them a chance to express any ideas, concerns or queries they haven’t been able to.

It is worth your time to make the effort to help the new employee’s welcome positive and exciting. As it will help them feel comfortable and start their working journey in your company with a motivated and productive attitude.

International Women’s Day: Why We Need More Female Engineers

In celebration of International Women’s Day, BlackFox Solutions sat down with Claire Anderson to chat about her new Manufacturing Engineer role, why more women should work in Engineering and any advice she has for aspiring female engineers.

So, Claire you studied Engineering at Queens University? Can you tell me what sparked your interest in this industry?

Engineering is something I’ve always been interested in. I always liked Technology, Math and Science focused subjects at school and I was always good at them. I like being able to come up with a solution to something while still being able to be creative. This is where my strength was in school. I also was massively influenced through my upbringing; my dad does plenty of engineering work and this was always something I wanted to get involved in. I never really thought twice about it, it has always been something I’ve wanted to do.

Can you describe the moment it was the career you wanted to pursue?

The day I went to Queens University open night, I went three years in a row! I remember each time I went I would just think to myself ‘wow, I love this. I want to be a part of this industry,’ I loved hearing about the course and opportunities there are for women wanting to get into engineering. I think this is the problem with women in engineering, that they don’t realise the number of different paths they can go down. When I tell people I’m an engineer some automatically ask me to fix their car or make another assumption and I explain that’s not what I do, I feel more people should be aware of the many different roles there are available.

Can you explain your role?

My role isn’t what I had originally planned which was medical engineering, that’s what most of my university modules were focused on. I worked on many manufacturing projects during my placement years and then realised that I wanted to go down the manufacturing and continuous improvement direction.

Describe a typical working day for you.

It’s difficult to do this because every day is completely different, and many engineer jobs are like this. You work on a project with a team and once it is finished, you move straight onto the next one. Something I must do every day is check and compare the machines, analysing their performance and figuring out why some aren’t performing well. I learn something new every day which I like, as I feel as though I’m always progressing and improving.

What has your experience been like being a woman in the Engineering industry?

It was intimidating starting my university course that had something around 196 males and 9 females, but I am happy to say that I feel accepted being a woman in this industry. There were times I had to try harder to get my voice heard but overall every workplace has accepted me. I’m aware that some women have shared stories where they’ve felt like an outcast in a male dominated company or found it harder to be accepted, but for me it has been good. This may be because people have taken more notice of the issue and are trying harder to help women progress in the industry.

Why do you think it is important for more women to work in engineering?

Firstly, if there are no women working in engineering it will become a completely male dominated industry. We need women to be role models for younger girls and encourage them to follow this career path if it’s what they want. Like most workplaces, engineering companies need diverse teams to help them progress in every aspect if a project. Females bring in different perspectives and ideas than males and this allows them to bounce ideas off each other and cover everything. I feel having women in engineering removes the stereotype people have of engineers, when I search for images online the first to appear are pictures of nerdy men all sitting at a computer in a dark room and there is such a diverse amount around the world, and I want people to become more aware of this. I can notice a different already in the amount of female’s choosing this career, more media coverage around this and universities posting about their female engineering students.

What would your advice be to any women out there wanting to get into engineering?

My advice would be to go for it, no matter what anyone says! If you are interested and want to pursue it then do it. I’ve had no issues being a female and I hope that many other women have the positive experience I’ve had. We need to encourage more women to realise that they can do anything they want and shouldn’t let fear or intimidation get in the way and I feel International Women’s Day helps this happen!

 

Have An Upcoming Job Interview? Here are 5 rules to be aware of to ensure everything goes smoothly!

 

  1. Never be late. This rule is one of the most important when it comes to the interviewing process. Even if you have a legitimate excuse it doesn’t matter, as this is the first time you are meeting a potential employer and being late will make you seem unreliable. You only get one chance to make a 1st impression.

 

  1. It’s important to dress appropriately. This is your opportunity to make a positive stamp on someone who will be interviewing you & other people for a job, that you want. So give yourself as much advantage, over your competitors, as you can. Showing up smartly dressed, shows you are taking this opportunity seriously and are trying to make the right impression.

 

  1. Do your homework. Research the company and the job description before attending the interview. Most employers like people who take the time to find out about what the company actually does and is aware of any news articles that relate to them. View their website and check out their social media platforms. Have one or two positive things you like that relate to them, that  you can mention in the meeting. At the end of the day, employers prefer people who show an interest in the work they do.

 

  1. Sometimes people can embellish their C.V. a bit, to make themselves look better/smarter/more reliable. However be careful, as this can backfire, if a potential employer starts to drill down on your dates etc, you can be caught out. Re-read your C.V. before the interview. Interviews can be intimidating but if you go over the dates and what you have described in each of your previous positions, prior to your appointment, then you will be able to answer each question accurately & confidently, even if they put you under a little pressure to see how you cope.

 

  1. Most people forget that an interview is a chat about you and your achievements and skills/abilities. There is nothing you shouldn’t be able to intelligently speak about. Most interviewers won’t necessarily employ the most qualified person or the most experienced person but the person who most fits in with the company’s values and someone who they think they’ll get on with the most. We spend a lot of time with our colleagues so don’t forget to be a polite and courteous.

Five Top Tips For Success in Recruitment

This article explores five secrets to success that all recruitment professionals need to know in this fast-paced industry.

1.) Know your product

A strong knowledge of how the recruitment process works will help a recruiter to adapt their sales presentation skills to a candidates or a client’s needs. There are a million things that can happen or go wrong during a recruitment process. Recruiters are there to fill a need that the customer is struggling with, whether it’s looking to employ someone or helping someone find a new role, you have to be able to listen to what they want and adapt your service to their needs.

2.) Repetition is fundamental

It’s extremely important to remember that practice makes perfect. If you ever watch a professional sportsperson and marvel at how they achieve such high standards, it’s because of years of practice. So when it’s time to deliver , it looks effortless. The same applies to the recruitment process, you have to learn your stuff before you start making money. You have to work hard at the little things, canvassing, prospecting, passive candidate selection etc. You need to be good at the basics before you start winning placements effectively, which will always take time, there is no short cut to success in recruitment.

3.) Be prepared for setbacks

Working in the recruitment world varies from day to day, some weeks everything will go wrong. Other weeks you just need a few wins to make it a good week. To be successful in recruitment you must positively and pro-actively be able to deal with setbacks, so if things go wrong, use it as a learning tool, (ask yourself ‘what could I have done better? Or ‘what could I have done sooner?) Every job has setbacks, so always shake it off and move on.

4.) Learn from your mistakes

Maintain the mentality that a mistake is not a failure if you have learned something from it. There will be plenty of people and situations that will try to knock you back. Being easily demotivated in this type of work is not an option, it’s how you react that will determine your overall, long-term success. Expect knock backs, they do happen, but also try and learn why they happened and apply what you learned to future deals.

5.) Success is a journey and not a destination

It’s extremely important to not get complacent, always strive to do more than the guy next to you. If you have had a few successes and earned money from commission, it’s easy to let complacency set in. So it’s extremely important to keep evaluating how proactive you are, if your aim is to earn more money, then you need to remain productive. Getting too comfortable is when things will go south, always maintain a work ethic that involves doing the basics, but always doing them often and to a high standard.

Are you a millennial feeling the effects of ‘Brexit Anxiety’? Here’s what to be aware of as the countdown continues.

Brexit, the controversial word that is on everyone’s lips right now. Does the mention of it make you stress? Are you sick and tired of hearing the countless online Brexit debates? Do you roll your eyes at the possible effects it may have on our economy? If so, you are suffering the dreaded ‘Brexit anxiety.’ You’re not alone, most millennials are feeling the same way, here are some aspects you need to know before it’s impending arrival.

Studying Abroad

Britain’s current EU membership allows citizens to live in over 28 countries, but Brexit is about to change this. Recent years have seen a surge in students studying abroad to experience the laidback and usually cost-effective lifestyle of cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam. Although studying abroad will still be possible, it will become 10x harder to get visas and will more like increase in cost.

Housing Opportunities

It’s thought that the housing sector will see a positive side to Brexit, with people stating the millennials and other generations alike will be able to get on the housing ladder easier, due to the many limits being brought about with Brexit. However, there are others who believe that the housing market will go the other way and that credit controllers will tighten, which in turn will make it harder to get a mortgage. We will have to wait and see what will happen when the 29th of March arrives.

Saving Options

If you have savings with a bank that happens to go bust due to the new regulations brought in, you will be compensated by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS.) The state of the economy is concerning as the countdown gets closer and therefore the Bank of England have decided not to increase interest rates. There could be an increase with inflation, which would be bad news for people saving. It is recommended to start looking at other easy access dates as the date for Brexit nears closer. There are also discussions about bank rate’s rising, this would result in higher savings rate for savers. There is also the risk that the euro will collapse, this currency has been in trouble for the past few years as countries including Greece, Spain and Italy have struggled to keep going.

Phone coverage

EU regulations confirm that mobile roaming will continue until the transition period ends, this date is the 31st December 2020. If the UK leaves without a deal, all mobile networks have the option to implement roaming charges and they decide how much. However, all customers must be notified when they have nearly used their data allowance and exactly when they have used it all up.

Driving License Opportunities

A no deal Brexit may require British expats to take their driving license again. Currently, expats living in the UK can drive freely but this rule could be able to change, forcing some residents to reach for the driving theory books again.

It’s not just millennials who will suffer, although I do sympathise with this generation the most. We have to remember it was the younger people in Northern Ireland who voted to stay in the EU in their masses. Some of the aspects highlighted are clear red flags for anybody in this day and age, mainly with the concerns around careers and trying to get onto the property market, which let’s face it, are important issues. This shows millenials are bound to face a bleak Northern Ireland, than anyone who was banging the Brexit drum two years ago could have ever imagined.

Dealing With Different Employees In The Workplace

Every workplace has many different employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures and personalities. With all these different types of people it’s inevitable there will be clashes from time to time, this article explores the top five most common personalities you are likely to find in the workplace and how to ensure all employees work as a team, no matter what their differences might be.

1.)   The Extrovert Employee

The extrovert employee often drowns out the voices of those more introverted personalities by loudly speaking their mind. You will notice in meetings and team project discussions when a certain employee continually speaks. You must be straight with this type of worker, let them know you are happy with their input but that they must allow others to have their say.

2.)   The Introvert Employee

The introverted employee usually prefers to blend into the background and go along with what other people decide. You must make extra effort to encourage them to come out of their shell and get to know their colleagues. This can be done by organising team get-togethers, such as dinner or after work drinks. Even though they may not say as much, this doesn’t mean that the quieter workers don’t have fantastic ideas. Pay attention to them and what they say, it just may be exactly what you need to hear.

3.)   The Gossiping Employee

If you hear an employee constantly gossiping about others, then it’s up to you to bring attention to this issue as it will get worse. Arrange a face to face meeting with them and warn them you won’t tolerate this type of behaviour in the office.

4.)   The Determined Employee

Even though having a driven employee is beneficial to productivity, they can sometimes become too focused on getting ahead and try and step on their colleagues to get there and this will destroy the teamwork ethic that you must try and keep up in your company. Keep an eye on them or delegate a manager to, be direct and reinforce to them daily that teamwork must be maintained throughout the workforce.

5.)   The New Employee

Arrange a welcome activity for your new hire when they start, this can include taking them for a coffee and chatting about the office environment or asking a manager to give them a tour around. Organise a team lunch or event within their first few weeks, this will help them get to know their team and settle in faster.

Hiring may different personalities will be beneficial to your company as they will all bring different ideas and attributes. Try to become familiar with their behaviour and try to echo that when speaking to them. They will appreciate the effort and will be more content in the workplace. Be observant and aware, some people will require a direct approach while others will need you to be more considerate.

Top Tips For Keeping Your Top Talent

It’s a worldwide fact that the secret ingredient to a successful company is a loyal team of employees.  Here are some tips on making this aim a reality and keep driving your business forward:

By Mixing Up The Norm:

Most employees will become bored if their work is repetitive 24/7. Keep things challenging and exciting by delegating different tasks from time to time. This will give your workforce a bigger range of skills whilst building up their confidence. Even though you may feel that handing out different tasks may affect productivity, it is more of a risk to continually hand out the same work constantly.

Arrange Daily Meetings:

Organising daily meetings with your team gives them a chance to get anything off their chest that may be bothering them. Regular meetings will enable you to check that your employee’s work is up to scratch and allows them to feel confident with what they’re working on.

Conduct Anonymous Surveys:

Surveys will give you the proper insight needed to amend any problems that employees may not want to bring up in meetings. Asking questions such as ‘how do you think this workplace could improve?’ or ‘what do you enjoy about working with us?’ will help you see what is working and what needs to be fixed.

Big Up the Benefits:

Offering a wide range of employee benefits will increase customer loyalty as employees will feel appreciated by you. Training is a big attraction as it allows employees to grow their skillset and progress in their career. Other benefits include staff events, life insurance and gym memberships.

Make sure to organise regular staff events, this ranges from work lunches to after work drinks. Staff competitions will add a bit of excitement to the workforce as everyone will enjoy some colleague rivalry. Most leaders should know if your employees have a healthy working relationship that they will arrive to work in the morning with a big smile to go with their job satisfaction.