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4 Powerful Tips to Improve Communication at Work

Communication is one of key pillars for any relationship. It could be a personal relationship, a friendship or a business relationship. People sometimes think that rules for personal communication don´t apply to a work environment but this is not true.  Every human has needs, emotions, hopes, values and dreams. And each person faces situations in their personal life that may sometimes impact job performance.

Staff turnover is one of the main challenges many companies face.  While employees come and go, many are less likely to leave if they are in an environment where they feel respected, rewarded, safe and comfortable.  People tend to be happier in work environments where they are confident enough to speak to coworkers and managers about their lives – this includes work related topics and personal ones too.

This is why communication is so important in the work environment, both among employees in the office and for those that work remotely. While maintaining good communication with employees who work together in the same place each day may seem straightforward, it is sometimes less obvious how to improve communication with those working off site. As an agency that specializes in connecting nearshore technical talent with U.S. companies, we’ve got some worthwhile insights into this challenge. Follow along for helpful tips to improve work communication, including communication between onshore and offshore workers.

Four Helpful Tips To Help You Improve Communication At Work

1. Employees are human beings, not numbers or metrics.

Many companies focus on growth, revenue and developing new products/services or improving existing ones. Sometimes by doing this, employees start to feel more like numbers, or pawns in a game of chess. When dealing with human resources, emotions play an important role. Employees are much less likely to make sacrifices for companies that make them feel like a cog in a wheel. It is tough to go the extra mile for a boss that doesn’t seem to take interest or care about anything but the bottom line.

According to Dale Carnegie, author of the award-winning classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the main thing people care about in life is themselves. Every person wants to feel important, valued and appreciated.

Henry Ford surely recognized this back in 1914 when he started paying his employees $5 a day. (This was a big salary increase.) He also reduced shifts from 9 hours a day to 8. By doing this Ford quickly solved a high staff turnover problem that his company was experiencing. This led to notable increases in production.

If a company can make its employees feel important, feel that their job matters and that they are important assets for the company, they are far more likely to do the extra work needed to go from good to great, and to take care of the company as if it was their own. While a motivated employee will communicate better, it is an employer’s responsibility to make sure employees know they are free to express what is on their mind.

2. Body Language Matters.

Over 50% of the things we say are non-verbal. Given this, learning body language is an important part of developing more effective communication.

If you are a manager, it is essential that you practice your body language skills so that when you speak with your employees you can transmit your ideas in the best possible way and avoid any misunderstandings of what you are trying to convey.

Things like maintaining an upright posture, making eye contact during conversation and keeping your chin up will radiate confidence and those around you will see you with respect.

Besides using body language to communicate well at work, it’s also important to understand body language signals in others. This might be especially important when dealing with offshore employees that normally communicate through apps like Skype or Zoom.  Knowing how to identify body language signals like face and eye gestures and tone of voice will enable you to read between the lines of the message that a coworker wants to transmit.

3. Make Yourself Available to your Co-Workers.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself accessible to coworkers is to simply tell them that you are available. People want to know they can count on you and the only way they will know this is if you communicate it. People want to know that their colleagues are people that can listen to them and understand what is going on.

Sometimes it may be difficult for people to communicate issues directly, especially with a manager. In these times, it can be useful to have a way for people to anonymously ask questions or even express complaints. Having a channel of communication that enables people who are too uncomfortable or shy to speak directly to leaders is a great way for a company to stay informed about situations they may otherwise not know about.

4. Share Something in Common.

Many of the best managers are comfortable sharing something about their personal lives with their coworkers. They might participate in a fun office outing or simply take an interest in the lives of their employees. Something as simple as remembering a birthday can make an enormous difference to a person’s morale at work.

This type of leader tends to be one that can talk about any topic with employees, not just work-related things. Often these more informal conversations help to build trust and work satisfaction. They also improve overall communication by making people feel more comfortable and secure.

Take the time to develop relationships with your coworkers and create a trusting environment for people to open up to you. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by the results.

6 Hackathon Innovations & Startups

Hackathons are known to be breeding grounds for innovation. Often put on by an organization or university, these collaborative computer programming events are a great way to empower young entrepreneurs and thinkers alike.

What is a Hackathon?

A hackathon takes place over a set period of time, usually a weekend. During this time, teams set out to develop a solution to a problem in the form of a prototype that they will then pitch to whoever is hosting the hackathon. While primarily coders participate in these hacking marathons, people from all backgrounds including designers and marketers are encouraged to be involved during the software development process. Often many successful applications arise as a result!

Here are 6 recent hackathon innovations & startups: 

E-Farm

E-Farm is a service that was developed at Be-Bound. It is online produce market that allows consumers to purchase directly from farmers.  Shoppers can source food from multiple farms and get to know the story behind both the farmer and their farm before their order is delivered to their home.

StartTalking

StartTalking is an app that connects users with counselors, coaches and doctors. Originating out of Kansas City’s Hacking the Gigabit City event, users can send messages, video conference or participate in group sessions with their providers from anywhere anytime. The app is secure, affordable, and guarantees privacy.

PowerWells

PowerWells came out of a Techstars Startup Weekend. The service provides light and mobile phone charging from electronic waste and commercial solar panels to those in remote communities that don’t have access to electricity.

Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind is a wearable device for patients with Alzheimer or Dementia. Created during an Angelhack, the app allows caregivers to monitor a patient’s movements in real time and prevents loved ones from getting lost.

EchoLoco

EchoLoco is an app that was developed during the Urban-X Hackathon. It provides audio maps for the visually impaired; helping them to safely navigate cities with the aid of real time cues.

CropSafe

CropSafe is an online platform that was created during an Angelhack in Dublin. It works to predict impending diseases and crop contamination by surveying plots of land via satellite imagery and machine learning. The service even offers solutions to affected landowners.

Our dedicated team of software developers at Number9 are located in Louisville, Kentucky. Together, with our nearshore office in Costa Rica, we have worked to launch countless software projects successfully. Contact us today by calling 502-890-7665 to learn more about what we can do to help you complete your project.

 

Working Remotely? Try These 3 Things To Cultivate Work Community

Working remotely can present many challenges, everything from resisting the urge to fire up a movie and veg out, to feeling that creeping sense of isolation that comes from sitting alone behind the screen. As a company who promotes remote work opportunities, we’ve identified several ways to cultivate a thriving work community. Below are three tips that should keep your presence so embedded in the office, your coworkers will swear they hear your keyboard clicking away beside them even when you aren’t there.

3 Tips to Cultivate Work Community While Working Remotely

Tip #1: Be open to feedback.

One of the most important parts of forming any close-knit relationship is trust. The person on the other side of that monitor is most likely depending on you to complete a task. To your coworker, they’re placing a lot of trust in someone they can’t see. Put their mind at ease by telling them upfront that you’re open to feedback and willing to work through things. Making this clear initially will help them understand you share the same goal and will make them feel more comfortable as you continue to work together. Build trust by responding to feedback graciously. Every smooth interaction makes way for future smooth interactions.

Tip #2: Be humble.

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s our tendency to overthink things. When you work remotely, it’s easy to convince yourself that it only happens to you. Fear that you’re alone with your thoughts, and pride in your ability to handle things on your own can be a deadly combination that results in isolation! Instead, be humble and reach out to your coworkers with any questions or concerns you have. This goes a long way to cultivate trust. Your coworkers will feel more connected with you when you’re open with them, and in turn, they will be more likely to reach out to you when they have questions of their own. Once you realize you have friends ‘on the inside’ you’ll find it easier to tune out that inner voice that tells you you’re on your own. Remember that you’re in it together.

Tip #3: Get social.

In this age of social media, it’s easier than ever to connect. Find a few coworkers you feel comfortable with and send them a friend request immediately. Becoming connected on social media offers you and your coworkers the chance to put a face to the name that pops up in the inbox every day. Getting to know each other better in this casual manner strengthens your bond and your understanding of one another as you continue to work together professionally.

BONUS TIP: Live that meme and emoji life. A true favorite! There is great power in a well-placed meme or emoji when communicating with a coworker. Not only do they lighten the mood, but they also offer visual cues to help people understand your tone and intention, which is a wonderful thing in the absence of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

At Number8, we provide high quality technical talent to businesses of all sizes and sectors. We specialize in application development, custom software, website development, mobile solutions, database design, client/server, web application development and Q/A testing. Learn more about what we do and how to get started with Number8 by calling 502-890-7665 today!

How Executives Can Help Boost Teamwork Among Their Employees Through Team Building Activities

It takes a lot of things to get a job done on schedule and efficiently. It takes time, planning, patience, strategy, and revisions. A job well done takes effort from all parties involved. And in order to excel at a job, teamwork is extremely important. Teamwork allows members to work on a project and carry the burden together. Without teamwork, executives risk burning their employees out by assigning them specific tasks on tight deadlines. With teamwork, employees can work together to meet a tight deadline without overworking themselves. But how does an executive ensure that their employees are working together? How does a higher up know that their employees are capable of efficient teamwork? 

One of the most straight-forward ways that executives can boost teamwork is to create opportunities for employees to get to know each other better. By providing team building activities in which employees can relax and socialize, executives are encouraging them to bond without forcing it. Bonding makes it easier for co-workers to work together as a team further down the road. Today, on the Number8 blog, we’re discussing team building activities that boost teamwork and how executives can integrate these team building activities into their business’ workflow. 

5 Team Building Activities That Boost Teamwork

1. Volunteering as a Team

The founder and CEO of Branded Group, Michael Kurland, swapped out happy hours for volunteer events. This came about after a company-wide survey showed that more employees were not interested in events involving alcohol. In order to keep the team spirit alive at the company, Kurland cut back on events involving drinking and organize volunteer activities instead. In 2018, the company put 250 hours into volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and the teamwork during work hours is stronger than ever.

2. Eating Together

There’s no better place to get to know someone else than at the table. Multiple CEOs of Fortune 500 companies report that hosting potlucks or taking the company out for a meal helps boost morale and teamwork. In hindsight, the meal may seem expensive at the time, but when you’re paying each employee thousands of dollars a year, a $500 pizza order or $2,000 meal to keep your employees happy and working together efficiently is well worth it.

3. Getting Outdoors

Plenty of people have been to work-related team building retreats; however, more and more CEOs are opting for less “cheesy” outdoor activities. Instead of trust falls in the woods, company executives are hosting Olympic-like games for their employees to build camaraderie. Other executives have reported taking their employees on outdoor excursions that require teamwork to succeed like rafting, ropes courses, and field days where they can be competitive in a relaxed and friendly environment.

4. Traveling Together

Business trips are not uncommon, especially for employees that are higher up in the company. Heather Bleases, founder and CEO of SaviLinx, has put a new spin on company travel though. Instead of booking a slew of hotel rooms for her employees, she often chooses to book AirBNBs. The rentals are often homier and put her employees in all sorts of environments. Her team has stayed everywhere from mansions on the Mississippi River to chic flats in Manhattan. Staying in an AirBNB requires her team to grocery shop together and spend hours outside of work together, as well, which makes for a trip that is about business and bonding. 

5. Attending a Sporting Event

This team building activity is a great one, whether you live in a city with a major league team or minor league. Putting employees in a situation where they can root for or against a team and bond over a mutual love for a sports team often creates camaraderie and allows teams to grow closer. Sporting events also give employees something to discuss after the fact which keeps them bonding even after the score is final and the game is done. 

Regardless of the team building activity an executive chooses casual outings that don’t feel forced usually turn out better. Like icebreakers, more typical team building activities can often come off as hokey. But if your team is doing something they truly enjoy then they’re more likely to genuinely bond with each other. And a closer team creates a more efficient workforce. 

At Number8, we participate in team building activities often. From white water rafting to monthly dinners out, our team of developers has a strong bond that comes from these activities. Because of this strong bond, they’re able to work through tasks efficiently and without many internal roadblocks. To learn more about what we do at Number8 or how we can help your company, contact us today by using our online form or calling us at 502-890-7665

What to Look For In a Nearshore Development Partnership

More and more throughout the United States, development work for web-based companies is moving out of the country. The reason that a company decides to look for offshore or nearshore developers is different from situation to situation. Some reasons for looking into nearshore outsourcing can include budget restrictions preventing the company from expanding in-house or office spacing being too limited to hire additional in-house developers. Regardless of the reason that a company decides to enter a nearshore development partnership, there are things to look for in the hired team.

Location

One of the main motivators behind web-based companies using nearshore outsourcing for development work is the fact that nearshore developers are usually in the same time zone as the company. If they aren’t in the same time zone, they are in a time zone with operating hours more similar to the company’s. This has a lot of benefits in regards to communication than working an outsourcing company located in India or another country on the opposite side of the world. Nearshore development partnerships are often established for this reason.

By operating in the same, or similar, business hours companies enjoy the benefit of being able to discuss problems in real time with their development counterparts. Being able to quickly address and resolve development issues results in faster turnaround times and happier clientele. When looking for a nearshore development partnership, consider the time zone potential teams are in and how that will affect your business.

Communication

When considering nearshore development companies to partner with, it is also important to consider if there will be a language barrier. While most nearshore development companies employ people who speak fluent English, some do not. Clear communication is a huge part of a successful partnership and a necessity for getting development work done quickly and correctly. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively will also affect how the business operates between the onshore employees and their counterparts. Without an open line of communication, it doesn’t really matter whether the nearshore development team is operating in the same hours as the onshore company or not. If the two teams cannot work together without a language barrier then the IT project will ultimately end up failing.

Quality

Companies searching for a nearshore development team to partner with should also assess the quality of the development team’s work. Does the team you’re considering partnering with have a portfolio of previous work they’ve done? Can they offer you statistics on how many projects they’ve successfully completed? It’s difficult to forge a successful partnership with so many miles between locations. Therefore, it is important that the team you choose for a nearshore development partnership is a strong one. Companies should trust their developers to complete projects on time and turn around workloads in a timely manner. There is nothing wrong with asking for statistics on project completions, turnaround times, and more. High quality work from a nearshore development team will be pertinent to your success as a company. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of the quality of a company’s work.

Turnover

In a recent study, the 7th Annual Conference on Information Science, Technology, and Management revealed that the turnover rate of software developers in India falls between 30 and 40 percent. In comparison, the turnover rate of Americans in the IT industry sits at 13.2%. By choosing to forge a nearshore development partnership, your entering into an IT sector with a substantially lower turnover rate. This, in turn, opens up opportunities to work with the same development team over multiple projects. Familiarity with how a team member communicates, delivers work, and executes tasks only improves project turnaround time. It also improves the business relationship, in general. Being able to establish a long-term business connection is one of the biggest benefits of a nearshore development partnership.

Deciding to enter a nearshore development partnership has its benefits and its risks. Thankfully, we feel like the benefits highly outweigh the risks. No matter how perfect a situation may seem, you will want to look at some specific metrics. If you are thinking about hiring nearshore developers to outsource some of the work at your company, be sure to ask these 12 questions before you hire anyone. For more information on outsourcing benefits, visit our blog archive to read countless articles on the benefits of a nearshore development partnership.

At Number8, we pair onshore businesses with a dynamic nearshore development team that will effectively get complete development work. Our entire team of nearshore software developers are based in  San Jose, Costa Rica. They are fully trained in agile product development and will produce the solutions your company needs to succeed. Interested in learning more? You can learn more about what we do on our website or call us at (502) 890-7665 today!

 

How Business Practices in Costa Rica Differ from Those in the United States

business practices in costa ricaBusiness, like language, varies from country to country across the world. From common practices to appropriate communication techniques, there are a lot of nuances to take into consideration when working with someone from another area. In some countries, like Japan, silence is valued over constant conversation. In others, like Germany, punctuality is preferred over flexibility. While some differences are vast, others are minor. When it comes to how business practices in Costa Rica differ from those in the United States, the differences are vast.

Costa Rica could not be much more different than the United State. From the landscape to the climate, there aren’t many similarities to be found between the two. However, both countries have growing populations with even faster-growing interests in web-based work and software development. Because of this mutual interest, Costa Rica is quickly becoming a go-to for U.S.-based companies needing nearshore development. Due to this growing interest centered around international business, it is important to understand business practices in Costa Rica and proper business etiquette.

7 Important Business Practices to Remember When Working with Costa Ricans

1. Appointments Are Always Flexible

Costa Ricans are not known for being the strictest of people when it comes to punctuality. Due to their more relaxed approach to time management, business appointments do not always start right on time. In fact, some websites who cover business practices in Costa Rica recommend bringing a book to your next meeting in case you have to wait for an extended amount of time. Due to this approach, business meetings often last longer than scheduled.

2. Consistent Reminders of Meetings Are Necessary

This differentiation between Costa Ricans and Americans stems from the Costa Rican pura vida lifestyle and their flexibility with time. Due to their busy lifestyles, Costa Rican business partners need constant reminders of pre-scheduled meetings. It is recommended to send appointment reminders a week before the meeting then two days prior to the meeting, with a final reminder going out the day of.

3. Put An Emphasis on Small Talk

Most differences between how business is done in the United States and Costa Rica stem from their pura vida lifestyle. While businesspeople in the United States often get straight to the point, Costa Ricans like to take their time. It’s important to emphasize small talk during business meetings with Costa Ricans. Speaking on topics like the weather, general news, or the latest sports scores are completely acceptable and welcome.

4. Networking is Highly Important

When compared to the United States, the population of Costa Rica is small. With only 5 million people in the country, networking plays a huge role in business growth. It’s important to get out there and discuss current business ventures and possible future business endeavors with the community. The small, tight-knit community can open up partnerships and opportunities with fellow businesspeople that may have gone unnoticed without networking. Due to the closeness of the Costa Rican community, and the importance of networking, it is crucial that you keep your comments respectful and your intentions honest.

5. Business Attire is Still Preferred in Professional Settings

Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches and lush jungles may lead you to think that casual attire is acceptable throughout the country; however, the opposite is true in a business setting. Despite their laid back lifestyles, Costa Ricans still hold looking professional to high regard. Men are often found in dress pants paired with long sleeve shirts. Most opt for a jacket over a tie, unlike businessmen in the United States. Women’s wardrobe choices vary from business suits to more fanciful dresses, with plenty of accessories, depending on the event.

6. Titles Are Very Important To Costa Ricans

Titles are very important to Costa Ricans, especially those that hold professional or political titles. While professional titles are important to businesspeople in the United States, too, the titles of Costa Ricans differ greatly. Costa Rican men use both their father’s and mother’s names in correspondence, but only use their father’s names when introducing themselves. While businesspeople in the United States often have one surname and are fine with being called by their first name, in Costa Rica one must be invited to refer to the other by their first name. It is even seen as rude to call a Costa Rican by their first name without being invited to do so.

7. Negotiations Will Take Time

Business decisions are expected to take longer in Costa Rica than they are in the United States. This is because business decisions are made between all involved parties within the business which means there is a lot of bureaucracy to navigate. Additionally, because of the close community of networkers, business decisions and negotiations are often made over dinner, in a more relaxed environment, which can stretch out the process.

While Costa Rica is not on the other side of the world, business culture in Costa Rica is quite different when compared to the United States. With the more relaxed approach to time management and decision making, Costa Ricans do business at a slower pace. The close-knit community throughout the country means that there is a personal level to the business whereas there is often a strict line between business and personal life in the United States. Despite the differences, partnerships between businesses in the United States and Costa Rica continue to thrive in web-based work and software development.

At Number8, we connect businesses in the United States looking for development work with nearshore developers based in Costa Rica. We focus on assisting companies with improving their internal IT processes to ensure smoother business for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about what we do at Number8, give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!

3 Things That Set Number8 Apart

With so many options for IT consulting and agile software development, why choose Number8?

1. We offer a blended model.

At Number8, we offer all the benefits of typical offshore tech support with nearshore capabilities. Our headquarters are based out of Louisville, Kentucky and we have technical professionals throughout the U.S. We also have more than 100 associates in a total of six countries including our offshore team in Latin America and nearshore office location in San Jose, Costa Rica. Whether the need is local or can be handled off-site, we are able to work with our U.S. clients in their timezone and language with the best possible mix of development assistance.

2. We treat our employees differently.

It’s our mission at Number8 to give our associates and IT contractors the opportunity to develop a rewarding and challenging career while enjoying the best possible work-life balance. We pride ourselves on our employee retention rate and value building long term partnerships with our clients as a result of it.

We also understand just how important family is and the ability to have a flexible work schedule is a major benefit of working remotely. For example, one of our Junior Developers John Lewis, who came onboard about a year ago, has recently decided to shared his story with the Number8 family. After the passing of his wife last April, he now lives in Costa Rica with his three children.

“N8 is an incredibly unique company and I think that comes from its foundations. The entire team as well as my clients have been incredibly supportive during what has been a depressive period for me. I couldn’t work for a month, and though I thought I would lose my job I didn’t. I can’t even count the number of times someone has asked me if I needed anything. Though Christmas was particularly hard for us, as it was my wife’s favorite holiday and our gifts from the U.S. were stuck in customs, Number8 surprised us again. Literally the only things under the tree were the gifts that Number8 gave to my children. I am so grateful to Number8 for all the resources that they’ve put at my disposal. I honestly cannot express it any more because it is so emotional for me. To everyone who has supported me, I can’t say thank you enough.”

3. We are experienced in a breadth of programming languages.

Having been in the custom software development business for several years, our professionals specialize in a full range of programming languages and skill sets including:

-Microsoft .Net     -ASP.Net     -Javascript     -LINQ Visual Studio

-C++/C#         -MySQL       -Oracle       -OO Development

-Microsoft SQL Server        -Ruby         -Agile Development and Scrum.

Additionally, we do a considerable amount of Java development, and a lot of front-end development using javascript MVC frameworks like Angular, Knockout, Ember and Backbone. We also have software development teams working in PHP (Aura, Yii, Zend, Laravel, Symfony, Phalcon, CodeIgniter, Cake).

At Number8, we connect companies with IT talent and software developers that are fully trained in product development. By encouraging talent to come up with creative solutions, they remain motivated and positively contribute to a healthy company culture. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 give us a call at (502) 890-7665.

3 Ted Talks That Will Change the Way You Think About Work

Sometimes we all need a little pick me up during the work week. What better way to reboot the mind and motivate ourselves to keep carrying on than a really good Ted Talk? Here are our favorite talks that will help change the way you think about stress and work.

Kelly McGonigal- How to Make Stress Your Friend

In her 2013 Ted Talk, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal challenges the idea that stress is the cause of all our problems by siting a study that illustrates stress is actually only harmful if you believe it is. In this study, participants who experienced stress, but didn’t believe it was harmful, had a lower risk of death than those with less stress.  According to McGonigal, “How you think and act can transform your experience of stress.” Instead of viewing signs of anxiety and stress as the body failing to cope, think of it as the body getting energized and rising to a challenge. Re-framing the way we perceive stress often results in a healthier stress response, or what McGonigal calls a “biology of courage.”

Stressed at work? Watch it here: 

Shawn Achor- The Happy Secret to Better Work

Psychologist Shawn Achor’s 2011 Ted Talk aims to reverse the status quo when it comes to our formula for happiness and success. According to Achor, “Success is predicted by optimism levels, social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.” Though we tend to think that working harder will give us more success and more success will make us happier, we are always changing the definition of success. “If happiness is on the opposite side of success,” says Achor, “your brain never gets there.” Instead, we should make use of what he calls the “happiness advantage.” When we’re happy, our brain performs better. This is because in addition to making us positive, dopamine also turns on all the learning centers in our brain. As a result, we’re often more productive when we’re happy and every single business outcome improves.

Interested in the happiness advantage? Watch here:

Theresa Glomb- Let’s Make Work Better

Organizational Psychologist Theresa Glomb’s Ted Talk addresses the negative conversation we so often have around work and offers advice on how we can take more power over our work lives. According to Glomb, the bad things that happen at work can have as much as 5 to 10 times the impact on our mood than the good things. To remedy this “asymmetry affect,” Glomb offers a few tricks to make us happier at work. Namely, work hard, have fun, choose kind and be present.

Looking for a fresh perspective at work? Watch here:

At Number8, we connect companies with IT talent and software developers that are fully trained in product development. By encouraging talent to come up with creative solutions, they remain motivated and positively contribute to a healthy company culture. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 give us a call at (502) 890-7665.