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10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

We live in an amazing time. Within a few mouse clicks or screen taps, we can get the answer to almost any question we could possibly come up with. At any given time, we can reach into our pockets, pull out our phones, and start ourselves out on a quest for knowledge that could end up changing our lives. And, most amazingly, a staggering amount of this information is available completely free of charge. If you’ve been feeling stagnant in your job and want to start advancing your career, you can open up your web browser and head to the following pages:

1. Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website that informs potential employees about the company they’re applying to work for. The information for each company on the site has been documented by previous and current employees, so users know they are getting first-hand data from reputable sources. Glassdoor gives information regarding positions offered by the company, starting and average salary rates, and anecdotal information regarding interviews and the quality of past employee experiences. Use Glassdoor when conducting a job hunt to be sure you’re applying for a job that’s right for you.

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2. Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers lectures on a variety of subjects, at a variety of difficulty levels, as well as practice questions, exercises, and exams for users to test their knowledge and comprehension of each topic. These tests are individualized, meaning the barrage of questions asked is tailored to a user’s specific understanding of content. Using Khan Academy, you can learn anything from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus, the fundamentals of computer science, to advanced programming.

3. Coursera and edX

Both Coursera and edX are well-known databases for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). On each of these sites, students can find actual college-level courses on almost any subject imaginable. MOOCs have taken the Internet by storm due to their accessibility and flexibility. MOOCs usually consist of a combination of video lectures, reading materials, and assignments. However, you can engage in the MOOC as much, or as little, as you like. MOOCs often create learning communities consisting of thousands of students all over the world, so taking full advantage of forums will allow for maximum exposure to a variety of viewpoints, and will expand your thoughts and ideas much more than sitting in a lecture hall throughout a semester could ever hope to do.

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4. Codecademy

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to program, but are intimidated by the prospect of learning a seemingly alien language, you’re not alone. But Codecademy is an incredibly helpful resource that will help you learn programming languages such as JavaScript, and Python. The interactive lessons are scaffolded so you will learn the basics first, then use those fundamental skills to complete projects and activities. By the end of your first session, you’ll have learned enough to create a basic website, and be able to build upon your learning from there.

5. Learnvest

While not everything that Learnvest has to offer is free, the site offers a variety of articles and blog posts which have been curated from all corners of the Internet. Learnvest offers information regarding all aspects of life, from college and career readiness to lifestyle decisions such as weddings, home improvement, and travel. One of the most intriguing sections relates to the ‘Psyche of Money”, which analyzes societal views on money, expenses, and savings.

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6. Investopedia

I’ll be honest: I’m pretty clueless about money. After I finish writing this, I’m going to spend some time on Investopedia, so I can finally wrap my head around this whole Greece situation and increase my understanding of retirement savings. If you’ve wanted to dive into the world of stocks, bonds, and all things money-related, Investopedia offers money management tips, a stock simulator, and tutorials and exam tips for financial analyst certifications.

7. Y Combinator Startup Library

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business, check out the Startup Library. Y Combinator offers long-form articles full of tips on how to start and build a business, and what to do once you get the ball rolling. The Library also offers links to tools to help grow your business, and other organizations that will help develop your entrepreneurial knowledge. Y Combinator has funded over 800 startup companies in the past 10 years, so the advice given in these blog posts can be taken seriously. Thankfully, it’s free!

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8. Duolingo

At a time in which we can communicate with almost any person in the entire world online, many people naturally yearn to gain the ability to understand and speak a variety of languages. Duolingo allows users to take full courses which focus on over 20 languages, including Spanish, French, Polish…and Klingon. Members of Duolingo also are privy to a community of learners who can collaborate with each other on various projects and lessons in order to enhance their learning. Most beneficial, however, is Duolingo’s immersion section, which provides real-world tasks in the language being studied, with no assistance. The best way to learn a new language is to dive right in!

9. Bartleby

Bartleby offers full versions of well-known books and works of literature from various points in history. From Voltaire, to Scott Fitzgerald, to Chaucer, Bartleby offers something for everyone looking to get a taste of culture into their life. Also available are historical non-fiction texts and reference books which offer first-hand insights into different eras of human history. It’s incredible how much Bartleby has to offer, considering the site is named after a famous character who preferred to do nothing.

10. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is similar to Bartleby, but implements a wiki formula while offering ebooks and texts. Gutenberg’s focus is on classic literature. Over 49,000 classic works, to be more precise. With Project Gutenberg, you can check out Kafka, Cervantes, and Whitman all in one spot. And you can download each in HTML format, or as an ebook that can be read using a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone. The bad news is that if you’re a high school student, now your English teacher has a backup plan for the times when you “left your book at home.”

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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