Entries by Achievers

Achievers employees, we appreciate you!

In honor of Employee Appreciation Week, we wanted to highlight a handful of our A-mazing employees. While we didn’t have the space to feature everyone, all members of the Achievers family deserve recognition. We hope you’ll be recognizing your employees this week as well!

Need ideas for how to do it? Get 30 fun, fresh ideas for celebrating Employee Appreciation Day!

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Send recognitions for Employee Appreciation Week!

Happy Employee Appreciation Week! At Achievers, this is one of our favorite times of year. While we believe strongly in appreciating our employees all year long, there is something special about a week when companies across North America realize that it’s time to do something extra special.

For those of you who aren’t using the Achievers platform, we wanted to give you an easy way to send recognition cards to your hard-working colleagues. That’s why we’ve created an Employee Appreciation Week tool where you can pick from a variety of different digital cards and email them to anyone who deserves to be appreciated.→ Read More

3 HR skills you need to be successful

The business landscape is evolving rapidly, and HR skills that were once highly prized are becoming obsolete. HR professionals no longer spend their time keeping records, and new technology has transformed how employees engage with their work. The best HR leaders have traded in paper pushing and business-as-usual management methods and have instead become strategic business partners, actively contributing to company growth. In order to keep their seat at the table, HR professionals have had to take advantage of the rich employee data that’s at their disposal.→ Read More

What is Topgrade interviewing?

Employers today are more focused than ever on hiring for “fit.” They’re trying to find and vet employees that will jive with the culture, pace, and expectations that are unique to their workplace. With this evolution in priorities, there has also been an evolution in interviewing approaches. There are a wide variety of interview styles and question techniques out there, and Topgrading is one approach that claims to help you find better-quality candidates and reduce your number of mis-hires. In fact, it’s the approach that the recruiting team here at Achievers uses to make A-Player hires.→ Read More

3 high-powered onboarding tips for new executives

The cost of losing an employee at any level is significant. Losing an entry-level employee can cost you up to half their salary, but losing a senior level executive can cost more than 400 percent of their salary.

Those are just the direct turnover costs. When you lose executives, there are other costs to the company, including loss of momentum and sometimes damage to the company’s reputation. That’s why companies invest so much time in the executive search process. Despite all that effort, 40 percent of executives who take a new position fail during their first 18 months in the job.→ Read More

How to Survive Deployments and Not Disrupt Your Users

Our panel of experts share their experiences in delivering high performing, scalable, and reliable software to the web.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, we answer your questions on code reviews, profiling, versioning, automation testing, rollout strategy, disaster recovery, and zero-downtime deployments.

We answered your questions on code reviews, profiling, versioning, automation testing, rollout strategy, disaster recovery, and zero-downtime deployments.

Kaelen Proctor — Software Architect

Kaelen has been a part of the evolution of the Achievers platform over the past five years.

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Why you need to celebrate employee milestones

As a manager, you’re aware that it’s important to give employees everyday recognition, praise, and feedback. You’ll do a better job of effectively delivering this recognition, however, if you understand the reasons behind it. Here are three primary effects you’ll experience from building employee recognition into your daily workplace culture:

  • Better morale: Acknowledging the hard work and dedication that employees invest in your company is a good way to give them “a sense of ownership and belonging,” according to HR Council.

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The non-tech-savvy manager’s guide to hiring tech employees

Tech employees are a hot commodity in today’s job market. Your company has to compete with a lot of other popular employers if you want to hire the best web designers, IT professionals, software developers, and app builders. In many cases, the hiring managers tasked with technical recruiting have no background in tech themselves, and so they may find it difficult to identify, interview, and assess tech candidates. If this predicament sounds familiar to you, then you’ll benefit from using a few straightforward techniques to find the best person for your team.→ Read More

The best new employee engagement ideas for 2016

Employee engagement is “the top human resource challenge organizations anticipate facing in the next three to five years,” according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. If you want to stay ahead of this challenge, you need to keep your employee engagement strategy fresh, relevant, and exciting for all of your employees. Here are a few employee engagement ideas we think you should implement in 2016:

Introduce gamification

One coffee company found that their employees were having trouble retaining detailed information about their products, so it introduced a game-like quiz designed for mobile devices.→ Read More

New Year’s reflections on job engagement

by Kevin Sheridan

This time of year, it’s natural to become reflective; to reflect on the last year and on resolutions you have for the New Year.

One of my central messages in my keynote presentations is to encourage more reflection on job engagement. Roughly 60% of the worldwide workforce is not Engaged or Disengaged in their job, otherwise known as the middle category of Ambivalence.  A large reason so many people are stuck in this “blah” middle category is that they have not reflected on whether they are in the right job in the first place, or as Jim Collins said in his best-seller Good to Great, “the right seat on the bus.”

The great news is that we, as managers and employees, are already empowered to do something about it and re-cast ourselves into the right job or seat on the bus. → Read More

Full Stack TO: January MeetUp

The January MeetUp for Full Stack TO was hosted by Achievers Tech. The two talks of the evening are as follow:

Front-End Performance Quick Wins

Performance is key to web applications, especially e-commerce ones. It’s said that for every second over two seconds conversion drops by 40%. In this talk, James will walk you through some quick wins for your front-end performance to help you speed up your site and increase conversions!

About James

James is a front-end web developer with Loblaw Digital the company behind Loblaws Click & Collect, Joe Fresh online, and Shoppers Beauty Boutique online.

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Accessibility: A Journey to Accessible Rich Components

Accessibility on the web is a complex enigma to many web developers and designers. In this Achievers Tech Talk, Jason Jang covers how we approached making a large platform like Achievers accessible. He also briefly addresses some accessibility basics before digging into the journey of making our rich UI components accessible.

Jason has been building websites since tables were all the rage. Along the way, he’s designed and developed both as a freelancer and at various advertising agencies. His 10+ year journey landed him at Achievers where he’s tackling the platform’s accessibility by the horns.→ Read More

Social Product Design Tips from Facebook

What do the best social apps have in common? They understand how people communicate with each other and develop technology to better facilitate these natural interactions. Facebook has built and enabled some of the most powerful social apps in the past decade and in the process gained a better understanding of human behaviour and where technology adds value. This Achievers Tech Talk covers what they’ve learned and their predictions for the future of social technology.

Sachin Monga works on platform partnerships at Facebook, helping top brands and technology companies build people-centric products.→ Read More

The Valley, Eh? Taking on Giants From Toronto 

Mike McDermant started FreshBooks in his parents’ basement. Over the last decade, it has become a market leader that stares into the face of multi-billion-dollar giants every day saying “bring it on!”. But how did Mike make it out of the basement? What did he do differently? What has kept him going? And why is doing it in Toronto making all the difference? The answer is simple.

Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, planet earth’s #1 cloud accounting specialist for small business owners.→ Read More

How Not to #UXFail

User experience isn’t just the job of the designer anymore. As long as you have humans using your product, user experience and design will matter. Are you serious about levelling up your UX skills? Have you ever wondered how that designer tweaked a layout to make it work better? Do you want to know how to work without designers, or how to work better with your current ones?

Bobby Bradford is a designer who loves to code. As Senior Product Designer, he manages the UX team at Achievers and has seen his fair share of UX failures and successes.

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3 biggest talent management challenges for 2016

The workforce is changing rapidly, and many companies are struggling to update their talent management process to keep pace with new workplace cultures. Companies that can’t keep up with the expectations of today’s employees will see a decline in engagement — and a corresponding decrease in their bottom line.

A 2015 report by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) gives a look into current levels of staff engagement. According to the report, only 39 percent of respondents are “very satisfied” with their job, indicating that there is a lot of work ahead for managers in the upcoming year.→ Read More

Diversity in Tech: A Case Study

Diversity is often presented as a series of affirmative action initiatives or a statistical analysis of the workplace. However, what is missed is how diversity benefits an organization and the potential pitfalls that can arise.

This Achievers Tech Talk features Natasha Lala, VP of Engineering at OANDA. Natasha handles the technical teams that build the software for a foreign exchange trading system transacting billions per day. In addition, she has led large scale projects in the CRM, telecom, and financial industries for SOMA Networks and IBM.→ Read More

Scaling a User Interface

Scaling a user interface requires more than smartly written HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Navigating through the hundreds of front-end tools, libraries, and frameworks can be daunting for even the most talented developers. And yet, what’s often overlooked are the things that really matter like performance, maintainability, and flexibility.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, Scott Spencer focuses on the hurdles and lessons the Achievers UI team encountered while developing our high-traffic Employee Engagement Platform. He dives into critical tools, best practices, and the value of stepping back to understand the bigger picture.→ Read More

Tech Leader Panel: Growing Software Development Teams

Four tech leaders from the Toronto tech community discuss the challenges of growing software development teams in this Achievers Tech Talk.

Peter Daly – VP Engineering, Achievers

Peter has an exemplary track record of delivering large scale information technology solutions to customers in a plethora of markets. Most notable are Health, Financial Services, e-commerce and Telecom. He joined the Achievers team in February 2013 with the primary goal of growing and scaling their development organization.

Jason Primeau – Director of Development, OANDA

Jay’s first task at OANDA was to put his desk and computer together.

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Entrepreneurship Series: Building a Billion Dollar Category 

In this Achievers Tech Talk, Mark Organ talks about what it takes to create a new category and why this is important to becoming a market leader in your space. He shares five everlasting rules for building great cloud companies.

Mark is the founder and CEO of Influitive, helping companies mobilize their advocates to produce massive increases in referral leads, reference calls, social media participation and more. Mark first revolutionized B2B marketing as the founding CEO of Eloqua (ELOQ), the world leader in marketing automation software, which was recently acquired for $871M.→ Read More

Entrepreneurship Series: Growth Hacks

How do ridiculously successful software applications grow and spread to users like wildfire? What psychological and technical strategies do you need to make this happen? Developer and founder Ankur Nagpal flew from NYC to share his growth hacks in this Achievers Tech Talk, the second instalment in the Achievers Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

Ankur was the largest individual developer in the history of the Facebook platform! With 10,000 applications leveraging his work, he reached upwards of 200 million users. Because of this, publications like Business Week featured Ankur for the millions he earned this way.Read More

Entrepreneurship Series: Enduring Companies

Achievers Tech Talks is ecstatic to launch our Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, catering to both Toronto start-up and technical audiences.

The first instalment in the series features Pat Grady, Partner at Sequoia Capital. Pat shares the patterns he’s encountered working with some of the most successful tech companies and entrepreneurs in the world. A Wyoming native, Pat’s first job was putting roofs on houses… but he didn’t truly appreciate what it means to be a builder until he shared in the ups and downs of creating a company.→ Read More

Agile Engineering: The Xtreme Labs Way

When we started Achievers Tech Talks, our goal was to give back to the Toronto tech community. Since then, we’ve been sharing the things we’ve learned while building and scaling the Achievers platform. As our community continues to grow, we want to extend our talks to rockstar speakers from other companies and organizations.

VP of Engineering at Xtreme Labs, Farhan Thawar, was named one of “Toronto’s Top 25 Most Powerful People In 2010”. Before joining the Xtreme team, Farhan held the positions of Chief Software Architect at I Love Rewards, Head of Search & MSN Platform for Microsoft Canada and Technical Lead at Trilogy Software.→ Read More

Profiling Web Applications: The Dirty Details

We’ve all been there. The production system grinds to a halt, and it’s up to you to fix it. But where do you start when profiling your web application? How do you navigate through the plethora of monitoring tools? What’s the right way to make things faster? To cache or not to cache? Surely, there’s a way to prevent this madness!

At Achievers, we’ve had our fair share of performance hurdles. The path to building a high traffic software platform is filled with moments that leave you scratching your head while burning the midnight oil.

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Web Security: Is your web application insecure?

Are you confident that your web application is secure? Puzzled when it comes to cross-site scripting? SQL injection? Cross-site request forgery? Most developers have only a basic understanding of the most common security risks affecting today’s web applications.

It’s no secret that web application attacks are on the rise. Stories of attacks on high profile websites causing lost revenue, customers, and credibility have become typical.

For that reason, Achievers prioritizes mastery securing our website and our customer’s data. During this Achievers Tech Talk, Matt York dives into all aspects of the top ten vulnerabilities affecting the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).→ Read More

PHP Web Framework Battle: Choose Wisely

Choosing a web framework is like buying toothpaste. Every option has outrageous benefits and a religious following. Furthermore, they’re all trying to solve the same problem: making it easier for you to build web applications.

PHP is the language of choice at Achievers. But within the PHP ecosystem, there are dozens of web frameworks to choose from. In this Achievers Tech Talk, Zakir Hemraj explores the pros and cons of three of the most popular PHP frameworks out there: Zend, CakePHP, and CodeIgniter.→ Read More

MySQL Query Optimization

Wish you were a MySQL ninja? Think only DBAs should worry about query optimization? Want to know what happens behind the scenes when you SELECT foo FROM bar?

Now more than ever, developers need to understand SQL performance to keep web pages up to date. At Achievers, our dev team dedicates themselves to building a web app that performs blazingly fast. Therefore, we constantly investigate all the queries that execute in our database to fine-tune them for optimal performance.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, CTO Dr.→ Read More

Scaling High Traffic Web Applications

Most users expect web pages to load within two seconds. As users multiply, this expectation does not change. For that reason, scalability is important in order to maintain response times and grow your application; however, scaling a high traffic web application can be challenging.

What makes an application scale? What should you worry about early on and what can wait?

Achievers learned many lessons and gained fundamental knowledge on scaling our SaaS platform. In this Achievers Tech Talk, CTO Dr.

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4 ideas for celebrating employee anniversaries

We’re big advocates of everyday recognition, but we agree that there are some employee milestones that deserve extra-special recognition. Whether it’s anniversaries, retirements, or other major accomplishments, observing milestones is a great way to show an employee that you care about their contributions. Here are a few ideas for how you can celebrate milestones with a bigger bang:

  1. Collaborate on a personalized reward

HR can collaborate with team leaders to figure out what type of employee rewards or celebration would be most meaningful to the employee, whether it’s a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, or a cake in their favorite flavor and color.→ Read More

Top 3 HR trends for 2016

In 2016, look for organizations to tighten their focus on people management, from building an inclusive company culture to increasing employee engagement. HR trends to watch for 2016 include these three hot topics:

1. Increased use of data analysis

Analyzing data to gather consumer information has been a staple of marketing strategy for decades, but data analytics is only now starting to catch on for HR professionals. One study indicates that the use of big data for people management is gathering momentum, with the current industry average at 42 percent.→ Read More

Which company perks attract the best talent?

Gone are the days of poor working conditions, grueling hours, and no benefits. In recent years, companies have seen the importance of offering quality perks for their employees. This realization has spawned a steadily building competition among companies as they try to out-perk other employers. But with the myriad of options available, from unlimited vacation time, to office dogs, to free lunch, how can you tell if you’re creating a real impact or just spinning your wheels?

While company perks are not the primary reason candidates join companies, some benefits weigh heavier in a candidate’s decision process than others.→ Read More

How to reform a micromanager

Simply by position alone, managers have a major impact on employee productivity. This is good when the manager has the skills and experience to get the best work out of their direct reports. It’s not so good when managing slides into micromanaging. As anyone who has ever worked under a micromanager can tell you, it’s a surefire method of making employees feel stressed and disengaged. Here are a few tips on how you can recognize when supervisors are veering into micromanagement terrain and guide them back to supporting their staff members in a healthy way.→ Read More

Real-time feedback vs. annual reviews: A showdown

The performance review process is undergoing a revolution. One by one, mega-corporations like GE, Adobe, Accenture, Microsoft, and Netflix are announcing they’re scrapping their annual rankings- or ratings-based performance management systems and replacing them with real-time feedback systems. The reason is clear: Real-time feedback is a better fit for today’s fast-paced business environment and a younger, tech-savvy generation of workers.

Out with the archaic system

The traditional annual or semi-annual employee performance review system is the model that most businesses still use to assess performance, justify compensation increases, and provide feedback.→ Read More

Why you should integrate employee ideas into your mission statement

How many of your employees could recite your mission statement, or even summarize it? If your answer is “almost none,” you’re missing out on a powerful engine for employee engagement. Too often, the company mission statement quietly resides on a website page no one ever looks at, while the actual fabric of company life is woven from the strings of daily tasks. Here’s why your organizational health depends on having a mission statement that resonates with your employees, and a few words about how to make that happen.→ Read More

7 ways to reduce employee stress around the holidays

The holiday season is a cheery time, filled with lights, presents, and time with loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressful and exhausting time for employees trying to balance work and holiday responsibilities. So, in the spirit of giving, here are seven tips for helping employees deal with stress management in the office:

  1. Provide free flu shots at work

Arranging for free flu shots at work saves employees a trip to the physician’s office or pharmacy. This simple act also sends the message that you care about their health and time.→ Read More

Dealing with difficult customers? Help your employees maintain morale

Difficult, upset or angry clients create challenges for your workplace beyond the obvious need to turn dissatisfied customers into happy ambassadors for your business. When your employees routinely deal with difficult customers, the work environment can become highly stressful, and as a manager you have to take steps to guard against damage to employee morale. Failure to recognize and support workers who undergo this kind of pressure can harm your business and create a negative feedback loop: Stressed employees will provide poorer customer service and eventually seek a different job.→ Read More

Underdressing & overserving: Avoid these common issues at your office holiday party

Do you dread throwing the obligatory annual office holiday party? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. While popular among employees, holiday parties can be stressful for managers because spouses and partners may be present, alcohol is usually involved, and inhibitions are generally lowered. Here are six of the most common pitfalls of office holiday parties, along with easy tips for heading them off.

Reluctant guests

This fact should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Attendance at the office holiday party should not be mandatory.→ Read More

Promotions & the Peter Principle: how to find the sweet spot where employees succeed

How do you choose which employees to promote? If you’re like most managers, your answer is straightforward: You move up the workers who perform their duties most competently. Unfortunately, relying on strong performance as your only criterion for promotion may cause your organization to suffer from the Peter Principle. This principle was identified over four decades ago by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. They observed that as workers were steadily moved upward in a hierarchy, they eventually reached a position where their competence could no longer warrant further promotion.→ Read More

It’s time to give thanks — to your employees

The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to be grateful for everything that enriches our lives. When you’re caught up in daily management tasks, however, it’s easy to forget how much you appreciate your coworkers and employees, and it’s easy to underestimate how much it would help to show more gratitude. When you show your staff you’re aware of — and grateful for — their contributions, you build a sense of shared purpose and strengthen the connection they feel to you and to the business.→ Read More

5 ways to make your company stand out to STEM candidates

Job candidates with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills are some of today’s most coveted professionals, and it’s a buyer’s market for people with this technical talent. In order to compete with other employers for STEM job candidates, employers need to go the extra mile. Here are 5 things your company can do to attract STEM candidates, from the initial inquiry all the way through to an accepted offer.

Start an apprenticeship program

One way to turn up the flow of STEM job applicants is to establish a presence in high schools and colleges.→ Read More

3 reasons you should let Millennials manage

Are you hesitant to put Millennials in managerial roles because of their youth and lack of experience? This hesitancy is certainly understandable. As an experienced professional manager, you’re well aware that years in the industry provide insights that no newcomer can automatically acquire. However, it turns out that your company can still benefit from the unique skills younger staff members can bring to leadership roles. Here are three reasons you should look for Millennials with characteristics of a good leader and give them a chance to shine.→ Read More