Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else

Now is not the moment to be cavalier about making the time to help your employees develop greater skills. In a workplace that changes at breakneck speed, employees are looking to their workplaces to help them stay current, learn new things and get better.

The LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report shared that 94% of employees say that if their company invested more in career development, they would stay longer. It is all about the skills.

What time and resources do you make available for your employees to develop, grow, learn and expand what they know?

Before you answer, consider that development can take several forms in the workplace. Two of those include:

1. Formal education. Whether created by an organization’s learning and development department or through purchased programs, make new skill development available to all employees. Consider a required and elective skills approach. Define the required skills by job. Make electives available to any employee, regardless of position. Encourage those employees who want to constantly learn to select additional topics or skills to continue their development. Remember, not everyone learns the same way. Consider offering all formal education in a variety of learning methods, whether that’s via classroom, webinar, gaming, self-directed or narrated, among others. Take the time to learn what method works best for your team and look to provide your skill training in at least two different methods to encourage greater participation and learning.

2. On the job feedback development. Some of the best skill development happens in the moment. Providing mindful feedback, a process to tune in to both what works and doesn’t work with employee performance, is key to helping employees learn the most in any workplace moment. Though most managers provide “constructive criticism” when they see challenging performance, feedback is the reminder that on-the-job training is about both successful and unsuccessful performance. Don’t miss an opportunity to use a success as a teachable moment, focusing on how to do more of what works, and why it worked. Including this encourages a more responsive employee when there comes a time to share something that didn’t work and why. The lessons learned in these moments are timely, personal and encourage accountability. These lessons stick.

Employees say they want more development. And you want them to have it, as well, because it makes them more valuable as employees. This is a true win-win solution. Don’t be concerned that your employees will learn from you and leave. Instead, focus on developing them and building an employee-focused workplace culture. This encourages their performance and their retention.

Take Action
Identify the skills needed. Create materials to provide the skills in a variety of learning methods to encourage participation and learning. Then, train managers to think and act more as coaches to review employee performance, focusing on both what works and doesn’t work, with the intention of making each a teachable, on-the-job learning environment.

Commit to creating a clear and easy path to helping your employees develop, grow and get better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Do Your Jobs have a Value Statement?

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3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

There is a direct correlation between the level of employee engagement and the level of productivity, performance and retention. That means that understanding and affecting employee engagement is the responsibility of every manager.

First, I will share that engagement, defined for the purpose of this post as the discretionary effort an employee puts into their job, is not the sole responsibility of the manager or the organization. Employees have a role in expanding their self-awareness to help align themselves to roles that need what they do and like best, and to have a voice in participating in their work in a way that matters. But that is the subject of another blog.

For now, let’s focus in on three things that every manager can do to increase employee engagement.

  1. Know your employees. It seems odd to say this, but the truth is that most managers don’t know their employees’ strengths, liabilities, interests, values and what activates and diminishes their performance. Without this information, you frequently and accidentally respond in unsuccessful or unproductive ways or misalign employees to roles that need more of what they are not good at than what they are good at. Spend time with employees to help develop their inventory of abilities. Use an assessment tool to help create the practical language of their strengths and their liabilities (the behaviors that are the opposite of their strengths that need management). Get guidance from a coach for tools to help all employees learn to look inside themselves to discover their unique abilities and preferences, then to share them with you so you can better guide them to the areas that need what they do and like best. This encourages competence which activates engagement. You don’t feel engaged if you are in a role that doesn’t fit you.
  2. Make time for each employee each week. Relationships are key to trust, and trust drives engagement. Employees want to work for managers who make time for them and treat them as valuable and important in the workplace. Knowing employees’ inventory of abilities and making time for them, will help you connect more authentically and interact more successfully.
  3. Focus on employee development. Today’s employees know they need to be constantly learning and growing. Managers, when they make the time to connect with employees and use that time to help employees assess what works and what doesn’t work in their performance, make learning and growing important in the workplace. This is key in the shift from managing to workplace coaching – to guide employees to better see and assess their performance and to own any required improvements. This encourages greater performance ownership and engagement.

There is no shortage of information and statistics supporting the premise that engaged employees consistently outperform disengaged employees. It is therefore the responsibility of every manager to intentionally choose how to be and what to do to encourage their employees’ engagement.

Take Action
Three simple things can help employees show up more engaged: know them, make time for them and develop them. What are you doing today to improve your employees’ engagement?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

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3 Ways to Successfully Onboard Your New Great Talent

You defined what abilities, skills, education and experience are required for your role. You used an intentional sourcing strategy to find candidates who fit your role. You interviewed wisely, using activities and behavioral-based questions to really assess your candidate’s role and cultural fit. You hired the best candidate. They start in a week.

Now, what is your plan to bring them quickly, effectively and personally into the valued talent of the organization?

Onboarding is the critical fourth step in an effective and efficient hiring process (following defining, sourcing and interviewing). Many organizations discount this important step, which leads to disappointing performance and retention results. According to the Gallup Organization, only about 12% of employees agree their organizations do an effective job with onboarding. And, since onboarding is one more place to create an important first impression, poorly delivered onboarding can discourage employee engagement and loyalty.

Here are three things to consider as you assess and build your onboarding approach.

  1. Personalize and customize. Use the period from the date of job acceptance to job start date as your pre-boarding – to intentionally connect with the new employee to get to know them and to start to share information about the company to encourage their enthusiasm for the job and to feel comfortable in their new work environment. Ask about their talents, interests and passions in and out of the workplace, values in and out of the workplace, favorite foods/music/activities/sports teams/coffee. Share information about the culture, energy, values and humanity of the workplace.  Don’t wait for a new employee to arrive to start the onboarding process. Use the information gathered during pre-boarding to develop a first day, first week onboarding plan. It could be lunch out at a favorite restaurant, favorite coffee purchased on the first day or week, a banner of a favorite sports team waiting for them at their desk, or the alignment to a buddy or mentor who shares similar interests. Think about the onboarding “experience.” Personalize it.
  2. Become family. Onboarding is really about taking your unique new hire and helping them find their place right away in your organization. What are your organization’s values, beliefs and mission, and how do you help employees know them and live them? How does the organization value, support and care for its talent? And, how does this new employee’s job add value and make a difference on a daily basis? Onboarding is not about having new employees read company manuals, review documents and fill out forms. It is an intentional effort to help them understand the organization and the value of being part of it.
  3. Focus on first impressions. New employees have heightened awareness. They are watching each of their new experiences. Be intentional in the plan for the new employee’s first day, first lunch, and first meeting with a manager, leader or CEO. Be intentional in who the employee is introduced to, assigned to and supervised by. Think about the employee’s first assignment, first meeting and other firsts. Remember the power of a first impression: is your pre-boarding and onboarding experience creating the impression you want your new employee to have?

Take Action
Getting your hiring right is critical to bringing in the right employees. Keeping your great employees starts with pre-boarding and onboarding that is personal, integrating and intentional. Help your great talent know they chose wisely when they chose you. Accelerate their ability to feel connected, valued and productive. Engagement, performance and loyalty will follow.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Win in the War for Talent

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Pay or Purpose – What Really Activates Employee Performance?

A limiting belief in the workplace is that employees simply work for their paycheck. Though some do, this is an outdated way of thinking left behind from the industrial age when compensation was tied to tangible production. Do more, get more. This, of course, drew more attention to pay.

But as the nature of work changed, and we shifted from a “make things” economy to today’s “provide service” economy, our feelings about work have changed. Now, most jobs have employees face-to-face with people – whether customers, vendors or colleagues. This personal connection has encouraged employees to be more focused on the value they provide to others. Work is more personal. We want jobs that make a difference. We want to be part of something important. We want to influence positive change. We have a need to do work that is purposeful.

How do you help create work that matters for each of your employees – to help deliver purpose instead of just pay? Here are some ideas:

  1. Share how the employee’s role supports and advances the mission of the organization. Make it personal.
  2. Invite employees to share their thoughts and opinions about selected areas of the organization. Their input raises their self-esteem and confidence, provides you with greater information from those who are on the front line, and helps them feel part of the organization.
  3. Share stories of what the organization does for its customers and how all employees create the customer experience.
  4. Host a stay interview (as compared with exit interview) with each of your employees regularly. Make time to help them feel heard, encourage their contribution and to improve your relationships.
  5. Make development a key focus of your organization. Helping employees work on skills and performance improvement areas helps expand what they are capable of.

Take Action
Pay is important. Be competitive. Be fair. Have achievable compensation plans that include stretch goals, improvement goals that are funded by the additional performance.

And along with these, be sure your organization helps its employees understand why they do what they do and the difference they make. Remember this quote by Dr. Mehmet Oz, “If your heart doesn’t have a reason to beat, it generally won’t.”

We all need purpose.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Do You Know Your Employee’s Engagement Language?

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Do Your Jobs Have a Value Statement?

Consider the value jobs have in the workplace. This is larger than just getting the tasks of the job done. Do your job(s) share with your employees why they are important and what difference they make to your company, customers, community and world?

Work occupies nearly 25% of our time each week – and for some, even a greater percentage. With such a large amount of time committed to it, we want it to do more than just deliver a paycheck. We want it to help us grow, learn and become better. We want to feel valuable. We want to know that we matter. We want to know how what we do makes a difference. We want to do something important.

To meet these requirements from employees and truly create work that matters, it requires some time and attention spent on each job within your organization to clearly define the role and the impact the work has others. The most efficient way to do this is to create a Job Value Statement.

Start by picking any job in your organization. Define what the job entails (tasks, responsibilities) and the attributes an employee must have to do the job successfully. Then, create a statement that highlights the benefit or value of the job. A clear description on what the value is to the employee, the company or even the world helps create a differentiation advantage for your organization. It not only shows that you understand your employees, but it also serves as a means to attract top level talent looking for an employer that understands how to create jobs that matter.

Here are some examples of job value statements:

  • This role requires daily communication customers, supporting them to live confidently and independently.
  • This role keeps the executive team organized, supported and able to make a profound difference in the direction of the company.
  • This role creates products that keep our air and water clean for generations to come.
  • This role creates new applications to bring complex technology to everyday life.
  • This role ensures the organization’s financials are accurate so the organization can continue its growth and impact with customers.
  • This role creates a workplace culture that engages employees and cultivates their potential.

A simple, well-crafted value statement can help attract new employees and re-engage existing employees.

We all want to make a difference. Help each of your employees see their value so they are more empowered and engaged to deliver it.

Take Action
Look at each of the jobs your organization offers and define the value statement for each. Check in with those who do the job(s) to see the value they see in the role. If they have this clear, you have something to share with others. If they don’t, then you have the opportunity to change this to help them connect more personally to their role and its impact. Be sure to include your jobs’ value statements on the career center on your website and in all job postings or ads.

Sign up for more tips to engage and inspire your employees.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

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3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to do More

Sometimes it feels like you are in a tug-of-war with your employees – always tugging at them to do just a bit more, think a little more, create a little more or be a little more focused on a customer. You can see it, but they can’t, or don’t, or won’t.

Let’s look at why this is happening.

  1. There is a lack of alignment. How excited would you be to do more in your job if it doesn’t align to your strengths and interests? We choose our level of effort in our work, and much of this comes from how we feel about our work. The more confident and capable we are, the more interested we become. Hiring and developing employees into roles that align to their abilities, passions and interests encourages their productivity, contribution and performance. If employees are low on energy or off in their performance, where in the organization would they be a great or better fit? What needs to be in their days to help them feel capable and competent – and excited to do and be more?
  2. There is a lack of inclusion. How many of your employees do just what the job says, likely because you rarely ask them what they think, suggest and propose? One of the holdovers from our industrial age is the management mindset that managers tell and employees implement. Today’s thinking workplace needs the employee to be actively involved, included and thinking because they are the eyes and the ears of the business. They interact more significantly with customers and therefore have greater information and ideas about how to answer the question, “What could make us better?” To share this information, at least initially, employees need to be asked and invited to contribute – to be included. Regularly ask employees for their thoughts and ideas from every part of the organization. As they are invited to share, they see that doing and being more is encouraged, applauded and even rewarded.
  3. There is a lack of development. The workplace keeps changing which constantly requires new skills. For employees to do more, they need to have the best skills. This requires regular and recurring feedback and development. Again, how competent and confident would you feel if you don’t have the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and have the skills to contribute? Make education, learning and development a regular part of every employee’s workday or workweek. Empower employees to constantly use their new skills and assess the impact.

Most employees actually want to do and be more in their roles. They, however, are stopped by outdated and ineffective management or cultural practices.

Take Action
Stop and notice what you do that disengages your employees. Gather the information you need to shift to behaviors that are more effective and productive. Alignment, inclusion and development are key to raising your employees’ productivity.

And remember: an added benefit of an employee who wants to do more is that they may think twice before looking for the next opportunity.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Move Learning Off the Back Burner

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3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave you in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

Some of your best employees will leave you because you are not intentional about giving them a reason to stay.

Similar to the behaviors you follow to create a high-value relationship with customers to inspire their loyalty, you must also do the same for employees. This requires you to know what engages and retains your workforce, and to have a plan that routinely delivers it. Without this process in place, the organizations that make this effort will attract and poach your best employees.

Here are the three reasons why your best employees will leave you, and some thoughts on how to stop it from happening in 2019.

  1. You manage instead of coach your employees. Employees want a supportive, encouraging and guiding relationship with their managers. They want to feel valued, respected and included. Our industrial age trained managers to direct, tell and control – an outdated approach with today’s workers. To help employees choose to stay and perform at their best, help your managers learn how to think and act as coaches. The shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent engagement initiative every organization should be focused on.
  2. You don’t make employee development a daily event. Employees know that in a fast-paced and constantly changing workplace, it is important to constantly develop the best skills. Organizations that provide continual (i.e. daily) performance feedback through coach-like relationships, as well as active on-the-job skill development, encourage their employees’ engagement and loyalty. Consider training managers to provide recurring performance feedback using the “what’s working, what’s not working” approach. On a daily basis, review an element of employee performance by assessing what worked and what didn’t work in the performance. Engage the employee to be more mindful in their performance, to consider ways to do more of what worked and to develop a plan to improve what didn’t work. This encourages adaptive learning and continual development, while also ensuring that all development is built both around technology and human connection.
  3. You don’t align the career path to the employee’s strengths and interests. Employees perform best in roles that need what they do and like best. So many organizations insist on moving employees through existing career paths that routinely take them from what was once a highly engaging role for an employee to one that can quickly become disengaging. This can be the result of a number of factors, but primarily it’s due to the fact that they lack the competence and abilities to excel in the role. Review your current career paths or advancement approach to ensure they, like when you hire, assess for employee alignment and fit, rather than just tenure with the organization. The goal in any career movement is to ensure the employee’s or candidate’s success. An assessment process must always exist to ensure alignment.

You must be intentional in creating a process to bring in the best talent, and once you have that talent, you must be intentional in developing a plan to keep it. Your organization, its culture and its focus on developing the relationship employees have with their managers all influence an employee’s interest in doing good work and choosing to come back each day.

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in the way you engage, develop and retain your employees. Do more of what works and address what’s not working before your talent finds an organization that does all the right things to keep their best employees.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

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The [Destructive] Power of Unmanaged Managers

Everyone knows how infectious certain behaviors are. When you’re around someone bubbly and happy, it doesn’t take you long to feel the same way. This also holds true for someone who is not happy. Whether they’re frustrated, disgruntled or genuinely mad, these negative emotions, especially when perpetually present, can be toxic to those around them, frequently smothering the positive emotions. And putting those negative emotions into the confined area of a workplace in the form of a disengaged employee can lead to a disastrous impact on the morale and productivity of a company.

I personally believe that a disengaged employee is one of the biggest signs that something went wrong. It could be that they were hired for the wrong job, been poorly managed, could be in a dysfunctional workplace culture or maybe an adverse event happened at work.

But frequently, I find the underlying reason for disengaged or disgruntled employees is unmanaged managers.

Unmanaged managers are not in control of their emotions; they let their aggravations and frustrations affect their mood, resulting in a toxic environment and poor relationships with employees.

Know anyone who fits this description? Unfortunately, I do.

I’ve seen first-hand the destructive power an unmanaged manager has on creating and fueling disengaged employees. Just a few things I’ve seen throughout in my career:

  • A parent was reprimanded for leaving work early to be home with their sick child.
  • A female employee was asked to prove her knowledge with industry stats before she could speak in a meeting with the all-male senior executive team.
  • A creative employee was consistently told no and belittled for presenting new ideas that challenged the status quo, just to discover the same ideas were presented from a younger employee, and those ideas were accepted and implemented with gusto.
  • An employee asked a question and was belittled and embarrassed by the manager in front of the team for “not knowing.”
  • Insulting comments were directed to an employee that had nothing to do with the employee but were instead the result of frustrations stemming from an earlier and unrelated event.

There’s little room for misinterpretation; these are real-world examples that led directly to the creation of disengaged employees.

The common thread in each of these situations is the unmanaged manager. When unable to manage his or her emotions, the unmanaged manager misses the opportunity to coach, teach and guide. Instead, they belittle, demean or ignore, all three of which can lead even the most passionate and dedicated employee to wonder what they’re doing there. In a workplace with a less than 4% unemployment rate (as of September 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures National Employment Monthly Update), a manager must be the greatest advocate for employee engagement. And we know that employee engagement leads to greater employee productivity, performance and retention.

So how can you manage the unmanaged manager? It requires two things.

First, senior management must be aware of the behavior and the impact it has on employees. Frequently, the unmanaged manager exists because he or she has been allowed to behave this way by their superiors, behaviors that should have been coached out of them long before they were managers to a larger team. Awareness, coupled with coaching to improve the behaviors, is the best way to not lose your best employees.

Second, employees must be given the opportunity to voice their concerns, to feel like they are part of the organization. Regularly gathering employee perspective through surveys can help identify an unmanaged manager before too much damage is done.

If you continue to allow an unmanaged manager to run the show unchecked, you’ll soon find that your best employees will leave and spread the word that yours is not a workplace of choice. Remember the power of social media, particularly with disengagement.

Take Action
Consider your workplace. If you’re a disengaged employee, ask yourself why. Is the job the right fit for you? If it isn’t, what can you do to find a better fit? If it is, what could be making you feel disengaged or disconnected?

If you’re an unmanaged manager, bravo. The first step is to admit that your management style may need some adjusting. Consider hiring a Corporate Coach to learn the benefits of being a mindful manager and incorporate coaching techniques into your day-to-day management style. Making some little changes can make a world of difference to your employees, their performance and their loyalty.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading When is it Okay to do Just Enough at Work?

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3 Ways to Win in the War for Talent

People are the hands, heart and soul of all organizations. This requires you to have a plan to attract, hire and retain the best because they are the connection to your customers and the drivers of your results.

With record low unemployment rates, many organizations are feeling the pinch for talent. Those people who want and can work are nearly all employed, leaving a small available talent pool to choose from. This, for many, means we are in a war for talent.

The war for talent isn’t as much about hiring the few people available. It is more about winning in to your organization the talented people who are disengaged in their current organizations. The Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of the workplace is disengaged. This isn’t because they are average employees. Rather, it is more likely that their current organization isn’t doing what it takes to attract, hire and retain the best talent. This means that today’s war for talent is more the result of a branding problem than a supply problem.

Seeing this challenge from a new perspective can help you see that many of the disengaged employees in other organizations have the interest and capacity to be amazing in your company if you are able to do these three things.

  1. Attract. Spread your story about what makes you different, unique and a great place to work. We used to think that sourcing talent meant going out and finding them. Today, sourcing talent is more about them finding you. Work hard to create a dynamic employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and engages its employees, then share your story. Let your website host a career or job center that tells your story through images, videos, testimonials and other interactive media. Great people want to work for great companies. Get the word out that you are a great company and the great talent will find and connect with you.
  2. Hire. Commit to only hire people who fit your roles, team and culture. With an expanded amount of interest in your organization, have a clearly defined and well-followed hiring process that clearly states the tasks of each role, and the specific attributes needed to be successful in those tasks. Then, develop an interview process that uses both activities and behavioral-based questions to have the candidate share and prove their skills and strengths, to assess for fit. Be sure that your interview process can assess for team and culture fit. This helps you hire the right people who feel aligned, engaged and competent in your organization, limiting turnover and the need to hire again.
  3. Retain. Guide, support, develop and coach your employees to give them a reason to perform and stay. By hiring wisely, you help employees feel capable and competent in their roles. Then, train your managers to think and act like coaches to build stronger relationships with employees to better understand, support, guide and develop them. This encourages employees’ engagement, which is a key driver in their decision to perform and remain or to do as little as possible and seek new opportunities.

Take Action
Win the war for talent by being an employer of choice, hiring wisely and helping your managers learn how to guide, support and coach instead of direct, control and manage. Commit to getting the best employees up front by building an employee-focused workplace culture that creates a dynamic employee experience that attracts top talent to come, perform and stay.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave Your in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

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3 Ways to Help Your Team Start Strong and Focused in the New Year

A new year. The opportunity to see things as new, fresh and exciting. Is this the atmosphere you encourage in your work environment? Or will your employees come down off their holiday high and feel like they are back at the grind?

The more engaged employees are in their work and the workplace, the greater their productivity, performance and loyalty. Re-engaging employees in the new year is a great opportunity for management to make some important changes.

So, as a new year welcomes you and your team back to the workplace, here are three ways to start your year off strong, focused and engaged.

  1. Reconnect personally with your team. Make a point to get to know your employees in 2019. To effectively manage and coach your employees, it is important to know their strengths, interests and values. It is important to know what engages and disengages them about their jobs and the organization. It is critical to know how they best communicate and learn, and what their most and least favorite aspects of their jobs are. Gather important information about each of your employees to understand them better and to know how to best connect with them and coach them. Employees want time with their managers – use this increased time to get to know them and to develop a plan to connect with them more effectively going forward. People quit people before they quit companies. What is one thing you can do to more personally connect with each member of your team?
  2. Include your team in creating shared 2019 goals. Goals are important – they provide direction, clarity and focus. By including employees in the creation of goals, or more specifically team goals, they feel more included, valued and part of the organization. A culture that constantly asks employees for input not only benefits from greater employee loyalty, but also from expanded ideas that come from empowering and expecting employees to actively think throughout their days. How will you involve your team in the creation of shared goals?
  3. Commit to sharing more performance information. You want your employees to be more focused and engaged, but few feel that way when they work in the dark. They can’t connect their work to its impact or value. Work with employees to identify the key performance metrics that will help them asses their department’s performance and their individual progress and impact. Develop a performance dashboard by role or department to help employees see their personal or team impact/progress on shared goals, and to encourage discussion, dialog and conversation. What information will you share in 2019?

Every employee wants to add value and make a difference. Many times, we may unintentionally dissuade them from doing this by doing things that discount their value or disconnect them from their team or organization.

Take Action
As a new year approaches, commit to reconnect with them, get their input for shared goals and commit to sharing performance results. Not only will including employees generate new and great ideas for you, but they will feel more valued and appreciated for being included in the conversation. Start the new year off strong.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Move Learning Off the Back Burner

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