What to Know About Worker’s Compensation and How it Can Benefit Employees

Worker’s compensation laws have been around for a long time, and during that time they have experienced little change. It is easy to see why there hasn’t been a radical change in the system — it has been effective for years without any real need for innovation. However, as technology advances and the workplace evolves, worker’s compensation needs to change with it.

Even the nature of workplace injury has changed significantly. While in the past you would associate worker’s compensation with grievous injuries caused by malfunctioning equipment or careless operation of heavy machinery, today those collecting worker’s compensation may suffer from something as banal as carpal tunnel syndrome. Understanding how and why worker’s compensation benefits a business in the modern era can not only demystify the system but show where it can be improved in this new technologically powered age.

Lack of Technological Innovation

As the rest of the business world embraces technology that helps make completing tasks easier, worker’s compensation continually lags behind. This stems from an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude, which will stifle innovation in any industry. While some companies have started to adopt technology to assist with expediting compensation claims, overall the need for progress in the field of worker’s compensation has been largely ignored.

However, that doesn’t mean that innovative technological solutions aren’t being developed, just that the adoption rates of these technologies are still low. Technology is already changing worker’s compensation in small but meaningful ways. Communications with and between employees, workforce training, managing claims, and delivering care are all influenced by technology. Even using simple smartphone applications cannot only assist directly with worker’s compensation claims but also help with prevention of workplace injury in the first place.

The advent of wearable technology also has interesting implications for worker’s compensation. Wearables like FitBit or Apple Watch are currently popular for their personal healthcare management applications, but their usefulness can stretch beyond the personal and into the world of business. Wearables have the potential to monitor whether employees are in a dangerous area on a construction site, track an employee’s health post-injury, and reduce, manage, and prevent workplace illness and injury overall.

How Worker’s Compensation Helps Employers and Employees

Worker’s compensation is an important facet of business in the United States. It not only protects employees but employers as well. While the rights to worker’s compensation were hard fought, many workers and employers can find themselves at a loss as to why it is important to them, especially if their work doesn’t appear to be dangerous from the outside.

Though it has been in effect for decades, many people still find themselves wondering exactly what worker’s compensation is and how it works. While many states have different worker’s compensation laws, the premise is essentially the same across the board: if you are injured on the job, you can file a claim in order to receive worker’s compensation benefits. These benefits are intended to relieve the financial burden from hospital bills on a worker and to ensure that they are healthy enough to continue working without issue.

The benefits of worker’s compensation aren’t solely for the employees, either. Employers rely on worker’s compensation to reduce their liability due to workplace injury with great success. If it is shown that an employee sustained an injury intentionally, were harmed in the course of a fight that they instigated, or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the time of the injury, the employee is not eligible for worker’s compensation claims. Additionally, worker’s that accept worker’s compensation insurance forfeit their right to sue their employer, adding an additional layer of protection for the business.

Safety Should Come First

Regardless of who benefits more from worker’s compensation, workplace safety should be the number one priority for both workers and employers. Two of the most common workplace injuries sustained in the office are slips or falls and repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. Both of these types of injury are easily mitigated through regular cleaning and maintenance of the office, as well as regular breaks for employees coupled with education on proper technique when typing.

Staying safe on the job whether you’re a social worker, construction worker, or surgeon doesn’t have to be an endless struggle; in fact with the implementation of just a few safety procedures, workplace injury can be drastically reduced. Providing readily accessible alarm systems to alert employees to safety risks, secure entryways, and even something as simple as having well-lit hallways are all easy and cost-effective ways to help prevent workplace injury. Additional training for employees also provides another layer of protection, as they will better understand how to take charge of their own safety by avoiding workplace injury.

One way that technological innovation actually shines when it comes to worker’s compensation is through prevention. Head into any office around the country and you will find it chock-full of injury-preventing ergonomic technology from keyboards and mouse pads, to standing desks and office chairs specifically designed to prevent injury. While these small things may not seem like the heroes of workplace injury prevention, their ubiquitous presence contributes to prevention in spades.

Conclusion

While workplace injuries won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, be prepared for them with worker’s compensation insurance and preventative measures is just good business sense. As new technology develops, it will only make the workplace safer as we go, claims easier to process, and fraud harder to commit. All-in-all, as we look to the future of worker’s compensation, adopting and implementing new and existing technology can only help.

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The Importance of Targeted SEO to Your Company’s Visibility (& Linkability)

SEO has often been viewed by businesses as an ethereal, mysterious thing that a company does for you, and with a sprinkle of magic marketing dust, you are ranking number one on Google for the right keywords and your niche. However, good SEO has been made up of a number of the same things for several years:

  • Good Web Design: While this goalpost has moved over the years, from optimized for desktop to optimized for mobile, from high-resolution video and photos to speed of loading, a modern web design that is responsive and provides a good user experience is essential.
  • Good Content: A website must have good content, from product pages and descriptions to landing pages and blogs, content needs to be informative, well written, and user-friendly.
  • Backlinks: These can be paid, earned, and social. Google expects businesses to pay for ads, earn links from reputable sites, and appear on social media. Link exchanges and guest posting is one of the best ways to earn backlinks. While the search engine still claims social links and shares do not affect ranking, they certainly can have an effect on organic traffic, and there is some debate about when they might become a legitimate factor.  

There is a bit more to it than that. The smarter Google becomes, the more it looks at websites like a human user does. Artificial intelligence and machine learning mean that user experience and relevance will continue to mean more than they ever have. This means SEO work needs to be targeted, implemented with a deliberate strategy, and treated as a continuous process.

Here are some reasons targeted SEO is important to your company’s visibility and linkability:

The Need for Linkable Content

As mentioned above, there are multiple kinds of backlinks. They are paid, earned, and social. The number of paid links your site has can be absolutely controlled by your ad spend. However, earned links can be partially controlled and deliberately built, and social links can be encouraged but only minimally controlled by you.

What is the key to earned and social links? Your content. It also determines how effective any paid links you have to your site are. Simply put, you need linkable content. Category or service pages, product descriptions, and thin blog posts are not link-worthy pages. Years of experience have taught link building companies what linkable content really is.

Fortunately, in November of 2015, everyone got a look at the Google Search Evaluator guidelines at the time. They confirmed much of what we had already learned. Google and users look for a few key things in your content, and Google uses those things to help determine your page rank. It is known as the E.A.T. principle:

  • Expertise: Not only does Google look at your company, but at the author of the content to determine expertise.
  • Authority: This is in the part where links come in. Outbound links to authoritative content establish you as an authoritative source, as do inbound links to the content itself.
  • Trustworthiness: This is also determined by organic, authoritative links to your content and the accuracy of what you have written.

Not only does content need to meet the E.A.T. principle, but it should also be informative and well written. Remember: Content is also a part of user experience, and thin content produces high bounce rates, sending users looking for the information they need elsewhere. It certainly means they will not link to it on their own website or share it on their social media profiles.

What makes content linkable is how informative it is, the clarity of the writing, and how well it is optimized for both search engines and real people. Without content that is worth linking to, it is difficult to either build or earn links.

Researching Relevancy

How do you know if your content is reaching the right searchers at the right time? Fortunately, this is easier to figure out than it ever has been — and yet more challenging as well. There is more data out there about users and their behavior on the internet than at any other time in history, and nearly any business can access this data through some simple analytics tools.

This means not only do we know what our potential customers are interested in, we know how they interact with the internet. Beyond just demographic analytics, we have access to behavioral analytics which are much more powerful.

All this data not only tells us what our ideal customers are searching for but how they are doing it. This can be taken from the general fact that over 60 percent of Google searches are done on mobile devices, and more people than ever are completing purchases on portable devices as well. You can also determine what devices your customers search on most frequently, whether they are iOS users or Android fans, and how much time they spend reading a blog post, and even how many searches they perform for a product or service before they make a purchase.

What this allows you to do is to target your content more specifically, and even create different content that will appeal to different sets of buyers. Relevant content is much more linkable, whether you are earning those links organically, want your users to share it on social media, or are engaged in a link building campaign targeting specific keywords.

Creating a Strategy

Now that you know why linkable content is necessary and you have established what is relevant to your potential customers, you need to create a targeted content strategy. Why? It’s simple: Without targets and specific goals, how will you know if your linkable content is working?

So what is a content strategy? It is deliberately creating content to support your efforts to rank for a specific keyword or set of keywords, and building and working to earn links to that content. This usually involves several pieces of content of varying lengths and types, internal linking, good onsite technical SEO, and content that is well written and informative.

A good SEO company will not only help you with your onsite technical SEO and link building but can also help you with your content strategy and creating linkable content. This entire process, which you should thoroughly understand, takes a lot of time, and unless you have a capable team in your marketing department, the time and money an outsourced expert will save you is more than worthwhile.

Filling in the Content Gaps

So now you understand the need for linkable content, you have done your research and know what is relevant, and you have a content strategy. Now it is time to fill in the content gaps on your website. Whether you have a robust blog filled with content or are just starting out, once you establish your content strategy, you’re going to find that you have content gaps.

What is a content gap? They are areas where you are missing content that is essential to your content strategy. It is essential that you fill these gaps in order to satisfy not only Google but your potential customers. You need the linkable content in order for targeted SEO to be effective.

Want to rank higher in Google for critical searches in your niche? Want your business to be more visible to searchers? It’s all about relevant content that is part of a content strategy, linkable content, and then building links to that content. Those are all a part of targeted SEO, the key to your company’s visibility and linkability.

STEAM Vs STEM: Adding Tech Skills to Your Resume

STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and math —  is becoming a popular topic of discussion in educational institutions, but there is somewhat of a disconnect between education and the workplace. STEM careers prioritize technical skills, especially in the hiring process, which can make students rightly wonder what the point of additional arts and humanities training is.

In an educational environment, adding the “A” to STEM means students gain vital critical thinking, discourse, writing, and leadership skills, as well as greater understanding of arts and culture. This makes them excellent candidates for leadership and mentorship positions, and key allies in reducing employee churn. But when it comes to job applications, they know that recruiters and algorithms are both looking for mainly technical skills-related keywords.

The value of STEAM educated employees

Employees with a background in the humanities have a ton to offer, even (and especially) in technical roles. STEAM is about much more than learning art; the arts, humanities, and languages teach students about thought, logic, argument, ethics, and many other aspects of humanity. According to Concordia University the STEAM job market in the United States will grow by 14% by 2020, and even employers in highly technical fields are beginning to see its value. The arts give students a grounding set of both soft- and social skills, and arms them with different modes of thinking about the world. However, not everyone is convinced yet, and graduates entering the job market can be hesitant to express these skills in a job search.

If you’re into recruiting leaders, and people who improve the work environment around them, STEAM candidates are highly prized — or should be.

People don’t need to be in leadership roles for their leadership skills to be valuable. There are many different styles of leadership, and some of them don’t require a position of authority to be effective. Transformational leadership, one of the most effective styles, involves lifting up other group members and transforming the work environment to better achieve organizational goals and uplift other employees. Some of the most important characteristics of these types of leaders are emotional intelligence, mediation, and the ability to think in new and transformative ways. These are all skills honed in the study of the arts and humanities.

Another key trait possessed by people who have training in the arts is increased exposure to new and foreign ideas. These are people who have been taught how to learn, and learning is a skill in and of itself. So if you’re looking to hire people who will make learning new things a priority, who seek experiences outside of their comfort zone, and who will respond well to internal uptraining, the answer is STEAM.

If you’re looking for employees that will stick with you, and improve the performance of everyone around them, hire people with additional background in the arts and treat them right.

Attracting STEAM candidates

The trick is convincing students and job seekers that employers see those additional skills as valuable. It’s not enough simply to start looking for those skills. There are new generations of tech workers going through their training that need to be convinced to invest time and energy into the arts, or simply told that those interests are valid to pursue.

This means outreach during college career fairs, on websites, and on job descriptions. Start actively supporting and looking for the “A” skills in candidates by putting them into job posting descriptions. Start highlighting the value of these employees internally and externally, at company events and conferences, and build a culture of support and confidence.

As you build out culture and PR that values soft skills as well as technical skills, it may be necessary to retrain recruiters, interviewers, and adjust any keyword scraping algorithms. Many people groom their resumes specifically for certain keywords they believe companies want to see. A common strategy is to pick out keywords from the job posting into their applications. So changing those keywords is a great start.

In the end, the people you hire create your company culture. A culture infused with not only the skills that come from the arts, but the beauty and soul that comes from communities who are passionate about arts and humanities — that kind of culture sets employees and companies up for long-term success.

Moving Forward After Funding Failure

One of the toughest things about starting or sustaining a business is finding funding. Whether for a startup effort, an expansion, product development, or more aggressive marketing, every business needs money, and many times that means outside funding. There are a few ways to get outside money for your business:

  • Traditional Business Loans: Available from banks, credit unions, or small business administration and government loans, these are traditional ways of funding. Essentially, a business takes out a secured or unsecured loan and pays it back in installments with interest.
  • Venture Capital/Angel Investors: This funding comes from individuals or groups who invest in businesses in exchange for a percentage of profits and a portion of the proceeds if the business is sold or stock options if it goes public.
  • Crowdfunding: A relatively new method for business, this is when you use platforms like Kickstarter to get funding from those who are interested in your product or service.
  • IPO: When a company sells stock that is publicly traded.

There are other methods of internal funding and less conventional funding like seeking loans from friends and family. Essentially, for all of these different methods, you must prove that your business has either made money in the past or has the potential to make enough money to be worth investors’ time and money.

None of these methods of funding are guaranteed. So what happens when you go after funding and you don’t get it? Here are some keys to moving forward after funding failure:

Evaluate What Went Wrong (If Anything)

Depending on the type of funding you were seeking, there could be a number of reasons you did not get it. It is a good idea at this point for you to see the same issues lenders saw so you can fix them if possible. If it is not possible to fix the issue, then you might have to reconsider your growth rate or even your business idea. Here are a few things that could have gone wrong:

  • Your Personal Credit Score Is Too Low: When your startup is new, your business has no credit rating of its own. Everything is tied to you as the business backer. If your credit score is not stellar, a lender might see your business as a credit risk.
  • Your Pitch Did Not Inspire Investors: Investors hear a lot of pitches, and you should simply be prepared to hear “no” a lot.
  • Your Business Model Needs Work: While your idea might be great, you also need a path to making money, and yours may need refining before you apply for funding. You also may be losing money in ways that are not obvious to you but that investors see. Look for funding holes and repair them.

In his book, Lost and Founder, Rand Fishkin, founder of MOZ, reminds readers that when it comes to business, 5 in 10 will fail. Three of those that succeed will only make a small amount of money for investors, and two will make up for all the rest. Venture capitalists and even banks are looking for those two.

Even LegalZoom failed in their initial IPO before raising $500 million in their latest round of funding, which was designed to give current investors liquidity and move on to investors with a longer term outlook. Even large, successful companies have failed to get funding from time to time. Sometimes, it’s nothing you did wrong at all; you may just have asked the wrong people or at the wrong time.

Evaluate Where You Are Without That Funding

Just because you did not get this round of funding does not mean things are over. It is likely you are not out of business, but you will have to evaluate where you are now, as disappointing as that might seem, and where you need to go from here.

The first thing to do is look at your earnings now. This can also help with the previous step and determining what went wrong. Good accounting practices let you see if you need to scale back growth, return leased equipment, or take other steps to keep your business going. One of the most important steps to this is looking at your current cash flow. What kind of money do you need to cover your daily operations? Do you have that money coming in?

Secondly, look at why you wanted or needed that money in the first place. Was the need immediate, or was it to finance future projects that can be put on hold? If the answer falls into the second category, you can take some time to evaluate those projects and look for alternate funding sources or even shift your company focus.

Seek Other Funding Sources

No matter how you tried to get funding, there are other sources. If venture capital failed, you may have to look at loans. If one or both of those failed, you may want to look more creatively at some crowdfunding options. You may even simply want to look at other investors or banking options.

In business, a “no” often simply means you are that much closer to a “yes,” and that is no different with funding than with anything else. If one thing did not work, try another one. If you heard no, ask someone else, or reset once you have determined what went wrong and fixed it, and then ask again. This means expanding your network and practicing your people skills and sales pitches at conferences and wherever you go.

Even after funding failure, business is about moving forward, even if that means stumbling forward for a bit until you can get on your feet again. There’s no time to stop and wrestle with regret. A business that is not moving forward is already moving backward. Determine what went wrong if possible, take stock of where you are now, and seek other funding sources. This “no” may simply be one more step on your way to a “yes” and a successful round of company funding.

Six Out-of-the-Box Employee Recruitment Methods (and Why You Should Innovate on Them)

Recruiting employees is similar to finding a mate or a life partner. Just because someone can fill that role does not mean they’re the best fit for you or that they’re able to bring something new to the table. Also, like dating, to find the best, you have to be the best. Now apply this to employees: what makes them the best?

It’s important to hire people who can not only perform a job well but who bring something new to the table. You want employees who go beyond the call of duty. In order to find innovative employees, you need to challenge them and know they’re up to it. Every step of the recruiting process as we know it allows and even calls for out-of-the-box thinking — we employers just never think to actually utilize our brains as we should!

There are already companies finding ways to innovate the recruiting process across the world — now it’s your turn. Think of the following these jumping-off points to create a strategy that will get you the most creative, intelligent, and hard-working applicants.

Weed Out the Bad Fits

Streamlining the applicant review process means narrowing your search, and technology does an excellent job of doing just that. Following the trend of, well, the augmented workforce, some employers are relying on AI recruiting systems. Because of this technology, resumes can be screened faster, and interview requests and rejection letters can be sent automatically with the click of a button.

Test Their Wits

Writing up a job description for potential applicants can be a chance to test your own creativity. Oftentimes it’s a mundane task. Something to keep in mind is that if you’re bored writing it, potential applicants may be bored reading it. Find a way to test their wits. Offer details and challenge them. Make it so anyone who applies comes in on their toes and is ready for anything you throw at them. This could be done in a number of ways: encouraging potential future employees to solve a work problem that could arise, hearing about their ideas for what a company needs, or asking how they might market a particularly niche product. The point is to hear how they may actually do the job in real life and get in their head a bit!

#SocialMedia

Do you work in a niche industry? Use social media to narrow down your search of people who possess the skills to excel in your niche. Utilize images and hashtags to attract the right kinds of applicants in addition to finding applicants you want to pursue! While some argue it has downsides regarding the way society communicates with each other, it’s also a way in which most people are connected to each other.

Pay Attention to Generation Y

If you use social media (see the last point), you will undoubtedly learn some new things about the kind of people in your field. Primarily, though, you’ll probably learn quite a bit about millennials (otherwise known as Generation Y, defined as being born roughly between 1977 and 1995). Right now, millennials are making a huge impact on business as we know it. Because of the things they value, social progress and ethics have been more often introduced into business decisions, advertising happens on social media, and more and more people are working remote. This generation is changing the game — so pay attention!

Try New People

It may be worth it to step outside of your comfort zone in what you look at in an applicant. Do they have odd, miscellaneous skills or work experience listed on their resume? Do they speak in ways that are unconventional within their cover letter? If they fit your requirements but seem like a weird match, try exploring that a little bit. You may find a drive and passion unmatched by your typical candidates.

Explore New Technological Channels

LinkedIn — the networking giant itself — posted an article last year about new ways to advertise your openness to applicants. They listed television ads, virtual reality, and using digital media as a whole to do this. The point is that you need to be where people converge and interact with technology. Rather than letting them come to you, go to them. You never know who or what you’ll find, and it may be the best decision you make!

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How have you jumped out of the box in searching for new applicants? Has it served you well? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

 

Strategies for Greater Retention Rates for HR Managers

For an HR manager, the costs of creating and maintaining a staff can be plagued by employee turnover and disengagement. For most companies, revolving doors are a destructive force for financial growth, considering the cost to replace an employee is roughly 50% of that employee’s annual salary. An effective HR department, therefore, needs to hire appropriately, work to engage employees in the success of the business and constantly monitor observable measurements to ensure that they are on track.

So how does an efficient HR department gauge their progress and ensure best practices for employee retention? How do companies evolve past the everyday, worn-out methods of keeping employees engaged and make the work environment a place where employees can truly thrive?

Hiring Process

The trickiest part of the hiring process is ensuring that HR brings on the right person for the role to not only fill in missing personnel, but foster growth. The person needs to fit the values, short and long term goals of the company. A mismatch of skills, values, and commitment can create loss for a company. For hiring members of HR, there is a host of resources out there for hiring managers who want to maximize their hiring potential and run their small business like a larger corporation.

Primarily, hiring managers need to think about the kind of skills they need to bring into the company as opposed to simply filling a slot or replacing someone who has moved on. Is the company facing challenges? What skills would be the best counter to those challenges? A potential area of growth? It’s easy to fall back into patterns of hiring to replace, but hiring to grow benefits the company far more.

Observable Metrics

A handful of easily observable paper metrics can give HR departments an idea of how engaged and happy their employees are. Turnover is one of the most obvious metrics. If a company is perpetually bleeding employees, there is something seriously wrong. Likewise, the average length of employment can help indicate employee engagement. If most employees leave within a year, or conversely, stay for many years, these are indicators of the company’s ability to engage. The amount of sick or personal days taken can indicate an employee’s level of involvement in their job as well. Finally, the revenue per employee can help companies determine how engaged employees are on the clock.

Observable metrics are just the beginning of the story. An employee can love and be dedicated to their work, but also have a sick family member that leads to absences. When an observable metric indicates disengagement, look past the numbers into the human element. Is there a solution that would allow the employee to contribute in the way they’d like while acknowledging the issue? Would working from home allow them to care for the relative while hitting goals?

Greater Employee Engagement

Once the right employee is hired, the key to maintaining that employee’s performance and commitment is growing their engagement in the company. The best tool for engagement is communication. It’s important for management to keep lines of communication between themselves and their team open. Fostering trust and making employees feel heard helps them feel important, both to the company and as people. That level of emotional engagement is invaluable.

Help employees understand their role in the company — how their efforts aid the company’s success, and how the company’s success affects them. The ability to draw a direct line between cause and effect, both for the company and the employee, creates real stakes that encourages a better work ethic.

Goal Creation and Attainment

Realistic, attainable goals encourage greater engagement and growth of abilities, output and capability. Achieving goals can be rewarding in themselves; they can also be steps for future growth within the company. Goals should be appropriate for the company and for the employee — they should be a marriage of the interests of both parties. Is this something the employee is passionate about and finds rewarding? Is this an area of interest that benefits the company? Do they have the skills to achieve this goal, in a way that benefits the company?

For the employees, goals can include growth of current abilities, or the push to finish a project. Potential rewards for employees can include extra benefits, like a day off, the chance for a promotion (or more eligible to promotion), or a treat of some kind, like free lunch. Whenever a company uses a reward as an incentive for achieving goals, they should be clearly communicated and legitimately achievable. Carrot-and-sticking rewards like promotions is a dishonest method, and will ultimately lead to decreased morale.

Avoid Demotivation Pitfalls

Demotivation can come from many fronts. Lack of communication and transparency between management and employees creates a vacuum of information — one that is bound to be filled with speculation and guesswork. In a workplace without healthy feedback and communication, that guesswork can be powered by anxiety and untruths, which barely benefit anyone. Recognize employees, listen to their feedback.

Make sure the employee who puts her all into her job is recognized and rewarded fairly. Don’t feel the need to treat everyone the same. Follow through on commitments and promises. Show employees why certain team members are celebrated, and help the others find ways to be celebrated as well.

The bottom line is this: HR might be about acquiring and maintaining people as a resource, much like paper or computers, but remember that you and your crew are not robots. Metrics are useful, and numbers don’t lie, but everyone involved is a human. They have human feelings and human motivations, which don’t often conform to spreadsheet analytics. Address the human side of the equation to balance the metrics, and make the most of your skills as a leader to address real, human concerns to foster greater employee retention and engagement.

Tips for Successful Conference Networking

In order to do well in any industry, you need to know and have the support of the right people. No matter how independently you work, people are the key to success in every endeavor. Although chance encounters do occur, you don’t always meet the right people at the right time.

However, you can increase these chances by setting up a booth at a conference specific to your niche. With different influencers in your industry congregated in the same area as you, the odds will be more in your favor for developing these mutually beneficial relationships.

Being at the right place doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen, though. You’ll need the networking and conversational skills to back you up when you meet a potential customer or partner at a conference too (even if you’re a bit more on the introverted side). Here’s what you need to know to up your conference networking game.

Don’t Skimp on Booth Design

A lot can be said about a person by the way they design their booth. When you have a booth at a conference, how your setup looks is just as important as your own wardrobe. No one will want to start a conversation with you if you look like you put no effort in your appearance.

The same is true for your booth. If you put little work into the aesthetics of your booth design, you won’t attract many people — especially if it looks like it was made the night before or is bland in style. In order to catch people’s attention, you’ll need booth banners and a striking design to flag people down.

Remember, your banner and booth materials are an extension of your brand. If anything is incongruent with your brand image, people will be confused about who you are and what you’re doing at the conference. So double check the colors and and fonts you use match the same ones as your business and other marketing materials; you always want to be more proactive than reactive.

Keep things simple and easy to read as well by designing your booth in a way that showcases what your business is about. Don’t let your message get lost in a cluttered design. Also have your audience in mind when creating your booth and banner.

Use graphics and language that appeal to your target audience so that your setup is the one they’re attracted to the most. Look into applied psychology and color theory, too, and see which shades and hues communicate the message you want your company to evoke while still being pleasing to the eye.

Have size in mind as well and make sure the promotional materials you use are large enough to catch a crowd’s attention while still conforming to the size restrictions of your booth area. Placing your booth in a good light doesn’t hurt either by utilizing lighting equipment that accentuates your display and brings attention to areas you want people to see most.

Overall Best Conference Practices

Once you’re at a conference, it won’t do hoping for the best that the right people will come to your booth. You need to prepare and devise a plan to best utilize your time at the conference. By first seeing what the conference’s schedule is, prioritizing and managing your time for the workshops and panels you want to attend will be that much easier.

Also see which topics will be discussed and which speakers were invited so you can do further research on the two to increase your chances of forming a connection with the influencers speaking and attending. You may not be able to do everything you want at the conference, so determine which events are a priority and which can be missed if you don’t have the time.

Have someone man your booth at all times as well so that your station is not left unattended while you visit various events. It helps to familiarize yourself with the location of the conference and where each activity will occur too. Knowing how long it will take to walk to certain panels and workshops will help you determine which ones you can get to in time, and having a familiar idea of where the conference is and where you can park will ensure you’ll arrive on time.

Don’t forget to schedule in break times for rest and food yourself, either. You won’t be impressing anyone if you’re exhausted or your stomach’s growling through a whole conversation. Speaking of conversations, leave some time for exchanges with other attendees as well since the whole point of you being there is to network.

If you have questions about what you should wear, look at past conference pictures on their website to get a feel for what the dress code is. You’ll want to be comfortable since you’ll be on your feet for a good portion of the day. Check the weather as well so you can plan your outerwear accordingly. Layering up is another good idea since different rooms can be set at different temperatures.

Lastly, consider other items you will need to bring with you to the conference such as a laptop, chargers, pen and paper, and business cards.

Talk the Talk

Once you have a plan of attack, you need to brush up on your networking skills. As you can see, networking is one of the top ways agencies drum up new business.

That being said, there are a lot of people vying for the same relationships you want to cultivate, so it’s up to you to distinguish yourself from the rest. Do this by being more eager to help the other person rather than having them assist you. Showing a genuine interest in the other person will make your more noticeable than a person who only asks for what they want.

Networking isn’t a one-sided relationship. It takes the efforts of two people trying to connect with one another. So be a good listener and ask them questions about themselves. Honesty is truly the best policy when it comes to networking, so speak the truth about yourself to build a solid foundation of trust between you and your contact.

Be consistent with who you are as a person both professionally and personally as well. People have a knack for discovering inconsistencies when talking with a person. Getting caught in an untruth can seriously damage a budding connection.

Also remember to continue the conversion long after the first encounter by consistently following up with them. A true networking relationship only grows and prospers if you put in the work to stay in contact with them.

Take Advantage of Hiring Opportunities

Although you may be going to a conference to form beneficial business connections, don’t forget to network with people who want to form connections with you as well. Especially when you’re hiring your first employees, it’s important to start your hiring process right by recruiting the best and brightest first instead of ones who will just do for now.

The kind of people you hire in the beginning will ultimately encourage or halt the progress of your company altogether. Hiring has a domino effect in that the employees you hire will recommend and attract other employees like them to your company, so it’s best to give yourself a good headstart and hire the most qualified candidates you can find.

Individuals attending conferences will most likely have the qualities you want in an employee, so keep your eyes open for potential hires at these events. It’s good to think in the long-term when considering a prospective employee as well since your business will have to deal with the consequences — negative or positive — of each hire you take on.

You will have to be the judge whether or not the skill sets a person possesses will benefit you just now or many years down the road. It’s also important that you like the person you’re thinking about offering a position to. Company culture is a key part to business success.

If people are miserable with the coworkers they have to collaborate with, this will only lead to setbacks for your company. After all, why would you want to hire someone you don’t like? Employees also work their best and come up with their most innovative ideas if their work environment makes them feel comfortable and encourages research and development that way of thinking. According to HR Gazette, “48% of human resources and recruiters and managers believe that technology helps them make better decisions.” 

Even with the best intentions, many startups and companies fail — but that doesn’t mean failure has to happen to you too. Attending and setting up a booth at a conference is a great way to find lasting and beneficial connections.

However, you can’t just walk in and expect great results to happen. By investing in your booth design, putting together a conference game plan, and brushing up in your networking skills, you will form relationships that will help you and your company progress far into the future.

The Human Side of HR: What Makes a Great Administrator?

Businesses are made up of a multitude of working parts. From upper management down to the mailroom, everyone has a vital role to play. HR managers are an essential part of maintaining a well-oiled machine; they take care of the people who work there and maintain the kind of workplace that inspires people to turn up day after day, year after year. They are the people behind the people. In order to do their jobs effectively, HR managers need to have a variety of skills in their toolbox.

Hire the Right People

Hiring is a major part of HR responsibilities. It’s important to hire the right people; you want them to be engaged, capable, and in possession of a skillset that compliments the current work goals and progress. An experienced HR manager needs to know how to hire the kind of person who fits the company culture and values, and who will assist in reaching long-term goals as well as immediate needs. The wrong person, or hiring a good employee for the wrong position, can be detrimental. The right person can not only fit into your corporate culture but can help that culture grow along with the business.

Effective Training

A good hiring manager can recruit employees with all the skills required to shape the company’s ability to succeed, but they also need to help mold the employee’s skill set into their brand and workflow through comprehensive and effective training. An employee with a wealth of talent needs to know how to apply that talent, not just for best results but also in compliance with legal and labor laws. A thorough training regimen outlines expectations, any company-specific training, as well as what the employee can expect from the company. This communication is vital to ensuring everyone, including the company, can comfortably fulfill their expectations.

Employee Retention and Satisfaction

The link between employee engagement and revenue is well-established. A skillful HR manager is the cornerstone of employee satisfaction — and employee satisfaction is the key to engagement. HR can utilize programs designed to show appreciation for employee work; anything from food to incentive programs can energize employees. Likewise, public praise and spotlighting distinguished employees as well as a culture of positive reinforcement can be effective. HR must also stay on top of employee needs, whether it be in benefits offerings or promotion and salaries. Employees should feel needed, appreciated, and like they have something to work towards.  

Conflict Resolution

One of the more complicated aspects of HR is conflict resolution. An effective HR manager should be patient, even-tempered and able to navigate employee interpersonal and professional relationships (as they apply to the job) with a delicate touch. HR should be attuned not only to the needs of the company but of the employees as they apply to a productive and effective workplace. Conflict resolution can range from small interpersonal spats to the larger legal issues, such as sexual harassment. It is important that HR managers be thoroughly educated and knowledgeable about conflicts of a legal nature, for the safekeeping of both employees and the company.  

Follow Through

Your employees rely on you to make sure their work lives run smoothly. From benefits to paychecks, they need you to make sure the company fulfils their end of the employee contract. Prompt follow-through shows your employees their well-being is important and the company is invested in making sure they are in a safe, productive atmosphere. If employees do not trust HR, they’ll be less likely to seek out solutions to any problems from HR. They will be more likely to become bitter or malcontent, grow stagnant in terms of work or look for employment elsewhere.

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An HR manager who utilizes these skills will be able to work effectively and harmoniously with their company and workforce. Their administration skills can help boost productivity and make the workplace somewhere employees look forward to turning up for a long, happy future.

Five Lessons Learned From 100 Years of Human Resources

Human resources departments are invaluable assets when it comes to protecting companies from potentially devastating losses or game-changing mistakes. All too often, career-ending mishaps could have been avoided with a quick trip to HR, but even the department has occasionally had to learn on-the-job, as it were. After 100 years of HR, you’d think that we’ve learned all there is to know about what companies can, can’t, and really shouldn’t do. Still, here are five lessons that always seem to be a surprise whenever the ball gets dropped.

The Trap of Ignoring Morale

Morale is crucial to working environments. Happy employees are productive employees, after all. When markets move against companies, however, the metrics-based focus of “crunch times” can cause severe loss of focus on this important consideration. As HR, it falls to us to remember to keep the “human” part of human resources in mind at all times. Amazon.com recently found itself under fire for warehouse and worker conditions after metrics-based performance incentives cut the legs out from under the company’s morale. Amazon’s perception in the media and public at large also shifted negatively when word got out about the conditions many workers face in the organization.

The Risks of a Politicizing Company Culture

Company culture can, and often should, change over time. Dramatic shifts, however, should be democratic and involve workers at all levels. When a company decides to make a move that brings it into the political spotlight, it can have repercussions well beyond its own halls. Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, learned this the hard way when he announced a $70,000 minimum salary for his employees. The move thrust him into the spotlight surrounding minimum wage arguments in the nation, clients cancelled their work because of differing political views and lawsuits were filed against the company. This came on the heels of the decision to raise wages for employees by slashing his own.

The Snare of Insider Trading

One of the great cautionary tales of HR comes at the expense of financier Ivan Boesky, who in 1986 made over $200 million investing in corporate takeovers. Unfortunately, his seemingly smart predictions landed him in jail as they turned out to be based on insider trading. HR departments around the world send regular updates to stockholders who may have insider knowledge to help them avoid this type of disaster. Boesky also paid over $100 million in fines for his illegal actions.

The Dangers of Old Buildings

When the real risks of asbestos and its link to mesothelioma were exposed to the public sector, companies poured millions into removing the material from walls, ceilings and other key infrastructure. Unfortunately, removal of the material often freed it into the air, causing workers to inhale the substance and suffer effects years, potentially even decades, down the line. It falls on human-resources personnel to make sure that the right persons are responsible for all disaster and cleanup operations, lest the company be found responsible for damages due to its well-intentioned policies of replacement and repair of worn-down structures.

The Pitfalls of Miscommunication

In the BYOD business world, communication moves at about the speed of light (over optical networks). This means that it’s nearly impossible to bury bad news, especially using press releases of good news. HR and PR departments must work shoulder-to-shoulder to make sure that the press doesn’t feel hoodwinked by a show of good news when bad is developing, as happened when Walmart made its grand announcement about its new $11 an hour minimum wage. Unfortunately, the same day, the closure of over 50 stores became public knowledge. The news about the closure spread quickly, as employees are rarely slow to share such information, and bad press followed closely on the heels of the closure news, offsetting any gains from the minimum wage announcement.
As companies strive to keep top talent and protect themselves against lawsuits and game-changing errors, HR departments are more critical than ever. Savvy human-resources professionals aren’t afraid to speak up against bad policy or advise on important matters, and the best are more than willing to go to bat for the future of their companies. With 100 years on the job, HR pros understand what is at risk and have the tools to keep businesses going strong in the decades to come.

The Benefits and Challenges of Hiring a Borderless Workforce In Global Economy

Today’s economy is extremely globalized. Many factors contribute to realizing success as a truly global business.

Expanding into other markets isn’t simply a matter of sending a sales team on an overseas mission. There is so much more required. According to a recent report by Accenture, companies need a human capital and HR strategy that is fully aligned with the business growth strategy. Often, the HR component of a business strategy is looked at as a follow-up measure to consider after the advanced team has established some presence in a new market.

To be successful, however, senior leadership must agree that this component isn’t a follow-up, but something that is part of the globalization vision from the very beginning. Additionally, it is critical to find the right balance between international structures and local processes. So, while HR systems will play an integral role in creating global operations that can function in accordance with local norms, establishing local credibility will be a matter of hiring the right people. Local credibility can only truly be achieved through the employment of a relevant and able workforce.

Ideally, it’s nice to think that hiring in a global economy is truly a borderless process. However, this is not the case. Different visa restrictions and legal policies in countries can often prevent the continuous seamless transfer of employees. It is becoming more difficult to bring talent into the United States.

For companies that want to succeed globally, management and leadership need to be well-versed with different countries and cultures. Diversity of board makeup is very important. For example, the board of directors at MasterCard, include executives from the United Kingdom, India, the United States, Mexico, Belgium and Hong Kong. Philip Morris International Management’s board includes members not only from the United States and Europe but also from Mexico and China. Thus, it is often best to bring this talent in from overseas to appropriately lead and orient teams who will be working with a specific region.

Unfortunately, visa requirements are abundant, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to diversify the way they desire. While H1-B visas are limited and based on luck, another way to bring in talent, even temporarily is through the O-1 visa, for people with “extraordinary ability.” This is especially useful for company superiors and is more acceptable as it does not threaten local jobs. HR professionals need to be aware of possibilities such as these, that allow for a transfer of leadership talent when necessary. In this way, to be both globally efficient and locally responsive when necessary, a company must adapt HR models that are more agile.

A good example is the London-based Diageo, a premium beverages company with offices in 80 countries and a presence in about 180 markets. Diageo created appropriate HR operating models for different markets by using a customized shared services model that provides consistent service to employees and can quickly be adapted to adhere to local market requirements. The company has two centers (in Europe and North America) that serve as virtual hubs, providing faster service to employees, in terms of processing paperwork, legal requirements and more, wherever they are. For instance, a knowledge repository helps standardize functions and process transactions in accordance with local laws for any of Diageo’s offices/markets.

Virtual hubs like that of Diageo’s are only possible due to the major technological advancements in today’s day and age. Digitization has allowed for a plethora of opportunities in terms of streamlining work processes, boosting productivity and efficiency overall. One of the many benefits of digitization that is especially poignant to hiring in a global economy is the ability to work remotely. According to a recent report, 43 percent of American employees spent at least some time working remotely in the past year. So even if it isn’t possible to immediately hire local help in case of a work emergency, or for an entire team to relocate to another country for a short assignment, cross-continental telecommuting is a viable solution. Ease of access today helps with communications amongst worldwide offices, allowing for “borderless” workforces.  

Still, working remotely when it comes to leadership positions is not the smartest business decision, let alone very inconvenient. To be successful in the global economy, global experience and exposure is not a luxury, but a necessity. Sometimes, this sort of experience requires sending American personnel overseas for work. This is often in the form of long-term overseas assignments for employees.

However, there are more creative ways of facilitating this. Take the example of Royal Dutch Shell cited in the report by Accenture. Julian Dalzell — recently retired after 43 years in HR leadership roles with Royal Dutch Shell, employed a different approach. At one point, he had 11 people from his HR team, each with less than five years’ experience, working overseas on short-term assignments in Singapore, Canada, Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Qatar and Kazakhstan, among other locations.

This worked in a myriad of ways. More people were agreeable to sign up for shorter assignments, visa laws were more amicable to short term placements and there was less worry that outsiders were coming in to compete with local talent. Even though overseas assignments require a lot of preparation, Dalzell said “the unintended consequence was that they [employees] came home keen to share the incredible experiences they had and what they had learned. So it sparked an enthusiasm and an energy that we could not have created ourselves.”

In this way, HR processes must be in sync with the growth strategy for any company to succeed globally. Companies must create processes and work in ways that encourage innovation and efficiency at the local level, fostering an attitude of transparency amongst global and local offices, without compromising global set standards. To do so, hiring the right people in the right manner is significant for proper execution. As the world becomes more globalized, it’s easy to overlook some of the barriers that prevent a truly “borderless” workforce. However, with the correct human capital and HR strategies in place, companies will be able to get as close to “borderless” as is possible.