Tag Archives: Management

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California’s PG&E risks outages amidst bankruptcy

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Recently, the legally embattled Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) agreed to pay billions to compensate for faulty equipment-induced wildfire damages throughout the state of California.

Last week, the company is instituted power outages as a proactive way to prevent wildfires. Conveniently, any front-end money saved in the outages can go towards back-end damage expenses, which keep accruing as the company collaborates with meteorologists and the National Weather Service to suspend services in the name of wildfire prevention.

What has unfolded is a fire prevention debacle, leaving us asking if this kind of spread-out corporate activity can really be tracked. This is a question California officials need to ask after a weekend of wildfires that saw three deaths in Southern California. Fires continue burning there, and power in Northern California was reportedly restored by Sunday.

In that northern half of the state, a red flag fire warning in the Santa Cruz Mountains sparked concern that sparks could fly, which spawned the poorly executed blackouts that harken back to the suspicious rolling blackouts in the San Francisco Bay Area in June 2000.

The 2019 blackout area included 738,000 accounts that impacted 2 million people in 34 counties overall, including the North Bay. They began there last Tuesday, and in East and South Bay counties one day later.

Businesses, schools, and even police weighed in about the inconveniences of maps, faulty and downed website access, and poorly staffed natural disaster service centers that hindered communities.

When considering the scope and range of the blackout areas, which are proving difficult to track, it appears as if it’s the state and companies vs. PG&E, as one entity loses money and the other gains it. These tensions are being addressed in court, as the company faces a massive financial restructuring that includes mandated wildfire prevention activities.

While aspects of the planned outage went smoothly, some communities were hit by unannounced schedule changes.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: “The first wave of shut-offs came swiftly and on schedule, but PG&E delayed the second phase by a day as weather conditions shifted. As a result, tensions flared as communities scrambled to prepare. Public officials announced school closures, businesses transported perishables and families stocked freezers with ice, only to find the shut-offs were pushed back several times.”

While Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped short of criticizing the company, social media commentators and politicians were quick to criticize PG&E for its handling of the planned outages, which it claims were necessary to avoid high wind’s potentially catastrophic fire effects.

What’s strange is how vast the scope of the outage territory was and how long the blackouts lasted. This suggests outages could have been done not for inspection and prevention purposes, but to help pay for some of the billions in damages owed by the bankrupt company. Future billing retroactive to the blackout period will determine how this speculation plays out.

A court-mandated mitigation plan, which is part of the company’s ongoing legal restructuring, is to blame for the blackouts.

The blackout wildfire prevention strategy was first introduced by San Diego Gas and Electric in the late 2000s, which was met with staunch resistance, leaving the company reconsidering its targeted territory size. This an issue PG&E now faces from Northern critics, like local police and emergency services authorities, who had to bear the labor and cost brunt as the company faltered to provide adequate safety measures for local communities.

If people did not have a strong opinion about PG&E’s restructuring previously, they may now. As the blackouts were planned and occurring, a San Francisco court was deciding to take away the company’s financial sovereignty over its own bankruptcy recovery.

According to The New York Times, a group of creditors’ rival reorganization plan, backed by wildfire victims, their lawyers, and hedge fund groups, will use $34 billion in new debt financing and $14 billion in new equity capital to “invest $29.2 billion, and offer up to $14.5 billion to individual fire victims.”

This also retains current shareholders’ stakes in the company as it emerges from bankruptcy, a dual track plan that federal bankruptcy court judge Dennis Montali ruled on as a way to make all parties satisfied in an ongoing dispute about PG&E’s future.

It was a busy week for the company, which received the news that it no longer controls its own bankruptcy recovery plan while facing immense criticism from power outage-impacted customers and incensed local officials, who will surely hold PG&E accountable for incurred monetary losses.

In California, frustrated residents face the unfortunate choices of inconvenient late-hour evacuations or inconvenient power outages, with any notion of convenient living proceeding in short supply.

As evacuations are lifted in still burning Southern counties, recent wildfire developments leave us cynically considering a name change from the Golden State to the Charred, Burning, or Smoky State. Or, as PG&E and state officials, who scurry to avoid financial ruin here, offer: the Bankrupt Blackout State.

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Surveys: High school graduates need more life skills, less test prep

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Real-world skills warrant more emphasis in high school claim students, employers, parents and other adults in three nationwide surveys conducted this June. While 83% of the students surveyed do plan to go to college, they’d like to see less focus on college-entry exams and more on practical skills like personal finance and tax preparation.

The surveys, funded by the Kansas City, Missouri-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, polled a demographically diverse sampling of over 2,000 people from across the country on topics related to how well today’s high school education prepares students for the world of work.

The first survey consisted of 1,015 adults with an oversample of 516 parents, and the second 510 students between the ages of 13 and 18.

While some students polled had yet to enter high school, most questions either asked for an opinion or offered an “I don’t know” option. Finally, a third survey polled 501 employers in the position to make hiring decisions.

Here’s an overview of the research findings.

Student opinions about the value and purpose of a high school degree

All groups agree that graduating from high school is essential. However, compared to other groups a greater percentage (63%) of students believe that they would be held back professionally if they were to hold only high school degree.

Consistent with their plans to attend college, 80% of students see a college degree alone as sufficient for future success. Interestingly, 34% of the employers disagree.

Upon high school graduation, 84% think that they’ll possess the skills to succeed at college while only 56% see themselves as ready to succeed in the real world. Even less (52%) imagine they’ll be prepared to embark upon a career and a mere one third feel they’d be ready to start a business.

Despite the majority considering themselves college-bound, 64% of students thought the primary focus of high school education should be providing the skills needed to succeed in the real world — as opposed to skills for pursuing higher education. They weren’t given the option to choose both.

Employers see desirable skills underdeveloped in high school

Surprisingly, 86% of all employers said they’d hire someone with just a high school degree — blue-collar and small employers were the most open. Adding a credential or employer-recognized skill to that degree boosted buy-in to 91%. Alternatively, 72% of the employers said an applicant with high test scores in high school would be attractive.

Employers were more likely than the other adults to perceive an overemphasis on subject matter in high schools at the expense of soft skills. They called for greater focus on self-management skills, including time management and emotional intelligence, such as the ability to tolerate unpleasant emotions.

Blue-collar employers saw the greatest discrepancy between what students are taught and what they need to succeed in the workplace. Outside of a gross overemphasis on test preparation cited by all the respondents, these employers felt the greatest gaps were in “judgment and decision making” and “control or expression of emotions.”

Given the opportunity to elaborate on the qualities sought when making hiring decisions, one employer shared, “a broad set of skills that we can use in our workplace alongside a willingness to adapt and change.”

Looking ahead to the future

All respondents view today’s students as less prepared for the workforce than prior and future high school graduates. They’re pushing for a change — be it radical or gradual.

Going forward, students want to see more focus on financial literacy and organization, plus greater job shadowing and internship opportunities. With 92% of employers reporting that an industry-related internship influences their decision to hire an applicant, these students seem on target.

The currently emphasis on technology in most high schools is a positive thing. Students, parents and employers want it to continue and expect to see the greatest future demand for jobs in STEM-related areas.

While all recognize that the changing world of work will inevitably impact today’s students, they’re optimistic that evolving technology will create numerous opportunities they’ve yet to imagine.

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Employers aren’t worried about unethical AI, but maybe they should be

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Artificial intelligence can make work easier, more efficient, and more accurate. It can also help companies make better decisions. What’s not to like? Well, for starters, AI can be used unethically.

However, this is not a concern for the majority of respondents in a recent survey by Genesys, which provides omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions. The survey includes responses from employers and employees in the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

By 2022, close to two-thirds of employers said their companies would be using AI or advanced automation in various capacities, such as operations, staffing, performance, and budgeting. However, only 54% of employers and 17% of employees expressed concern that AI could be used unethically by the companies or individual employees.

What are some of the unethical ways AI could be used?

While the majority of employers and their workers aren’t troubled, the potential does exist for AI to be used unethically in several ways. “For example, using fake voices or failing to mention that a person is speaking with a bot is unethical,” says Jean-Etienne Goubet, senior associate for product management/operations and artificial intelligence at Genesys.

“Another case could be exacerbating inequalities with routing optimizations based on biases in the data such as race, gender, age, or location,” he explains. Also, since metrics on agents (performance, skills, etc.) are generated on a continuous basis, Goubet says there is the potential for misuse in this area.

Other concerns include how customer data is collected, stored and used; whether these practices will be transparent; and if customers will have the option to provide consent.

Why there’s not much concern

So, why aren’t companies and employed more concerned about the potential for misuse? “They might not be fully aware of the capabilities of AI technologies or the associated risks that come along with it,” Goubet explains. “AI technology is not yet mature enough to provide a full picture of the risks.”

However, millennials — who are most comfortable with technology — are also most likely to favor guardrails in higher number than Gen X or baby boomers. However, those numbers are still low: 21% of millennials versus 12% of Gen X and 6% of baby boomers.

Also, while only a fraction of all employees are concerned that AI could be used unethically, they are also concerned that AI could take their jobs. In fact, 52% of employees believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery.

AI policies

Only 20% of employees say their organization has a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots. Twice that many (40%) and 54% of employers believe their organization should have a policy.

What would a written policy on AI entail? Goubet says Genesys has implemented the following guidelines:

  1. Transparency: Customers should be informed when they are conversing with an AI bot.
  2. Fairness: The company should take steps to ensure their AI systems do not introduce bias against race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, etc.
  3. Accountability: The company is ultimately responsible for the AI systems we create, and the systems created by their AI. Businesses are responsible even if their bots build something harmful.
  4. Data Protection: AI must not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals or communities.
  5. Social Benefit: The company is committed to social benefit through the thoughtful use of AI.

These guidelines are designed to provide direction for any decisions Genesys employees may make regarding product strategy.

“We can imagine that a written policy could include more content on legal aspects of handling the data — privacy and security — along with rules regarding applications of AI technologies (being forbidden to use specific voices, or rules regarding the weight of specific variables used in AI models).”

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Achieve success by planning for decline

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Research and experience have shown that becoming more comfortable with the idea of death reduces the negative stress associated with dying. Like death, most of us also are either in denial of or avoid thinking about our professional decline.

It is, however, hard for any of us to argue that we anticipate continuing to excel indefinitely in our current endeavors. Like becoming more comfortable with death reduces our anxiety about it, embracing the idea of the end of our success can help us deal with it.

Here are a few ways to achieve success by planning for our decline.

Research a-plenty

In this well-researched article for The Atlantic, Arthur C. Brooks explores the idea of professional decline and articulates steps to avoid feeling irrelevant while achieving success into our later years. By following his own journey, Brooks decides to jump, serve, worship and connect.

In other words, he recognizes he will not be on top in his current field forever, so he jumps; read: resigns. Next, he focuses on transitioning from resume qualities to eulogy qualities, concentrating on how to help others instead of just advance himself.

Third, he connects his future contribution with being spiritual; through this alignment, he recognizes work and worship as two sides of the same coin. Finally, by connecting, he is prioritizing his relationships and how his link to others actually enriches and continues his contributions.

Retrace Lewis and Clark’s steps?

In a classic “Frasier” episode, Frasier is mistakenly reported dead and thus is inspired to approach his life with renewed vigor, taking up the common task noted in Brooks’ article: writing his own obituary. Frasier sets massive goals including, among other things: finding lost treasures, learning new languages, working on perpetual motion, changing the world of horse racing and retracing Lewis and Clark’s steps.

While a small setback ends up providing him a big reality check, Frasier’s idea that his life is not over and there is still plenty of time to do even more than what he has done is shared in this article for Forbes by Chris Farrell.

Written as a response to Brooks’ article, Farrell points out that society has and should continue shifting to create more meaningful opportunities to support us. He notes age is not synonymous with decline and that both creative impulse and wisdom improve with age.

(Similarly, both Farrell and Brooks refer to different types of intelligence; a great primer on which can be found here.)

Next steps

Thus, in addition to reading the two articles mentioned for a more comprehensive look at related research and examples, we can take the following steps today toward success instead of decline.

First, admit and come to grips with any limits on the continuation of our current professional trajectory. Second, identify what kind of knowledge monger we are and either double-down on gaining knowledge or plan for the transition accordingly.

And third, we can revisit our values, at least envisioning the possibility of if not starting to realign our professional values of advancement with personal values of advancement. Through this realignment we can create priorities that recognize the alternative — and perhaps increasingly — positive impacts we can make going forward.

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The latest in meeting room design trends

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It’s 2019 and, still, meetings are seen as a necessary evil, and the rooms where they take place are regarded as being in a vacuum. Apart from the parts of our day we are forced to sit inside one, we avoid thinking about meeting rooms. They are like the storage room nobody wants to tidy.

But meetings, whether long or short, big or small, are crucial to any business. To function well, companies must provide employees with well-designed daily spaces for collaboration.

Promoting engagement and participation in meetings builds a positive company culture. Meeting room design matters.

Companies are increasingly recognizing this, partly in response to the demands of a new generation of employees. The millennial workforce looks for flexibility and creativity from workspaces, which has meant a shift in office design. For meeting rooms, this means setting aside quality spaces which are adaptable and convenient, not an afterthought.

Here is an overview of the key trends:

1. Shrink and multiply

The size of a meeting room should conform to its function. So, while vast conference rooms are appropriate for impressing guests or for holding large-scale presentations, they are unsuited to the majority of day-to-day needs. Instead, businesses are recognizing the value of smaller rooms that can be scattered throughout an office.

In terms of floorspace, small meeting rooms are much more efficient, allowing companies to maximize their area by turning nooks and crannies into useful space. Having several such rooms available also cuts down waiting time for people who need a room.

These small meeting rooms benefit from glass walls or doors, which let people outside see if the space is free or not, and also prevents users inside from feeling cooped up or detached from the surrounding office.

They also can have a clarifying effect on meetings themselves, keeping meetings short, sharp and focused. For a phone call, an appraisal, an interview or an informal chat, a focus room can give privacy and concentration for one or two people at a time.

Focus rooms further benefit from sound-proofing, to block out external distractions. Huddle rooms are the next step for small team meetings of up to five or six people. They offer free space for a team to meet spontaneously for informal and outcome-oriented discussions.

2. Prioritize user comfort

If a meeting room will be used with clients, then making a professional impression is important. At the same time, too much emphasis on slick corporate style can be a turn-off for employees. High-backed chairs and imposing steel tables suggest hierarchy and distance, which gets in the way of working together.

This is especially true when a lighter touch is needed, such as when teams are meeting to brainstorm new ideas or discuss a project. Putting people at ease in a meeting room helps them to open up and speak their mind to get ideas flowing more naturally.

Companies are now investing in recreating the casual, cozy atmosphere of a favorite café, for example, rather than the formality of the boardroom. This can be achieved with softer lighting and unconventional furniture, like sofas and beanbags, which let users spread out and relax during a meeting.

Interior colors can also have a powerful effect. Shades of blue or green are conducive to calm, while warmer shades of orange or yellow can raise energy levels up a notch.

The emphasis on making people comfortable in meeting rooms is not about giving them a place to slob out — but about making space for them to feel informal and relaxed, not stifled by an “at-work” feeling.

3. Make space flexible

Just as comfort is becoming more important in meeting room design, so too is flexibility. There is growing recognition that people benefit from feeling they can own a meeting space and adapt it to their immediate needs, be it a video call, a presentation or a team huddle.

A lot of this has to do with furniture. Rigid seating plans, like bulky tables and high-backed chairs, can lock down the room and prevent participants from getting into the swing of their meeting. It forecloses new possibilities: to break into smaller teams or to shift from one activity to another.

A more flexible setup encourages activity to reflect the dynamic ways we work nowadays, moving between different tasks and skills. Companies can accommodate this with lightweight furniture that offers freedom of maneuver.

Chairs and small tables on wheels let people reposition themselves and swivel. Screens and partition walls are also useful tools to divide a large single space into different areas for different task groups.

This also has clear economic advantages. A space that can be reconfigured in a minute or two like this yields better possibilities for collaboration and can be customized for different teams.

4. Select the right tech

The more tech, the better? Not necessarily. Technical issues can kill meetings, wasting time and energy for everyone involved. Common problems like a bad Wi-Fi connection or missing HDMI cable can ruin the most painstaking of preparations.

A raft of new technologies is poised to make such awkward moments a thing of the past, however, and offer new ways of working together (especially useful when not everyone can be in the same office at once).

If meetings are about sharing information, AV equipment is an extremely important tool. Especially in large format meetings with big audiences, images must be clear and sharp and visible to everyone. Though projectors are becoming more sophisticated, large format displays tend to offer better visuals and combined with touch capabilities, offer a smoother and more natural level of interactivity.

These include new collaborative tools like interactive whiteboards and smart surfaces. Whatever gets drawn or written is captured digitally and can be shared instantly across different displays for real-time editing that makes presentations more interactive and shared documents accessible.

Powerful, interactive displays are being combined with enhanced video conferencing software, so that people working remotely are able to feel more integrated into team meetings. Meanwhile, multiple displays make it easier to do many things at once, across screens, together. It means meeting rooms are getting closer to a point at which users can seamlessly view, present and engage with content across different platforms.

Managing all these different gadgets, fortunately, is also getting easier. New systems are available that centralize the control of a room’s functions from the AV equipment to lighting and room temperature to a single unit. Wireless connectivity helps keep meetings tangle-free and streamlined.

Prices for these new technologies are coming down but investment is still necessary. So, it is best to be selective. As with any aspect of meeting room design, it comes down to understanding the key requirements of a room in order to equip it with the most relevant tools for its users.

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Accepting or declining an offer letter of employment

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Congratulations on receiving a job offer. Here’s how to handle your offer acceptance or decline it professionally.

You got the offer letter. Now what? You’ve spent the past three-and-a-half months interviewing, and your efforts have paid off. One of your top employers has made a verbal job offer to you and has promised to send you an official offer letter.

Here’s what you can expect to see, along with a few ideas on what actions to take. These ideas apply to new employment as well as accepting a promotion with your existing employer.

You’ll want to review the written offer and verify that all the details match what was discussed when the verbal offer was made. Typically, job offer letters include:

  • Position title, supervisor and location where you will work.
  • Position compensation (which should explain the base compensation; applicable variable compensation or performance bonuses and how they are earned; and when compensation is paid).
  • A statement about applicable benefits and when they may take effect (more detail will likely be provided once you accept the position, either prior to your start date or early in your employment).
  • An expected reporting date and location for your first day.
  • A brief outline of policies to which you will need to agree as a condition of employment (typically detailed in the employer’s Employee Handbook and include policies such as expense reimbursement, workplace attire, and code of conduct).
  • A time period within which you’ll need to accept the job offer (usually by signing and returning the offer letter).
  • A statement about employment terms, such as an introductory (or training period), at-will or contract employment, or employment-related agreements (such as a non-compete or confidentiality agreement).
  • A statement about the job offer being contingent upon your successful completion of a background investigation, drug tests, receipt of educational credentials, and similar vetting.

Accepting Employment

Offer letters usually include a place for you to accept the terms and conditions of employment by signing and returning a copy of the offer letter to the employer. In most states, signing an offer letter constitutes a legal agreement between you and the employer, so make sure you are comfortable with accepting the terms as stated.

If there is still a question about the terms, now is the time to get it clarified, before you sign and return the offer. Make a copy of the offer letter for your files if one has not been provided.

When accepting an offer of employment, a best practice is to send both the hiring manager and HR representative a personalized thank you card in addition to returning the offer letter.

Declining Employment

In the event you choose to decline the offer of employment, a best practice is to send a polite and professional letter to the employer that contains the following paragraphs:

  • Thank them for their interest in you and express your appreciation for the time they spent with you during the evaluation process.
  • The difficulty you had in making the decision not to join them.
  • A brief reason for your decision (such as took another position or relocating to a different area).
  • Avoid drawing attention to negatives you might have felt about the job or offer, even though they may have been a large factor in your decision.

It is imperative that you do not burn any bridges! Declines, if handled respectfully and professionally, may allow you to remain a candidate for future openings with this employer. While such a rejection can be handled via email, it is more professional and positive to send a well-written letter on the same stationary as was used for your résumé and cover letter.

Bottom line: Even though you’ve received an offer letter, handling your response poorly could result in your offer being withdrawn. Continue to be professional in your handling of the offer letter and you lay a solid foundation for starting your new job on the right foot.

This article is taken from my new book, “Get a Better Job Faster™,” now available on Amazon.com in two editions, one for college students and recent grads, and one for experienced professionals and skilled workers. Each all-new edition explains more than 3,000 job search and career launch best practices.

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The skinny, 7-step guide to year-end reviews

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Very few employees like critiquing others, and those that do are often unable to do it productively. Further, reviews very rarely have a clear line to raise amounts; in other words, it is not like getting 5 out of 5 on every category means the employee gets $5,000.

For these, and many other workplace-specific reasons, performance evaluations can be a trying experience. Regardless of whether we have any control over the process or outcome, here is a skinny, seven-step guide for making the year-end review process less painful.

1. Read

First, read over the projects, emails or reports the employee has done over the past year. Has her work markedly improved or maintained a pleasant consistency?

Come up with at least one sentence to describe her progress and whether that has been a welcome contribution or not.

2. Engage

Depending on the tool this may be a formal requirement; however even if it is not, engage the employee in the process. Ask her for an example of what she thought she did well and where she wants to continue growing.

3. Verify

Check in with whatever governing body runs the review process (executive committee, HR, etc.) and verify the process, timeline and expected results.

In other words, when will the process be complete? When will the employee receive their copy and if there is a raise component, when will that be announced and paid?

4. Imagine

Did you ever like getting a review? Take a minute to imagine being the employee. Remember that it can be a stressful process because it may be that her career, promotion, or raise hinges on this review.

If that is true or not, it can be helpful for us to keep that in the back of our minds during the conversation. For example, if the employee is particularly stressed about whether she will get a raise, yet we really want to emphasize a growth opportunity, she may not hear anything we say until she knows whether she is getting a raise.

5. Embrace

Very few performance management processes are perfectly aligned with their intent. Yet, if we embrace the tools at our disposal and acknowledge them for what they are, we can all move through the process smoothly.

In other words, if no one takes them seriously and there is no weight behind them, then acknowledge them as such and continue to give feedback in the way that works for the team.

6. Wait

It can be hard to sit in silence, but, with the review process, that is an important step. We may have spent a lot of time and effort crafting what we wrote but giving it to the employee and expecting her to be ready with her questions and comments right after she has read it is not reasonable.

If the process does not already allow for the employee to read the review ahead of the conversation, then allow for some wait time during the meeting so she can gather her thoughts and respond accordingly.

7. Suggest

While being clear is always good, demanding action rarely gets results. When asking an employee to make changes to her work or behavior, be sure to provide suggestions to her on how to accomplish the change.

Keeping these seven steps in mind will make any review process a little less painful.

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A 3-step onboarding process

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Every volunteer leader wants to do a good job. Without a board training process, directors begin their journey at a disadvantage.

Directors need access to information. Some of it will be in written form, such as the governing documents. Some will be association lore, such as the guiding principles. And some will be practical advice, provided by the experienced leaders.

“Board engagement is key to any association’s success, and board onboarding and training should be a continuous process for the best outcomes,” said Eric Hontz, Senior Program Officer, Europe and Eurasia, Center for International Private Enterprise.

Develop a three-step approach to onboarding. The investment in a comprehensive, efficient process pays off in volunteer satisfaction, better governance and outcomes.


New directors face their first board meeting with trepidation. A few take the position, “I won’t say anything for six months until I learn the ropes.” Governance may seem foreign to them.

Schedule a face-to-face meeting. It will take a couple of hours. Invite the new director to visit the association office where they can see operations and meet the staff. Or suggest the executive director to visit the volunteer at their work setting.

In either location, it’s about becoming acquainted with each other. Have an outline of topics to discuss and encourage questions. The result should be an understanding of the organization and governance responsibilities.

Refresh and Blend

Plan the board’s annual orientation as a “refresh and blend” session. This is the opportunity to introduce the entire board, welcome new directors, and meet the staff; essentially blending all the participants for a better year.

The refresh aspect is an update on strategic plan, budgets and priorities. It is part introduction to governance and part understanding of the organization. Because volunteers are busy, an efficient session may take 1.5 to 3 hours. A leadership manual or board portal should be introduced at this meeting.

Six-Month Evaluation

Evaluation the process for continuous improvement. The participants should assess progress, strengths and weaknesses.

Allocate time at the six-month mark to be sure directors are comfortable with their progress. They might suggest improvements to meeting frequency, room set-up or agenda style for instance. A few directors might ask for guidance in technical areas such as rules of order, finances, strategy or risk awareness.

The three-step process for onboarding facilitates a better understanding of governance and continuous improvement.

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What does GM owe workers?

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General Motors (GM) and Aramark workers began a historic strike three weeks ago. The labor action has already cost the U.S.’ largest automaker $1 billion. This lost money — including “idle trucks and packed warehouses” for numerous related businesses — continues, threatening broad economic instability.

The United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) presented GM with a proposal package on Oct. 5 that outlined a minimum of 35 hourly proposals and three salaried proposals. Also included was an offer covering signing bonuses, pensions, skilled trades, transfer rights, job security, and profit sharing.

The union reports negotiation progress on healthcare benefits and temporary worker employment issues, while other negotiations are less successful. On Oct. 6, GM rejected the package, according to the UAW website, and the union has called for a detailed response from GM, which it has not yet received.

Instead, the company announced training center closures while workers collect significantly less strike pay after the first standard paycheck was missed by employees. Striking workers’ solidarity in 19 states continues.

The original source of workers’ complaints stems from three general features of today’s globalized economy: a reliance on temporary workers, outsourcing for cheaper labor, and lip service towards more energy efficiency. As stateside workers face reduced strike pay and healthcare-benefit suspensions during contract negotiations, GM has presumably closed or limited its Silao, Mexico plant, impacting 19,000 workers who build the Silverado and Sierra trucks.

This shows the strike’s far-reaching impact. Also, the union faces a large-scale corruption investigation; officials are charged with a number of crimes, including embezzlement, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud.

According to The Detroit News, these charges add to an already frustrating climate, and the frustration spreads. 11,000 GM affiliated employees have filed jobless claims in Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Job losses from affiliated workers and direct GM employee-benefit suspensions are an example of the immense toll the strike takes economically and personally. Many see GM’s health-benefit suspension as a sign that it plans to prolong contract negotiations. GM’s initial offer included a benefit pay increase of 15%, which workers flatly rejected.

GM CEO Mary Barra continues to field company controversies and collect 218 times the pay of the average GM worker at around $21 million in 2018.

One of the company’s much-touted reasons for restructuring is its electric vehicle manufacturing plan, which requires less labor and more automation. While energy-efficient vehicle production is laudable, the question remains: does cleaner energy vehicle production require massive job cuts?

What if outsourced jobs were returned to the U.S. from China (which has more GM workers than the U.S.), Canada and Mexico? What then would GM, or the U.S. government, operating with the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), owe overseas workers after creating employment dependencies and then leaving?

One sinister move would be GM using electric vehicle production as an excuse to move its labor force toward lower-wage temp work. This would be remembered as a major union-busting move. Hindsight here is 20/20. We will only know the full outcome of GM’s intentions after the dust has settled on a new contract and we see factory floors busy again.

What if, instead of eliminating stricter auto emissions standards, politicians encouraged these standards with other green manufacturing requirements, as the automobile industry faces a decline anyway amid climate catastrophe?

This would appease some Green New Deal measures, but obviously not fulfill the total socialist vision for workers’ control of production — which is the full form of workers’ economic justice.

This historic strike evokes the inherent contradictions of today’s dirty energy economy and capitalism itself. Can a clean energy commitment accompany job growth and security? Or is this all smoke and mirrors, denying that true clean energy and job security are at fundamental odds?

A domestic paradigm shift toward more humane social policies — like decarceration and affordable housing — along with green manufacturing would provide new job markets in social service fields alongside green-collar jobs in the traditional manufacturing sector.

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Does your company need a chief data officer?

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Your company has a CEO, COO, CFO, CMO and a CIO. But did you know that you might also need a CDO?

Many organizations assume that the chief information officer can serve as the chief data officer, but according to a survey by NewVantage, only 10.3% of companies believe that the technology executive fits the profile of a successful CDO. So, what is a CDO, and how do you know if your company needs one?

The CDO’s role

As a relatively new role, the job description for a CDO is still undergoing changes. According to Gartner, in 2010, there were only 15 CDOs globally. In 2014, Gartner estimates there were 400 CDOs, and in 2017, there were over 4,000.

“A CDO is responsible for leveraging data assets within an organization, which can include data management through advanced analytics, along with everything in between,” explains Linda Burtch, founder and managing director of Burtch Works, a data science and analytics recruiting agency.

However, since it is still an emerging senior role in most organizations, she says there isn’t a consistent definition.

“The CDO role may focus primarily on management and organization of the data along with data quality and governance, but in some cases their responsibilities will go beyond that to include data strategy, business intelligence, advanced analytics, data engineering, data science, and artificial intelligence,” Burtch says.

In fact, the ability to formulate a data strategy and then execute and align it with the company’s business goals can provide a critical advantage.

“While thinking about long-term strategy, the CDO provides direction for how data is used, where it’s coming from and how it is stored,” explains Dr. Manjeet Rege, associate professor of Graduate Programs in Software at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering. “This individual also determines the most effective way of collecting relevant data that may provide a significant competitive advantage long term.”

Recent research by Gartner suggests that CDOs should shift from driving data analytics projects and programs to driving a more product-centric company (while managing profit and loss) — a move that will require new skill sets.

Who needs a CDO?

If your company is a digital native, Burtch says you’ll definitely need a CDO, since that’s how you derive your revenue. “While large corporations have always had rich data stores — for example, Capital One, AIG, Walmart, Coca-Cola, etc. — what’s new is that with recent technology it’s become easier and relatively inexpensive for companies to store massive amounts of data and then glean important insights and prescribe action.”

As a result, she believes that all companies need to evaluate the potential of their data as an asset, and how it could be leveraged for competitive advantage. “All companies, large and small, should have someone responsible for their data strategy, even if that role is not necessarily designated as a CDO,” Burtch says.

It’s a view shared by Rege, who says the size of your company shouldn’t be a determining factor. “Rather, the question is whether your company has access to — or the willingness to invest in — the effort to collect a large amount of relevant data.”

For example, even if you’re a small company, but you have access to a large amount of customer data, he says you have a huge competitive advantage.

However, the focus or responsibilities of the CDO may change, depending on the type of products or services that your company offers.

“If you have a consumer facing product, the CDO is focused on how to monetize the data effectively,” Rege says. “If you are a wholesale manufacturer and your product isn’t consumer-facing, your CDO may be more focused on governing data properly and conforming to all compliances.”

This individual can also assist the organization in other ways. “A CDO may ask probing questions to find out who the data stakeholders are, who is accessing the data, how long the data has been used, whether the data is being stored securely, and whether it’s being used for a competitive advantage.”

Here’s an example of how a data strategy can help your company.

Rege says Google was not the first search engine, it was not the first email service, and it was not the first cloud service. “The reason they can capture the market is because they have monetized the data from their other products.”

Gmail began with only Google search engine data. “But now, they have data from the search engine and Gmail that can be used for the Google Cloud services.” And while Gmail is free, Rege says the data obtained was then used to monetize on Google Cloud Services products.

“You see that kind of a trend quite often where companies offer something upfront for free, get your data, and then monetize that elsewhere.” A good CDO can provide that type of data strategy for a long-term vision.

“All companies need to have practices, training and strategies in place to put data first and utilize that data for a competitive advantage in their field,” Rege says.

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