Tag Archives: Risk Management

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Infographic: Could STIR/SHAKEN regulations help make spam calls the exception?

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We all tend to think that we get more spam calls than anyone we know, but statistically speaking, you’re definitely not alone. On average, no less than 54% of incoming phone calls are spam and 46% of Americans receive spam calls every single day.

In 2020 alone, spam calls cost Americans $10 billion, and 175,699,527 robocalls were received every day for a total of 46 billion robocalls per year.

One of the ways spammers appear more convincing is through spoofing. Spammers spoof real numbers that look valid. Because of this tactic, robocalls were able to nearly double from 2017 to 2019. This has not only decreased trust of all unknown phone numbers, but has also hurt valid businesses who are attempting to connect with consumers.

Fortunately, lawmakers are working to address the problem through STIR/SHAKEN regulations. STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) are frameworks that aim to prevent the completion of illegally spoofed calls, making use of caller-ID authentication to determine whether a call is spam or authentic.

Businesses stand to benefit from STIR/SHAKEN when they are accredited and verified. They can also use cloud-based phone systems that will maximize trust, touchpoints and conversations.

Check out the following infographic for more information on how STIR/SHAKEN regulations could help make spam calls the exception.

STIR/SHAKEN Is Changing The Future Of Phone Calls

Infographic courtesy PhoneBurner.

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Securing your systems for long-term hybrid work

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When widespread shutdowns forced an overnight shift to remote work, financial services companies made rapid-fire adjustments to their tech stacks to keep teams up and running. Many of these changes, however, were designed to be temporary. More than a year later, as offices reopen and many organizations adopt long-term hybrid work models, companies should act now to assess the changes they made—and ensure that their software and systems are secure today and into the future.

Even when changes were made as securely as possible, remote connectivity introduced risks that simply weren’t there previously in the financial services industry, which has historically leaned heavily on protective measures like physical protections, firewalls and network segmentation. The use of noncorporate assets surged to enable remote workers, all the while firms struggled to provision, patch, update and manage mobile devices and laptops centrally for a remote workforce, increasing the threat posed by ransomware, credential theft and other cyberattacks.

It’s clear now that the move to remote work or hybrid remote work is not a short-term work style. Nine in 10 executives envision a hybrid model going forward, according to research by McKinsey, and most employers expect their employees to be on site between one and four days a week. In the financial services industry in particular, nearly two-thirds of employees say they would prefer a blend of home, office and remote work, a recent survey found.

Given this outlook for the long term, financial services need to take steps now to secure their systems for the future. Here’s how:

Step one: Understand what systems were affected

Many financial services organizations may find that they don’t even know what networks and systems were opened, modified, augmented or changed during the pandemic. That’s why a good first step is for the CISO or CTO to make a thorough assessment. Which of your systems did you change, both in terms of what could connect with them and what they could talk to? You may find that you don’t know what you don’t know. If that’s the case, start with your most business-critical systems.

Step two: Understand how the systems were affected

Most organizations found that the shift to remote work necessitated adding remote access where it didn’t exist before. With each of the systems you are assessing, what was changed related to access, identity and encryption? Did security protections change to facilitate a remote workforce or are there new systems connecting? Do the changes meet your current security needs, and are there processes and access still in place that are operating under an exception to your security policy?

Step three: Decide what you want to do about it

You may find that all of your systems are secure, that there are risks you’re willing to accept, or that you need to remediate what you put in place during the pandemic. It doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the old; rather, it’s about adapting your new configurations to meet pre-pandemic security requirements, for example by putting in new controls, improving security, implementing two-factor authentication or removing technology altogether.

For many organizations, the decision of how to proceed hinges on their risk profile. Are you trying to protect against a remote unknown adversary, an internal actor such as a contractor or a rogue employee, or IT administrators within your organization? Each presents a different threat and necessitates a different set of security precautions. How you design systems depends on what you’re most worried about as an organization—and the risks you are willing to accept.

How to adapt existing cybersecurity infrastructure for hybrid workforces

Although each organization is unique, there are some functions that are commonly affected by remote connectivity in the financial services industry:

  • Secure identities: Organizations can use certificate-based identities, tokens or multi-factor authentication to ensure that remote workers are connecting securely—and that the people connecting to systems are who they say they are.
  • Secure network communications: Financial services firms that had to open their networks to enable remote access can use encryption tunnels such as IPsec (a protocol suite that enable a computer to talk to another over an encrypted tunnel) to enable devices to communicate more securely.
  • Device management: The first line of defense against any cyberattack, including Ransomware, involves making sure that systems are managed, updated, patched and protected with antivirus software. Additionally, consider implementing a device management solution like Microsoft Intune, AirWatch or MobileIron to ensure that all devices are up to date. Make a long-term plan for how your organization will update and refresh remote workforce devices as well as provision and send devices to new employees.
  • Remote access and security: Financial services firms that previously relied on physical controls and firewalls to isolate network segments can leverage solutions such as bastion hosts to proxy access into secure payment processing networks.

Remote work, in one form or another, is here to stay. There’s no such thing as a perfectly secure system, at least not one that functions, but by taking a pragmatic approach to network connectivity and security, balancing workflows with the risks the organization is willing to accept and designing systems accordingly, financial services firms can make their systems more secure for long-term hybrid work.

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What’s negotiable in your raise, promotion or job offer?

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With the war for talent raging in the global marketplace, there has never been a better time to negotiate what you want in a raise, promotion or job offer.

Chances are good that sometime during the next 24 months you’ll be in a negotiation for your next raise, a new promotion, or a new job. The great news is that there are far more options at your disposal to raise your overall compensation than you might think.

Payroll Compensation From an Employer’s Perspective

Recognize that payroll compensation carries with it several conditions that make negotiating it more complicated. First, payroll dollars carry with them employer-paid taxes (Social Security and Medicare) as well as employer-paid federal and state unemployment insurance premiums. Unemployment insurance premiums are also tied to the employer’s payroll dollars. The compound effect of payroll taxes and insurances make every $1 in gross pay cost the employer at least $1.10.

Second, many employers need to maintain some form of pay equity to assure that people are paid fairly across employees who do the same work, reflecting an individual’s productivity and experience levels. Third, many employers use job grading and salary banding to assure that job equity is maintained across all departments throughout the organization.

For these reasons, employers have less flexibility and inclination to grant payroll-based raises than other non-payroll compensation options.

Payroll Compensation From an Employee’s Perspective

Ben Franklin was right: taxes are a certainty. Your gross pay is taxable (along with some non-payroll compensation). What’s the impact of taxes on your gross pay? To find out, add together your federal, state, and local income tax deductions from gross pay and you’ll discover that it is more than you think. And since tax rates are progressive, you get taxed at a higher marginal tax rate the more payroll compensation you receive.

Question: What may be a better alternative to payroll-based compensation for you?

Answer: Non-payroll-based compensation that is not taxable!

The Double-Win Power of Non-Taxable Compensation

Both employers and employees can benefit when the compensation is non-taxable. Consider Jon Edwardson. He negotiated a flexible working arrangement that let him work from home one day a week instead of traveling from his residence to the office. His commuting costs (bus, train, gas, tolls, parking, etc.) work out to $22 per day and he spends about an hour daily in his commute.

By cutting 50 trips in to work a year, he has just gotten an after-tax pay raise of $1,100 and a full week of time back for the year. This helps Jon maintain a better work/life balance. His employer wins because Jon is less distracted when working at home, allowing him to concentrate better and be more productive…without paying Jon more.

21 Great Alternatives to Payroll Compensation You Can Negotiate

Here’s a shocking fact: According to Jobvite, 71 percent of employees DO NOT negotiate their compensation beyond what the employer offers. That means most people are leaving money on the table! How about you?

Here are twenty-one non-payroll compensation options that can be negotiated as part of a raise, job offer, or promotion. Some of these elements may be contrary to an employer’s policy; others could be easily offered with little perceived cost on the part of the employer.

Since everyone values different things differently, you’ll need to decide which of these items you’d like to have made part of your compensation. The alternatives are listed in no specific order, and do not form an exhaustive list.

  1. Job title. Job titles could be important to you for several reasons. Holding a job whose title suggests advancement over your prior position is a way to show career growth. It also may increase the perceived level of the position internally and externally. For example, vice president and general manager appears more significant than general manager alone; executive assistant is likely to be perceived as having greater impact than clerical assistant. You can negotiate job titles for starting positions as well as what it will be once you’ve successfully completed and agreed-upon time period (such as following completion of a trial period or after a year of successful performance).
  2. Flexible working schedules. If the position does not require being available over a specific set of hours, you may be able to request a flexible starting and/or ending time that works better for your personal situation. Flexible working schedules might also include swapping a weekday for a weekend day and could be a benefit to the employer as well.
  3. Work from home. Some positions offer the option of being able to perform your duties from home, versus coming in to a work location. This could enable you to save the time and expense of commuting during the days you work from home.
  4. Home office stipend. Employers may provide a home office stipend to offset the costs of equipment, office supplies, and the Internet. Since this is expense reimbursement and not income, it is usually not taxable.
  5. Travel (or commute) allowance or stipend. Some employers are willing to offset routine work-related travel, and even subsidize part or all of a commute, with compensation in the form of a monthly reimbursement (again, usually not taxable). Some employers allow you to keep the frequent flyer mileage accruing from air travel, overnight stays, and car rentals, while some may allow you to travel business or first class instead of coach.
  6. Wardrobe allowance. In positions requiring uniforms or non-traditional attire (such as the fashion industry), employers may provide uniforms, clothing, or a wardrobe allowance to help offset your costs. Check with your tax preparer to see if this is taxable for you.
  7. Paid time off. In your particular life circumstances, your view of the optimal work-life balance could include additional paid time off. This could be in the form of additional vacation time, additional personal days, or other agreed-upon paid time off. If the employer has a favorite charity it supports, you might get paid time off for volunteering to work a day or days each year at that charity.
  8. Guaranteed first year bonus, commissions, or increase. This negotiated option can close the gap between what is offered and what you need to accept a variable compensation position whose total compensation is comprised of a base plus variable compensation.
  9. Accelerated compensation reviews and salary negotiations. This is another way to raise starting compensation more rapidly at the beginning of employment. For example, instead of having a compensation review once per year, negotiate three reviews during the first two years, after which you fall in line with the employer’s annual compensation review process.
  10. Trial period. Trial periods can offer you several compensation options. If the employer provides benefits following completion of a trial period, you might negotiate having coverage on Day 1. Or the employer paying some or all of your COBRA insurance premiums until you are eligible for the employer-provided coverage. Another option is to negotiate a pay increase, promotion, title change, or bonus following the successful completion of a trial period.
  11. Work space, furniture, and equipment. The last person in your position may have worked from a cubicle using an old PC and sharing a common printer. However, you may be able to negotiate for a larger workspace, better/newer equipment, better furniture, and even an office, should space be available and your duties warrant.
  12. Housing allowance. Some employers provide a housing subsidy in the form of rent-free or reduced-rent apartments or condos, while others provide a stipend to offset housing costs. This is more common in senior positions where an executive is unable to relocate and takes a small apartment close to the office and resides there during the work week.
  13. Relocation allowance. A relocation allowance may be offered when an employer desires you to temporarily or permanently relocate to a specific area. This can take many forms, from providing employer-paid professional packing/unpacking, moving, and storage services to the guaranteed sale of a residence or a cash bonus. There is a wide variety of what might be negotiated as part of a relocation.
  14. Education/Continuing education. Employers may provide a tuition-reimbursement benefit. This may partially or fully cover outside education required to maintain active certification (such as a nursing or CPA) or to enhance skills needed to perform a current assignment. You may be able to negotiate how soon you are eligible for this benefit, as well as the amount and timing available. Some employers will require the employee to serve an additional time period as an employee, or repay the benefit if leaving employment before the period is completed. Employers may be willing to help retire some or all of your outstanding student loan balances.
  15. Professional fees and conferences. Some professions have associations and other groups affiliated with the profession, so learn what the employer will partially or fully subsidize, such as annual membership fees and dues; meeting fees; club or association fees; conference fees (including associated travel costs); and publications.
  16. Reduced fees and discounts. For the employer’s products and services, if applicable.
  17. Health or sports club memberships. Employer fully or partially paid membership.
  18. Childcare allowance. Your employer may be willing to subsidize all or part of your childcare expense or may offer reduced rates for childcare at providers located at or near the company premises.
  19. Severance provision. You may be able to negotiate a severance provision that pays you a specified amount or rate in the event that your employment ends. This is typically applicable for separations that are not for-cause terminations, though the amount and circumstances of a severance provision can vary to include almost anything. Some examples are the payment of wages past the date of separation and the payment of certain insurances for a period of time following separation (such as healthcare).
  20. Vehicle allowance. Employers may subsidize part or all business-related travel, especially in field-based positions or where local travel is a regular part of the position’s essential duties. Employers may reimburse employee mileage, parking, and tolls for work-related travel; or provide a vehicle and company credit card; pay for a leased vehicle for company business; or pay a portion of a personal vehicle’s lease payment. A travel stipend or receiving a company credit card to pay for gas and repairs offer substantial savings to the employee. Consult a tax professional to understand the tax implications of receiving a vehicle allowance.
  21. Insurance. There are a number of opportunities for receiving additional value here. Employers may provide more employer-paid insurance options beyond the standard wellness coverage or be willing to pay for traditional elective coverages such as life insurance or AD&D insurance. Another approach is to provide better insurance coverage for the same fee of a lower coverage level. In the case of you having spousal insurance coverage, you may negotiate to receive compensation in lieu of taking the employer-provided insurance. Don’t forget to ask for any life and disability insurances to include a rider that ensures their transportability at the same low employer group rate should you leave.

Bottom Line

Negotiating compensation is not only about what your salary or hourly rate is – it’s about your total compensation. It will pay to make dollars and sense out of all your compensation options, and negotiate your best overall compensation.

Keep this list and refer to it often. And as you progress in your career, keep adding new areas of compensation that you find personally valuable.

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Research shows that you should let consumers’ photos speak for your business

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The advance of technology and the widespread adoption of smartphones and handheld devices in recent years have enabled us to publish our experience about a product or service through online photo or video sharing and provide a review.

Online review websites have also updated their features, making it easier for consumers to attach pictures or videos to their reviews. As both consumers and businesses adapt to the new photo-sharing trend, it becomes crucial to expand our knowledge regarding user-generated photos’ (UGPs’) effect on online reviews.

An empirical study about user-generated photos

I worked with a research team in an interdisciplinary project to assess UGPs’ effects on the helpfulness of hotel reviews. We published our findings in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. The paper is entitled “Let photos speak: The effect of user-generated visual content on hotel review helpfulness.”

The hypotheses

We drew from the media richness theory and advanced five hypotheses for statistical analysis, including:

  1. Online reviews attached with UGPs have significant positive effects on review helpfulness.
  2. Online reviews attached with UGPs containing more guestroom objects are rated as more helpful than those containing fewer guestroom objects.
  3. Online reviews attached with UGPs containing more F&B (food & beverage) objects are rated more helpful than those containing fewer F&B objects.
  4. UGPs’ positive effect on review helpfulness is stronger for lower-priced hotels than higher-priced hotels.
  5. UGPs’ positive effects on review helpfulness are stronger for negative reviews than positive reviews.

The data and the analysis

We used a Python-based web crawler to collect the data needed for hypothesis testing from Qunar.com, one of the largest online travel agent (OTA) sites in mainland China. The data covered 12,138 hotels in Beijing, with about 1.16 million valid reviews and over 464,000 photos published by close to 900,000 users between January 2014 and April 2018. In this sample, about 9.84% (114,000) reviews were attached with UGPs.

We adopted YOLOv3 (You Only Look Once version 3), a real-time object detection algorithm, to identify the guestroom and F&B objects in UGPs. The top 10 guestroom objects identified include bed (15.34%), chair (14.55%), TV (6.23%), sink, toilet, couch, clock, remote control, refrigerator, and laptop.

The top 10 F&B objects included bottle (8.45%), cup (4.39%), bowl (2.82%), dining table, microwave, spoon, wine glass, oven, cake, and knife. Compiling with other numerical data, such as the number of helpfulness votes a review received, star rating of a review, etc., we then tested the hypotheses in a series of linear regression models.

The results

Our analyses confirmed the user-generated visual content’s positive effects on review helpfulness. Moreover, consumers rated UGPs with more product-specific images more helpful than those with fewer product-specific images (guestroom or F&B objects for a lodging product in this case). Such a positive effect becomes more salient for lower-priced hotels (than higher-priced hotels) and reviews with lower ratings (than reviews with higher ratings).

What do the research findings mean?

Besides this study’s theoretical contributions, the research findings provide a few specific practical implications for hotel managers, web admins managing online review platforms, and the consumers relying on online reviews for decision-making. Here, it is imperative to note that the following actionable suggestions are exclusive content only available in this viewpoint article but not in the original journal publication.

Hotel managers

  • Strategically respond to selected reviews with UGPs.
  • Respond to most, if not all, reviews with more guestroom objects in UGPs.
  • For hotels with various F&B offerings, respond to the reviews with more F&B objects in UGPs.
  • It is unnecessary for hotels with limited F&B offerings to pay attention to the reviews with F&B objects in UGPs.
  • For hotels of a lower price, make every attempt to answer reviews with UGPs.
  • Make sure to respond to reviews of lower ratings and with UGPs.

Web admins in online review platforms

  • List those consumer reviews with UGPs at the top, allowing easy access for potential customers.
  • Promote the reviews with more guestroom objects in UGPs, regardless of how many F&B offerings a hotel has.
  • Promote the reviews with UGPs containing more F&B objects for the hotels with various F&B offerings.
  • Cross-list or promote the reviews with more F&B objects in UGPs for the hotels even when internet users search for restaurant reviews.
  • It is unnecessary to promote reviews with F&B objects in UGPs for the hotels with minimal F&B offerings.
  • Highlight the reviews with UGPs, especially for the hotels of a lower price.
  • Display the ones with UGPs first when internet users want to check out the negative reviews.

Consumers using online review websites

  • Pay attention to the information conveyed in the reviews with UGPs in general.
  • Pay even more attention to the reviews with UGPs that show more guestroom objects.
  • Quickly skip the online reviews with UGPs showing more F&B objects if a hotel has limited F&B offerings or if the traveler does not plan to use the F&B services offered in the hotel.
  • Pay attention to the reviews with UGPs that show more F&B objects only when the traveler also wants to use the hotel’s F&B services.
  • In a search for hotels of a lower price, make sure to check out the reviews with UGPs carefully.
  • When browsing through a hotel’s reviews for decision-making, pay special attention to those reviews of lower ratings and with UGPs.

The conclusion

Although our work is not without limitations, our analysis with an integrated analytical model that incorporates both econometric analysis and image-processing techniques yielded additional insights about user-generated visual content’s effect on online reviews. Once again, this study shows that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

How much attention do you pay to the pictures or videos attached to online reviews? Are those reviews attached with pictures or videos more influential in your decision-making? If so, in what way?

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4 steps to empower yourself to accomplish your goals

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This article originally appeared in Real Leaders.

People who have a sense of direction and purpose feel empowered. Yet only 10% of people have written professional and personal goals. Imagine how great it would feel to take all your good intentions and make them a reality. In other words, to get laser-focused on the things that matters most — and have the motivation to actually do them!

A friend named John is an accountant and has several children. He’s been successful in many ways and always had a seemingly great life. However, he was at point where he felt like he had plateaued and was in somewhat of a lull. He’d done well financially and accomplished a lot, yet he felt like he could accomplish more and do more than he currently was.

When asked about goals, he responded, “I’ve never really set goals in my life outside of work. I’ve thought of a lot of things I want to do, but never really turned them into goals.” After a short discussion, he decided to set his roles and goals for the first time in his life. That year, he developed five specific goals — just one for each role.

For example, in his “personal” role (taking care of himself) he came up with a goal to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes before July 30. Another goal was related to a financial performance target for his role in the accounting firm that was a big jump from where his performance was the previous year.

To John’s amazement, he accomplished all five of his goals by year-end. He said, “I wouldn’t have done a single one of these five things had it not been for my written goals.”

He’s now a believer in the power and focus of roles and goals. The next year, he added more goals to each role and has continued to see significant growth in each area of his life. It took him 40 years, but he finally sat down and identified what mattered most to him. Goals took the impossible and made it possible. He designated five targets, and he landed the arrow right in the bullseye for each one.

To set your own roles and goals, follow these four steps:

1. Review your vision.

A person’s goals should align with his or her vision. Rather than focus on the problem, shift the playing field to the vision. The vision is the purpose or destination, and the goals are the path to make the vision a reality.

2. Identify your roles.

Look at your life through the lens of the five to seven roles that matter most to you. For example, some of your roles might include manager, sales rep, parent, spouse and friend. Your personal role is your most important role.

3. Set SMART goals in each role.

At some point in your career, you’ve likely heard of the SMART acronym. Goals are SMART when they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific. The same acronym can apply to your goals. Never use the words more or better; be specific with timeframes and amounts. In addition, give yourself flexibility within a goal and avoid the “daily” goals.

4. Send your goals to three people who you trust.

Several studies indicate this step significantly increases the likelihood of a person accomplishing his or her goals. Once you develop your annual goals, send them to three people who you trust. One of the keys to accountability is to share them with someone whose opinion you respect.

What’s the impact? These simple steps will empower you. More importantly, they will cause you to look through the “Do What Matters Most” lens and lead a life by design. Like John, you’ll find yourself accomplishing things that previously never made it past the all-too-common phase of good intentions.

As the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” points out, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

For a free roles and goals template, visit BYBgoals.com.

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How to measure employee productivity fairly and consistently

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Productivity is an interesting concept. While the ability to work from anywhere has its perks, many of us also feel that it has altered our productivity levels compared to the days of working in an office.

Perhaps home working comes with fewer distractions from colleagues and not as many unnecessary meetings, in turn boosting productivity. Or maybe the absence of a specific workspace has left some of us feeling sluggish and having trouble concentrating. This could vary day by day or even hour by hour!

The examples above show us that productivity can be an extremely variable phenomenon. It can be affected by all sorts of things, from office atmosphere to an employee’s headache, to a coworker having a bad day.

Productivity is also very useful to track.

Whether you’re starting an online boutique or are the manager at a processing plant, your team’s productivity can hugely affect you — and the rest of the team.

It can point towards where people’s strengths lie and where they’re falling behind. It can indicate that your team is focusing on the wrong things — if their output is high but they’re not meeting their goals. It can even help you to recognize that a particular approach is useful and enable you to free up some time for other ventures.

However, it can be hard to track productivity consistently and fairly. It’s all too easy to favor certain employees for particular tasks, or to only track productivity intermittently — when there’s a performance review coming up, for instance.

If you track productivity intermittently, you won’t reap the full benefits, and you could alienate some employees along the way. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure that you’re measuring productivity the right way.

Decide on Your Team’s Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

In some industries, this is easier than others. Call center data analytics, for example, will give you an easy snapshot of which employees are resolving the most complaints or making the most sales.

In some sectors, it can be a little more oblique. You’ll have to think about your overall goals and which tasks are most suited to achieve them. You’ll likely have to track many tasks and goals, as very few jobs involve one sole, repetitive task.

In a marketing team, for example, you might decide that getting SEO-optimized content onto your site is top priority, so you need a system to keep track of how many pieces of content your employees are putting out.

However, you’ll also need to take into account how accurate and useful these pieces of content are. Are they being sped through and consequently full of typos and causing your editor headaches? Are they efficient at directing the right kind of traffic to your site? Are they even relevant as to how your brand operates?

As well as the above examples, you’ll need to consider what other tasks employees have. Perhaps an employee in charge of social media output is also in charge of other duties, and therefore has less time to spend on writing blogs.

You should also ensure that your team members know that productivity should not mean speeding through work to the detriment of its quality.

In another scenario, you might need to bring in a little tech help. Accounting software, for example, can be particularly useful when tracking budgets, especially if your specialty isn’t numbers.

Whatever you identify as your targets, you need to properly communicate what the main goals are to your team and break down how you think they should prioritize them.

Image: Unsplash

Consistently Measure Across a Set Period

The importance of measuring productivity consistently cannot be overstated.

Ideally, what you want to see when you measure productivity is a consistent upwards trend, even if there are a few hiccups along the way. Alternatively, consistently performing at a high standard can also be a mark of excellence — though you may want to consider that this particular employee may be getting a little burnt out with the task at hand.

Many people will tell you that productivity is a simple measure of output but — as detailed above — there can be many different factors at play within output.

Your measurements can be simple — say, noting on a spreadsheet who has taken which task. But you need to check in consistently — say, every week or every month, depending on the length of your goals — and consider that you might not be able to compare employees equally.

By measuring data regularly, you avoid the chance of catching someone having a bad week and mistakenly believing that all of their output has been similar. You also catch any potential issues early: it might be a simple case of your employee not knowing how to dial out that could be sorted in minutes!

By not comparing directly, you realize that your employees likely have different tasks to complete.

If they do the exact same tasks, one is likely to be more experienced than the other, or perhaps just more capable at the job. This is where productivity comes into play when considering promotions. Please don’t use a lack of productivity to criticize employees if you’re not going to take excellent productivity into account and reward it. That is one recipe for miserable employees.

Image: Unsplash

Remember That Employees Are Human — and Offer Assistance

If you discover that your employees aren’t being as productive as you’d like in meeting set goals, it might be time to reassess.

Either your goals are too lofty for the team you have, in which case you need to lower your expectations, bring on new team members, or perhaps offer more training to the employees you do have.

The other option is that something is holding your team back — and it might be worth chatting to them to find out where this hiccup is. Perhaps using a parked calls system might allow your customer service team to quickly transfer calls to the relevant person, saving time and allowing them to streamline their workflow.

It might be a nonwork issue, like being unable to find childcare — which is where accommodating working parents could make a huge difference to their productivity.

One crucial thing to bear in mind is that you want your team to keep being as productive as possible. That means that if you’re tracking their progress and they have a bad day or week, you don’t immediately flag that particular employee for under performance.

If it seems like an ongoing problem, gently try to find out if there’s something specific bothering them, and if you can do anything to help. It might be that they’re going through something tough outside of work, or perhaps just struggling with a monotonous workload or suffering from burnout.

In some cases, knowing how productive your team is can even help you to monitor their overall satisfaction within the working environment.

It might just be that everyone’s feeling the loneliness of remote working, and a few remote team-building exercises will help to reenergize the whole team.

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How to build a board development committee

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Nearly every organization has a nominating committee. Its task is to prepare a slate of candidates for an election.

Some committees are diligent about their task, seeking nominees, vetting them, and submitting a slate. Others are just happy to find persons to accept seats at the table.

Expanded Roles

Organizations are transforming nominating committees to have year-round purpose. They are changing the name from nominations to Board Development Committee (BDC).

Usually, a nominating committee disbands after proposing the slate of candidates.

The BDC has year-round responsibilities. After nominations, they continue efforts that improve governance, assess leadership, and develop future leaders.

“Continuous board development is important to every organization. Directors have to think beyond their terms of office, looking around to consider “who’s next?” and having initiatives in place to develop future leaders,” explains Vicki Farmer, IOM, CAE, executive director at the Arkansas Optometric Association.

Make best use of the BDC with a variety of responsibilities:

Nominations: Responsible for identification, vetting and submission of a slate of qualified, willing candidates. They should be armed with the leadership manual and strategic plan to advise prospects of their duties. The nomination process should be carefully managed to avoid surprises or political upheavals.

Orientation: After the elections and installation, orientation is essential. The BDC can assist in designing a board development curriculum and speakers. Some organizations refer to their annual orientation as “refresh and blend” to meld new and seasoned directors.

Board Strengths: Directors bring talent. It is said they contribute TTT— time, talent, and treasure. The BDC may analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a board. For example, an organization may need to add a financial expert on the board, a marketing pro, or a technology guru. The BDC can develop a matrix of desired skillsets. After needs are identified, a “Call for Volunteer Leaders” can be published.

Evaluate: Boards evaluate the CEO, strategic plan progress, and budget performance. They should also evaluate their governance. This is done at the mid-point or towards the end of a term, to identify potential for making improvements. Because staff usually do not conduct the board self-assessment, there is a role for the BDC to design the assessment tool, tabulate the results, and implement improvements.

Structure: Governance reviews are conducted to periodically analyze board size, governing documents, and meeting protocols. The BDC can lead a governance review or work with a consultant to enhance governance.

Leadership Pipeline: Intentionally develop volunteers through a leadership program. Curriculum may include understanding finances, committees, board roles, rules of order, project management, and interpersonal communications. A well-designed leadership academy draws aspiring persons willing to serve.

Strategic Plan Champions: A strategic plan benefits by having a person (planchampion) or a group to monitor and report on progress. The BDC can take on the role of being the strategic plan champion.

Elevate the role of the nominating committee to have year-round value by transforming it to a board development committee.

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8 questions every aspiring business owner must ask

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This article originally appeared in Real Leaders.

Do you have what it takes to own a business? Your first answer might be that it depends on the market, but that’s only part of the story. So is thinking it depends on your product. The bottom line is it depends on you.

We tend to hear more about business successes than failures. Although we’ve seen plenty of failures given the pandemic and its economic impacts, most people still believe that if they want to be a successful business owner, they can. But if you don’t focus on your own drive, abilities, and tolerance for stress and uncertainty, you’re missing a key part of the equation. And if you start a business without really finding out if you should, you’re making a grave mistake.

Say you’ve got a great idea. You’ve got a niche service. You’ve done the research and there’s space for you to grow a company. Before you start looking for a storefront, look in the mirror — by asking these eight simple but vital questions of yourself.

1. Can I listen?

Business owners must process a vast amount of verbal communication. They need to be good at listening, adept at assimilating and filtering, and doing it fast — so all communication, from employees to customers to your advisers, needs to result in a positive outcome for your business.

2. Can I lead?

Unless you’re planning on opening a shoeshine stand or a one-person consultancy, you need to be able to lead and motivate people. You’ll get the most value from your employees if they know you value them — and you may need to occasionally swap hopes and aspirations over coffee with your employees to really understand their needs.

Once you understand their needs, you can better motivate them, which will in turn help you achieve your own dream. It’s an excellent trade-off.

3. Can I sell?

This question often hits a nerve. Very few products sell themselves. Generally, a business must convince a customer that has a need, and more importantly, that this product meets their need — and delivers the best possible value.

If that’s actually true, it’s simply a matter of being interesting enough that the customer is willing to continue a conversation long enough for you to establish these three truths. That’s about being persuasive.

If you have any doubt about your ability to persuade, ask your partner what they think. It’s likely you did some sort of sales job on him or her at some very critical juncture. Were you successful?

4. Am I competitive?

To be a good business owner, you must enjoy doing whatever it takes to overcome all challengers to your business supremacy. You must be motivated by a burning desire to do these things better than your competition — and realize that few products or services are so unique that your customer can’t get something comparable elsewhere.

You must have the need to not only please your customer, but to do it so well you’re literally beating your competition senseless. How do you know? Check your financial statements — they’re your scoreboard in this game. If you’re seeing profits, be ready to reinvest them right back into the business, or you won’t continue winning. That’s what most successful entrepreneurs I’ve dealt with do. They don’t necessarily make money so they can spend it.

5. Am I a hard worker?

Owning your own business is entering into a highly consumptive relationship, so be honest with yourself. Don’t start a business to support your golf habit. You can do that a lot easier with a high-paying job. Business ownership is the wrong avenue if your quest is simply more personal resources. Your own business must be more than just a means to an end. It’s everything — and must be a passion.

6. Am I a risk taker?

This isn’t a matter of leaving your umbrella at home when there’s rain in the forecast. All growth comes from taking risks and executing at the highest possible level. You’ve also got to be willing to wildcat; dry holes are necessary to find the gusher. If the thought of zero return on your time and money over what could be protracted intervals is too daunting, stay put.

7. Do I have a skill that adds significant value to this market?

Successful business owners are either the best player at a critical position or the second-best player at several positions. You need to have outstanding technical skills if you’re considering a technical business; impeccable sales skills — and the desire to use them consistently and frequently — if you’re considering a sales-driven business.

It’s very difficult to drive a business with only strong administrative skills. The only exception may be a franchise, which has an extremely process-driven approach. In my experience, “right-sized” former executives of process-driven public companies are often successful franchisees. In essence, a franchisor turns the operation of a business into a job with clearly defined do’s and don’ts included in its recipe for success.

8. Do I have a clear goal for my business?

This last question may be the most critical: the point of your business must be much more than to escape from your current job.

To create a business with real value, you need to set out to create and operate a business that has real value. For a business to be a true asset, it must consistently turn a significant profit, after it pays you a fair salary. Otherwise, it’s little more than what I call “an incorporated job.” And moving a business from the status of an incorporated job to an asset requires a series of very purposeful, difficult and risky acts.

An uncommitted owner will inevitably fail to execute these acts if they don’t make asset creation a goal of the business from the start.

I’ve had tough conversations with clients who were dead set on starting their own businesses, just because they had an affinity for a certain product or service. However, if they know deep down they don’t want to engage in the complicated process of value creation, then starting a business means they will endure significant pain, take on outsized risks, and work harder than any employee without achieving a commensurate reward. But if you are willing to work harder and smarter than ever before towards that goal of value creation, that is certainly laudable.

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Returning to in-person governance

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Associations adapted their governance processes during the pandemic. Moving from in-person to online board meetings were significant changes that proved to be effective. Boards have become accustomed to online governing meetings.

However, resistance occurred. Some boards postponed important business, preferring to wait for in-person meetings. A few directors were described as leery of online meetings, believing that the important work had to be conducted face-to-face.

In-person meetings are resuming. Directors are assembling inside the boardroom, picking up where they left off. Expect there to be a mix of in-person and online options in the future.

For directors returning to the boardroom, remember these fundamentals to improve results:


As fiduciaries, directors need to prepare for board meetings. When the agenda is distributed, look it over to understand the issues and planned work. Directors with questions should address them to the organization’s executive director or the chief elected officer. Avoid rump sessions where a few directors get together before the meeting to decide how they’ll vote.

When reports are distributed in advance, be sure to read them. Reading and listening to reports at the meeting is not good governance. Coming prepared makes best use of volunteer and staff time.

If needed, pull out the bylaws and policies for a quick review. An hourlong “refresh and blend” orientation may be appropriate as authorities allow meetings to occur.


When a meeting in announced, there must be good reason to convene the board. As a volunteer who made a commitment to serve, make time to attend the meetings.

Remember to RSVP when the meeting is announced, without making staff “track you down.” The staff has to determine if a quorum will be present to conduct business. Further there is need to consider the count for copies, seating, food and beverage.


Dust off the strategic plan if it has set on the shelf for the pandemic year. Memorize the mission statement; it should frame every discussion and decision in meetings.

At the meeting, let the chair do his or her role without interruptions. There is work on the agenda to be completed. Remember to ask for the floor before speaking. Encourage everyone to be heard before speaking a second or third time.


Directors have the authority to make governance decisions within the duly called meeting “from gavel to gavel.” After the meeting, directors must support the decisions of the group.

The chief elected officer is the official spokesperson. No director should leave a meeting to “air dirty laundry” about confidential discussions. Directors only speak for the organization when or if they have received specific authority.

Following meetings, put on your volunteer hat and offer to help with the initiatives and projects that arise as a result of the board meeting.


While everyone is eager to return to in-person meetings, it is possible that on-line options will continue. Some directors don’t have time for the travel, finding the on-line platform to be equally effective. Organizations save money on food and travel. Expect hybrid models to be adopted.

To every volunteer leader, “Thank you.” It is time to get back to governing and advancing the mission.

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Why taking workplace hygiene seriously benefits your business

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The American workforce has been flipped on its head over the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way millions of people thought about work, with many businesses having to close or lay off employees, and others switching to remote work to keep people safe.

Now, thanks to everyone’s effort to slow the spread and the vaccine rollout, it seems there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Some businesses will forever be changed by the pandemic. In fact, many employers are choosing to remain remote with their services.

But, if your business is opening up and your employees are returning in person, it’s important to remain diligent. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of remaining as safe as possible, even in the workplace.

If you own or manage a business, that means taking workplace hygiene seriously for yourself and your employees. How does it benefit your business to emphasize hygiene in a post-pandemic world? How can you make sure your business remains a safe and clean place for employees, especially those who may have compromised immune systems?

A Happier, Healthier Staff

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a clean, hygienic workplace is a healthier, more productive, and more appreciative staff. When you make hygiene a priority, you’re setting a positive first impression for both potential employees and those who have worked with you for years. If you’re considering hiring an immunocompromised individual, showing them your hygienic priorities could make them more interested in the position.

Keeping your staff happy and comfortable will help them to:

  • Feel safe in the workplace
  • Boost their productivity
  • Remain loyal to your business
  • Reduce stress and anxiety

It doesn’t take long for a virus to spread through the average workplace. In fact, 50% of workers can be infected by one person’s virus within four hours of that individual clocking in. That leads to more sick days and a decrease in productivity. By taking just a few small, important steps, you can reduce the risk of common health issues like viruses and keep your employees happy all at once.

A More Relaxed Work Environment

Workplace stress is a serious problem that can lead to a lack of motivation and productivity. More importantly, it can cause your employees to feel burnt out, anxious, or even depressed. Establishing a positive environment in your place of business is crucial for the overall well-being of your employees.

That includes having hygienic practices in place.

When your employees are stressed, they can experience:

  • A lack of focus
  • Struggles with distractions
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty remembering things

They might even carry that stress home with them, which can hurt their work-life balance. Stress from work can make it difficult to sleep. Unfortunately, that often creates a vicious cycle. Poor sleep can lead to more serious health problems. That means more sick days, less focus, and unfulfilled employees.

By making hygienic practices in the workplace a priority, your employees are likely to feel safer. From having a clean desk to work on to knowing that safety practices are in place, workers don’t have to worry about their health as much. They can focus on their regular tasks and take comfort in knowing you and your business truly care about their health and wellness.

What Can You Do?

There are so many additional benefits to taking workplace hygiene seriously. But, you might be wondering what you need to do to make it a priority. Thankfully, it doesn’t require huge, sweeping changes from the way you currently do things. Instead, utilize some of the following to make sure your space is as clean as possible:

  • Invest in a professional cleaning service.
  • Assign cleaning tasks to different employees.
  • Have a “cleaning schedule.”
  • Encourage everyone to keep their personal space tidy.

In addition to keeping things clean, put forth an effort to reduce the spread of germs and viruses. Encouraging employees to wash their hands frequently or use sanitizer is a great place to start. Separating desks or spacing things apart a bit more can also help.

Depending on your work environment, have strategies in place to reduce the risk of contamination. This is a common issue in food service, but anywhere bacteria can start to grow can become a cross-contamination threat. Using disinfectants throughout your workplace, utilizing the right equipment and resources, and cleaning things every day will make it harder for harmful bacteria to thrive anywhere.

Your employees don’t just deserve to be safe and healthy – they want to be! Workers who know their health is valued will always have an easier time coming to work and getting the job done. Health and hygiene will likely be at the forefront of everyone’s mind for a while. So, start creating hygienic habits in the workplace now. Even after pandemic talk becomes a thing of the past, your business can remain safe, clean, and healthy for years to come.

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