Tag Archives: Risk Management

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An acquisition could be your next great business move

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Consolidation is the name of the game in the architecture and design industry these days. Firms are combining to expand into more practice areas and beef up their menu of services to appeal to a broader base of clientele.

On their part, clients are looking for a “one stop shop” of design and build to simplify and speed up project delivery, pushing firms toward a more integrated business model. If you’re contemplating what should be your next business move, now is a good time to consider an acquisition.

By and large, acquisitions are rare in the interior design side of the industry. Designers are more likely to form partnerships or merge firms to expand their practices than acquire another business.

Acquisitions can be lengthy and costly, not to mention disruptive for staff in both entities. On the flip side, a well-planned acquisition can give a firm a big growth boost by providing access to new markets, increasing expertise and technical skills, and/or expanding into new types of business.

In the coming year, the economy is expected to slow, and demand for design services likely will soften as a result. That may not sound like a great scenario under which to expand your business, but down times often are very good times to make an acquisition.

More firms may be more open to an acquisition, especially if they are struggling for some reason or the owner is thinking of retiring. Undertaking the acquisition now will allow you to complete the process and enhance your business so you’ll be better positioned to take advantage when the next up-cycle starts. Plus, interest and tax rates are low at present, making funds more accessible and affordable than they may be later.

If you’re thinking of adding another practice area to your firm, to tap into a niche market that you detect is currently underserved, to compete for bigger or better projects, or extend your reach into more markets, an acquisition may get you there more quickly. Another option would be to diversify your business by acquiring one in a related area, such as wholesale or retail, consulting or a technical specialty. The synergy you create could be of substantial benefit to both businesses.

A variety of factors can make a business an attractive acquisition. It may own real estate or hold a favorable lease that can be assumed. It may have inventory, cash or billings owed, physical assets, brand equity, or desirable clients or existing or committed projects that would be a valuable addition to your firm. There may be staff with experience, talent and expertise you need or want — provided they choose to remain with the company.

When contemplating an acquisition, you need to consider a number of factors. Is the company you’re thinking of acquiring sound financially and operationally? Would the cost of the acquisition exceed the benefit it would bring to your firm? Would you want to keep the management of the new company or would you need to replace it? Are your firm and the new company culturally compatible? Are you prepared to devote the time and resources to acquiring and transitioning the new company into your firm?

You need to take the time to perform a thorough due diligence, with the aid of your attorney and accountant, to discover the answer to these and other questions.

Maybe you’re reading this and wondering if you should be looking for a firm that would be interested in acquiring your firm. The process is very similar. Depending on the time frame you have in mind, you may want to explore some other options as well, such as searching for a partner who is interested in acquiring full interest in the firm gradually or phasing out your practice and then selling the assets to another firm.

Normally, we read about large corporations acquiring small or startup businesses. In part, that’s because they have the capital and a greater tolerance of risk. Yet, mergers or acquisitions between small or midsized businesses can be successful if done for the right reasons and properly. If you’re looking to take your firm to the next level, an acquisition may just be the way to get you there.

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Top 10 signs of a dysfunctional board

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In 2002, attorney Mark D. Alcorn pointed out the key indicators of a dysfunctional association board of directors. He said, “I believe the troubled boards outnumber focused, efficient boards by a substantial margin.

“When a board of directors has more than its share of trouble and struggles, it can be dysfunctional. The presence of more than a few of these signs is cause for concern,” he added.

I wanted to review the dysfunctions identified nearly two decades ago to check their relevance to today.

Power Struggles: While directors should be focused on the mission and strategic goals, fighting for power among individuals and subgroups on the board is destructive. The board should be guided by equality and a shared responsibility.

When any person or group portends to be more influential than others, the concept of democratic governance is unworkable. The board should address power struggles to return harmony to the governing process.

Voting Blocks: Counting and collecting vote commitments prior to a meeting is inappropriate. It breeds distrust to learn that some directors are lobbying and collecting votes prior to the duly called board meeting.

Votes should be based on facts and the deliberation at the board table. Proxy votes and alternative directors is a concept long abandoned.

Lack of Respect: The appearance of hostility, aggressiveness and disrespect at meetings diminishes good governance. While many of America’s institutions are facing problems with integrity and civility, one would hope it does not penetrate association governance. One of the most adopted guiding principles of boards is that of respect for people, ideas and diversity.

Micro-Management: The board’s role is to advance the mission and strategic goals, while serving members and making best use of assets. If directors start to call or visit the staff with questions like, “I just wondered what you are doing today,” they have fallen to the level of micro-management.

Employee oversight and evaluation is the responsibility of a CEO, not the board members. A guiding altimeter for governance places the board at 50,000 feet, committee work at 25,000 and staff management at 10,000 feet.

Preoccupation: The board is guided by authorities such as parliamentary procedure and bylaws. When directors use those concepts to hinder progress, it wastes valuable time.

Too many organizations feel a need to amend the bylaws annually, appointing a committee to find faults and offer ideas. The governing documents are a guide, not tools to obsess over.

Disparaging the CEO: When one or more directors are critical of the chief staff officer, or any staff member, it distracts from the board and its purpose of governance.

The relationship of the board and CEO is that of a working partnership. Board focus should be on governance, while the staff manages the association. Openly criticizing staff is a serious problem.

Last-Minute Proposals: The board should not be hoodwinked by a last-minute motion as the meeting is about to adjourn. A board that is swayed by last minute proposals, overly enthusiastic discussions (groupthink), and slick presentations without the benefit of facts, is not doing its fiduciary duty.

To avoid surprise motions, ask directors to submit their ideas to the association a week before the meeting so it can be properly reviewed and scheduled. Remove “new business” from the agenda to avoid surprises.

Heavy-Handed CEO: Some executives amass too much “control” over the association, leaving the board to feel powerless. Governance requires a balance between board and staff.

If the CEO is heavy-handed, the board should look for balance and ask themselves why that occurred. The opposite is a board that relinquishes their duties to the executive by neglecting their responsibilities.

Representative Directors: There was a time when board composition was built on representation, for example a director from every chapter or someone to represent special interests.

Alcorn emphasizes, “Directors must represent the organization as a whole, not subgroups and special interests.” The board’s role is to advance the organization’s mission, not to represent subgroups. When directors walk into the boardroom, they should take off their specialty hats and work as a team.

Rump Sessions: Informal meetings outside the boardroom nearly always exclude some directors and facts, undermining trust within the board. Rump sessions digress to discussions that should not be had. Turn to the CEO and officers to get impartial, factual answers.

It seems the dysfunctions of a board have not changed much since this was first published in 2002.

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12 tips to get the most out of your bid and proposal dollars

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Every time I go shopping, I try to stretch my dollars to get the best possible products for the most favorable prices. Consider using your bid and proposal (B&P) funds in the same way. Spend just enough money to create a winning proposal and use the leftover cash to fund new bids, improve your B&P infrastructure and/or enhance your team’s skills.

However, maximizing your B&P is difficult due to unknown variables. Changes in the customer’s priorities and budget, moving Request for Proposal (RFP) release dates, unforeseen RFP amendments, and internal workforce constraints can easily derail a B&P budget.

However, through careful planning, there are measures you can take to stretch your B&P dollars, including the 12 tips listed below.

1. Identify the amount your company can comfortably spend on B&P without impacting its competitive edge or profitability.

2. Create mock customer scorecards and debrief statements to help identify the level of effort you must expend to each win bid. Using this information, identify the bids most likely to win.

3. For bids with the greatest win possibility, create a B&P budget and schedule with milestones.

4. Allocate business development, capture, and proposal resources to the bids. Identify any resource gaps and dependencies, while keeping in mind your two most important bids are likely to occur at the same time, so identify flexible support options to fill gaps.

5. Develop an efficient information collection plan to obtain the best customer intelligence and corresponding processes to keep the information efficiently updated and disseminated.

6. Conduct just-in-time training so your bid resources understand their roles and responsibilities.

7. Update your corporate infrastructure documents such as past performance summaries, resumes, customer recognition documents, and awards store them in a central repository.

8. Verify your collaboration tools are in good working order and quickly assign new IDs and passwords to new users so their work is not delayed.

9. Update your bid plan and schedule at least every two weeks to reflect new priorities and dependencies. Use action item lists, a Kanban board or ticketing systems in combination with daily standup meetings to quickly brief status, remove blockers, and enforce accountability.

10. Keep the mock score card and debrief statement updated to brief executives. If a bid is unable to make progress, the executives can pull the plug early to stop wasting B&P.

11. No writer should stare at blank page, pair writers with experienced writer buddies to accelerate their productivity.

12. Reduce the number of reviewers down to those who can score like an evaluator and provide actionable feedback.

Performing initial planning and keeping the plan updated every two-weeks in addition to maintaining accountability can help a company stretch its B&P dollars and keep those dollars focused on efforts that are best placed to win new business.

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Feeling the way to better acoustics

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Dozens, if not hundreds, of studies have demonstrated the negative impact noise has on occupants. Yet, even with advances in materials and technology, noise continues to be a major challenge to designing today’s interior environments.

Perhaps the solution lies deeper than controlling for noise. It may have to do with how we respond emotionally to the sounds around us.

Much of the controversy concerning noise in interior environments has followed from the widespread adoption of open-plan and active space layouts. These environments are designed in large part to encourage and facilitate human interaction, both formal and informal. In the workplace and in educational spaces, that intensified interaction can create problems for others engaged in solitary work. In healthcare facilities, it can disrupt patient rest.

These issues are well-known but finding a balance between increased interaction and minimizing the disturbance it creates remains elusive. A study of more than 500 recently produced workplace change projects conducted by workplace design consultancy Leesman found, “noise levels’ remain a widespread and highly problematic issue, with a catastrophic satisfaction score of 33.4% across all new workplaces, with one in four scoring below 25% satisfaction.” The only feature that scored lower in satisfaction was an employing walking past one’s workstation.

One of the key differences in level of satisfaction with ambient noise identified in the Leesman study was the level of complexity of one’s work.

Similarly, researchers from the School of Architecture at Huaqiao University in China who compared two open-plan workplace environments — one for administrative staff and one for researchers — found that although the acoustic environmental quality was better in the researchers’ workspace, their level of satisfaction with the acoustic environment was lower than that of the administrative assistants. The researchers conclude, “These findings reveal occupants’ perception and IEQ demands can be different.”

A subjective evaluation of the impact of the acoustic environment on occupants conducted by researchers from the School of Architecture at Tianjin University in China helps to shed light on why these differences occur. They fielded a questionnaire to people attending one of eight large-scale interior environments (train stations, convention centers, sports facilities) to try to determine what was their feeling about the acoustic environment and what effects it had on them.

From their analysis of the responses to the questionnaire, the researchers identified three classes of acoustical stimuli that produced negative or uncomfortable feelings: those that had an emotional effect (e.g., irritating, anxious, sad), those that influenced attention or thinking ability (e.g., distracting, inability to concentrate, distortion of speech comprehension), and those that affected behavior (e.g. difficult to have a conversation, discomfort, eager to leave noisy space vs. eager to remain in quiet space). They conclude, “Through detailed analysis, results showed that there were significant differences in the acoustic environment on people’s emotion.”

Context also made a difference. When a space has a special function that is intended for crowds and high levels of emotional interaction, users are more accepting of the resultant noise.

Occupants in sports facilities, for example, responded positively to crowd noise whereas those in convention centers and train stations did not. This helps to explain why persons engaged in social activities in open-plan spaces are less likely to be aware of or negatively impacted by ambient noise than those performing solitary tasks.

Unwanted noise and lack of privacy are among the leading causes of poor productivity. These studies indicate that it is not only the level and type of noise that can have a negative impact on occupants, but also its emotional affect and the occupant’s expectation of the desired level of environmental quality. Spaces should be designed to isolate individuals from noise that is not only distracting but also potentially distressing.

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Pancakes and the value of reinvention

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How do you like your pancakes? With or without butter? What kind of syrup?

Beginning this spring, IHOP is betting that you’ll take them to go. Late last year, the breakfast giant announced the upcoming launch of Flip’d, a new fast-casual option designed to attract the Starbucks crowd by offering the usual IHOP fare in more portable options — for example, pancake bowls and egg sandwiches instead of the traditional breakfast platters the chain is known for.

This latest venture is not unusual for IHOP, a franchise that notably stirred up a tempest on the internet in summer 2018, when it temporarily rebranded as “IHOb” to shine a spotlight on its burger menu. The change drew some backlash from commenters who suggested the chain should stick to the breakfast arena, which is why the chain came back a year later with a new selection of “pancakes” — which were, in fact, just burgers going by a different name.

Once again, IHOP succeeded in capturing the internet’s fickle attentions. And in case you’re wondering: Yes, the burger stunts did translate into profit; according to AdAge, IHOP restaurants reported four to seven times as many burger orders in the days following the IHOb unveiling, even as its breakfast business grew.

If you’re looking for a way to reinvigorate your brand, you could do worse than to follow IHOP’s example of rebranding. But where do you begin?

Build your future by owning your past

In 2009, Domino’s Pizza did something unthinkable in advertising: It admitted its pizza was terrible. In a short online documentary, Domino’s highlighted the most scathing tweets criticizing its food, from the “processed” cheese to the crust that tasted like “cardboard.”

Obviously, bashing your own product is generally not advisable in marketing, but Domino’s used the criticism as a springboard to highlight the improvements the company had made to its recipe. By rebuilding and reintroducing itself, the company turned its biggest weakness into its greatest strength, drawing back many previously lost customers.

The takeaway from Domino’s example is that your deficiencies aren’t always something you should hide or shy away from. By owning your faults — and demonstrating to the world that you are being proactive about addressing them — you can win over hearts and minds.

Know your customers

IHOP’s push to portability makes sense for a chain hoping to capture more weekday traffic. Since consumers can’t make the time to sit down for a morning meal, Flip’d is IHOP’s strategy to meet them halfway — and perhaps sneak some business from the fast food chains that are always crowded during the morning rush. This is a prime example of knowing your customer and positioning yourself to meet their needs.

When you consider reinventing your brand, think about what you can do to meet your own clients halfway. Technology moves fast; needs change. It’s very likely that some of the services you offered in the past are no longer in demand, or at least in the same way you offer them. What can you do to meet your customers halfway?

The seven most dangerous words in business are “But we’ve always done it that way!” If your brand is treading water and you’re feeling apprehensive about making a change, consider whether you can afford not to rebuild and rebrand. And if you still find that prospect scary, just remember: IHOP was brave enough to call a cheeseburger a “pancake” and got away with it.

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How HR technology is mitigating compliance risk in 2020

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Each year, ensuring HR compliance gets a little harder, and 2020 is no exception. States are increasingly creating their own compliance regulations — and each of them is unique. Meanwhile, the human resources landscape continues to evolve at rapid pace, and each industry faces its own set of challenges.

How can an employer keep up? One powerful strategy is to utilize HR technology that automates and optimizes labor compliance.

Maintaining HR compliance isn’t simply a way to avoid government fines and work site investigations. It helps ensure the security of your business and employees, while providing a consistent experience to clients and customers. Adopting compliance-focused HR tools not only improves the accuracy and efficiency of your HR administration but can enhance your appeal to potential hires and prospects.

Whether it’s differentiating statutory pay rules within your time-tracking system, applying special scheduling rules and alerts where necessary. or updating your technologies to resolve specific workforce liabilities, modern HR tools and workforce management software can help ensure that you’re running a fair, compliant operation. Best of all: some of these tools not only mitigate compliance risk but can also improve your bottom line.

Common Compliance Pitfalls and How HR Technology Can Overcome Them

Certain aspects of HR technology — such as cloud-based onboarding platforms, automated payroll processing, and customizable scheduling software — are particularly effective at eliminating compliance risk. These solutions provide employers with transparency into their entire operations, utilize built-in compliance safeguards, and allow for customization that allows employers to address specific HR challenges.

Here’s an example: as you know, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay non-exempt employees’ overtime (i.e., time and one-half) for hours worked beyond 40 hours per week.

If overtime pay isn’t calculated or paid properly, employers put themselves at risk of fines and lawsuits. (In 2019 alone, The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division collected $322 million in back wages from U.S. employers!) Time-tracking software that automatically calculates even the most complex overtime rules and blended pay rates help ensure overtime pay is handled correctly.

In addition, since accurate time-tracking is critical to complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — which defines eligibility around employee worktime — a highly accurate time and labor system is essential to ACA compliance, too.

Furthermore, HR technology helps address everything from complying with meal break regulations to providing evidence against baseless workers comp claims. If you haven’t explored the technological solutions available to you lately, you owe it to your business to do so.

Trending HR Technologies in 2020

This year, more and more employers are turning to certain specific HR technologies to help them avoid labor compliance pitfalls. These include:

E-Verify: This technology is a powerful feature for successful onboarding of new hires, providing easy, speedy I-9 verification. How it works: your HR system is integrated with the Department of Homeland Security’s database, allowing you to confirm an individual’s employment eligibility in just a few keystrokes.

Daily Safety Attestations: Fraudulent workers’ compensation claims cost employers millions every year. Some time and labor systems can be programmed to ask each worker if they had a “safe day” each time they punch out.

If an employee answers “no,” their manager is alerted immediately so they can address the incident. If an employee indicates they had a safe day but files a claim later, their documented response can be used to challenge it. This not only promotes worker safety but protects against false claims.

HR Analytics and Reports: When you use the HR analytics or reporting capabilities offered by some HR software solutions, you gain transparency into myriad aspects of your operation. You can identify compliance inconsistencies in payroll (i.e., rate changes, time changes, etc.), paid time off, time sheet reporting and more, while verifying compliance with EEO, OSHA, VETS, and ACA regulations.

Real-time Alerts: Real-time alerts are a helpful management feature offered by some advanced time and labor systems. These enable frontline managers to receive texts or emails immediately after workers do (or fail to do) certain things, such as taking mandated meal breaks or crossing into overtime — both of which play a big role in wage and hour lawsuits.

In short, if one of your 2020 priorities is achieving labor compliance on the federal, state, and local levels, see how state-of-the-art HR technology can help you meet your goals. You may be surprised.

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Lazy thinking perpetuates stereotypes. Here’s how to stop it

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It’s all around us, the idea that we are a divided country. Articles and books offer solutions for what we as a country need to do to close racial, gender and any other divisions based on demographics. But all those solutions go nowhere if we’re not looking at ourselves and taking responsibility for our actions.

We all seem to be in a hurry to make decisions, to get work done, and to make snap judgments. One of my clients said, “I don’t have time to get to know my employees or consider diversity. It’s just easy to hire people from the best schools, and to bring in people who I’m most comfortable with.”

Whether we want to hire the best people or close demographic divisions, we need to stop practicing lazy thinking that leads to stereotyping, labeling people with generalizations and missing people with whom we can connect in our workplaces and in our communities.

It’s so easy to be mentally lazy and stereotype and label people we don’t know well. We listen to what other people tell us and default to stereotypes. This takes the work out of having to interact in meaningful ways or experience discomfort with people who are different. We don’t have to make decisions for ourselves or take the time to understand other people.

But before you take the easy way out and get stuck in narrow mindedness, read on.

Think before you put a label on another person based on generalizations and stereotypes. Biases and assumptions lead to stereotyping and excluding people from fully contributing to an organization. Labeling also stops us from having new experiences, learning and growing in new ways.

Think about a time when you were labeled. It was easy to get labeled, but how easy was it to change that label? Not very. There is a tendency to not want to be labeled personally while labeling other people.

It’s not up to an amorphous “them” to take action and bring people together who are different. It’s up to each of us as individuals to take tiny steps that can create big results.

Let go of the label

If a co-worker tells you that a new employee is arrogant, or a know-it-all, there is a tendency to assume that’s the truth, and you may find yourself looking for signs that the person fits the label. Once we label others, we look for ways to confirm that label and the bias we have. I’ve done that in the past when I was in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

A fellow employee, Terrance, who I had developed a rapport with, told me that a new employee, Akil, was just “out for themselves,” and never helped anyone else.

I believed that, and stayed away from that employee, until the time I was asked to write a last-minute report. My manager said she needed it by the next day. I had concert tickets and people were counting on me to show up.

First, I asked the colleague who I “thought” would help me, the one who told me how awful the new employee was. Terrance told me he was late for his Crossfit session and that he knew I would figure it out.

Akil, (labeled only out for himself) saw me biting my nails and sensed that I was about to pull my hair out from stress and frustration. He approached me and asked if I needed help. When I told him about the report and the conference he said, “I’ve done those kind of reports before. Let me work with you and we can get it done in an hour.”

Not only did we finish in time for me to go the concert, I learned a new skill and a lesson about listening to labels. I also discovered later that Terrance labeled Akil because he was on the he was from a different culture and generation. Had I been less lazy, I would have questioned Terrance’s reasons for the label.

Your turn

Think of someone that you labeled based on another person’s comment. How did you treat that person because of that label? What did you miss about that person? What opportunity did you lose? You may never know.

When you find yourself labeling someone, instead, become curious and talk to him or her. Don’t pre-judge them based on the word of someone else.

We tend to give more weight to the opinions and judgments of people who are most like us or who we know and like. Unless we become aware of this, we default to old ways of thinking. It’s time to stop!

Take the time to get to know the whole person before you label him or her based on looks, accent, size, skin color, etc. When we take that time, we take responsibility for closing bridging divides and we set an example for other people to do the same. Always take the time to ask “why” when you hear a negative comment about another person especially if they are different than the “accuser.”

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Project management essentials for project success

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A project is an activity with a specific goal in mind and a clear beginning and end. Unlike ongoing services and operations, a project will end, ideally, with the accomplishment of the stated goal.

Identifying clear goals and establishing a project plan are critical to effective utilization of resources. It is important that the following questions are asked for every project by the staff team, led by the executive director.

An article in DigitalProjectManager.com describes very well the role of the project leader, and in many cases, this would be one of your professional staff team members or you as the chief staff executive. The project leader is the first ingredient of a successful project. In the quote below, this leader is the “team’s No.1 cheerleader and chief encourager”:

“Every project needs a leader who supports the process, the team and client. They are the team’s No.1 cheerleader and chief encourager, but at the same time, not afraid to call out the team when they drop the ball; they bring balance to the project and team. Leading them well means to serve them by taking responsibility for how you as a project manager are going to make your team’s life better today. Be the person that moves mountains for them. Be the one that greases the wheels. Be the one to move all the barriers that could get in their way.”

The Stages of Project Management and Questions to Answer

In a project, we see these as the essential stages of project management and the questions to ask during each of these stages:

Identify the problem

  • What problem or gap needs to be addressed?
  • What is the project to be completed?
  • State a clear desired outcome

Develop the plan

  • How will the desired outcome be reached?
  • Consider management, budget, resources, timeline, potential risks
  • Gather resources (people, technology, information)
  • Set clear expectations including responsibilities and communication plan

Execute the plan

  • Put the plan into motion
  • Meet and discuss often to make sure initiatives stay on track

Monitor the plan

  • Track progress using performance measures

Wrap-up and report out

  • Communicate outcome
  • Document successes and challenges

Maximizing Project Effectiveness

Nonprofits are taxed with the unique situation of utilizing volunteers in project execution. While the motivation and quality of work can be exceptional, it is important for associations to respect the distinct considerations that come along with engaging volunteers.

Maintaining motivation is key. Help volunteers tap into the “why” of what they are supposed to do to keep them inspired. We not only want to give volunteers a “job” to do but we need to better understand what is in it for them as well. Motivation leads to retention. And volunteer satisfaction leads to recruitment, as more individuals will want to volunteer given the great experience.

Take advantage of specific skills and interests that volunteers offer. This will lead to higher quality of work, and a higher sense of fulfillment on their part. The key is to understand the gaps in what staff can provide and filling those gaps with volunteers. Volunteer gap management is a great tool and one that should be employed.

But, it must be clear that the volunteer is serving a specific role and that governance should never cross into management. Therefore, it is recommended to steer away from using board members in this capacity.

Respect schedules and other commitments to reduce overload. It is important to state upfront the desired time commitment by a volunteer. By providing this information in the beginning, along with what is required and what they will gain from the experience, it allows individuals to make the decision as to whether the opportunity is a good fit for them. Respect the established boundaries throughout the project.

Technology in Project Management

Managing a project can be daunting and overwhelming when it comes to tracking progress and more importantly, reporting on the progress made. There are many cloud-based services that help you to easily track and manage projects within your organization. A spreadsheet is no longer is sufficient given the complexity of the projects and the number of staff and volunteers that are involved.

One caveat is to avoid complex solutions that require more time managing the system than managing the project. Basecamp, Smartsheet.com, and many other project management tools are available. When evaluating a solution, consider the following:

  1. Does it provide the features that you are seeking?
  2. Is it easy to us by both your professional staff team and the volunteers?
  3. Does it meet your budget?
  4. Does it provide practical and real-time status updates? Can your team and volunteers easily update their status?
  5. Does it all you to set reminders for team members?
  6. Does it allow for uploads of documents and reports that are due in the project?

Regardless of the solution you choose, it might be worth trying out one or more of these systems to determine which one would be the best fit. Many provide 30- to 90-day free trials that make it easy to test drive. Use them in smaller projects and identify functionality gaps to determine if you can do without them or need to move on to another system.

Importance of Project Management

A board member said to me, “I don’t know what is in progress in the organization, what I am supposed to be doing, let alone knowing what everyone else on the board is doing. It is frustrating and I am thinking of stepping off the board.” We don’t want frustration to build when roles are not clear and projects are not defined.

Project management is integral in:

  • Execution… after the board meeting
  • Alignment between the board and staff
  • Making progress on the strategic plan
  • Creating harmony across teams
  • Developing a culture of “getting things done”
  • Instilling a sense of accomplishment for your staff and volunteers

Whatever the project, large or small, it takes a structured approach to ensure that it is efficient, provides role clarity, and can be achieved in the timeframe set. Employing project management is critical in project success.

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US economy adds 145,000 new hires; unemployment stays at 3.5%

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In December, U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 145,000 after November’s gain of 266,000, while the rate of unemployment remained at 3.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total number of unemployed persons stayed at 5.8 million versus 6.3 million and a jobless rate of 3.9% a year ago.

In December, unemployment among major worker groups showed scant or no change compared with November’s data. The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained at 34.4 hours in December, matching November’s numbers, according to the BLS.

In December, the number of long-term unemployed (without a job for 27 weeks or more) was 1.2 million, November’s total, accounting for 20.5% of those out of paid labor. Meanwhile, hourly pay increases are tepid.

“Year-over-year nominal wage growth was 2.9%—the lowest it’s been in 18 months,” according to Elise Gould, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., in a statement. Historically, a low unemployment rate can spur higher wage growth. In that scenario, some employers hike starting pay to attract new employees. This has not been the case recently, though.

Thanks to legislation at the state level, nearly 7 million American workers will receive minimum wage pay hikes in 2020, according to David Cooper, an EPI economist. After the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Raise the Wage Act of 2019” in July to increase the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 by 2025, the U.S. Senate has not moved to debate the bill. “Since the federal minimum wage was last raised in July, 2009, the minimum wage’s buying power has declined by 17 percent.” Cooper said.

In December, medium-sized business of 50-499 employees led the way in job creation with 88,000 new hires in December compared with 29,000 in November, according to the Automatic Data Processing National Employment Report, produced from ADP payroll data with Moody’s Analytics. New hires rose at small firms of 20-49 employees rose 69,000 in December versus 11,000 in November. Large firms of 500 or more employees hired 45,000 new employees in December versus November’s 27,000.

According to the ADP/Moody’s report, the service-providing sector added 173,000 new hires in December versus November’s 85,000. Meanwhile, the goods-producing sector gained 29,000 jobs in December after shedding 18,000 in November. In December, construction firms added 37,000 new hires after losing 6,000 in November. Manufacturing lost 7,000 jobs in December after shedding 6,000 in November.

“We saw expanded payrolls in December,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, in a statement. “The service providers posted the largest gain since April, driven mainly by professional and business services. Job creation was strong across companies of all sizes, led predominantly by midsized companies.”

The 12-member Federal Open Market Committee cut short-term interest rates three times in 2019 to boost the current expansion. Will the Fed stay that course in 2020?

Against that backdrop, tensions in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region are simmering. That and a presidential election are casting no small shadow of uncertainty for businesses and their customers in 2020.

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The risks of ‘good enough’ in IT and communication infrastructure

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Seamless IT and network connections are crucial for today’s connected businesses. Not only does a streamlined IT and communication infrastructure offer customers and employees increased reliability and quality of experience, but it also reduces the risk of issues like dropped calls and internet cut-outs.

While strong IT and network connections can create great opportunities for a business, many companies settle for infrastructure that is just “good enough.” “Good enough” IT and communication infrastructure may be less costly to a business initially; however, there are leading risks that come with operating with “good enough” infrastructure, including security risks, slow processing speed, and unforeseen costs down the line.

Before setting up your own communications network, it is important to identify these risks and learn actionable ways to avoid using a less-than-optimal network.

Security Risks

One of the biggest security risks is failing to update your systems consistently. While your business may run smoothly on your network’s previous update, your system will be vulnerable to attacks and security breaches. An up-to-date communications network will prevent security breaches by keeping your system’s security measures current to industry standards.

However, while an up-to-date infrastructure may be “good enough,” it is important to also perform routine security assessments in order to be confident that your network is secure. Your business can efficiently implement run regular security assessments by training your staff in IT security policies and procedures and maintaining an updated security stance.

Furthermore, relying on your network alone may result in data loss. It’s important to go the next step and use data backups that include off-site or remote storage

Slow Processing Speed

High latency, or delay, decreases the quality of user experience. In fact, latency above 13 milliseconds has a negative impact on users. “Good enough” IT and communication infrastructure can lead to a slow processing speed due to a variety of factors. For one, slow processing speed may be caused by a malware attack on your network.

Slow processing speed can also be caused by an overloaded router or modem. If too many users are on your network at once, network contention may occur, as many users are waiter for each other’s requests to process, which causes lag. Another likely factor for lag on a “good enough” network is running too many applications at once.

To avoid latency, replacing your current system with a larger, more powerful one, or adding another router are great options. These solutions will not only decrease high latency but will also allow for more applications to be running and more users on the system at once.

Unexpected Costs

Not only does regularly updating your infrastructure help aid in protection against security breaches, it also helps lower unexpected costs down the road. When you have a system that you periodically use “band-aid” solutions for problems that come up or add-on installations needed to complete new projects, the risk of network failure increases, as well as the cost of ongoing maintenance — even though it may be sufficient in the short-term.

To avoid these large costs, it is ideal to invest in IT and communication infrastructure that is scalable, so it can support future technology updates for a lower price and decrease the risk of network failure.

Invest in More Than “Good Enough” IT/Communication Infrastructure

While sufficient IT and communication infrastructure can work for your company in the short-term, it may not be the smartest idea in terms of longevity. From lower security risks to lower long-term costs, as well as higher processing speeds, investing in a superior network can greatly benefit your business down the road.

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