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On Friday, January 25, 2019, Helios hosted the Human Capital Impact Forum (HCIF), a program where C-level and HR leaders come to learn, collaborate and adapt human capital programs to support business growth. The topic for this session was “Reducing Healthcare Costs, Strategies to Know for 2019 & Beyond.”

Below is a high-level recap of the big themes from HCIF, along with insights from our featured experts in the benefits space and HR leaders representing the employer market.

In Session One, Chris Mullins, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Mid-Atlantic, opened the program with a few astonishing stats:

  • Approximately $1 trillion dollars is spent on medical waste and/or inefficient administrative processes.
  • The US national health expenditure shows over 17% is spent on healthcare.
  • By 2025, it is predicted that healthcare will cost $5.21 trillion dollars.

After hearing that, it’s not suprising commercial payers or private employers that subsidize premiums are feeling the pinch the continuing rise in healthcare costs. Over 30% of employers changed medical providers two years ago and over 18% of employers changed last year.

He encouraged employers to find strategies to reduce costs and to increase consumer education. Changing physician and/or prescription co-pays can impact the overall healthcare cost, for instance.

Mullins also encouraged employers to educate and empower their employees to shop services as applicable. For example, if you need an MRI, you would be surprised to learn that the cost will vary greatly from provider to provider within the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In fact, there is a 370% difference when using one provider versus another provider within a five-mile radius.

Below are other notable tips I found to be useful from the presentation.

Top 6 Takeaways on Reducing Healthcare Costs from UnitedHealthcare
  • Save Money on Medicine
    • Ask your health care provider if you can switch to generic medicines. They have the same active ingredient but cost less than brand name drugs.
    • Ask your provider if there is a less expensive medicine that treats the same condition.
    • See if you can order your medicine through the mail.
    • Take all of your medicines as directed. Not taking your medicine or not taking enough medicine may lead to further health problems.
  • Use Your Benefits
    • Get routine health screenings. Most of these tests are at no-cost and can catch health problems early- when they may be more easily treated.
    • Some health plans offer health advocates or case managers. A health advocate can help you get the most of your benefits. A case manager can help you to manage complex health problems such as diabetes or asthma.
    • Use free and discounted services. Many health plans offer discounts on things like gym memberships or eyewear.
  • Plan Ahead and Know When to Use Urgent Vs. Emergency Care
    • When an illness or injury occurs, you need to decide how serious it is and how soon to get medical care. This will help you choose whether to call your provider, go to an urgent care clinic, or get emergency care.
    • If a person or unborn baby could die or have permanent harm, it is an emergency. Examples include chest pain, trouble breathing, or severe pain or bleeding.
    • If you need care that cannot wait until the next day to see your provider, you need urgent care. Examples of urgent care include strep throat, bladder infection, or a dog bite.
    • You will save both time and money if you use an urgent care center or see your provider rather than going to the emergency department. Plan ahead by knowing which urgent care center is near you.
  • Ask About Outpatient Facilities
    • If you need a procedure or surgery, ask your provider if you can have it done at an outpatient clinic. Often, getting care at a clinic is cheaper than having the same procedure in a hospital.
  • Choose In-Network Health Care Providers
    • Depending on your health coverage, you may have the choice to see providers who are in-network or out-of-network. You pay less to see providers who are in-network because they have a contract with your health plan. This means they charge lower rates.
  • Choose a Health Plan That is Right for You
    • When choosing a plan, think about the health needs of you and your family. If you pick a plan with higher premiums, more of your health costs will be covered. If you rarely need medical care, then you may want to choose a plan with a higher deductible. You will pay lower monthly premiums and likely save money overall.

With such impact on individuals and employers today, Mullins confidently predicts that healthcare will be part of the debate for the next presidential election.

3 Trends Advancing in Pharmacy

Next, Tim Sullivan, Pharmacy Manager of UnitedHealthcare, shared strategies and trends in the pharmaceutical space. The cost of prescription drugs has become a hot-button issue with consumers and policymakers. Approximately $4 million is spent on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising and has grown as the most prominent type of health communication.

What struck me, even more, was the data point he shared, “1 in 4 people taking prescription drugs report difficulty affording their medication. ” Dr. Sullivan reported 2 out of 5 consumers abandon their prescribed RX plan of action. The good news is that savings opportunities actually do exist when choosing the right form of medication. For example, who would have thought that purchasing medication in a capsule may be less expensive than in a tablet form?

Top 3 Pharmaceutical Trend Advances Predicted
  1. Cellular and Gene Therapy: In the future, this technique may allow doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells instead of using drugs or surgery. Some gene therapies are available now, including Luxturna – for the treatment of blindness (only $425,000 per eye!) Hopefully, more affordable solutions will breakthrough soon.
  2. Artificial Intelligence: Using this advanced technology, consumers can be seen by doctors in the comfort of their own home.
  3. Wellness Programs: These programs are continuing to gain popularity, however, the first and most important step is to get the leadership engaged as well as establish a wellness committee.

Dr. Sullivan closed his piece by emphasizing the opioid epidemic. Studies show the average amount of days to feel relief from a prescribed opioid is three days. If the drug is prescribed for more than three days, the likelihood of addiction is far greater. I’ll leave you with one final eye-opening stat on this topic: every 15 minutes, someone dies from opioid addiction.

Employer Healthcare Strategies Panel Highlights

In Session 2, we had a panel with industry leaders in Human Resources and Benefits to discuss real-time employer healthcare strategies. The panel, facilitated by Beth Robertson, Senior Vice President of NFP Mid-Atlantic included:

  • Julia Moreno, Vice President, HR Operations at PenFed Credit Union
  • Tom Cogan, Senior Vice President and Practice Lead for NFP Mid-Atlantic
  • Lindsey Reisinger, Vice President at ECS Federal, LLC

Robertson stated in 2019, large employers will cover on average 70% of medical premiums. PPO medical plans remain the most popular plan at 73% and 40% of consumers will participate in an HSA, high-deductible plan. Panelists, Moreno and Reisinger both agreed there has been an increase of HSA participation in their respective companies.

Moreno shared a top cost-saving strategy they did at PedFed, which was to not offer medical to Medicare-eligible employees and carving out Rx from their healthcare plan. As a government contractor with 2,400 employees, ECS Federal decided to convert to self-funding last year after considering it for quite some time. Ultimately, Reisinger disclosed they saved about $1 million dollars as a result. ECS has Service Contract Act employees and was able to keep their SCA population fully insured.

Interested in Self-Funding? 5 Tips to Consider Before You Make the Jump

Cogan shared tips for employers considering converting to self-funding of employee health benefits:

  1. Employers would take responsibility for administrative tasks
  2. Self-funded plans are subject to independent audits
  3. Flexibility to carve out certain benefits
  4. Recommends stop-loss insurance to protect you from shock and high utilization claims
  5. Consider a fully insured transplant rider

Helios HR’s Human Impact Capital Forum provides content, connections, and conversations that will be catalysts for change. We hope that you will join us for our next Human Capital Impact Forum on May 10, 2019 in Tysons, VA. Be sure to mark your calendar and be on the lookout to register and join us!

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As our societal norms and technology have evolved, there has been a recent shift to work being completed outside of the traditional office space and office hours. This shift in flexible working has tasked leaders with the responsibility of managing the productivity and expectations for their teams.  Particularly, employees that work in exempt roles. Leaders now have to decide if their employee time management strategy will focus on an employee’s hours in the office or their overall productivity.

The Benefits of Core Office Hours

Although many professional offices are moving away from the traditional office hours model, there are still many pros to having staff members centrally located for a standardized amount of time throughout the day.

Team Connection & Communication

One benefit of the hours in the office model is that it increases connectivity between teams.  Spending those hours working closely together helps employees to gain a better understanding of those around them. Outside of their professional relationships and communication, employees will be able to connect on other commonalities such as entertainment, sports, health, and family life.  These non-professional connections are drivers for synergy within a team.

Client Service Experiences

Another benefit of the traditional office hours model is that it allows an employer to standardize their client support/customer service approach.  Whether it be an internal or external client/customer, the traditional office hours model eliminates certain variables that must be considered when using other approaches.  A set schedule allows employers to better manage the expectations of clients/customers which can lead to a better customer service experience throughout their engagement.

The Benefits of Flexible Working Focused on Productivity

Work-Life Integration

On the other hand, one of the key benefits of having a time management strategy that focuses on an employee’s overall productivity is the increase in an employer’s ability to promote a healthy work-life integration. Work-life integration is a prominent topic among leaders and HR professionals currently. By adopting a time management strategy that allows employees to manage their time and productivity based on their individual needs an organization can establish it’s self as a desired place to work.

Employee Retention

This also speaks to the second benefit of adopting an overall productivity focused time management strategy, which is increased retention for the employer. Recent studies show that current employees value a healthy work-life balance as much, or more than compensation. Furthermore, as a society, there has been a shift in our priorities which has deemed mental wellness as a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Employers that were able to establish a healthy work-life balance report that their retention and turnovers statistics have been considerably better than their counterparts.

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong strategy, and you can always adopt a hybrid of both. When selecting a time management strategy, organizations should thoroughly assess their teams and business needs before determining which time management strategy to use.  At Helios HR, we offer a slew of services that could assist your leadership team in selecting, refining, and/or implementing a time management strategy that works best for your business.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Helios HR Honored As Community Leader Through CARE Awards

Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) selects Helios HR as a leader in community impact, family-friendly policies and employee engagement to receive its Companies As Responsive Employers (CARE) Awards.

(Reston, Va. – October 4, 2018) For more than 25 years, the CARE Awards have recognized outstanding companies moving the needle to make Northern Virginia a better place for everyone to work, live and play. Community engagement — along with outstanding employee engagement and culture, and progressive family-friendly policies — is a key pillar of CARE-ing companies.

For the second year, Helios HR will be honored as a responsive employer for its deep community impact, outstanding employee engagement and culture, and progressive family-friendly policies.

“As an employer, the number one word the Helios HR team uses to describe our culture is caring. We foster a culture that allows employees to bring their “whole to self” to work.  For us, this encourages people to be authentic. We demonstrate caring by providing team support as we celebrate together and lift each other up through struggles. We fully believe that people thrive in community, and it is our hope that we are a catalyst for positive change,” said Kathy Albarado, CEO.

CARE Award winners are selected based on their performance in the categories of community involvement and impact, health and wellness benefits, work-life programs and policies, and development and education programs.

“CARE Award winners are leaders in our community who are both inspirational and aspirational,” shares Stephanie Berkowitz, president and CEO at Northern Virginia Family Service. “They continue to show us through their actions and their values that our economy, our community and our bottom lines are strongest when we engage deeply both within our community and with our people.”

Awards will be presented at the 26th Annual CARE Awards Breakfast, held Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at the Sheraton Premiere Tysons Corner. Please join us as we celebrate the ways in which winning companies are engaging their employees and supporting our community through innovative corporate social responsibility tactics.

2018 Moderator

Michael Neibauer, Associate Editor, Washington Business Journal

2018 Panelists
Charles Kuhn, President & CEO, JK Moving
Sheila Murphy, Founder & Partner, FlexProfessionals LLC
Darcy Smith, Senior Vice President of Team Development, Custom Ink

Information on attending or sponsoring is available at nvfs.org/careawards.

###

About Helios HR: At Helios HR, we specialize in human capital consulting, outsourcing and recruiting. Our team of in-house experts helps to bridge gaps and provide on-demand customized solutions to attract, engage and retain the top talent organizations need. We navigate the challenges of today’s ever-evolving workplace – and, with our flexible services, we offer more than one path to get you where you want to be.  For more information about us, please visit www.helioshr.com.

About Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS): Northern Virginia Family Service’s (nvfs.org) breadth, depth and scope of services offer the resources and support to ensure that everyone in need, at every stage of life, maximizes their potential and fully contributes to a thriving community. We provide the essential building blocks for financial, emotional and physical well-being, serving as leaders and innovators for the Northern Virginia community. Every year, we empower 34,000 individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency. With these essential resources, our community is better equipped for future success and engagement among all of our neighbors.

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Now more than ever, employers are examining and expanding their engagement and retention efforts in order to remain competitive in their respective industries. With approximately 60 to 70 percent of all separations being voluntary, employers are reshaping the employee lifecycle to ensure their teams are engaged and committed to the organization.  One way that this is done is through maintaining an effective onboarding program.

An effective onboarding program introduces your new hires to the staff, management, and environment of their new workplace. More importantly, though, it provides them with the tools, coaching, and other resources they need to succeed and fosters a deeper connection between the new hire and the mission and vision of the organization. An effective onboarding program serves as the foundation for an organization’s retention efforts and therefore should be strategically constructed to maximize the organization’s efforts.

With such high expectations for a first impression, it is important to strategically think about your organization’s onboarding program and understand that onboarding is not one day.  Various factors such as the organization size, scope of work, and complexity of working relationships go into determining the length of an onboarding program, but the key idea is to leave no stone unturned when getting the new hire acclimated and situated for success. On average, onboarding is considered a 90-day process, however, there are organizations who have developed programs that last for up to one or two years.

The First Day

Speaking from personal experience, the first day at a new job can be just as nerve-wracking as the first day at a new school.  Although you’re not concerned about being stuffed in a locker or having your lunch money taken, meeting and engaging a whole new group of people can be difficult.  Therefore, an effective onboarding program will ensure that the first day is welcoming, informative, and runs as smoothly as possible for the new hire. Employers can achieve this by promoting or planning “intro” events such as a welcoming workspace decoration, or a breakfast/lunch gathering that day. This can calm a new hire’s nerves and give them the feeling that they are wanted and appreciated on day one.

The first day also gives employers the opportunity to go into more detail about their investment in the new hire.  This is primarily the discussion of total rewards and also policies and procedures as they relate to how to be successful as an employee. The key to ensure that new hires receive this step of the onboarding program positively is to tailor your total rewards offerings and communications to promote the organization’s investment in the employee.  Employers should communicate the necessary information such as benefits deductibles and time-off requests, and should also focus on topics related to work-life balance, growth and professional development opportunities, and engagement and community outreach programs.

The First Week

Continuing within that first week of the new hire experience, the onboarding program should gradually adjust from welcome to the organization, to welcome to your role within our team. Depending on the size of the organization and the new hire’s role, there should be a time for the new hire to meet or learn about the organization’s history and operations from a knowledgeable member of the team. The goal of this step is to focus on building that deeper connection to the organization and fellow employees. In addition, this team member should spend time going over the nuances of being an employee with the organization, for example how to access the facilities, how to request business cards, and where to find coffee or refreshments.

As the new hire develops their connection with the organization during the first week, the employer should begin to shift focus to the role of the new hire.  This would include administering any training(s) that are needed for the new hire to perform their duties successfully.  More importantly, this should include discussing and developing performance standards, expectations, and goals.  Employers should ensure that managers are uniformly having these conversations with new hires so that they are not left wondering how they can contribute to the team. Furthermore, these standards, expectations, and goals serve as the foundation of the employee life cycle and will guide decision making going forward.

30-60-90 Plan

As the new hire continues to settle in, it is important for employers to track and evaluate their progress. Developing a 30-60-90 plan gives the new hire a plan for success within their first few months and also sets milestones for employers to evaluate their progress.  This is imperative to having a successful onboarding program because it ensures that the organization and new hire are taking the correct steps for the new hire to be immediately successful in the role.  In addition to adjusting to their new responsibilities, the first thirty days should be a continuation of the programs from the first day and first week.  New hires should continue to learn the company culture and build relationships with their new teams.

Within the first sixty days, the new hire should begin to spread their wings as an employee. This includes working independently or in collaboration with other employees, facilitating their own work, and/or identifying areas for improvement within their role or team.  The new hires contributions should be evident at this point and it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure that the new hire is receiving constructive feedback that aligns with the direction of the team or organization.  This feedback is a critical part of the plan because it fosters engagement from the new hire and redirects or affirms their efforts thus far.

Lastly, by the ninetieth day, the new hire should be fully engaged and functioning as an employee on the team.  The new hire should be searching for projects, collaboration, and growth opportunities.  Furthermore, they should have a solid understanding of what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the team.  As employers, it is important for you to be prepared to channel that energy and engagement to the appropriate projects and assignments to ensure that this level of enthusiasm and ambition is maintained, and you are maximizing your resources.

Implementing an effective onboarding program will help to improve the foundation of an organization’s employee engagement and retention strategies and will also serve as the guide for decision making throughout the employee’s life cycle. This is why it is imperative that organizations think critically around how they will administer their programs, as it can be a key determining factor in the overall success of an organization.

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Many of my clients are surprised when I share that a proper job title and well-written job description are two fundamental building blocks in a successful search for the right employee. Both a job title and the description are the first impressions an applicant has of your company, and it is essential that they are accurate while defining the job.

If the job title does not accurately reflect the role or if the job description is not well written, it can become a barrier to your company successfully hiring the right candidate. It is important to understand the major impacts the two can have on your business. Let’s take a look at what the impact can be…

Losing Out on Key Talent

Pretend you are the candidate searching for a new job. What is the first thing you type in the search bar? Probably the job title. And if you see a job title you like, what is the second thing you do? You read the job description.

Candidates search for jobs based on their past job experiences and their knowledge of what each job entails. When they see a title or description that doesn’t quite fit their profile or what they are looking for, they usually pass on it as it makes them feel the role and/or your company is not aligned with their background. Or even worse, it could put a bad taste in the candidate’s mouth about your company. And because of that, you could lose out on a great candidate for a different role in the future, due to mislabeling your jobs or not describing them properly.

When done correctly, a job description emphasizes your employer brand. It helps create a solid foundation for a culture your candidates will want to be a part of. Doing so will allow your brand to grow and give your company the boost it needs to continually bring in key talent.

Misalignment on Expectations & Lowered Engagement

When job descriptions and job titles aren’t given correct attention, it can cause a domino effect and a breakdown in communication in the workplace. If both are clear and concise, your chances of having gaps in communication are smaller. Job descriptions give the employer and the employee a solid foundation for performance and establish the employer’s expectations of the role. If the description is not clearly aligned it can cause poor performance, eventually lower engagement and may cause the employee to leave the organization.

Job titles can also cause an employee’s performance and engagement to diminish. The Spherion survey, conducted online with market research data collection organization Research Now, found that nearly half the workforce (42%) are dissatisfied with their job title. People take pride in their job titles and if an employee doesn’t feel proud in their position, it can cause lower satisfaction. Causing lower engagement, breakdowns in communication, and a strain on the business. Taking the time to align the title to the description helps the employee better understand their role in the organization.

Financial Implications

When you sit down to determine a job title and write a job description, consider the financial impact it can have on your business.  Choosing the right title and writing out a well thought out job description can actually save your company money. The average cost per hire in 2017 is $4,129.00 and the average time to fill a given position is 42 days according to a survey conducted by SHRM (dependent on geographical location).  If your job title and description are inaccurate, these numbers can escalate and create a strain on the business.

Additionally, when an employee starts their new job, very few times is an employee put right to work. They are acclimated to the job, which means; attending training, learning the business, onboarding, sit-downs with managers, taking time away from other employees. All of these things can continue to cost the business money due to lack of production and efficiency. If a new employee chooses to leave the organization because the work is different from what they were seeking, your company has incurred onboarding costs and you will not see a return for your initial investment.

Legal Risks

Job descriptions are not required by law, nor are they legally binding. They should be an accurate portrayal of the job’s functions to help minimize legal implications. When writing out job descriptions, consider some of the major impacts they can have on business:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Job descriptions provide a strong base for the essential functions of the job. Once employed, an employee must be able to perform the job functions listed in the description with or without accommodations. If the job description properly outlines the duties, it will show the candidate/employee what is expected to perform the job. If the employee does not have a clear picture of the job, they may request accommodations that can potentially create an undue hardship on the business.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Ensuring job responsibilities are outlined clearly, is key for the FLSA. Job descriptions determine if the role is an exempt or non-exempt employee. Each position must be classified correctly because it can have other implications in areas such as overtime and benefits.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – When an employee is returning from leave, the job description helps determine when the employee can come back to work, and whether accommodations may need to be considered. An accurate list of the essential job functions can help the employer best support the individual returning from leave and minimize risk.

Determining the right job title for your company and making sure its accompanied by a well thought out job description isn’t always easy. Here are some tips that may help make this process easier for you.

Top 5 Tips to Even Better Job Titles and Job Descriptions
  1. Benchmarking
    1. Start by identifying roles in your organization that are easy and clear to define and use those to define the rest of your jobs and levels throughout the company.
  2. Try not to complicate the job title
    1. Take a look at the market and see what other companies are using to attract talent. Educate yourself on other jobs and their role and responsibilities. Measure your titles and descriptions based on that.
  3. Focus on the knowledge, skills, and abilities, that are needed to complete the job.
    1. This will allow you to focus on the right title and better define what the job entails.
  4. Get input from your recruiters
    1. Recruiters talk to candidates every day and know what they are looking for. Their input could be helpful when choosing the job title or when you’re writing your descriptions.
  5. Pinpoint challenging roles
    1. Determine the jobs you are having a hard time filling. Take a second or third look at the descriptions and titles and see and see what can be adjusted to attract the right talent to the position.

There are always going to be instances when you will lose a candidate, such as salary, location of the job, and/or competition, but you never want to lose a candidate because the title or the descriptions aren’t a reflection of the job or your culture. Focusing on the impacts above and using the tips provided can help you to better achieve your goals of bringing in top talent.

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Are leaders born or made?

This is an interesting question that comes up often in client discussions around developing future leaders. For decades in our society, this has been a lifelong debate of nature versus nurture. It’s as if we think that once we can answer this question, we can unlock the mystery/challenge of identifying and leveraging effective leadership.

If you look hard enough, you can find examples of leaders that support both perspectives. There are clearly people who inherit qualities and traits that make them better suited to be a leader. While on the other hand, there are people who can emerge into leadership roles or become leaders through learning, teaching, experiences, and observation.

Is there a way that leaders can be both born and made?

Certainly, and I will explain why.

It is true, some people are just born leaders based on inherited qualities and traits, including coming from a history of leaders in the family. Research shows that some inherited traits such as extraversion, intelligence, risk-taking, being bold, and being assertive are linked to effective leaders. The concept of innate traits that lead to successful outcomes can also be seen in people who are natural born artists, musicians, and athletes.

However, if all leaders were born into leadership, then that would likely rule many of us out as potential effective leaders. The good news is that there is significant research that shows that effective leaders can be made.

As I have already briefly explained, leaders can emerge through learning, experiences, and teachings. Through life and work experiences it is very easy to see that someone can learn from their mistakes and successes and use those experiences as a growth tool toward becoming an effective leader.

It is up to each person to learn from their experiences as to which management practices they want to adopt in order to become the type of leader that they aspire to be. While we offer leadership training, leadership behavioral assessments like DiSC and Myers-Briggs, and even coaching, we both know effective leadership won’t happen overnight.

Rather, leadership is a process of lifelong endeavors, learning from experiences and observing successful leaders around you. Sure, you can learn leadership qualities and study leadership, but leadership requires action and integrity.

What leadership opportunities are you providing for individuals on your team to step up?

When developing your future successors, I encourage you to ask them (and even yourself) regularly:

  • “Who do you want to be as a leader?”
  • “How do you show up to work every day?”
  • “How do you have a positive impact on those around you and especially those who work for you?”

The need for leadership is going to differ based on the culture or environment. The recognition of situational leadership needs can heavily influence how an effective leader may react or go about making decisions. A leader might not always lead through words/vocalization, but rather through actions.

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and action.” – Harold Geneen, former President of ITT

I know for myself that I was not born a leader, yet I have a distinct way of being able to read someone and the situation. Now, you are probably thinking what does reading people have to do with becoming a leader, right? It turns out that over the course of my life the ability to read someone has affected how I communicate with others and lead them to a positive outcome. While I haven’t been known to be a strong vocal leader, I have lead through deliberate actions in all aspects of life, while making good choices and not being afraid to make decisions. I have always tried to set the right example by working hard, being a team player, and going the extra step by taking initiative to get things done. Early in my career, I observed that leadership and learning go hand in hand in order to achieve results.

Leadership is a gift and a choice wrapped into one. There will be born leaders and those leaders who will be made, but it’s what those individuals do to influence, impact and inspire those around them that matters most.

Born leaders should leverage the traits that they were fortunate to be born with and use them to lead toward their articulated vision. Made leaders should stay curious and learn through experiences, teachings, and observations in order to bring those around them along with them on their journey.

The advice I give to my clients is the best leaders will be those that are born with leadership traits, but recognize that they are on a lifelong journey of learning to become the best leaders they can be. And, our job is to help guide the path…

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Technology is always innovating, and employees rely on business leaders to keep-up with the changes in today’s modern workplace. One trend that is continuously gaining popularity is wearables, specifically smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Wear OS, which allows users to stay connected to their smartphones from afar.

While these wearables may seem like a distraction in the workplace, employers are finding that the promotion of smartwatches can enhance the employee experience and business productivity. What are the possible pros and cons of this technology in your workplace?

Pros Vs. Cons: Smartwatches at Work

Pro: Allows employees to stay on top of notifications- personal and professional

Promoting wearables can assist employees with staying on schedule, both professionally and personally, which enhances productivity as well as work/life balance. An employee with a smartwatch can receive email notifications, calendar alerts, calls, texts, news alerts, and other programmed notifications. Receiving and previewing these messages on a smartwatch allows the employee to determine if the notification is something that needs to be addressed immediately, as soon as possible, or eventually, and gives the employee quick control over their daily notifications and responsibilities.

Pro: Promotes a healthy lifestyle

Many health apps are available on smartwatches and they can be used to promote healthier, happier, and more productive employees. Health apps can allow employees to track their nutrition, track their activity, take a movement break, and even take a quick mindfulness break. These features promote quick physical and mental breaks throughout the workday which can keep your employees’ stamina strong. They also promote overall health which is good for your employee and your benefits premiums. Additionally, activity apps can be used in culture initiatives, such as a monthly step challenge, to promote healthy employees and engage them in company activities.

Pro: Workplace apps are available

As technology continues to advance, so do the apps on wearable watches. Overtime, businesses may be able to utilize wearables to sign-in to meetings, project a financials presentation, or even have a holographic call. We anticipate e-learning to become even more accessible with wearables. For now, certain apps can be used to assist business functions. Smartwatches allow employees to take notes, create to-do lists, preview important emails, be on-time for meetings, and much more. There are also certain softwares that are smartwatch accessible. For example, mobile security platform Usher replaces traditional forms of enterprise security such as ID cards, passwords, and physical keys with a mobile badge on a user’s smartphone or smartwatch. ZOHO Books also has a smartwatch application that allows users to check balances, submit invoices, track time, and more.

Pro: Enhances everyday tasks

Smartwatches enable employees to do quick math, set timers and alarms, monitor parking meters, review traffic patterns, make payments, receive travel notifications, check the weather, order lunch, and more. While these functions may seem basic, it’s often the simple innovations that can save us time and make our daily tasks easier.

Con: Your phone has to be somewhat close-by

Like much of the wireless technology today, smartwatches are connected through Bluetooth. One limitation of Bluetooth is that the primary device (i.e., smartphone or laptop) has to be within 300 ft. of the secondary device. So, while your employee can put their phone away during a meeting and still receive a notification when the next meeting begins, their phone has to be in the room, on a nearby desk, or in their nearby bag.

Solution: Promote smartwatches, but don’t live by them. Ensure employees know that they can be unplugged after hours or during meetings, but that smartwatches may be able to assist them in their productivity and time management.

Con: Wearables may be distracting during no-phone meetings, seminars, etc.

Wearing smartwatches keeps users consistently connected to their virtual responsibilities. While this can be a good thing, wearables can also be distracting if a user has multiple calls, messages, and notifications coming in. Additionally, social media, sports, and gaming apps can be used on smartwatches which can also cause more distraction from work.

Solution: Remind employees of company technology and personal time management policies, and ensure work responsibilities are completed. If possible, a company can provide smartwatch to employees for little to no cost. This can be seen as an enticing benefit and it also allows the employer to designate the watch as company property and monitor how it is used.

Promoting wearables in the workplace can be gradual or swift depending on your company’s culture and goals. Start small by taking a poll of the wearables in your office and the interest in smartwatches. By testing out wearables in your workplace, you continue down the path of innovation and show your employees that you value progress, productivity, and professional/personal time management.

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If you look up Federal Government Fiscal Year End, here is what you would find on the Wikipedia page:

The United States federal budget for the fiscal year 2018, which runs from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, was named America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again. It was the first budget proposed by newly-elected President Donald Trump, submitted to the 115th Congress on March 16, 2017.

And since we are entering September, now is the time for government contractors to plan for a government shutdown just in case the 2019 fiscal year budget is not approved by October 1, 2018.

So what do we do?

Forewarned is forearmed so in order to do your due diligence, here are some of the terms you should be familiar with as a government contractor.

  • Appropriation? An appropriation authorizes the spending of discretionary funds available to agencies and programs that have already been authorized.
  • Appropriations are also known as an Appropriations Bill which is a bill that sets money aside for specific spending.
  • A Continuing Resolution also referred to as a CR is a temporary bill put in place to continue funding at the current level when the fiscal year ends if no budget is in place.

For fiscal year 2018, some appropriations are already in place and essential services such as the issuing of social security checks will continue in the absence of an approved budget.

But what about other services?

This is where the terms essential and non-essential come into play. Referring to the Social Security check example, while checks will be issued, social security cards for new holders would most likely not be issued. Another example of essential has been work characterized by the Federal Government to protect our homeland while non-essential work includes the closure of National Parks for example.

As a government contractor here are some of the things you should consider:

  • Where are your government contracting employees? Are they performing an essential service?
  • Do you know where your contracting officers are? If not, seek them out in early September.
  • Are you operating under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)? If so, be aware of what the CBA says in regards to shut-downs.
  • WARN Act requires a 60-day notice if there is a shut-down of work.
  • Which states are your employees operating in? Are there other laws in place in these states that will affect how they are treated in the case of a shutdown?
  • What options can you provide to your employees? (Vacation/Leave, Furlough, Other Project Work)
  • Has each contract been reviewed? For instance, if a contract was entered into before the lapse of funds and was fully funded, can you continue work on that contract?

Be aware that if a shutdown does occur government contractors must receive a Stop Work Order before work stops, so stay in contact with your Contracting Officer.

As an HR leader, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to communicate with your employees.  We all know that in the absence of information, employees will make it up which causes morale problems as well as diverts attention away from the business at hand. Communicate early and often with your staff and be transparent in the communications.  Be authentic and keep them abreast of what you know and don’t know.

Finally, documentation is very important before, during, and after a shutdown occurs.  Make sure you are prepared for an immediate resumption of work when the Stop Work Order is rescinded.  While none of us have a crystal ball and can predict if a government shutdown is going to occur, be proactive and use these next few weeks in September to establish contingency plans in the event it does occur.

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