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May 28, 2008

Productivity tools

Ta-da List - the web's easiest to-do list tool. It's free and you can make lists just for yourself or share them with others. If you would like to manage multiple to-do lists, try the tabbed listaculous. One of the best things about these web-based tools is that you can access them from anywhere.

26 reasons why most brainstorming sessions fail - and what you can do about it.

Marker board walls - need lots of space to jot down ideas in those brainstorming meetings? Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools gives you a rundown on available options from cheap tile board to upscale ceramic-coated metal.

Get Things Done Flowchart

Six tips for more effective meetings

Get Human allows you to bypass automated telephonic self-help filtering systems at hundreds of companies to speak directly to a human customer service representative. If you've ever been shuffled back and forth at a giant telco, retailer, or bank, this list might cut your waiting time and frustration.

Google tips and tricks
If you are simply using Google for basic searches, you are missing a lot of utilities. The following tips list just a few of the handy ways you can use Google.

Check local weather
To see weather conditions and a four-day forecast for a particular U.S. or worldwide location, type "weather," followed by the location or the zip code.
Examples: weather 01778 or weather Paris

Check the time at a remote location
Enter the word time and the location in the search box.
Example: time London

Track flight status and weather conditions
Enter the airline and flight number in the search box.
Example: United 535
To check airport weather conditions and delays, type the airport's three letter code followed by the word "airport"
Example: Bos airport

Convert currency
Enter the amount of US dollars and the desired currency in the search box.
Example: 50 US dollars to euros

Specific site search
To restrict your search to one particular site, first enter the term you want to search for, then the word site followed by a colon followed by the site you want to search.
Example: wellness site:www.hrwebcafe.com

Links back
Find out what other sites link to a web page. Enter link:websiteURL into the search box.
Example: link:www.hrwebcafe.com

Dictionary
Type 'define' followed by the term you need a definition for in the search box
Example: define:harassment

Calculator
Type your math problem in the search box
Example: 647+268=
More instructions on Google's calculator.

For more Google tips, visit Google Guide for interactive online tutorials.

May 14, 2008

Survey: When gas goes up, employee productivity goes down

According to a recent survey on the effect of rising gas prices on commuting employees conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, a management professor at Florida State University’s College of Business, more pain at the pump means more employee stress on the job. Hochwarter recently surveyed more than 800 full-time commuting employees when gas prices were about $3.50 per gallon. The survey showed that workers are preoccupied, experience "the blues," are less attentive to job tasks, and feel less enthusiasm about going to work. At least one in three said they would consider quitting their current job to find a comparable one nearby. Among the other survey findings:

  • 52 percent have reconsidered taking vacations or other recreational activities
  • 45 percent have had to cut back on debt-reduction payments, such as credit card payments
  • Nearly 30 percent considered the consequences of going without basics including food, clothing and medicine
  • 45 percent report that the escalating gas prices have "caused them to fall behind financially"
  • 39 percent agreed with the statement "Gas prices have decreased my standard of living"
  • About 33 percent -- or one in three -- said they would quit their job for a comparable one nearer to home

Sharing the pain - what employers can do
As the survey shows, if your employees are hurting, you are hurting too. Find ways to help your employees lessen the pain at the pump. Be creative - your employees will appreciate your help. Even for small companies, there are may low- to no-cost options that you can pursue.

Encourage pedal-power - Offer bike-to-work incentives, such as subsidizing bike purchases for employees who bike to work; install expanded bike parking options; sponsor bike-to-work days with free breakfasts for participants.Biking will not only save your employees money, it will keep them healthy.

Walk the walk - Nothing becomes a leader more than leadership. Managers - including the CEO - could bike to work, take mass transit, or rideshare to set an example. Subsidize or sponsor bus, van, or other group transit options. Organize car pools - encourage your management team to participate.

Expand your telecommuting options - Even allowing employees to work from home one or two days a week would reduce employee fuel expenditures by 20-40%. If you have employees who need to be on premise, consider reorganizing schedules, such as four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.

Meet wisely - Use more online meetings so that people don't have to drive to the office. Consolidate regular in-house meetings to one or two days of the week to allow for more telecommuting options.

Find resources - Investigate and publicize any regional or state sponsored rideshare resources. Websites like eRideShare.com are cropping up to provide bulletin boards so that commuters can find ridesharing partners.

Exchange tips - Publicize gas saving tips in your company newsletter or Intranet. David Bauerlein of the Florida Times Union has a great list of suggestions to lessen the sting of rising gas costs. There are also online resources, such as GasBuddy to help employees find the lowest local gas prices. Research gas conservation and buying tips and add them to your company's newsletter or website.

Consider "conservation contests" - Invite your employees to suggest the best gas and energy conservation tips and cost saving ideas. Offer "green" prizes and publicize the best ideas and tips both internally and in your local paper.

Offer debt counseling services - As gas prices go up, so too do food and other necessities. This is causing serious hardship for many who try to solve the problem with additional credit card debt. Some EAPs offer debt counseling services. It's a good time to publicize and remind your employees when such resources are available.

May 12, 2008

Short takes: Bad HR habits, new MA law, worker engagement, and more

Bad habits - Scarlet Pruitt of HR World discusses 15 bad habits of HR Professionals. These run the gamut from gossip and leaking information to failing to confront rule breakers and underperformers. The latter is something we often see - managers who wait to deal with a performance problem until the employee is unsalvageable, even though an earlier intervention might have led to a resolution of the underlying issue causing the performance drop, often a matter that is rooted in a personal or family situation. One other weakness we might add to the list is the "rescue syndrome" - HR managers who take the weight of the work force problems on their own shoulders, playing confidant or counselor to troubled employees. Getting involved in an employee's personal problems can be like stepping in quicksand, the better course of action is to ensure that good professional counseling resources such as an EAP are available and are used.

More bad habits - as long as we're enumerating bad habits, we also call your attention to HR Daily Advisor's post about 8 common failures in hiring and recruiting, as suggested by an employment attorney.

Massachusetts employers take note: you have a new reason to ensure strict compliance with wage and hour laws. Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees talks about a newly enacted Massachusetts law that requires trebles damages for an employer's violation of wage and hour laws. He notes that previously judges had discretionary powers in determining whether or not an employer had malicious intent in violating the law but under the new law, treble fines are mandatory.

Watch your language - Evil HR Lady talks about why she favors a strict workplace.

Disengagement - Are 20 percent of your workers disengaged? Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 discusses a recent report on The State of Employee Engagement 2008 issued by global consultant BlessingWhite, which reports that only one in three of your workers are fully engaged. And if you are looking to determine what this looks like, Frank Roche of KnowHR offers his nomination for the best definition of employee engagement.

Flexible schedules - Ken Nowak of Envisia Learning discusses how flexible work schedules and telecommuting might increase worker productivity. Thanks to Wally Bock, who always points out worthwhile reading matter on his excellent Three Star LeadershipBlog .

What Mom is worth - In case you missed it, last week, salary.com issued their annual calculation of what a typical Mom's salary ought to be. They determined that the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular "Mom job functions" would equate to an annual cash compensation of $116,805 for a Stay-at-Home Mom. They note that the primary driver of mom's six-figure salary is the amount of overtime clocked. Stay-at-Home Moms work a 94.4 hour "workweek"and Working Moms averaged a 54.6 hour "mom work week" in addition to their paying jobs. Use the Mom Salary Wizard to determine your Mom's market value.

May 6, 2008

Supervisor training: avoid the "Frank Robinson Rule"

Every now and then I check out Jeff Angus' blog, Management By Baseball. Angus is a management consultant and the focus of his blog is applying the management issues he observes in baseball teams to everyday business issues. In a recent post, he focused on what he calls the Frank Robinson Rule. For those of you who don't read the sports page, Robinson is a hall of fame player who went on to try his hand at managing. As a player, Robinson was one of the all-time greats, with a career batting average of .294, 586 home runs, 1812 RBIs, and 2943 hits. He is the only player to be named MVP in both the American and National League and he was on two World Series winning teams.

His career as a manager was a somewhat different story. Over the course of 30 years, his record stands at 1,056 wins against 1,176 losses. In both 2005 and 2006, a Sports Illustrated poll named Robinson the worst manager in baseball.

We have all seen it before. An individual star performer in your organization either raises their hand or is tapped by management to fill a supervisory position. It can be really difficult to say no to when the individual has contributed so much. But all too often, when the individual assumes the additional responsibility, they have no management training or skills, and this can be a prescription for disaster.

Indeed, it happened to me. I was managing a book of business for a company and doing a pretty good job at it. One day my boss approached me and asked me to consider a promotion to supervise a small group of sales executives. I was flattered and excited and jumped at the chance.

Quickly I realized how little I knew. I had never hired, trained, provided feedback, set goals, or handled the administrative aspect of management. I was fortunate that I had a good mentor who kept me on track and was lucky enough to find good people for my team. But in retrospect, I now understand that not only did I put my own career on the line with my inexperience, I could have put the company at risk, too. I had no training on compliance issues, hiring, disciplinary process, discrimination, and all the other human resource regulatory issues I faced daily. While things happily worked out in my case without any untoward events, it's generally pretty risky to let your supervisors learn how to be managers by trial and error. One mistake can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Make it a priority to get your newbie managers the training and attention they need. Make sure they know where to go when they don’t know the answer, train them in compliance issues, and stress the value of honest feedback. To address this very issue, we offer a complete Management Training Academy to provide online and onsite training for the supervisors and managers of our client firms. Check to see if your EAP offers any similar resources; also check with any professional associations that you belong to and any nearby colleges to see what resources might be available. Your might also be able to engage someone from your organization's law firm to present basic seminars on various employment law issues. If you ensure the proper training, your supervisors may be able to avoid the Frank Robinson Rule and successfully make the step from individual performer to managing a successful team.

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