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July 27, 2009

Short takes from the blogosphere: Zappos, texting game, minimum wage, interviewing vets & more

Follow up - No sooner did we post about Zappos great corporate culture when Jeff Bezos of Amazon up and bought the company "...for 10 million shares of Amazon stock, worth nearly $900 million at its current level," in addition to $40 million in cash and stock for employees. Coincidental timing, we had no insider knowledge! Kris Dunn of HR Capitalist posts about the cultural changes that are likely to ensue.

Safety game - Take the text while driving game to see how you fare when you multitask while driving.

Minimum wage - As of last Friday, the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 download an updated Minimum Wage posting notice.

Best practices
KnowHR is featuring a three-part guest post on "what's right with HR" anonymously authored by a senior HR executive at a well-known company. Part One: Great HR is invisible; Part Two: Great HR is invisible because Great HR people like it that way; and Part Three: Great leaders expect their HR people to be great.

Minding the Workplace offers the “Eightfold Path” to a Psychologically Healthy Workplace, a questionaire designed to help determine whether or not a workplace is psychologically healthy, productive, and socially responsible towards its own workers.

Legal matters - Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg posts about the $35 million settlement Wal-Mart will pay in a class action suit which alleged that 88,000 Washington employees were forced to skip rest and meal breaks or work off the clock.

Military matters - Fistful of Talent notes that an estimated 185,000 military service members will be entering the work force this year and offers a good post on how to interview a veteran.

Wellness - Fiona Gathrwight of Corporate Wellness Insights posts that the proposed Senate Health Reform Bill would expand wellness incentives.

Bad bosses - In HR Daily Advisor, author Lynn Taylor offers some tips from her book Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior.

July 20, 2009

Zappos: case study of a creative employer

For some time now, we've been noticing that Zappos, a Las Vegas based e-commerce company with 1500 employees, keeps surfacing on blogs and in news reports for being both a remarkable example of customer service and an excellent place to work. We've been meaning to write about the company and are prompted to do so after seeing Chief Happiness Officer post about Zappos as a genuinely happy place to work. Others agree. The company earned spot #23 on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For 2009 list, the highest-ranking newcomer on the list.

In Zappos Knows How To Kick It, Fortune writes about how "the quirky retailer" made the list by "... providing a model of how to manicure culture and treat staffers like adults, while simultaneously reassuring them that sometimes it's okay to behave like children." Zappos encourages "weirdness" and fosters creativity, fun and employee empowerment - particularly when it comes to service - employees don't work from a script and are encouraged to go to great lengths to delight cutomers and solve problems.

After visiting Zappos recently to make a presentation, blogger Brian Solis posts about Zappos' Core Values. He talks about the culture of empowerment "...Zappos as represented by its hundreds of employees, is driven by dignity, personal and professional fulfillment, sincerity, empathy, and the aspiration of always being helpful to not only customers, but each other. At Zappos, employees are royalty. They’re encouraged to be themselves. They’re rewarded for adding personality to their job and responsibilities. They’re promoted for contributions and collaboration. It’s this empowerment that powers everything."

Zappos also fully embraces social media as a way for employees to interact with the market and their customers... from blogs to twitter. Besides being a bold and transparent marketing approach, social media also provide a way for employees to share "inside" info about events and happenings, to keep current on trends that affect their business, to provide health, fitness and wellness info, and to share parenting and work-life tips. We like that their CEO and COO maintain a blog which they use to communicate to both employees and the public at large - instead of being a "sell piece" it's a forum where they talk about company values - see Your Company Is Your Brand and a post about moving on after a layoff.

July 17, 2009

Back to work: tips for beating the blues after your vacation

Are you seeing a lack of motivation in your employees when they return from vacation? Or maybe you've just returned to the job after a week away and are having trouble getting back into the swing of things. While many return from a vacation refreshed and reinvigorated, for others, resuming one's place in the workplace can trigger anxiety, depression, or just a general sense of letdown. Post-vacation return-to-the-job blues is a fairly common phenomena - common enough that even a Pope has admitted difficulty in adjusting to "daily reality, with its concreteness, its problems, its heaviness," according to an article on post-vacation blues in AMA's Performance and Profits. Others quotes in the article describe the return to work as a "fun-withdrawal"or liken it to a trip to the dentist after you have avoided it for five years.

Among some of the coping mechanisms they suggest to ease readjustment:

  • Schedule your return to give yourself some reentry time
  • Start planning your next vacation right away
  • Call a co-worker before you return to get a heads up on what to expect
  • Bring back a memento and keep it on your desk
Road & Travel likens post-vacation to the letdown that mountain climbers and marathoners often experience after they have a achieved a goal that they worked towards for a long period of time. They offer a variety of tips for readjusting to the real world from Jeff Alt, author of the award-winning "A Walk For Sunshine" and "A Hike For Mike." Among his tips, he suggests helping your body adapt to any physical changes by eating right, staying fit and easing back to routine slowly. He also suggests having a vacation escape such as a screensaver from your trip and focusing on a plan for your next adventure.

Re-establishing a work routine may not be the only post-vacation challenge - it can be an adjustment for the family, too. Tom Valeo of WebMD says that "...a vacation is like a trip into space. The nerve-wracking blastoff takes place only after weeks of careful planning. Then a few days of serenity and peace are followed by a harrowing re-entry. The old routine may feel like the force of gravity after days of weightlessness -- a familiar burden that suddenly feels harder to bear." He offers a variety of tips to bounce back fast.

July 7, 2009

A remarkable woman's self-written obit reminds us to live life fully

Someone sent us Nancy Lee Hixson's self-written obituary, which recently ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer ... it's well worth a few minutes of your time. Ms. Hixson was obviously a remarkable person, a one-of-a-kind character who lived her life with gusto, courage, humor, and passion...she paints her own self portrait with a witty irreverence that makes us sorry we never had the opportunity to meet her.

This obituary has gone viral in just a few days, careening its way through websites and emails. Strangers who read it are touched and motivated to leave wonderful messages on her obituary page. It illustrates the power that one person can have - even in death - to reach out and inspire others.

We particularly liked this comment from someone who stated that she was Nancy's sister:

Through her death notice. Nancy Lee is unforgettable, unquenchable and unrelenting. Listen to a bird chirp, watch a leaf float all the way to the ground, stomp through every puddle you meet, brush your pet 100 strokes every day, run headlong down a hill, name the clouds, walk with purpose, sit perfectly still and listen to the air, wake with a smile for the new day, and always, always, always keep a pocket free for the litter you encounter on your way. Live with deliberation, search for joy, seek an adventure and you will find her spirit within you. Grateful tears to each of you who have affirmed her spirit and offered solace by writing here.

As many others have stated, we are left wishing we knew more about this remarkable woman. She reminds us a bit of Randy Pausch, another remarkable person who lived life fully, inspired others, and faced his impending death from cancer with courage and grace. As my colleague Bill Bowler noted when discussing life's lessons learned from Pausch, "...this may be a good time for the rest of us to step back and examine the guiding principals by which we lead our lives. Unlike the economic crisis, over which we individually may have little control, each of us has absolute control over how we order our lives."

Rest in peace, Nancy Lee Hixson - we thoroughly enjoyed meeting you, even if it was posthumously.

July 6, 2009

Short takes: court cases, flexibility study, public speaking and more

Michael Fox of Jottings By An Employers Lawyer discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling in the New Haven firefighter case. Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg also offers his thoughts what the Supreme Court ruling means to employers.

David Greenspan of Suits in the Workplace talks about a recent Supreme Court ruling that makes it more difficult for workers to establish age discrimination. That is, unless a careless email actually makes the case for a prospective applicant.

Mark Harbeke of Winning Workplaces posts about a research study on Flexibility best practices for shift workers and admins.

Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees asks: Does your company need a smartphone policy?

HR Daily Advisor notes: Mid year poster compliance check - are you in compliance?

Looking to improve your public speaking and communication skills? Six Minutes is a public speaking and presentation skills blog which offers tips, analysis, insights, and links to some of the blogosphere's best weekly public speaking posts.

David Silverman offers some practical tips for keeping your e-mail inbox under control at HarvardBusiness.

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