May 17, 2015

LinkedIn Tips & Tricks for HR: Optimize, recruit, publish

LinkedIn is becoming an indispensable tool for human resource managers. We've sourced links to some of the best advice and resources for your LinkedIn toolkit. We offer links to general tips & tools; advice for optimizing your own profile page and your company's page; articles and resources for how to use LinkedIn in hiring and recruiting; and information on using LinkedIn as a publishing platform to promote your and your organization's brand.

General tips & tools

LinkedIn Super Secrets: 9 Tips for Job Seekers, Brand Builders and Hiring Managers

24 LinkedIn Do’s and Don’ts Every Professional Should Know

LinkedIn Human Resources - Articles, experts, jobs, and more

Top Five LinkedIn Groups For Human Resources

10 Free Apps for LinkedIn You Need To Know

Optimizing your presence

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile in 2015

16 Tips To Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile And Enhance Your Personal Brand

4 Advanced Tips to Optimizing Your LinkedIn Company Page

10 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Company Page

LinkedIn Recruiting

Modern Recruiter’s Guide

LinkedIn Talent Solutions - These products are for any company with a recruiting strategy, in growth mode, or frequently in need of new talent.

LinkedIn Recruiter Lite - if you only hire occasionally

Use LinkedIn for Recruiting Employees

Advanced Tips for Recruiting on LinkedIn

How Using LinkedIn Recommendations Can Help You Find Your Next Employee

LinkedIn Publishing

Share Insightful Content Through LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

LinkedIn Publishing Playbook (PDF)

How to Use LinkedIn Publisher to Get More Visibility

6 Tips to Create and Publish a Killer Article on LinkedIn

How To Develop A Winning LinkedIn Publishing Strategy

ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

May 2, 2015

Tech tools for telecommuters

Recently, we posted a Telecommuting Tool Kit, which included trends, success factors and legal issue - so we were delighted to find an infographic along with 21 essential tech tools for working remotely - tools for instant messaging, organizing, sharing, project management, web chats and more.


More tech tools for remote work
10 tools for more productive telecommuting

Managing Remote Workers: 8 Tech Tools that Fuel Communication

5 Essential Tech Tools For Telecommuters

5 Tech Tools That Are Changing The World of Remote Work

5 Great Apps for Managing Telecommute Workers

12 Tips for Building a Productive Virtual Office


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

March 22, 2015

Telecommuting Tool Kit: Trends, success factors, legal issues & more

Telecommuters, flexible workplace, distributed workforce or remote workers: - whatever name you choose to call it, it's a trend that's growing in leaps and bounds. According to Global Workforce Analytics, about 3.3 million people in the U.S. work from home as their primary place of business - and that doesn't include the self-employed for volunteers. While there are no reliable statistics about the number of people who work from home on a less frequent basis, Global Workplace Analytics estimates the number could be as high as 25 million.

It's no secret why it's a popular alternative for employers and employees alike. Just a few of the benefits include flexibility and satisfaction for employees who don't have to spend time commuting; reduced overhead costs for employers; access to a larger talent pool; and an increase in worker satisfaction leading to greater productivity and reduced turnover. See an extensive list of telecommuting benefits, advantages and considerations for employers.

Recently, Harvard Business Review blogs featured two articles on telecommuting and ways to make it work. We'll offer a brief overview of both, along with a variety of other links and tools that we think might be helpful to any employers who currently have remote workers or are considering adopting telecommuting.

Why Remote Work Thrives in Some Companies and Fails in Others
Sean Graber asks, "Has remote work lived up to the hype?" He answers yes, in some companies, and offers two examples of two: Automattic (the creator of WordPress) and the U.S. government. The former is a completely distributed model, and the latter is selective by department.

"Why are some organizations reaping benefits but others not? Conditions are seemingly ideal: More and more people are choosing to work remotely. By one estimate, the number of remote workers in the U.S. grew by nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012. Advances in technology are keeping pace. About 94% of U.S. households have access to broadband Internet — one of the most important enablers of remote work. Workers also have access to an array of tools that allow them to videoconference, collaborate on shared documents, and manage complex workflows with colleagues around the world.
How tools are changing the way we manage, learn, and get things done. So what’s the problem? The answer is simple: Many companies focus too much on technology and not enough on process. This is akin to trying to fix a sports team’s performance by buying better equipment. These adjustments alone might result in minor improvements, but real change requires a return to fundamentals."

He suggests three critical success factors or principles that must be in place, and elaborates on each: Communication, Coordination, Culture. There are tools and technologies that enable these and he suggests some. The trickiest might be creating a cohesive culture, which some organizations address by an initial in-house orientation and periodic in-person meetings; other organizations use social share tools to foster culture.

5 Basic Needs of Virtual Workforces
Randy Rayess offers three examples of tech companies with "distributed workforces" - he also includes Automattic. He notes:

"In our experience at VenturePact, telecommuters tend to be self-starters and quick learners. You don’t have to micromanage them, just provide clear, high-level direction. But there are some common pain points. In a 2014 Robert Half Technology survey of U.S.-based CIOs, 30% said communication was their greatest remote management challenge, followed by productivity (22%) and technology (22%). Focusing on a few principles can help address these challenges"
He identifies 5 key principles and a discussion about each: Convenience, Transparency, Accountability, Communication and Trust.

Telecommuting tools

Should You Hire Remote Workers? - Neil Patel, Forbes

Workers Without Borders: Managing the Remote Revolution - Anthony Smith, Entrepreneur

10 Tips for Making Telecommuting Work - Stephen Bruce, HR Daily Advisor

7 Mistakes Managers Make When Managing Remote Workers - Anita Bruzzese, The Fast Track

Employment Law Issues

Time to Tackle Telecommuting - Employment Law Attorney Jon Hyman, Workforce

Telecommuting—Great, But Watch These Legal Pitfalls - - Stephen Bruce, HR Daily Advisor

Do Your Employees Telecommute? You Should Know… Lance Godard, JDSUPRA

Tech Tools

10 tools for more productive telecommuting - PCWorld

17 Tools for Remote Workers - Kevan Lee, FastCompany

Telecommuting Tools

esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

June 22, 2014

Tips & Tools from our Bookmark Files

We're cleaning out our bookmark file and passing along a grab bag of useful tools, reference sites, apps and tips.

Bullhorn Reach - Social Recruiting Software helps recruiters source and recruit high quality talent quickly and effectively. By leveraging the social recruiting tools offered through Bullhorn Reach, recruiters can easily broadcast open jobs across social media channels, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and monitor the activity of their social media connections to identify early movers. Bullhorn Reach also enables recruiters to engage as thought leaders with their social connections, build their personal brands online, and increase their visibility as social recruiting experts.

ASLU - American Sign Language University - A sign language resource site for ASL students and teachers. Here you will find information and resources to help you learn ASL and improve your signing.

RFP for Outside Counsel - Handy guide if you need to hire a law firm.

National Center for the Victims of Crime - Dedicated to serving individuals, families, and communities harmed by crime and to helping victims of crime rebuild their lives.

OSHA's Heat Safety App - A smartphone app for outdoor workers & supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Then, with a simple "click," get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness-reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

Choosing A Hospice: 16 Questions To Ask

State-by-State Guide to U.S. Marijuana Legislation - Click the preview pane for a grid of states

Kaiser State Health Facts

Free Online Image Editor - Resize or crop photos, create or resize gifs; add borders, overlays, special effects

A Guide to Little-Known Image Collections with Millions of Free, Hi-Res Images

Sworkit - the app for working out anywhere. Simply choose what part of your body to focus on and how long you have. Sworkit will create a custom circuit training workout using just your bodyweight.

LastPass - a password management service available in both free and premium versions. This popular service bills itself as "the last password you have to remember." - Many web services make it difficult to find how to delete your account. aims to be a directory of urls to enable you to easily delete your account from web services. The site tells you if it is easy, hard or impossible to delete your account.

Free Conference Call - Free conference calling is simple and easy to use, requiring only an e-mail address to receive an instant account. Once you enter your e-mail address, you will be instantaneously provided with a dial-in number and Meeting ID for immediate phone conferencing. Your teleconferencing line is available to you 24/7 and there is no need to schedule or make reservations. Each call accommodates 1,000 callers on an unlimited number of 6 hour free conference calls.

Risk Assessment Tool for Estimating Your 10-year Risk of Having a Heart Attack

Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards

DuckDuckGo - an Internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers' privacy and avoiding the "filter bubble" of personalized search results.

Top 10 fixes for common PC problems: The best of PCWorld's Answer Line

Going live: Tips for first-time corporate speakers

How To Shop For Long-Term Care Insurance

U.S. Drought Portal

Is It Better to Rent or Buy? - The choice between buying a home and renting one is among the biggest financial decisions that many adults make. But the costs of buying are more varied and complicated than for renting, making it hard to tell which is a better deal. The NY Times offers an excellent calculator that takes the most important costs associated with buying a house and computes the equivalent monthly rent.

Local Harvest - eat fresh - find a Farmer's Market near you.


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

March 12, 2014

Social Media opens an array of employment law resources

Lately, we've been posting about compliance-related issues on the blog - a topic that is frequently on the minds of our employer clients. It crosses industry sectors and organizations of all sizes. While compliance with state and federal laws is a complex responsibility for HR managers, today the web makes a wide array of resources available at your fingertips - you simply have to ensure that you are getting information from credible sources. Many employment law attorneys actively and generously share their knowledge and expertise on blogs and on Twitter. In fact, there's a huge HR community on Twitter so even if you aren't interested in Tweeting yourself, it is worth your while to lurk. You can start by following us at @ESIEAP.

Some of our favorite blogs on compliance and employment law-related issues include:

Jon Hyman - Ohio's Employer Law Blog

Jeff Nowak FMLA Insights

Daniel Schwartz - Connecticut Employment Law Blog

Philip Miles Lawffice Space

Robin Shea Employment and Labor Insider

Michael Fox - Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Workers' Comp Insider

All the above also have Twitter accounts. You can also follow our Employment Law list of 70+ contacts on Twitter.

March 2, 2014

App Roundup: Health, Fitness, Productivity & More

Smartphone apps can help you be more productive and efficient in the workplace. They can also help you to eat better, get fit and generally just improve your health and wellness. But how do you find the best of the best? We've turned to some expert sources for their picks.

Health & Fitness

10 Top Wellness Apps to Meet Your Health Goals

Fitness: Exercise apps for your smartphone

5 fitness apps that actually get results

Apple’s picks for best new health apps of 2014

Top 10 apps physicians recommend to their patients

Apple’s top 118 apps for doctors, nurses, patients

10 Best Patient Apps

5 Types of Health Apps You Should Avoid

Workplace / Business / Productivity

Department of Labor apps

Four Best OSHA-related Safety Apps on the Web

20 of the best productivity apps of 2013

14 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2014

5 Best Business Travel Apps Of 2013

10 Great Apps for HR Productivity

5 Best Calendar Apps


The 100 Best iPhone Apps

The 100 Best Android Apps of 2013

Red Cross Mobile Apps

9 Essential Apps for Storms and Emergencies


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

December 8, 2013

Handy Dandy Web Tools

It's been awhile since we last tapped into our bookmark file to post a smorgasbord of useful web tools and links. Here are a few that we've found noteworthy.

Weather & travel - Fight Aware's Misery Map - will your flight be disrupted by bad weather? Just click the arrow in the lower left to get a quick dynamic snapshot of how weather is affecting delays and cancellations. And here are 20 reliable Twitter sources to follow for winter storm news

Social media searches - Topsy - a search engine that lets you search the social web, including Twitter. Also see: hshtags for searching hashtags from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Flickr and Tumblr.

Free meeting tools - Free Conference Call is a service we've touted before. It allows you to easily make and record free conference calls. They have launched a variety of other useful services, too: audio conferencing with file sharing, voice messaging and some free international conferencing.

Free media files - Wikimedia Commons is a database of millions of freely usable media files, including images, videos and sound clips - very useful if you have an internet page or blog that you want images for. See this page for terms of use

Learning English - Learn Real English - if you have a population of people for whom English is a second language, PhraseMix might help. It offers over 500 free English lessons using contextual phrases and colloquial language.

Good works - AmazonSmile - if you make purchases through Amazon, you can donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to charity - for no additional cost to you. Simply conduct your shopping through AmazonSmile link - select a charity, and then shop. Click for more details.

Annoyances - Just Delete Me - Closing online accounts can be frustrating at best. This site lists hundreds of popular sites and provides direct links to where you can delete your account. It color codes by easy, hard and impossible.

Mailing large files - DropSend = need to email a file that has a large attachment? Send large files up to 4GB. Youc an send up to 5 files free each month. There's no software to install or setup. Upload the file and mail it, the recipient gets a link, and you can see when it has been picked up.

Reference - National Cancer Institute - Dictionary of Cancer Terms
Get It Done Online! - A handy citizen's guide to government services available online.

How-to - How to link to or embed a Youtube video to start at a particular time.
10 Brilliant Pinterest Board Ideas From Real Brands


ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

October 20, 2013

Bullying Resources for Parents Teachers & Kids - Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month - we've updated our bullying prevention resources for parents and families, teachers, and kids.

Sadly, teen bullying is an ongoing problem. This week, we see a father seeking justice for his deceased teen son and the story of two young Florida teens charged with felonies for bullying that ended in suicide. These tragic scenarios play out time and again.

Many states and local governments have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Through laws and policies, each state addresses bullying differently. Find out how your state refers to bullying in its laws and what they require on part of schools and districts. Use this clickable map to learn about your state's bullying laws and policies. Also, see warning signs a child is being bullied and signs a child is bullying others.

State Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment and Cyberbullying Laws - from the The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

National Bullying Prevention Center - PACER’s (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) National Bullying Prevention Center unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources.

Committee for Children - A nonprofit working globally to prevent bullying, violence, and child abuse.

It's My Life: Bullying - bullying resources for kids from PBS.

Cyberbullying Research Center - up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. Cyberbullying can be defined as "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices."

Connect for Respect from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - bullying resources and tip sheets for parents and educators.

Bullying at School & Online - extensive resources for parents and educators from

Bullying - resources from the American Psychological Association.

7 Ways You Can Address Bullying at Your School - Encouraging victims and student witnesses to report abuse and providing supervision in hallways and other areas can help to reduce bullying on and off campus.

Bullying and Harassment: Thin Line and Thin Ice - An expert on legal issues in school transportation discusses the distinction between bullying and harassment and offers best practices for dealing with both on the bus.

When your child is being bullied (PDF) - Practical strategies for helping your child cope and working effectively with your child's school from Elizabeth Englander

What Parents Can Do About Childhood Bullying - Marlene Snyder, Ph.D. explains how to determine if your child is a bully or a victim -- and how to take appropriate, effective action.

Understanding Bullying and Its Impact on Kids With Learning Disabilities or AD/HD - Kids with learning or attention problems can be easy prey for bullies. Marlene Snyder, Ph.D. tells you how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied.

Identifying Students `At-Risk` for Violent Behavior: A Checklist of `Early Warning Signs - A checklist of "early warning signs" will facilitate identification of students who may be in need of intervention. The greater the number of items that are checked, the greater the potential for violent acting-out behavior.

Stop Bullying Now! from the Health Resources & Service Administration offers parental resources. Also see the Kids' and teens pages.

KidsHealth from The Nemours Center for Children's Health Media offers great information for parents, children and teens. Some specific resources that they offer around the topic of bullying include Helping kids deal with bullies; Teaching kids not to bully, and Helping kids deal with cliques, There's also a good teen guide: Dealing with bullying

Bullying sites by and for kids: Teens Against Bullying and Kids Against Bullying

Cyberbullying and online safety
One of the aspects of teen bulling that seems particularly frightening to many parents is cyberbullying, or online bullying. It's important for parents to understand new technologies and how their kids are using social media. But some would caution that we should not create a cyberbullying panic: new media is here to stay and the more parents can learn about it, the better they can monitor and advise their kids. Here are some resources we've found to help.

Commonsense media offers a variety of online resources for parents, including a plethora of information on social networking and virtual worlds and Internet Safety.

Connect Safely - designed to give teens and parents a voice in the public discussion about youth online safety and to offer social-media safety tips for teens and parents.

Guide to Facebook Security Settings and Situations

Stop Cyberbullying - from Wired

Talking to kids and teens about social media and texting - tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics


esi.JPG Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems.

September 30, 2013

Affordable Care Implementation Toolkit

Information for employers
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Deadline Looms: Here’s What Employers Need to Do

Health Insurance Exchanges: The Facts Behind the Debate The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) What if my business has 50 or more employees?

Prior posts
Reminder - Important ACA Deadline October 1

Understanding the Affordable Care Act

Information for your employees
Health Care Coverage for you & your family

The Kaiser Family Foundation Subsidy Calculator

State Health Insurance Marketplace Profiles

Already have insurance? Learn how the health care law protects you

How the Health Care Law Benefits You in Your State

Timeline of the health care law

Get Ready for Obamacare

June 29, 2013

Wellness Focus for July: Summer Safety

July is a quiet month for national health campaigns, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of health & safety messages that you should be talking about with your employees - for health & wellness both on and off the job. One key summer issue very much in evidence for much of the country over the past week is staying safe in extreme heat.

Here are some tools and resources that you might share with your employees:

Heat Safety App from the Department of Labor
When working in the heat, safety comes first. The OSHA Heat Safety Tool offers vital safety information right on a mobile phone. The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Then, with a simple "click," you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness-reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

  • The Educational Resources section links to information about heat illnesses and how to prevent them. Many of these resources target vulnerable workers with limited English proficiency and/or low literacy.
  • The Using the Heat Index section provides guidance to employers to develop a heat illness prevention plan.
  • The Training section includes a guide/lesson plan for employers and others to use in instructing workers on heat illness. There are links to additional resources in other languages.
  • The Media Resources section includes news releases, public service announcements (PSAs), drop-in articles about heat illness prevention that you can customize to share and campaign artwork.
  • The Fatality map shows locations of outdoor worker, heat-related fatalities between 2008 and 2012. It is not an exhaustive list of all worker fatalities from heat exposure. The map provides a geographic reminder that Water.Rest.Shade. are vital to providing a safe and healthful environment when working outdoors in the heat.

Using the Heat Index: A Guide for Employers

NIOSH Heat Stress
This site covers on-the-job prevention, symptoms, and treatment for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps, and heat rash

Other summer worker safety issues:

Young Worker Safety
Hazards to outdoor workers

Off the job: Family summer health & safety issues

Heat is also an important health and safety issue for your employees when they are off the job and with their families. Here are some useful links:

Other summer safety resources include:


ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

June 7, 2013

June is Internet Safety Month

National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reminds us that June is Internet Safety Month, a good time for individuals and businesses alike to take stock of our online safety and security. NCSA is a public-private partnership with a mission of educating and empowering a digital people to use the Internet safely and securely at home, work, and school.

NCSA offers the following online safety tips for internet safety month:

  • Keep a Clean Machine: Keep all Internet connected devices free from infection and malware by keeping all critical software—security software, web browsers, apps and operating systems—up to date.
  • Protect Your Personal Information: Secure your accounts by making passwords long, strong and unique.
  • Connect with Care: Limit the type of business you conduct using unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Own Your Online Presence: Set security and privacy settings to your comfort level of sharing.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: If an email, social network post or text message looks suspicious, even if you know the source, delete it.
  • Be Web Wise: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
  • Be a Good Online Citizen: Post only about others what you would have them post about you.

The NSCA site is an excellent resource, with information for individuals, for students, and for businesses about malware, phishing, securing an online home network, ID theft, secure passwords, online shopping and more. It's a great resource.

Prior recommendations we've featured from NCSA include:

1. Protect your personal information. It's valuable.
2. Know who you're dealing with online.
3. Use anti-virus software, a firewall, and anti-spyware software to help keep your computer safe and secure.
4. Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly.
5. Use strong passwords or strong authentication technology to help protect your personal information.
6. Back up important files.
7. Learn what to do if something goes wrong.
8. Protect your children online.

April 14, 2013

Cool tools: Translator Apps facilitate workplace communication challenges

Do you need to travel internationally for business? Do you have a multilingual workforce?

There are some great translation apps for mobile devices that can make global business travel easier. They can also facilitate communication with workers or family members of workers who either don't speak English or who have limited English proficiency. While these tools have some limitations and shouldn't be relied on as a sole source for translation, they can be useful in a pinch. And fun, too!

iTranslate is getting rave reviews. A free version is available on iPhone, iPad and Androids, but for $2.99 there's a powerful voice recognition feature. It's available for more than 60 languages. The free version offers Text-to-Speech translation. You can choose from different dialects, choose a male or female voice and even control the speaking rate. It also comes with a dictionary. Don’t know what language you’re dealing with? Use the Detect language feature and iTranslate will tell you. For a premium subscription of $2.99, get Voice Recognition that allows you to speak instead of type. The app will transform it into text and translate it into you chosen language - you will get both a text and a spoken version. The downside is that you have to have an Internet connection - which can sometimes be a problem when you travel.

For offline translations, Languages to the rescue. This is a companion dictionaryapp for iPhones that works completely offline when you download the dictionaries. You can type or browse by letter or by scrolling. It has a quick, clean, easy interface. You can download only the dictionaries you need and keep the others on the shelf until you need them. It's a great value for .99.

Google Translate - it's free and it's available for iPhones, Androids and other smartphones. It supports more than 60 languages and several input methods, including text, handwriting, voice, and OCR. Plus, you can download language packs and get offline support for when you aren't connected to the Internet. There are also desktop tools available and you can keep up with innovations at the Google Translate Blog.

More translation tools:

Be careful of the limitations
Machine translation has improved dramatically in recent years, but as the Translation Blog by Transpanish explains, computer-based translation doesn't capture the complex nuances of culturally correct translations created by humans. Precision and subtlety can be lost. Not to mention that if you don't have command of the language, you have no way of verifying the information accuracy. The blog says that these types of translations should never be left up to any machine translation tool:

  • Sales and marketing texts requiring both linguistic and cultural understanding
  • Patent translations or other technical literature where accuracy carries great importance
  • Medical and pharmaceutical texts, particularly when such information may mean a matter of life or death
  • Legal texts such as contracts, court orders, and wills, where any error in the text may have profound legal implications
  • Any document that represents the public face of your business or organization, including websites, brochures, manuals, etc.

ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

November 9, 2012

OSHA's Top 10 Workplace Violations

If OSHA were to come knocking at your door, how ready would you be? Do you know your organization's most likely safety vulnerabilities? At the recent National Safety Council Congress & Expo, OSHA announced the 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2012. These include:

  • Fall Protection
  • Hazard Communication
  • Scaffolding
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Ladders
  • Machine Guarding
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Electrical Wiring
  • Lockout / Tagout
  • Electrical - General

You can learn the most common citations for a specific industry SIC code using an OSHA tool - simply enter the 4-digit Standard Industrial Classification code and the number of employees in your organization.

Worker injuries and deaths
In 2011, 4,609 workers were killed on the job in 2011 - almost 90 a week or nearly 13 deaths every day. The four most common work-related fatal injury events include highway/motor vehicle events, homicides, falls, and being struck by objects. Learn more at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) page.

Every year, nearly 4 million people suffer an on-the-job workplace injury. See the Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, 2011.

The top 7 occupations with an incidence rate of more than 300 injuries per 10,000 full time workers were:

  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
  • Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants
  • Light truck or delivery service drivers
  • Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
  • Correctional officers
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • Janitors and cleaners

What if OSHA comes knocking on your door?
OSHA can inspect any workplace at any time and usually they arrive unannounced. In 2011, federal and state OSHA divisions conducted more than 90,000 inspections. Most OSHA inspections occur as a follow-up to an accident or in response to a complaint, although some industries with higher than average injuries command more attention from OSHA. For example, in April, OSHA announced a National Emphasis Program for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities due to the high rate of injuries and lost workdays in that sector. OSHA noted that, "The incidence rate for cases involving days away from work in the nursing and residential care sector was 2.3 times higher than that of all private industry as a whole, despite the availability of feasible controls to address hazards." Another industry that has been under OSHA scrutiny are grain bin operators after a record number of fatalities, including several involving teen workers.

BLR Safety Daily Advisor offers a two-part series on What to expect from an OSHA inspection and How to prepare for an OSHA inspection.

esi.JPG Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems.

October 28, 2012

Hurricane resources for you & your staff

National Hurricane Center - Advisories on Hurricane Sandy

The Weather Channel: Hurricane Central

Safety Daily Advisor: Preparing your workplace for a hurricane

IT World: Checklist for protecting your technology before & during a hurricane

National Association of Insurance Commissioners: Disaster Planning for Small Businesses

SHRM: Disaster Preparedness: Human Resources Hurricane Handbook

Ready:Gov Hurricanes

American Red Cross: Hurricane Planning & Response

Hurricane Preparedness

Keeping kids occupied when the power is out

How Hurricanes Work

State Offices of Emergency Management






New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York


Rhode Island



Washington DC

West Virginia

October 13, 2012

Why not use Pinterest to jazz up your Health & Wellness communications?

Looking to add a little excitement to your organization's wellness program and to engage your employees? Trying to find a new way to deliver the message and cut through the clutter? Consider using Pinterest as a communication tool. Pinterest is a "virtual pinboard" that lets you organize and share cool things you find on the web. Because it's a visual medium, it lends itself to quick web browsing. Think of a Pinterest page as a virtual collage. You find content that you like on the web and you "pin it" in a "board," which is a topical collection of pins. You could use it to offer nutrition and healthy eating tips, information on health observances such as breast cancer awareness month, and tips for exercise and fitness.

Take a look at a few good health & wellness resources on Pinterest to get a better idea:

TV Doc and health guru Dr. Oz shares recipes, fitness tips, and information on healthy foods.

A Knoxville, TN wellness clinic, Provision Health & Wellness, shares recipes, fitness tips, food facts, and more.

Preventionmag from the health magazine of the same name offers tips from experts on weight loss, fitness, health, nutrition, recipes, healthy aging, and diets.

fitsugar offers workout routines, and boards on running and cycling.

The Daily Meal offers a health and wellness board

Whole Living magazine has an emphasis on healthy foods and green living.

Of course, there are other themes that would lend themselves to Pinterest, such as work/life balance, productivity tips, leadership, and more. You can include content from other Pinterest users, from websites, and from free government sources like the CDC, OSHA and the Department of Labor. Another good source of content are even HR Infographics.

You can learn more about Pinterest in their getting started guide. Pinterest for Business offers a business library of tools, tutorials, and resources focused on business use of Pinterest.

August 31, 2012

Cool Tools & Useful Apps

Here's our latest roundup of tools & apps that may be useful to you and your employees. Feel free to share them!

Nursing Home Inspection Tool - if you have an elderly relative, finding good elder care can be a daunting task. A new tool from ProPublica should help. Nursing Home Inspect is a tool that allows you to search more than 20,000 nursing home inspection reports, most completed since January 2011, and encompassing nearly 118,000 deficiencies.

Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Coverage (PCIP) - Find PCIP coverage in your state using this search tool from Also, get information about who is eligible, how much it costs, and what benefits are available.

Treatment Locator App - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Locator app enables patients, family members and professionals to have instant access to reliable information on nearby mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, including those that provide specialized treatment for patients dealing with opioid drugs. With it, you’ll be able to access information from four different treatment locator databases.

Disaster Prep App - A free mobile disaster preparedness app from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) delivers checklists, communication tools and vital safety tips to prepare users for hurricanes, wildfire, severe winter weather, earthquakes and other disasters. Learn more about the Know Your Plan App.

Wellness - offers a variety of symptom checker flowcharts, which offer a series of interactive "if this/then that" charts that allow you to check symptoms against possible diagnoses. It's a handy little tool, particularly for things like skin rashes, but if you have persistent or serious symptoms, checking with a doctor is your best bet!

Education -
Explore free online courses from edX universities - EdX currently offers HarvardX, MITx and BerkeleyX classes online for free. These institutions aim to extend their collective reach to build a global community of online students. Along with offering online courses, the three universities undertake research on how students learn and how technology can transform learning – both on-campus and online throughout the world.

College Hi is a website "dedicated to help you find your best fit colleges, apply well, and pay the bill easily." It offers a search tool, college profiles, and a knowledge center.

Convertbot is an iPhone/iPad app that allows you to convert currency, time, length, and many more metrics. It’s even smart enough to convert between mixed units like Foot + Inches, Pounds + Ounces, Minutes + Seconds.

Byte Converter is a web reference tool that allows you to convert bytes to kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, and vice versa, or to learn more about bytes.

Emergencies - Wreck Check is a mobile app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to take the guesswork out of a post-accident information exchange and to protect your security by ensuring you exchange only necessary information. Enter your vehicle information and info about your agent and insurer. If you are in an accident, launch the app, which will guide you through a step-by-step process to create an accident report and email yourself a completed accident report directly, as well as to your insurance agents.

Teleconferencing - We've previously featured, which allows you to connect up to 96 callers. Once you register, there is no need to make reservations or engage in any planning - you have your own call in number to share 24/7. You can also get a free recording of the call. Long distance charges from your carrier might apply, but there is no charge for this service. And recently they also added free international audio conferencing to 20+ countries, so if you have offices or employees in offshore locations, this tool might be handy.

July 21, 2012

Colorado theater shooting: How to talk to your kids about Batman and the forces of evil

Friday's late night tragedy in a Colorado cinema was a rerun of a horror movie we've unfortunately seen played out all too many times before - a burst of gunfire, leaving innocent victims in its wake. In a matter of minutes, a brutal event reminds us how quickly a beautiful day can turn ugly. It's never easy to face the deaths of young people, loved ones, community members - but it is made all the harder when it is the result of a senseless act of violence perpetrated by another human. It's a betrayal of our common humanity, a violation of trust.

As disturbing and horrifying as these events are to adults, they may hold particular terror for children. Sometimes horrible acts of violence don't really surface too prominently on a child's radar - but because this shooting involved an event related to beloved pop-culture icon - ironically, a superhero who is supposed to defeat the forces of evil - it is more likely than not that these events will not escape their attention. Add to that the fact the events occurred in a venue that is familiar and seemingly safe to children and that children and young adults were among the casualties. The sudden and random nature of events could be terribly upsetting and threatening to a child's sense of security. These events may trigger intense fears for their own safety or the safety of loved ones.

How we help children deal with difficult and traumatic events is an important topic, one that shapes and arms them for an emotionally healthy adulthood. We think it's important enough that we offer these tips and resources for parents everywhere who may be struggling to explain things to children.

Helping kids deal with difficult events

  • Limit your child's exposure to the news. Make sure that news about violent events is not playing over and over in the background on radios or TV. Watch news with your kids and discuss events and their feelings about things.

  • When frightening events occur, watch your own reaction when children are nearby. When adults react dramatically, emotionally or fearfully, it can be very unsettling for children, who take cues from adults. While you should be truthful in your feelings, be careful not to let your behavior shatter their sense of safety and security.

  • Give comfort and reassurance. Allow children to express fear and sadness, don't dismiss bad feelings. Encourage questions so you can understand their fears. They may be feeling vulnerable themselves, or they may fear losing parents or siblings that they depend on and love.

  • Emphasize safety. Let children know that while sad and bad things do indeed happen, they are rare events. Most people are good. Reassure them that you will take care of them and keep them safe, and that police and teachers will help to look out for their safety, too. Use this as a time to reinforce safety rules.

  • Channel things in a positive direction whenever possible. Point out good things, such as the heroism and bravery of police and doctors and the kindness of the people in the community. Use bad events as a springboard to reinforce gratitude and appreciation for life; the importance of kindness and empathy, the importance of helping others.

  • Take positive action. We all feel helpless in the face of terrible events, children even more so. Encourage your child to take an action, such as making a donation, writing a letter, going to a church service, or leaving flowers or mementos at a memorial.

  • Ensure that your communications are age appropriate. Young children don't have a clear understanding of death, even if they say the words, so events may not affect them much; teens might suppress reaction entirely in a misguided attempt to appear cool or jaded. See links below for more on age-related reactions and communications.

  • Keep an eye on things to ensure that they adjust. Watch for regression, clinging, hyperactivity in young children; at any age, kids who are anxious could exhibit sleep or eating disturbances. Teens or young adults may be obsessed with details of events, Watch how your kids play, how they talk about things to peers. If signs of disturbance persist, they may need the help of a professional so they don't stay "stuck" in anxieties or fear.

Good resources for additional help:

Guide for Parents and Educators: Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After Traumatic Events (PDF)

Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event (PDF)

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues

Explaining Death in a Child's Terms

Anxiety, Fears, & Phobias

How to Help: Children's Grief Responses

Batman, kids and Aurora: How to talk to children about the Colorado movie theater shooting

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Colorado Theater Shooting

ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers trauma response, grief counseling, help for PTSD, and other services to help your employees and their family members cope with difficult life events. We also offer help and support for managers and HR professionals. Your EAP is only a phone call away. If you are employer that doesn't have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.

June 29, 2012

Affordable Care Act - Information Toolkit

Affordable Care Act - Information for Employers and Self-Employed - Small businesses - Learn about small employer tax credits, as well as small employers’ rights and responsibilities under the law. Small employers are usually defined at those having fewer than 50 employees. Large businesses - Information for businesses with 50 or more employees, including information about tax policy and employer responsibility parts of the law. Self-Employed - Self-employed people have some new options and protections, both now and beginning in 2014. In some states, self-employed people can apply for small business policies.

Resources for Consumers and Employers - from Kaiser Family Foundation

After the Ruling: A Consumer Guide - an FAQ from Kaiser Health News about some of the law's provisions that are already up and running as well as major features of what's to come.

What’s Changing and When - an interactive timeline, or see all timeline items on one page in printable format.

Health Reform Implementation Timeline - provisions by year.

The Affordable Care Act by State - See what implementation means for your state. From grants to new services and programs, find out how the Affordable Care Act is helping you where you live.

Prevention and Wellness - insurers are required to cover certain preventive services at no cost to the insured. Beginning as early as August 2012, this list will expand to include additional services for women.

Health Reform Glossary

Full text of the Affordable Care Act - Read the Affordable Care Act in full or browse it section by section.

February 27, 2012

Wellness focus for March: National Workplace Blindness Prevention

Did you know that March 2012 is National Prevent Blindness in the Workplace Month as well as Save Your Vision month? Since vision disorders account for $8.03 billion in lost productivity each year, screening and prevention are very important concerns for the workplace. Prevent Blindness America, a national nonprofit founded in 1908, is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight through screenings, advocacy and training. Along with the American Optometric Association, they’re sponsoring National Prevent Blindness in the Workplace month and offering any company a free packet of blindness prevention information, as well as information on vision benefits. You can get HR tools and materials or email to get your packet.

The most common causes of blindness in America today, according to the NIH, are cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and, most common, diabetes, through diabetic retinopathy. Eye professionals recommend that all adults should see an eye doctor at least every three years, but people with diabetes should have a full eye exam, including pupil dilation, every year.

Working at a computer all day is a fast growing source of vision problems. The American Optometric Association has a helpful fact and tip sheet for computer workers, including suggestions to take periodic eye rest breaks and keep your chair and monitor correctly aligned. Wherever you work, though, the likelihood of vision problems, like that of so many health issues, increases with age. Experts recommend that everyone should have a full vision screening at age 40, which will not just make sure that your eyes are healthy now but establish a useful baseline for future reference. Preventing vision problems in later life is not just good economic sense, it’s one of the most important things you can do to ensure quality of life into old age and beyond.

ESI-Logo.jpg A healthy workplace is a productive workplace. Need help with your wellness program? ESI EAP can help - give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 5, 2012

How healthy are your employees? Track via your state's Well-Being Index

For more than four years now, Gallup and Healthways have been indexing the nation's well-being by state via daily polls that measure six key aspects of well-being: life evaluation, emotional health, work environments, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access. In 2010, they conducted more than 352,840 surveys between January and December 2010.

View month-by-month Gallup-Healthways Well-Being rankings, including an interactive map of the 2010 rankings. You can also download the 2010 Composite City, State and Congressional District Ranking Report (PDF) or City, State & Congressional District Well-Being Reports


The New York Times offers another interactive view of the 2010 Well Being Index via an interactive Congressional district map that drills down to 20 key wellness indicators ranging from stress and depression to job satisfaction and food adequacy.



esi.JPG Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems.

January 29, 2012

Health, safety & other handy web tools for you & your employees

We've gathered some handy tools and tips on family, health and safety issues. Many are great tools to use in your wellness program, your intranet, or your newsletter.

HD Care Compass - patient guides that show how to prepare for and what to expect when facing several common surgery or test types.

Calculator: Is your food spending normal - see how your spending stacks up with others of a similar age, gender, geography and income.

Sharing the road with snow plows & more winter driving tips - includes a handy reference chart that shows visibility lines.

Older Driver Safety Conversations - The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab created information to help families address sensitive subjects and foster meaningful family conversations about older driver safety.

Health Reform Source - an interactive tool from the Kaiser Family Foundation offers a variety of tools to learn about healthcare reform and the timeline of provisions. See How will coverage work, a new interactive feature that clarifies how individuals and businesses in a variety of situations could be affected by health reform.

Create Strong Passwords. use this tool from Microsoft - Check your password - is it strong? - to test the strength of your passwords. Related: See the 25 Worst Passwords of 2011. Also related, advice from the FTC on what to do if your identity is stolen.

True Cost to Own a Car Calculator - The Edmunds Inc. True Cost to Own pricing system calculates the additional costs you may not have included when considering your next vehicle purchase. These extra costs include: depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs.

Best Colleges of 2012 - the US News College Compass offers college rankings & lists, as well as offering a wealth of information on finding and applying to colleges and grad school. Also see the Most Expensive Colleges for 2011-2012 from CampusGrotto.

Free home inventory apps - Creating a simple home inventory helps you track exactly what you own and what it is worth, which is important if you ever need to submit an insurance claim. Free apps from the National Association of Insurance Commissioner make the job easier - take and store photos, and get help creating a good inventory. See other insurance advice from NAIC Consumer Insurance Resources.

SuperTracker - the U.S. Department of Agriculture site lets you create a food and nutrition tracker and get a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan. The site includes a Food-A-Pedia that lets you look up information on more than 8,000 foods, to track your food intake and physical activity over time, and to set and measure goals.

DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that respects your privacy. If you want an uncluttered search option or if you are concerned about tracking, advertising, and privacy, this is a good alternative. Be sure to check out the goodies page for some handy tools.

Grocery Sales Cycle - When do things go on sale - offers a month-by-month listing of what and when to pick up bargains.

State Laws on Distracted Driving - click on a state to get up-to-date information about laws related to cell phones and texting. Related: Gauge your distraction with the Texting While Driving Game.

November 3, 2011

November is National Family Caregivers Month

To commemorate National Family Caregivers Month, we are sharing some resources that we've found helpful and encourage you to share these with your employees.

ShirleyBoard is a free resource that gives you the tools to create your ow online community and to link all the people in your network and all those caring for a loved one. You can centrally store all important caregiving information, such as a patient journal, a list of medications, a directory of doctors, and a calendar. It allows you to give access to friends, family and healthcare professionals – and to establish permissions for what information they can and can't see. It allows you to keep an ongoing record, to access resources and tips, and to network with other caregivers.

BenefitsCheckUp - A service from the National Council on Aging. Many older people need help paying for prescription drugs, health care, utilities and other basic needs. Many are eligible for but not receiving benefits from existing federal, state and local programs. There are many public programs available to seniors in need ranging from heating and energy assistance to prescription savings programs to income supplements. BenefitsCheckUp includes more than 2,000 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is centered around the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible. PACE serves individuals who are age 55 or older, certified by their state to need nursing home care, are able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment, and live in a PACE service area. Delivering all needed medical and supportive services, the program is able to provide the entire continuum of care and services to seniors with chronic care needs while maintaining their independence in their homes for as long as possible. Care and services include:

  • Adult day care that offers nursing; physical, occupational and recreational therapies; meals; nutritional counseling; social work and personal care
  • Medical care provided by a PACE physician familiar with the history, needs and preferences of each participant
  • Home health care and personal care
  • All necessary prescription drugs
  • Social services
  • Medical specialists such as audiology, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, and speech therapy
  • Respite care
  • Hospital and nursing home care when necessary

Aging Pro - bills itself as the best one-stop destination for a comprehensive set of caregiving tools, resources, community support information and access to professionals in aging on the Web. It is a resource for caregivers, professionals, and people planning their future.

Family Caregiver Alliance - Founded in 1977, FCA was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. Long recognized as a pioneer in health services, FCA now offers programs at national, state and local levels to support and sustain caregivers, including the Family Care Navigator with state-by-state help and the National Center on Caregiving, the policy and research center of FCA.

EEOC: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities and Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Additional resources:
National Family Caregivers Association
National Association for Homecare and Hospice
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease: Your easy to use guide from the National Institute on Aging
Coping with cancer: For caregivers, family & friends
Miles Away: The Metlife Study of Long-Distance Caregiving (PDF)
Family Caregivers & Depression - Symptoms and Hope

Prior posts:
Resources for elder caregivers
Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiver employees are at heightened risk: how employers can help

September 18, 2011

Tools for Tough Times

The economy is tough for you and your employees - and what with back to school, looming energy bills and the pre-holiday season, it's a particularly costly time of year. One of the benefits that we offer our members is a "Tools for Tough Times" Resource Center, which we update periodically. Here's a sampling of some new budget-booster tools that we've discovered.

RxAssist - Patient assistance programs are run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine. RxAssist offers a comprehensive database of these patient assistance programs, as well as practical tools, news, and articles so that health care professionals and patients can find the information they need. All in one place.

Transportation to Work Toolkit for the Business Community - This toolkit offers businesses the tools and information they need to develop and implement a cost-effective transportation program for their employees. These programs have many benefits for employees and employer alike. The Toolkit offers information on topics such as tax incentives, ridesharing and vanpools, green transportation, strategies for businesses in both rural and urban communities, and accessible transportation for employees with disabilities, along with success stories. It was created with funding from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, through a cooperative agreement between the Community Transportation Association of America and the Federal Transit Administration.

U.S. Transit System Links - links to regional bus, rail, ferry, trolley, and other public transportation systems.

Bike Maps - free road and mountain bike routes throughout the US and Canada to thousands of cyclists.

Money Matters - a resource provided by the Federal Trade Commission to help consumers tackle some money issues head-on. Topics include: Scam Watch, Credit Cards, Managing Your Money, Dealing with Debt, Your Home, and Jobs. This site is also available in Spanish. - a resource brought to you by 20 agencies and bureaus of the U.S. Federal government that work on improving financial literacy and education. Here's just a few of the available tools:
Budgeting Worksheets; Calculators; Checklists; and Life Events

The Tax Incentives Assistance Project (TIAP):
2011 Residential Energy Efficiency Incentives (PDF) - Homeowners can qualify for a variety of federal tax credits by making home envelope improvements and heating and cooling upgrades, and by installing onsite renewable generation. All incentives are in effect for measures placed in service during 2011 unless noted otherwise.

Commercial Energy Efficiency Incentives (PDF) - Business owners are eligible for a variety of federal tax incentives for improving building energy efficiency, implementing combined heat and power (CHP) systems, purchasing hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, and installing onsite renewable generation, fuel cells, and microturbines.

Student Loan Calculator - How much will you pay? Use this tool to determine how quickly you'll pay off your student loans. By making a higher monthly payment, you can shorten the length of your loan and dramatically reduce the interest you will pay.

The Freecycle Network is made up of 4,981 groups with 8,728,447 members around the world. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers. Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on 'Browse Groups' above the search box.

True Cost to Own Calculator - This calculator from Edmunds reveals the hidden costs -- all the costs -- associated with buying, owning and operating a car over a five-year-period. These extra costs include: depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs. Search to view the TCO of any vehicle.

47 Cheap, Fun Things to Do This Weekend - proving that many of the best things in life are indeed free.

August 26, 2011

Hurricane Resources

All you folks in Irene's path - please stay safe this weekend. Hopefully, things won't be as bad as predicted - but hurricane season lasts until November 1, so we thought some hurricane-related tools might be in order. We'll be posting and adding to the resources here.

National Hurricane Center - Tracking Hurricane Irene

The Weather Channel: Hurricane Central

Safety Daily Advisor: Preparing your workplace for a hurricane

IT World: Hurricane Irene: Checklist for protecting your technology before & during a hurricane

National Association of Insurance Commissioners: Disaster Planning for Small Businesses

FEMA: Are you ready? Hurricane Preparation Guide

Keeping kids calm during bad weather

Keeping kids occupied when the power is out

How Hurricanes Work

August 21, 2011

Bullying resources for parents and teachers

Bullying continues to be a hot issue, both in the news and as one of the top concerns of our employee members. Last year, we posted Resources for working parents: Teen bullying. It's been one of our most popular and sought after resources so we thought we'd add more resources on the topic.

State Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment and Cyberbullying Laws - from the The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

National Bullying Prevention Center - PACER’s (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) National Bullying Prevention Center unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources.

Committee for Children - A nonprofit working globally to prevent bullying, violence, and child abuse.

It's My Life: Bullying - bullying resources for kids from PBS.

Cyberbullying Research Center - up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. Cyberbullying can be defined as "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices."

Connect for Respect from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - bullying resources and tip sheets for parents and educators.

Bullying at School & Online - extensive resources for parents and educators from

Bullying - resources from the American Psychological Association.

7 Ways You Can Address Bullying at Your School - Encouraging victims and student witnesses to report abuse and providing supervision in hallways and other areas can help to reduce bullying on and off campus.

Bullying and Harassment: Thin Line and Thin Ice - An expert on legal issues in school transportation discusses the distinction between bullying and harassment and offers best practices for dealing with both on the bus.

When your child is being bullied (PDF) - Practical strategies for helping your child cope and working effectively with your child's school from Elizabeth Englander

What Parents Can Do About Childhood Bullying - Marlene Snyder, Ph.D. explains how to determine if your child is a bully or a victim -- and how to take appropriate, effective action.

Understanding Bullying and Its Impact on Kids With Learning Disabilities or AD/HD - Kids with learning or attention problems can be easy prey for bullies. Marlene Snyder, Ph.D. tells you how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied.

Identifying Students `At-Risk` for Violent Behavior: A Checklist of `Early Warning Signs - A checklist of "early warning signs" will facilitate identification of students who may be in need of intervention. The greater the number of items that are checked, the greater the potential for violent acting-out behavior.

August 4, 2011

Life Tools: A Decision Matrix for the Rest of Us

Are you a confident decision-maker, always sure of your choices and usually pleased with your results? Or do you sometimes second-guess yourself, or feel worried and uncertain about big decisions? Or maybe you are among those who find making key decisions (or even more minor choices) utterly torturous, to the point of deciding-by-not-deciding (often a terrible mistake).

By definition, major life decisions are fraught with hope, desire, fears, expectation, and doubt, and if you are among the not-so-decisive deciders above, perhaps you've wished for some mechanism that would allow you to apply more objectivity and logic to the process.

The good news is that you are in luck! Exactly such a tool exists, and for free: the Decision Matrix [PDF]. An information design specialist has created an easily accessible explanation of the matrix and one real-life example of how to use it, plus printable forms. It's the same type of decision matrix that big businesses, corporations, and financial institutions use to make critical decisions every day - you can use it on or off the job.

And the bad news? The bad news is that your decision matrix is only as good as the criteria (key characteristics) you apply and the research you put in to weigh them... but hey, we never said the big choices can be rendered dead easy -- only that you can bring more clarity and objective light to the process.

Remember, this is only a tool. Even if your matrix gives you an answer you hate, it may have done it's job by helping to clarify what you really want or need (or what you don't!) as opposed to what you think you should do, or just feeling confused and uncertain about whole thing. If you get an answer that just feels wrong instead of enlightening, you can toss it out and forget it, or you can start again with a better idea of the weight and importance of certain key aspects of the decision, or by excluding options you now realize are unacceptable.You use the tool, the tool doesn't use you!

Oh, and returning once again to the groups we mentioned in the first paragraph -- the confident and successful decision-maker as opposed to the rest of us who are more likely to fret and dither? It is very likely that the bold, self-assured, decisive individual has a sort of "internal matrix" that helps him or her to evaluate choices naturally, and the process of applying the physical matrix and related techniques to our own decisions can help us to develop and exercise our own critical thinking and decision-making skills, even in instances where we don't have the opportunity to physically chart them out.

July 31, 2011

20 Workplace Wellness & Productivity Cost Calculators

Absenteeism Cost and Healthcare Expense Calculators

How Much Are Untreated Alcohol Problems Costing Your Company? - This Alcohol Cost Calculator will tell you how much problem drinking costs your health plan and how you can help beneficiaries with drinking problems.

The Alcohol Cost Calculator - an online tool that can help you estimate the prevalence of alcohol problems in your population.

Substance Use Disorder Calculator - an online tool that can help you estimate the prevalence of alcohol, illicit drug, and prescription pain medication abuse or dependence in your population.

Drug Testing ROI

Smoking Cessation ROI Calculator for Businesses

NCQA Quality Dividend Calculator - see how health care quality affects your bottom line.

Calculating the Impact of Depression in the Workplace

Depression Cost Calculator - determine the incidence within your organization, the expected number of annual days your employees will be absent or suffer low productivity and the associated costs, and net savings with treatment of those employees suffering from depression.

Domestic Violence Cost Calculator

Eldercare Costs in the Workplace Calculator

Quantifying the Cost of Physical Inactivity

Obesity Cost Calculator

Diabetes at Work Cost Assessment Tool

Diabetes Cost Calculator for Employers - an evidence-based tool that employers can use to estimate how much diabetes costs them and the potential savings that would result from better management of diabetes.

Chronic Disease Cost Calculator

Return on Immunizations (ROI) - Flu Calculator

Preventive Services Prioritization Tool - assists employers in determining which preventive services should be included in the benefit plan based on health and economic value or employee demographics and risk factors.

Preventive Services Benchmarking Tool - allows employers to benchmark their current preventive benefits and programs against the gold standard (no cost to the beneficiary or 100% first dollar coverage) for recommended preventive services; and for select services, against an additional sample of Business Group members (90 employers).

Wellness ROI Calculator

June 25, 2011

Cool work, tech & productivity tools

Online database of social media policies has 176 policies from organizations of various types and sizes. It's an invaluable tool if you need to create or update your policies.

9 Web Apps for Gathering Customer Feedback - a list of web-enabled tools for eliciting customer feedback, but many of these could be harnessed to gather employee feedback, too.

Inspiring quotes to move and inspire you - a nicely curated list of quotations

Dropbox - "a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, whether you're a student or professional, parent or grandparent." You get 2 GB of free storage space to synchronize files.

How to disable Facebook facial recognition - Facial recognition technology examines photos as they're being uploaded and suggest matches to faces in the photos of your Facebook friends. This article offers steps to opt out to ensure that your privacy is protected.

DocuTicker - is a research tool that "collects abstracts from 'grey literature': PDF reports published by government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, research institutes and other public interest groups."

SLR Camera Simulator - Want to be a better photographer? Whether you need to improve your photo-taking skills for your job or just for fum, this online silulator lets you experiment with lighting, ISO, aperture, shutter, and distance settings and see the effects.

DuckDuckGo - a general purpose search engine like Google or Bing - but one that says it offers more privacy (it does not collect your browsing history) and more "goodies", or specialized search tools.

Free Conference Call - supply a name and email and get a dial-in number and access code for immediate phone conferencing for up to 96 people. Teleconferencing is available 24/7 with no need to schedule or make reservations. Many features, including free recording and free downloading.

Creately - a collaborative online tool for creating diagrams, flowcharts, organizational charts and more.

New Google tools including voice searches and the ability to search using images. Cool stuff!

Malwarebytes - protect your computer from a rogue's gallery of viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, dialers and spyware. This program is a long-time favorite of techies and in-the-know nerds. Download a free version or pay a one-time fee for real time protection.

June 11, 2011

Coming to grips with post-disaster recovery

In the wake of devastation created by a particularly violent tornado season, communities from Missouri and Alabama to Iowa and Massachusetts and are coping with the aftermath and recovery from destruction. It's well known that people experience various stages of grief when coping with loss. What is less well understood are the stages that a community goes through in coping with and recovering from massive trauma. This two-page PDF discusses the phases of community adjustment after a disaster, offering a useful model for understanding the recovery process. Much like the grief process, the various stages can and do overlap:

Heroic Phase - occurs during and immediately after the event - attention is focused on survival.

Honeymoon Phase - occurring 1 to 6 months after the disaster. A sense of shared experience and purpose; influx of support services and anticipation of assistance.

Disillusionment Phase - from 2 months to 2 or more years. Anger and resentment at public relief agencies; Erosion of sense of shared community.

Reconstruction - several years following a disaster. People assume responsibility for their own problem-solving; gradual reaffirmation of belief in community.

Beyond the community level, there is an issue that is relevant to many of us in our every day work: coping with disasters on the organizational level, which presents another set of challenges. London-based psychotherapist Pauline Rennie Peyton writes about the effects of trauma at the workplace, noting that, "there is often little support for managers in their capacity as managers who, in the aftermath of trauma, are trying to get their workforce back to 'normal.'"

Businesses located in disaster zones are faced with the dual task of repairing and restoring their own functionality while coping with the losses and recovery of their workers. People all cope with trauma and grief differently and there is no pattern or timetable to the grief and recovery process. An organizational drive to expeditious business restoration may be perceived as hard or uncaring by some workers. Peyton says that managers who talk about what they see going on with their team are less likely to be shut out and treated as an uncaring alien. But therein lies the dilemma: many managers aren't trained in dealing with trauma, and may well be experiencing their own personal reactions. Peyton speaks of this:

I can never stress strongly enough that those people with either “Manager” or “Human Resources” as part of their title are not immune from needing outside help. If you yourself are experiencing not feeling “normal” or are aware of a colleague who is experiencing the effects of trauma, please seek help sooner rather than later. People in these responsible roles often take on the problems of their teams without the supervision and training that they need — yet they fail to notice when they themselves need help.

One way to help employees and managers alike is to bring in professional support, resources that are trained and experienced in dealing with crisis management and trauma. Often, this can be an Employee Assistance Program, or other community resources. Pre-planning for organizational emergency response should include identifying such support resources in advance as part of the crisis response team.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. We've compiled some post trauma recovery resources for managers and supervisors:

May 5, 2011

One-stop resource for a plethora of work-family issues

Whether you're an HR managers, an academic, a journalist or a policy maker, the Alfred P. Sloan Work and Family Research Network is your one-stop resource for information about work/family issues. Up until 2004, when it broadened its mission, the Network had an academic orientation; today, the initiative calls for engagements with workplace leaders and policy makers, as well.

The Sloan Work & Family Research Network has a wealth of topical work-life resources at its Boston College-affiliated website, including resources for teaching/training, definitions, audio & videos, links, suggested readings and other useful information. Some of the work-family topics, including Afterschool Care, Breastfeeding and the Workplace, Changing Definitions of Families, Dependent Care Tax Assistance, Domestic Violence and the Workplace, Elder Care at the Workplace, Employer-Supported Child Care, Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Family Leave, Flexible Work Schedules, Gender and Use of Workplace Policies, Generation X/Generation Y, Health and Workplace Flexibility, Low-Wage Workers, Military Families, Work-Family Spillover: Negative Impacts, Older Workers, Overwork, Parents Caring for Children with Disabilities, Part-Time Work, Phased Retirement, Return on Investment, Shift Work, and Telework.

Here are a few key tools we've found particularly useful:

And for recent updates...

Follow the Sloan Network on Twitter @SloanNetwork

Visit the Sloan Work & Family Blog

April 9, 2011

Three cool tools for your wellness program

Health Widgets and Gadgets for your website
CDC's Widgets and Gadgets - Here's a great body of free wellness tools for your company intranet. A widget is a application that displays the featured content directly on your web page. You can embed content on any site, and once you've added the widget, there's no technical maintenance. will update the content automatically. Adding a widget to your page means that you will have up-to-date, credible health and safety content. A few tools are also in Spanish.
There's quite an array of choices - here are a few:

Find more tools from in the Health Gadget Gallery.

Heart health assessments and tools
My Life Check is a site designed by the American Heart Association with the goal of improved health by educating the public on how best to live. These measures have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements will make a big difference. This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have--to live a long, productive healthy life.

Free Life Check Assessment - get a confidential assessment about your health.

The Warning Signs - learn the danger signs for heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes. Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts. The sooner you call for help, the greater your chances to survive and limit damage.

Cancer prevention and control resources
Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T. - P.L.A.N.E.T. stands for Plan, Link, Act, Network with Evidence-based Tools. This portal is a collaborative effort aimed at providing access to data and resources that can help cancer control planners, health educators, program staff, and researchers design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based cancer control programs. The Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T. is intended to help its audience achieve its shared goals of reducing cancer incidence, reducing the number of deaths from cancer, and enhancing quality of life for cancer survivors. Sponsors include The national Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Cancer Society, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Commission on Cancer.

Some of the many tools and topics include:

March 13, 2011

Resources for Japan's earthquake & tsunami; tools for for explaining disasters to kids

Our hearts go out to the folks in Japan. You may have employees who are concerned about relatives or friends who are living, studying, or traveling in Japan. We've put together some resources that you might share with your work force.

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Resources
Google Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake - available in English & other languages

Restoring Family Links - maintained by the International Red Cross in cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Google Crisis Response - 2011 Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami - News, media, maps, and other resources from Google.

Translate Japanese text to English

U.S. State Department: Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami

Sending money to U.S. citizens overseas

Ambassador John V. Roos Twitter feed - U.S. Ambassador to Japan has been posting updates.

Japan earthquake live report - Local news and emergency information for those in Japan

Some perspective on the Japanese earthquake - a no-nonsense primer on geography, what happened, and the aftermath.

Interactive before and after photos - Move the slider to compare satellite images, taken by GeoEye, from before and after the disaster.

How you can help
Tips for Giving to Earthquake Relief Efforts in Japan - follow these tips to avoid the scams that inevitably crop up after a disaster

Red Cross - Responding to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

Japan Earthquake: How you can help

Charity Navigator

Talking with kids about disasters
Even if you don't know anyone in Japan, there may be someone right in your own home who is having trouble coping with this disaster: your kids.

Graphic and dramatic images repeated on the news or talked about at school can be upsetting to adults, but even more so to kids who may not have the life experience to put things in perspective. This can lead to anxiety or fear about many of the things being discussed: natural disasters, radiation leaks, disruption, loss, and death. We've put together a few resources for parents and teachers to help discuss these things with kids.

Talking with kids about world natural disasters

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues: TV News and Accidents & Disasters

8 Steps To Explain Disasters to Children

Helping children cope with disaster

Explaining death to children

KidsHealth: Anxiety, fears, and phobias

October 23, 2010

Cool Tools & Useful Sites

Here's a grab bag of work / life sites and tools that we've found handy:

Dimdim - an online meeting, web conferencing and webinar tool that bills itself as "twice the power at half the price of WebEx or GoToMeeting." Host meetings, video chats or web conferences; broadcast audio or video; share a desktop or a whiteboard; pass control to any participant; record your sessions. There's no software to download and some services are also made available free.

Return to Work Knowledge Base - an ongoing project by The Foundation for Research into Injury and Illness in the Workplace Inc. to collect and present global research on the subject of returning to work after an illness or injury. The articles are written in an easy to read format with perspectives on the evidence presented for Employees, Employers, Health Professionals and Insurers.

The Awesome Highlighter - do you ever want to send people to a website, but want to point out only one section of the page? Awesome Highlighter lets you do just that. Highlight the text that you want share on a web page, then get a link that will display the page with your highlighting which you can then share.

2010 Workers' Compensation State Premium Rate Ranking - Oregon's Department of Consumer & Business Services compares workers' comp premium in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia as of January 2010.

10 Obscure Google Search Tricks - Lifehacker says, "Dozens of Google search guides detail the tips you already know, but today we're skipping the obvious and highlighting our favorite obscure Google web search tricks."

Pidgin - a universal chat program which lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time.

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities - the Office of Disability and Employment Policy offers a chart with affirmative and negative phrases when speaking about people with disabilities, as well as general communication tips when interacting with people with disabilities.

StillTasty - this site, which bills itself as "the ultimate shelf life guide," will provide information about how long a food or beverage will stay safe and tasty, and recommendations for the best way to store foods. They also offer ideas to help you eat better, save money, and help the environment. You can even download an iPhone app to crate grocery lists or be notified when your food items need to be used up.

RightSignature - allows you to create and sign legally binding documents online, in a way that is faster and more secure than executing paper documents. Upload your document and enter recipient(s) information. RightSignature emails recipients a unique link to a page where they can review the document, fill out any necessary text fields, and sign. Recipients may sign online with a mouse in seconds. Other signing options include Type-to-Sign, sign on iPhone, sign on BlackBerry, and sign on a faxable signature page. Plans start at $14 per month and include unlimited documents sent each month, unlimited document storage, reusable templates, and other additional features.

7 Collaborative Online Diagramming Tools to Draw any Diagram - "Though these tools you can draw, edit, save and share your diagrams like flowchart, network diagram, wireframe, Organizational charts etc. Most of them have free basic option or free trial that you could use and experience these tools." Timer - a free and simple online countdown timer.

29 Semi-Productive Things I Do Online When I’m Trying to Avoid Real Work - There's procrastination and then there's procrastination. This great post offers links to a lot of useful, fun, and inspiring sites and resources.

100 most common English words quiz - Quick - you have 5 minutes to name the top 100 most common words in the English language. OK, its a time waster - but a fun one.

September 18, 2010

Add these smart blogs to your reading list

It's time to update our blogroll with some of the resources we've been turning to of late. Most of these blogs aren't new, but they are relatively new to us.

Sloan Work & Family Research Blog - This blog has input from diverse, multi-disciplinary user groups of academics, workplace practitioners and state policy makers, and helps readers stay up-to-date on the latest information available from the Network. Noteworthy recent post: Change the Game: Add Aging to the Parent-Centric Work+Life Debate

Connecticut Employment Law Blog - this is a blog by Connecticut employment attorney Daniel A. Schwartz, who focuses on "new and noteworthy developments in the labor and employment law field." Recent noteworthy post: The "Public" vs. "Private" Facebook Page: Thorny Issues for Employers

Daily Diversion - an HR blog brought to you by Employee Benefit News and Employee Benefit Adviser curated by Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler, with help from other staffers. Recent noteworthy post: Workplace bias claims by Muslims grow.

HR bartender - Enough with the Coffee themed blogs, HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby is serving cocktails. She focuses on workplace issues, but also brings the particular perspective of "a foodie" to the mix. Recent notable post: The Transparency Test.

Compensation Cafe - a multi-author blog that serves up "straight talk, original thinking and caffeinated discussion on everything compensation." It was founded by Ann Bares, author and consultant in areas of compensation and performance management.Recent noteworthy post: Hybrid, Shmybrid (Jobs) -- Another Dose of Reality

Ohio Employer's Law Blog - Ohio employment law attorney Jon Hyman authors this blog, which focuses on "practical employment law information for businesses in Ohio and beyond." Noteworthy recent post: Do you know? Discrimination against Muslims

HR Fishbowl - this blog by HR advisor Charlie Judy "was developed primarily as a platform for debate and springs from the rapidly evolving role of social media in HR practice development." Recent noteworthy post: If I could change one thing about HR.

Fistful of Talent - We've been reading this blog for awhile, so we don't know how it has escaped our sidebar. This is multi-author blog which is featured at Workplace. Recent notable post: Delivering Disappointment: Want Some Cold Fries With That?

May 18, 2010

Cool Tools & useful sites

From time to time, we like to clean out our bookmark file of assorted linkage. Some are useful work tools or tools for general daily living - and others are just things that caught our fancy.

Mashable is your guide to social media and Web 2.0 news. It reviews new sites and services, publishes breaking news and offers social media resources and guides. Whether you're a social media newbie or an old hand, this site is an invaluable tool and guide to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more. - a mobile app that reads text (SMS) messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without drivers touching the mobile phone. is the solution to texting while driving. There is a free version as well as subscription plans for individuals, families, and businesses.

Pirate Pad - an online tool that allows synchronized type so you can collaborate on documents in real time. Just open a new board, type in a name and then click "share this pad" and get a link to share with your team. Easy.

Need to keep track of time? Try Online stopwatch and online time tracker.

The Daily Plate - a free service to track your daily calorie intake and burn rate. Search more than 100,000 food items in the database and see the calorie and nutrition information for that food.

Taxi Fare Finder - Are you visiting a new city for business? Get your Taxi Fare Estimates before you leave. Taxi Fare calculates how much your cab fare may cost in your city. Just type in the addresses and go!

Nationmaster - a vast compilation of data to graphically compare nations. Generate maps and graphs on all kinds of statistics with ease on everything from economic data to wall plug voltages.

Stop junk mail and catalogs - An average of 41 pounds of junk mail is sent to every adult citizen each year. Approximately 44% of this mail goes into a landfill unopened. Cover your household for $41, with a guarantee of an 80-95% reduction within a few months.

Naval Safety Center Photo of the Week - if you have responsibility for on-the-job safety, or even if you don't, you will marvel at the risks some people take to get the job done.

Proverbia - Search more than 17,681 famous quotes and proverbs for your next speech or essay.

Pollen Forecast - click on your state to get a 4-day allergy forecast

Field Triage Decision Scheme: The National Trauma Triage Protocol - a printable single-page decision tree for first responders

Employer best Practices for Workers With Caregivers - best practices and advice from the EEOC that go beyond federal nondiscrimination requirements.

Rethinking Drinking - the target audience for this interactive site is the 3 in 10 U.S. adults who drink more than the low-risk limits. The site uses calculators and worksheets to allow users to conduct self-assessments and check their drinking pattern and see how it compares to the norm.

Wallet Garden is a simple tool to help you if your wallet is stolen. Wallet Garden stores phone numbers so you can cancel your cards from anywhere, at any time. It's free, and it doesn’t store any sensitive information.

May 4, 2010

Interview question-palooza

Whether you're an HR pro who has interviewed more candidates than the entire population of Liechtenstein or whether you've a newcomer to the field, we think you will find some useful tools at Susan Heathfield's excellent compilation of job interview resources at Guide. Kudos to Susan on her 10 year anniversary - she's been consistently providing quality online information for human resource professionals since 1990, and in this topic, she doesn't disappoint.

Here are a few of the resources we found noteworthy:
Sample Job Interview Questions - pages of them for varying situations. Don't miss reader suggestions.
Illegal interview questions
Candidate telephone screening
Using behavioral interviews to select the best

Unusual Interview Questions
One post that we particularly liked dealt with unusual job interview questions. She cites Microsoft, whose unorthodox interview questions (examples: How many golf balls does it take to fill a 747? Why is a manhole cover round?) have become the stuff of legend.

Microsoft is hardly the only tech company to use offbeat questions as part of the interview process. Tech behemoth Google may have gone them one better with their tough brainteasers. Seattle Interview Coach Lewis Lin has compiled 140 Google interview questions from various sources, including applicants who interviewed both successfully and unsuccessfully. Brainteaser questions are now common enough that they've spawned a cottage industry of tools to help candidates prep.

A case can be made for the oddball question. It lets the interviewer see how the applicant handles a curve ball and it can offer a window into the applicant's creativity and problem solving when faced with something unexpected. It often isn't so much whether an applicant can answer a brainteaser correctly (if there even is a correct answer) as much as how he or she approaches it.

For even more interviewing questions and styles, you get an insider's view of the practices at various companies by reading interview reviews posted by job applicants at GlassDoor.

April 8, 2010

Resources for working parents: Teen bullying

Teen bullying has been much in the news lately, particularly in the light of a few heartbreaking teen suicides that were related to bullying. School-age bullying is certainly a concern raised by a lot of parents that we speak to. No doubt it is a concern shared by many of your employees, just one of the many worrisome distractions that is on the minds of working parents in the course of the workday. Bullying is nothing new - we probably all remember bullies from our childhood. But from yesteryear to today, the world has changed. Most families have two working parents today, so kids are often spending longer days with their peer group and less time under parental supervision. Plus, new technologies offer new challenges for keeping kids safe.

Bullying can take many forms, both physical and verbal. It may include actual physical assault or peer pressure, ridicule, threats, or teasing. It can also occur in the form of cyberbullying, through online social networks such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, or through text messaging and email. Statistics show that is quite prevalent and parents are often unaware of the scope, the severity, and the impact on their child. Even when aware, parents often feel ill-equipped to deal with bullying, and may be unprepared to deal with some of the newer forms of online bullying.

We've compiled some bullying resources primarily aimed at parents that may be useful tools to share with your employees.

Stop Bullying Now! from the Health Resources & Service Administration offers parental resources. Also see the Kids' and teens pages.

KidsHealth from The Nemours Center for Children's Health Media offers great information for parents, children and teens. Some specific resources that they offer around the topic of bullying include Helping kids deal with bullies; Teaching kids not to bully, and Helping kids deal with cliques, There's also a good teen guide: Dealing with bullying

Other resources:
Bullying sites by and for kids: Teens Against Bullying and Kids Against Bullying

Cyberbullying and online safety
One of the aspects of teen bulling that seems particularly frightening to many parents is cyberbullying, or online bullying. It's important for parents to understand new technologies and how their kids are using social media. But some would caution that we should not create a cyberbullying panic: new media is here to stay and the more parents can learn about it, the better they can monitor and advise their kids. Here are some resources we've found to help.

Commonsense media offers a variety of online resources for parents, including a plethora of information on social networking and virtual worlds and Internet Safety

Connect Safely - designed to give teens and parents a voice in the public discussion about youth online safety and to offer social-media safety tips for teens and parents.

Guide to Facebook Security Settings and Situations

Stop Cyberbullying - from Wired

Talking to kids and teens about social media and texting - tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

February 26, 2010

Motivate your team: World class speaking tips

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to "ideas worth spreading." Its genesis was as a conference focusing on three areas: Technology, Entertainment, Design (thus the acronym "TED") but since the early days some 26 years ago, it has broadened its scope. The annual conference attracts innovators and thought leaders from business, science, technology, and the arts. You can sample video clips at the TED site - but fair warning, there are more than 600 clips archived and surfing them can be quite addictive. They are rightfully billed as "riveting talks by remarkable people." An index on the right hand side of the page allows you to sort them by the newest releases or to surf the archives by various other categories such as "most favorited all time", "rated as inspiring", or "rated as jaw-dropping." Most are under 18 minutes, many are under 10 minutes in length.

Now, thanks to Garr Reynold's blog Presentation Zen, you can learn how to make presentations in the TED style by reviewing the "TED Commandments" or rules every speaker needs to know. Garr also presents a variety of clips from TED presentations that represent various speaking styles, from "presenting fully naked" (using no slides or notes) to presenting with highly visual slides, and several other styles in between. If you have any upcoming presentations on the docket - whether for a large or just a meeting designed to motivate your work team - this is a good resource to bookmark for presentation tips and inspiration.

January 31, 2010

Resources for elder caregivers

It's estimated that between 15 and 20 million U.S. employees are caring for aging parents and that caregiving results in more than $30 billion a year in lost productivity. CMHS offers a helpful new video which reviews programs and resources that are available to caregivers and those caring for elder parents. These programs could offer valuable support to any of your employees who have caregiving responsibilities.

Additional resources
Caregiver Information from Medicare
National Caregiver Support Network
Eldercare Locator - or call 800-677-1116
Medicaid Waivers and Demonstrations List
Aging and disability resource centers

Prior posts on caregiving
Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiver employees are at heightened risk
EEOC guidance on caregiver discrimination

January 14, 2010

Haiti resources for HR managers: finding loved ones; ways to help; managing trauma

We've received notice that several of our clients are concerned about relatives and loved ones who are missing in Haiti. Other clients have asked us about ways their organizations can help. We will use this post to link to helpful resources, and will update our list when we find additional resources:

Looking for loved ones in Haiti
The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify Americans in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.

  • Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at to request assistance
  • Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672.
  • The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444. Note: due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording.
  • To reach or find Haitian residents, the Red Cross recommends that callers continue to call or text family members who live nearby.
CNN ireport: looking for loved ones in Haiti - Are you searching for a family member or friend in Haiti? Upload his or her photo on CNN's ireport.

Family Links - The aim of the Family Links website is to accelerate the process of restoring contact between separated family members. It is managed by the ICRC, in cooperation with the tracing services of the Haitian Red Cross Society and of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world. At this stage, the website offers the possibility for persons in Haiti and abroad to publish the names of relatives with whom they are striving to restore contact. It will progressively incorporate information offering responses to those queries. (Note: The ICRC has no means of verifying the information sent through the network. It is not responsible for any inaccurate information given through the services made available on this site.)

How you can help:
Red Cross: People can make an unrestricted donation to the International Response Fund at , or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. This donation will be charged to your next cell phone bill. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:

  • Online donations page
  • Text the word "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, charged to your cell phone bill
  • Mail to: Mail: The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o William J. Clinton Foundation / Donations Department / 610 President Clinton Avenue / Little Rock, AR 72201 - OR -
    The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o Communities Foundation of Texas / 5500 Caruth Haven Lane / Dallas, TX 75225

Other resources:

Scam alert
FBI warning of Haiti earthquake scams

  • FBI says don't click on links or files in unsolicited donation request e-mails
  • Do not ever donate cash; don't give your credit card info to people phoning for donations
  • Ask if charity is registered and what percentage of money goes to victims

News resources

Managing trauma in the workplace
Workplace Critical Incident Resources from the Employee Assistance Professional Association. In particular, see their page on Haiti resources and the following information on traumatic events:

Also see our prior post: The aftermath of Katrina: HR lessons learned

January 5, 2010

Study: disability spikes in January-February

Now that the parties are over and the bills are coming due, your employees may be returning to work with a heavy load of stress, a case of post-holiday letdown, or a more serious case of depression linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Post-holiday malaise is as predictable as the swallows returning to Capistrano and while it will not affect all your employees, it will effect enough to make a serious dent in productivity. A recent study of employee disability claims by The Hartford offers further testimony to this matter. The study, which analyzed more than one million short-term disability claims filed from 2004 to 2008, revealed a seasonal pattern:

"Excluding pregnancy-related claims, the review found that short-term disability claims dropped to their lowest level in November and December. But the dip was followed by a surge in disability claims in January and February linked to depression, respiratory illnesses and injuries. The average time a worker took off work for a disability was about 60 days, not counting pregnancy-related claims."

"Glenn Shapiro, vice president for claims at the company’s group benefits division, said the pattern was not entirely surprising given that dreary and cold winter days had long been linked to depression, a higher risk of colds and flu and slipping and falling accidents."

Forward-looking managers should anticipate the increased risks for disability over the post-holiday season and plan accordingly. Here are some resources and tips that might help:

August 23, 2009

Grab bag of work web tools and useful sites

From time to time, we like to pass along some of the useful tools and sites that we chance on in our travels. Some are productivity savers and others are just plain useful!

Meeting ticker - log the number of attendees, enter the average hourly rate, and start your engines. You'll be surprised to learn how much meetings cost!

Legistalker - Wanting to follow your congressperson during key issues? Try Legistalker, a site that makes it easy to stay on top of what your elected officials say and how they vote. The database is updated every 20 seconds, and relies on data from Twitter, YouTube, Capitol Words, literally hundreds of different news sources, and others.

GizaPage - too many social networks to manage? GizaPage a social network organizer that allows you to access all your networks from your own personalized URL. This is just one tool to help you manage your social networking applications - also see Manage Your Social Networks

Tinychat - This service allows you to create an instant web-based chat room or video conference with up to twelve people in a room. It is protected by passwords and moderators, you can share your desktop with them, and your conferences can be recorded and embedded on your website.

280 Slides - create and share presentations online. No software to download with this free app - try it out!

DropSend - do you ever have attachments that are too large to send in an e-mail or too large for your recipient to access in their e-mail? Try DropSend which allows you to send large files of up to 2 gigabytes. You can send up to 5 emails a month free.

Choose the Best Search for Your Information Need - a guide to some specialty search engines

Wordnik - This site bills itself as "An ongoing project devoted to discovering all the words and everything about them." If you are a logophile, you are sure to like this site. And may we also remind you of OneLook, a handy resource that sources and presents results for multiple dictionaries.

ParkWhiz - find and reserve parking before you get there. Enter a date, time & address and get nearby parking garages, rate comparisons, and distance from your destination.

Down for everyone of just me? - enter the address of a website to see if the site is having a widespread problem or if the problem with the page is on your end. It's surprisingly useful!

June 13, 2009

New blog finds on benefits, law, work-life, prevention, and more

From time to time, we like to freshen up the blogroll by adding a few promising new blog finds and weeding out some blogs that are no longer active. Please check out some of these great new additions to our blogroll:

Benefits Beat - a new blog from Business Insurance editor Joanne Wojcik. See her recent post on the cost of depression in the workplace.

Minding the Workplace - blog by David Yamada, a law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston and founder of the New Workplace Institute, a research and education center promoting healthy, productive, and socially responsible workplaces. Common blogging themes: dignity at work, workplace bullying, and psychologically healthy work environments.

World of Work - insight and commentary on labor and employment law from attorney Dennis Westlind.

Sloan Work and Family Research Network Blog - blog by Boston College's Alfred P. Sloan Work and Family Research Network, dedicated to providing resources and building knowledge for academics and researchers, workplace practitioners, state public policy makers, and interested individuals.

Minding Our Elders - blog by author Carol Bradley Bursack which focuses on support for caregivers and seniors.

Comp Time - another blog from Business Insurance, this one by Roberto Ceniceros, focusing on issues related to workers' compensation.

Prevention Matters - blog by Partnership for Prevention, an organization of businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies dedicated to improving the health of the nation through policies and programs that prevent disease and promote health.

March 6, 2009

Consumer Protection Week - resources for your employees

To commemorate National Consumer Protection Week, we've compiled some useful tools and resources that you can share with your employees. In these tough economic times, it's more important than ever to be a savvy consumer.

Making Home Affordable - learn about refinance and modification options available through the new government stimulus plan. Use the self-assessment tools to find out if you are among the 7 million+ homeowners who can benefit.

Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure - information for those who are in foreclosure now or are just worried
about it in the future from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

66 Ways to Save Money - tips from the Federal Citizen Information Center - available in English and Spanish

AARP's Quick Tips for Saving Hundreds of $ per Month - provides answers and assistance to customers of national banks. It assists consumers in filing complaints online by telling them what to provide and what to expect. The site also includes answers to common questions on a variety of consumer topics.

Free annual credit checks - This is the official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Learn more about credit scores and why they matter. Also: Tips on Understanding your Credit Report.

Consumer Action Center - order a copy of the 2009 Consumer Action Handbook, an everyday guide to being a smart shopper or search this useful website for the same information. Find tips about preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint, filing for bankruptcy, finding a lawyer, and planning a funeral, along with many other useful topics.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams and ripoffs - According to a survey conducted in 2008 by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators, the top complaints that state and local consumer protection agencies receive concern everyday transactions: car sales and repairs, home improvement work, credit and loans, debt collection, retail sales, utility service, Internet sales, door-to-door and telemarketing sales, and apartment rentals. These tips will help you to avoid scams.

OnGuard Online - practical tips from the federal government to help you guard against phishing, spyware, identity theft and other types of Internet fraud. For other types of fraud, see: Don't Be Burned by Debt Elimination Scams (PDF) and Avoiding Cashier Check Fraud.

February 19, 2009

Twitter: productivity helper or nuisance?

Are you tweeting on the job? Aliza Sherman takes on the issue of whether Twitter is a time waster or a productivity tool. Is it an indispensable and efficient part of daily communications or a silly distraction? That might depend on how and why you use it. Aliza outlines both ten positives and ten negatives, offering links to several useful applications.

For more on maximizing the utility, Kim Lau a has great post on getting things done with Twitter, commenting that "There’s a lot you didn’t know you could do with 140 character spurts." She's compiled a list of applications that extend Twitter's capabilities - tools that allow you to track expenses, organize travel, monitor your commute, or keep post it note reminders. One that we found particularly useful for work projects is called GroupTweet, a group message broadcasting tool that offers a quick way for team members to broadcast quick, private messages.

Here are a few other useful Twitter tools:
Twibs - browse 4,755 current twitter businesses on
Twitter Groups helps you to find groups of interest
Guide to Twitter for Business
14 tools of highly effective Twitter users
Twitter in Plain English (video)
Twitter - a beginner's Guide

Caution - a tool is only as good as its user
Before you harness an unfamiliar social web tool for business purposes, you might want to play around with it for a bit and test it out with friends and family until you develop some familiarity with its capabilities. Even an "old school tool" like e-mail can have its pitfalls. Making the buzz all over the blogs for the last day or two is the embarrassing mistake that Twitter's HR manager recently made when she issued a rejection letter to 186 candidates, mistakenly hitting "to" rather than "BCC," thus exposing the identity of all the rejected candidates - oops. Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist offers the full scoop on this incident, a painful example of how technology tools can turn on you.

December 20, 2008

Assorted links of note

From our bookmark file, here's a grab bag of links that we thought were worth sharing:

Communications - Meridith Levinson of CIO posts about 10 Things You Should Never Write in an E-Mail or Instant Message:
1. "I could get into trouble for telling you this, but…"
2. "Delete this e-mail immediately."
3. "I really shouldn't put this in writing."
4. "Don't tell So-and-So." Or, "Don't send this to So-and-So."
5. "She/He/They will never find out."
6. "We're going to do this differently than normal."
7. "I don't think I am supposed to know this, but…"
8. "I don't want to discuss this in e-mail. Please give me a call."
9. "Don't ask. You don't want to know."
10. "Is this actually legal?"
Check out her excellent post for further elaboration.

Compliance - Workforce notes: "As employers consider adopting nontraditional schedules, what some of them are not doing is taking a clear-eyed look at the wage and hour ramifications of these arrangements. There are potential pitfalls—under both federal wage and hour law and the requirements of other jurisdictions—that demand close attention." The Legal Implications of Nontraditional Workweeks

Productivity - For inspiration motivation, and just because it's interesting, check out Daily Routines, a blog about how writers, artists, and other creative people organize their days. Featured items are culled from books, newspapers, magazines, and Web sites.

Social networking - many of you are texting and instant messaging with abandon already, but for those of you who feel left behind, Dennis Kennedy's Get the (Instant) message, Dude is a good primer. Also see Everything You Need to Know About Twitter but Are Too Chicken to Ask from Traction Marketing.

Survey reveals economy is taking a toll on middle manager morale - Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle managers say the economy is having a negative impact on their work environments - according to a recent survey by Accenture.

Cool tools
Translation - Do you have a multi-lingual work force? If so, then Nice Translator might be a useful tool. First, pick from one of about 30 languages, and then begin typing in English and your words will be translated in real time as you type. We tested it on Spanish and it worked pretty well.

Connections - If you work at home or in a small office, making conference calls can be a challenge. Try Once you register, you will get a dedicated call in number and access code, available 24/7, with no need to schedule or make reservations. Each conference call can have up to 96 callers and last for up to 6 hours in duration. It also comes with free conference call recording.

December 5, 2008

Holiday money-saving tips to share with your employees

As if the holiday season weren't stressful enough, the tough economy is putting a damper on holiday cheer for many people who are struggling with tight budgets, job loss in the family, and other economic worries. Here are some good holiday money-saving ideas to share with your employees to help lessen the economic stress and keep some family fun in the holidays.

Get Rich Slowly is a blog devoted to sensible personal finance. Recently, they've featured some good posts on ways to save money and have a frugal holiday season: Favorite frugal Christmas ideas from readers and A Do-It-Yourself Christmas - 34 great gifts you can make yourself.

Smart Money's Holiday Survival Guide - including 7 Things to Know About Buying Gift Cards - what consumers need to know before they buy a gift card.

20 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season - from Real Simple

100 Money Saving Tips for the Holiday Gifting Bonanza

The Bargainist - updating several times a day, The Bargainist ferrets out deals on just about everything. From gadgets to clothes, find bargains, sales, coupons, and freebies.

Holiday Travelers' Survival Guide 2008 - from Budget Travel

August 17, 2008

A few "new" HR blog discoveries

The HR blogosphere keeps getting better and better. We've discovered a few good blogs - not necessarily new but new to us - that we thought we'd share with our readers. We'll be adding them to the blogroll in our sidebar, too.

The first two are a pair of blogs from Manpower: The Manpower Employment Blawg authored by Mark Toth, the company's Chief Legal Officer. We enjoyed his introduction: "For the first time in recorded history, a lawyer is doing something for free. This blog -- or blawg -- is designed to provide you with up-to-the-minute employment law information without putting you to sleep. Take a look around. You'll find entertaining videos, provocative questions, practical tools, legal alerts -- even an employment law sing-a-long. We'll do everything we can to keep you up on the law and out of jail."

He's correct that the blog is quite entertaining, but don't let the breezy style fool you - it is also packed with useful information. Check out the termination tools(PDF) and roster of helpful cheat sheets on employment laws.

Mark's colleague Melanie Holmes is Vice President of World of Work Solutions at Manpower, and she hosts the Contemporary Working Blog. She covers a plethora of everyday workplace issues ranging from improving your public speaking skills to tattoos in the workplace. We also like that she loves her pets. Oh, and an interesting side note - although a corporate executive today, Melanie began her career at Manpower 26 years ago, starting as a $5 an hour temp.

Another entertaining and thought provoking blog we've recently discovered is Punk Rock Human Resources, authored by Laurie Ruettimann, who describes herself a punk rock Human Resources professional with extensive Fortune 500 experience. She writes about business trends, employment, Corporate America, and permanently opting-out of the rat race. We like her recent post summarizing Obama's and McCain's views on work issues as stated in the recent Saddleback Faith Forum. And checkout her post Eye of the Tiger: Two HR Lessons From the 80s - good stuff.

In another vein, we were pleased to discover Corporate Wellness Insights a blog by Wellness Corporate Solutions, a Maryland-based employee wellness company. As the title implies, this blog focuses on all things related to wellness. The blog features weekly wellness news roundups, case histories of organizations with successful and high ROI wellness programs, and posts on topical health issues such as cancer and obesity.

August 11, 2008

5 cool tools to start your week

Fuelly: Share and compare your miles per gallon - Fuelly is a free site that lets you track, share, and compare your gas mileage. Simply sign up, add a car, and begin tracking your mileage. By recording and analyzing your mileage, you can see how much money you can save with small driving changes. You can also see how your mileage compares with EPA estimates and the mileage of other drivers using Fuelly. Tips and a discussion forum also offer ways to save.

Glossary of Human Resource Terms - commonly used terms and definitions that are significant to the profession of human resource management from the SHRM Knowledge Center.

World Lecture Hall - The University of Texas at Austin maintains this service that is entry point to free online course materials from around the world. It publishes links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver course materials in any language. Some courses are delivered entirely over the Internet while others are designed for students in residence, but they are a public resource.

Bringo! - Tired of dialing 1-800 numbers and not being able to get through to a human who can help you? Search Bringo!'s list to find the company you want to contact, enter your phone number, and Bringo will navigate the phone tree. You'll get a quick call to confirm, and then a callback when you are connected.

!0 Online Mapping Tools - online maps have been customized and tweaked to serve many purposes. This list provides some popular and useful variations.

July 11, 2008

Five links for Friday

Five quick links to some useful web tools. OK, well mostly useful - one is just to make you laugh.

Dictionary of Occupational Titles - alphabetical index to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles as supplied electronically by the US Department of Labor.

Everybody's Legal Glossary - plain-English definitions for hundreds of legal terms, from the common to the bizarre, brought to you by NOLO, a legal publishing firm.

Seat Guru - if your job requires business travel, you will appreciate this site that offers actual layouts of planes so you can preview your seat and flight amenities. You can also access the airline's info and policies about check-in, baggage, and traveling with infants and pets.

Video tutorial on how to use RSS readers - if you read several blogs a week, a more efficient way to do it is to subscribe to an RSS reader. This brief video tutorial will teach you what you need to know. Also see Frank Roche's great post from KnowHR on What Everybody in HR Ought to Know About Blogs and How to Read them Fast.

7 Funny Newspaper Job Wanted Ads - or how NOT to write a job ad.

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

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

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

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.

April 21, 2008

Spear phishing: Train your employees in e-mail security

Phishing is a type of email fraud in which the sender impersonates a trusted source to try to gain access to passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. The victim is at risk of theft, identity theft, or contacting malicious computer viruses. Fraudulent e-mail is frequently disguised as a message from a bank or a trusted merchant. Scam e-mails often contain a link to a site that either requires the person to enter sensitive data or instructs the user to download a special program. These fake e-mails often look and sound very authentic - even experienced users can be fooled. But over time, consumer education has alerted many to the scams and most people know better than to give out sensitive information without vetting the source.

Spear Phishing
Scammers continue to up the ante. More recently, these fraudulent e-mail scams have gotten more sophisticated, targeting specific companies in a practice often called spear phishing, which is a more targeted approach. In these attacks, the phony e-mails masquerade as communication from within the organization - such as from the HR or IT department or from a specific manager. Last week, there was a report of spear phishing emails that targeted CEOS through emails disguised as court subpoenas.

Keep informed, educate your employees
Employers need to stay alert about new phishing scams and need to educate their workers about scams to protect the organization from vulnerabilities - it only takes one chink in the armor to launch an internal attack. Two good sources are the FBI e-scams and warnings update and the Anti Phishing Work Group, an organization which stays on top of the latest scams and is a good source of consumer information and education about phishing scams. In how to avoid phishing scams they offer consumer pointers, among them:

  • Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
  • Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic - call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web adress in your browser
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information - you should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
  • Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
  • Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites.
  • Regularly log into your online accounts (to ensure that there has been not fraudulent activity)
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
  • Always report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:
    * forward the email to
    * forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at

Make a policy that you will never ask for confidential employee information (passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers) via e-mail and publicize the policy widely. Use newsletters, company meetings, and bulletins to publicize security tips and to teach your employees that whether at work or at home, they should never share confidential information via e-mail. Here are a few consumer quizzes you can use to test their - and your - knowledge:

Phishing IQ Test
Catch a phish - take the quiz
On Guard Phishing Quiz (flash, sound)
Can you spot the phishing?

April 10, 2008

Cancer in the workplace: resources for managers and colleagues

If you've ever managed a worker who has been diagnosed with cancer, you know the challenges that it can pose, both in terms of your own interactions with the person, and also in terms of supporting and managing concerned colleagues. It can be a difficult and delicate balance, offering support and flexibility for the employee while managing within the policies and needs of your organization. We've compiled some excellent resources from around the web that might be helpful to you and to your employees.

Managing Through Cancer Principles - offers a set of principles, resources and tools for organizations and managers that want to support employees with cancer and their co-workers. The site offers a set of principles along with manager/employee responsibilities and suggestions for developing supportive time-off policies, such as paid time off and leave banks. The site also discusses telecommuting and flex time options. While the guideline is specific to cancer and cancer treatment, most of the principles are applicable in managing employees with any life-threatening illness.

Beyond the matter of principles and policies, there is the very real matter of how managers and colleagues should talk to an employee who has been diagnosed with cancer or who is dying of cancer. Often, people who are grievously ill become isolated because friends and colleagues are uncomfortable and simply don't know what to say or how to deal with the person - so they simply avoid things. Here is a list of some very helpful resources offering guidance for how to talk to and interact with a person who has cancer.

Top 10 Dos and Don'ts when someone in you life becomes seriously ill is a short, practical guide with solid advice.

Supporting a friend who has cancer also offers Dos and Don'ts for things to say, along with a list of practical ways you might offer help and good gift ideas to show your support.

Quick tips for everyday situations offers suggestions for how colleagues and friends can be supportive of and respond to everyday situations, such as a coworker diagnosed with breast cancer, a relative with clinical depression, or how to offer help to a blind person in the gym.

How to talk to a friend with cancer is a discussion board thread that links to some very helpful articles, but more importantly, shares the real-life experiences of people who are living cancer and people who have lost loved ones to cancer. This is a rich, frank, and very touching discussion by and for the real experts - people who are living/have lived through real life situations.

Remember, these are the types of situations where your EAP can offer real support and resources - be sure to recommend the services of your EAP to both the person who is ill and their family members. Also, check to see if your EAP offers help and guidance for supervisors.

March 14, 2008

Employers' best practice guide for helping veterans reacclimate to the workplace

We've previously discussed the importance of helping the military to return to work. Of the 1.5 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately one in every four is a "citizen soldier" serving in the ranks of the National Guard or the Reserves. In many cases, they will be returning to resume jobs at former employers.

As we've learned from the experience of returning vets in past wars, the transition is not always an easy one. Many who return are IED survivors with serious physical injuries such as amputations, burns, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Many others suffer from an array of behavioral health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One recent Pentagon study identified that as many as one in three returning troops have mental health problems six months after their return. The study showed that the transition is even harder for citizen soldiers than for active-duty soldiers: "About 42 percent of the Guard and reserves, compared to 20 percent of active-duty troops, were identified as needing mental health treatment in two screenings. The first testing was immediately upon return from Iraq and the second six months later."

Helping to ease the transition back to the workplace
The Disability Management Employer Coalition and several large insurers teamed up with military and veteran advisers to examine the challenges and opportunities facing returning veterans and to identify employer-based resources and strategies to help ease the transition. The group, calling themselves the Workplace Warrior Think Tank, has produced a useful guide for employers: The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration Highlighting Best Practices in Human Resources and Disability Management * (PDF).

The following are among the group's most important best practice recommendations:

  • Establish a Military Leave and Return Policy covering employees who are members of the Reserves or National Guard. A key component of that policy is to communicate the range of benefits and programs that apply, including provisions of the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which requires job protection for all employees who are deployed regardless of the size of the employer.
  • Inform civilian employees (such as those who work for defense contractors) who are assigned to work with the United States military overseas of the benefits programs available to them. In particular, employees should understand the federal Defense Base Act, which will cover them during their overseas assignment.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and behavioral health services to help returning employees (including members of the military and civilian employees assigned overseas) who have been diagnosed with or who are exhibiting symptoms of major depression, generalized anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Use good general disability management practices that apply, including:
    - maintaining communication during absences;
    - celebrating employees’ return to work;
    - giving employees adequate information about benefits prior to deployment;
    - allowing time to reintegrate after an extended absence;
    - considering accommodations to assist the employee’s return to productivity;
    - recapping changes while employees were gone;
    - establishing red flags to help supervisors identify potential problems; and
    - obtaining commitment from senior management to ensure that programs are given strong support and a cultural presence.
  • Offer sensitivity training to managers, supervisors and co-workers on issues and challenges faced by civilian soldiers during deployment and post-deployment.
  • Provide mentoring programs to link returning civilian soldiers with veterans in the workforce. The commonality of military experience may forge bonds among colleagues to support the successful reintegration of returning workplace warriors.

EAPs identified as a vital resource
The Workplace Warrior Think Tank stressed the importance of employers having not just an EAP, but one that is well equipped to address the full spectrum of behavioral health issues that are common to re-acclimating veterans, particularly PTSD and depression. In addition, the EAP must be poised to address the many family problems and stresses that can surface both during and after deployment. According to congressional testimony by Todd Bowers, Director of Government Affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 27% of soldiers now admit they are experiencing marital problems, and 20% of deployed soldiers say they are currently planning a divorce. And a CBS investigation points to a veteran suicide rate that is twice that of average Americans.

Employers must train supervisors and HR staff to spot warning signs for problems early and must have resources in place for referrals to appropriate help and support services. For employers who will have returning citizen soldiers, the next EAP renewal might be a good time to kick the tires and ensure that it is up to providing the serious support and mental health services that will be needed. The transition will not be a once-and-done matter, but a long-term issue that America's employers will be dealing with over the next few decades.

*More information and a copy of the full Guide are available through the Disability Management Employer Coalition.

February 11, 2008

Four *new* HR blog finds

We're happy to see more and more blogs emerging that focus on human resources and the workplace. Here are a few blogs that we've been watching and will add to our blogroll:

Race in the Workplace - a blog that explores how race and racism influence our working lives. In addition to providing link roundups to good articles and links on diversity issues, the blog also features some thoughtful essays. Here are a few recent topics: politics in the workplace; why some people discriminate against people of their own race; and the corporate divide between black and white women

The Monster Blog - This is a blog written by staff of the online job giant, Monster. But the blog doesn't necessarily focus on finding jobs or finding job candidates. Rather, the team describes their effort as, "...a chance to write about an array of issues in a free-form style. Sometimes we'll talk about the day's big news stories and sometimes we'll muse about workplace microwave etiquette -- just depends on the day." A pretty good way to get a sense of what the Monster Blog is all about is to skim through their Top 12 Monster Blog Posts of 2007.

The HR Capitalist - not a newcomer to the field, this well-designed and interesting blog by Kris Dunn has been up and running since December of 2006. He describes his interests as " ...the intersection of the HR practice, technology and business results in today’s organizations. I have a strong interest in areas like recruiting and performance management, but keep an eye towards the thousand other areas that impact HR Generalists at every level." In today's post, he talks about why reading SHRM is like eating an unsalted cracker - suggesting that the organization needs to go beyond its meat & potatoes fare by offering customization and opinions - and hiring a few bloggers. He notes that, "Getting and keeping a seat at the table means you have opinions, even if they are unpopular. There's a name for people without opinions in our profession - they're called administrators."

Welcome to the World of HR - This is a blog by staff of Astron Solutions, an HR consulting and technology firm. It covers link roundups to HR news, as well as a series called "What I'm Hearing" where bloggers opine on various topics, such as workplace romance, executive compensation, and 401ks.

January 26, 2008

Health & Wellness tool

In the cool tools department, we offer a must-bookmark reference site for your health and wellness program: HealthExecLynx, which bills itself as "agile inks for busy health care executives." With more than 1,100 links , it's a gateway to links for all things health-care related, from health policy blogs and health news sources to governmental concerns and health care associations. Don't miss the other health care links page, offering dozens of useful and entertaining resources, ranging from HospitalLink and Centerwach Clinical Trials Listing Service to Quackwatch and eSkeletons Project
The site is provided by the Department of Health Policy and Administration is one of the oldest and most respected programs in health administration in the U.S. and part of the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

October 26, 2007

Short takes: managing; planning for emergencies; politics, multiculturalism, and more

What do managers do, anyway? Casey Stengle defined management as "getting paid for home runs that someone else hits." What's your definition? Ask a Manager offers a breakdown of what managers are responsible for.

Give this man a job for a week - One Week Job - Sean Aiken is attempting to work 52 jobs in 52 weeks and blog the results. He says he will travel anywhere and invites employers to hire him for a week.

One of our favorite stops - Susan Heatherfield always has well-researched information on her Human Resources blog on This week, she experienced a nearby tornado and used the occurrence as a springboard to discuss the importance of every workplace having an emergency plan. A timely post as it coming as it does in the midst of hurricane season and on the heels of the California fires.

Health & Wellness - Nursing Online Educational Database offers a list of the top 100 health and wellness blogs.
The Visual Medical Dictionary is an interesting way to explore medical issues. Enter a disease, therapy or drug and begin exploring relationships.

Love me, love my candidate - as we gear up to the upcoming election year, it might be helpful to think about how politics can affect things at work. Scott Flander of Human Resource Executive discusses potential impact on the work force when the boss talks politics. Also, see our past post on When politics spills over into the workplace.

Multiculturalism - The Multicultural Advantage looks to be a good resource. It offers " ... a wealth of articles, job opportunities, event listings, research, tools, downloads, links and other resources for professionals from diverse backgrounds. The site also addresses the needs of diversity recruiting and workplace diversity professionals who are seeking to reach & understand them."

Communication - The American Sign Language Dictionary is a great visual learning tool. Pick a word from an alphabetized list to view a short video clip of someone making the sign for that word. It's both useful and rather fun.

October 23, 2007

Harnessing web communication technologies in a crisis: the San Diego fires

Our hearts go out to all the folks suffering in the terrible fires and related chaos in southern California. In the aftermath, there will no doubt be crisis-management lessons for employers in how to communicate with and support employees, just as there were HR lessons from Katrina.

Your technology and web staff should be front line soldiers in crisis planning and crisis management. The Web offers numerous tools that employers should learn to harness for both their public and Intranet sites in the event of natural or man-made emergencies. To learn more about these technologies and to view them in action, see Using Social Media Services to Track the California Fires. This article offers links and discussion about how Google, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia and are being harnessed to offer real time updates, news, and resources about the San Diego area fires.

Note: some of the following links may change or expire as the situation evolves.

Nate Ritter offers an excellent example of how one individual is providing an important public service via the text messaging tool, Twitter. News station KPBS also has a good Twitter news feed.

Some very interesting (and terrible) updates are being provided via Google Map mashups, which bloggers and programmers are cobbling together quickly. This KPBS News map displays fire burn areas, evacuation areas, evacuation centers, road closures, and more. This blogger is mapping the homes that have been claimed by fire in his neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo. His blog, And Still I Persist is an example of the valuable role that bloggers can play in a disaster.

As they were during Katrina, newspaper message boards become an important gathering point for local residents to share information, resources, and help to neighbors. The Union-Tribune's SignOnSanDiego wildfire forums have logged tens of thousands of messages since yesterday, grouped by geographic areas. Many distant folks have been reading these boards to keep track of areas where friends and family live.

And don't forget—one other vital employer resource during and after an emergency is an employee assistance program. Sadly, there will be many, many hurting people when this terrible fire has run its course.

October 19, 2007

New blog discoveries for our sidebar

We've found a few new blogs and resources that you might find useful. There are brief introductions to each in this post and we've added them to our sidebar. (If you haven't checked out our sidebar lately, why not take a few minutes to poke around? There's an expanding collection of links to other business blogs and general HR resources.)

HR Metrics - The stated goal of this site is, "To help organizations optimize their performance by being the best source of HR metrics." The site has several useful components:

  • Metrics Center - offering templates and formulas that can be used to measure safety, training, benefits, hiring, and many other organizational matters.
  • Library - a compilation of hundreds of articles by HR experts on various topics, with an emphasis on metrics.
  • Blog - We note with some interest that the blog's most recent entry is on Measuring EAPs, suggesting that one standard for measuring effectiveness is to chart your EAP's impact on retention. There are several other excellent recent entries, as well.

KnowHR Blog - This is a smart and fun HR blog - it includes book reviews on HR literature, posts on serious HR issues, and a generous dose of humor, something we really like. How can you not like a blog that tells you about paper airplanes for HR pros?

HR Daily Advisor - offers a free daily newsletter from BLR, but you can also simply visit the blog's daily posting. Search hundreds of archived tips by chronological date or by topic matter. Today's post captures some of the baseball fever that's in the air: Workplace Lessons from Baseball's Cal Ripkin Jr.

October 9, 2007

October is Cyber Safety Awareness Month: 8 Practices to Stay Safe Online

October is Cyber-Security Awareness Month. We received a newsletter from one of our clients, the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) which included 8 important cyber safety practices compiled by the National Cyber Security Alliance. We thought it would be a good list to share with our readers, and Commissioner James Thomas of the CT DEMHS has granted us permission to do that. We've summarized the tips and provided links back to the source for more detailed information. We think these would be good tips to pass along to employees in your organization, too!

Eight Cyber Security Practices to Stay Safe Online
The widespread availability of computers and connections to the Internet provides everyone with 24/7 access to information, credit and financial services, and shopping. The Internet is also an incredible tool for educators and students to communicate and learn.

Unfortunately, some individuals exploit the Internet through criminal behavior and other harmful acts. Criminals can try to gain unauthorized access to your computer and then use that access to steal your identity, commit fraud, or even launch cyber attacks against others. By following the recommended cyber security practices outlined here, you can limit the harm cyber criminals can do not only to your computer, but to everyone's computer.

However, there is no single cyber security practice or technological solution that will prevent online crime. These recommended cyber security practices highlight that using a set of practices that include Internet habits as well as technology solutions can make a difference. The National Cyber Security Alliance's Top Eight Cyber Security Practices are practical steps you can take to stay safe online and avoid becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft, or cyber crime.

1. Protect your personal information. It's valuable.
2. Know who you're dealing with online.
3. Use anti-virus software, a firewall, and anti-spyware software to help keep your computer safe and secure.
4. Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly.
5. Use strong passwords or strong authentication technology to help protect your personal information.
6. Back up important files.
7. Learn what to do if something goes wrong.
8. Protect your children online.

September 6, 2007

HR Tools and handy widgets

Learn how much your organization's turnover is costing. The University of Wisconsin offers an Online Employee Turnover Calculator

The Charity Navigator is a great resource for researching potential recipients of your organization's philanthropic efforts. The site uses a rating system to evaluate a charity's financial health and offers advice on safe and responsible giving. The site has received many media accolades for the service it provides.

Is your workplace as green as it could be? Calculate your office footprint to see how you stack up and to access some useful resources.

Here's an interesting site that is a clever resource for your wellness program: What does 200 calories look like?. The site is designed to help people make better, more informed nutrition choices by depicting photos of a 200-calorie portion of various foods.

Dread those upcoming presentations? Dumb Little Man, a blog that focuses on productivity and other matters, offers basic public speaking tips for newbies and follows up with some tips for making killer presentations. You might also view this amusing You Tube clip showing you how NOT to use PowerPoint in your presentations.

The Glossary of Health Insurance Terminology is a useful reference tool to keep in your bookmarks come benefit renewal season. Also, the Glossary of Terms in Managed Health Care.

Want to have "mad skillz" when it comes to online searching ability? Try this handy reference list to learn about deep searches: Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources

Have a zip code but don't know what location it's associated with? Use this handy zipdecode map to find out - simply click the map and type in your zip code.

June 28, 2007

Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence

Lately, there's been a spate of grim headlines about domestic violence resulting in deaths: the professional wrestler who killed his wife and young son and then himself, and the pregnant Ohio mother who was murdered, allegedly by the father of her child. Domestic violence is certainly nothing new but, occasionally, high profile cases such as these bring the issue to the forefront.

Because we spend so much time at work, colleagues and supervisors are often in a unique position to spot signs of domestic violence and employer can often play a critical role in directing the employee to help through referrals to an EAP or other community resource. In the past, the "none of my business" type of thinking often prevailed, but today employers know that problems at home rarely stay at home. All too often, domestic abuse comes right to the workplace:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
  • Of the approximately 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence that occur in the US every year, 18,700 are committed by an intimate partner: a current or former spouse, lover, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
  • Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year - the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund identifies an annotated list of seven reasons why employers should address domestic violence. Here's a quick summary:

  1. Domestic violence affects many employees.
  2. Domestic violence is a security and liability concern.
  3. Domestic violence is a performance and productivity concern.
  4. Domestic violence is a health care concern.
  5. Domestic violence is a management issue.
  6. Taking action in response to domestic violence works.
  7. Employers can make a difference.

The site also offers an excellent list of case histories of what some progressive employers are doing to combat domestic violence and suggests a site with actions that both large and small employers can take to combat domestic violence.

Some of the basic things that employers can do include:

  • Instituting a workplace zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence
  • Providing secure work environments
  • Raising awareness of the problem by educating your employee
  • Reminding employees that help is available for domestic violence
  • Training managers and supervisors to be alert for potential signs of domestic abuse
  • Having referral protocols and resources in place for employees who need help - preferably an EAP or a social service experienced in dealing with domestic abuse

Some other good resources include:
American Institute on Domestic Violence
Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Corporate Alliance to End Domestic Violence

June 21, 2007

Workplace tools: Depression Calculator

The cost of depression in the workplace can be steep: lower productivity, higher absenteeism and higher medical costs. Some studies put the national price tag for untreated depression in the workplace as high as $80 billion a year.

How much does employee depression cost your organization? The Depression Calculator is a tool that provides employers with a financial snapshot of workplace costs associated with untreated depression and the potential savings that would accrue by helping employees suffering from depression to obtain treatment. Results are tailored to organizations based on size, industry type, location and age/sex breakdown of the work force.

The tool was compiled by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)in 2004 and was reissued again earlier this year to reflect new economic data. It uses a Productivity Impact Model, a research-based management tool, to predict the number of days of absenteeism and associated costs, as well as to project the net savings from treatment.

The calculator is broken into four sections. Participants first enter basic demographics about their type of business and various characteristics of their work force, such as size and composition based on age and sex.

The second section charts the expected prevalence of depression based on these responses and estimates the lost time and medical costs that untreated depression are likely to incur. The third section estimates the likely reduction in absenteeism and medical costs if employees get treatment and the fourth section estimates the incremental benefits over a three year period.

In addition, the Depression Calculator site includes a good list of resources about depression for employers and for individuals who might be suffering from depression.

May 23, 2007

HR tools and useful business bookmarks

Are you protected? Online security
Identity theft is a growing problem for individuals and organizations. Passwords are one of the most fundamental online security measures, yet most people are fairly careless in creating a password, opting for convenience and memorability over security. If you want to be really scared, check to see how quickly a password can be breached by a determined cracker when it is just a combination of letters and numbers. Then try this password checker to test the strength of your favorite passwords. So just how do you create a password that is secure enough to foil the evil-doers, but simple enough to remember? Here's a simple tutorial that teaches you how to create and use strong passwords - useful information that would be well worth sharing with your staff in the next company newsletter.

Enhance your employee communications
Trying to come up with some ways to dress up a report or to present a complex concept to employees in your next presentation? This periodic table of visualization might be a good idea generator. This clever tool categorizes various types of graphical representations and suggests ways they might be used. Simply let the page load, and hover over any of the elements.

Once you've determined the way you'd like to present your information, use this list of nifty tools for drawing diagrams, charts and flow-charts. And a site called "Brainy Betty" has free PowerPoint templates and backgrounds, as well as a variety of tutorials, tips, and tricks to help you create better presentations.

Regulatory compliance

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Overtime Calculator Advisor - this calculator will help you determine the correct payment of overtime, under federal law. Remember to check with state law, too. (thanks to Jill Pugh of Employment Law Blog)
  • U.S. Department of Labor State Workers' Compensation Laws - state by state comparisons of various benefits and regulatory provisions, such as the waiting period and which states are employee or employer physician choice.
  • IRS guidelines for determining whether a worker is a contractor or an employee for tax purposes. Check with your state law on this matter, too.

Increase your productivity
There's been a delightful profusion of productivity sites cropping up over the last few years, many of them geared to discussing ways to use online tools to simplify and organize your personal and professional life. is a blog that focuses on harnessing technology to enhance your productivity. We love the philosophy: "Don't live to geek; geek to live." Not to be confused with, a blog dedicated to lifehacks or "... any hacks, tips and tricks that get things done quickly by automating, increase productivity and organizing."

Can't get enough productivity tools? This list compiles the top 50 productivity blogs (most of which you haven't heard about). It's a great list - the only downside is that if you check them all out, there goes your productivity for today ... but think of it as an investment in your future.

March 1, 2007

Cool HR tools and widgets

From time to time, we like to pass along some of our staff's favorite bookmarks and handy dandy Web tools. Here's a roundup of a few that you might find useful.

The Days Off Calculator is a useful tool for any organizations that have complex staffing needs, such as retail, call centers, and assembly operations. It assists in scheduling staff over a 7-day week by working out how many workers can have any given pair of days off (Saturday/Sunday, Sunday/Monday, etc.) and still fill the staffing requirements. Enter how many people you need each day and it tells you how to set up your employees' off-days.

Drug Digest is a great resource for your wellness programs. It bills itself as "the most comprehensive source of noncommercial, evidence-based, consumer-oriented drug information on the Internet." Access reference materials on drugs, vitamins, breakthrough medical research, and state-of-the-art disease management. It includes a drug interactions database for checking potentially harmful drug interactions and a variety of other helpful interactive tools.

Policies, Handbooks: Samples and Examples -'s Human Resources site has an extensive list of sample policies, job descriptions, and handbook examples that can be used as guides when developing or revising your own policies and procedures.

OneLook Dictionary Search is an essential bookmark, allowing you to search multiple dictionaries at once through a single interface. OneLook includes more than 5 million words in more than 900 online dictionaries. Find definitions, find translations of a word in other languages, or use wildcards to search for that word that you don't know how to spell. Try it out with today's word of the day - a quick definition can be found on the right, and more detailed information from a variety of sources can be accessed from a list on the left.

Google docs and spreadsheets - did you know Google has a suite of free Web-based collaborative tools? If you've ever tried to keep track of various versions of a document or spreadhseet as it passes through many hands, this is a good tool. You can share, collaborate, and edit from various locations in real time.

How much can you save with paperless pay? Use this ROI Calculator to find out.

Benchmarking you business - Statistics of U.S. Businesses from the US Census Bureau.

Relax - ten steps to a less stressful commute.

Want to ensure that your work force is operating at its most productive? The 10 C's of employee engagement.

January 25, 2007

Resources to help employees get their financial house in order

Holidays come with a price and you probably have plenty of employees struggling this month to pay all the bills from the “Christmas Shopping Season”. We at ESI offer comprehensive financial counseling to our members but if you don’t have this type of benefit, check out some of the links below to offer resources to troubled employees. Or review them for yourself if you spent beyond your budget. When we are thinking about how to make ends meet we are not thinking about our work.
This Web site of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling helps users find a nonprofit credit counselor in the user's area. It also offers how-to advice, such as a how to request a copy of your credit report, and a budget calculator that compares your monthly spending to others.
Geared toward teens but useful for adults, this site by Visa teaches the basics of money management in an engaging way.
All things credit card oriented. is where to go for third-party information about the credit-card industry, as well as news and commentary for consumers about individual cards and card issuers. is sponsored by credit-card companies, and is loaded with offers broken down by rates, special offers and special needs. is a major clearinghouse for consumer finance information. It includes credit-card basics and calculators that let consumers determine their credit and budget, and tally how long it will take to pay off debts.
This amazing site offers calculators on any aspect of your financial life you want to know about, and some you may not want to know about. Various functions tell your net worth and estimate how much you need to save to retire without having to start a lemonade stand at age 75.
At this U.S. Department of Energy site you can search for the cheapest gas prices by city, and compare automobiles' gas mileage, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution and safety ratings. The site also includes tips on how to get the best gas mileage out of your vehicle and information on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.
Want to check on the estimated value of your home, and also peek at the values in the neighborhood? Go to Zillow and plug in your address and watch the magic happen. You get a satellite or line drawing view of the neighborhood with accompanying prices based on records from sales, physical characteristics of the homes and so on. You can use the My Zestimator tool to add information, such as about remodeling, that will refine the estimate. You also can request information on comparable homes, which could come in handy in doing research if you are considering appealing your tax assessment.
Check this simple yet thorough source for information on mortgages, home equity loans and lines of credit. Calculate what you can afford to borrow, or look at what you gain or lose using an adjustable-rate loan vs. a fixed-rate loan. The site also explains financial terms.
This is an easy switch most of us never think of. Compact fluorescent bulbs promise a seven-year lifespan and lowered electric costs. also contends: "If every household in the U.S. replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb, it would eliminate the equivalent of the emissions created by one million cars. And that's only one bulb per household! Most homes have 15-30 bulbs."

January 9, 2007

Cool tools and business bookmarks - Why pay for trade publications if you can get them free? At TradePub, qualified professionals can subscribe to free trade publications and technical documents. Browse by industry and geographic eligibility to find the titles that best match your skills and interests, then simply complete and submit an application form. Some publications offer generous trial subscriptions, while others offer ongoing free subscriptions. There are a variety topics - here's a quick link to the available Human Resources publications.

Benchmark your business - Ever wonder how are you doing compared to others in your industry? BizStats is an interactive site offers small to mid-size organizations instant access to useful financial ratios, business statistics and benchmarks. Simply select your industry and enter your revenue to determine if your expenses are above or below national industry averages. The site also offers links to dozens of statistics for various industries.

Quick MBA - Been putting off enrolling in that MBA program? In the interim, pay a visit to Quick MBA. The site is self-described as an online knowledge resource for business administration operated by the Internet Center for Management and Business Administration, Inc. It's a very handy reference tool!

Acronym Finder - Awash in industry jargon and pesky acronyms? The HR field is notorious for an alphabet soup of abbreviations and acronyms - this invaluable resource offers some welcome relief.

Newspapers24 - Need to find the local newspapers for your regional offices to submit a job ad or keep in touch with local headlines? This site is your one-stop shop, linking to 12,000 newspapers worldwide.

October 13, 2006

Drug Free Work Week

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the first-ever Drug-Free Work Week is scheduled for October 16 - 22. The stated purpose is to educate employers, employees and the general public about the importance of being drug-free as a component of improving workplace safety and health and to encourage workers with alcohol and drug problems to seek help.

We recently discussed the high toll that substance abuse can take in the workplace, and the importance of implementing a drug-free program. In fact, certain employers are mandated by law to implement a drug-free workplace. Failure to have such a program can be costly for both employers and employees alike:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse cost the nation $246 billion annually, or nearly $1000 each for every man, woman and child.
  • Substance abuse problems cost American business an estimated $81 billion in lost production.
  • Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and nearly half of all industrial injuries can be linked to substance abuse.
  • One in five workers report that they have had to work harder, redo work, cover for a co-worker or have been put in danger or injured as a result a fellow employee's drinking.
  • Substance abuse is estimated to cause 500 million lost workdays annually.

The DOL offers an extensive variety of suggested activities and programs that employers can implement at their work site, with links to other resources. Below, we are excerpting a few that we see as vital.

Implement a Drug-Free Workplace Program—Drug-Free Work Week is the perfect time to launch a Drug-Free Workplace Program if your organization does not already have one. Such programs are natural complements to other initiatives that help protect worker safety and health. To learn more about them, visit DOL's Working Partners Web site. In particular, the site's Drug-Free Workplace Advisor Program Builder offers detailed guidance on how to develop a Drug-Free Workplace Program, starting with the first step: a written policy.
Promote your Drug-Free Workplace Program—If your organization already has a Drug-Free Workplace Program, Drug-Free Work Week is a logical time to ensure the program is adequate to meet current needs and to remind employees about its important role in keeping them safe while on the job. One way to do this is to distribute to all employees a copy of your drug-free workplace policy, along with a positive message about valuing health and safety, and then provide an opportunity for them to ask questions about it, perhaps through an open forum or privately.
Train supervisors—Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization's workforce. As part of Drug-Free Work Week, organizations can conduct training to ensure supervisors understand their organization's policy on alcohol and drug use; ways to deal with workers who have performance problems that may be related to substance abuse; and how to refer employees to available assistance. Working Partners offers more information on Supervisor Training, including ready-to-use training materials.
Educate workers—To achieve a drug-free workplace, it is critical that an organization educate its workers about the nature of alcohol and drug use and its negative impact on workplace safety and productivity. Drug-Free Work Week is a natural time to step up such efforts through training sessions, guest speakers or brown-bag lunches. Working Partners offers more information on Employee Training, including ready-to-use training materials. If employee education is already a regular activity, a Drug-Free Work Week program could be offered on a specific timely topic such as the abuse of prescription drugs or methamphetamine.
Remind employees about the availability of EAP or MAP services—If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Member Assistance Program (MAP), Drug-Free Work Week presents a perfect opportunity to remind them of its availability. Such programs offer free, confidential services to help all employees, including supervisors, resolve personal and workplace problems, such as substance abuse. They also offer confidential substance abuse screenings as well as brief intervention, if warranted, and help employees locate local treatment resources. Working Partners offers more information about EAPs.

October 10, 2006

HR widgets: hiring, turnover, and absence calculators

We all know that turnover is costly, but do you know just how costly? Do you know what your costs are for hiring a new employee? Or what it costs your company if you make a bad hire? There are a variety of free online tools and widgets to help you assess these costs and figure them into your planning. Here are a few tools that we've found useful.

A handy resource that's well worth bookmarking is a page of useful HR calculators compiled by the Recruiters Network. These include a Cost Per Hire Calculator, a Recruiting Costs Calculator, a calculator to assess the Cost of a Bad Hire, a Moving Calculator to help determine relocation costs, a variety of calculators to measure the turnover rates or costs, a Salary Calculator to learn comparable salaries for hundreds of U.S. and international cities, and an Hourly & Annual Wage Rate Converter.

Aon Workforce Strategies also has a pair of valuable tools. Their Absence Cost Estimator calculates your direct and indirect costs of absence and their Turnover Cost Estimator calculates your direct and indirect costs of turnover. Both tools help you to determine the magnitude of the problem and provide a baseline to measure future performance.

ADP Screening and Selection Services offers a Bad Hire Calculator to help you assess how much a single bad hire could cost your company.

HR Software offers a page of links to a variety of turnover calculators.

The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) has compiled a list of links to a variety of compensation and benefit calculators, including salary wizards, cost of living calculators, and inflation calculators.

August 24, 2006

HR News and views

Dangerous work - What are America's most dangerous jobs? (free registration may be required) The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on workplace fatalities (PDF), complete with graphs and charts about what types of events cause fatalities and in which industries fatalities occur most frequently. Transportation incidents lead the list, accounting for 43% of all fatalities. At 14%, homicides are the second most frequent cause of work-related deaths. While the raw number of fatalities seems to have taken a slight dip, work fatalities have increased for Hispanics, blacks, and women.

E-mail burden - A typical office worker gets more than 100 e-mail messages a day. In an article entitled Businesses Struggle Under Growing Weight Of E-Mail, Information Week explores issues of productivity, confidentiality, archiving, and e-mail monitoring. And as if the burden of e-mail weren't bad enough, a Rutgers study is suggesting that workers can become "techno-addicts," potentially creating new employer liabilities. Is information and communication technology (ICT) addiction the stress claim of the future?

Workers comp fraud - Workers Comp Insider talks about claimant fraud and how to avoid it. But workers aren't the only perpetrators of fraud - fradulent employers cost the system $30 billion a year.

Unhappy workers? - Are your professional workers good targets for recruiters? Yes, if they aren't happy with their current job. Workforce Week reports on a recent survey that points to a downturn in employee satisfaction. At least one-third of the survey participants were noncommittal about staying in their present job. The article suggests that employers need to be proactive in establishing programs and communications to ensure worker retention.

Susan Heatherfield of's Human Resources talks about employees' most frequent complaints, and offers a unique prescription for employers to enhance satisfaction and ensure retention: Put more fun and humor in the workplace.

Another reason to keep employees happy - An article by Leah Carlson Shepherd in Employee Benefit News discusses the link between disability and depression and suggests that integrating mental health and disability benefits can help to lower costs and improve health outcomes.

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