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Terrorist threats are plentiful around the globe, but when those threats hit close to home, it can be extremely concerning. The recent Al Shabaab threats to shopping centers, including the Mall of America here in the Twin Cities, have many people wondering about the safety of shoppers, as well as the thousands of employees who work in the retail center every day.
Sure, if you work in the military, intelligence community or at another high-risk job, it’s expected that you’ll face threats in your line of work. But for people who work at the various shops at the mall, it’s not likely what they signed up for when they started the job.
In reality, risks are widespread. “Truck drivers can get hijacked or involved in fatal accidents, armed robberies happen at warehouses, and hospitality workers often come across crime scenes when they clean rooms,” says Liz D’Aloia, founder of HR Virtuoso. “Employers should be aware of risks to their employees and mitigate them.”
It’s important for every employer to be proactive in keeping employees safe, and being prepared for the unexpected demonstrates you truly care. Be sure to provide an action plan to reference if something does occur, because in a crisis there is little time to think and quick action can make a big difference. Here are some things to consider:
Establish plans and procedures
The first step is to create plans. This includes evacuation routes, processes for involving the police, and the development of an emergency contact list. Depending on the threat, there may be different procedures to follow, so multiple plans will likely be needed. After all, an employee’s response to a fire will be different from his response to a robbery or bombing.
Make sure employees know what’s expected
When employees are armed with the right information, they will be able to act appropriately in an emergency. “HR needs to be working closely with regional, store managers and security to ensure that employees understand what they should do in the event of an actual attack, as well as what the company’s expectations are,” says Janine Truitt of Talent Think Innovations.
Train employees on what is considered suspicious activity
It can be difficult to know what is considered normal or abnormal activity. To make matters more confusing, this can also change depending on what industry they work in. Give employees clear examples of what should put them on alert and what they should do about it (call manager, law enforcement, security, etc.) The National Terror Alert website has guidance for getting started.
Keep open lines of communication with employees and be flexible
Encourage employees to voice any concerns they have and be open to their requests to work from home or take a leave of absence. “I suggest that employers should be sensitive to any ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other issues that might arise with terrorist threats. Consequently, leaves of absences could be one way to accommodate employee requests for time off due to threats,” says Charles Krugel, a human resources attorney and counselor.
Act quickly at the time of the incident
The more quickly a company can act to address threats and help employees, the better. “Immediately deploy HR staff along with counselors from the Employee Assistance Program. If the employer doesn’t have an EAP program, they can hire local therapists to assist,” says D’Aloia. “If an employee is traumatized by the event and is seeking medical care, the employee may be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.”
Update insurance policies
Make sure your business is protected by having the correct policies in place to cover high-level threats. One option is terrorism risk insurance. Furthermore, insurance companies can often provide quality resources for developing proper plans and procedures to ensure both the business and employees are prepared no matter what.
Last week’s post on open offices generated a lot of strong opinions in the comments on LinkedIn. I’m humbled by all of the “likes” and excited about the quality discussion on both sides of the debate. From people discussing building acoustics to offering their own advice on open-office courtesy and etiquette, everyone shared their two cents and no one held back! Thanks!
Some people felt our tips for staying productive were simply mechanisms to take people out of the open-office structure, which was a really interesting argument. For example, we recommended people wear headphones, which means they are temporarily unavailable to the conversation and collaboration the open-office environment is supposed to stimulate. That’s a fair observation, but I’d argue wearing headphones is a concentration tactic that people in cubicles and even closed offices employ; thus not relegated only to open offices.
Another interesting point brought up was that while many businesses use an open-office design for the majority of employees, executives do not participate and instead receive closed-office privileges. That certainly could be true, but it could also be an issue of privacy at those businesses where executives are regularly conducting confidential calls or in-person client meetings. Nonetheless, I’m proud that this is not the case at LinkUp. My work space is in the open office along with the majority of our executives, and I personally really enjoy it!
Seeing how passionate readers are about this topic, we decided to poll LinkUp employees to see how they really feel about working in an open office. Was all the positivity simply for show? Do they all secretly despise it? We conducted a brief anonymous survey to uncover the truth, and the results are fascinating:
1. The majority of people do enjoy the open-office setting: Only 17 percent of employees at LinkUp dislike our open office, 22 percent are indifferent and 61 percent stated they like or love it.
2. Our office is split between introverts and extroverts: 33 percent of employees consider themselves introverts, 39 percent label themselves extraverts and 28 percent say it depends on the day.
3. What people like best is the buzz and energy, ease of collaboration and the sense of community.
4. Our employees’ biggest challenges are distractions and issues concentrating. Lack of privacy is also a concern.
5. Tips from our employees for people in open offices include: invest in nice headphones, be respectful to those around you with your conversations and noise, and have reasonable expectations (you will be interrupted, people will see your screen, etc.).
Whether a company should employ an open-office design will depend on a number of variables. Some businesses are more fitting than others just by the nature of the work conducted. For example, when client privacy is required or confidential meetings are frequent, an open office may not be the best choice. Culture and personality are big considerations as well, as some people are more or less likely to be successful in an open-office environment. Before implementation, leaders must consider if their employees would be able to operate and meet expectations in that type of setting.
While the delay in posting our January jobs forecast is causing a bit of anxiety, the elevated stress levels have been greatly assuaged by the fact that cause of the delay lies the unprecedented demand we’ve seen for our core recruitment advertising services. Not only are we coming off the most successful year in our company’s history, but January also marked the most successful month ever for LinkUp, with paid search revenue jumping 20% from December and 60% from January of last year. And while I’d love to say that our growth can be entirely attributed to market share gains resulting from our highly unique and wildly compelling value proposition, at least a minuscule portion of the phenomenal growth has resulted from an improving job market and rising labor demand among U.S. employers.
Quite appropriately given the horrendous carnage of the Great Recession and the anemic economic recovery we’ve suffered through over the past few years, the nearly 3 million jobs added to the U.S. economy in 2014 have certainly captured the headlines of late. It’s certainly been a long time coming, so it is with great joy that we again post a few charts to further elucidate (and celebrate) the job growth we’ve seen over the past 12 months.
In 2014, the U.S. economy added an average of 242,000 jobs each month, a 25% increase over the 194,000 monthly average in 2013.
Job gains averaged 726,000 per quarter in 2014, and following a bit of a slow start in Q1, job gains steadily rose through the year. Employers added 819,000 jobs in Q4, although with revisions for November and December possible tomorrow and again for December in March, the Q4 numbers won’t be finalized for another month.
Unfortunately, however, we saw a decline in the number of job openings on LinkUp’s job search engine in November (-12.7%) and December (-2.4%). As a result of those declines, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a downward revision for November and December in tomorrow’s jobs report. And regardless of whether or not that occurs, because of the decline in job openings that we saw in December, we are forecasting a net gain of only 212,000 jobs in January, a weaker number than consensus.
The positive news, however, is that job listings in our job search engine (which currently lists about 2.8 million jobs indexed exclusively from 50,000 corporate websites throughout the country and internationally) rose sharply in January. New job openings rose 18.7% and total job openings rose 8.3%. Based on those gains, our preliminary forecast for February calls for a net gain of 362,000 jobs (our February forecast could be revised when we get additional data for January and February at the end of the month).
Drilling down into our data on a state by state basis, it’s clear that gains were spread throughout the country. Also of note, the precipitous drop in oil prices clearly is having an impact on labor demand in North and South Dakota, the only two states to show a decline in total job openings.
The gains in new and total job openings look similarly robust when looking at the 31 job categories that we track in our search engine.
So despite what may be a slightly disappointing Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) number for January in tomorrow’s Employment Situation Report, we remain confident that sustained strength in the labor market will result in very strong net job gains for the first quarter.
The open-office design made popular by tech companies like Google and Facebook recently has been met with some backlash. What was believed to create an innovative and collaborative work space is now being criticized for being too distracting and ultimately inefficient.
Is it no longer a positive thing to have an open office? With an estimated 70 percent of offices in America adhering to an open-office design, this is the million-dollar question. However, the answer is not so black and white.
LinkUp moved to an open-office environment about a year and a half ago, and in that time we’ve learned a few things. The benefits are huge, for one. Collaboration is up, team members know each other well, creativity flows freely, and there is noticeably more energy each day. But with the open office come many distractions, and those can be a big drawback.
No system is perfect, but we ultimately think the benefits far outweigh the distractions. We’ve found that by working with employees to find solutions and help them remain productive throughout the day, we’ve curtailed the majority of issues. Here are the top six things employees and businesses can do to keep focused and productive in an open-office setting:
1. Wear headphones
Some people thrive off the hustle-and-bustle noise of fellow workers, others not so much. For those who do enjoy more active surroundings, there are times when it’s necessary to cut down on the buzz. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones are your best friend. Wearing headphones is also a subtle way to tell co-workers you’re on task and would prefer not to be disturbed.
2. Encourage employee tunes
Let employees stream the music of their choice to their headphones. Some might prefer all-instrumental and jazz, others rock or hip-hop. Just like many doctors play their favorite music to help them focus during surgery, letting employees listen to their preferred tunes can increase productivity.
3. Set up IM and lean on email
Of course if something is urgent, we can all agree that walking to someone’s desk to have an in-person discussion is a priority. This isn’t, however, necessary for all communication. Set a policy stating that non-urgent communication should be sent via email or instant message instead of interrupting the workflow.
4. Designate spaces for privacy
There will inevitably be times when coworkers will want to have privacy when conversing. Have public spaces with closed doors that can be accessed by all. At LinkUp, we have several rooms where employees can engage in private or important conversations without worrying about someone eavesdropping.
5. Make time for no interruptions
No-interruption times should be a part of everyone’s daily calendar. Employees must have the freedom (and confidence) to tell co-workers politely that they can’t talk and will respond later. Some employees even use “do not disturb” signs at their desks, which can be effective as long as they are not abused.
6. Telecommute when necessary
When there’s a really big project or tight deadline looming, it can be beneficial to work from home to eliminate all in-office distractions. Supervisors should be open to telecommuting when the situation calls for it and set a policy that everyone can follow.
How healthy is your office? If you’re reading this hunched over your computer, munching on a sugar-laden vending-machine snack and unsure of when you last took a break, you’re probably thinking not very.
While we all have our days when working through lunch and extra cups of coffee become necessary to hit deadlines, it definitely shouldn’t become a habit. When managers do this often, it can set an unreasonable precedent for employees who think they must do the same. Not only can this create a toxic work environment where employees put their physical health at risk, but it can also mean greater disengagement and dissatisfaction.
Creating a healthy office culture starts with the leaders of the organization. From simply being a good role model to proposing company-wide initiatives that encourage employees to be more healthy, there’s plenty of ways to transform a sedentary culture into one that embraces wellness while working.
Getting push-back from upper management members who think health initiatives could be a distraction from work? Here are three can’t-be-ignored reasons why healthfulness and work go hand-in-hand:
1.Company health: Healthy workers are more productive workers! If that’s not enough, consider how reduced doctor visits and hospitalizations will affect the cost of the company insurance policy next year.
2. Personal health: Employees want to feel like their employer truly cares about them. Health and wellness initiatives make a bold statement that personal well-being is a priority for the business. Loyalty will follow.
3. Teamwork: New programs can boost camaraderie and help co-workers get to know each other better. Health initiatives offer a creative, fun way to encourage teamwork and a healthier lifestyle.
Convinced? Now take action. Consider these five super-simple hacks for creating a healthier office culture:
Create an office challenge
At LinkUp we just started a new activity challenge that’s really got everyone motivated. We’ve split into two teams and whichever team gets the most cumulative steps by the end of the week has to buy the other team lunch. This would be an easy initiative for any office to do; simply get pedometers and start keeping track! We are only half way done and nearly half-a-million steps have been logged. Go team LinkUp!
Transform the break room
Vending machines are an office staple, but it’s important to offer a variety of healthy options so people have the opportunity to snack wisely. Contact the vending-machine provider if your selection needs a refresh. Better yet, provide healthy snacks at no cost to employees. Foods like nuts, whole-grain crackers or dried fruit make great options. Consider offering decaf coffee and caffeine-free tea, too.
Encourage biking to work
In Minneapolis, we love to bike; yes, even in the cold weather. In fact, the city is rated as the #1 biking city by Bicycling.com, thanks to 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways. But no matter where your company is located, you can encourage biking by adding bike storage racks and designating closet space for biking gear. You might even start a biking club for group rides after work!
Promote healthy activities on breaks
Breaks are important because they allow you to decompress, plus they give the body a break from being behind a screen. Get a group together to go shoot hoops once a week. Or, start a 10 a.m. walking club where people gather to walk outside for 15 minutes. Is an employee a certified yoga teacher? See if he or she will lead an intro class, and if there is enough interest, consider making it a regular occurrence.
Look closely at the environment
It’s not just physical activities that benefit employee health, of course. The work environment itself can be a positive influence. First, make sure employees use an ergonomically correct office space. Add some fresh plants, touches of color and as much natural light as possible. Finally, ask employees what they need to feel healthy at work. Their answers will likely include simple things, like a new chair or keyboard, but these just may have a dramatic impact on their long-term well-being.
In many industries, it’s common knowledge that if you want a big pay raise, you’re probably going to have to look for a new job with a new company. Even after years of loyalty, companies tend to underestimate the potential of internal staff and instead hire external candidates whose skills, they hope, will bring new energy and productivity to the team.
But is this strategy paying off for companies, or is it better to promote from within? Furthermore, how do these actions affect existing staff who get passed by?
A fascinating study, titled “Paying More to Get Less” and published by Administrative Science Quarterly, found that although external hires are paid about 18 percent more, they scored worse on performance reviews and were 61 percent more likely to be fired from their new jobs than their internally promoted counterparts.
Every situation is unique, of course, and there will be times when no internal candidates are qualified for a particular role. If there are hardworking employees that could be a potential match, however, it appears that any hiring manager who overlooks them would be making a big mistake. Even if fresh candidates are highly qualified in regards to the skills they bring to the table, it can still take one to two years to get up to speed with important components of success, such as trust, relationship building and aligning with the corporate culture.
While the allure of bringing in new blood in hopes of revitalizing a team can be difficult to resist, it’s important to look at all your options in order to make the right decision. Here are four ways that internal candidates trump external talent:
Productivity: Internal employees already know the company and its procedures. Even if some training is required for the new positions, they will be more productive more quickly than a fresh face.
Reputation: You already know this person’s work ethic and how he or she collaborates with other employees. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of an employee ahead of time is a huge asset.
Cost: In addition to often paying more for salary, there is also added training and lost productivity to consider. This means it often costs a company much more to hire externally.
Loyalty: You know internal staff are more loyal because they have a history with the company. Hiring from within boosts morale for the whole team; hiring externally can cause worry.
These compelling reasons aren’t just valuable for companies, they can be great points for employees who want to make the argument that they are the best candidate for a promotion. If you want to be considered for a job opening, have a candid talk with your supervisor and/or head of HR. Bring hard numbers about your productivity, know why you want the position and mention your tenure. These things alone can make a compelling case.
What about getting paid less than an external candidate to do the same job? It’s a topic that should be addressed head-on. Existing employees should have the confidence to negotiate salary if they are applying for a new internal position. You might already know the pay scale based on the job posting, so make sure you get an offer within that range. If that information is not advertised, research what people in that position are getting paid in the local market, and share those numbers to back up why you feel you’re worth more. Remember, you are your biggest advocate for a promotion and adequate pay, so make sure to share your thoughts in a professional manner.
It’s no secret that searching for a new job takes a lot of time and energy. Beyond dedication and determination, finding a new position often requires a financial investment as well. So how much cold hard cash do you need to land the job of your dreams?
While the numbers vary from one person to the next, here’s some insight into the expenses that many people incur as they seek out a new job:
Resume writing services
A resume is a critical marketing tool when finding a job, so some people decide to hire a professional to create their resume to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Costs vary depending on factors such as the writer’s experience and the time required to complete the project.
Travel and lodging
Likely the most common expense of job searching, the cost of travel and lodging can vary greatly. Whether you’re paying for gas to drive across town for multiple interviews or footing the bill to fly across the country to meet an executive team, it can add up very quickly.
With so many workplaces moving to a more casual dress code, you might find yourself short on options when it comes time to dress up for an interview. You want to make a good impression so you pick up a new suit or other type of professional attire.
Feeling stuck? Career coaches can give you third-party insight that can revamp your career. Their services can be particularly helpful for some during the job-hunting process, but good ones come with a cost similar to hiring a lawyer.
Cost: $1,500 – $10,000 (for senior executives)
Outplacement services help laid-off employee find new positions. Services can include career counseling and job-hunting assistance. While some people decide to pay for these services themselves, a previous employer may foot the bill as part of a severance package.
Cutting costs and giving yourself an edge
As you an see, it can be costly to try to find a new job while attempting to stand out from the competition. And these numbers don’t incorporate the cost of lost wages if you’re unemployed. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can manage these expenses.
1. See what you can get for free
If you’re fresh out of college, the school’s career center will likely offer many of these services for free. For others, some community organizations make services like these free or highly discounted to those actively searching for employment. Your local library is a great resource as well, plus you’ll find free WiFi. A small bit of research can save you a big amount of cash.
2. Shop around
If you’re looking to hire services for things like resume writing or career coaching, take time to shop around. Everyone’s rates are different. You want to hire someone you can trust with experience and a reasonable rate. Some people might offer discounts for special circumstances, such as if you are a veteran. If you’re not finding what you need, leverage your personal and professional networks instead of hiring out.
3. Know your tax deductions
There are a variety of tax deductions that you might be able to claim to reduce job costs. Things like travel, outplacement agency fees, and even the cost of mailing resumes may be deductible if you are looking for a job in your current field. To determine your deduction, use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The amount of your miscellaneous deduction that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income is deductible, according to the IRS. Learn more at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Job-Search-Expenses-Can-be-Tax-Deductible.