The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret
No one likes the stress of wondering each day if it might be your last at work, but even in good economic times businesses can and will lay off employees for a variety of reasons. The best thing is to know the signs and be prepared for the next step in your career. While difficult at first, a layoff might be the reason you find a better job with even better benefits.
Indicators of upcoming layoffs
When large companies plan layoffs, many employees are well aware that they might be on the chopping block in the near future. Other times, a layoff can come out of the blue. To avoid being completely blindsided, here are some key indicators of a potential upcoming layoff:
- Co-workers have already been let go and there has been no communication that it’s an isolated event.
- Co-workers are proactively leaving their positions to find new opportunities out of fear they may not have a job in the future.
- You notice something different about how management communicates about future plans and employee functions.
- Annual raises and bonuses have been eliminated or significantly reduced.
- Employee developmental programs are being discontinued.
- Co-workers are openly discussing their concern for the future of the company and their jobs.
- Online buzz is brewing on message boards like www.thelayoff.com. (Note: Beware of message board information. While some posts may be accurate, many posts are blatantly false, created only to damage a company’s reputation, not to mention cause unnecessary stress for worried employees.)
Knowing the signs of a layoff is a start, but to protect your best interests it’s best to be prepared before the pink slip comes. Here are 10 simple yet highly effective ways to prepare yourself for a layoff so you can survive and thrive in the future:
1. Organize your job search
Job hunting is time consuming, so you should be prepared to hit the ground running by organizing your search now. Update your resume, assess your list of references and decide on a strategy for getting another position. Be sure to leverage LinkUp’s 5-Step Job Search action plan template.
Make networking activities part of your daily routine. Connect with friends, former colleagues, past clients, etc. Join a professional association and start attending meetings. Get your name out there.
3. Update LinkedIn
As part of your networking efforts, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and active. Don’t forget to upload a fresh head shot, post articles and remain active in conversations.
4. Set up job alerts
Set up parameters on LinkUp to have job alerts sent directly to you. You can start applying for jobs of interest before you even get the notice.
5. Order your finances
Cut back on spending and try to boost your savings as much as possible. It’s smart to live below your means and have a nest egg to fall back on.
6. Use your benefits
Schedule doctor and dentist appointments now and don’t forget about expense reports and reimbursement programs. A layoff means dramatic changes to these benefits.
7. Negotiate severance
If you are offered a severance package, you may be able to negotiate for more money or better terms. Don’t feel pressured to sign anything immediately; simply ask how long you have to review and leverage legal council if necessary before responing.
8. Understand unemployment
Learn about unemployment benefits and how to apply for them in the state where you work. Many unemployment offices let you apply and manage benefits completely online.
9. Gather info
While you never want to take confidential or proprietary information that may get you in trouble, you will want to get necessary information prior to leaving. This could include important contact information only stored on your work computer or samples of work for your professional portfolio.
10. Ask for help
Even if you leave with a great severance package and a recommendation letter in hand, a layoff can be disheartening. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the support of friends and family so you can stay positive.
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.