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  • Express Digest

    Below are the most recent bylined articles from Express Digest, provided by our writers and contributors there.  Employers can keep up to date with the latest statistics, hiring and retention tips, and advice from fellow employers.

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    Leadership Should Be Difficult

    Feb 2017

    Leadership isn’t easy. People and employees who think being a leader means sitting in the corner office, taking three-hour lunches and spending afternoons on the golf course are sadly mistaken.
     
    Leadership is difficult—and leadership should be difficult. Why? Because at its heart, being a leader is about bringing people together with a shared vision in order to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It’s about how leaders influence the daily lives of the people who work for them and how their decisions affect careers and outcomes.
     
    A leader not only brings different personalities and employees together but also instills confidence in those differing personalities in order to bring about success. This is not an easy task. The most difficult part of commanding is knowing what is really going on with the company, with individual employees and what the best solution is. That’s a daunting task for anyone.
     
    The Difficult Truth
    Human nature dictates that employees and workers look up to leaders because they believe these leaders know the truth and have solutions. On the flip side, human nature also dictates that even leaders are sometimes clueless as to what is actual truth and what is a personal interpretation.
     
    Humans often draw conclusions quickly and without awareness, which results in a skewed view of what is really going on.
     
    What leaders think and say is usually perceived as truth, when it may not actually be. Managers have the difficult task of putting their personal interpretations aside, researching all options and deciding—even against their personal preferences—what the best course of action is.
     
    The Mediator
    Handling conflicts in a workplace is also a difficult, but necessary, task for leaders. Ideally, employees can work out problems between each other, but if they cannot, leaders must step in to resolve the conflict. Conflicts in the office can easily spiral out of control, leading to a toxic and unproductive work environment.
     
    Handling conflicts or disciplining employees is not an easy task, nor should it be. Leaders are expected to use a firm, yet gentle, hand to help resolve problems and ease fears.
     
    The Professional Student
    In addition to managing expectations, results and people, leaders are expected to be on top of the latest training and information. Professionals in an authoritative role can’t wait for the next training session, but instead, must constantly learn, research and grow in order to effectively lead a team.
     
    While others go home at the end of the day and relax or watch their favorite show, leaders should invest in their development by reading, watching and studying as often as possible. 
     
    Putting Others First
    Today’s leadership model has shifted toward servant leadership where leaders are expected to focus on the development of their employees. True leaders create more leaders.
     
    This role is a tough one to balance. On one hand, a leader must deliver results and make an impact on the success of the company; on the other hand, managers are expected to cater to different personality types and generations in the workforce in order to boost employee development. The overall result should benefit the company’s bottom line. 
     
    Modern leadership is more difficult now than in the past. Being a leader isn’t a simple task, but instead is a journey of work, self-discipline, and continuing education. If done right, however, the results can be rewarding, for you, your employees, and your company. 




    Life Lessons from John Wooden                                              

    January  2017

    One of the most revered coaches in the history of sports is John Wooden, nicknamed “The Wizard of Westwood,” who won 10 NCAA national championships in his 12-year career as head coach at the University of California Los Angeles.

    Wooden, who passed away in June 2010, left behind a legacy as one of the most successful basketball coaches in the history of the sport, but he also left behind a blueprint on how to become the best and most successful person one can be.

    Today, athletes, business leaders, employees and countless others follow these life lessons from Coach Wooden in their own lives. Below are five quotes from this great basketball icon that ring as true in today’s world as they did when he first spoke them. 

    "Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.” 

    As one of the top blocks on Coach Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success,” competitive greatness does not mean beating everyone else, but doing your absolute best every day. No matter how small the job, excellence is earned by doing the most thorough work each day, every day. The best work is done by those who practice their skills, release excuses and do important things, even when the odds seem daunting.

    “It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

    Even the most menial tasks at a job serve a purpose, and those little things add up to create big results. Nothing a person does should be considered boring or insignificant. Strategic planning and execution of major projects also includes the little details that can make or break a triumph. Leaders can learn to appreciate their employees from the ground up by keeping this quote from Wooden in mind. The man who cleans the offices at night is as big a part of a company’s success as the top salesperson.

     “You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

    People inevitably try to downplay someone else’s success or belittle another person. Friends, families, competitors and enemies are all guilty of this at one point or another.  Wooden’s advice is to stop focusing on criticisms and focus on helpful critique. If a complaint is valid, that complaint can become a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. On the flip side, chasing flattery can be almost as debilitating as giving into criticism. Many people become dependent on praise, chasing the ego rub instead of true greatness. 

    “Don’t let making a living deprive you of making a life.”

    Too many people trade daily enjoyment for achievement, but the key to true success is having both. Also called “work/life balance,” most people find happiness when they achieve something important and enjoy other aspects of life. Working is a way to earn a wage, but successful people also find delight while accomplishing goals and victories through their job.

     “If I am through learning, I am through.”

    In life, education is never finished. Most successful business owners, entrepreneurs, teachers or employees are constantly on the search for knowledge and ways to improve. Life always offers up opportunities to learn something new, whether it’s a new skill set, another language, a new hobby or a new perspective on life. Not expanding a base of knowledge or experience leads to stagnation and boredom. Continuous learning is powerful, so take life’s lessons from Coach Wooden to begin building your legacy.


                                              A Look Back at 2016: How Business Changed           

    December 2016

    The business world is changing faster than ever before, and the emergence of new technologies like nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are blurring the lines of present and future even more.

    Digital technology is transforming the face of business, and 2016 brought notable changes to how businesses are connecting, selling and adapting to the ever-changing digital world. The pace is fast, but it also enables people globally to become better informed, more connected and more empowered about choice and spending.

    But technology wasn’t the only trend in 2016 to affect business.

    According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, “74 percent of CEOs are concerned about geopolitical uncertainty.” A new U.S. president, changes in the Transpacific Partnership, instability in the Middle East and the European Brexit vote have all had a major impact, but technology still leads the pack when it comes to how business is changing.

    Cyber Threats

    In the PwC survey, 61 percent of CEOs said cyber threats continue to affect how business is conducted. The list of financial, retail and manufacturing security breaches are forcing businesses to take more responsibility in managing risk.

    In 2016, more retailers began using chip technology readers to scan cards in order to combat the increasingly-savvy cyber criminals. Today, more companies are addressing cyber threats not just as a financial issue, but as a brand trust issue as well. Whereas many CEO’s said keeping secure information safe was a top challenge to growth investments, many used 2016 to institute more aggressive threat prevention. 

    Continued Power of Social Media

    According to Fast Company magazine, more than 2 billion active social media users exist globally, and that number is growing. While traditional businesses were slow to jump on the social media bandwagon, today, nine out of 10 U.S. companies are active on social networks resulting in increased exposure and sales.

    In Canada, more than half of the companies have an official Twitter account and 43 percent have a Facebook page. This year, social media ad revenue in Canada is projected to top out at more than $600 million, mostly through mobile ads, according to Statistica.

    According to Fast Company, U.S. companies began increasing social media advertising in 2015, and 2016 saw an even bigger increase. In fact, social media advertising reached nearly $24 billion this year, and that trend is expected to continue with social media ads making up nearly 16 percent of all digital advertising spending in the next year. 

    As technology continues to grow and emerge at a rapid rate, businesses around the globe will continue to adapt and change to keep up. The biggest trend of 2016 was the emergence of social media platforms that are fundamentally changing how companies reach out, interact, sell and communicate with consumers and employees.

    Shifts in the Economy

    Global and social instability was a top concern to 65 percent of CEOs surveyed, as was the technology that accompanied major shifts in the economy.

    The British Referendum, or “Brexit,” staggered the world when it passed earlier this year. Due to the unprecedented vote to leave the European Union, Brexit inevitably caused many businesses to freeze their major investments in the United Kingdom, according to the IBT Times.

    In the U.S., the election of Donald Trump as the next president has also affected businesses both domestically and globally. A recent Washington Post article predicts that the oil, coal, pharmaceutical and construction industries will see a boost due to Trump’s business-friendly stance, but if he decides to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and revoke the Affordable Care Act, businesses in America must have a plan in place to adapt, experts said.

    If kept, President-elect Trump’s campaign promises could also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. In an article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News, Trump’s intention to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be costly as 2.5 million jobs depend on trade with the U.S. A total of 23 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) also comes solely from the exports of goods and services to its southern neighbor. 

    However, some experts, including Scott Sinclair, a director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, are quick to dismiss the panic around the possible dissolution of NAFTA. He said that most of the country’s free trade with the United States is protected though World Trade Organization rules. 

    Consumer Spending

    In 2016, more consumers made purchases online and more than ever, they were doing it on mobile devices. Also, consumers began to make spending choices based on the types of products they buy, ranging from organic and fair-trade items to speedy delivery and delivery tracking.

    Today’s buyers have more choices that are offered in a more convenient manner in everything from car buying to banking. Enterprises and businesses globally caught on this year by becoming more aggressive in offering mobile apps that provide access to services in a manner that consumers found valuable and engaging. 


    Why Thankful Companies are Successful Companies

    November 2016

    With the holidays fast approaching, most companies have already planned to thank their employees with monetary bonuses or gifts, but a successful business must remember to thank another key player—the customer.

    So how important is customer appreciation? As it turns out, it’s vital. According to a study by the Rockefeller Group, 82 percent of customers will leave because they think you do not care about them. It’s important to make each customer feel like they are your only customer, which could lead to word-of-mouth referrals, increasing your sales.

    Customer Service is Key

    Showing customers gratitude is a key part of the sales experience that usually determines whether or not the customer will return for future purchases. According to Help Scout, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase and it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. This means that losing just one customer is costly, and it’s critical for businesses to put effort into making their customer experience top notch.

    The good news for small businesses is that 80 percent of Americans agree that smaller companies place a bigger emphasis on customer service. And almost 9 out of 10 U.S. customers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer service experience.

    Investing in your company’s customer service may take some time to plan and implement, but in the long run, it will pay off. Not only will you create a culture of gratitude, but it can also positively affect the business’s bottom line. 

    Start from the Top Down

    To retain your customers and attract new ones, build a culture of gratitude in your company from the top down. Most organizations struggle with this concept. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, 65 percent of employees say they don’t feel appreciated at work.

    “Too many people leave work every day thinking, ‘My boss doesn’t appreciate me,’” said Liz Jazwiec, author of Eat That Cookie!: Make Workplace Positivity Pay Off … For Individuals, Teams and Organizations. “When the majority of the people in a workplace feel this way, the overall environment is hugely impacted. Productivity decreases, turnover increases, and it can become very difficult to stay afloat, especially in a tough economy.”

    Gratitude in the C-Suite

    When Doug Conant became the CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, the company’s stock price was declining and according to Fast Company, it was the worst performer of all the major food companies in the world.

    Conant was in a serious car accident in 2009, and while recovering in the hospital, he received many get-well notes from employees around the word. Journalist Janice Kaplan included Conant’s story in her yearlong effort to learn about the effects of gratitude and how to show it more in her own life. While employees could have felt obligated to send well wishes to Conant, it’s likely that they were genuine as the CEO had sent more than 30,000 handwritten thank you notes to his employees during his tenure.

    As an added bonus during the creation of a culture of gratitude, Campbell Soup jumped ahead of S&P Food Group and the S&P 500 in 2009, according to Fast Company.

    Other leaders have also begun to recognize the importance of gratitude, including Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg challenged himself to write one thank you note every day in 2014, according to the Washington Post.

    Even though not every business manager or owner has the time or resources to make big gestures, there are a lot of other small ways to show appreciation to your employees. One example is when an employee puts in a lot of overtime.

    "You don't have to apologize that they worked," Kaplan said. "We understand that that's sometimes part of the job. But recognizing it, saying thank you, letting them know that it wasn't for naught really can go a very far way."

    Building a culture of gratitude can feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but it can mean the difference between the success or failure of a company. Start with small, daily acts of appreciation, and soon, gratitude will become second nature. 



    Overcoming Online Obstacles on your Path to Success

    October 3,2016

    Internet marketing can make or break your business. From email campaigns to social media content, online marketing is both competitive and technical. While the Internet increases the possibility of reaching a global audience, it can be a difficult path to navigate. According to Jared Hecht with the Huffington Post, “Online marketing is crucial to a retailer’s success. Social media marketing and a strong, user-friendly web presence help your company reach a wide audience for your products. But many small business owners lack the experience or time to run effective marketing campaigns online.”

    So, how can your business get ahead of the curve and capture your online audience’s attention?

    Optimize Your Website
    Internet search giant, Google, continually changes its algorithm for search engine optimization (SEO), meaning the traffic to your site may be reduced if your business doesn’t keep up with the changes. One way to make Google’s SEO algorithm work for your business is to invest in a mobile-friendly web site with responsive design. Doing so will bump your site to the top of the search results for all users, according to Entrepreneur.

    GoDaddy and Alignable recently surveyed more than 100,000 small business owners to learn about barriers that separate businesses from growth. The survey revealed that 51 percent of small business owners hire a web designer to build their website. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great website, however. If you want to get a mobile-friendly site up and running without much investment, join the additional 25 percent of survey respondents who use a website builder, like Wordpress or Wix.com, and do it yourself.

    Become a Social Media Master
    It’s no secret that having a strong social media presence is essential for your business. In fact, according to AdWeek, 74 percent of consumers rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions, and 81 percent of consumers are influenced by their friends’ posts when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, 78 percent of consumers who receive a quick brand response on social media are likely to recommend that brand.

    Websites like HubSpot and Lynda.com offer courses and training opportunities aimed at helping business owners learn the ins and outs of social media in order to create effective online marketing campaigns. Additionally, Facebook offers Facebook Business, an online training program designed to help you make the most of the platform’s tools. Once you’ve learned the basics, try a site like HootSuite, which allows you to manage multiple social networks simultaneously.

    Embrace Email and Blogging
    Consumers prefer to communicate with businesses through email, according to GoDaddy. And, they want trust in that communication. If your business email address doesn’t reflect your company’s name, consider upgrading to a business-level account. In an article for Entrepreneur, Firas Kittaneh found that email marketing drives 20 times more return on investment than banner ads, and has a higher conversation rate than Facebook and Twitter. Luckily, email marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. With services like List Builder and MailChimp, you can easily take your email efforts to the next level.

    Blogging is another popular way to reach potential customers or clients. Hubspot reports that B2B marketers who use blogs receive 67 percent more leads, and marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to see positive return on investment. The good news is that creating and maintaining a blog is easier than ever before. Websites like Wordpress and BlogSpot make it simple to create and schedule blog posts that will draw traffic to your website.

    As technology continues to adapt and grow, it’s essential to engage your online audience before they move on to your competitors. From learning more about popular social media platforms to creating a website with responsive design, there are several steps your business can take to overcome online obstacles that may be holding you back.


    Management Mistakes Holding Your Company Back

    September 1, 2016

    BreakingNewsRegardless of what level of management you’re on—supervisor, executive, or even owner—and no matter how good your intentions may be, you’re bound to make management mistakes. No boss is perfect, and missteps are natural. But, while some mistakes are simple and correctable, others may be holding you and your company back. 

    According to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), 65 percent of employees say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise. NBER also reports that bad bosses cost the U.S. economy $360 billion per year in lost productivity, proving  that managerial mistakes can not only hold you back from innovation, they can also be costly. To help avoid business setbacks, examine whether you—or an employee—are making one of these common management mistakes.

    Failure to Delegate
    Even the best boss can’t do everything, and trying to do so can result in unnecessary stress. When you fail to delegate tasks, you also risk wasting your employees’ potential while decreasing their workplace engagement. Though your natural instinct may be to complete projects on your own, you need to spend your time coaching and guiding your employees so they can reach their full potential. Your team’s goals must be as important as your own. As The Muse writes for Forbes, “Now, your success is dependent on the success of your team.”

    Resisting Change
    We’ve all heard the age-old excuse: “we’ve always done it this way.” But, have you ever considered how this resistance to change may be costing your business? When you choose to ignore new methods, advancements or processes, you may be wasting time, energy and resources. And, your failure to innovate can cost more than team morale. Peter Economy, business writer for Inc.com, states, “Resisting change gives your competitors the advantage. Learn to anticipate and lead change in your industry, and leverage it to your advantage.”

    Lack of Employee Feedback
    Offering feedback to your employees means providing constructive criticism and recognizing their successes. If you’re saving that feedback for a yearly review, you may be making an expensive mistake. Nina Zipkin, an Entrepreneur.com staff writer, explains, “Consistent constructive feedback and dialogue will keep your colleagues on the right track.” While you may want to save formal feedback for a yearly review, remember to check in with your employees often, talk with them about their goals, where they want to go with the company, and what they’ve recently accomplished.

    Providing a Quick Fix
    When faced with a problem, it may be easier to go with the quick fix. After all, you want a fast and efficient solution. Even though it may get the job done, have you considered the long-term costs? Instead of bandaging the problem as quickly as possible, a good leader will look at the bigger picture and consider optimal solutions. Founder of the employee scheduling app When I Work, Chad Halvorson, writes for Inc.com, “You should always choose the lasting solution even if it’s more costly to implement in the short term.”

    Whether it’s a failure to delegate or a lack of employee recognition, some management mistakes can be significant and may be holding your company back from its full potential. By recognizing common mistakes before they happen and learning to take a different path to reach your goals, you may save your business the money, time and productivity you need to be successful. 

    Olympic Motivation for Beating the Competition

    July 29, 2016

    Every other year, athletes from around the globe gather in one place to compete for the top honors in their sports. This summer, the Olympic Games are taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and promise to continue the tradition of creating unforgettable moments of athleticism and grit.

    Already the champions of their home countries, Olympians share a goal to become world champions in their events. They aim to take home the gold medal and secure their place in history. In addition to training and talent, the competing athletes also find inspiration in those who have gone before them. Like those traveling to Rio this August, you can use the lessons of past Olympians to help you on your path to beating the competition—whether it’s in your job search, on the corporate ladder or in the workplace.

    Never give up.
    It’s 1980, and the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, are well underway. Never regarded as a top team in the sport, the United States men’s hockey team found themselves with the odds stacked against them. Made up of amateur and collegiate players, the U.S. team was pitted against powerhouse Russia. In an unexpected, stunning display of commitment and strength, they beat the Soviet team and went on to win gold. Now recognized as the “Miracle on Ice,” the victory went down in history as an example of grit that continues to inspire today. If you’re up against incredible odds, take a lesson from Lake Placid and remember that anything is possible.

    Fight through the challenges.
    Gymnast Kerri Strug, a member of the historic “Magnificent Seven,” had a heroic showing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Not only did Strug help ensure the United States’ first-ever team gold medal in Women’s Gymnastics, her second vault performance went down in history when she stuck the landing after a serious ankle injury on the previous attempt. Strug’s performance is a reminder that passion and courage can overcome even the most challenging of times.

    Let nothing stand in your way.
    Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton won the 1984 Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles, after taking home numerous U.S. and world championship titles. Known for his backflips and entertaining athleticism, Hamilton went on to make history in his sport. In 1997, however, Hamilton was diagnosed with cancer. With renewed perspective and goals, he continued to perform professionally until he retired four years later. In 2004, Hamilton received a brain tumor diagnosis, and yet again overcame his odds. The Olympian’s unyielding courage and strength is proof that, when you have your mind set on a goal, nothing can stop you from reaching it.

    Accept help from other.
    After his own athletes had been eliminated early in the competition, Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth still made history at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. During one of the races, Wadsworth noticed Russian Anton Gafarov struggling to complete the course. He had crashed and broken a ski, which wrapped around his foot and caused him to drag across the course. When no one, including Gafarov’s own coaches, stepped in to help, Gafarov jumped to action. He grabbed a spare ski from his Canadian team and ran onto the track, where he pulled off the broken equipment and replaced it. Gafarov was able to cross the finish line with Wadsworth’s help, a reminder that even the best of the best need a little help every now and then. 

    Be groundbreaking.
    Still a newer sport in the Olympic Games, snowboarding has come a long way since athletes like Shaun White have taken over. A daring, stunning athlete, White shocked spectators during the 2010 Vancouver snowboarding halfpipe finals when he completed the world’s first Double McTwist 1260. The trick, which is the most difficult in the history of the sport, earned White the gold medal and instant fame. White recognized the risk and reward of being the first to accomplish a groundbreaking feat, and his Olympic run is a reminder that giving it your all can put you on top.

    Go against the grain.
    In 1960, barefoot running had yet to become a trend. So when Abebe Bikila, an Olympian from Ethiopia, ran the marathon in Rome without shoes, he made history. A last-minute replacement for an injured teammate, Bikila had issues with his running shoes and decided to run barefoot in the heat of the late afternoon. Not only did Bikila win the gold medal, he shattered the Olympic record and set a new world best. Bikila’s inspiring story proves that thinking outside the box, and being quick to adapt to challenges, can set you apart from the competition.

    As one of the most beloved Olympians of our time, Muhammad Ali, once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” If you’re trying to beat the competition and land a job, get a promotion or start a business, you may have to take risks and put it all on the line. Like the Olympic champions before you, your success will be defined by how you choose to beat the odds and reach your goals.

    Remember, with courage, passion and perseverance, your definition of a gold medal can be attained. 

    Realizing the Dream of Entrepreneurial Success

    July 2016


    Entrepreneurship is strong in North America. The U.S. and Canada have the highest levels of entrepreneurial activity in the world. If the thought of working for yourself and following your dream is appealing, here are seven important questions to consider:

    1. Do you have the personality traits to run a business?You’ve probably heard that entrepreneurs are risk takers and innovators, but there are additional factors to keep in mind. Are you a good planner? How are your networking skills? This checklist of 25 characteristics by Entrepreneur.com will help you determine whether you are suited to own your own business. 

    2. Does your business acumen come by “nature or nurture”?

    Good entrepreneurs often have a combination of both. You may be born with “natural” characteristics, such as the ability to work independently, but these traits are most effective when paired with real business experience to “nurture” your skills. 

    3. How fast do you expect to succeed?

    One of the biggest mistakes people make is to expect overnight success. Most businesses take time to get up to speed and see success, so tracking your progress over time is critical. 

    4. Are you a path creator or a path follower?

    Before you dismiss the latter, understand that both types can be successful entrepreneurs. Path creators are boldly venturesome. This type of entrepreneur is sometimes described as jumping off a cliff and successfully inventing a plan on the way down. 

    Path followers prefer to rely more on pre-existing knowledge. Franchise opportunities are often a great fit for this kind of entrepreneur, because you can run your own business while taking advantage of proven business strategies and practices. 

    5. What kind of housing do you prefer?

    This may seem like an odd question, but David Lewis, vice president of franchising for Express Employment Professionals, finds this is a quick way to narrow down whether you are fit for a traditional corporate career, a franchise, or a purely entrepreneurial role.  

    • Ready to design a house from scratch on grid paper?  You are a pure entrepreneur who is ready to start a business from the ground up. 
    • Prefer a custom home with help from a good builder? This personality type is perfect for franchise ownership, where you can make your mark, but have a ready-made blueprint for success. 
    • Want a good home in the nice neighborhood? You are likely a successful corporate employee and don’t want to be in charge of setting up the business structure.
    • Have the home, but want a rental on the side? You may not be ready to leave your day job yet, but this shows you’re testing the waters outside the corporate box and may be on a path to franchise ownership.

    6. Do you have a mentor?

    Mentorship is essential. Seventy percent of business owners with mentors have businesses that are open after five years, double the survival rate of non-mentored small businesses, according to a UPS company survey. A mentor can look at your new business with a critical eye and keep you from getting too far off track, while understanding the demands of business ownership.

    7. Can you live with failure?

    That may not be what you want to hear when you are setting your sights on success, but even the most successful entrepreneurs meet failure at some time or another. Jack Ma, founder of the world’s largest online commerce center, Alibaba, said he would not be as successful if he had not experienced failure.

    Finally, be ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard, say the experts, including billionaire entrepreneur and “shark” Mark Cuban. As he explained in a Business Insider interview, his advice to any entrepreneur is simple: “Do the work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”

    How Volunteering Improves Your Employees’ Performance

    June 2016   

    Whether you send a team of employees to help build a home with Habitat for Humanity or sort canned goods at an area food bank, your employee volunteer program makes a difference in your community and underlines your commitment to corporate social responsibility.

    The strongest return, however, might be in your workplace. Research shows that volunteer programs strengthen office camaraderie, enhance employee professional development and raise levels of employee engagement, all factors that lead to a happier workforce and better retention of top talent.

    Building a Work Force for Good

    Nearly 60 percent of companies surveyed now offer employees paid time off for volunteer work, according to the America’s Charities’ Snapshot 2015 survey, and 82 percent of employees surveyed said they want companies to give them the opportunity to volunteer with their peers in company-sponsored projects.

    The payoffs are clear. A study by UnitedHealth Group reveals that 64 percent of employees who volunteer say that volunteering alongside their colleagues strengthens their relationships in the workplace. An almost unanimous 96 percent agree that the experience enriches their purpose in life and gives them a deeper connection to their communities and to others.

    Increasing Engagement and Company Pride

    Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship asked employers to weigh in on the value of employee volunteerism. The Center’s report revealed that 90 percent of employers cited “improved employee engagement” as one of the top benefits of an employee volunteer program. 

    The same report showed that employees who volunteer:

    • Take greater pride in their company
    • Are more likely to defend and promote the company externally
    • Are more inclined to stay with the company
    • Are more likely to go above and beyond required tasks to get the job done

    Solving Challenges While Building Leaders

    Today’s companies think beyond simple volunteerism to make the world a better place to live. CEEP, a collation of CEOs, reports that businesses increasingly use company talent to solve societal challenges.

    The group’s report shows that pro bono and board service have increased more than any other kind of employee volunteer program during the past few years. This kind of volunteer opportunity allows employees to feel empowered to help solve real problems, from hunger to homelessness, while developing professional and leadership skills that can be used in the workplace.

    A Harvard Business Review article highlights IBM as a leading example of this trend. The company gives employees a month to participate in service abroad and typically deploys 500 young leaders a year on team assignments. These employee volunteers serve in more than 30 developing nations, and fulfill their professional development requirements for IBM through these projects.

    According to the article, the employee volunteer program increases the company’s retention rate and helps IBM recruit top talent.

    Doing It Right

    There are important best practices to follow if you want a successful and effective employee volunteer program, according to a report from Points of Light, a thought leader in the volunteer sphere. 

    Most importantly, businesses should set established goals and provide clear direction on the program’ objectives to achieve those goals. Measuring results of the program are equally important, including the impact on the company and to society. Remember to celebrate and report the results across the company and externally.

      When done well, employee volunteer programs benefit society, help your employees grow, and make them more likely to stay on board. That’s a triple win your business cannot ignore



    The Rise in Independent Labor

    April 2016   

    Some experts call it the flex economy, but it is also known as the gig, online, or on-demand economy, with some even referring to it as the Uberization of work. Whatever name you prefer, this trend represents a significant shift in the labor market, as more workers take on contract and freelance work, rather than traditional employee positions.

    Some of this shift is fueled by the app-based technology that powers companies like Uber and Airbnb. But even traditional companies are using more contract workers as they seek to save direct labor costs and focus more on their core competencies.

    What do today’s workers have to say about it? A survey conducted by Express Employment Professionals shows the concept is gaining a lot of interest:

    • 40 percent said they want to be an independent contractor, but don’t know where to start
    • 16 percent are currently taking steps to become an independent contractor
    • 14 percent said the independent contractor lifestyle doesn’t appeal to them
    • 13 percent don’t want to leave the stability of a full-time job
    • 9 percent are currently working as an independent contractor

    The Implications for employers

    Today’s businesses can expect that this trend will continue to grow. In fact, a Deloitte survey found that 42 percent of executives expect to increase the use of contingent workers in the next three to five years. 

    What will tomorrow’s businesses look like? Some experts point to tech giant Apple as a striking example of what is possible. Apple actually employs fewer than 10 percent of the million-plus workers who make and sell its products, according to a New York Times article.

    However experts warn that this scale may not be feasible in all industries. In particular, companies must make sure they can keep contract or freelance workers up to speed on the compliance and training that are integral for the business.

    As far as age, early reports showed Millennials as most likely to embrace the contractor work-style, because they value jobs that work around their lifestyle, rather than vice versa. However, an Inc. article revealed that Baby Boomers are also cutting the cord from traditional employment. In fact, research has found that about 18 percent of gig or on-demand workers are 55 or older. 

    A Win-Win Scenario

    Contract workers have been a solid resource for many companies since the 1970s. This work opportunity also offers the flexibility many of today’s workers require. It is a winning solution for Millennials who want to spend more time with their children, for anyone caring for elderly family members or for those enjoying semi-retirement by working on an as needed basis.

    As the labor market continues to shift in response to this new trend, employers and employees will need to decide how they’ll respond. For some employers, moving to a workforce made up of more contract and independent workers will be the answer. Workers will need to consider all their options, weigh the benefits of working in the gig-economy against the drawbacks and decide if pursuing independent work is the answer for their situation.



    Spring Cleaning Your Online Presence

    March 2016   

    In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to your online reputation. Just like your home or office, your online presence needs a spring cleaning to get rid of old unwanted items, brush the dust off what’s valuable, and make sure there are no surprises lurking in places you don’t see every day.

    What kind of surprises? An article in Adweek explains how your identity can be mistakenly confused with someone who has committed a crime, which can make it difficult or even impossible to find a job. 

    Most likely, you’ll find outdated descriptions of your skills and work, which can make you sound out of touch and ill-equipped for today’s workplace. There also may be some old photos from your younger days that don’t support the image you want to project as a serious job candidate. 

    A Spring Cleaning Checklist

    Unlike cleaning your garage or attic, cleaning your digital presence is simple if you follow these steps: 

    1. Use Google Incognito to see what other people see of your identity online. If you search for your name using a normal Google search, it’s more likely to bring back results based on the sites you frequently visit. Incognito shows you a more objective, unfiltered view when you search your name. 

    A helpful tip: Put quotation marks around your name to get more targeted results, so “Susie Q. Smith” won’t pull up every Smith on the Internet. Adding the city you live in (or lived in) can also help refine the search.

    2. Be sure to search for your name in conjunction with all commonly used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and especially LinkedIn. If you run a business, include Yelp, YP, and popular review sites for your industry.

    3. If you see any negatives, the best way to approach them depends on the platform. For example, you can:

    • Untag your name from unflattering or silly photos or posts on Facebook.
    • Request that a friend remove content from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that was acceptable years ago, but now feels embarrassing.
    • Make sure your job description and level of experience are up to date on LinkedIn.
    • Counter negative information on Google with new, positive information, such as blogs, with your byline. As a Forbes article on reputation management made clear, once negative information drops off the first page of search results, it’s not likely to be seen by someone searching for you.
    • If you discover someone (such as a former disgruntled employee or an unethical competitor) has maliciously set up fake profiles to defame you online, the website Lifehacker has helpful tips for addressing this. 

    Don’t Wait for Spring to Roll Around

    While you don’t need to do your spring cleaning every day, there are certain daily steps you can take to stay on top of your online presence:

    • Set up Google Alerts so you will know if anything shows up on the internet with your name on it.
    • Check your Facebook privacy settings so your personal family moments won’t be shared publicly unless you choose that option.
    • Set up notifications for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, so you will know if someone comments on your posts, mentions your username, endorses you, or recommends you online. 

    Your online footprint and reputation play an increasingly important role in determining your personal and professional success. Don’t take them for granted and find out today what’s being said about you or your business.

    ________________________


      Leadership Lessons from National Leaders

    February 2016   

    Some are born with it, others try to learn it, and many do not discover their capacity for leadership until they are faced with the opportunity. Understanding how to lead effectively is essential in today’s business world, where the wrong hand at the helm can drag down productivity and morale, make a business less competitive, and result in a crippling lack of confidence in management.

    How do you “learn” leadership?  A great way to start is to take a look at the best practices of truly effective leaders and apply their techniques in a way that makes sense for your own style and circumstances.

    Leading a Nation Through 9/11

    During his eight years in the White House, former President George W. Bush exemplified strength in leadership as he guided America through the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack on the U.S., as well as a difficult and complex financial crisis.

    President Bush is quoted as defining his approach to leadership this way: “Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time.”

    Authors Carolyn B. Thompson and Jim Ware explored the “common sense” leadership attributes of the former President in their book, “The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush: 10 Common Sense Lessons from the Commander-in-Chief.” 

    They offer this powerful advice for any leader:

    • Identify core values
    • Build alliances
    • Have a vision
    • Communicate
    • Build trust
    • Be disciplined
    • Bring in the right people
    • Follow your intuition
    • Allow those hired to do their jobs
    • Get results

    The Power of a Mom Leader

    Susan Wojcicki is famous for being Google company employee number 16 and for owning the Menlo Park, California, garage where the company first set up offices. Now the CEO of YouTube, Wojcicki was named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2015.

    Wojcicki explains that being a mother of five children is one of the attributes that makes her a better leader, because it makes her prioritize her time and be efficient about focusing on the things that will make the most impact on the business.

    “Having the sum of both of those things going on in my life makes me a better mom at the end of the day, and I think it gives me really important perspectives in the workplace as well.”

     A Lesson from the NFL

    Tony Dungy started out as an NFL player, and then coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. He made history as the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl, and did so without the yelling and anger often seen on the sidelines. He is known for his strong personal values and genuine, ethical leadership.

    Since retiring from football, Tony Dungy is a New York Times bestselling author who has inspired many with his ability to equate leadership with the lessons he learned in the NFL. Dungy offers this valuable advice in his book “Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life”:

    • Be a pro
    • Act like a champion
    • Respond to adversity; don’t react
    • Be on time. Being late means either it’s not important to you or you can’t be relied upon.
    • Execute. Do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it. Not almost. All the way. Not most of the time. All of the time.
    • Take ownership. Whatever it takes. No excuses, no explanations.

    Whether you’re currently serving in a defined leadership role or just starting your career, you are in a position to influence and guide those around you. Take these lessons from three very different leaders and consider how you can become a truly great leader for your business. 

    ________________________

    Engaging the Five Generations in Your Workplace

    January 2016

    Today’s workforce is the first in history to include workers from five different generations. While this adds welcome diversity, it also poses some significant challenges for keeping workers engaged and on board.

    A recent Ernst & Young survey shows that 75 percent of managers find it challenging to manage intergenerational teams and 77 percent reported that the different work expectations of each generation is a key challenge. 

    Consider the general mindset of each group toward office meetings as an illustration of this challenge:

    • Traditionalists (born prior to 1946) will typically arrive early and expect a paper agenda.
    • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will expect a PowerPoint presentation and are willing to put in any extra hours required if the meeting runs long.
    • Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976) employees will prefer to watch a video and expect the meeting to end by 5 p.m. to honor work-life balance boundaries.
    • Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) will want the meeting to have a strong purpose, and will use collaborative digital tools to share meeting information and expect others to do the same.
    • Generation Z (born after 1997) employees will want to call in from a remote location, no matter what the time, because they view the workplace as an anytime-anywhere proposition.

    It’s About Motivation

    How can employers keep all segments of this diverse workforce engaged? A Harvard Business Review article explains that it is not a matter of trying to get everyone to work in the same way, but about leveraging each group’s strengths and understanding what motivates team members the most.

    The author suggests that managers shouldn’t assume they already know how to motivate employees who are older or younger. Instead, it’s important to have individual conversations with workers to determine what they want out of their own professional lives.

    Millennial workers, in particular, typically need to feel their input has value and some have very ambitious goals. A Wall Street Journal guide to managing across generations suggests giving these individuals special assignments that are outside of their job descriptions, such as placing them on a task force that’s working to solve a business or workplace problem. 

    Different Generations, Similar Expectations

    While each workforce generation has come from a different era, a report by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Executive Development Program suggests that in the workplace, the different generations may have more in common than employers realize, from wanting the business as a whole to succeed to wanting success in their individual careers.

    Interestingly, workers from all five generations agree on the characteristics of an ideal business leader:

    • Leads by example
    • Is accessible
    • Challenges and holds others accountable
    • Acts as a coach and mentor
    • Helps others see how their roles contribute to the organization

    Despite technology, communication and work style preferences, there are universal attributes that cross generations and can lead to team bonding. Whether it’s the way your employees care about their families or their vision for the team’s success, those common threads can be the beginning of a more cohesive and engaged multi-generational team. This bonding breeds an atmosphere of trust and a valuable level of respect for what each individual brings to the table, no matter what generational group they are in.

    ________________________

    Can Mentorship Bridge the Skills Gap?

    January 2016

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the Great Recession that continues to plague businesses is the lack of qualified job applicants for many semi- to highly skilled positions in a variety of industries. The skills gap has been talked about by business leaders, politicians and economists for several years, and yet the reality of jobs going unfilled is still a major factor in the economic recovery. But could there be a solution to this problem that is going unnoticed and underutilized? 

    What’s Causing the Gap?

    While there is consensus among most experts that there is a skills gap in the job market, there are varying beliefs on the cause for this gap. 

    A survey by TEKsystems of IT professionals and leaders found a disconnect between their reasons for jobs currently being open and individuals not applying. Leaders in IT believe that a lack of skills is the central reason behind the gap, while professionals in the industry believe the problem has more to do with employers expecting too much in their job descriptions.

    Another report by CareerBuilder found that employers 55 percent and job seekers 37 percent agree that education gaps in particular areas are the leading cause for the skills gap. However, job seekers believe that gaps in expectations surrounding wages as well as job requirements that are above entry level requirements play a large a role in unfilled jobs.

    Could Mentorships be the Answer?

    For years, apprenticeships played a significant role in training the next generation of workers. In the last few decades, the changing dynamics of the workplace have dramatically slowed this practice of teaching.

    Today, mentorships are often thought of as a relationship between a younger and more experienced professional that helps the young professional develop and learn more about their industry. But what if businesses and job seekers thought of mentorships as a way to train new employees who may not have the specific skills the employer is looking for, but have the work ethic and desire to learn?

    Some business leaders may be hesitant to invest in educating employees who have the potential to leave and take this valuable training to another business or possibly even a competitor. However, the CareerBuilder report goes on to say that “An overwhelming 92 percent of employees become more loyal to a company that invests in training them, adding that they are more likely to stay at a company that values them in this way.”

    There is no question that the responsibility to end the skills gap falls on employees and employers alike. As they enter the hiring process, job candidates should be able to clearly show that they have a desire to learn and are willing to spend time receiving training from the best people in the business so they can help the company be successful. Leaders in businesses should begin to develop programs utilizing their best employees to train new hires on the skills they’ll need to be successful.

    As the economy continues to recover and businesses continue to look for ways to fill their unfilled job openings, mentorships should play a larger role in helping new employees be effective additions to the company. The skills gap is a challenge that can be overcome by employers and job seekers so long as both are willing to spend time teaching and learning.

    ________________________


    Lessons in Creating a Magical Customer Service Experience

    December 2015

    What’s the secret to building customer loyalty? According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, many companies focus on making loyalty a strategic priority, but fail to gain traction. The reason is simple. Their policies and processes don’t focus on making an emotional connection with their customers. 

    When you consider that emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend a product to others and return to make another purchase – finding a way to delight customers on an emotional level can be as important as the product you sell.

    Customer Loyalty to the Moon and Back

    The most persuasive case study on the subject, of course, is Disney, which achieves an amazing 70 percent or per cent return rate in customer visits, according to the Disney Institute’s book on the subject. And it’s all due to Walt Disney’s original promise to create happiness through “magical” experiences.

    Those magical results are not based on Disney’s access to magic carpets and the like, but start with the company’s Seven Services Guidelines:

    1. Make eye contact and smile
    2. Greet and welcome every guest
    3. Seek out guest contact
    4. Provide immediate service recovery
    5. Always display appropriate body language
    6. Create dreams and preserve the "magical guest experience"
    7. Thank each and every guest

    When Tone Trumps Procedure

    According to the Disney Institute, there are four keys to delighting customers:

    1. Safety: Always first.

    2. Courtesy: Going above and beyond to exceed guest expectations. 

    3. Show: Ensuring the area is show-ready for customers at all times. 

    4. Efficiency: Performing the customer service role efficiently so the guest can get the most out of the experience. 

    The tone of their answer is also important especially when trying to figure out what the guest is really trying to ask. When guests ask “When will the three o’clock parade start?” the answer is never a tired or sarcastic “at three o’clock.” When a guest asks a question like this, they generally want to know when the parade will pass by their current location. So Disney staff offer proactive advice on when to expect the parade and where to stand to get the best view.

    Embrace Innovation

    To create a magical experience for customers, it’s also important to stay current with customer-pleasing technology. For Disney, this means using MagicBands that allow guests to gain access to everything from their hotel rooms to rides and attractions.

    But companies can never rely on technology alone. “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic,” former Walt Disney World® EVP Lee Cockerell said.

    A magical customer experience doesn’t have to be limited to the “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Your team can be the reason customers are raving about your company to their friends and family, as long as you’re willing to make customer loyalty and experience a priority. 

    ________________________

    Why Thankfulness and Success Go Hand in Hand

    November 2015   

    What’s the real secret to success? According to the experts, it’s not working more hours than anyone in the office or going through life without making mistakes.

    The simple answer is “being thankful.” But the bigger question is why?

    “Without gratitude, core teams fall away, culture diminishes and becomes stagnated and undesirable, innovation ceases, and followers ‘unfollow,’” according to the Thinking Bigger Business blog.

    Conversely, the simple act of thanking people for their contributions leads to stronger teams, more open collaboration, higher morale and even higher sales.

    In fact, a case study featured in Fortune magazine showed a direct correlation between one company’s implementation of appreciation lunches to thank customers and a 27 percent increase in revenue. In addition, when the company had to raise prices by 10 percent, not one of the “thanked” customers protested the increase.

    The Benefits of Being Thankful

    Here are some important ways that gratitude can help improve your business, your career and your life:

    1. Thankfulness produces a solution mindset

    According to Entrepreneur.com, it’s easy to get stuck in “complaining mode” when things don’t go your way, but that makes you less likely to move forward. Gratitude changes that perspective, and fosters the right attitude for seeing solutions, rather than obstacles.

    2. Gratitude fuels great leadership

    When you have an attitude of gratitude toward others, you begin to focus more on their strengths than on their weaknesses. This has a profound impact on improving a team’s performance. To be a truly great leader you must maintain morale, and thankfulness is an excellent tool to do so. 

    3. Gratitude increases willpower and financial “patience”

    A Harvard University study revealed an interesting connection between thankfulness and the ability for people to delay gratification. Successful people understand the value of forgoing smaller pleasures now in order to reap larger gains later. The study showed that people with a grateful mindset were better equipped to exercise delayed gratification, and as a result, made more financial gains.

    Putting It into Practice

    If you’re not in the habit of expressing thankfulness, there’s good news: gratitude works like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. 

    A great way to get started is to keep a written gratitude journal. According to Harvard Business Review, research shows that keeping this will help you focus more on the positives in your life and feel more connected to others. A written reminder also makes it easier to remember to share your thankfulness with those who have helped you.

    One important caveat: be sincere. Despite the cliché about flattery getting you anywhere, experts say false praise will get you nowhere. Gratitude is about being real.

    So when you gather with your team and co-workers this year and consider the blessings you are grateful for, think about those who make the important things possible, and resolve to thank them year round.

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    *Note that all articles above are written by Express Digest contributors.  These press releases are meant to inform our clients.