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Jun
06
2008
How To (Really) Help Employees Stay Healthy Maranda Gibson

Workplace Wellness

Here's a smattering of news articles to prove it.

Keeping your employees healthy is good for business.

Channel 17 news in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill talks about local companies who are not just adding fitness rooms at the office to encourage employees to stay fit and healthy.

"[F]itness centers are no longer the backbone of corporate wellness programs, said Dave Gardner, manager of corporate and community health at WakeMed.

'Employers can look at policies and how their environment is structured,' said Gardner. 'Do they provide access to food and beverages? It may be just vending machines, but what's in the vending machines?'

Companies with on-site cafeterias are leading the charge with healthier menu items. A poster in Quintiles' cafeteria touts organic items and snacks with no trans fats."

The Economic Times in India touts helping employees with their stress as a path to workplace wellness.

"As industries mature, one of the fallouts has been that employees have been bombarded with excess workload to meet the water-tight deadlines. The outcome-stress, which takes a direct toll on productivity as people tend to slack when burdened with huge portions of work. Fortunately, organisations are waking up to this reality and are manifesting their concern for their employees' health by carving out several initiatives to build a stress-free environment for them."

A New York Times article focuses on politicians who are encouraging small businesses to focus on healthcare issues just as if they were a large company and able to offer multiple health benefits.

"Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, said smaller employers need to apply the same principles to health-care as they do to any other business.
'The question should be how do we get the best value for money,' Gingrich told the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred small-business owners.
He also prescribed changing workers' attitudes and behavior by offering healthy snacks in the workplace, access to wellness programs and fitness centers, and year-end bonuses based on a health assessment. At a panel discussion on small-business health-care costs, workplace wellness programs were seen as the most effective tool to cut rising prices."
In this age of rising prices (food, gas, health care) as well as the cost of doing business, companies may be tempted to scale back benefits, but perhaps the long-term effects of health and employee wellness should matter more.

Jun
02
2008
Stay Smart and Stay Ahead Maranda Gibson

The Street looks at the recent Microsoft bid to acquire Yahoo and draws three very good tips out for current small business owners, summarized below.

  1. Do the basics very well: No matter what business you are in, you cannot take things to the next level, or withstand a recession, if that is your situation, if you are not handling the basics.
  2. We need to innovate: No business stays in business long if it does not adapt, change with the times and innovate. . . . One easy way to innovate is to just keep an eye on what your competition is doing. What is their Web site like? How do they market their business? Keep abreast of what others are doing and consider making changes accordingly.
  3. We need to change the game: [C]hanging the game means that the savvy small business person will also consider changing even essential ways of doing business when necessary.”

SearchEngineLand.com highlights a story about a small business that is not only surviving, but thriving in the midst of harsh times for businesses of all size.

"There's a battle going on in the floral industry, and many small, independent florists are losing. Like other small businesses, they don't have the time or knowledge to keep up with the latest marketing trends and tactics.

This month's small business online marketing success story is about a business owner who's using search marketing smarts to win this battle, along with some blogging and social media thrown in.
Meet Cathy Hillen-Rulloda, owner and Design Director at Avante Gardens, an award-winning florist in Anaheim, California. Cathy started working for a local florist during high school in West Virginia, and opened Avante Gardens in 1984 after helping design flowers for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Since then, Cathy has become one of the floral industry's most accomplished Internet marketers. ‘She's a watchdog for the floral industry and keeps the rest of us aware,' says Ryan Freeman of Strider Inc, the operator of FlowerChat.com. ‘Her Web site ranks well and performs well, she blogs intelligently, has a smart mind for business and PR, and has enough chutzpah to take action when it's needed.'"

For small business owners like Hillen-Rulloda, it's about doing the basics well, using innovation to stay ahead, and changing the game when required. When those three elements are in place, small businesses will thrive.

May
30
2008
Register for Better Tracking Maranda Gibson

If you really want to keep track of your participants, use a registration page for all of your conference calls.  Registration systems will record any data you want and store it for use later.  Also, during a live call, you can see the data next to that caller - speaking directly to users and knowing who they are increases the personal touch of your call (not to mention it is impressive).  Also, each participant receives their own unique code for the call - again, more personal.

After your live event, you have data on who registered, who attended the live call as well as who did not - great for follow-up.  For paid services like teleclasses, this is a great way for tracking attendance and keeping control of who gets it.  For required employee calls, the data will keep everyone accountable.

Best of all, it's free.  Try it out!

May
29
2008
When Multi-Tasking Works Against You Maranda Gibson

We've all been in this situation, sitting in a "boring" teleconference, our mind starts to wander, we decide maybe we'll look at our email, and then out of the blue, the speaker asks your opinion!

Wow, talk about an embarrassing moment, how do you say you had been drifting? It's better to follow these few tips to keep your focus in a teleconference particularly when your mind starts to wander.

  1. Close your email program and your browser. You won't be tempted to multi-task if you don't have these applications open.
  2. Turn off your cell phone and PDA. Don't be tempted to lose your focus with these distractions to the call.
  3. Get a piece of paper out and make bulleted notes of the meeting.
  4. As you think of it, write down your questions on a specific topic or write down the name of the person and task that they have just been given.
  5. Write down the follow-up actions you will personally need to take and the dates to take them. Writing will help you to stay tuned-in and keep your mind actively involved in the teleconference as well as provide concrete follow-up for you to log into Outlook after the conference call.

May
28
2008
Statue Of Liberty Maranda Gibson

Statue Of Liberty

May
27
2008
How to Lead In Tough Times Maranda Gibson

Forbes discusses leading in tough times and gives five essentials "for leadership through difficult, and how to bring them to bear."

"Leading an organization through hard times is challenging by definition. It requires a deliberate focus and extra attention to a few critical areas that can make the difference between a quick rebound followed by sustained improvement in performance--or by a downward spiral that may become irreversible.
And it's in facing headwinds, of course, that the captain of the ship proves his or her mettle."

The five Forbes essentials include:

  1. Communicate continually and honestly.
  2. Hatch a plan based in reality.
  3. Hang on to your best talent.
  4. Act decisively.
  5. Alter your perspective.

There's a few more I would add:

  1. Don't try to be the superhero.

Nobody likes someone who tries to do it all and fails. Everyone will be in awe of you if you do what you do best and let others do the rest. A leader knows how to delegate to other members of his/her team so that she/he can focus on the essential core tasks of leadership. Trying to impress your team by agreeing to everything they request or point out will get you nowhere.

  1. Give out more praise than criticism.

This does not mean simple flattery or half-truths. There are ways to praise so that people realize what they missed or did wrong. Try rewarding strong work and recommending alternative ideas for less-strong work at the same time. And don't criticize. If you find this difficult, get Giving Feedback: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges, by Harvard Business School Press.

"Good feedback is essential to helping employees perform better at work. It lets people know when they are meeting or exceeding expectations, and when they need to get back on the right track. This practical guide shows managers how to develop and refine this necessary skill."

Feedback is communication. Are you giving feedback or a performance review? Are you wanting a different approach or just want to tweak the approach already taken? Learning to differentiate between what you want to accomplish and then saying it to accomplish that is a sure sign of a leader.

Anything else to add to this list? Feel free to add your thoughts.

May
23
2008
Into the Sunset.... Maranda Gibson

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
Everyone have a great and relaxing holiday!

Happy Memorial Day

May
20
2008
Seth Gets It Maranda Gibson

Seth Godin talks about the The new standard for meetings and conferences.  Energy prices are rising and the cost of travel is climbing higher with wait times, canceled flights and more.

Now that the technology has arrived to replace almost every aspect of the face-to-face meeting, isn't it time to rethink "Do I really have to travel?"

As Seth says, "I flew all the way here for this?"

Another place for savings (time, energy and money) is working from home.  One of our previous posts mentions the enormous savings that could be realized if employees worked from home one day a week.

As a collaboration company, all we can say to Seth is, "Amen!"

May
19
2008
Out of Sight, Out of Touch? Maranda Gibson

Once the favorite alternative work option for many large companies, telecommuting was purported to be the savior of the burnt-out cubicle worker. Over the past year or so, telecommuting has received a critical eye. A series of articles from eWeek discusses the rise and fall of telecommuting.

"Only a few years since it was heralded as a newer, better way to work, studies began to emerge that put chinks in the armor of telecommuting.
Sixty-one percent of executives surveyed in January 2007 by Korn/Ferry International, a Los Angeles-based recruiting firm, said they saw career stagnancy among telecommuting workers.

Nearly half of CIOs felt that remote employees' quality of work suffered due to reduced in-person contact with colleagues, and one-third said that these employees were less productive due to a lack of supervision, in a study released last July by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif." 

But is telecommuting really all bad?

San Francisco’s Chronicle espouses the concept of telecommuting as a cure for conserving energy and reducing gasoline usage.

"An estimated 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline could be conserved annually if every U.S. worker with the ability to telecommute did so 1.6 days per week, according to a report released today by the American Electronics Association.

‘Fewer commuters on the roads means reduced fuel consumption, traffic congestion and air pollution,’ said Christopher Hansen, president of the association, the nation's largest high-tech trade group.

And, he said, 'It is a win for workers, who can reduce long commute times and strike a better life-work balance.'"

And this article from CNN points out that for a better life-work balance, 43% of working moms would jump at the chance to telecommute.

"‘More than 25 percent of working moms are dissatisfied with their work/life balance," said Mary Delaney, chief sales officer at CareerBuilder.com and mother of three. ‘As companies continue to experience a tighter labor market, the importance of retaining star employees is requiring them to implement benefits that actually encourage workers to improve the balance between their professional and family lives. From flexible work schedules to job sharing to telecommuting, company-wide work/life initiatives are becoming much more universal.’"

As gas prices increase this year, perhaps companies should endeavor to make telecommuting more effective: encouraging in-house workers to coordinate more fully with telecommuting staff, pursuing online collaboration that encourages teamwork, and rewarding loyal and productive clients with a flexible work schedule.

May
16
2008
The Lost Art of Thank You Maranda Gibson

Lost Art of Thank YouFew things are as powerful or as simple as saying thank you. Looking someone in the eye, a genuine smile, a firm handshake; each has meaning beyond words. They touch people. They communicate sincerity and integrity. They earn trust and respect. These are powerful tools and are opportunities easily missed.

Letter writing is a dying art. The need to write letters is fading quickly, overtaken by the speed and efficiency of email, cell phones, and the fast-paced lifestyle. There just isn't time in the day to sit down and compose a long, detailed essay like long ago.  We used to tell the details of our lives, our innermost thoughts and experiences, in our letters. Now it just takes too long. There just isn't time. 

It isn't necessary to write these long letters anymore. We should, however, make the time for quick notes. Keeping a stock of blank cards on hand is a great way to "knock off" a quick thank you when dealing with a customer or a business acquaintance.  Do you remember the last time you received a thank you card or note from anyone? If you've gotten one, I'll bet you remember it. If not, then you know how rare it is. It's a powerful moment when somebody opens their mail to see you took the time to sit down, right a note, stamp it, and drop it in the mail. Your contact with that person just became so much more than average. Your ability to be remembered has increased dramatically. You touched them and made them feel appreciated. This quiet gesture is powerful.

The greatest communicators know the effect of letter writing, especially of the thank you. Former President Ronald Reagan was a great believer in the letter. He spent many of his quiet moments composing thoughtful letters to friends, loved ones, and politicians from both sides of the aisle. He knew the letter could accomplish great things and do it in a personal and one -on-one way.  All you need is a thank you note and you can accomplish the same thing with great results. So little effort. So much reward. 

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