Tech Tools to Help You be More Productive

Technology-Tools-Increase-Productivity

Do you ever feel like there are never enough hours in the workday? Often times it’s easy to take on a little too much, leaving you overwhelmed and overworked. You know what they say, work smarter not harder. That’s why we wanted to share this list of software programs that can help you be more effective during the workday and hopefully a little more stress free when it’s time to go home.

  • Want to learn more about your contacts and help establish more productive relationships? Rapportive is a LinkedIn program that works with Gmail. It is essentially an extension onto your browser that gathers personal information on contacts that email you. This includes details such as location, job, company, LinkedIn profile, and shared connections. You can use this tool to get to know your contacts and more easily grow your network.
  • Google Analytics is another great tool to help you increase your business effectiveness. This (FREE!) software allows you to track how visitors are interacting with your website by showing where they click, what they search, how they find you, and countless other valuable tools. This tool can really help you understand your consumer so that you can help guide them to the information that they need and want.
  • Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing service that is scalable, pay as you go, flexible, and easy to use. Cloud computing is the wave of the future that allows you to access your business data from anywhere and also typically helps you reduce your IT costs. This software could be an easy way to save your business lots of time and money.
  • Have you ever considered using a project management system? If you often find yourself working on dozens of projects at a time and struggling to keep things organized, project management software could really help.  Some of these programs help you keep track of where you are on a specific assignment, help you prioritize which jobs should be completed first, designate who is in charge of certain tasks, and track the time you spend on different projects. There are several great options for project management systems, such as Basecamp and Clients & Profits.
  • Social media has undeniably grown into a powerhouse market with nearly one in four people worldwide using social networks. Are you a bit overwhelmed by all the Tweets, posts, pings, and updates? Consider using a social media management tool that consolidates all of your networks and allows you to post, watch, and respond from a single platform. Consider Hootsuite or Sprout Social which offer options for both small to larger companies. If you are looking for something more robust, Radian6 is a great program that ties seamlessly into Salesforce. These platforms can help you grow your online community and create a positive and lasting impression for your brand.

These programs can help take some of the pressure off of your work week while helping your business run more smoothly and effectively. Do you have any personal favorite technology tools that help you uncomplicate your hectic schedule?

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Don’t Take the Bait, 4 Ways to Avoid Phishing Scams

As online fraud remains a consistent problem for nearly 300,000,000 Americans who use
the internet daily, it’s important to stay updated and informed on the newest forms of fraud that are a constant threat to our online security. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns internet users about “phishing” emails, a scam that is becoming an increasing problem and is proving to be very costly for employers. Chubbworks even published an article recently discussing email scams and surveyed how many people had actually received a phishing email themselves, a majority have.

Avoiding-Phishing-EmailsThe latest versions of these scams are showing up in the form of emails from trusted organizations such as the BBB or United States Postal Service (USPS). The emails are sent by hackers asking you to submit information or to follow links that gather, or “phish,” for your personal data which may include banking information, usernames, and/or passwords. These emails will oftentimes deliver a nasty virus to your computer system. Once your computer is infected, you become vulnerable to serious potential security risks. So how can you avoid this from happening to you? Here are four things you should know:

1. Make sure to pay attention to spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in emails. A fortune 500 company (or any large reputable business) is very unlikely to release an email blast riddled with misspellings.
2. Hold your cursor (don’t click) over any suspicious links. This will show you the URL that you are about to click. If the URL doesn’t contain the company name in the first part of the domain [www.company.com], it’s probably a scam.

    a. For example, if you were to receive an email that looks like it came from the United States Postal Service (USPS) and it asks you to click a link and that link doesn’t start with http://www.usps.com in the URL, it’s very likely it’s a phishing scam!

3. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date. Antivirus software helps to shield your computer from internet threats and those software updates are important because your program should be constantly evolving based on new hacker threats.
4. Last and certainly not least, educate your staff. Make sure that they are aware of the caution they need to take when clicking links inside an email. Your staff should understand the potential consequences of getting a computer virus and how it could affect your clients (remember the Target fiasco last Thanksgiving?)

With so much information being stored on the web in today’s business world, it is important to be cautious with your personal data and information. Stay secure, and stay informed, so you don’t take the bait and put yourself at risk!

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How Will Obamacare Impact Your Bottom Line?

Obamacare has undoubtedly made significant changes in the way that American companies run and operate, but how profound are these changes? The truth is, most employers have no real idea. According to a survey, conducted by Willis, of more than 1,000 employers only 37% of respondents have gotten around to identifying the cost changes to their health plans in 2014 brought on by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). While this is an increase of 9% from last year, it is clear that measuring this cost is still proving difficult for a majority of employers.

PPACABenefitsPro finds the biggest problem with not understanding the depth of these cost changes is that “employers will be left in the dark about how to best adjust benefit strategies.”

According to the Willis survey, organizations that have successfully measured these changes have found a few significant effects:

  • 54% of the respondents found a cost increase of 0-5%
  • 22% noted a 5-10% cost increase

In further response to PPACA, 14% of all respondents have eradicated health care for their part-time employees in 2014 and 8% intend to follow suit. These changes may appear extreme; however, BenefitsPro notes that most employers intend on continuing to provide their employees with benefits, despite the cost increase.  Have you fully evaluated how Obamacare will impact your business and your benefits strategy?

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A Look Into the Increased Demand for PEOs

Today’s job market is quickly and constantly changing. In order to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining quality employees, businesses must provide them with more than a decent salary and a few extra vacation days. In recent years, employers have started turning to professional employer organizations (PEOs) to help provide their employees with the benefits and resources they need and expect. Brokers, too, are commonly enlisting the help of these organizations as a way to impress clients by differentiating themselves as well as demonstrating resourcefulness in assisting clients with their employee benefit needs. These PEOs are often responsible for Broker discussing PEOproviding access to HR professionals, information regarding employee benefits, and access to the benefits themselves.

A recent post from ExaByzness explored the increased demand for PEO services and the effect this has on the industry’s growth and development. In 2012, the industry added $8 billion to its gross revenues, making the total revenues around $92 billion for that year, a 10% growth from 2011. BenefitsPro looked deeper into the reasons why brokers are turning to PEOs for assistance in managing their clients. They state that professional employer organizations are “the quintessential resource for market-responsive, comprehensive employee benefits, payroll and tax administration, and related regulatory compliance services.”

So how does working with a PEO potentially boost a broker’s market position? BenefitsPro says foremost, providing clients with these services strengthens the broker’s relationship with them by proving them to be a “value-add” business partner. In building these relationships, they are able to prevent risk of other brokers or benefit providers taking over their client accounts by proving to be more valuable. Working closely with PEOs often provides brokers with the connections to obtain leads to direct them towards potential future clients. Finally, in taking advantage of PEO services, brokers are able to develop new and returning revenue streams.

Needless to say, the estimated 700-900 PEOs in the US have found themselves in a highly competitive market with the growing demand for their services. Brokers are looking for PEOs who offer a complete collection of products and services including:

  • The ability to fulfill all administrative duties and requirements
  • A team of experienced HR and risk management professionals
  • A history of successful relationships with insurance brokers
  • Proven track record and credentials that demonstrates ability to successfully service clients

The value of PEOs as service enhancers rather than competition is continuing to change the job market and helping businesses provide their employees with improved benefits and services.

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FLSA Claims are on the Rise, What Does That Mean for Employers?

Increased-FSLA-LegislationYear after year, the number of wage and hour lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) continues to grow. Since 2007, the number of these cases has consistently been increasing and in the last 12-months alone it has increased by nearly 5 percent. The most recent data, provided by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, shows 8,126 FLSA lawsuits filed in federal courts from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, noting this as a significant increase of 237% over the past 10 years. In a recent post, HR Morning explores a few key reasons for the consistent rise in FLSA lawsuits.

Richard Alfred, a labor and employment law expert and partner at Syfarth Shaw, explored several factors that he feels could be the cause of these increases. First, he believes that FLSA itself is an old and outdated law that was originally designed for what is now a different economy, meaning it doesn’t positively serve the public the way that it used to when it was initially enacted. Alfred also notes that the wording and language included in the FSLA is very ambiguous and fails to clearly define the statute. The muddy waters have made it hard to understand and in turn have generated more litigation. Overall, Alfred believes that over the course of the last several years, state laws have provided fertile ground for litigation. He also regards the level of public awareness as a factor in increased litigation because employees are becoming more aware of their rights. Finally, we are likely to continue to see these type of lawsuits on the rise because lawyers have become more eager to represent these  cases and, according to the Syfarth blog, “have found wage-and-hour claims to be fertile ground for large fee recoveries.”

Within the past year, a few additional factors have given Alfred reason to believe that the number of FLSA claims will continue to rise. First, talk of raising the minimum wage (I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the city of Seattle just raised the minimum wage to $15) has made workers more mindful of related laws and their rights that accompany them. Also, President Obama’s Executive Order to the Department of Labor is making more employees eligible for overtime, drawing more attention to wage and hour policies.

The future of FLSA litigation is unclear at this time, but it is certain that changes will be coming soon and it’s important for employers to understand how this could affect them.

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National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Questioning “No Personal Use” Email Policies.

Work-email-for-personal-useBig changes may be on the horizon in regards to personal use policies in the work place.  A recent blog post by HR Morning looked into the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) re-evaluation of policies that prohibit the personal use of company email, as well as restrictions on posting work related topics on social media. The re-examination of this policy was set in motion this year by the Obama Administration who sees this restriction as a violation of certain employee rights.

The NLRB is using Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to headway their case. Section 7 gives workers the right to “self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”  The combined concern of the Obama Administration and the NLRB is that the restriction provided by personal use policies could potentially hinder an employee’s ability to join a union, essentially stunting their potential to improve their overall work environment.

Why the changes now? In 2007, near the end of the Bush-era, the NLRB ruled in favor of The Register-Guard, an Oregon newspaper, with a strict company email policy prohibiting employees from using company email for non-work-related purposes. However, a recent case, Purple Communications, Inc. is charged for having a personal use policy that unlawfully restricts employees’ rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. This new case has brought about a request to overturn the Register Guard decision. The NLRB agreed to revisit the Register Guard case, and the issue has been brought back to life. The beginning stage of this new development includes a questionnaire posted by the NLRB that asks for organizations, employers, workers and other concerned parties to answer. These questions include the need for reconsideration of the Register Guard case, the need for limitations of employee access to electronic communication systems in the workplace, and the inclusion of employee personal devices and accounts in rulings and restrictions. This is just the beginning in what may turn out to be major changes within company personal use policies.

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Disconnect Your Employees to Improve Productivity

Mobile-Disconnect---Employee-ProductivityThe line between work and personal life is becoming increasingly harder to distinguish as technology advances and working outside the office continues to be more convenient. Mobile technology in particular provides workers with the opportunity to work on the move, taking their office with them wherever they go. A recent study from Gallup surveyed full-time, American employees, and found that a large majority (79%) of these workers view the increase in connectivity as a positive development. The most common reasoning behind the 21% who did not find these developments to be positive was the resulted overlapping in their professional and personal lives.

The effects of never fully “disconnecting” from work are unanimous. Full-time workers need to relax and rejuvenate in order to return to work fully restored. ExaByzness examined a few studies on this topic. A Deloitte study concluded that the presence of overwhelmed and overworked employees is a fast-growing trend in the American workplace while another study found that more than two-thirds of Americans identify their professional careers as a great cause of stress.

The ever-increasing and seemingly endless volume of work makes the accessibility of a mobile office appear more desirable and realistic fuels the stress that never fully disconnecting creates. In order to significantly ease this source of stress, workers need to redefine the lines in their professional and personal lives, and keep the office away from home.

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Do you know what to do in an emergency? Do your employees?

Remember fire drills, or tornado drills in school? When was the last time you had an emergency drill at work? You may be all grown up, but the basics we learned in grade school, still apply. BE PREPARED.

Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute show an estimated 25% of businesses never reopen following a major disaster. We are in storm season, and it’s critical you’re prepared so you do not become one of that 25%. The best plans have safety measures in place to cover both employees and company data. If your building is destroyed, you need to be able to pick up operations and continue on from a new location.

To be ready, you should have an emergency plan that includes:

• A meeting location for all employees
- A sheltered area inside
- An outside/evaluation plan
• Emergency kit
- Water
- Food
- Flashlight
- Weather radio
• Offsite data backup
More details and useful tools to help you prepare for any natural disaster can be found at Ready.gov.Whatever the natural disasters are that impact your area – earthquakes, tornados, floods, hurricanes, landslides, fire – you need to make sure your employees know what to do. The best possible plans mean nothing if no one knows what they are. Practice emergency drills. And test your backup plans and communication systems to ensure you have a reliable way to communicate with employees during an emergency.

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Applicant screening trends reported: the conviction records that might disqualify a candidate

In a recent blog post, EmployeeScreenIQ provided some insight into their latest survey findings regarding the types of conviction records that might disqualify a candidate from employment. It may not surprise you that crimes of violence with felony convictions generated the most concern. However, even misdemeanor convictions mattered to employers. The study reported that “nearly half of all employers are concerned about misdemeanor convictions related to crimes of violence or theft and dishonesty.”

The blog notes, “there is a significant decrease in concerns related to drug offenses.” However, “the percentages in almost every category rose over those of last year’s results. This may indicate a generally heightened sense of awareness and/or concern regarding incidents of workplace violence, employee theft, and negligent hiring lawsuits.”

Read more from EmployeeScreenIQ

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Manage your employees like athletes.

It’s baseball season – hopes are high, anything is possible. Is your team going to the World Series this year? Baseball managers are working hard to keep their teams motivated and playing their best. The season can be grueling. Six months of living out of a suitcase with only three or four days off per month. Managers need to be in tune with their team, and be ready to provide whatever support is needed to keep each player at optimal performance.

The Michael C. Fina blog provides some management insights that apply both on the field Baseballand in the office that we wanted to share with you:

“MVP Candidates  – Contrary to some, workplace superstars shouldn’t just be left alone because they’re exceptional. Your highest performing employees also need to be recognized for the jobs they do. Otherwise, they can begin to feel underappreciated after a while. Recognizing the star employees can also help raise the bar for lower-performing colleagues.

 Role Players – Every team has someone who can singlehandedly pull the group through difficult times, but not everyone relishes that spotlight. For every team leader who runs a project, there’s always a technological expert or proofreader whose behind the scenes responsibilities are equally as important. Great managers recognize and appreciate the individual efforts it takes for the team to be successful.

 Slumping Players – An overwhelming workload, diminished sense of purpose, or personal issues outside of work can result in employees who may struggle on occasion. Admittedly, it takes a manager’s keen eye to spot a slump; but two-way communication and extending a helping hand is the best method of getting an employee back on track sooner than later.”

Now, play ball!

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