Monthly Archives: August 2016

Closing the Door to Diversity

On the surface, it seems that using staff recommendations when recruiting would benefit both you and those being hired. However, research suggests that while using referrals does result in a lot of positives, it can hurt employers in the long run. A new study published in the IZA World of Labor journal found that continuously tapping into “job-referral networks” can pose problems for employers who are trying to build diverse workforces. Ian Schmutte, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, said workers who get hired through referrals almost always keep their jobs longer. This suggests that these kinds of recommendations improve the match between worker and employer, Schmutte said.

So referrals lead to better jobs, where both sides are happier and the jobs last longer,” Schmutte said in a statement. “For firms, it’s more profitable, because they don’t incur the cost of turnover. For employees, there is some evidence [that] those hired through referral earn higher wages.” However, since employees typically refer those who look and act like themselves, this type of recruiting practice can stymie diversity, the study said.

“If this is how most people find jobs, it means that they’re relying on social networks, which tend to be constructed on the basis of social and economic hierarchies that can be based on historic patterns of racial or class stratification,” Schmutte said. “As a result, they can perpetuate inequality or have an ‘old boys’ club’ character to them.” The use of referrals attracts many employers, because they believe it is the most efficient way to hire new employees. “If you’re an employer, you don’t have all of the information you want about a potential worker. You want to know about their character, if they show up to work on time, or are they going to be good at this particular type of task, are they going to fit in with the team, that kind of thing,” Schmutte said. “Referrals can answer some of those questions and reduce the information problems, so economists tend to think that makes the labor market more efficient.” The research argues, however, that while good employees often know and refer other good workers, their networks are often confined to fairly similar social circles.

Family Friendly Workplace Policies

Many employers are realizing that if they want to attract top employees, they need to create a family-friendly environment, new research suggests. Overall, about half of employers have taken steps recently to ensure their employees can spend quality time with their spouses and children, according to a study from the staffing firm OfficeTeam. Specifically, over the last five years, 49 percent of organizations have made changes to workplace policy to better accommodate working parents, while 51 percent have not made any extra effort to make it easier for employees to spend time with their families. “With half of companies offering more family-friendly benefits in recent years, the onus is on organizations that have not kept pace to revisit their policies,” Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, said in a statement. “Employers should actively promote their programs in this area to attract and retain top workers.”

One problem employers may have is that they put their resources into perks that don’t influence a working parent’s decision to join a company. The research shows that while 79 percent of employees named flexible hours as the family-friendly perk that would best convince them to work for an employer, just 68 percent of employers actually offer that option.

Conversely, the study revealed that just 3 percent of employees said maternity and paternity leave policies would influence where they decided to work, but nearly 80 percent of employers offer those policies. Additionally, just 2 percent of workers said they want their employers to offer childcare programs. However, 18 percent of the organizations surveyed offer those options. Employers also put resources into adoption benefits, but this area doesn’t affect whether employees want to work for a company, either. The study discovered that 35 percent of businesses offer some sort of adoption benefits, but none of the employees surveyed said the feature would entice them to work somewhere. “Having extra time with family can be a game changer for staff,” Britton said. “Perks like flexible schedules and telecommuting are attractive to all employees, because everyone appreciates work-life balance, whether that means being able to take care of obligations at home or pursue personal interests.”

Recruiting Strategies for Hiring

Recruiting employees can get pretty complicated. According to a report by recruiting platform Jobvite, 95 percent of HR and recruiting professionals think that the process in 2017 will be just as challenging, if not more so, than it was last year. In the 2016 Recruiter Nation Report, 69 percent reported that their company’s hiring has increased in the last 12 months. Thirty-three percent of recruiters surveyed expect to fill at least 100 positions within the next year, compared with 26 percent last year. Additionally, 86 percent do not predict layoffs in their companies.

Because of this, recruiters are offering more incentives, such as salary raises, monetary bonuses, flexible hours and a casual dress code, to make their organizations more attractive to candidates. “Job creation has been steadily increasing ever since the recession, forcing recruiters to double up their efforts to fill positions with quality candidates. But there simply aren’t enough educated, talented and qualified candidates to keep up with the demand,” Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite, said in a statement. “As a result, recruiters must now go above and beyond by creating a compelling employer brand and an exceptional candidate experience to keep their companies growing.”

“Because demand for qualified tech professionals is high and the market is favorable for job seekers, another important step employers can take to reduce turnover is to make sure their staff isn’t overworked and compensation is on par with the market,” he said, noting that long hours are common in the IT field. “If businesses want to retain their most valued staff members, they need to ensure those employees won’t be tempted to jump ship if a job offer comes along.”

Employee Holiday Gifts Ideas

Short on cash, but big on love for your employees this holiday season? Rather than get them coffee mugs or desktop Zen gardens, think outside the box and offer an intangible “perk” gift that will give them warm, fuzzy feelings about your business the whole year long. Gifts that focus on demonstrating your deep gratitude for your employees and their efforts don’t have to cost a lot (or anything at all), but chances are, they’ll appreciate those gifts more than something you spent money on. Here are a few ideas. Offer a bonus day off Give your staff members an unexpected paid day off to finish holiday shopping, spend time with their kids or do absolutely nothing. Lots of research shows that when employees take time off, it leads to an increase in morale, higher productivity and retention, and even better overall health. In fact, according to a recent GfK survey, 72 percent of managers agree that encouraging their employees to take time off makes these workers more willing to put in longer hours when needed. If you can’t afford to give employees a whole day off, allow them to leave early the day before a major holiday or work from home for a day.

While you are at it, do your business a favor and give yourself some time off, too. The GfK report also cites a 2011 Intuit study that showed that 82 percent of small business owners who took a vacation experienced an increase in job performance when they returned to work. Create a nap space Give your employees the gift of being well-rested by officially endorsing workplace naps. Transform an out-of-the-way corner of the office or clean out a never-used storage room. Equip it with the office sofa or a sleeping bag, a pillow or two, and even a white noise machine, and make it acceptable for employees to take a short nap when their energy is running low. This may be a hard sell, since being sleep-deprived is a point of pride for some people, but as the Harvard Business Review and many others have reported, there is a growing body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of getting enough sleep and its impact on work performance. Once employees take their first cap nap, they will never look back. Plan fun events that celebrate your employees’ interests According to a 2013 study by Deloitte, 75 percent of employed Americans have felt the need to hide at least one facet of their personalities when they’re in the workplace, with 51 percent saying that doing so has affected their sense of commitment to their employer. It can be exhausting and stifling to be all business, all the time. To avoid creating such an environment, offer workplace opportunities for your employees to express their interests and unique personalities. Events like a pajama day or in-house Trivial Pursuit competition don’t cost anything to coordinate, but they let employees know that you value them as individual people, not just as cogs in the wheel of your organization. Take the time to find out what interests your employees and try to work it into an office theme day. Maybe your staff of animal lovers would enjoy a “bring your pet to work day,” or your sweet-tooth employees would prefer a sundae bar one Friday afternoon. Be the reason your employees relax and connect with each other and with you over interests, hobbies and shared experiences.

How to Retain Your Tech Talent

Employers who are not attuned to the needs and frustrations of their IT staff may be facing an increase in turnover in 2017. A recent study released by Spiceworks, a social network for IT professionals, suggests that personnel losses may be imminent for companies reluctant to increase IT budgets and keep pace with technological change. Of the 476 respondents participating in the study, a sizable percentage (37 percent) said they plan to begin searching for a new employer this year, while 26 percent are gearing up to accept a new job. For many IT professionals, the prospects for career advancement at their current place of employment are slim. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed believe that they’re underpaid, and fewer than 1 out of 4 expects a salary increase greater than 5 percent. Only 12 percent are anticipating a promotion this year, and many are frustrated by the lack of support they receive from company leaders when it comes to prioritizing and funding critical IT projects.

Although a substantial number of organizations anticipates revenue growth in 2017, the Spiceworks study shows that IT budgets will, for the most part, remain flat. Specific concerns emphasized by respondents include data security, up-to-date IT infrastructure, and timely upgrades to end-of-life software and operating systems. Staying on the cutting edge Other than being motivated by higher salaries and the prospect of career advancement, IT professionals are gravitating toward employers that provide opportunities for skills development and IT certification. Cybersecurity expertise is seen by professionals as a vitally important skill set to acquire, with 62 percent saying they plan on pursuing training in that area. A majority of employers, however, do not view the issue with the same degree of urgency. In its 2017 Tech Career Outlook, Spiceworks reports that 55 percent of organizations do not currently employ or contract with a cybersecurity expert, and that companies are often hesitant to invest in security training for IT staff. The good news for IT job seekers, however, is that the tide seems to be turning. CareerBuilder, an HR management and software company, recently characterized the hiring outlook for 2017 as being “the best the U.S. has seen in a decade,” and listed information technology recruiting as a top priority for companies preparing to add personnel. Retaining IT staff Spiceworks’ IT analyst, Peter Tsai, says many IT professionals do not get the hands-on training they need to advance their careers, and that’s one of the leading reasons people are considering changing jobs this year. “One important step employers can take to reduce turnover,” he said, “is to encourage IT pros to always keep learning.” Employers can do this “by offering to pay for the training that IT pros clearly desire, in the form of technical courses, certification exams, or attendance to tech conferences,” Tsai added. Tsai believes that monetary incentives will go a long way toward retaining talented IT staff, but he says other key factors need to be considered.

Mobile Device Management That You Need

Visions of kicking back and working from the beach with a piña colada in one hand and an iPad in the other are no longer just flights of fancy for many workers. Businesses are finding that it really is possible for employees to work remotely on their own devices without losing any productivity.

 

As a result, many companies are measuring the benefits of employees working remotely against the logistical issues inherent in developing a mobile device management plan.

There are many tangible benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), including:

  • Reduced equipment costs
  • Increased employee satisfaction and efficiency
  • Decreased IT staff burden (since employees maintain their own equipment)
  • Reduced office space square footage (as workers are mostly off-site)

The risk in BYOD is that these devices can potentially expose security vulnerabilities not directly supervised by IT staff or addressed by corporate antivirus solutions. This is where the need for mobile device management comes in.

 

A new landscape of threats

Tablets and smartphones are arguably less secure than desktop PCs and laptops because they lack pre-installed malware protection. Most computers include at least a trial version of an antivirus suite, but for the newest mobile gadgets, individual users and IT managers are on their own to search for and install mobile endpoint security management.

This vulnerability has not escaped the attention of hackers, who unleash creative new threats like SMS text messaged-based attacks on a daily basis. The old-school virus, while still annoying, does not hold a candle to the damage caused by these new approaches in cybercrime, which include more sophisticated Trojans, keyloggers, phishing attacks and malicious apps than ever before.

 

Maintaining security while not breaking the bank

Enforcing a ban on these devices is a near impossibility, but there are options for businesses on a tight budget to maintain security:

  1. The first cost-effective step is to immediately establish protocols regarding these devices in the workplace, including guidelines for acceptable use, forbidden applications and how to avoid dangerous activities, such as browsing certain questionable sites while connected to the company’s Wi-Fi.
  2. Next, evaluate your current solutions to see if they can be modified to protect BYOD devices through password enforcement, remote wiping or other protective measures.
  3. If the quantity of devices or sensitivity of data requires a more robust solution, explore whether the use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software makes sense. MDM provides a centralized platform to manage all BYOD devices and is recommended if IT personnel are spending an inordinate amount of time securing tablets and smartphones – or if the sheer variety of devices and new threats tests their expertise.

Save money with secure providers

Just a few short years ago, the image of an IT department for small and medium businesses was one of Dilbert-looking technicians noodling around with Cat 5 cable and speaking in a blend of Klingon and Robot. In other words, IT seemed completely remote, complicated and inaccessible to most employees. Additionally, each new hardware and software deployment, including installing malware protection, could take weeks to manually implement across the enterprise, and rarely went smoothly.

One solution – outsourced IT – has found greater acceptance in the past few years as its benefits have become more tangible to even small businesses. It is estimated that globally, 74 percent of companies use some form of outsourced IT solution, up 25 percent from 2009.

 

Read further for compelling reasons why a small or medium business should consider the IT-outsourcing trend.

 

Cost savings

Moving IT off-site can save an SMB thousands of dollars per year. As most business decisions are predicated on the bottom line, this is often the main driver in the decision to migrate. Areas of savings include:

Reducing hardware expenses. Servers, storage, cabling, cooling, and datacenter square footage expense can now be on a cloud vendor’s dime, not yours.

No salary or benefits expenses for IT employees.

Potential tax savings by converting capital expenditures (servers), that depreciate slowly over time, to a monthly cost which can potentially be deducted in the current tax year.

 

The latest software versions – hassle-free

Outsourcing IT means software, including malware protection for endpoints, can be updated automatically by the provider. This obviates the need for a local tech to run around taking workstations offline for upgrades.

Furthermore, updating software not only unlocks newer features, but also closes exploits in older versions that might allow hacker penetration. So it’sworth exploring any platform that can make this process painless and automatic, such as a cloud service.

 

Focus on your business, not technical issues

Anyone who survived working in Corporate America from the 1980s onwards is familiar with the spectacle and lost productivity that accompanies the proverbial “system going down.”

When outsourcing IT to the cloud, this nightmare occurs less often as data is often distributed redundantly across many servers that are monitored constantly, leading to greater stability and uptime, and less worrying about IT matters.

 

Improved security

Reputable outsourced IT providers are dead serious about security against malware, zero-day hacks and other intrusions and constantly monitor and update their protection schemes.

For most SMBs, outsourcing will provide a more frequent and secure back-up solution than their existing IT setups. Furthermore, as the data is kept off-site, it is well- protected from a local catastrophe, such as a fire or flooding.

 

No new employees to manage when scaling up

Scalability is easy with outsourced IT – simply contact the vendor for more storage, memory and processors as needed. There is no longer any need for job postings, interviews, expensive training, personality clashes, worker’s compensation or other common HR issues and liabilities just to get tech personnel to handle the increased operations.

Big Data Mean to Your Business

First there was dot-com. Then web 2.0. Then cloud computing. Now it seems “big data” is catching all the headlines.

Big data is the term used to describe the enormous datasets that have grown beyond the ability for most software to capture, manage and process the information.  But volume is not the only way to define big data. The three Vs generally used to describe big data also include the multiple types – and sources – of data (variety) as well as the speed (velocity) at which data is produced.

If you need more perspective, think about this for a second: According to IBM, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created over the past two years. That amounts to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day.

 

How can big data help me?

Big data may seem to be a bit out of reach for SMBs, non-profits and government agencies that don’t have the funds to buy into this trend. After all, big usually means expensive right?

But big data isn’t really about using more resources; it’s about effectively using the resources at hand. Take this analogy from Christopher Frank of Forbes who likened big data to the movie Moneyball: “If you have read Moneyball, or seen the movie, you witnessed the power of big data – it is the story about the ability to compete and win with few resources and limited dollars. This sums up the hopes and challenge of business today.”

Specifically, it shows how organizations with limited financial resources can stay competitive and grow. But first, you have to understand where you can find this data and what you can do with it.

 

Big data strategies

Ideally, big data can help resource-strapped organizations:

  • Target their market
  • Make better decisions
  • Measure feelings and emotions

 

Targeted marketing

Small businesses can’t compete with the enormous advertising budgets that large corporations have at their disposal. To remain in the game, they need to spend less to reach qualified buyers. This is where it becomes essential to analyze and measure data to target the person most likely to convert.

There is so much data freely accessible through tools like Google Insights that organizations can pinpoint exactly what people are looking for, when they are looking for it and where they are located. For example, the CDC used big data provided by Google to analyze the number of searches related to the flu. With this data, they were able to focus efforts where there was a greater need for flu vaccines. The same can be done for other products.

Opportunity for businesses of all sizes

The Apple iPad and its many Android “sincere flatterers” have comprehensively shaken up the market for mobile computing; in fact, the late Steve Jobs coined the phrase “post-PC for just this situation.

The days of the traditional laptop computer may not be totally over, but is a hinged screen-keyboard combo the only tool for serious mobile work? Nope. Here are five reasons why….

 

1. For content creation, just add keyboard

Tablets are great for content consumption. Hit the button, and you’re immediately scrolling through Web pages, YouTube videos, annoyed avians and the like. This can lead to the impression that tablets are only good for passively consuming; that they’re no use for creating content, such as documents, spreadsheets and other staples of business life, but that’s short-sighted.

Obviously, tablets’ on-screen keyboards aren’t easy or ergonomic typing tools. However, there’s a wide range of Bluetooth options available that can turn an iPad or Android tablet into a lean, mean, writing machine.

 

But if you’re going to add a keyboard to your tablet, why wouldn’t you just buy a laptop? The next three reasons answer that…

 

2. ARM = light weight + long battery life

PC and Mac laptops are built around the Intel processor architecture, using chips from either Intel or AMD. Often known as x86, the architecture is great for compatibility with the PCs we’ve used for years, but it’s encumbered with historical baggage that makes x86 machines hot, heavy and hungry for battery juice. Modern laptops have improved but are still a world away from today’s tablets.

Most tablets break from Intel’s historical hegemony by using chips designed by ARM. These so-called system-on-a-chip architectures use much less power than x86 – especially when idle. This and modern battery technology can give tablets a 10-hour life and weeks of standby readiness, which means you can get more work done on the go.

Intel is fighting back, though the jury’s still out on whether it can compete. Intel tablets will at least be able to run the full version of Windows 8, as opposed to the cut-down, ARM-only Windows RT.

 

3. Cellular data: a first-class citizen

Today’s tablets often include access to 3G and 4G/LTE networks. The data networking technology is seamlessly integrated, so that you can switch between it and Wi-Fi with no noticeable interruption.

That’s much cleaner than the typical Windows or Mac laptop with an add-on 3G dongle; the difference being that cellular data was designed into tablets from the get-go. So there’ll be fewer excuses to not get the presentation finished on time.

 

4. Seriously cool sci-fi toys today

Who can forget countless Star Trek episodes where an impractically uniformed ensign brought a portable device to Capt. Kirk for him to sign off on some Starfleet paperwork? These sort of science-fiction visions drive gadget designers to invent the future… and who doesn’t want to live in the future?

Don’t deny tablets’ “cool factor.” Your users want to use them, they want to be seen using them, and they’ll thank you for letting them use tablets in business. (However, make sure you stay safe by protecting against Romulan malware and the Klingon drive-by.)

 

5. The phablet trend

There’s also a place in some users’ hearts for a tablet that’s also a phone. In today’s Brangelina world, some refer to these hybrid phone-tablets as phablets: big phones that are also small tablets. Why carry two devices, when you can have one?

We first saw this trend emerge in 2010, with the 5-inch Dell Streak. More recently, Samsung made a splash with its 5.3-inch Galaxy Note. They’re not for everyone, but they do have a growing niche and could translate into greater productivity.

Employees used to stay chained to their cubicles

Employees are increasingly using their own devices as the mobile workforce grows in importance. A Computing Technology Industry Association study found that 84 percent of professionals surveyed use their smartphones for work, but only 22 percent of their companies had a formal mobility policy. The upshot of this mobile shift is that corporate networks will be increasingly vulnerable, unless these devices are reined in with a BYOD enterprise program.

If your company lacks a mobility policy, consider incorporating the following five elements into your BYOD program to save time and money.

 

1. Include clear, written rules

Eliminating risky end user behavior through clear BYOD policies saves IT expenses right off the bat. Some of the most salient points to cover in writing include:

  • Prohibited devices, such as jailbroken phones
  • Blacklisted applications
  • Procedures for lost or stolen devices, including the possibility of wiping out all data on a device
  • Privacy disclosures, such as what personal information the enterprise has access to on a device

Some of these issues, like whether the company can legally wipe out data on a device they do not own, should be cleared with your human resources and legal departments to minimize the risk of lawsuits.

 

2. Make sure it’s formally presented

It is not enough to have employees sign off that they have read the policies – formal classroom or online training is recommended to ensure comprehension and compliance – especially for less tech-savvy workers who might not understand that seemingly innocent actions can expose the company to risks.

 

3. Ensure that it’s scalable and flexible

Make sure your security software can be painlessly installed on new devices. Cloud-based services do this particularly well and are typically available on a per-user subscription model, which saves money by protecting only what is needed at any given time.

Also, consider exceptions to rules, such as allowing peer-to-peer networking programs for certain users who might benefit from these tools. Otherwise, employees may risk bypassing your security protocols in order to use forbidden applications.

 

4. Secure against the greatest number of threats possible

Risky behavior such as opening email attachments from strangers or visiting dubious sites on BYOD devices should be addressed in the written policies and further safeguarded via antivirus software.

There are other exploits to be aware of, which might not be as obvious, such as fake antivirus scanners that users might innocently install, and social engineering (or phishing) threats. A good endpoint protection program will keep employees up-to-date on these lesser-known attack vectors and continually inform them on how to best protect their devices. This does not require much expense but does involve staying abreast of threats and implementing a solid communication plan.