Thursday, June 28, 2012

Expertise in aviation components applied to distribution to expand opportunities

Memphis Business Journal
Date: Friday, April 13, 2012, 5:00am CDT

Andy Ashby
Staff writer- Memphis Business Journal
Marcellus Montalvo and Mario Ordonez of InterSky Precision Instruments perform tests on electronic components used in the aviation industry.

Alan Howell | MBJ Marcellus Montalvo and Mario Ordonez of InterSky Precision Instruments perform tests on electronic components used in the aviation industry.

InterSky Precision Instruments Inc. is expanding its horizon to expand its business.

Memphis Skyline HDR [Reinhard]
Memphis Skyline HDR [Reinhard] (Photo credit: Exothermic)
The 32-year-old company, which has made its name in aviation component maintenance, sees growth possibilities using the same skills but in different industries.

It’s part of the company’s versatility.

InterSky mainly repairs cockpit instrumentation for commercial, corporate and government aircraft, but also fixes aircraft lighting, probes and accessories such as fans or motors. It also calibrates equipment.

Originally launched in North Hollywood, Calif., the business migrated to Memphis to be a supplier to FedEx Corp. 13 years ago.

FedEx A310 and A300 cargo aircraft fly daily f...
FedEx A310 and A300 cargo aircraft fly daily from Memphis and Indianapolis to GSO. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
FedEx was developing its supplier diversity program and since InterSky is a 100 percent Hispanic-owned business, the company thought it would give Memphis a shot.

“There was no promise of business, there was just a handshake and (founder) Hernan (Montalvo) took a shot on his own dime,” Marcellus Montalvo, president, says.

When the company moved to Memphis, the Tunica casino building boom was happening and it was hard to find contractors to build out InterSky’s office space.

Montalvo’s uncle and a friend flew to Memphis to teach the 12 families who moved here for the company how to do the construction work on the FAA-approved facility.

“Everyone literally learned on the fly,” Montalvo says. “That’s the roots of the company.”

While InterSky handles repairs for companies such as Boeing, FedEx, and the U.S. Air Force, it has been looking to expand its business model.

“The aviation business is very capital intensive, especially for a small business,” David Hughes, vice president of government services, says.

For example, the company’s inventory has a commercial value of more than $30 million.

They took their problem-solving prowess and decided to go beyond aviation.

Its core competency is fixing electronic equipment such as microcircuitry boards, which run everything from slot machines to public utilities. So InterSky applied that expertise to help Fred’s Inc.

PCB with testpads
PCB with testpads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Memphis-based discount retailer has a major distribution center in Memphis with an automated system that has more than 4,000 small, printed circuit boards. The system was giving Fred’s problems, but the company didn’t have schematics to guide repairs.

“We basically reverse-engineered our repair capabilities just from the broken boards we were looking at,” Montalvo says.

InterSky’s employees learned how the system worked, then figured out the problems.

InterSky has also expanded existing relationships for growth opportunities. The Great Recession impacted many of InterSky’s partners.

InterSky responded by partnering with companies with complementary parts and services. When talking with a manufacturer, for instance, they asked to add maintenance components.

“We’re looking for companies where we can say ‘We can add to what you’re already doing,’” Montalvo says. “That’s so we can service a broader customer base through partnerships.”

Southern California Aviation LLC has been working with InterSky for just over a year.
The company, which stores and maintains mainly commercial aircraft, sends equipment to InterSky for repair and recertification.

“Compared to other vendors I’ve dealt with, their open line of communication is 100 percent,” Lisa Mullaney, purchasing manager, says. “I’ll send something and as soon as it gets there, they let me know. As soon as he knows what’s wrong with it, he’s sending a formal estimate.”

InterSky is apparently following the old business maxim of “under promise and over deliver,” as Mullaney often gets equipment back faster than InterSky’s employees say they would.

“I’ve found I haven’t had to follow up with them, as they’re very proactive,” she says. “Some vendors it’ll go a week or two and I’ll have to call them.”
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Perched on a Precipice

The Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, expected this week, will shake up health-benefits plans, one way or another.

June 25, 2012
CFO Magazine
Russ Banham

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...
English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, … is vulnerable to dismantlement. Now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is exploring the constitutionality of the law’s “individual mandate” requiring U.S. residents to purchase health insurance, the legislation could collapse in part or in full after the decision is rendered, which is scheduled to happen this week.

It’s impossible to know which way the court will vote on the mandate, but many observers predict a 5-4 ruling, one way or the other. If the court upholds the mandate, … compliance with its multiyear litany of reforms will continue for both health insurers and employers. If not, the court could rule that other parts of the legislation must fall, including elements companies have already complied with… .

The government contends that if the mandate is unconstitutional, only the community-rating and guaranteed-issue provisions must fall. The former requires that all policyholders in an area or “community” pay the same premium, regardless of their personal health, age, gender, or other factors. The latter provision eliminates discrimination by insurers based on a person’s health status.

The plaintiffs in the case, including 26 states, argue that without the individual mandate, the entire law must be struck down.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Premium Payments Under PPACA
Maximum Out-of-Pocket Premium Payments Under PPACA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sticker Shock
It’s likely that without the mandate, any remaining features of the law would suddenly cost more. “The mandate brings more than 30 million uninsured people, most of them young and healthy, into the health-insurance market,” explains Shawn Nowicki, director of health policy at nonprofit health-insurance exchange HealthPass New York. That population is not likely to use the health-care system much or be a cause of big medical-cost increases. “As ‘good risks,’ they would bring down rates for insurers and the average premiums paid by employers. If that giant enrollment is gone, the other reforms hinged to the mandate would be out of balance and cost more.”

English: House Bill and Senate Bill subsidies ...
English: House Bill and Senate Bill subsidies for health insurance premiums. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In addition, the Act provides federal subsidization of insurance premiums for people in households with income up to 400% of the poverty line, and gives a generous tax credit to small businesses that migrate to a health-insurance exchange. But the plan is for the government to pay for those subsidies, and other elements of the law, partly through a share of insurers’ revenue windfall from the new insureds. “Both of those bits of federal largesse were predicated, in part, on the additional premium dollars generated through the individual mandate,” notes Steven Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).

The financial shortfall from losing the 30 million new insureds could be at least partly mitigated by new laws raising both the No Coverage and Free Rider penalties levied against employers under the Act. …“To continue the subsidies, the government may simply raise the employer penalties to make up the difference,” says Wojcik.

If the mandate is ruled unconstitutional but the rest of the law remains intact, the Obama Administration might propose other methods of avoiding adverse selection (which, in this context, would be a scenario where people with high-cost medical profiles comprise a disproportionately large segment of the insured population).

“We might see a late-enrollment penalty for individuals, in addition to the Free Rider and No Coverage penalties,” says J.D. Piro, senior vice president at Aon Hewitt, where he leads the health-law consulting group Piro. “But frankly, if the President and Congress had a better idea than the individual mandate, they would have come out with it. Without it, everything is subject to scrutiny and revision.”

Employee Pain
Meanwhile, if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional and, as a result, the entire law falls, employers will have to make some tough decisions regarding provisions of the Act they’ve already complied with that are popular with employees. These include requirements that employer-sponsored insurance cover dependent children through age 26 as well as everybody with preexisting conditions, and a prohibition on lifetime dollar caps for essential benefits like hospital stays.

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Therein lays a dilemma for employers: to eliminate those features, …companies … would confront both human-capital and corporate-reputational issues. “Many employers are having a tough time finding talent, and especially technical talent,” says Tami Simon, managing director of knowledge resources for Buck Consultants. “Those that are thinking about all this right now are obviously challenged in trying to design their benefit plans for 2013 and maybe even 2014.”

… “Even without the mandate, many will continue to offer it because we’re not talking about a lot of money, given the youth and health of that population,” predicts William Sarraille, a partner and health-care group leader at law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

“Insuring people with preexisting medical conditions and lifetime caps, on the other hand, is pretty darn expensive,” Sarraille continues. “Maybe states will take that on in the health-insurance exchanges many of them are developing. I’m not optimistic about that, but for large employers it will definitely be financially problematical.” …

Whatever decisions companies make, “they need to ensure that their health plan aligns with both their talent objectives and employees’ expectations,” says Arthur Tacchino, associate professor of health insurance at The American College, an insurance-education institution.

Cutting Costs
What else should employers be doing now to prepare for the possibility of the individual mandate dying on the vine, not to mention the vine itself perishing? … “If you decide to eliminate preexisting conditions, you need to explain why — that you’ve analyzed the cost and it just isn’t feasible,” Sarraille says. “But maybe you can continue with things you can afford, such as dependent-children coverage.”

English: Parran Hall, home to the University o...
English: Parran Hall, home to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
… Everette James, professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, recommends that health insurers and plan sponsors implement technology tools that reduce associated administrative expenses. “Electronic health records, for instance, provide much better chronic-care coordination, and right now chronic care makes up 70% of all health-care costs,” he explains. “Also, tracking services more closely will help eliminate waste and fraud, and reducing duplication of expenses by multiple providers doing the same tests will also cut costs.”

Tanvir Hussain, a Los Angeles–based cardiologist and former adjunct professor of bioethics at Pepperdine Law School, wants employees to be held more accountable for their health. “By incorporating stronger incentive frameworks into employer-sponsored plans, companies can reduce health-care costs and minimize lost productivity due to illness,” he asserts.

… “Health-care choices are traditionally thought of as personal,” he says, “but maybe they shouldn’t be when they affect others in such a significant way.”

That point has little to do with partisan rhetoric or legal wrangling, and some employers are on to it. Whole Foods, for instance, provides discounts to its supermarket employees for lowering their BMI (body mass index), and The Cleveland Clinic recently made news for its new policy of hiring only nonsmokers. As Hussain sees it, “These are health-care reforms that companies can make on their own,” mandate or no mandate.

Solomon-Like Decisions
Even if the Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate, tough decisions would be in store for employers. The Act’s nuances, particularly in relation to health-plan costs, invite a wide range of corporate responses. Consequently, best practices will take time to form around ways to contain plan expenses and still preserve the value of health insurance as a means of attracting, motivating, and retaining top-notch talent.

… “Companies that have been holding back on employment and investment decisions would now know what to plan for,” says Wojcik.

From a cost standpoint, those plans might include hiring fewer employees or replacing full-time workers with part-time help, as the law does not require health insurance for the latter. A similar cost-effective strategy might be hiring more skilled workers outside the United States. “When you add rising health-care costs to the talent squeeze going on in the United States, it’s simply less attractive to create jobs here,” says Helen Darling, chief executive of the NBGH.

Such decisions are particularly difficult given the potential for political backlash. Less-divisive ways to harness plan expenses include carefully choosing among the growing types of health-care delivery models, partnering with health-care providers to pare rising costs through more automated payment processes, shifting some cost burdens onto employees via deductibles and co-payment strategies, and skillfully negotiating with providers to reduce premiums.

Exchanges to the Rescue?
Smaller employers, those with 100 or fewer employees, will be able to choose among the federally subsidized, private health-insurance exchanges that are scheduled to become operational in at least two dozen states by 2014. These quasigovernmental entities are designed to provide health insurance more cost-efficiently.

Larger employers can use the exchanges come 2017. …And, since employers’ dealings with insurers through the exchanges will be transparent, large employers can begin leveraging that information in their own negotiations with insurers starting in 2014.

The exchanges are designed with four tiers of coverage, each priced accordingly. Determining which plan is right requires balancing the cost against the impact on human capital.

“You can probably measure the impact on talent retention from choosing the lowest-cost plan and gauging how many employees might leave the company and the average turnover costs that represents,” says Tacchino. “But it’s going to be tough to put a number on morale and productivity. A key employee might feel the company is no longer investing in him or her and start working less diligently. Employers have to weigh such possibilities in their decisions.” …

Lessons from the Past
Assisting such deliberations are the lessons learned in Hawaii and Massachusetts, each with insurance mandates similar to those in the Act. Hawaii’s mandate, for instance, requires that private-sector employers provide health-insurance coverage to employees working at least 20 hours per week on a regular basis. Only 8% of Hawaiians currently lack insurance, compared with 15% nationally.

“When the Hawaii law was passed in 1974, concerns arose that it would compel employers to lower wages as a cost-effective response to the financial burden. But that did not happen,” says Nancy Sayre, assistant chair of the department of health professions at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she teaches health economics. What occurred instead was an increasing reliance by employers on part-time workers exempt from the law.

Wojcik postulates a similar response nationally, assuming the Act remains intact. “Companies know the cost of labor will go up if the individual mandate is upheld, and they will decide whether to hire fewer people, though if they’re in an industry where they can shift to more part-time employees, they probably will do that,” he says.

Some companies may simply decide to forgo providing health insurance to their employees and suffer the
Act’s No Coverage penalty. This “pay-or-play” tax, … is easy to calculate — the number of full-time employees minus 30, times $2,000 per worker. The Boston Globe recently presented anecdotal evidence indicating that many employers in Massachusetts, which imposes a comparatively low $300 penalty per uninsured employee, are eliminating health coverage and paying the fines instead.

Other employers may temporarily opt out, analyze the outcome, and reverse course. Still others may wait to see what competitors do.

Also easy to measure is the Act’s Free Rider penalty of $3,000 per employee for providing a health-insurance plan deemed to be of low value and unaffordable. More difficult to measure is the impact on talent recruitment, productivity, and retention, not to mention the reputational repercussions of no longer providing health benefits.

Meanwhile, there is another important wrinkle to the individual mandate; indeed, to the entire Act: the fact that this is an election year. If Republicans take the White House and the Senate and, as they’ve vowed, repeal much of the legislation, whether they will maintain the more popular provisions of the Act is open to debate.

“In a lame-duck session where political compromises have to be made, perhaps even die-hard Republicans will give an inch on certain reforms in return for Democratic pullbacks on the Bush tax cuts and automatic cuts to military spending,” Sarraille says.

Darling offers another take: “Even if the Republicans don’t succeed in repealing ‘Obama-care,’ as they call it, they can still play a lot of mischief.”
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Dan Gilbert asks, Why are we happy?

Video on

Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. …

“Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. In our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.” (Dan Gilbert)
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Friday, June 15, 2012

When the Boomers Go

CFO Magazine – June 2012
Russ Banham

The coming retirement of the baby boomers could leave businesses short of critical knowledge and skills. Make sure that doesn’t happen to your company.

Thanks to its sheer size, the baby-boom generation has had an enormous impact on society and the economy at every stage of its development. The present time is no exception, as Americans born between 1946 and 1964, currently accounting for one-third of the workforce, begin to enter their golden years. Many boomers are postponing retirement… But many others are ready to retire, and sooner or later, the boomers will be leaving the workplace in droves.

When they do, employers face the loss of all that experience, all that institutional and subject-matter knowledge and expertise.

Human Resources
Human Resources (Photo credit: zachstern)
“Everyone knew that boomers were getting older and would soon be retiring, but when the financial crisis hit and many stayed on, companies sort of postponed their reactions,” says Colleen O’Neill, talent management leader for North America at Mercer, the human-resources consulting firm. “Now boomers are leaving, thanks to rising 401(k) values, and it’s time to take action.”

Many companies are just catching on to the impending exodus. Some are bringing in consultants to ferret out the skill-set gaps that will materialize. Others are developing knowledge-transfer and mentoring programs to get younger workers up to speed. Still other companies are creating flexible work environments where cash-strapped boomers can return to work on a part-time or project basis.

Society for Human Resource Management
Society for Human Resource Management (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some employers, boomers waving good-bye to the office is good news, given their generally higher pay and benefits. But the loss of human and knowledge capital is potentially dire for the bulk of organizations in industries like manufacturing, technology, engineering, and accounting. According to a recent poll of employers conducted by the AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management, 72% of HR managers stated that the loss of talented older workers was “a problem” or “a potential problem.”

… “Organizations are running much leaner than ever before, and there are not a lot of extra people to pick up the slack when someone exits,” says Jackie Greaner, talent management and organization alignment practice leader for North America at human-resources consultancy Towers Watson. “Companies need to do a better job of identifying critical skills and planning for their inevitable loss.”
The Knowledge Checklist

The Baby Boomers’ 60th birthday
The Baby Boomers’ 60th birthday (Photo credit: Christchurch City Libraries)

Approximately 4.6 American adults will turn 65 every minute of 2012, and by 2015 that number will increase, to 8, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. …

The first order of business is to get the facts straight by determining the organization’s skill sets, and a good way to start is by assessing which people are truly strategic. “Some skills you can fill easily,” says O’Neill. “It’s the singular, hard-to- find skills that take a while to replace that create risk.”

Lockheed Martin Space Systems instituted a project 10 years ago to identify and assess employees’ skills to prepare for future voids in intellectual capabilities. “We realized we had senior people who were very technically expert in our complex systems, were known to our customers, and would be eligible to retire in a few years,” recalls Tory Bruno, president of Lockheed Martin’s strategic and missile defense systems unit. “We needed to identify this knowledge and find ways to successfully transfer it.”

Bruno’s unit began by identifying critical skills needed by the business, and going through a detailed interview process to understand what it was that made certain employees experts. …

Armed with this data, Lockheed Martin now teaches advanced skills to less-experienced employees through its Critical Skills Management Program. The program pairs up a junior employee with an expert, who becomes his or her mentor. A member of the management team, typically the manager of the junior employee, is part of the equation, planning and arranging assignments for the protégé to absorb the required knowledge. … [Bruno explains, ]“The respective tasks in the process become part of each employee’s performance review,” … “At the end of the process, we have a graduation ceremony, where the protégé is certified as an expert by the mentor and manager.”

Corey Leal, director of finance in Bruno’s operating unit, says the program has significant financial value. “Assuring that our technical employees have the expertise needed to support our core competencies means less reliance on subcontractors and, ultimately, greater profitability for our business,” he says.
Accelerated Learning
For some companies, traditional mentoring processes may not work quickly enough. “Seven years to transfer rare skills may be too long,” says Mercer’s O’Neill. “But if you can create ways to accelerate this to two or three years using software and scenario- planning tools, you will be ahead of the eight ball.”

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10:  A man walks out o...
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10: A man walks out of the Duke Energy Center at 550 South Tryon St., one of two buildings that house Duke Energy's headquarters January 10, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Duke Energy, for one, used a software tool to pass on institutional knowledge. “We had lots of manuals, drawings, and other informational assets about our existing power stations and brand-new ones, but what we lacked was the human element, which wasn’t included in these documents,” says Arnold Fry, manager of substation engineering standards and power delivery engineering at the Charlotte, North Carolina– based electric utility.

Duke Energy scheduled a series of interviews with senior engineers, in which questions were asked about their functions. The responses were then digitized using the software tool. “In the old days, a younger worker would shadow an older one, …,” says Fry. “This type of mentoring is fine when you have the time, but now there are too many older workers ready to retire, and far fewer younger ones to come up the ranks.

“Now when people retire, their experience is preserved and can be passed on to future generations,” says Fry. “And you are able to access knowledge from multiple people.”

The need to compress the training time frame is critical in the electric power industry. “According to a recent report by the IEEE Power and Engineering Society, 51% of electric power engineers will be eligible to retire by 2014,” says Geoff Zeiss, director of the utility industry program at software-maker Autodesk. “Utilities are losing experienced workers and are having a tough time replacing them with younger workers. This elevates knowledge transfer to a strategic necessity.”
Out and Still About
Another way to bridge the skills gap is to hire boomers who have retired from their old jobs but still want to work. “Almost half of adults aged 65 to 69 receive wages, salaries, or income from self-employment,” points out Samantha Greenfield, employer engagement specialist at The Sloan Center on Aging &Work.

… Many have joined organizations that provide skilled workers to companies needing them on a part-time or even full-time basis. The National Older Worker Career Center, for instance, specializes in recruiting and providing skilled engineers, scientists, technicians, and other professionals for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re an executive search firm, except these executives are in their 60s, 70s, and older,” says Joel Reaser, NOWCC senior vice president. “… Our oldest, at 92, just retired for good this time.”

Reaser says the steady exit of baby boomers from the workforce is having an adverse effect on the federal government, which can’t find enough younger talent to pick up the slack. The solution is to recruit and employ experienced retired people until younger workers get up to speed. “Organizations are not going to have an option about whether or not to hire older workers—the demographics insist on it,” says Reaser, who is 72. “This isn’t, ‘Let’s hire older people because they’re nice to have around.’ There are few other choices.”

A few issues of SHRM's monthly publication HR ...
A few issues of SHRM's monthly publication HR Magazine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Employers will have to adapt to an older cohort of workers, says Reaser. “Just like the accommodations that were made when women entered the workforce in large numbers a generation ago, …,” he says. “These include preventive health care and health maintenance, flexible work arrangements, and valuing ‘power naps’ in the middle of the day.”

Yoh, another staffing agency, also specializes in providing seasoned workers as short- and long-term temporary workers, in its case to the telecom, technology, aerospace, life sciences, and entertainment industries. “Companies are looking for highly technical legacy experience as much as they want younger people with cutting-edge technology skills,” says Matt Rivera, Yoh’s director of customer solutions. …

The Human Resources Manager
The Human Resources Manager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One novel staffing resource is work campers—retirees with specialized skills who travel from city to city in recreational vehicles to fill in where they are needed. “These are sought-after workers for ‘bridge’ assignments,” says Joan Davison, president and COO of Staff Management SMX, a managed staffing and recruiting services provider based in Chicago. “They have exited the workforce, but they still want that feeling of engagement, in addition to the extra income. If they live in Minnesota, they might be enticed to spend the winter in Southern California for two months in a technical capacity.” …

O’Neill points out that many companies are forming retiree networks internally. “A lot of technology firms are creating these affiliate networks, where they take a cadre of recent retirees and bring them in on consulting assignments,” she explains. “We’re actually thinking of something similar here at Mercer. We have a whole category of people who are going to leave the business, and we’re investigating the idea of them coming back part-time as consultants in a more systematic way.”
The Fourth Generation
Adding a fourth generation to the work environment is a good thing, contends Rivera. “The composition of the workforce is changing out of necessity,” he says. “If you’re going to be competitive today, you have to appreciate the generational differences. Young people—the millennial generation—are looking for openness, transparency, and a sense of meaning in employment, whereas pre-boomers and boomers seek ways to spread their knowledge. Blending this is the real trick.” (See “Bridging Generation Gaps,” ...)

… Many businesses with benefit plans stipulate that employees will receive a stated percentage of the highest salary they received in the five years before their retirement, Reaser notes. “If they stay on in some capacity at lower annual compensation, they run into the risk of a lower pension,” he says. “Obviously, the rules need to change.”

Changing such rules and providing flexible work arrangements for older workers serve yet another purpose: helping companies ease high-paid employees out the door. Mercer does this by offering a senior consultant in a leadership role the opportunity to move laterally into a client-facing position at lower pay. “This only works if you have the right conversation with the older worker, affirming that he or she still has a place in which to contribute,” O’Neill cautions.

The concept may have appeal to boomers. “There are many boomers who no longer want to work full-time, yet wouldn’t mind moving into an encore career,” says Ted Fishman, author of Shock of Gray, a 2010 book on the aging of the world’s population. Davison concurs. “Corporate America is recognizing that you can’t simply push the workforce out the door anymore—certainly not boomers,” she says. “You need ways of accommodating them.”

Bridging Generation Gaps

connecting workers of all ages can be a challenge
.With many baby boomers and pre-boomers staying on in a variety of roles at their companies, today’s workforce is looking a bit like a family reunion, with as many as four generations sitting at the table engaging in oft-cumbersome conversations.

Getting four generations to agree on anything is difficult, but in the workplace, effective communication and collaboration are imperative. … “Each generation has very distinct methods of communicating,” says Jascha Kaykas-Wolf, chief marketing officer of Mindjet, a maker of collaborative work management software. “For instance, many pre-boomers focus on building personal relationships, [while] many millennials use social collaboration tools like Facebook and Skype to communicate and collaborate. It’s a big struggle to keep all this intellectual capital working together effectively.”

This was the case at California State University in Chico, where, … ages range from professors and administrators nearing age 65 to students still in their teens. The wide difference in ages hindered the university’s ability to create a collaborative working environment in preparing Cal State’s annual town-hall meeting, a oneday event in which students, faculty, administrators and community members gather to hear various speakers discuss public-interest topics.

Thia Wolf, an English professor and director of the university’s first-year experience program, acknowledges that she and her students communicate and work differently. “I’m in my mid-50s and am used to e-mail and faxing in an office environment, whereas they are communicating using smartphones and social media on the go,” she says. “In putting together the town hall, they rebelled against me drawing up diagrams of the seating arrangements, … which I planned to fax or scan and e-mail. That was too long and inefficient, they argued.”

The university tapped a Mindjet product called Mindjet Connect to bridge the generation gap. The software uses brainstorming and task management capabilities as well as social media and integrated online sources in the cloud like Google and Twitter to capture, organize, and communicate information. This allows a multigenerational team to plan and stay current on a project, no matter what devices they use. So, for example, Wolf stays connected via her desktop with students who collaborate using their smartphones.

Banking giant Wells Fargo is … piloting a master’s-level certificate program that pairs up members of its Boomers Connection network with its Young Professionals network in Minnesota. Graduates receive an MA in organizational leadership certificate from St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul/Minneapolis.

“The goal is to get older people to work alongside younger people who work very differently than they do, and vice versa, to appreciate each other’s learning and work styles,” says Philomena Morrissey Satre, vice president of diversity and inclusion for the bank’s Mountain Midwest region. This year’s graduating class of 12 includes seasoned banking executives as well as newer hires. ◗ R.B.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

75% of employees would accept a job with a more robust benefits package, take a cut in pay

Employee Benefit Adviser

By Marli D. Riggs

June 7, 2012

Aflac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost half (49%) of U.S. workers are at least somewhat likely to look for a job this year, but there is undeniable evidence linking benefits offerings and employee loyalty, according to the 2012 Aflac WorkForces report.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25:  Employment seekers...
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Employment seekers attend the 'JobExpo' employment fair at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway hotel on January 25, 2012 in New York City. While the nation's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5 percent, unemployment remains a key topic in this year's election. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Employees who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits program are nine times more likely to stay with their employer, compared to those workers who are dissatisfied with their benefits program. Similarly, when asked what their current employer could do to keep them in their jobs, 49% responded, “improve my benefits package.”

Workers are even willing to take a decrease in pay for a better benefits package….

… The study found that on average, 10% of companies across the U.S. are decreasing all their ancillary benefits options. Many others are decreasing a portion of their benefits options, leaving employees with fewer choices for coverage and protection.

… 57% of respondents say that having a comprehensive overall benefits package will play an important role in a decision to leave a current employer. This reinforces the fact that companies with underperforming or non-comprehensive benefits programs may be in danger of losing important members of their workforce. …

Workers most likely to leave their employers are considering doing so because of financial concerns. Nearly half (49%) believe their families will not be financially secure in the event of an unexpected emergency, and 17% of those looking for a new job believe that the financial condition of their household will worsen in the next 12 months. …
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Joachim de Posada says, Don't eat the marshmallow yet

Marshmallow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joachim de Posada says, Don't eat the marshmallow yet | Video on

In this short talk from TED U, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification -- and how it can predict future success. With priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow.

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