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Think of the Teens!

I had lunch today with an old friend and we were talking about generating more business. I found myself extolling the virtues of LinkedIn, the Chamber, this network group, that network group, business after hours events, early morning meetings and more.

“Its all about getting out where no one else is,” I noted in a less than profound observation.

“You’re right but when do I spend time with the kids?” she replied.

Oh those pesky kids! And teenagers at that! My animals grew up a long time ago and do fine with no intervention from me, but that wasn’t always the case. One day my wife came home early and discovered my 14 year old watching an over the top video on MTV. The next day I came home and the daughter asks,

“Dad is there something wrong with the TV?”

“Well, why do you ask?,” I said grinning.

“Because MTV won’t come on!” she replied with a sad look on her face.

“Oh, its not broken, we had it turned off!” I said laughing.  (She was one mad teenager!)

In my current place of employment we have lots of younger staff with babies and young children. We do many things to accommodate that population. I guess I had not been around teens for such a long time that I forgot how much time and life force they can suck out of you.

When they are teens, we assume they will go home, play video games and eat without supervision. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and other researchers have established that major shenanigans go on after school, including reproduction, too much internet and drug use.

As employers we ought to consider the needs of parents with teens when looking at schedules and workloads. The next generation needs quality time whether they know it or not and they’ll be paying my social security some day!



Grandkids and Employees

I recently had the pleasure of having 4 of my 6 grandkids in my backyard and they are a whacky bunch! The oldest was 8 and the youngest 3. They are certainly all different. Extroverts, Introverts, Leaders, Followers. They show their emotions and mostly they are happy. They do have disputes and some physical confrontations! Kind of like employees…(hopefully not the physical part!)

Overall they’re a well behaved bunch and while their parents are pretty smart, they’re not child development experts, (that would be my wife!) The major thing these parents do is provide consistent guidance to these microhumans. Repetition of the same directives, progressive discipline, but no terminations!

Consider how hard it is to be consistent with employees. They do have some of the same traits as my grandkids but in addition they don’t take things at face value. A supervisor occasionally imposes a new policy. They want to analyze direction and develop an alternative approach. The supervisor is then put in the position of deciding whether changing course is going to impact their authority if they follow a suggestion.

Optimally, spend a few minutes brainstorming with the affected employee(s) before making grand announcements and build some consensus. You’ll feel better for being consistent and employees will respect you for having given them the chance for input.

How Safe is Your Computer Hardware?

We have all been in offices where computer hardware is set up in open areas without much thought being given to security. The smaller the office, the more dangerous this practice becomes. A small number of staff that handle many jobs and occasionally have to use the restroom will end up leaving the equipment unprotected.

Would someone really steal an office computer? Such events happen frequently and oftentimes don’t get reported because the business owner does not want customers or patients to know the event took place. How hard is it to prevent such a theft? Here are some simple strategies:

• Restrain desktops with a cable and lock secured to a wall or desk. Thieves are lazy and contrary to popular belief, rarely carry bolt cutters.

• Laptops should never be set down in open areas. Easy to pick up and conceal under clothing, these units can be stolen in a matter of seconds. When not in use place them in an office to open to the public. At night, lock them in a cabinet or a locked office. Smartphones and iPad like devices should be treated similarly.

• Put USB blockers in unused USB ports to prevent a data thief from inserting a flash drive and gathering your files for his use.

Simple? Yes. Effective? Yes Willingness of staff to accept? Let the whining begin and stick to your plan!  One HIPAA breach could cost you $5 million!

Alzheimer’s and Human Emulation

Now that I’m fortunate enough to be managing a neurological practice, I’ve been thinking about how technology could be useful to an useful an Alzheimer’s patient. Northwest Neurological is the last independent neurological practice in Spokane and not surprisingly, our primary neurologist David Greeley, encourages independent thinking. Dr. Greeley and his team see a number of Alzheimer’s folks and we know that by 2050, one out of every 80 people in the United States is going to have the disease.

Applying technology to enhance the quality of life among this group seems like a good strategy. After doing previous research and writing a guest blog for Next IT I know just enough about emulation to be dangerous. So, think about how the person could at least in the early stages of the disease, log in and be reminded about critical things that they want to remember. Imagine an avatar with a voice.

The patient has a sign by their computer to remind them to log in and the site is their home page. After logging in the avatar says, “Good morning. Which information items listed below would you like me to speak to you about this morning?” The patient and their family or friends have assisted in developing a number of questions that will help keep the patient feeling more mentally able longer. The list might look something like this:

 What is today’s date and day?

What is my daily schedule?

What do I like to eat in the morning?

Who am I married to or who was I married to?

What are the names of my children and their children and where do they live?

Who is my best friend and how do I get in touch with him or her?

When and where was I born, where did I spend my childhood and who were my parents?

What are the major things I did prior to having Alzheimer’s?

You could compose and arrange the questions based on where the person was at in the disease process and what their primary memory concerns might be. The family might consult with the patient’s provider as to the best questions to have answers to. Maybe there is a way to have the responses be written as well as spoken? (Out of concern that different people have different learning styles.)

 There might be an additional benefit of having photos linked to some answers. So the response to “Where did I spend my childhood?” might flash a photo of the family farm or a link to such a photo. I might be going off the technical deep end here, but I bet such things are possible or will be possible.

Does anyone besides me think this might be a good idea?  I’ll bet there might be a few takers out there and perhaps such a thing might already exist and I just couldn’t find it on the web. In any case, we need to use all the technology we have to assist patients and families in managing this disease.


Spokane Employers Have One Up on Seattle…

Image    You don’t have to live in Spokane for very long to sense the competition between the East and West.  So I was pretty happy the other day when Jack Kaplan from WorkSource Spokane told me that he and another person in the Tri-Cities were the only state employees certified to assist employers in the recruiting and hiring process using state of the art assessment processes. (Take that Seattle!)   Jack is the author of a recent white paper, “Better Recruiting Through the use of Skill Profiling, Assessment, Behavioral Interviewing and On the Job Training.”  (You need to read this!) He is also a business superstar that WorkSource snagged to work with businesses in Eastern Washington.

We’ll just briefly discuss some of the high points of Jack’s work here.  According to the Department of Labor, training a minimum wage worker costs an employer in excess of $5,000.  As the economy improves and more workers are being hired, employers are tending to hire based on technical skills education, certification or experience. Technical skills are certainly important, but what about the other things that make good employees?  Foundational skills include reading, writing, applied mathematics, listening, etc. and these are elaborated at length by Eric T. Vincent, a well-known industrial psychologist in his paper “Foundational Skills are Key to Success in the Workplace.”  Vincent notes, “…80% of manufacturers have trouble finding qualified employees, with 60% of their job applicants rejected due to deficiencies in foundational skills…”

 So what can WorkSource do to help you avoid this employment quagmire? 

 WorkKeys is the system that employees can now take advantage of through Jack at a very low cost and use to hire the right people the first time.  The company that developed it is ACT.  Some of us took the ACT college admissions test back in the day, same people.  Job Profiling has many definitions but generally identifies the most important tasks, skills and other functions necessary to succeed in a job.  After a great deal of R & D, ACT developed their own Job Profiling method which involves:

  • Creation of an initial Task List-The profiler creates a list using national job data and information collected from a company contact person and a tour of the job site.
  • Task Analysis-The profiler meets with job incumbents to customize the task list.  The job experts rate each task for Importance and Relative Time Spent to ensure the tasks are critical to performance on the job.
  • Skill Analysis-The profiler leads the job incumbents through a process of linking the job tasks to the WorkKeys skills and skill levels.
  • Documentation-The profiler documents the results in a customized report.

Because the process uses current employees there is an additional benefit of drawing them into the importance of what they do.  Additionally, your HR peeps will tell you that the resulting outcomes must pass the definition of a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ).  The US Supreme Court determined in Dothard v. Rawlinson that employers have a burden to prove that job requirements are not discriminatory.  The WorkKeys method results in outcomes that will pass the BFOQ test. 

If you think you might benefit from this process and want to know more give Jack Kaplan a call at (509) 532-3061 or email him at  and don’t delay.  I think when companies hear about this, the line will form to the right!


Why No Non-profit Blogs?

Today I was reading about the effectiveness of non-profit blogs. Knowing how difficult blogging is for businesses, I wondered about our local non-profits.

I randomly reviewed 27 of the larger non-profits in the Inland Northwest and found only one had a blog. The last time there was an update of that particular blog, was January 2012. One of these agencies had a broken link to their website and two do not have a website at all. Several organizations did have newsletters that were posted in February. Newsletters are hard to write.  I produced one a month for 10 years during my time as executive director of a non-profit.  Eight pages of content including current issues do not come easy. Blogging, on the other hand allows for the creation of timely public awareness and if necessary, a call to action.  With the right mindset, they can also be fun to write!

Maybe the reason is the same reason that small business avoids blogging. Successful entrepreneurs do not necessarily see themselves as good a writers. Additionally, they may feel they have many other responsibilities that are more important than publicizing their expertise and their concerns.  Non-profits are squeezed for time as well, worse than business in many cases.   There may also be the perception that a blog self-promoting. They certainly can be, but the most successful ones talk extensively about a wide range of issues and individuals.

So what are some of the real benefits to non-profits that blog?

  • You don’t need a geek to post a blog, making it very timely.
  • You can summarize and point to other content on the web that is relevant to your readers.
  • You can create widely accepted calls for action (non-political and friendly).
  • You can support other organizations and encourage networking.
  • You can invite guest bloggers to write on important topics.
  • You can more easily recognize your supporters.
  • Blogging greatly assists with your Google ranking.

There are some terrific resources that offer more in-depth advice:

I would sure like to know if there are additional reasons why non-profits don’t blog.  The latter is a powerful tool and with funding being the way it is, blogging seems like a good strategy at this moment.  For more inspiration, go to Greater Spokane’s (the Spokane Chamber) website and find some creative and wild blogging at LaunchpadINW, the collaboration center of the Spokane universe.

Cool Technology You May Already Possess…

So it is with some embarrassment, that I must admit I broke my arm this week attempting to manually pull down the garage door by the little rope attached to the release.  I pulled so hard that the rope broke and I landed on the concrete driveway unconsciously catching myself with my left hand.  I knew I had broken something, having done this a few times in my life. Bruised and battered, I drove myself to urgent care single-handedly (pun intended) and was told my self-diagnosis was correct.  Not a serious break, just six weeks of being annoyed by my poorly applied use of force. 

Unemployed, not flush with money, and now temporarily damaged, I had a burning desire to find the silver lining to this experience. 

As I contemplated how I was going to fill out job applications, write cover letters, etc.  I remembered that I had previously set up the speech recognition that comes with MS Word 10.0 and is often made fun of.  Having used Dragon Naturally Speaking for a number of years, I was not initially impressed.  However, it was free and not difficult to set up.  I spent some time training “it” to recognize my voice and learn some commands.

So this morning I opened up Word and hit control panel/ease of access/start speech recognition and began to work on documents and email.  The program is working so well, I may have to continue using it after all 10 fingers are restored to health!  Talking instead of typing really makes the composition process a lot more fun.  Even if you can type, when you get to be over 50 it just isn’t that much fun.

I have talked to many people about why they don’t use speech recognition and the universal complaint is that the computer will not consistently recognize their words.  If you’re going to be successful with any speech recognition software, you are going to have to train yourself to enunciate.  Most of us are pretty lazy in our normal conversations because other life forms listening to you automatically compensate for what they believe you said.  Training yourself to use the same volume while you are dictating helps great deal as well.  The speech tutorial provided in the setup can be used multiple times if necessary to achieve dictation with very few errors.  You must also keep the microphone at the same distance from your mouth on a consistent basis or you’ll have to go through the setup process again to get consistent results.  You may also add words to the speech dictionary that are highly specialized but necessary to your particular writing.

Not surprisingly, there is a great merge between this software and Internet explorer.  However I have found using it with Chrome is sketchy.  A simple work around is to dictate into word copy and paste into whatever browser you’re working with.  If you are a visual learner there are a series of videos available on YouTube.

The social media implications are straightforward.  I just dictated this blog and touched the keyboard very few times.  This only encourages a wannabe geek…

Garage door guy just came by and the door worked perfectly…I need a job so I’m not at home making bad domestic decisions!!  Will work for sanity!