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Technology Isn’t Always Productive – Here’s How to Use it Appropriately – ReadWrite

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The Communication Pain Points for Remote Teams (and How to Solve Them) - ReadWrite


Technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s a field of miraculous, magical developments that always have the power to help us save time, do more, and ultimately become more productive.

Right?

Technology Isn’t Always Productive

You might have had some experiences with technology that make you question whether a new app, a new gadget, or a new system is actually adding value to your life.

For example, you might have upgraded to a new project management system that ends up taking twice as much time to use. Or, even more commonly, you might have found yourself endlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed in the middle of an important project.

As a generalized, overarching trend, technology definitely makes us productive.

We’re capable of far more than we were even 10 years ago, and new industries and opportunities emerge every year from new tech. But technology isn’t always productive – in fact, it can sometimes rob you of productive time.

What steps can you take to ensure that all your technology choices end in higher productivity (or at least neutrality)?

Here’s How to Use Technology Appropriately

Outline Your Goals in Advance

Before adopting any new technology, it’s important to outline all your goals in advance. What, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

Many new technologies make vague promises about making your life better, and many consumers end up buying those products because they seem, in some ambiguous way, “better” than what you currently have.

For example, you have the option to upgrade your refrigerator to a smart fridge. But what are you actually hoping to achieve from this upgrade? Do you want your food to spoil less often? Do you want to stay better organized with your food purchases? A refrigerator upgrade may not be necessary to achieve these goals.

What does productivity mean to you?

You’ll also need to think about what “productive” actually means to you. If a piece of new technology improved your productivity, what would that look like? Some technologies automate or simplify some aspect of your job (or life), only to introduce new problems.

For example, you might develop an algorithm that automatically generates a reading list for you – but it doesn’t always work quite right, so you have to sort through the list manually. You’ve saved an hour on task A, but you’re spending an hour on a new task, task B.

The clearer your goals are, the less likely you’ll be to use technology that has a net negative effect.

Rely on Objective Data

When choosing new technologies and evaluating their ability to improve your productivity, you need to rely on hard, objective data. What, specifically, is this improving and how much is it improving it?

This will help you filter out:

  • Cognitive biases. Human beings aren’t very logical creatures. We’re afflicted with a variety of cognitive biases that can distort how we perceive things.
  • Subjective feelings. You might feel like your phone is making you more productive, but the data may say something otherwise. This frequently happens with new acquisitions; we often like to justify our investments and pretend there are benefits when there aren’t any.
  • Claims and anecdotal reports. Tech companies often promote their products by citing good reviews and happy customers. But anecdotal evidence and personal claims rarely tell the full story.

Always Review Your Options in Depth

When searching for new technology, you’ll probably have many options to choose from. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors in almost every imaginable niche, so it’s important to review your choices carefully before making a final call.

Consider these choices for your technology:

  • Features and functionality. What does this product have that other competing products don’t have? Even more importantly, what does it do to boost your productivity?
  • Flexibility and scalability. How much can this product change, grow, and evolve with your company? This is especially important if you’re going to scale your business.
  • Intuitiveness and learnability. How long will it take to learn how to use this system properly? Low intuitiveness can compromise even the best tech investment.
  • Ratings and reviews. When combined with other considerations, ratings and reviews can be valuable in helping you make up your mind.
  • Objective metrics. More importantly, though, you’ll need to look at the numbers. How many hours could this save you? What new tasks will it require?
  • Costs. There may be a new app or gadget that can boost your productivity by 10 percent. But if it costs $10,000 a year, it may not be worth it. Consider the costs as well.

Automate Whatever You Can – but Understand the Limits

Automation is one of the best ways to save time and increase productivity in a business environment. Accordingly, you should strive to automate whatever you can.

That said, there are some limitations to what you can automate effectively. Automation relies on predictability and consistency; in an environment with unknown variables or areas that require human creativity, automation becomes less practical.

Excessive automation can also compromise certain aspects of your business; for example, you might be able to automate all your email marketing and sales campaigns, but it could turn people off for being too repetitive and “cold.”

Minimize Apps

For the most part, you should strive to limit the number of apps you rely on, both to simplify your infrastructure and to minimize time spent jumping between systems.

You can do this by consolidating the functionality of several apps into one, relying on integrations to send data to and from various apps, and by resisting the temptation to buy new apps just because they’re new and look cool.

Set Limits and Restrictions

Some apps and devices make it hard to be productive because they occupy too much of your time or interfere with your life in some crucial way. Accordingly, it’s advisable to set limits and restrictions for yourself, sometimes within the apps themselves.

For example:

  • Screen time. Most smartphones and modern devices have built-in settings and apps to help you track your screen time. You might even be able to limit it. This is especially important for apps and devices that tend to distract you or pull you away from more productive work.
  • Notifications and distractions. You should also be aware that even one small distraction has the potential to harm your productivity for nearly an hour; it takes time to build focus and momentum, and even a seemingly small distraction can ruin that. Turn off notifications wherever and whenever possible and consider closing out apps that might distract you (such as your email account during a busy workday).
  • Communication. Communication is valuable in any workplace or home, but modern technology makes it all too easy to get in touch with someone – even when they’re busy. Don’t drop everything you’re doing every time you get an email, instant message, or request for a video call; use your communication apps intentionally and mindfully.

Measure and Reflect

Rely on a combination of built-in tech tools, time trackers, and other analytics dashboards to keep track of your productivity and your progress. How are you using the various tools available in your arsenal? How much time are you spending on various platforms and on screens? How many hours are you working and how much were you able to get done?

Consistently measure your productivity and observe how it changes over time.

Don’t just assume that a new piece of tech is boosting your performance; try to prove it. If it’s not working for you, consider cutting it and moving onto something else.

If you aren’t careful, a new app, a new gadget, or another high-tech investment can end up working against you, either by distracting you, interfering with your work, or making something you were already doing harder.

As long as you think critically about your new tech adoption and continue to be discerning in your tech infrastructure, you can end up benefitting from new tech.

Image Credit: curioso photography; pexels; thank you!

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach…preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee.

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Token Offerings from Employers Won’t Fix the Labor Shortage – ReadWrite

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A Labor Shortage Could Be Our Economy's Biggest Downfall - ReadWrite


Workers today are displaying discontent with their jobs at unprecedented levels. In late July, for example, protesters in St. Louis congregated in an otherwise bustling drive-thru of a local McDonald’s. They were there to demand the corporation pay them at least $15 per hour — about $5 more than the current minimum wage in Missouri.

Worker discontent isn’t a problem unique to my home state, though. From Charlotte, North Carolina, to Detroit and Houston, workers are going on strike for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. And who can blame them?

As many of us transitioned to remote work during COVID-19, employees in low-wage, low-opportunity jobs like fast-food workers had to hunker down.

This often meant pulling longer hours under dangerous conditions with little to no hazard pay or sick leave.

The Hiring Problem

Walkouts aren’t the only issue employers are battling, though. As fast-food chains expand locations to match consumer spending, hiring can’t keep pace. “Help wanted” signs abound, but the restaurant industry was still 1.2 million employees short in March.

The internet has no shortage of pro-business pundits blaming the labor shortage on unemployment benefits. Stimulus payments, they’d like you to believe, have incentivized people to stay home and collect from the government.

Beyond further stigmatizing minimum-wage workers, this line of thinking is just plain wrong.

Missouri, for instance, was one of the first states to end federal aid, yet our labor market remains sluggish at best. And even though a quarter of Americans earned more money from unemployment than they would’ve by working — one-third still struggled to cover basic expenses like food, housing, and medical services.

When people can’t pay basic living expenses — it says a lot more about American employers than employees.

Done With Dead-End Jobs

The workforce needs a reboot, and it will take a serious culture shift among employers. Instead, many have turned to token offerings like signing bonuses and free iPhones in attempts to lure workers back. But these kinds of solutions simply won’t work because the problem extends far beyond incentivizing employees.

During the pandemic, many people realized that doing the same low-wage, low-skill job every day was no longer going to cut it.

The dead-end job has to die for people to reenter the job market.

We need to first examine the current skill sets of American workers and then determine how to equip them with more in-demand skills — something workers desperately want. A BCG study found that 68% of workers would retrain for a new role, but that willingness was closer to 70% for occupations hit hardest by the pandemic. Most people, however, can’t afford to get a second college degree or pay thousands for a training program. This is where employers can step in.

Upskilling in Practice

Last year, for instance, Amazon announced it would invest $700 million to upskill 100,000 employees (about one-third of its workforce). Similarly, Comcast created a program to upskill its customer support staff into software developers to fill open roles.

Programs like these are built to provide upward mobility, helping adults move from lower – to middle – to higher-skill work. When that blueprint is replicated throughout the market, it creates a more fluid and vibrant workforce. Offering a one-time material perk like a free phone won’t make a company a better place to work — and it certainly won’t create a self-sustaining talent pipeline.

Time to Prioritize Upward Mobility

There’s no returning to a pre-pandemic U.S. workforce. While it was once possible to make a living working in a fast-food restaurant, that hasn’t been the case for some time now. In St. Louis, for example, an MIT analysis shows the living wage for a single, child-free adult is $14.23 an hour. That number doubles with even one child in the household.

Upward mobility has stalled, and it simply doesn’t exist in most cases.

It’s no wonder the resignation rate was 2.4% in March. The writing was on the wall before COVID, though: A January 2020 report found that a lack of career progression was the top reason people were quitting their jobs — followed by low pay.

It’s Up to Employers

The gap we see between unemployed Americans and the rising number of open jobs tells us that employers aren’t offering workers what they require.

We need to build a workforce that opens up new opportunities for those just entering the market and regularly moves people into higher-skilled jobs — a career escalator if you will.

Employers who consistently and strategically move employees along a learning path, generating long-term success for them will reap great benefits for themselves as well.

Image Credit: tim mossholder; unsplash; thank you!

Jeff Mazur

Executive Director for LaunchCode

Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit aiming to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with trained individuals.

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How Wholesale in Different Industries is Making a Difference – ReadWrite

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Deanna Ritchie


Wholesale businesses have a lot going for them. They help keep the wheels of commerce greased and keep the supply chain functioning, barring global catastrophe. No matter the industry, wholesalers can help most companies save money and grow their businesses.

What is Wholesale?

Before we dive too deep into the topic at hand, let’s establish a definition of what we mean by the term “wholesale.” Generally speaking, wholesale refers to a type of business that sells goods in bulk to other businesses. As opposed to a retail business, wholesale businesses sell to other business entities, not directly to consumers.

Wholesalers often establish long-term, reputable relationships with particular retailers.

Thanks to these relationships, the wholesale market is booming. In June 2021 alone, total U.S. sales for the wholesale market topped $588 billion. After a sharp dip in earnings at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, wholesale businesses’ monthly sales have since been on a steady upward trajectory.

Wholesalers offer their customers greater ease of operations, diverse offerings, and — in most circumstances — access to products from across the globe.

As these increased sales demonstrate, more and more companies are choosing to conduct business with wholesalers. From apparel and lifestyle to food to medical and pharmaceutical supplies, wholesale businesses run the gamut.

However, in each of these industries, wholesalers are making a difference and bringing about real change in the world. Consider the three points listed below as a great starting point for learning why this is true.

1. Apparel Wholesale Platforms Are Helping Emerging Brands

The arrival of the coronavirus put a lot of pressure on local businesses. Visting tourists, shoppers, and regular customers stayed home either by mandate or by choice. Everything from coffee houses to flower shops to corner stores to independent bookstores took a hit during the onset of the pandemic.

Caught between local health restrictions and a temporarily foundering global supply chain, many small businesses brands were devastated in 2020.

Today, however, wholesale women’s apparel marketplaces are helping emerging brands make a comeback. Bridging the gap between local shops and independent brands worldwide, these marketplaces provide a way to bring emerging brands to retail shops everywhere.

These wholesale marketplaces also help provide retailers access to artisanal brands. This enables these brands’ unique products to get into shops they maybe wouldn’t have been able to before.

In many ways, apparel and lifestyle wholesale platforms establish a clear, direct path for entrepreneurial brands to make their way onto the shelves of independent, local stores. Newer brands have a chance to establish themselves despite the setbacks of the past 18 months.

These Wholesale Marketplaces are a Win-Win for Businesses — Especially Local

Considered more widely, these marketplaces provide a win-win situation all around. Apparel wholesale platforms give independent brands the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of retailers in a cost-effective way. And local boutiques — who often have to compete with chain stores such as Target and H&M — also get access to more unique, high-quality styles.

2. Food Wholesalers Are Helping Allergy-Friendly Businesses Thrive

Starting a new food company is no mean feat. Despite the considerable challenges of market penetration, more than 15,000 new food products are introduced each year. The failure rate of these new businesses is high, so any support these businesses can get from wholesale businesses is crucial to their success.

Niche Food Markets — Building Business and Meeting Consumer Demand

Many of these newer food businesses are homing in on niche or specific diet types as food allergy rates continue to climb. An increasing number of adults and children are dealing with allergies, mostly from offenders such as gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, and soy. As a result, food companies are reformulating their products and coming up with new allergy-friendly food lines to meet the rise in consumer demand.

This is all good news to food wholesalers focused on expanding their catalog of diet-specific or allergy-friendly offerings.

By allowing grocery store buyers to search for items based on diet type and/or food ingredients, wholesalers can reliably provide products they know consumers are regularly seeking in the aisles of their local grocery stores.

One wholesaler offering just this sort of expanded capability is Mabel. This online food wholesale ordering business goes one step further, however, offering products based on region, dietary need, and brand value. Mabel also includes women-owned, small-batch, and eco-friendly brands.

Food wholesalers focused on diet and allergy needs are changing the way niche food companies’ products make their way into consumers’ hands.

3. Medical Supply Wholesalers Working to Create More Streamlined Services

The medical supply wholesale industry is not to be overlooked, particularly when you consider its massive growth and size. Currently, the medical supplies wholesaling industry in the United States is worth over $268 billion and has seen 3.8% growth this year.

America’s Massive National Health Needs

These numbers perhaps aren’t that surprising given Americans’ burgeoning medical needs as a sizeable chunk of its population ages. In fact, the average American spent over $11,000 on medical expenses, and that number was announced before the pandemic struck.

Fortunately, medical supply distributors understand this growing need and are making changes for the better.

One such example is Cardinal Health, one of the United States’ top medical supply distributors. Cardinal Health provides specialized medical products and pharmaceutical drugs to more than 85% of U.S. hospitals. Cardinal Health recently announced a partnership with Chronicled, a blockchain-powered network in the life sciences industry.

Partnerships such as the one with Chronicled and Cardinal Health will streamline processes and operations across the supply chain, thereby better connecting pharmacy suppliers with customers.

This certainly isn’t the first large-scale partnership in the medical supply wholesale industry. Nonetheless, it provides a high-visibility example of how wholesalers can grow their business by working with partners toward a common goal.

Consider, for example, the pandemic-fueled demand over the course of the past 18 months for personal protective equipment (PPE). This dilemma, faced by nearly every hospital system around the world, could potentially have been avoided or fixed more quickly with a more streamlined, technology-driven process.

The Takeaway

The wholesale market offers businesses of all sizes a tremendous number of advantages. Buying wholesale can be more cost-effective, of course. It can also assist businesses looking to expand their merchandise offerings, appeal to more consumers, and increase their overall sales.

Because wholesalers typically only sell to retailers and not directly to consumers, they enable those retailers to be the source of specialized goods.

The leaders of the wholesale market are impacting the sales model worldwide and shouldn’t be ignored. As the savvy intermediaries between the producer and seller, these three examples show how wholesalers can make a notable difference in how consumers gain access to the goods they want and need.

Image Credit: tiger lily; pexels; thank you!

 

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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The Importance of Employee Handbook – ReadWrite

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Milosz Krasinski


Most corporate employers have an employee handbook, but many do not realize how important it is for their company. On the other hand, smaller businesses often don’t have a company handbook when they definitely should have one.

An employer’s handbook can be a great resource in the event of any disputes that arise between employees and management.

In addition to outlining policies on topics such as break times, dress code, and benefits, the book should also provide information about things like workplace safety and harassment prevention. Employees need to know what they’re getting into when they start a new job — so having a comprehensive employee handbook can help them understand what is expected of them at work.

When hiring someone new or transferring from one position to another within your company, it’s always best practice to offer a copy of the employee handbook before going over any other paperwork with the employee. This is a good time to go over the handbook with them and answer any questions they might have about the policies outlined in it.

Anyone that has been working for your company should already have a copy of the handbook.

What is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a set of guidelines and policies that govern the management and conduct of employees and management within a company. For example, the handbook typically sets out the organization’s expectations and values and information on how to dress or what to do in emergencies.

It also details disciplinary procedures for staff who disobey the policies, including warnings, sacking, and criminal prosecution. But, most commonly, it’s the managers, executives, and lawyers who write the handbook.

Why is an Employee Handbook important in a business setting

An Employee Handbook is important in a business setting. It provides employees with the guidelines and policies that govern their employment. The handbook usually sets out expectations, such as how to dress or what to do in emergencies.

It also includes disciplinary procedures for staff who disobey the policies, including warnings, sacking, and criminal prosecution. This helps everyone understand what is expected of them. It also makes it easier to fire (and hire, too!) people by clearly outlining the rules. Again, this reduces an organization’s liability.

How does an Employee Handbook affect an organization?

An Employee Handbook allows companies to communicate with their employees. It helps the company protect itself from legal liability by clarifying how the company or business wants its staff to behave in certain scenarios. In addition, a handbook can provide a reference point for managers on disciplinary procedures, while maintaining consistency throughout the organization.

For example, it can help managers decide whether to warn an employee before disciplining them, or if they should be immediately fired. It also helps employees know what is expected of them and how their behavior affects the workplace. On top of procedural information, the handbook can help with employee engagement, motivation, and burnout prevention, even in the toughest industries.

What an Employee Handbook should include

An Employee Handbook should include:

  • What the company expects from the employee in terms of dress code and conduct

An employee handbook needs to include what the company expects from the employee regarding dress code and conduct. It sets the expectations for employees. If a company doesn’t set out expectations, then confusion can arise. Confusion can happen when an employee starts asking questions about what is allowed or not allowed in the workplace.

A handbook keeps information clear and concise by providing a reference point for managers on disciplinary procedures.

The handbook helps maintain consistency throughout the organization. It also clarifies to employees what is expected of them and how their behavior is monitored in the workplace.

  • How to handle emergencies or disciplinary procedures when an employee is not following rules outlined in your handbook

Employees will now know what an emergency is, how they should report it, and who they can and should contact in the event of an emergency. The handbook should also have how disciplinary procedures are handled.

  • Whether or not workers are allowed to work from home

The employee handbook can help to prevent misunderstandings for most of the company or business issues.

The handbook will answer questions about whether or not workers can work or keeping when they go home. For example, if a specific team does not allow for working from home — or taking equipment home — it should be noted in the handbook.

The company might also want to specify if there is a need for an employee to travel. It’s also worth stating if there are any restrictions on job-related activities outside of office hours. These questions are very pertinent in many industries.

  • What technology is prohibited in the workplace

Defining what tech is allowed or not allowed at work can help ensure that employees abide by company policy. It can also help to demonstrate that employers are reasonable. Also, this paragraph might make the employee feel like they will still have some freedom outside of work hours.

  • Medical leave and paid vacation policy

An employee should know the employer’s policies when it comes to medical leave and paid vacation.

Knowing and understanding policy can help employees feel more confident about their work environment if they know that the employer considers other aspects outside their work hours.

The handbook can also provide general information about what is not allowed in the workplace — including social media or other non-work-related tasks outside of office hours.

Employees need to know who they can contact when there is a problem with the workplace.

If an employee or lower management doesn’t know who to speak with or how to file a complaint, it can affect their work performance and morale. Therefore, the handbook should include a step-by-step process of what-to-do-when scenarios. With these explanations in place and plainly written, employees can feel confident knowing somebody listens to their concerns and, ultimately, addresses them.

Apart from filing a complaint, your handbook should note how to give employee feedback and where.

Employees should know their company’s code of conduct and what the consequences are if they violate it. In addition, a code of conduct may assist an employee in feeling that the employer is sensible by setting standards for treatment and professionalism.

  • Antiharassment & antiretaliation

One of the crucial aspects of an employee handbook is to include information on anti-harassment and antiretaliation.

All employees should know that they are free from harassment or retaliation when it comes to their work environment. This information makes people feel more confident in their workplace and, in turn, makes them more productive in their tasks. An employee will also feel like they don’t have to worry about anything with regards to their job security because employers consider these things in an employee handbook.

  • What benefits does your organization offers, such as health insurance or alternative work arrangements

Having information about health insurance, savings plans, and alternative work situations can be important because an employee can make a subjectively bad decision when it comes to their work situation.

For example, they might decide not to take a promotion or accept an offer of employment because they are disqualified for the benefit the company offers. Therefore, it’s beneficial to have this information in the handbook so that employees don’t have to ask about these questions, thus causing extra stress about these types of decisions.

All questions are right there in the Employee Handbook where they should be.

  • Any additional disclaimers

When drafting an employee handbook, it is important to include any disclaimers that you deem necessary. For example, some organizations may choose to include a disclaimer about their commitment to the environment. Others can have a disclaimer about certain situations.

Most beneficial in the Employee Handbook is a declaration of company values and an acknowledgment or assertion about their commitment to treating people with honesty and respect. Some companies may wish to give examples of how to follow the company’s set of values.

Just about anything that fits with your company values can be listed in your Employee Handbook.

How to make your Employee Handbook easy to read and understand

It’s necessary to include explanations that are easy to read and understand so that the employee handbook isn’t hard to follow.

If your Employee Handbook is too difficult to read — or too long — people will either not read it or they will only skim through the information and might miss some important details.

You can also categorize some of your rules into different sections so that people only have to look at specific parts of the handbook instead of reading the entire thing.

It’s also important to make sure that it is easy on the eyes. You can use bullet points, headings, subheadings, and images to make your employee handbook easier to read. Any part of your handbook that helps with readability issues will help your people comprehend the rules more efficiently.

You will want your employees to be able to follow along with your organization’s policies in the easiest way possible, and you can give examples in your handbook.

What to do if someone violates the rules of the handbook

When someone violates the rules of the handbook, management must reprimand in some way. If possible, try to help the employee understand why they were wrong and what they should do instead. Some examples should already be in your handbook as an illustration of what you expect in behaviors.

When a leader or manager can explain what went wrong and how to correct the behavior, this procedure is helpful for both management and employee. It shows that you’re willing to work with them to improve themselves for the future. It also might be helpful to offer an alternative action so that this doesn’t happen again in the future.

Finally, the Employee Handbook is a living document

As your company grows and changes, it’s important to make sure you’re updating your employee handbook accordingly. This includes:

  • Adding new services or products.
  • Highlighting specific company values that haven’t been mentioned before.
  • Changing benefits associated with prospective employees joining the organization.

Digitizing the handbook is also a good idea. Digitization will make it easier for the employees to read it. You can also have a digital copy for new employees to check that they have read the information in the Employee Handbook as part of their onboarding process. This process will save many questions and issues down the road.

Conclusion

We hope that this article has given you some useful insight into the importance of having an Employee Handbook. An employee handbook can help your company clarify its policies for employees. Answer any questions your employees might have about their work environment or daily tasks. An Employee Handbook saves a lot of time and prevents many uncertainties on both sides — it’s a great thing to have as a staple in your business.

Image Credit: provided by the author; wavy bus single; freepik; thank you!

Milosz Krasinski

Managing Director at Chilli Fruit Web Consulting boutique London based digital PR agency. Co-Founder at Sigma Digital Oxford. International SEO consultant, speaker. Sometimes blogging at miloszkrasinski.com

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