A Lesson in Safety Learned from Acts of Terror: Revisited

by Michael Haberman on September 11, 2019 · 0 comments

Help firefighters save lives.

Help firefighters save lives.

I am reposting this post which was originally posted on September 12 2011. Since today is another anniversary of the terror attack on New York I wanted to republish it. The safety lesson I learned  is still as relevant. Perhaps through this lesson learned you too will be able to save a life someday.

I am writing this on Sunday September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The television stations, the newspapers, radio shows, the Internet and even the comics pages are all filled with remembrances. With friends there have been conversations on what was remembered from that day. I knew no one directly involved in any of the three acts, but I have a memory that left an emotional impact. From it I learned a lesson in safety that came from acts of terror.

Practice made all the difference

In the days that followed the collapse of the Trade Tower there were many stories of heroism and survival among the devastating stories of death. The one that made an impact on me came from the president of a small company located in the first tower. He told how just days before the attack he and the rest of the company had practiced a fire drill. They had practiced abandoning the office and walking down over 40 flights of stairs and helping people who needed help. How fortunate for them that they had. When the first plane hit and the alarms went off they knew exactly what to do, only this time it was for real. Everyone, because they had practiced, made it out safely. Not only that but they were able to assist two wheelchair bound individuals who would have otherwise not been able to escape. I remember him saying how grateful he was that he did not have to call a single employee’s family to tell them they had lost a loved one.

Have an emergency plan

I unfortunately do not remember the name of the president or the name of his company. I wish I did. But the lesson I learned is one I pass on to every class I teach and client I work with. The lesson is that it is vital to have an emergency plan and it is vital to practice it. Employees need to know where to go, how to escape, where to meet after they have escaped, or what to do if they cannot escape. Managers need to understand that they are responsible for accounting for everyone for whom they are responsible. This is important because firefighters need to know. They will attempt to rescue those who have not been accounted for. I don’t know about you but I would hate to put a firefighter’s life at risk because I had not properly accounted for all my employees.

I tell people one of the best tributes you can make to the memory of September 11th is to pull out your emergency plan, review it to make sure it is up to date and then to practice it. Learn the lesson taught to us by that small company 10 years ago.


6 Ways to Gain More Attention for Your Business

by Michael Haberman on September 9, 2019 · 0 comments

This post was written by Keith Coppersmith. Keith is a business and marketing expert who has experienced both the rise and fall of many businesses. He enjoys writing and providing insight of the marketing industry based on both practice and theory.

To misquote Tolstoy: “All successful companies are successful in the same way”. But are they? To be recognizable in a market full of successful companies requires a lot from everyone, but most of all it requires attention. And attention can be gained in various ways. In the world of instant communication on an incredible number of platforms, anything is possible. It is up to you to follow the trends while simultaneously doing things slightly differently, in order to distinguish the brand. 

How different are you?

 Looking at the brand identity that you have been trying to build – what are the ways that you differ from others? If the answer does not come to you easily, perhaps it is time to give it a think. Of course, the large changes do not happen overnight – but the smaller ones could. Why not do a once over by changing the design of your logo? Remember that the color theory can help to keep everything neat and different. Are you using similar images in marketing as your competition as well? Again, something to think about and try to develop a visually arresting, but without mistake, your own image. Stand out a little.

Words and messages

What are you telling others about you? What are your company’s core beliefs? Do they permeate your entire company culture? Companies underlying spirit is nowhere as obvious as in the way their employees behave and talk. There is something that keeps people on the same “brainwave” when a company’s culture is naturally accepted by their workers. The feeling of working together towards something incredible brings out a lot of good in people. We are, after all, social animals whose number of people we can actively care about is limited, however, it is still large enough for a team or a department. And this will shine through in any contact with the customers you have and on social media as well.

Keep it social

Since we are on the topic of social networks, it goes without saying that you have to pay heed to them. Now, to drive more attention to you as opposed to your competitors, it is not only enough to be present on every platform worth a damn. No, you have to plant yourself deeper and constantly be on the cutting edge of developments. Practically every day a new social network is being thought of in a startup somewhere. It might be something completely different from what you are used to, like Vine was. And when it died, obviously it was sad for its users. But the main players of that platform have moved elsewhere, together with the audiences that they have built. Reach new customers on social media’s niche offerings and integrate them into your most powerful existing channels – and keep experimenting!

First impressions

That first time when you seem someone, you usually create an image of them. It might be positive or negative, but regardless, it is most likely already made by the time you shake their hand. There is only so much you can actually do, as a company, to present yourself for the first time. Since your logo and visuals are already giving your potential customers a vision of who your company is, the other prong of this attack would be the appropriately designed business cards. Just like the other things that never go out of fashion, such as good wine or fine watches, a business card can tell a lot about you and your company to anyone who looks at it. Remember to always keep a stack at the ready. If you travel frequently, this is an excellent opportunity for you to be the ambassador every company needs.

Support your customers

What you do in the case when customers have issues with your products and services has changed quite a lot in the recent times, due to the tendency of people to directly complain to you on social networks. Even worse, they occasionally tend to criticize a company without directly linking to them or tagging them, which stops the customer support (as well as PR) to do their job. Luckily, they can use brand monitoring tools to keep on top and that is exactly what you should do as well. Not only do the customers of today expect a quick resolution to their problem, but they are not shy about it at all. On the one hand, that is great, because you will quickly receive feedback. On the other, you might be inundated with demands for support. Regardless, remember that statistics say that a growing number of customers have higher expectations than a year ago – and be proactive about it.

Think about the 80/20 principle

In the end, in some ways, your company might not be able to be as prominent as you would have liked. However, the process of trying to do better will improve you in more ways than one. One thing that you should always keep in mind is that you cannot please everyone. The famous 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle) says that approximately 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. In business, this means that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Sometimes it is OK to focus on those that support you the most and stop trying to be something else. Remember that it is ok to stop and decide you want to keep doing things your way. 


This was originally posted on the website of AllClearID. I met this company at #SHRM19 in Las Vegas this past June. I liked their company and I liked their product. They have given me permission to repost this blog.

The surge in the number of Americans impacted by identity theft each year—at last count, the figure topped 16.7 million—has led to more and more consumers to seek identity theft protection. Employees today are aware of the possibility of a hacker stealing vital personal data, such as social security numbers, which has the potential to damage their financial health considerably. Employers, too, are recognizing the link between identity theft incidence among their workers and the resulting drop in productivity and performance.

As a result, more businesses than ever are offering identity theft protection programs as part of their employee benefits package. If you are considering an identity theft protection initiative, here are five reasons why this is a sound investment in your employees: 

1) An ounce of prevention…

The sheer size and scope of identity theft expected to take place in the United State this year means chances are good that dozens of your employees will be victims of an identity crime. In an organization of 500, 25 will be victims of an identity crime. For a 5,000-employee company, that figure climbs to 250. The type of theft is likely to vary—from credit card and tax fraud to mobile phone, medical, and banking fraud. By offering a benefit to your employees that includes fraud alerts and credit monitoring, ID theft can be stopped before it ever starts—saving employees hours of financial stress and lost productivity at work. 

2) Their time is your money

When employees are at work, you expect them to be productive and focused; able to think clearly about the task in front of them. Identity theft robs them of their ability to do this. When an employee needs to resolve identity theft, they can spend dozens of hours spread out over months sending emails, waiting on hold to speak to credit card companies, and battling banks and health insurance companies overcharges. What’s more, these institutions keep business hours, making it virtually impossible for nine-to-five workers to resolve identity theft issues on their own time. And for cases of major fraud—ie, an employee discovers someone bought a house under their name in another state—the event is massively disruptive and may require even more time to fix. 

3) Their financial health can be secured

We know that financial well-being (or rather lack of it) is a major source of stress for employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, financial insecurity leads to greater absenteeism and tardiness, in addition to a decrease in workplace performance. That’s why 84 percent of companies now offer employee financial security benefits in their wellness programs, and identity protection benefits are an easy and affordable addition to this package. An ID theft protection benefit provides fraud alerts that can stop identity theft before it starts. And if for some reason ID theft does occur, one simple phone call for your covered employees ensures access to a personal fraud investigation and repair team who will handle every facet of their case.

4. Take the worry out of identity repair


If your identity was used to purchase a house in Florida, would you know who to call to fix the situation? If a criminal was apprehended with your name on his driver’s license while driving a car registered in your name, would you know where to begin? Depending on the fraud, the repair process might include coordinating with numerous institutions, agencies, and providers. For those who don’t routinely work in the identity repair space, it’s a tangled, time-consuming world to navigate. With an identity protection benefit, employees make one simple call and a fraud investigation team does the rest, including contacting credit bureaus, correcting erroneous information, working with state/local authorities to prosecute thieves, and communicating with banks for restitution. All in about a tenth of the time it would take someone unfamiliar with the process. Simply put, access to a fraud team relieves the manual effort and stress from the victim, leaving them able to focus on their job.

5. Utilization = efficacy

Why offer an employer-paid identity protection benefit versus an employee-paid option? Because the rates of enrollment are significantly higher in employer-paid scenarios. And the more employees who participate, the greater the chance they’ll reap all the benefits of an identity protection and repair service when they need it.

How can an Identity Protection benefits program impact your organization?  In a related post, we dive into the reasons why an employer-paid benefit is good for business. Read it here.


How to measure and improve your workplace culture

by Michael Haberman on September 5, 2019 · 0 comments

Surveys can be valuable tools for HR.

This guest post was written by Anna Hayes of Joinblink.com

All too often, senior management read “improving workplace culture” as “offering some lunchtime yoga and putting on some free food every now and then”.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad with either of these two things (free food is a cornerstone of good morale in all workplaces, as far as we’re concerned). But still, your workplace culture is more than that, and taking measured steps to improve it requires more effort than occasional baked goods.

If you’re serious about creating a better workplace for your employees, here’s what you need to do: 

Employee engagement surveys

Really, there’s only one way to measure your workplace culture – and that’s by asking your colleagues what it’s like working at your company.

Sure, you can rely on your observational skills and word of mouth, but that makes it particularly hard to differentiate personal complaints from the issues which are general workforce trends that need sorting with a degree of urgency.

Employee surveys – the dinosaur approach

Traditionally, organizations would typically run one giant employee engagement survey each year.

We think this is a terrible, terrible idea.

Opening the floodgates just once a year offers just one opportunity for your colleagues to bring issues to your attention. Your HR team won’t be able to address all of these issues – and if nothing gets done about the ones they care about, it’ll just be a drain on your employees’ productivity and morale and people won’t engage with future surveys because they think they are a waste of time.

Also, bear in mind:

  • It doesn’t allow you to nip pain points in the bud in the early stages – by the time you hear about something, it’s a huge issue draining productivity and morale.
  • They’re unfocused – you’ll likely scape the surface of several issues, but you won’t get an in-depth view
  • It’s a once-a-year administrative nightmare for your HR team as they send email after email reminding people to complete them,

Crucially, one big employee engagement survey per year makes it difficult to measure improvement. If you think about each survey you do as a plot point on a graph, only adding one per year isn’t a very efficient way of measuring trends in your workplace culture.

Instead, we recommend…

Doing smaller, frequent employee engagement surveys

There are lots of advantages here. First and foremost is that if you ask colleagues what they think regularly, they feel more listened to from the get-go – and engage accordingly.

They also allow you to:

  • Discover, monitor and resolve issues as they appear, rather than leaving you shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
  • You can theme your surveys to hone in on a particular area – pay and benefits, or management issues, for example.
  • Because they’re smaller, they take less admin work

You might have seen these types of surveys called “pulse” surveys elsewhere. The key to their success is to mix a small number of quick yes/no and answer-on-a-scale questions with opportunities for people to expand on these if they want to. This allows people to respond quickly if they want to, and in more detail, if they need to. 

The second key to their success – especially if your workplace contains a lot of deskless employees – is to allow employees to complete them whenever and wherever suits them. A purpose-built employee app let employees complete pulse surveys from their smartphones – quick, convenient and much easier for those employees who don’t sit down at a desktop very often.

(And, you can even remind people by sending push notifications. No passive aggressive emails needed).

The importance of action

The best, most efficient pulse surveys are a pointless waste of time if you don’t act on the results.

It’s also important that you signpost these results. Shout about them on your employee app (if you have one), update people on progress at quarterly meetings, put posters on the staff noticeboard, the intranet…whatever means you have at your disposal to get the word out.

What action you take, of course, will depend on the outcome of your surveys. To start you off, we’ve taken some common pain points and suggested ways to improve them below:

Lack of senior staff visibility

Whilst the obvious answer here is “make senior staff go into the office more often,” this is a deceptively tricky one to address. What if most of your workforce is mobile? Or what if your company is large, with several offices, potentially spanning many countries?

Getting your senior staff to run drop-ins or participate in regular Q&As is a great way to engage your staff more with the direction of the company…as long as you bear the above in mind. Technology is your friend here – stream these updates live, or run webinars so that non-office staff can take part.

Lack of alignment with company values

The larger your company gets, the trickier it becomes to keep everyone aligned to your values and purpose.

To combat this, there are a couple of things you can do. On a practical level, make sure that your colleagues can access all essential workplace documents and training easily. Offering top-up training on your company’s key values will also help with this.

Secondly, when someone performs well, let everyone know how they’ve made a difference! This could be done in a semi-regular company-wide award scheme with exciting prizes (think cash, vouchers, extra PTO) or on a smaller scale. Why not encourage your line managers to pick a “team member of the month,” to be awarded a small hamper, or a bottle of something nice?

Lack of friendly workplace atmosphere

This is where your activities come in, and there’s no limit to what you can do. There’s the usual sports clubs – lunchtime yoga, running, five-a-side – or you could get creative with workplace choirs and lunchtime photography walks.

If you’ve got a mobile workforce, this is trickier, but you can still run regular events so that they get the opportunity to socialize with colleagues. Target the times they are all in one place together – if there’s new training they need to do, for example – and turn it into a social. Offer a meal on the company, or maybe a few drinks and some team-building activities

A final word: it’s easy to see workplace activities as a “quick win”. The truth is that they won’t make a blind bit of difference if your workforce feels overworked, underappreciated and have no real desire to engage with the company. Fix your structural issues first, then move onto the fun stuff.


Wow! Where has the time gone?

by Michael Haberman August 30, 2019

Tweet My blog, HR Observations, begins its 15th year. I cannot believe I have been writing this blog for 15 years. What started out as an attempt to have a voice as a lonely HR consultant has given me national and international recognition. I am not famous or well-known by any means, but it has […]

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Leverage Surveys to Better Select Virtual Teams

by Michael Haberman August 26, 2019

Tweet This guest post was written by Angela White, her bio is below. In this post, she offers some excellent advice on putting together virtual teams. Businesses are widespread when it comes to the areas they operate, sectors they cater to, and geographic regions they work in. Managing a large workforce in a single area […]

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The Carnival of HR- The August Edition

by Michael Haberman August 21, 2019

Tweet It has been a while since I have hosted a Carnival of HR. To be honest, it has even been a while since I have contributed to one. However, earlier in the year when Robin Schooling put out a call for hosts I threw my hat in the ring. Unlike many hosts, I have […]

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Next Week is Safe and Sound Week

by Michael Haberman August 8, 2019

Tweet Here in Georgia, many school children have gone back to school, marking the “end of summer.” Unfortunately, just because children have gone back to school it does not mark the end of the heat associated with the time of year. As I drive around and see workers outside I often feel for them because […]

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Four Blogs from Lawyers you need to be reading

by Michael Haberman August 7, 2019

Tweet There are four blogs from four lawyers I know that are excellent resources for HR professionals. They write commonsense and not “lawyerese” thus making them very readable. Jon Hyman I have been reading Jon Hyman’s Ohio Employer Law Blog for years. Although I have never met him in person I feel like have known […]

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What exactly does “exempt” mean?

by Michael Haberman August 5, 2019

Tweet This is a fairly consistent question from employers today so I decided to rerun this post. There is an update at the end, however. The Fair Labor Standards Act tells us we have two types of employees, non-exempt and exempt. Unfortunately these terms are not very explanatory and people often get them confused. Let […]

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