Tuesday, June 5, 2012

5 Leadership Behaviors that Loyal Employees Trust

Is any relationship completely equal? Not really, because one party always wields more power than the other. There are leaders and followers, as well as employers and employees. We might like to think equality, common goals and unquestioned commitment are the norm, but it simply doesn’t happen. It’s true in personal life and in the workplace.

Leaders today talk a lot about loyalty, retention, and the business value of empowering employees. Nonetheless, research and blogs abound which discuss the erosion of employee loyalty to the workplace, especially among Generation X and Y.

So, is there a way to increase loyalty and engagement in the workplace? I believe there is, but it requires a near-equal exchange of information about the business’s goals and challenges and a shared sense of the value of work. This is true for CEO’s and for employees alike. It’s a two-way street of respect and trust.

All great leaders know that getting there is the challenge. Here are 5 behaviors for leaders and hiring managers to adopt when struggling to keep employees happy and loyal:

1) Tell the truth
Not everyone is a star. Pick out those with leadership or other valued talent potential and nurture them. This will come back to the business as these individuals, in turn, nurture other workers.

2) Communicate roles and responsibilities
Provide a path to success not only for those with leadership promise but for all employees. Sometimes this will mean difficult changes, but remember the most important skill of a leader- never surprise an employee with bad news. Have a development plan for all, and a get-well plan for those whose performance lags. Make sure everyone knows the plan.

3) Create a workplace culture that values real people relationships
For many employees, workgroup relationships drive engagement and loyalty more effectively than foosball machines, logo T-shirts, and Thirsty Thursday gatherings.

4) Be fair and open
This does not mean to treat everyone equally- it means having transparent processes for managing and leading. Employees are more likely to respond positively to change when the process used to manage change is fair.

5) Model the behaviors you seek
Just as the headmaster at the high school did, accept your responsibility as a leader and act with engagement, commitment and responsibility. Do this every day.

Each of us possesses skills, strengths, talents and flaws. Each of us seeks to belong, to be engaged, to relate to those around us. Loyalty is built on relationships, shared understanding and trust. Engagement and commitment require loyalty, shared goals and fair treatment. Don’t take loyalty and engagement for granted- create a remarkable culture where there are possible and rewarding outcomes of the workplace.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Discipline safety violators- don't just "yell" at them

What do your supervisors do when they catch workers breaking a major safety rule- do they simply yell at the worker? A new court ruling highlights the importance of enforcing safety rules with discipline and documentation.

The case:

When a New York bridge worker fell to his death, OSHA cited the employer with a serious-violation fine. The company appealed, saying it provided the correct harness, but the employee ignored supervisors who “yelled” at him about it. But the court let the fine stand, saying that oral warnings alone aren’t sufficient. The company had a progressive-discipline plan for safety violations and supervisors should have used it.

Let me ask you- how do you handle the situation when you find someone committing a safety violation? Does it have to be “major” for you to react? Someone once told me that “what you walk by, you approve”. If you allow it one time, what does that tell the other workers? We must use discipline EVERY TIME we see a safety violation. Most of you have guidelines- if you don’t, get them! However, the key is how you honor those guidelines? If not, it can get you into a lot of trouble, and can be very expensive.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Want healthy food? Don’t eat out!

If you plan to chow down tonight at a big chain restaurant, there’s better than nine-in-ten chance that your entrée will fail to meet federal nutrition recommendations for both adults and kids, according to a provocative new study.

A whopping 96% of main entrees sold at top U.S. chain eateries exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “If you’re eating out tonight, your chances of finding an entrée that’s truly healthy are painfully low” say Helen Wu assistant policy analyst at Rand Corp.

The restaurant industry is employing a wide range of healthier-living strategies: putting nutritional information on menus, adding more healthful items and launching a 2011 program at nearly 100 brand restaurants in more that 25,000 locations that offers children’s meals in line with 2010 dietary guidelines. Other findings of the study:

---Appetizers can be calorie bombs

Appetizers averaged 813 calories, compared with main entrees, which averaged 674 calories per serving.

---Family restaurants fared worse than fast-food restaurants

Entrees at family-style restaurants on average have more calories, fat and sodium than fast-food restaurants. Entrée at family-style eateries posted 271 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast-food restaurants.

---Kid “specialty” drinks often aren’t healthy

Many drinks offered on kids’ menus have more fat and saturated fat on average than regular drinks. While regular menu drinks had a median of 360 calories, the median number of calories in kid specialty drinks, such as shakes and floats, was 430. The message to parents is that it’s the little extras you order that add up.

The lesson here- DON’T EAT OUT UNLESS YOU HAVE TO!!! It is simply much easier to control what you put in your mouth, and what it is make of, at home.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service

Report: Worker's Comp Insurers May Be Pressured into a Hard Market

(parts of this article first appeared in National Underwriter Magazine)

With the current investment environment not benefitting Worker’s Compensation insurers, companies may be pressured into a harder market and thus higher rates as they try to achieve underwriting profits in a line that hasn’t seen combined ratio of less than 100 (the profit line) since 2006.

Even if interest rates rise, the benefit in improved investment returns may be tempered by the corresponding possibility of higher inflation. Historical results have shown that medical inflation often moves in the same direction as general inflation. Rising medical costs would increase Worker’s Comp loss costs.

Everything you read says that Worker’s Comp rates will be rising. However, there are some ways that YOUR BUSINESS can offset those increases to some degree. Remember, decreased frequency of claims, as well as better claims management, leads to a lower Experience Mod factor. With a lower Mod factor comes lower premiums and more credits! YOU really can control your Worker’s Compensation premiums to a degree, and it’s that control that is critical to not only your premiums in the next few years, but your overall operations as well.

Don’t forget- your insurance carrier doesn’t pay for your claims- you do!

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How Big is Your Risk Appetite?

You are walking toward your car through a dark parking lot late at night. You hear a noise behind you. You look back and see nothing and continue at a slightly faster pace. You hear another noise behind you- again no one. What do you do at this point? The answer is simple- you either turn and run away or you turn back and face whatever it is. One of these two responses is hard-wired into our brains.

Even though our human fight-or-flight is part of our DNA, some things do influence what we actually fear; such as the culture we grew up in. For example, people in South American jungles do not fear large insects, snakes and other reptiles because they grew up with them. But if I were to see a python, I would run immediately. Conversely, if a person from South America were to see Lady Gaga walking down the street, they might want to run away just as fast!

When your organization faces a deadly risk, does it fight or does it run far away from it? More importantly, does your organization influence, foster or try to overrule the natural response of your employees?

In order to be able to face your true risks and not run from them, you must first understand what those risks are. Does your organization actually know what risks they are facing in the future? The first step is to perform an overall risk assessment. This requires a very thorough evaluation with assets, employees, customers, and suppliers. After you know what your risks are, it is much easier to get your people behind dealing with the issues. If we need to “hardwire” anything in an organization, I think it’s better to focus on embedding day-to-day risk management capabilities in the organization that routinely seek out those “scary sounds in the night” and decide on how to handle them individually.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Employee turnover- what's the real problem?

Do you know what your employee turnover rate is for your company? If you don’t know, find out. If you need help figuring that out, please give me a call and I can help you through the math to come up with your turnover rate.

Many times when I visit with potential clients (or with current clients), I ask them what their employee turnover rate is. They usually come up with some number off the top of their head, and you can tell it is a complete guess. I believe it is very important to not only know your current employee turnover rate, but to have goals in place to reduce that number as well. Employee turnover is VERY expensive for your organization- there are many costs associated with constantly having to hire new employees because someone is leaving:

---Hiring costs
---Training costs
---Loss of productivity
---Potential loss of business revenue
---Also, higher claims ratio than businesses with lower turnover rate!!!

As I visit with potential clients or current clients about their employee turnover rate, I find many owners or managers are resigned to a higher-than-necessary turnover rate, telling themselves that “that’s just the way it is in today’s market or in this line of business”. Granted, some business types are inherently more inclined to higher employee turnover rate than others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved!

The most important question you can ask yourself is “What the main reason we are having this high employee turnover rate”? Maybe it’s poor training methods, maybe it’s certain people in your organization that are running employees off, maybe it’s poor hiring procedures. Whatever the reasons, get to the bottom of it! This problem is costing you money in the long run, and costing you in additional insurance premium as well.

Happy, healthy employees make your sales go up, they make your claims go down, and they are a lot more fun to be around. Message me back and let me know if you are having employee turnover problems and what you would like to see your business achieve as a turnover rate in the future.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Vice President
Commercial Risk Service

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet

I saw this little saying this week, and it really hit home. Being an ex-athlete (and I stress the ex part!), I always thought that there was no amount of food that I could consume that I couldn’t overcome by just “working out a little longer”. After all, when I was playing ball in college, they used to force us to consume at least 10,000 calories per day during our heavy workout parts of the year. However, there were a couple of things I didn’t take into consideration:

---First of all, I was 18-21 years old when that happened. My metabolism at 18 years old was running like a car at the Indy 500. My metabolism at 50 is entirely different (now it’s more like a Ford Fiesta!).

---Secondly, we literally worked out 4-6 hours per day, at a very hard rate- probably at a rate that I could never achieve today, mostly because you need to refer back to the first reason (the 50-year-old thing!).

The truth is, after we get out of college, there is never the amount of time or energy to spend on those kinds of workouts. We have to become, for lack of a better term, smarter! Over many, many years, what we put into our bodies basically defines the health we will have as we get older.

Please understand, whatever we eat is totally up to us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves- for instance, I usually say that I purposefully weighed more than 350 pounds at one time. After all, I never accidentally ate anything in my life! As far as our health, we definitely reap what we sow. However, you can turn that around- starting today!

Make the decision today that whatever you put in your body is something you can live with 10-15 years from now- because that is exactly what will happen!

Have a great week.

Bobby Bland PWCA, CIC
Commercial Risk Service