Saturday, November 22, 2008

HR Discipline - You: "You're Suspended!" Employee: "Thanks, Boss!"

What can employers do when a disciplinary suspension is seen as a gift? Today's expert offers practical discipline techniques.
Most companies have progressive disciplinary policies for the right reasons: to provide managers and HR with the tools they need to make fair, consistent, and legally defensible employment decisions, says attorney Allison West SPHR.

But sometimes the systems don't seem to work, she says. One of the flaws in most disciplinary policies is that the focus is on punishment rather than rehabilitation. West offers questions to consider when evaluating your discipline program. (West is principal of Employment Practices Specialists LLC, an employment law training and consulting firm in Pacifica, California.)
What are the Most Common Reasons Employees Are Disciplined?

Start with some research. Do you take most disciplinary actions for infractions such as tardiness? Or are more egregious matters such as harassment, insubordination, safety, or theft the problem?
Determine whether themes or patterns exist in your company. If they do, training might be in order. For example, people often break rules because they don't know about them or because the rules have not been clearly written or explained.
Is there a Mitigating Reason for the Misconduct?

Too often discipline is doled out without finding out more about why the conduct occurred. Ask the employee why he or she is not taking the job, the discipline, or continued employment seriously.
Say you have an employee who is consistently late and receives a verbal and then written warning. The conduct doesn't change and you are about to suspend the employee. However, you have never asked the person what was going on.
Perhaps the employee has an ongoing or intermittent family or medical issue that is causing him or her to be late. Punishing an employee in that situation is typically not going to improve the conduct.
In fact, the time off may be more valuable to the employee than the compensation. In addition, the employee may have legitimate legal rights to take the time off or to use intermittent leave.
Why do Some Employees See a Suspension As a Gift?

Are you clearly communicating the severity of the situation to the employee? This is not the time to be vague or assume the employee already understands the consequences of his or her conduct.
Be direct. If termination is an option, say, "You will be terminated if you violate the policy or continue with the inappropriate conduct."
If you are direct and clear about the consequences and the employee still takes a casual attitude, it may be best to terminate.
Is Suspension Without Pay the Best Approach?

West says she strongly opposes sending employees home without pay and firmly believes that kind of disciplinary strategy is more often than not ineffective. Why? The employer is typically adding more stress to an already stressful situation. Sending someone home so they have a harder time paying bills or supporting their family does not provide the guidance or support for someone to turn around poor behavior.
Even if there are no mitigating reasons for the inappropriate conduct, docking pay seldom turns around poor attitude or morale.
Do Managers and HR Dole Out Discipline Consistently?

Some managers may use strict discipline immediately while others are lax and let things simmer until the poor or inappropriate conduct reaches a boiling point. Inconsistent discipline does not send a clear message.
Do You Consistently Fire Employees Who Repeat the Prohibited Conduct After the Suspension?

If there is no real consequence, behavior does not change. If you don't terminate right after a violation, your discipline policy has no teeth.
Ask yourself, from a business and corporate culture standpoint: Do you want to retain an employee who is not affected by the disciplinary process?

Thanks to BLR


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HR Economy - What is Deflation?

On Nov. 19, 2008, the U.S. Labor Department reported a 1 percent drop in the consumer price index for October 2008. The drop marked the largest decline in 61 years, and it was the first decline in that measure in nearly a quarter of a century. The 1 percent drop was twice as large as many mainstream analysts had forecast. Such a large decline in consumer prices is forcing U.S. policymakers to rethink the possibility of deflation in America.

For more on deflation, we turn to Robert Prechter, the man who literally wrote a book on how to survive it. The following article, adapted from Prechter's book Conquer the Crash – You Can Survive and Prosper in a Deflationary Depression, will help you understand exactly what to expect from deflation. 

Before explaining the price effects of inflation and deflation, we must define the terms inflation, deflation, money, credit and debt.

Webster's says, "Inflation is an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods," and "Deflation is a contraction in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods."

Money is a socially accepted medium of exchange, value storage and final payment. A specified amount of that medium also serves as a unit of account.

According to its two financial definitions, credit may be summarized as a right to access money. Credit can be held by the owner of the money, in the form of a warehouse receipt for a money deposit, which today is a checking account at a bank.  Credit can also be transferred by the owner or by the owner's custodial institution to a borrower in exchange for a fee or fees – called interest – as specified in a repayment contract called a bond, note, bill or just plain IOU, which is debt.  In today's economy, most credit is lent, so people often use the terms "credit" and "debt" interchangeably, as money lent by one entity is simultaneously money borrowed by another.

When the volume of money and credit rises relative to the volume of goods available, the relative value of each unit of money falls, making prices for goods generally rise.  When the volume of money and credit falls relative to the volume of goods available, the relative value of each unit of money rises, making prices of goods generally fall.  Though many people find it difficult to do, the proper way to conceive of these changes is that the value of units of money are rising and falling, not the values of goods.

The most common misunderstanding about inflation and deflation – echoed even by some renowned economists – is the idea that inflation is rising prices and deflation is falling prices. General Price changes, though, are simply effects of inflation and deflation.

The price effects of inflation can occur in goods, which most people recognize as relating to inflation, or in investment assets, which people do not generally recognize as relating to inflation. The inflation of the 1970s induced dramatic price rises in gold, silver and commodities. The inflation of the 1980s and 1990s induced dramatic price rises in stock certificates and real estate. This difference in effect is due to differences in the social psychology that accompanies inflation and disinflation, respectively.

By John G. Agno

Thanks to Robert Prechter, Certified Market Technician / Founder & CEO


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HR Culture - Healthy Corporate Cultures

An overwhelming number of companies are lackluster because they culturally replicate fear-based behaviors, reacting to events rather than driving toward a vision.  An atmosphere of judgment and criticism prevails.  These companies stifle human potential and behave in ways that lead to mediocre outcomes.

Successful companies are most often led by leaders concerned with the well-being of everyone who works in the organization.  Research shows such companies have leaders who are humble, inclusive, inspirational and willing to demonstrate innovative/visionary leadership.

Leaders First

Human behaviors are notoriously difficult to change, but attitude and cultural adjustments are the only ways to differentiate yourself long term.  To have a meaningful effect, leaders' attitudinal changes must precede actual organizational changes, which ultimately herald social and employee shifts from stress behaviors to positive performance.

It takes focus and tenacity to improve corporate culture, instill attitudinal changes in positive thinking and routinely express appreciation.  You must find a few actionable principles that truly make a difference and revolutionize workplace culture.  You must take specific steps to drive these principles deep into the company, at every level and into every behavior.

This is a tall order, which begins at the top.

The Healthy Road Ahead

Health-optimizing programs are needed to develop physical and psychological resilience.

The proper tools and techniques—relaxation therapies, cognitive therapies to teach optimism, strategies to find positive meaning in fundamental aspects of work—can help individuals reshape internal functioning mechanisms and achieve optimal emotional and psychological states.

Such programs cultivate a positive corporate culture that can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through stress reduction.

Too many companies purchase the health plans they can afford and then hope to maintain costs, without realizing that corporate culture and individual responsibility have a dramatic impact on overall employee health and healthcare costs.

Achieving reductions in healthcare costs without employees' buy-in is difficult, as many health issues are related to lifestyle.  Obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and an inability to manage stress are associated with 50 to 70 percent of all illness and medical problems.

Wellness programs provide structured efforts to improve employee lifestyles, and screenings before the onset of disease enhance health and reduce costs.  But less than 5 percent of the $1.8 trillion that Americans spend on healthcare goes toward prevention, and even progressive companies spend 80 times more on cure than prevention.

Corporations have a responsibility to reduce stress, but health packages are affordable and effective only when employees take responsibility for managing their own lives and bodies.


By John G. Agno


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HR Entrepreneur - Risky Decision-Making Essential to Entrepreneurialism, Scientists Conclude

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2008) — Whether someone will become the next Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Henry Ford may be down to whether they make risky decisions, scientists at the University of Cambridge have concluded.

The article, published in the journal Nature, asserts that entrepreneurs are riskier decision-makers than their managerial counterparts. Additionally, the type of decision-making essential to the entrepreneurial process may be possible to teach or enhanced in the future by pharmaceuticals.

Psychological and biomedical research has traditionally considered risk-taking as an abnormal expression of behaviour, as exemplified by its association with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. However, the Cambridge research, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, found that entrepreneurs represent an example of highly adaptive risk-taking behaviour which can result in positive outcomes during stressful economic circumstances. This 'functional impulsivity', the ability to make quick decisions under stress, may have evolutionary value as a means of seizing opportunities in a rapidly-changing environment.

Entrepreneurs choose to start their own business ventures rather than working within an existing company. Whilst there is a potential for considerable profit in making the decision to 'go out on their own', these individuals accept the accompanying risks (to finances, reputation, family stability and even self-esteem) as many new ventures fail. The scientists propose that it is these types of decisions which differentiate entrepreneurs from others.

To test their hypothesis, the scientists had 16 entrepreneurs from 'Silicon Fen' (the cluster of high-tech companies in and around Cambridge) and 17 managers complete a computerised neurocognitive assessment measuring various aspects of their decision-making abilities. On a decision-making task that required 'cold' processes, entrepreneurs and managers performed similarly. ('Cold' processes govern real-life decisions such as when planning the opening of a consulting company or hiring staff.)

The researchers then had the entrepreneurs and managers make 'hot' or risky decisions which involved evaluating rewarding versus punishing outcomes. (For example, the decision between financing one of several potentially excellent but risky business opportunities is a hot decision – it is too difficult for emotions not to play a role.) On this test, although entrepreneurs and managers both made good quality decisions, entrepreneurs were significantly riskier. Entrepreneurs also showed superior cognitive flexibility and higher ratings on questionnaires which measure impulsivity. These cognitive processes are intimately linked to brain neurochemistry, particularly to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, lead author of the study, said: "This study has shown that not all risk-taking is disadvantageous, particularly when combined with enhanced flexible problem solving. In fact, risky or 'hot' decision-making is an essential part of the entrepreneurial process and may be possible to teach, particularly in young adults where higher risk taking is likely and age-appropriate.

"Additionally, from previous studies we know that drugs can be used to manipulate dopamine levels, leading to changes in risky decision-making. Therefore, our findings also raise the question of whether one could enhance entrepreneurship pharmacologically."

Journal ReferenceThe Innovative Brain. Nature, 13 November 2008


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HR Leadership - The Influencers: The Top Five Reasons Leaders Lack Influence

Do you wear the shoes of change? And influence others to follow in your footsteps?
Influence challenges exist at every level of an organization. According to a study we recently conducted, one of the main culprits of these challenges is that leaders have little, if any, influence over the way employees behave. In fact, the data reveals that only 20 percent of leaders are true "influencers"—those capable of influencing positive change in a way that lasts.

For example, after six years and millions of dollars in resources, one CEO we worked with declared failure on a Lean/Six Sigma effort. When asked why he was giving up, he lamented, "I'm tired of trying to teach old dogs new tricks. I haven't figured out how to make Six Sigma part of our culture. And it's too expensive to keep trying."

Leaders' inability to influence the behavior of their people—to engage their hearts, minds and hands—is at the root of the vast majority of corporate disappointments. Here are the top five reasons most leaders lack influence:

1. Leaders Think it's Not their Job. Most leaders put a great deal of time into crafting breakthrough strategies, selecting winning products and engaging with analysts, shareholders and major customers. But few realize that the success, or failure, of their grand schemes lies in influencing the behavior of the hundreds or thousands who will have to execute on the big ideas—their employees. The most influential leaders spend 50 to 75 percent of their time thinking about and actively influencing the behaviors they know will lead to top performance. But the majority delegates these duties to others like HR leaders. The average leader spends less than five percent of his or her time on active efforts to create behavior change. Consequently, results fall far short of their potential and employee behavior falls into predictable patterns of turfism, blame and politics.

2. Leaders Lack Competence. Many leaders who had previously stumbled into success at influencing behavior change couldn't articulate why their efforts succeeded. Even worse, the study showed that while most executives were frustrated with many behaviors in their organizations, only one in 20 had a carefully developed plan for influencing change. When leaders were asked to describe their approach to influencing rapid and sustainable behavior change, most had almost nothing to say.

For example, one CEO we interviewed took over a company that had stalled financially in recent months. The company was started by a group of highly skilled engineers who had built a wildly successful product. However, the founders now needed to change the culture of the company to focus on quality and execution. Things were going badly, and the CEO had no real plan for fundamentally changing this behavior. The same CEO described a tremendously effective influence challenge he'd tackled in a previous role that dramatically improved customer service. And yet, he had transferred almost none of what he'd used effectively to this new challenge.

3. Leaders Confuse Talking with Influencing. Many leaders think influence consists of little more than talking someone into doing something. It's no wonder most influence efforts start with a PowerPoint presentation. But profound, persistent and overwhelming problems demand more than verbal persuasion. Anyone who's ever tried to talk a smoker into quitting knows there's a lot more to behavior change than words. Leaders make the same mistake when they publish a bunch of platitudes in the form of a "Mission and Values" statement, give a few speeches on why these values are crucial and then assume their job is done.

4. Leaders Believe In Silver Bullets. When leaders actually attempt to influence new behavior, they will often look for a quick fix—they fall into the trap of thinking that deeply ingrained bad habits can be changed with one simple technique. Every leader has his or her pet technique. Some host a star-studded retreat. Some are all about trinkets—so they hand out inspiring posters and color-changing mugs and think people will line up for change. Some believe it's about incentives and they tinker with the performance management system or tie new behavior to executive bonuses. The research shows that when leaders rely on just one simple source of influence to drive change, they almost always fail.

5. Leaders Try to Influence Everyone. There are a few leaders who understand that influence is their job. They may even put a lot of time and energy into influencing behavior, but they squander limited time and energy by trying to influence everyone. The most influential leaders amass a wealth of social capital by investing time and energy with two influential groups—their chain of command and their opinion leaders. Influencers know they don't have to have personal relationships with everyone in the company—they just have to have relationships with those who do. If leaders spent time building trust with formal and informal opinion leaders, they will inherit social capital that extends their influence into every corner of the organization.

The good news is that one in twenty leaders can influence change. These successful leaders do so by using four or five sources of influence in combination, not just one. The study showed these people are able to affect behavior change quickly and permanently. And these are skills everyone can learn.

The root cause of disappointment and underperformance is not a failure of ideas; it's a failure of influence. If leaders can learn to diagnose the sources of influence that are responsible for the current behavior of their employees, they can create an influence plan for replacing the bad behaviors with good ones and ultimately, make change inevitable.

The most important capacity we possess is our ability to influence behavior—that of ourselves or others. With a modest increase in influence repertoire and skills, any leader can generate substantial progress to the results he or she cares about most.
By Ron McMillan and Joseph Grenny


HR Hiring - The 'Biggest Turkey' Ever Hired

A recent survey asked hiring managers to describe the "biggest turkey" they ever hired. The responses should leave no doubt as to why they considered the employee a dud.

While hiring is a rarer bird these days due to downsizing, employers still seeking talent find hiring new people to be more daunting than ever because "turkeys" are still lurking in the applicant pool, according to a recent survey by Caliper, an international management consulting firm.

The October 2008 survey of 190 hiring managers found that 69 percent of respondents find it easier to work with "the devil they know" in poorly performing employees rather than taking a chance on an "unknown" new hire. Just 31 percent of those queried find it harder to manage the people they have than to select new employees.

For some employers, these hiring concerns have proven to be well founded. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Caliper asked managers to describe the "biggest turkey you ever hired." Among the responses:

  • "A fellow who, after 1 week on the job, asked to go to Florida. We said no, so he called in sick for a week and then came back with a tan!"
  • "We hired someone who could barely do a single task."
  • "We hired a woman and the second day on the job, we found her taking a nap in the office of the CEO."
  • "One gentleman came in late, left early, then told me, 'I'm going to be sick tomorrow, so I won't be in'."

"In difficult economic environments, people are a company's most powerful competitive advantage," said Herb Greenberg, Caliper's founder, president, and CEO. "Every new hire provides a precious opportunity that employers don't want to squander. This adds to the pressure to 'work smarter' in the hiring process and to avoid the costs of a poor decision."

Thanks to BLR


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HR Recognition - Summing Up the Benefits of Recognition

Realizing a return on investment is a top priority for most organizations. Custom Design Marketing, an incentive company in Kirkland, Wash., takes the mystery out of measurement with its new Employee Recognition Calculator. HR professionals and others responsible for implementing employee recognition programs can better assess the impact of initiatives on the bottom line with this easy to use tool that provides a gauge on financial risks and rewards. By using this calculator, they are able to project employee recognition ROI before beginning a program, as well as track results after implementation. 

"HR professionals are passionate about employee recognition, and they understand the value of these programs. However, they have a real problem when it comes to asking for funding. Employee recognition is often viewed as a soft benefit to the company. CEOs and other executives may tout the value of having engaged employees to the press and stakeholders, but they sing a different tune when the budget meetings are held," says Bob Dawson, vice president of Custom Design Marketing. "Other areas that are measured for financial risk and return are put ahead of employee recognition. This Employee Recognition Calculator provides a great starting point for demonstrating that these programs can in fact show ROI."

The Employee Recognition Calculator helps users to establish a simple performance based measure of ROI for recognition. They can determine a baseline performance rating for the workers that they wish to measure, using a scale of one to five. The calculator goes further to pinpoint the value of what the employees are being measured on. After a value is established, employees can be rated at the completion of the recognition program. 

Since its launch, the Employee Recognition Calculator has been used by several retailers to create weekly scorecards which allow employees to accumulate points based on the scores they achieve weekly. 

"Utilizing this calculator, companies can establish short-term objectives that demonstrate ROI. This keeps their budgets at acceptable levels while building a culture of recognition in the organization," Dawson says. 
More information is available on
Thanks to ManageSmarter


Friday, November 21, 2008

HR Motivational - More than What We Can Hold

Once a boy went to a shop with his mother. The shop keeper looked at the small cute child and showed him a bottle with sweets and said
'Dear Child..u can take the sweets...

But the child didnt take. The shop keeper was surprised.. such a small child he is and why is he not taking the sweets from the bottle. Again
he said take the sweets....

Now the mother also heard that and said.. take the sweets dear.. Yet he didnt take... The shopkeeper seeing the child not taking the
sweets... he himself took the sweets and gave to the child. The child was happy to get two hands full of sweets.

While returning  home the Mother asked the child... Why didnt you take the sweets, when  the shop keeper told you to take?..

Can you guess the response:

Child replies... Mom! my hands are very small and if i take the sweets i can only take few.. but now you see when uncle gave with his big
hands.... how many more sweets i got!

When we take we may get little but when God gives... HE gives us more beyond our expectations.... more than what we can hold..!!


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HR Discipline - What to Do When You 'Hear It Through the Grapevine'

When you get hints of inappropriate activity (e.g., a boss "hitting" on a subordinate or racial teasing) but no evidence, no corroboration, and no complaint, should you act? Yes, says today's expert.
The bottom line is that, when faced with a "hint" of inappropriate activity, you absolutely should act, says attorney Thomas N. Makris, SPHR. This is no time to bury your head in the sand, he says, adding that an employer has an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to provide a workplace that is free from sexual and other illegal harassment.
Information about harassment or racial teasing, even if it comes only "through the grapevine," puts you on notice of situations that may be illegal or contrary to company policy—or both. If you are getting hints, but no complaints, you need to not only address the specific situations but also do additional training of the workforce as a whole.
Makris is counsel at the Sacramento, California, office of the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
Potentially Harassing Behavior

Let's take the case of the situation involving the manager hitting on the subordinate. Start by interviewing the subordinate to establish what, from his or her point of view, is happening, says Makris.
Yes, and They Are Unwelcome

If the subordinate tells you that the manager has indeed been making sexual or romantic advances and that those advances are unwelcome or are tied in anyway to terms and conditions of employment, then this as a potential sexual harassment situation. You will need to conduct a full investigation and take appropriate disciplinary and remedial action.
Yes, but Good-Natured Banter

If the subordinate confirms the conduct but tells you that it was good-natured banter and not offensive, you still need to address it as a situation potentially involving harassment or violation of company policy. There may be other employees being subjected to the same conduct who do find it offensive. Even if no others are involved, you will need to investigate.
After a full investigation, discipline may be appropriate.
It Never Happened

If the subordinate denies the conduct, continue the investigation until you have run the issue to the ground. The subordinate may be hesitant to confirm the conduct because of fear of retaliation or a desire not to make waves. Work your way back up the grapevine from the person from whom you heard the rumor to the person who witnessed the event and started the chatter. Again a full investigation is necessary.
Consensual Relationship

If the subordinate confirms the conduct but tells you that the there is a consensual romantic relationship, then the current situation probably does not involve illegal harassment. Still, you need to address the conflicts of interest and potential violations of company policy created by such a relationship between a manager and a subordinate.
Reassignment of one of both of the employees to sever the reporting relationship is appropriate. Termination of one or both employees for violation of company policy may have to be considered.
You should also interview other employees in the department to see if there has been any favoritism or any perception of favoritism. Finally, if both parties stay in the workplace, take steps to protect the company from issues that may arise if the relationship turns sour in the future.
Potential Racial Teasing

Now to the example of racial teasing. The path will be similar to that for the rumored harassment. Conduct a full investigation to determine the facts. Evaluate whether the conduct is a violation of company policy or is otherwise potentially offensive; if it involves racial jokes or epithets, it almost certainly is.
Take appropriate steps to discipline the employee(s) responsible for the offensive remarks, and take steps to prevent this type of conduct in the future and to prevent any form of retaliation.

Thank to BLR


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

HR Middle Management - View from Middle Management

While you're leading the "glamorous" life of a training professional, ever wonder what your company's middle managers think of their own job roles? You might not know them as well as you think you do. Among other findings, "Middle Managers Outlook," new research from Accenture, reveals many of your mid-ranking workers are at least as strained as your executives by the volatile economy. Here are some key points from the study:

• Nearly One-Half of Middle Managers In The
U.S. are Extremely Or Very Satisfied with Working At Their Current Organizations. Just over half are not highly satisfied, including almost one in ten who are dissatisfied.

• Job Dissatisfaction Stems Primarily From Insufficient Pay or benefits and the lack of prospects for advancement.

• Insufficient Compensation Topped The List For The Most Frustrating Aspects Of The Job. In addition, more than one-third of middle managers are frustrated by their increasing workload, particularly middle managers in larger companies.

• Two-thirds of middle managers would consider another job, but are not actively looking. Another one in 10 are actively looking for a new job. Among those actively seeking or considering a new job, two-thirds cite pay or benefits as the top reason.

• Almost One In Ten Middle Managers Cite Salary Compensation As The Most Important Thing they look for when considering a new job. Roughly two-thirds seek benefits and interesting or challenging work, and more than half look for flexible work hours.

• Overall, Middle Managers Feel the State Of
The Economy Is Having Some Effect On Their Job-Related Decisions, with most saying they would like a new job but will stay in their current position until the economy improves. More than one-quarter are taking steps to improve the security of their jobs, such as working harder or longer hours.

• Just Under One-Third Of Middle Managers Say The Economy Is Not Affecting Their Job.

• Similar to the economy's effect on job-related decisions, almost Two-Thirds Of Middle Managers Say The Economy Is Having A Negative Effect On Their Work Environment, mentioning that employees are concerned about losing their jobs and are demonstrating low morale. Notably, approximately 3 in 10 middle managers say the economy is having no effect on their work environment.

• Only About 3 In 10 Middle Managers Say Their Employers Have Taken Steps To Help Employees Cope With The Weak Economy. And, more than two-thirds of middle managers feel their employers could do more to help employees cope with the weak economy.


• One-In-4 Middle Managers Recently Have Been Asked To Deliver Difficult News such as layoffs or cuts in salary/benefits to staff members.


Thanks to Inside Training Newsletter