Friday, March 30, 2012

What’s Your Business Worth?

Why is it that an unprofitable research stage technology company with no revenues can be worth millions more than a stable service or manufacturing business with several years of revenues and profits?

The answer to this fiscal unfairness can be found in the fundamentals of business valuations. It's important to note that any two licensed appraisers or prospective investors can read key valuation factors differently. But what is true to all business valuations is the attempt to put a dollar value on a company's future business potential.  

Startup entrepreneurs and well-established business owners should have a sophisticated appreciation of how investors and ultimately business buyers will size up their company's potential. Sometimes these factors which can influence company valuations are referred to as "business fundamentals" or "investment fundamentals."

There are positive fundamentals just as there are negative fundamentals. Some fundamentals apply to the specific company's operations while other fundamentals apply to broader market conditions. Businesses with a long list of positive investment fundamentals tend to receive generous business valuations.

Here are six fundamentals that may influence the value of your business.

No. 1: Revenue predictability. How stable is your company's revenue stream? Businesses that serve customers through multi-year contracts or can prove they generate "recurring revenues" from service contracts and product upgrades are valued more highly than companies that have to fight for every customer year after year.

No. 2: Customer list. A company's customer list says a lot about its value. Ideally, businesses want to have an impressive list of customers who pay their bills on time. Further, higher value businesses are not dependent on any single customer for more than 10% of annual revenues.

No. 3: High gross margin business. High gross profit margin businesses have greater leeway to make business mistakes or cut costs during an economic downturn. Every percentage point gain not only helps improve business valuations, but keeps good businesses in business. It's why high gross profit margin software companies are valued higher than traditionally lower gross profit margin businesses such as grocery retailing.

No. 4: Intellectual property advantage. Businesses that own trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyrights can rely on federal laws to protect their innovations from competitor misuse. But not all patents and trademarks are valuable. More valuation credit is given to intellectual property that can generate extra revenues from licensing income for a company, or that truly blocks competitors from participating in a market.

No.5: Brand strength. A good brand is different than owning a trademark. Brands have reputations and if managed well can be a valuable business asset. Valuation experts measure brand value in several ways. One of the most influential factors is to estimate its licensing potential or if a company can reasonably apply the brand name to products or services in other markets.

No. 6: Low debt load. Does your business require a lot of debt to operate or expand?  If so, valuation experts will give your company a painful "valuation haircut."

So how did you do? If you couldn't put a check mark next to any fundamental, then it's time to take meaningful steps to improve your business. Make it your best work!

Susan Schreter is a 20-year veteran of the venture finance community and small business policy advocate.  Her educational work is dedicated to improving startup longevity and operating performance in rural, urban and suburban America.

Thanks to Susan Schreter / Small Business Fox Business / FOX News Network, LLC.

20 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Accepting A New Job

Woo-hoo! You got a job offer. Way to go.

But before you jump at the opportunity, I recommend taking a few minutes to really evaluate the position and how well it meets your needs. (If you need help figuring out what your needs actually are, be sure to download my FREE mini-workbook called, How Nourishing is YOUR Career?)

You see, when searching for a job, many people get anxious. The process is so slow and stressful; they end up accepting the first decent offer that comes along without ever really considering if they're making the right move at the right time. This is one of the reasons so many people end up being "job hoppers," bouncing from one position to the next. If you don't take the time on the front end to truly explore what you want from a new job and to figure out if this position satisfies those desires, you'll end up paying for it on the back end.

So take a few minutes to ask yourself the following twenty questions before you say "yes" to that job offer. And if you don't like the answers you come up with, give yourself permission to continue the job search. There are plenty of opportunities out there. Don't let fear and anxiety force you to settle.

  1. Is this a long-term career move? If not, what does this position offer in the way of experience and/or connections that will put me in a better position for achieving my long-term career goals in the future? How long do I need to stay in order to gain these advantages?
  2. If this is a short-term career move, what is the purpose of it? Am I running away from something I DON'T want or running towards something I DO want?
  3. Does this position challenge my mental abilities?
  4. Am I capable of, and comfortable with, doing the tasks for which I would be responsible?
  5. Do I fully understand the expectations of the role?
  6. Will the company provide me with the necessary resources to be successful?
  7. Does this position utilize my talents and skills?
  8. Will I be able to offer a valuable contribution?
  9. Will I be proud to be associated with the company's brand, product and/or services?
  10. Does the company culture appear to be in line with my values?
  11. Is the office location a comfortable distance from home? Will the commute potentially be a problem and if so, how will I overcome it?
  12. Have my interactions with other employees been comfortable and friendly?
  13. Can I envision feeling at home with the other employees socially?
  14. Does my direct supervisor appear to be a supportive individual from whom I can learn?
  15. Is the work environment conducive to my own work style?
  16. Will the work feel professionally satisfying?
  17. Financially, will this job provide me with a desirable lifestyle? If not, does it have the potential to in the future?
  18. Will the benefits package meet my needs?
  19. Is there opportunity for future professional growth?
  20. Are there any potential problems I can foresee in accepting this job? If so, how will I avoid them and/or overcome them?

Chrissy Scivicque (pronounced "Civic"), founder of Eat Your Career, is an award-winning freelance writer/editor with a passion for two things: food and helping others.

Thanks to Chrissy Scivicque / Careerealism


6 Tips For Making Better Decisions

The one thing everyone on the planet has in common is the undeniable fact we've all made our fair share of regrettable decisions. Show me someone who hasn't made a bad decision and I'll show you someone who is either not being honest, or someone who avoids decisioning at all costs, which by the way, constitutes a bad decision. Making sound decisions is a skill set that needs to be developed like any other. As a person who works with CEOs on a daily basis, I can tell you with great certainty all leaders are not created equal when it comes to the competency of their decisioning skills. Nothing will test your leadership mettle more than your ability to make decisions.

Why do leaders fail? They make bad decisions. And in some cases they compound bad decision upon bad decision. You cannot separate leadership from decisioning, for like it or not, they are inexorably linked. Put simply, the outcome of a leader's decisions can, and usually will, make or break them. The fact of the matter is that senior executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. What most fail to realize is while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom, it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. As much as you may wish it wasn't so, when it comes to being a leader you're really only as good as your last decision.

Here's the thing – even leaders who don't fail make bad decisions from time-to-time. When I reflect back upon the poor decisions I've made, it's not that I wasn't capable of making the correct decision, but for whatever reason I failed to use sound decisioning methodology. Gut instincts can only take you so far in life, and anyone who operates outside of a sound decisioning framework will eventually fall prey to an act of oversight, misinformation, misunderstanding, manipulation, impulsivity or some other negative influencing factor.

The first key in understanding how to make great decisions is learning how to synthesize the overwhelming amount incoming information leaders must deal with on a daily basis, while making the best decisions possible in a timely fashion. The key to dealing with the voluminous amounts of information is as simple as becoming discerning surrounding the filtering of various inputs.

Understanding that a hierarchy of knowledge exists is critically important when attempting to make prudent decisions. News Flash – not all inputs should weigh equally in one's decisioning process. By developing a qualitative and quantitative filtering mechanism for your decisioning process you can make better decisions in a shorter period of time. The hierarchy of knowledge is as follows:

  • Gut Instincts: This is an experiential and/or emotional filter that may often times have no current underpinning of hard analytical support. That said, in absence of other decisioning filters it can sometimes be all a person has to go on when making a decision. Even when more refined analytics are available, your instincts can often provide a very valuable gut check against the reasonability or bias of other inputs. The big take away here is that intuitive decisioning can be refined and improved. My advice is to actually work at becoming very discerning.
  • Data: Raw data is comprised of disparate facts, statistics, or random inputs that in-and-of-themselves hold little value. Making conclusions based on data in its raw form will lead to flawed decisions based on incomplete data sets.
  • Information: Information is simply an evolved, or more complete data set. Information is therefore derived from a collection of processed data where context and meaning have been added to disparate facts which allow for a more thorough analysis.
  • Knowledge: Knowledge is information that has been refined by analysis such that it has been assimilated, tested and/or validated. Most importantly, knowledge is actionable with a high degree of accuracy because proof of concept exists.

Even though people often treat theory and opinion as fact, they are not one and the same. I have witnessed many a savvy executive blur the lines between fact and fiction resulting in an ill advised decision when decisions are made under extreme pressure and outside of a sound decisioning framework. Decisions made at the gut instinct or data level can be made quickly, but offer a higher level of risk. Decisioning at the information level affords a higher degree of risk management, but are still not as safe as those decisions based upon actionable knowledge.

Another aspect that needs to be factored into the decisioning process is the source of the input. I believe it was Cyrus the Great who said "diversity in counsel, unity in command" meaning that good leaders seek the counsel of others, but maintain control over the final decision. While most successful leaders subscribe to this theory, the real question in not whether you should seek counsel, but in fact where, and how much counsel you should seek. You see more input, or the wrong input, doesn't necessarily add value to a decisioning process. Volume for the sake of volume will only tend to confuse matters, and seeking input from sources that can't offer significant contributions is likely a waste of time. Two other issues that should be considered in your decisioning process as they relate to the source of input are as follows:

  1. Credibility: What is the track record of your source? Is the source reliable and credible? Are they delivering data, information or knowledge? Will the source tell you what you want to hear, what they want you to hear, or will they provide the unedited version of cold hard truth?
  2. Bias: Are there any hidden and/or competing agendas that are coloring the input being received? Is the input being provided for the benefit of the source or the benefit of the enterprise?

The complexity of the current business landscape, combined with ever increasing expectations of performance, and the speed at which decisions must be made, are a potential recipe for disaster for today's executive unless a defined methodology for decisioning is put into place. If you incorporate the following metrics into your decisioning framework you will minimize the chances of making a bad decision:

  1. Perform a Situation Analysis: What is motivating the need for a decision? What would happen if no decision is made? Who will the decision impact (both directly and indirectly)? What data, analytics, research, or supporting information do you have to validate the inclinations driving your decision?
  2. Subject your Decision to Public Scrutiny: There are no private decisions. Sooner or later the details surrounding any decision will likely come out. If your decision were printed on the front page of the newspaper how would you feel? What would your family think of your decision? How would your shareholders and employees feel about your decision? Have you sought counsel and/or feedback before making your decision?
  3. Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis: Do the potential benefits derived from the decision justify the expected costs? What if the costs exceed projections, and the benefits fall short of projections?
  4. Assess the Risk/Reward Ratio: What are all the possible rewards, and when contrasted with all the potential risks are the odds in your favor, or are they stacked against you?
  5. Assess Whether it is the Right Thing To Do: Standing behind decisions that everyone supports doesn't particularly require a lot of chutzpah. On the other hand, standing behind what one believes is the right decision in the face of tremendous controversy is the stuff great leaders are made of. My wife has always told me that "you can't go wrong by going right," and as usual, I find her advice to be spot on. There are many areas where compromise yields significant benefits, but your value system, your character, or your integrity should never be compromised.
  6. Make The Decision: Perhaps most importantly, you must have a bias toward action, and be willing to make the decision. Moreover, you must learn to make the best decision possible even if you possess an incomplete data set. Don't fall prey to analysis paralysis, but rather make the best decision possible with the information at hand using some of the methods mentioned above. Opportunities and not static, and the law of diminishing returns applies to most opportunities in that the longer you wait to seize the opportunity the smaller the return typically is. In fact, more likely is the case that the opportunity will completely evaporate if you wait too long to seize it.
  7. Bonus - Always have a back-up plan: The real test of a leader is what happens in the moments following the realization they've made the wrong decision. Great leaders understand all plans are made up of both constants and variables, and that sometimes the variables work against you. Smart leaders always have a contingency plan knowing circumstances can sometimes fall beyond the boundaries of reason or control – no "Plan B" equals a flawed plan.
If you have any other advice and/or suggestions about how to make better decisions, please share them in the comments section below…

Thanks to Mike Myatt / Forbes / LLC™
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5 Resume Mistakes You Are Making And How To Avoid Them

Unwritten HR Rules: 21 Secrets For Attaining Awesome Career Success In Human Resources By Alan Collins

Unwritten HR Rules: 21 Secrets For Attaining Awesome Career Success In Human Resources

Unwritten HR Rules: 21 Secrets For Attaining Awesome Career Success In Human Resources By Alan Collins

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Product Description

Are you ready to discover HR career advancement strategies you can't rely on your company to tell you about? If so, you're ready for Unwritten HR Rules.   In this HR best seller, Alan Collins, former Vice President of Human Resources at PepsiCo and Quaker Oats, reveals 21 secrets for attaining awesome career success in HR.

This book reveals blunt, no bull, un-sugarcoated strategies for skyrocketing your career as an HR professional. If you'd like to understand the realities of navigating your HR career through the uncertain, volatile waters in today's competitive organizations, you must have this book in your personal library. If you want to take your HR career to the next level or you're aspiring to someday become a human resources executive, find out what it REALLY takes to get there.

Dig into this book and you'll learn:

*The real secret to impressing your business leaders as an HR professional.
*The awful, brutal and unpleasant truth about advancing your career in HR.
*Sneaky, but brilliant little ways to use LinkedIn to boost your HR career.
*Steps you should take to avoid getting insulting 2-3% merit increases.
*How to use the "Tiger" approach to move your HR career forward.
*The P.O.W.E.R. formula that makes great HR jobs come to you served up on a silver platter.
*What to do when you mess up in HR and still come out ahead.
*How 70% of all HR jobs are really filled -- no matter what your company tells you!
*Why you need to embrace the F-word and use it regularly.
*How to make more money and build your wealth faster in HR.
*The 5-minute time investment you must make to avoid sabotaging your career.
*Networking strategies that apply just to HR professionals
*Your G.R.A.N.D. circle of relationships, including two people you must always keep on speed dial.
*And much, much more.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #311749 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-08-01
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 192 pages
Editorial Reviews


"I wish I had this book 10 years ago but I am definitely thrilled to have it now.  Alan has written a gem for the HR professional at all levels. This is a straight forward, easy to read, guide to finding success in your HR career."
Bryan Hunt, Senior Human Resources Manager, Boeing Corporation
"With humor, heart and a no-nonsense style, this is a book that gets you unstuck and back on track with your career.  It's a must read; as a senior leader in human resources, I plan to buy a copy for all of my team members."
Mary Ellen Schopp, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Lawson Products             
"Having known Alan for years, I'm not surprised that he has written such a powerful book for HR professionals.  Chapter 22 is especially inspirational for those of us trying to figuring out what we want our professional and personal legacy to be."
Michael Oliver, Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer at Pactiv Corporation
"Unwritten HR Rules is well-written, offers practical advice and simply inspires one to achieve the best that one can reach in his or her HR career. I wholeheartedly recommend it."
Andreea Boier-Jennings, Director - Human Resources, Mainstream Advertising, Inc.

From the Back Cover
Are you ready to discover HR career advancement strategies your company doesn't tell you about? If so, then you're ready to read Unwritten HR Rules. This book reveals blunt, no bull, un-sugarcoated secrets for skyrocketing your career as an HR professional. If you aspire to reach an HR executive role and want to understand the realities of getting there, you must have this book in your personal library. Find out what it really takes to blast your HR career to the next level and attain the success you've always dreamed of. Dig into this book and you'll learn:

*The real secret to impressing your business leaders as an HR professional.
*The awful, brutal and unpleasant truth about advancing your career in HR.
*Sneaky, but brilliant little ways to use LinkedIn to boost your HR career.
*Steps you should take to avoid getting insulting 2-3% merit increases.
*How to use the Tiger Woods' career model to move your career forward.
*The P.O.W.E.R. formula that makes great HR jobs come to you served up on a silver platter.
*What to do when you mess up in HR and still come out ahead.
*How 70% of all HR jobs are really filled -- no matter what your company tells you!
*Why you need to embrace the F-word and use it regularly.
*How to make more money and build your wealth faster in HR.
*The 5-minute time investment you must make to avoid sabotaging your career.
*Networking strategies that apply just to HR professionals.
*Your G.R.A.N.D. circle of relationships, including two people you must always keep on speed dial.
*And much, much more.

About the Author
ALAN COLLINS is Founder of Success In HR, a company providing HR professionals with insights and tools for enhancing their careers. He was formerly Vice President of Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He has 25 years of corporate, field and executive experience in HR. Author of the "HR Recession Guide: 7 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Career & Avoid Losing Your HR Job," he has also written over 100 articles and white papers on human resources topics. He earned his BS and MS degrees in Industrial Relations from Purdue. His works can be accessed at

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Reading this book once is NOT enough!!
By Mike Hintz
I have just finished reading Alan Collins' "Unwritten HR Rules" for the SECOND time. If your career is in HR and you haven't read Alan's honest, insightful and useful strategies, you should do yourself (and your career) a favor and get it now! This will quickly become one of your `go to' books for managing your career.

Alan has packed this book with his real life and practical experiences that all HR (and non HR) professionals will recognize. He speaks candidly of day to day situations, events and opportunities we have all had or will encounter....and how you can be successful in dealing with them.

Put very simply his `secrets' make sense and provide actionable strategies that, when implemented, will positively impact your career. BONUS: Alan's unique insight and candid style is also shared on his blog at Don't miss out as he continues to provide other spot on and actionable observations and advice. Great resource!

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Read this book every two months
By Julie K.
Awesome book. I like the fact that in the book Collins gives you principles that you can adapt to your own HR career situation and lots of illustrative examples. For instance, in marketing yourself and your accomplishments, he talks a great deal about playing to your strengths and gives some great examples of HR people, who you can identify with, who have done just that. He talks authentically about his own successes and failures and in a way that you can learn from. Read this book once, quickly. It should not take more than a couple of hours. Mark out the sections that appeal to you. Then go back to it every two months or so and read it again or at least the highlighted sections. Figure out how you can adapt and USE the points he makes. And then you will get the full value of this great book.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Alan Collins gets it and then some.....
By Sandy Jones-Kaminski
I found this book to be an incredibly insightful guide for all the well-intentioned people that go into the field of HR mainly because they "like people." Alan reminds us that, yes, it not only helps to like people if you're pursuing a career in HR, but it also helps if you actually like and know how to work with or aspire to be management.

Reading "Unwritten HR Rules" you'll learn how to increase your compensation as well as ways to cultivate a G.R.A.N.D. network of relationships and even use tools like LinkedIn much more effectively.

I strongly recommend this treatise - not only for all levels of HR professionals currently in the field - but also for anyone in college thinking about a career in HR or experienced folks in another discipline wanting to make a switch to it.

I found Alan's smart, concise and "no BS" book to be an incredibly easy read and the chapter on the importance of showing up strong at meetings well worth the price of the book alone. Thanks for opening the kimono Alan and sharing all this hard-earned knowledge. I have identified at least 3 "junior mint" HR folks that I will order this for as a Christmas gift!


Lift Employee Awareness About Safe Lifting And Lower Injury Rates

Back injuries caused by improper lifting or overexertion are among the most common of workplace injuries. Good training and frequent reminders can reduce stress factors and reduce injuries.

You can never overemphasize safe lifting. In many workplaces almost every employee engages in lifting at some point during the workday. Some workers, like materials handlers, are constantly lifting and hefting heavy objects.

Today, we focus on a review of the safe lifting technique, tips for safer lifting, safe carrying, and engineering and administrative controls to prevent back injuries.

Safe Lifting Review

To avoid lifting accidents and injuries, train employees to follow this safe lifting procedure:

  • Position your feet a shoulder-width apart and place them as close to the object as possible. Make sure you have good footing so your feet do not slip when lifting.
  • Squat down next to the object by bending at your knees and hips.
  • Pull the load close to your body. When the object is close against your body, most of the weight of the object is supported vertically by your spine. However, if the load is held away from your body, then both vertical and horizontal forces are applied to your spine. Your spine cannot carry horizontal forces very well.
  • Get a firm grip on the object. You do not want it to slip or drop.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles to help support your back.
  • Rise up with your legs. Lifting your chin up will help prevent your bottom from sticking out and causing you to lift with your back instead of your legs.
  • Don't go it alone if the load is too heavy. Get help.

Tips for Safer Lifting

Share these tips for safer lifting with your workers:

  • Maintain good lifting posture. Keep your back straight and strong at all times. Do not bend over or twist your back.
  • If you lose grip on an object, let it fall. A little damage to a box, container, or other item is nothing compared to a back injury. Attempting to make a quick adjustment in order to hold onto or catch a slipping or falling object will likely result in some type of back injury.
  • Before doing work that requires a lot of lifting, spend a couple of minutes stretching back, legs, and arms. Stretching at the start of each workday will is also a good idea and will improve your back's strength and flexibility.

Safe Carrying

Carrying a load properly is a key element to back safety. While many back injuries take place during the lifting phases, many are caused by improperly carrying the object.

Proper load carrying means more than simply holding or supporting the object. Employees should understand the following points about safe carrying:

  • Make sure you can see where you're going. Trying to save time by stacking objects is not worth getting injured because you can't see clearly. Back injuries can also be caused by falling or tripping!
  • Take small steps, and make sure your footing is stable. Be especially careful on steps, ramps, and areas with uneven surfaces.
  • Take extra care if you are walking on slippery or wet surfaces. Even rainwater can cause a surface to become extremely slippery.
  • Don't twist your back when carrying a load. To turn, move your feet rather than twisting your back.
  • If you feel the load is "getting away" from you, stop and lower it to the ground. It is far better to have to lift it again than it is to try and wrestle it while it is being carried.
  • If you feel a load is too heavy to handle by yourself, ask for help carrying it.

Engineering and Administrative Controls

  • Encourage employees to use mechanical assist devices to relieve heavy load lifting and carrying tasks. Make sure lifting aids are readily available in areas where needed.
  • Rotate workers through several jobs with different physical demands to reduce the stress on back and upper body.
  • Schedule more breaks for materials handlers to allow for rest and recovery.
  • Vary the job content to offset back stress risk factors.
  • Adjust the work pace to relieve back stress risks and give the worker more control of the work process.
Thanks to Chris Kilbourne / Safety Daily Advisor BLR / BLR Business & Legal Reports

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reducing Sick Leave

Decreasing Absenteeism… And Its Costs.

Do you ever get frustrated with workers who call in sick too often? Or are you more concerned about sick people who DON'T stay at home, and spread illness to other workers?

Sick leave for staff, whether it's used for legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons, has become a major problem for many organizations and industries worldwide. Each year, it costs companies around the world billions of dollars. What's more, in many countries, public sector workers take a considerably higher proportion of sick days than their private sector counterparts, meaning that it's even more costly for governments and for tax payers.

The United States is unusual among developed countries, because it doesn't require organizations to pay for sick leave, although many state and local governments are now considering the need for legislation in this area. However, some companies are starting to reduce sick pay to offset increased health care insurance costs for their workers.

So what do all of these sick days really cost your company?

Costs of Sick Leave

Sick days delay work, causing projects to fall behind schedule. They create stress for other workers, who must make up for lost productivity. And, because other people may need to work overtime to make up for the time lost, they add to overtime bills.

On the other hand, some workers don't receive sick pay. If they're paid only for the actual hours they work, they may feel they can't afford to stay home when they're sick. If they come to work, they may pass their illness to co-workers. This, in turn, makes the situation much worse, because even more workers then become sick – which can cause more "down time" and increased costs in medical care.

Sick pay policies are generally designed to treat people fairly and discourage abuse, but many workers still don't use them properly. We'll look at the reasons for this, and we'll suggest some practical steps that companies can take to reduce absenteeism.

Causes of Too Much Sick Leave

There are two main reasons for high rates of absenteeism: (1) an abnormal amount of illness, and (2) abuse of the system by workers who call in sick when they're actually perfectly healthy. Causes for one or both of these may be as follows:

  • Actual physical or mental illness.
  • An unhealthy lifestyle.
  • The need to care for family members.
  • Personal emotional issues.
  • Problems in the workplace, causing avoidance or stress-related illness.
  • Lack of understanding of sick leave policies.
  • Low job satisfaction and disengagement, often resulting from a low level of control over work or decision-making.
  • Low quality of life in economic, social, and physical terms.
  • A lack of appreciation that work brings obligations as well as rewards.

Identifying the Problem

There are many ways of viewing the sick leave problem, and each instance has its own individual nature. Therefore, finding a standard solution that works for all situations is impractical. So, start by investigating the causes of above-average sick leave in your company. This will help you design the interventions that are most likely to be successful.

While high rates of absenteeism tend to attract a lot of management attention, it's worth remembering that most organizations also benefit from individuals and groups who rarely miss a day of work.

Luck is a big part of whether or not people get the flu or catch a cold each year. However, a combination of healthy lifestyles and a positive office environment can reduce your workers' time off sick.

Stopping the Trend

To start improving the situation, apply some of the management principles discussed in our articles on Creating Job Satisfaction and Working with Purpose. Also, use some of these guidelines to further minimize unnecessary sick days:

  • Become aware of, and responsive to, subtle indications of worker unhappiness or tension.
  • Offer rewards for zero absenteeism.
  • Carefully educate new hires about company policies. If policies change, make sure that you educate everyone on these.
  • Research and discover new methods for reducing physical stress that workers may suffer on the job – for example, where they're standing all day, or performing repetitive movements.
  • Provide training for managers and supervisors so they can deal perceptively and effectively with staff who have a lot of unexplained sick leave.
  • Offer opportunities for in-house exercise.
  • Consider giving workers additional days off, as part of their annual benefits, that are specifically for "preventive health care."
  • Be flexible about allowing workers to make up time they've taken off for a legitimate reason – for example, to care for a sick family member. If people have the "responsible" option to make up a lost day by working a few extra hours each day in the following week, rather than using up their valuable vacation time, they may not feel the need to take a sick day.

These solutions consider the workers' needs, and they also help ensure that your team will be more enthusiastic and dedicated in return.

To approach the issue proactively, you not only want to seek the cause of the overall problem, but also consider individual cases. The best way to avoid abuse of your sick policy is usually to promote an attitude of compassion – workers should feel as though their well-being matters to you. So, to reduce absenteeism, make company policies clear. Be available to answer any questions – and also offer workshops that teach staff how to take personal responsibility for improving their lives.

Unfortunately, however, despite your best efforts to encourage a responsible attitude toward sick leave, you may encounter an employee or two who are indeed abusing the system. Examples include consistently calling in sick right before, or after, a long weekend break, booking off time whenever the workload increases, or suddenly coming down with a cold whenever there's a fresh dump of powder at the local ski hill. Dealing with these employees requires a very systematic approach. Many jurisdictions have a lot of case law on sick leave and disciplinary approaches related to it.

  • Start by developing a comprehensive sick leave policy and monitor sick leave for all employees. Use the tips above to draft a policy that will work for your organization.
  • Apply the policy equally to everyone. For instance, you can't require doctor's notes from some and not from others.
  • Be careful of human rights issues related to sick leave. Again this can be a minefield of legislative issues.

If you take a consistent, firm, and compassionate approach to sick leave management, you should be able to deal effectively with the employees who do seem to be taking advantage. As with all employee feedback issues, communicate your expectations clearly, and follow through. Working together to find a solution allows you to address the problem and enhance employee commitment and engagement.

Key Points

Sick leave issues are varied and complex.

Many companies around the world guarantee sick pay for workers who are ill, though not every country requires it.

Where people are not paid, this can cause sick people to come to work, which can lead to poor productioovity as well as spreading illness to other workers.

Abuse of paid sick leave can have serious financial costs. Companies should be willing negotiators and develop an understanding with their team members about the issue. Organizations are more likely to succeed if they determine, and address, the root cause of any abuse – instead of creating strict rules or rewards that may not be effective.

Thanks to Mind Tools


Why I Hire People Who Fail

A few weeks ago, I wrote about avoiding social media failures. I briefly mentioned our company's "Failure Wall" and was surprised by the number of comments and questions I received about it. What's the purpose? How does it work? And what other kinds of things do you do in that crazy office of yours?

The failure wall was part of our efforts to create a company culture where employees can take risks without fear of reprisal. As NPR's Here and Now reported earlier this year, we started by collecting inspirational quotes about failure. Among my favorites:

  • "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." – Winston Churchill
  • "I have not failed, I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work." – Thomas Edison
  • "Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." – Sophia Loren

One random Thursday night, I returned to our corporate headquarters afterhours with a bottle of wine and a box of acrylic paints. My assistant and I used stencils to paint about three dozen such quotes onto a large white wall in our break room. As first time stencilers, this project itself seemed destined to end up a byline on the (slightly gloppy) failure wall until we gratefully accepted some much-needed painting assistance from my wife.

After we finished painting around 1:00AM, we fastened a dozen Sharpies to the wall alongside these simple instructions: (1) describe a time when you failed, (2) state what you learned, and (3) sign your name. To set the tone, I listed three of my own most memorable (and humbling) failures.

In the beginning, the wall was met with surprise, curiosity and a bit of trepidation. We didn't ask anyone to contribute and we didn't tell people why it was there, but the wall quickly filled up. Some of the entries are life lessons: "After 7 years of practicing, I quit playing violin in high school to fit in. Lesson learned — who cares what other people think." Some are financial mishaps: "I thought buying Yahoo at $485 a share was a good idea." Many are self-deprecating: "My successful failure is working in online marketing when I came to LA to work in showbiz." Some are more than a little amusing: "I thought it was spelled 'fale.'"


I've said this before but it bears repeating: success by failure is not an oxymoron. When you make a mistake, you're forced to look back and find out exactly where you went wrong, and formulate a new plan for your next attempt. By contrast, when you succeed, you don't always know exactly what you did right that made you successful (often, it's luck).

We don't just encourage risk taking at our offices: we demand failure. If you're not failing every now and then, you're probably not advancing. Mistakes are the predecessors to both innovation and success, so it is important to celebrate mistakes as a central component of any culture. This kind of culture can only be created by example — it won't work if it's forced or contrived. A lively culture is nebulous, indefinable, ever-changing. Try to package it in a formal mission statement and you just may suffocate it.

The best way to shape culture is of course to focus on hiring the people who will ultimately make up that culture. Yet this is often overlooked, replaced with corporate values, slogans, and mission statements. It took billions of years to create and define all of the world's great cultures — through failure after failure — so it is with arrogance alone that we executives think we can create and define one for our company. To be blunt, cultures are not created or defined by executives; they evolve around the people who make up a company.

I personally interview every candidate at our corporate headquarters. By the time a prospective employee's resume reaches my desk, the department heads are convinced that the candidate can do the job. But for each person we end up hiring, I still end up interviewing countless other highly qualified candidates who were vying for the job. I'm mainly looking for cultural fit, and there is no more important job for a CEO.

If we hadn't hired people who cherish failures, my entries on the failure wall would be very lonely. Often when interviewing, I poke around and see if I can get the candidate to acknowledge a failure. It's a red flag to me if a candidate can't admit a mistake with a bit of self-deprecating humor. The tendency to dodge direct questions with a Miss America-style answer may indeed be a great asset to someone else's company, but it's not a great fit for success at mine.

Jeffrey Stibel is Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and author of Wired for Thought.

Thanks to Jeffrey Stibel / Blogs HBR / Harvard Business School Publishing


Got A Minute?: The 9 Lessons Every HR Professional Must Learn To Be Successful By Dale J. Dwyer, Sheri A. Caldwell

Got a Minute?: The 9 Lessons Every HR Professional Must Learn to Be Successful

Got A Minute?: The 9 Lessons Every HR Professional Must Learn To Be Successful By Dale J. Dwyer, Sheri A. Caldwell

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Product Description

Designed to help HR and line managers deal with challenging employees in the workplace, this book enlists a novel approach by tying together several real-life--and often entertaining--examples of employee behavior within a broad range of circumstances. Following the stories in each chapter, an analysis of how the HR professionals handled the situations highlights the benefits and detriments of their choices, showcasing both successes and failures--and what can be learned from them. Providing valuable examples and thought-process guidance, this record is ideal for understanding the ethical and legally defensible practices of human resource management.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #252743 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-05-04
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .50" h x 5.90" w x 8.90" l, .70 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 160 pages
Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Dale J. Dwyer, PHR, is Professor of Management at the University of Toledo. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
Dr. Sheri Caldwell, SPHR, is an assistant professor at the University of Findlay and former vice president of human resources at Hickory Farms. She is the coauthor of Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Develop Others. She lives in Oregon, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5Got a Minute Review
By Nancy E Day
Great book for the manager or teacher of management. Lots of excellent stories that are practical and useful in learning how to be a better manager, particularly related to HR.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
4Lessons by Which to Live
By Every1sMom
The information in this book applies not only HR managers, but to many peoples' work atmospheres, volunteer situations, and to everyday life as well. It can help cut down on the drama one experiences in dealing with others. Chapters are organized to be succinct, with specific real-life examples and ways to go about implementing the remedy. The circumstances presented are those an HR manager is trained to handle but to which one may become jaded after repeated infractions, rendering the solutions ineffective. If you have "got a minute", pick up the book and review what could be more of a longterm, win-win situation.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5Got a Minute?
By Agurcsik
I just finished this book and not only did it make me laugh out loud, it gave practicial ideas on how to solve everyday HR issues (and some not so ordinary HR issues). This is a must read book for those entering into the field of HR as it will provide them with scenarios they simply can only learn on the job!