Are Your Employees Becoming Too Social?

Do you worry about your employees wasting their time on social media while on the job? You’re not alone. Many employers are concerned about the role social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest play in slacking off while on the job.

social_istock_000013528921xsmall1Research by Salary.com shows that 41% of employees spend time on Facebook every day with other social networks such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter also getting a mention. So just how much time is this wasting, and what is the best approach to help stem the amount of work hours lost to the pull of social media? The answers may surprise you.

Heavy-Handed Approach Isn’t the Answer

Salary.com found that 21% of employees admitted to spending up to five hours per week on social media. For a company with 100 employees that’s more than 5,000 hours of work time lost each year, or more than $36,000 dollars if you’re paying minimum wage. It’s understandable that if your employees are wasting time on social media, your reaction is to put a stop to the problem.

If things are out of control and you need to get a better sense of what is going on, there’s no doubt that blocking sites like Facebook can seem attractive, and in fact you could pop along to any major retailer like Walmart and find a security camera to help you keep a closer eye on your employees. But is that really the best way?

To really get a handle on your social media problem, you need to understand why your employees are wasting so much time, and what you can do about it in collaboration with them instead of by fighting against them.

During their survey, Salary.com discovered that employees waste time because they aren’t challenged, because they’re bored or unsatisfied with work, or because they lack an incentive to work harder or are struggling with long hours.

To tackle time being wasted on social media, you need to tackle the underlying issues. Once you do that, you might find that social media can in fact be your ally.

Tackling the Underlying Issues

If you want your employees to waste less time on social media, the answer is to tackle the underlying problems.

Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • Get to know your employees – Talk to them, take surveys, discuss their needs and get a feel for what they would like to change and what would help to motivate them;
  • Cut down on meetings. Long meetings add to boredom and surreptitious social media checking. Streamline meetings to make sure they’re genuinely helpful and consider having no-meeting days;
  • Consider flexibility – If your employees are overworked or overstressed, they won’t be productive and will be more likely to turn to social media. Can you introduce working from home or more flexible hours to help your employees work better and smarter?
  • Co-create an internet policy – Having a policy will help everyone to know what is expected of them, but don’t design it and demand adherence. Instead, create it in collaboration with your employees so you can come up with something that you all benefit from;
  • Find ways to motivate your employees – From varied tasks to a new challenge that suits their capabilities, to rewards for goals reached, make sure your employees have reasons to get off social media and engage with their job.

Social Media Breaks Can Actually Benefit Your Business

It’s easy to start seeing social media as your enemy, but in fact in moderation a little social media can be your friend.

Of course if you’re using social media to promote your business it has many benefits, but what about employees checking their personal profiles? How can that help your business?

Corporate wellness experts Keas conducted research into the use of social media at work, and the results were surprising: Employees who took breaks to use Facebook were 16% more productive than employees who took breaks without social media, and 39% more productive than those who didn’t take breaks at all. How can that be so? The answer is simple.

A short break, such as quick surfing on the internet, gives employees a chance to connect with the outside world and have a short rest. Its stress relief, pure and simple, acting as a mental refresher and making it easier to concentrate again afterwards.

Being open to social media within reason can foster more connections and friendships within your business, leading to a happier team, and showing you to be flexible and in touch with the way your employees choose to communicate.

Instead of fighting social media in the workplace, take a measured and sensible approach; your employees will thank you and you may even see a rise in productivity.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn is an author who writes on subjects as diverse as employee satisfaction, marketing, social media, and SEO.


Getting to the Cloud with Your Business

The cloud has been around for several years, but many businesses are just now taking advantage of its benefits. Still others are considering it but hesitating out of concerns or a lack of understanding. If you have a new or small business, you may not see how it can work for you.

Businessman pushing shopping cartThe biggest advantage of the cloud is that it works for businesses in all industries and of all sizes.

Understanding the Cloud

A lot of terminology is used in technology that many business owners and managers may not understand or pay attention to. However, it is important to understand exactly what the cloud is so you know if it offers benefits for your business.

Cloud technology allows businesses to store programs and various data on the internet instead of using a server or hard drive. It can be used for any department in an organization.

The article, “6 Steps to Establishing a Cloud Call Center”, even discusses how to create a call center using the cloud. Every department from human resources to accounting to operations can utilize the cloud for programs and data they need.

According to a report sponsored by Virtustream, about 54% of businesses use some form of the cloud either with private or public cloud options.

The numbers are expected to grow with the increase in off-site workers and mobile employees that need to access information or programs from wherever they are.

How the Cloud Benefits Your Business

Every business or organization has different reasons for using the cloud. However, one of the most common benefits seen in utilizing cloud storage is in cost savings over other solutions.

Here are some other advantages to moving a business to the cloud:

  • Versatility – Businesses can use the cloud to store just about anything. They can store projects, customer data and other information for easy access. It allows them to create virtual workspaces for collaboration.
  • Flexibility – With the cloud, companies can hire workers from anywhere instead of being limited to the local applicant pool. Information can be shared through the cloud so employees in different states or countries can work together. It also allows employees to locate information or use programs while they are traveling or meeting with clients instead of waiting until they get back to the office.
  • Efficiency – Workers can get more done in less time with easy access to the files or programs they need.
  • Cost-savings – Many businesses see the savings they can enjoy by not having to purchase on-site servers or hire extra staff to manage the information. Other savings include not having to install hardware or software updates or not making new purchases every time an employee is added.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from cloud technology.

Whether it is to create a call center for a small business or hire new talent from another state or country, cloud storage gives a business more opportunities and a greater chance at success.

At the end of the day, any business can and should take advantage of this technology.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including business and technology.


9 Old-School Time-Management Habits You Should Adopt

You will find many applications to download to your smartphone to help you manage your time, especially if you run a business. There are software programs and many other high-tech gadgets that promise to add more hours to your day. However, sometimes the old-school methods work even better.

check_iStock_000016849530XSmallHere are nine of them, no technology needed:

  1. Set priorities. Know which things are most important or have deadlines and focus on them. Keep these to a minimum so that you don’t start feeling too overwhelmed.
  2. Learn to say no. If something doesn’t fit with your priorities or schedule, don’t try to make it fit.
  3. Be willing to change your methods. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a more efficient way to do it now. It’s easy to get in a rut of doing the same thing the same way, but it’s beneficial to take a fresh look and see if you can improve.
  4. Take care of you. Make time for yourself and form good health habits so you will have more energy. It’s much easier and faster to complete tasks when you feel good physically and mentally. That may mean getting more sleep, eating better, exercising, or just finding time to be quiet and rest. But the benefits will be a clearer focus, sharper mind, and increased energy.
  5. Look ahead. When you take time to look into the future, you can see potential problems and challenges before they happen. This can allow you to change course and either avoid them or be better prepared to deal with them. For example, if you check your calendar and see an appointment in the afternoon that cuts into your work time, you can either choose to arrive early to get everything completed, ask for help, or find another solution.
  6. Break projects into tasks. Large projects can seem insurmountable, but they look more manageable when you break them down into separate tasks. You can focus on what needs to be done by what deadline and make sure you stay on track. It also provides a better measurement of how you are coming along on the entire project to know if you need to allocate more time.
  7. Stop doing what is no longer important. It can be too easy to continue doing tasks that once served a purpose but are no longer worthwhile. Take inventory to find out if there are any tasks that can be removed from your list.
  8. Know when to complete difficult tasks. You are more productive at certain times of the day, so make that your time to work on critical or important tasks. You’ll give your best effort with less time because you’ll have more energy.
  9. Ask for help. When you are a manager, it’s called delegating. But everyone can use some help sometime. If you see that you are falling behind on a project, ask for assistance before you are stressed out. It will be easier to maintain your focus and stay productive.

Being a good manager of your time is not just a decision you make; it’s a lifestyle that must be implemented.

Practice these nine habits and you’ll notice how much more time you have, not to mention improve your business habits and online reputation for those running companies.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including SEO and small business for MediaShower.com.

 


Are Your Employees Properly Covered?

Do you have your employees’ back so to speak? For the small business owner, choosing the right health insurance plan for your employees can seem like a daunting task. For employees, health insurance is a key benefit that can make a difference between whether they choose to work for your business or one that offers better coverage, which means it’s important that small business owners don’t shy away from offering a range of benefits to their employees.

What are some of the things you can do to help you choose health insurance that offers affordability for you and quality coverage for your employees?

insure

Remember That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

It’s all too easy to go for the first health insurance plan that seems to more or less meet your needs.

However, when it comes to health insurance, one size doesn’t fit all. Before shopping around for your plan, take the time to map out what kind of plan and coverage will best suit your business.

What you need from your plan will differ if your employees are mostly in a certain age bracket, for example, as opposed to spanning different ages.

It might be worth offering your employees more than one health insurance choice if you find that one plan doesn’t offer the best coverage across the board.

Talk to Your Employees

Set aside some time to talk with your employees and find out their opinions. Asking which benefits they would find the most useful will help you to make appropriate choices that will be well-received. Employees might offer you insights you hadn’t thought of and will give you a feel of where the general sentiment lies. Talking with your employees also means you can start a discussion about their health care spending, such as making healthy choices or opting for generic medication instead of more expensive brand name options.

 Know What You Will Pay and What Is Covered

As mentioned in “Key Health Insurance Terms“, it’s important to compare different health insurance plans. When choosing your plan, cost is an important consideration. When looking at a potential plan, make sure that it’s clear what you will be expected to pay, what is deductible, and how much the co-pay costs are. If your employees are going to contribute to the plan, it’s vital that the amount they are expected to pay both for the plan and for any treatment can be comfortably managed on their current wages. You and they also need to know what conditions are or are not covered, and any restrictions such as needing to use specific doctors or hospitals.

Get Help from a Broker or Association

An insurance broker will have access to many health insurance plans, and will be able to help you choose the right one for your business. Buying insurance directly can be complicated; a broker can offer you advice so you can see for yourself which plan is best suited to you. Before using a broker, shop around and look for personal recommendations from other business owners to make sure you are working with a competent and reputable broker. You may also find it helpful to investigate business associations who offer insurance to their members, often at a lower cost than you would pay to cover your employees alone.

Health insurance is a good investment in your employees, providing you with a powerful selling point and showing your employees that you take their well-being seriously. Finding the right plan needn’t be a headache: Decide on what you need, read the small print, and don’t be afraid to seek professional advice and you will soon find the plan that offers your employees the best coverage while offering your business the best deal.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including social media, small businesses, health insurance plans and SEO.


Why Your Business App Matters

Today Americans and consumers around the world rely heavily on their smartphones not just to communicate but also to quickly locate the information they need to make informed buying decisions.

If your business — small or large — isn’t actively competing to reach this vast market, your competitors that are will be better positioned to reach prospective customers, an advantage that will be reflected in their bottom line in the long run.

telecomMobile Apps Build Business

To reach today’s smartphone-centric consumers, you’ll need a mobile app that quickly and simply tells users what your business is all about, describes the products and services it offers, and provides them with an easy way to get in touch with your business or to order on the go.

Mobile apps (stripped-down computer-type applications designed specifically for mobile phones) aren’t new.

In their most simplistic form, they began to appear in the closing years of the 20th century. Typical of those early mobile apps were arcade games, calculators, calendars, and ring tone editors.

21st Century Apps Explosion

All that changed in the early 21st century. Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in June 2007 led to explosive growth in the availability of mobile apps and added to the lexicon the now familiar refrain, “There’s an app for that.”

According to a December 2013 article at Forbes.com, mobile apps available to iPhone users were closing in on the 1-million mark as the year was coming to an end. Close behind are apps designed to work on smartphones that use the Android operating system.

As business grows ever more competitive, company owners should take advantage of every opportunity they can to serve existing customers and attract new ones so that their businesses will continue to grow and prosper.

Ideal for Start-Up Companies

Although the benefits of having a mobile app apply to businesses of all sizes and ages, an app can be particularly beneficial to start-up companies that need to get the word out to the widest possible audience without spending a fortune to do so.

Because there are hundreds of thousands of apps available to smartphone users, you’ll need to launch a campaign to market your business’s app to potential users.

In “How to Market an App to Consumers,” writer Edward Lakatis offers some helpful suggestions about how to promote your app, including the use of social media to reach the users that are most likely to need your products and/or services.

If you need further incentive to join the ranks of businesses with their own mobile apps, consider for a moment some of the many ways in which an app can make it easier for customers to do business with you and stay abreast of your company’s latest news and developments.

Among them:

  • Customer Service – Having a mobile app gives existing customers and those interested in learning more about your business an easy way to get in touch with you, ask questions, and report problems with your products and/or services.

In developing your mobile app, you can build into it new ways in which customers can interact with your business.

Although much depends on the nature of your business, one example of this sort of creative thinking is a service now available through the mobile apps of dozens of U.S. banks. Customers can deposit checks to their accounts by snapping smartphone photos of the front and back of each check, thus avoiding a trip to the bank.

  • Promote Products/Services – No matter how basic and limited your line of products or services may be, from time to time your company will find ways to make them even better. By alerting your customers to these product/service refinements via your mobile app, they stay up to date with what’s available and can consider all these factors when making buying decisions.
  • Virtual Storefront – For businesses that sell online via their websites, adding a mobile app is pretty much akin to opening a new branch outlet in the old brick-and-mortar retail marketplace. Now, your business can reach those customers who increasingly rely on their smartphones to not only communicate but also to transact business.
  • Maximizes Your ROI – In an article at com, writer J.T. Ripton offers some words of wisdom for small businesses who worry about whether they can afford to develop a mobile app: “You probably can’t afford not to invest in one.”

Ripton goes on to note that the average cost of developing a mobile app is about 1 percent of a company’s annual revenue, according to data from Distimo, an app-analytics company.

“While the cost of developing an app may still seem daunting, it pales in comparison to the brand enhancement and additional sales that it could generate,” added Ripton.

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.

 


Is Your Retirement Planned Out When the Business Closes?

For many small business owners hoping to finish the current month with a positive cash balance, planning for the retirement years often gets short shrift.

With so many immediate demands for his or her attention, it’s hardly surprising that he or she devotes little or no time to thinking about what seems to them the distant future.

In “Saving for Retirement: A Look at Small Business Owners,” Jules H. Lichtenstein of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy takes a close look at the retirement savings behavior of America’s small business owners.

What he finds raises concerns about the lack of business owners’ preparedness for their so-called golden years.

shutterstock_84923398Census Bureau Survey

Lichtenstein relies on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 Survey of Income and Program Participation, which focused on the retirement savings plan participation of 4,922 business owners, a nationally representative sampling of small business owners across the United States. Of those surveyed, 91 percent owned businesses with less than 10 employees.

The Census Bureau survey found that 36 percent of the business owners had an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), but roughly two-thirds of those had not actively contributed to the IRA in the current tax year.

Keogh and 401k

Ownership of the other two primary retirement savings vehicles — Keogh and 401k — was even lower. Less than 2 percent of the business owners surveyed had a Keogh plan, and only 18 percent were participating in a 401k savings plan.

Another study produced by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy focused primarily on small business owners over the age of 50.

It found that most small business owners predicted they would retire on average at age 72.6, compared with an average of age 68.4 for most employees.

Reasons Unclear

Whether that later anticipated retirement date represents a lack of financial preparedness for retirement or a passion for their business isn’t clear, but the study did find that older small business owners tend to think about retirement less frequently than employees.

Business owners looking for some guidance about how to build a retirement plan may find that automated planning tools can simplify and expedite the process for them, especially given some may be too busy or not up to speed on all the financial options out there.

Gets Low Priority

Alyssa Gregory, About.com’s expert on the issues confronting small business, points out that in many cases, small business owners have left full-time jobs that provide retirement benefits. And in getting their businesses off the ground, retirement planning is not high on their priority list.

Gregory suggests that business owners seek out the professional counsel of their small business accountant or a financial planner in an attempt to decide the best way to start saving for retirement.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, a regular columnist at Schwab.com, in early 2014 offered an excellent review of the retirement savings options available to small business owners.

In addition to writing her weekly column, Schwab-Pomerantz is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the creation “of positive change through financial education, philanthropy, and volunteerism.”

SEP-IRA

Schwab-Pomerantz says the SEP-IRA (Simplified Employee Pension-Individual Retirement Account) is an excellent choice in that it allows a high level of savings with only minimal paperwork.

Although an SEP-IRA works for business owners whether or not they have employees, the plan is particularly beneficial for sole proprietors because it allows contributions as high as 20 percent of net self-employment income up to a maximum of $52,000 for 2014.

Individual 401k Plans

For business owners who have no employees apart from their spouse, Schwab-Pomerantz gives high marks to Individual 401k or Individual Roth 401k, which allows even higher contributions that a SEP-IRA but also calls for more extensive paperwork.

SIMPLE-IRA

Owners of businesses with 100 or fewer employees might find the SIMPLE-IRA (Savings Incentive Match for Employees) a good choice for employers who want to provide a retirement savings plan for their workers — and themselves — but keep their contributions to employee plans to a minimum.

One of the drawbacks to this plan is the limit on contributions to the employer’s own plan, which for 2012 is $12,000. If you’re over 50, you’re allowed to make an additional $2,500 catch-up contribution each year.

Regular IRA

Finally, there’s the regular IRA.

Of this option, Schwab-Pomerantz says, “The good news is if that you can contribute to both a small business retirement plan and a regular IRA and potentially get a tax deduction for each, depending on your income.

No matter which option works best for you, keep in mind that you’re also in business to have a comfortable retirement.

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.


Don’t Let Network Outages Ruin Your Business

In today’s increasingly wired world, network outages — both limited and total — can deal a devastating blow to your business. And if your business is a small one, it is probably less able to cope financially with the consequences of such outages than would be the case with a larger company.

Organization

Whether you lose the link between your headquarters office and an outlying branch office or experience a loss of connectivity throughout your business’s operations, each outage has repercussions that may have a lasting impact on your company.

Consequences of Outages

In its overview of the potential damage that a network outage can cause, Hughes Network Systems LLC lists some of the likely consequences a business might experience:

  • No longer able to access the applications and data they need to do their jobs, your employees sit idle and your company’s productivity grinds to a virtual halt;
  • The reputation of your business takes a hit when existing and prospective customers as well as suppliers cannot engage with your company’s employees in a meaningful way because access to relevant data has been temporarily lost;
  • The loss of sales of products and services that would otherwise be transacted results in a direct decline in revenue. Depending on the magnitude of the network outage, future sales may also be negatively affected;
  • In your business’s efforts to work around the network loss, your company will experience unbudgeted expenses associated with the rental of equipment, hiring of temporary staff, travel expenses, and overtime costs.

May Put Data at Risk

Network outages can sometimes expose your business’s sensitive data to outside hackers who gain access during a period when the system’s security defenses are temporarily disabled.

Although the vast majority of data losses associated with network outages are temporary in nature, some network failures may result in the permanent loss of data that has not been backed up on an outside system and thus unaffected by the outage.

While the actual dollar costs of network outages vary widely based on the size of the company and its network, NetworkComputing.com reports that network services’ company MegaPath estimates the average cost of downtime at $212,200 an hour.

For companies that are web- or network-based, that hourly figure can soar to dizzying heights. During an August 2013 network outage that lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, Amazon.com lost between $3 and $4 million.

Human Error a Factor

The Main Cause of Network Outages and How to Prevent It,” a posting on the blog of BackBox.co, offers some interesting facts and figures about the role that human error plays in triggering many such outages.

“2013 Cost of Data Center Outages,” a survey conducted by Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Emerson Network Power, examines the root causes of network outages among the 67 data centers covered by the survey. The report also offers comparisons between the primary causes of 2013 network outages and those reported in an earlier 2010 survey.

UPS System Failures

Despite the confidence-inspiring nature of their names, the failure of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems accounted for 24 percent of all data center outages in fiscal 2013. That represented a significant decline from 2010 when UPS system failures were blamed for 29 percent of all outages.

Accidental/human error accounted for 22 percent of all data center outages in 2013, down slightly from 24 percent in 2010.

In a disturbing sign of the times, cyber-attacks, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, were blamed for 18 percent of 2013 outages, skyrocketing from only 2 percent in 2010.

Weather-Related Outages

Network outages caused by extreme weather events showed no change from 2010 to 2013, accounting for 12 percent of outages in each of those years.

Outages caused by water, heat, or computer room air conditioning (CRAC) failures made up another 12 percent of 2013 outages, compared with 15 percent in 2010.

Generator failures caused 7 percent of data center outages in 2013, compared with 10 percent in 2010. The failure of IT equipment accounted for 4 percent of 2013 outages, down slightly from 5 percent in 2010.

Given the negative impact network outages can have on your business, what are you doing to stay connected?

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.


Modern Marketing Still Needs The Printed Word

It’s a rather obvious point but it bears repeating: the way that businesses market their products and services will make or break the success of the business itself. However, many businesses make the mistake of letting marketing materials lag behind in exchange for higher quality customer service or products. While these are also important elements to a business, poor marketing materials can ruin the chance for future profit no matter how great the customer service is.

shutterstock_139680334Instead of neglecting this aspect or marketing, consider the benefits of creating a booklet that not only advertises your products and services, but also contains informative content that will inspire sales.

Research the Audience

Before you can even start creating the content for your booklet, it is important to understand who the audience is and what their needs are. Entrepreneur.com offers some great questions for researching and understanding your audience. The demographic to which your products appeal should directly correlate with the way you present those products in the booklet.

Create Clear Content

Useful content is the core element in marketing. People now have the ability to delete emails, skip commercials, and ignore magazine ads. That means that content is even more important to marketing than it ever was before. People want to be educated clearly and quickly on the information they seek. It makes content creation detrimental to the success of marketing materials.

  • Use SEO in everything you write. Search engines will determine how broad your audience will be.
  • Keep PR in mind. Instead of trying to sell your products and services, write informational articles that help them understand the need for your services.

The Content Marketing Institute offers great tips to successful content marketing strategies.

Eye-Catching Design

For booklets, creating organized and eye-catching designs is important as well. Booklets that are attractive and colorful are more likely to be picked up than those which aren’t. Before you begin, you need to understand what sort of booklet you need to create. If you are creating a handy booklet with instructions, the design will be different than a booklet for a community project.

Audience is also important in design. Young adults are going to be attracted to more colorful, creative, and splashy designs. Middle-age adults look for creativity combined with function and practicality. The elderly are less impacted by color and more by how easy the content is to read and how practical it is.

Consider the important elements of design:

  • Font — It needs to be easy to read, but reflect the branding of the company as well.
  • Color Pallet — Sticking to a four color pallet keeps designing easier, while giving you the flexibility to create what you need. When choosing colors, consider the audience. The older the audience, the more subdued the tones should be.
  • Layout — Yes, it’s a booklet, but some designs require a bleed from one page to the next. It also includes the size of the pages you plan to print. Consider what sort of layout will work for your needs and your audience.

Understanding Printing

You can’t just create a document and ship it off to the printer. There are different important aspects of printing, especially booklet printing, to consider before sending it to the printer.

  • Bleed — It is recommended to leave anywhere from 1/8 in. to 1/4 in. around the edge to be trimmed in printing. This is called the bleed.
  • Resolution — Different printers require different resolutions for printing quality. Adhere to these standards to keep from having blurry or pixilated images.
  • File Format — Printers required high quality DPI file formats. These are often RGB or CMYK for best printing results.

If unsure what to do, contact a company that specializes in these services. They can advise you on what you need to know to print with them.

Author Rachel is a freelance writer and young professional who most enjoys writing about business best practices.


The Business of an Online Degree

With more than 7 million students taking one or more online college courses in 2013, the growth of online education remains robust, showing few signs of slackening within the foreseeable future.

online

Babson Survey Research Group’s most recent report on the state of online education found that nearly 75 percent of academic leaders view the learning outcomes for online education as the same or better than face-to-face instruction.

Will I Pass Muster?

While this speaks well of the increasing quality of online education, it doesn’t address the question that most concerns students pursuing online degrees. Simply put, they want to know how well their online diploma will stack up against a traditional degree when they start competing for work in the job market.

In a March 2014 article on USNews.com, education reporter Devon Haynie noted that prospective employers’ views of online degrees have undergone a dramatic change for the better over the last few years.

‘Diploma Mills’

Haynie cited a 2009 literature review by Cleveland State University, which concluded that most human resource managers, executives, and other gatekeepers viewed online diplomas in a negative light.

These negative perceptions were attributed in part to the large number of “diploma mills” that operated online during the late 1990s and early 2000s. These so-called online schools happily supplied a degree to anyone with the money to pay for it.

Opinions Turn Positive

Today, however, prospective employers very rarely question the quality of an online degree, according to Susan Fontana, a regional vice president of Manpower, an international recruiting company.

In fact, Fontana told Haynie, sometimes having an online degree can work in a job candidate’s favor, because certain employers attach a high value to the grit and determination it takes to earn a degree while juggling multiple commitments.

Other Factors Considered

There seems to be little question that most employers look more favorably at online degrees than was the case only a few years ago. At the same time, it’s clear that hiring managers will still scrutinize the reputation of the degree-granting institution and the curriculum behind the degree in evaluating the job candidate.

In the piece What Do Employers Think of an Online Degree?” author Carole Oldroyd points out that the size of the hiring company may also play a role in whether an applicant with an online degree gets the job.

Oldroyd cites recent statistics showing that the vast majority of smaller companies express no preference for traditional over online degrees. Larger companies — those with 500 or more employees — are more evenly split in their sentiments about the relative value of traditional and online degrees.

Growth of e-Learning

Helping to reshape the public’s perception of online education or e-learning is its growth at virtually all educational levels. Technological advances, such as webcams that are now standard on virtually all PCs and tablets, facilitate face-to-face contact between teacher and student for counseling or special instructional sessions.

More students in elementary and secondary education are learning online — both in and out of the classroom. The growing pervasiveness of online education among pre-college students is helping to pave the way for broader acceptance of such programs as a whole.

Key Points to Consider

Because not all online college degree programs are created equal, students who are considering pursuing an online degree should keep sight of these criteria, which CollegeNetwork.com says will probably be closely checked by prospective employers:

  1. Ensure that the online degree program you enroll in is operated by a college or university that is regionally accredited.
  2. Online programs offered by brick-and-mortar institutions generally are viewed more favorably than those that operate exclusively online. Even though you may never take any in-person classes, getting a degree from a college or university that has a physical campus tends to lend added credibility to their online diplomas.
  3. Getting an online degree from a widely recognized institution also generally carries more weight with hiring managers than a similar degree from a college or university that has no name recognition.

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.

 


Seniors Can Write Themselves Some Extra Income

In today’s economy, everyone is looking to supplement their income. This even includes seniors living off their retirement income. However, it can be difficult to find a job either because of health, age or for other reasons.

writer

However, there are ways that they can earn money at home if they have an interest and talent for writing.

Blogging

It’s easy to set up a blog on one of the numerous blogging websites available. This allows you to write about things that interest you, whether it is health issues, the grandkids, or your latest hobby creation. To monetize your site so that you can make a small income while doing what you enjoy, you can allow ads. Every time someone clicks on the ad, you earn a small reward.

You can also promote products through your blogging. Just become an affiliate with a company that you like and you earn a small commission when someone makes a purchase after visiting your site and clicking on the link. While there are hundreds of affiliate programs out there, one of the best known is Amazon.

Freelance Writing

You can also earn a decent income by freelance writing. Many magazines today have both online and print editions, which require them to find double the content. This means that they are looking for more writers to fill the empty space. Check out some of your favorite magazines to see what their requirements are.

If you want something that provides steady income, you can check out the online sites that match writers with people needing content. Some well-known names include Guru.com, Elance, and oDesk. You can also check out Craigslist ads, but beware of scammers. This is a great method to find a client that needs regular articles or blog posts though. You can choose the type of writing or subject that you enjoy and look for jobs that match your skills.

What You Need

To make it easier for you to provide a regular income as a blogger or freelance writer, you need a computer, monitor, and computer keyboard much like what you will find at major retailers such as Walmart.

If you haven’t done writing professionally before, you can take online courses to help you learn the technical aspects. You can also find many good books on writing, and specifically for writing online. Even if your goal is to become a freelance writer, you can begin by starting your own blog. This is a great way for prospective clients to see your writing ability, and it gives you some practice on writing for online readers.

Even with a limited budget, it is easy to get started as a freelance writer. You can join writing groups that provide support and information and read articles on the topic.

Thanks to today’s technology, it is easier than ever before for seniors to continue earning money even after retirement. The added bonus is that you get to work from home and do something you enjoy.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes pieces on seniors and technology.


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