Workplace Safety: Online and Physical

Managing safety in the workplace — both in the office as well as online — is becoming a more complicated task by the day. Whether the concern is about hackers coming for your intellectual property, or process ownership during building maintenance, the security of your people is nothing to take for granted. Here are five things any company leader can do to make a greater effort in the name of safety.

Make Sure Everybody Understands What’Be Prepared’ Means

The impression that the world is unsafe and violent has only been amplified by popular media. We have, regrettably, let ourselves fall victim to a false narrative where our collective security is concerned. Nevertheless: it’s clear that when unfortunate events do occur in the world, they can happen just about anyplace.

What does “being prepared” look like for your workplace?If you ask different employees, will they tell you different things? Does everybody have a planned way out of the building or off your campus? It might sound too theoretical to justify spending time on it, but your company should have detailed contingency plans already drawn up for a variety of possible events — be it natural, as in extreme weather events, or something regrettably more man-made.

Perform Intermittent Online Security Audits

Since we’re talking about online and offline security, let’s talk about how business leaders can know, one way or another, whether their employees are practicing good security “hygiene” at work. There are two things you should be doing:

  1. Consider having an outside security company perform penetration testing for your company’s networks. They should be able to help you find any weak points that would-be criminals could exploit purposefully, or undisciplined employees could trigger accidentally.
  2. And when it comes to employees, have your IT team or that same third-party consultant perform or schedule fake phishing attempts for all of your company email addresses. Done correctly, the email will look like a plea for personal information, a reply, or for the user to click a link. Knowing how, and whether, your employees are interacting with emails like these, even fake ones,will tell you something about how at-risk your organization is.

Take Another Look at Your Building and the State of Its Maintenance

With the exception of companies that get started in attics,basements, and garages, most business visionaries take great pride in their immediate surroundings, including their business locations, their employees’accommodations and any environment in which a customer or client might find themselves.

We’re talking about two different things here. The first is curb appeal and “atmosphere.” Your workplace should present itself as a harmonious, well-considered space with tasteful and comfortable furnishings.Someplace employees can feel at home, in other words — since we know (workplaces with objectively pleasing aesthetics) tend to encourage creative free-thought,lower levels of aggression and heightened productivity overall.

But the second part of taking stock of your location and its amenities is a little more serious. It concerns the environment within your building, including its temperature during highs and lows and the quality of air your people are breathing all day. The phrase might sound alarmist, but”Sick Building Syndrome” is very real — and it generally results from poor air circulation in an environment already compromised by end-of-life HVAC systems, dirty duct work and noxious chemicals in furniture and building materials.

Implement BYOD Policies Responsibly

In another return to online safety, so-called “BYOD culture” is worth a look at as another potential threat vector in the well-being of your company and its employees. If the work you perform is conducive to it, you’ve likely already implemented, or plan to explore, BYOD policies. The benefits to company morale and productivity can be significant.When employees can do their work on familiar platforms and using hardware they’re comfortable with, it makes sense that they’d get more done.

The thing is, even if your workflows aren’t necessarily conducive to BYOD culture, your employees and guests might be bringing in smartwatches and other devices that aren’t as obvious. You might even have deployed these and other IoT devices yourself, as part of an internal wellness program. This itself can be a great influence on your organization’s collective health, and consequently your safety and productivity.

You’ve likely heard something about the several recent high-profile data breaches, including several, like Wanna Cry and Petya, which preyed specifically on unsecured and unsiloed IoT devices. Objects like these can be a boon in the workplace for many reasons, but the least you can do,safety-wise, is create a separate internal network for any connected devices you can’t vouch for 100 percent, including for employee BYOD programs as well as guests to your campus who might just want to use some free Wi-Fi.

Know Who’s Accountable and Have a Reporting Process in Place

This final point is a reminder about accountability in the workplace. We’re not talking about pointing fingers — we’re talking about”process ownership” and the idea that anything significant that requires doing deserves a specific appointed person to oversee it. If you do business in a climate where employee or customer safety depends on contacting snow removal companies quickly, you need a chain of command to get this and any other mission-critical safety or productivity concerns taken care of.

And that’s not all, either. When something unexpected happens, whether it’s an accident, damage to company property or infrastructure, bad-faith bookkeeping, or workplace harassment of some kind, your employees deserve some kind of accommodating, anonymizing reporting process for elevating their concerns to their managers or impartial third parties. They shouldn’t be left guessing who to talk to, or what to do if they’ve just been through something upsetting.

You’re going to find that your employees are only too happy to help you keep your company and its work areas safe and sound. But they need to know what’s expected of them and they need to know they have your ear when they have concerns of their own. As usual, it’s about communication.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

4 Ways Businesses Benefit From Outsourcing Services

In the past, small to medium-sized businesses had a much harder time competing with the ‘big boys’ industries  due to a lack of adequate infrastructure within their organizations. However, thanks to the most recent technological breakthroughs, this is no longer the case, as small businesses all around the world are given a more level playing field by outsourcing their non-core processes elsewhere. As such, these non-core processes can include anything ranging from marketing and design to IT support. Moreover, with the use of new cloud and project-management software, outsourcing these processes has never been simpler. Yet, how exactly do small businesses benefit from this lucrative arrangement? Keep on reading to find out.

Lower operating costs

Hiring new staff to take care of your in-house marketing and IT sectors is a huge investment for small business owners. According to the Training magazine, on average, companies spend around 1,000 US dollars per learner, and this does not account for the time and effort it takes to post job ads, review CVs, and interview potential employees. Also, the more workers you employ, the more money you have to spend on equipment, office space, workers compensation, and taxes. Hence, the most logical solution for small businesses is to go lean, in order to maximize efficiency and lower the cost of operating.

Outsourcing services helps small businesses do just that, as the cost of hiring another company to, for example, manage your company’s marketing efforts is much lower than doing it yourself. With larger corporations, it’s a totally different story, as they can handle their own in-house marketing sectors due to having a lot more resources at their disposal. This is why, by outsourcing, smaller companies can be at an equal footing with the big corporate giants, as it allows them to enlist the help of professional marketers at a much lower cost. 

Access to the latest technology

Another reason why outsourcing is so beneficial for small businesses is the fact that outsourcing companies bring their own equipment and technology into the fold. A good example of this phenomenon can be seen in the legal industry, where Artificial Intelligence is seeing an increase in use. Especially so in the process of legal transcription, where sophisticated AI plays a crucial role in transferring raw video and audio data into a more accurate, readable format. Without this, legal firms would struggle to process vital materials in time for the next proceeding. By using this kind of human-aided AI services and technology, businesses save precious time and increase efficiency.

Increased focus on core business processes

The thing with some small businesses, and startups in general, is that they usually operate on a much tighter deadline and do so with a skeleton crew. By outsourcing all of their repetitive and time-consuming back office tasks, such as sales, marketing, and IT support, small businesses get to focus all of their attention on core-business functions, which greatly improves their overall efficiency and productivity. Thus, the key staff gets to work on improving critical business areas instead of wasting their time dilly-dallying with computer updates and composing new marketing strategies. Furthermore, apart from lowering the cost of re-training the existing employees to accept new roles, focusing on key business elements helps small businesses cultivate talent, which is crucial for staying ahead of the curve and gaining a real advantage over your competitors.

Acquire the assistance of business experts

Training your own staff members to perform non-core functions won’t yield immediate results. In fact, this approach will lead to many trials and errors before they finally get the hang of it. Moreover, some of these tasks take weeks, if not months, to learn, which is time better spent elsewhere.

Hence, it’s a good idea to employ the services of a company which is an expert in that field. This will not only bring in more results, but do so at a much faster pace. Plus, you get some real, concrete, advice from people who know exactly what they’re doing. Also, by outsourcing you’re actually opening the door of your business to global talent and not just settling for second-best in your immediate vicinity. At the end of the day, you get to pay for quality services which would otherwise be too costly on your own.

All in all, outsourcing services is a great way for small businesses to stay ahead of the competition by funneling priceless manpower and resources into development and growth instead of wasting it on irrelevant back office tasks.

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

Workflow Management is the Key to Success – Know How

Introduction

Other than the most distinct signs of failure, businesses often find it hard to identify the hang-ups of their workflows. However, developing a clear understanding of a productive workflow can assist your entire organization to gain from its benefits. Business experts reveal that an estimated 52% of enterprises hardly assess the effectiveness of their business processes. What’s more, at least 59% of the businesses lack the plan of analyzing, designing or managing the business processes. You can use the principles of workflow management to understand and manage the business processes of your company. This will provide you with the secret to longevity. It is common knowledge among business experts that workflow management will determine whether your company will succeed or fail.

Workflow Management Definition

Simply put, workflow describes the plan that assists you to get from one point to the other. Using the road trip analogy, the workflow is the plan that informs you of your destination, the requirements for the trip, the detours you should make along the way, where you should stop to refuel, the persons to call in case of an emergency and the expected time of arrival.

Therefore workflow management refers to the processes used by your business to attain its goals strategically. Its primary function is to outline the tasks, staff and the resources that are required for achieving the outcome repeatedly. It is essential to different workflow management from project management since the latter deals with the activities of a single project. You need a workflow management plan for your business since, without it, the complicated projects that are assigned would overwhelm you. This would result in stress, disorganization, and low-quality outputs.

Difference with Business Process Management

Although workflow management is often used interchangeably with business process management, the two have distinct differences. The focus of BPM is to improve the complete set of business processes in your company with the objective of increasing the efficiency of your organization. This includes the documentation and the analysis processes to establish the factors that slow the processes or other causes of disorganization. Although the concepts are similar in the sense that they both try to enhance the efficiency of your business processes, each concept has its unique applications. Workflow management ensures that the daily goals of your company are accomplished and integrates into the BPM process to ensure the smooth running of your organization.

Strengths of Workflow Management

Workflow management will provide you with fast and practical solutions to the business problems before they occur. The plan should assist you to establish the specific person who was assigned a particular task and the steps to take when the need arises. It will also help you to know the other personnel who need to be notified, and the consequences of not taking action. One of the strengths of workflow management is the reduced manual efforts and the automation of the tedious physical tasks. This enables you to save time and energy for all the stakeholders.

An optimized workflow management plan will assist you to differentiate between the necessary and unnecessary steps. Once the unnecessary steps have been identified, they could be removed to reduce the slowdowns. It will also ensure that you have assigned the tasks to the most qualified person to get high-quality work. With the workflow, your management team will be able to focus on the more important business activities without always worrying about the deadlines. A workflow management plan will enable you to develop a chronological order of executing tasks and automate some of the decisions and the processes that would be carried out by the staff. Other strengths include reducing the amount of paperwork and communication burdens, while at the same time fostering department collaboration. Finally, workflow management ensures that you can track progress and analyze the performance, and ensures that you have the records used for previous processes. This will get rid of decision fatigue.

Importance to Your Business

Research indicates that most businesses have existing workflow problems that are often ignored and unnoticed. Some of the explanations for this include ignorance since the managers are not aware of the better approach or insisting on the traditional way of doing things. Below we describe the importance of workflow management for your business.

Reducing Risks

All business tasks and processes including the simple and complex ones are susceptible to human error. This fact remains unchanged even when using the most advanced workers. However, the workflow management plan can significantly reduce these risks. The method achieves this objective by getting rid of the unnecessary steps in your business process and ensuring that all the activities are performed consistently. The plan ensures that the staffs are aware of their responsibilities throughout the production process and adhere to the same set of rules. This guarantees you of the delivery of the same results and results in fewer errors and disputes.

Streamlined Processes

Having effective workflow management strategies will enable you to create order out of chaos. In this context, chaos refers to the components within the workflow that slow it down.

Predefined Rules

Your employees would prefer to work with rules since they provide structure as well as clarity. Having rules ensures that all the employees are aware of their duties and responsibilities. Having an effective workflow would implement these rules automatically. The employees will follow the order that has the appropriate checkpoints to ensure that all the processes are in order. It provides quick answers to questions concerning the pending activities, their deadlines and the results which get rid of guesswork and enhances the confidence of your entire workforce.

Access to Information

Workflow management will enable you to improve the transfer of information within the organization. The improvements that are made with workflow management will increase the accessibility of this information. What’s more, it will ensure that the staff have easy access to the relevant information and review the processes at the correct checkpoints. It will also enable the managers to oversee all the business activities.

Productivity

The primary objective of workflow management is to assist your business in producing better outcomes. The plan will help your managers to stay updated on the processes in the company, and provide insights regarding your costly practices. It will also suggest the methods and practices that need to be automated while at the same time producing results which can be measured to establish how successful the organization has been. The plan will also ensure that your business remains focused on the critical activities including customer service, and enhancing the core products and services. This prevents you from wasting time trying to micromanage your staff.

Conclusion

Having a workflow management plan will foster positive workflow by simplifying your business processes, reducing the redundancies and errors and at the same time assist your staff in completing their tasks in a quick and efficient manner. In case you notice some bottlenecks in your business operations and activities which are accompanied by consistent setbacks, you probably have a poor workflow. As soon as you identify this occurrence, you should begin developing a more effective workflow management plan.

Dream of the Fortune 500? Process-Improving Tips for Small Healthcare Companies

Ever since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a few American healthcare companies have emerged as major Fortune 500 players. From pharmaceutical giants to insurance companies and from drugstore chains to medical equipment suppliers, healthcare companies are adapting to change and improving their processes. As the owner or executive of a small healthcare business, you should be following the examples set by these successful companies. Here are four recommendations to improve your processes:

Understand the Cycle of Improvement

You cannot expect to improve business processes with a single action. Quality improvement consists of making adjustments and changes that may result in new issues to worry about. When you set out to improve your processes, you should follow a cycle of planning, taking action, evaluating, and taking new actions. You should keep in mind that a single adjustment can have repercussions across your company.

Communicate with Your Staff

When you set out to improve your processes, it is important that your staff is aware of your intentions. At some point, you will want to implement certain measures that your employees and associates may not be in agreement with. If you simply push measures without consulting with staff, your efforts will become complicated.

Learn to Monitor Your Expenses

Let’s say part of your business consists of assigning medical professionals to visit patients who receive home care therapy. If you need to evaluate the costs involved in sending your associates to the field, you can use a solution such as MedPro Systems. Once you figure out real costs, you can adjust your insurance billing and reimbursements accordingly. In this case, MedPro Systems will provide you with real-time access to healthcare provider travel and expense data. Check to see if whatever service you use is able to provide that as well.

Approach Improvement as a Project

Depending on the scope of your company and on your business goals, improving certain processes can turn out to be a very complex task. By treating process improvement as a project, you will be able to determine how much effort and resources will be needed. With project management apps such as Asana, you can assign certain improvement tasks to your staff and associates.

In the end, your dreams of growing your small healthcare practice into a Fortune 500 company will largely depend on your ability to improve certain processes. The compliance aspect is bound to get more challenging, but there will always be opportunities for business expansion.

Guest author Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.

The Advantages of the Process Orchestration and Automation for Small Businesses

In today’s hyperconnected era, we’ve already moved most of our businesses to the digital landscape. AI-powered tools and cloud technology have become extremely sophisticated, helping you improve your team’s productivity and reduce operational costs.

This is exactly why the processes of automation and orchestration have become a must in the small business ecosystem. The idea behind them is logical- software will do your repetitive tasks, while you will focus on more creative aspects of your job.

Still, even though they’re similar, these processes are not the same. As its mere name says, automation means the using different tools that will make your everyday tasks faster and minimize the human error. But, to get the most of your business automation, you need to leverage orchestration, too. It helps you coordinate the tools you use and build a centralized management system to improve the overall workplace productivity.

It Improves Collaboration within Teams

Effective communication is the backbone of every successful business, irrespective of its size. And, precisely because of that, these processes need to be highly automated. With a proper automation or orchestration tool, both project managers and employees can share information, download files, and collaborate in real-time. The process of orchestration is all about centralized data location, these tools allow an uninterrupted flow of information, enabling everyone in your team to solve problems instantly and launch promotions from a single dashboard. This way, you will be able to establish a standardized working environment, eliminate the complexity of using cross-platform projects, save money on IT support, and most importantly, increase the overall workplace productivity.

It Minimizes Human Errors

In almost any industry out there, one of the most common problems employees face is a bunch of repetitive tasks they need to handle every day. This is where the process of business automation and orchestration comes to shine. Automation tools will do these tasks for you, allowing employees to focus on some more complex aspects of their jobs. Aside from taking your task management to the next level, these tools also help you avoid some of the most common mistakes humans make, making your business more efficient.

Let’s take an example of customer support. Even though this is still a pretty new concept, chatbots are expected to dominate the digital industry in the years to come. AI-powered, these tools are highly flexible and they’re constantly gathering information and learning in order to provide exceptional customer services.

It Reduces Operational Costs

Business orchestration gives you the opportunity to minimize your expenses. According to the recent report done by Cisco, those businesses that invested in their workflow automation have reduced their operational costs significantly. Namely, they assessed numerous organizations that have automated the lifecycle of their services. Obviously, by these processes allowed them to coordinate all their tools, leave repetitive tasks to them, and build a standardized networkwide interface, which helps them deliver their services much faster. And, better performance results in a higher ROI.

It Helps You Boost Customer Satisfaction

Today, there are tens of thousands of small businesses just like yours. So, to attract new customers and inspire them to choose you over your competitors, you need to bring value. And, one of the first steps you need to take is to invest in highly personalized user experience.

Let’s take digital marketing as an example. To make your customers happy and deliver the right products and targeted content to them, you first need to know who they are. And, there are numerous tools that will help you automate your customer segmentation process and gather all the data you need to create better relationships with your customers.

The same goes for customer support. It needs to be impeccable. The functionality and intelligence of business orchestration tools help you gather your customers’ data, find out what the most common problems are when using your products, and try to fix these problems immediately to boost their satisfaction.

Those agencies working with numerous clients find it difficult to analyze their clients’ data and create extensive client reports. These processes sometimes take 5 hours per client, which is too much. On the other hand, there are numerous automated reporting tools that will create extensive and highly personalized client reports in just a few seconds. This is definitely something you shouldn’t ignore.

It Makes your Workflow Centralized

According to the Cisco’s report mentioned above, 69% of respondents said, when orchestrating their businesses, they focus on establishing a strong IT plan that helps them merge together all deployed technologies. In other words, they want to create a centralized and a highly coordinated management system that will enable their teams to complete tasks more effectively. This means unifying and coordinating different tools and platforms to attain better efficiency and control. s

It Boosts Transparency within an Organization

By implementing the process of automation, you’re actually investing in building a single knowledge base that is constantly expanding. This way, both project managers and employees will be able to track their performance in real-time. They have an immediate access to any project or task and are able to make changes immediately. At the same time, your every input, rejection, or change is recorded and can be seen by anyone in your team. This is just one of numerous aspects of transparency and, it not only helps people get their work done, but also builds trust among them.

Back to You

Business automation and orchestration are two immensely important aspects of your business and they are constantly intertwining. So, instead of separating them, you should merge them together. By implementing the techniques mentioned above, you will be able to boost your ROI, as well as improve your team’s productivity.

Guest author, Raul Harman, is a B.Sc. in Innovative entrepreneurship and has a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing. While he’s not enjoying football and great food, you can find him on Technivorz.com

 

Salesforce Automation Improves Workflow

workflowAutomation helps business owners succeed in so many ways, so why aren’t you automating your Salesforce operations?

The sales process is complicated and currently takes a lot of time using traditional methods, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed results. All the while, other staff ends up having to take on tasks, such as data entry, in order to support your sales staff. In the end, this can lead to many hours of wasted productivity each day.

Multiply this by an entire year’s worth of work and you’ll quickly see how automating proves the better choice.

Smart Automation is Becoming a Reality

Now, even if you were to automate certain pieces of your sales puzzle, you may still face challenges.

One of the biggest issues in software automation is logic.

For example, if you were to automate your CRM system so that lead data was automatically populated from inbound lead data input, you still wouldn’t be able to automate the process of deciding which sales professional was going to be assigned to which lead and when.

In fact, in the article, “How to Automate Your Salesforce with Workflows,” the author discusses this very issue.

New technology allows for you to create rules and actions to logically determine where leads are prioritized, when they are prioritized, and how they are prioritized. This is something that previous automation technology was unable to do.

 

Workflows for Salesforce Also Provides Evaluation Options

When using the abovementioned Workflows for Salesforce, you have the ability to determine the evaluation options for criteria to take action.

Essentially, you are able to set rules that tell Workflows how often it should evaluate leads, thus providing your automated services with the ability to work within your specific business’ parameters.

This means that Workflows is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead, it can be tailored to your unique business needs.

Automate Actions Using Workflows to Reach the Right Professionals

Another benefit to using Workflows is that the actions it takes are based on your input.

You can use Workflows to reach out to leads on a specific basis, and because different leads require different levels of nurturing within the funnel, you no longer have to sort through leads in order to manually separate them.

The software logically does the work, allowing you to reach out in different ways on different levels to different leads at different times.

About the Author: Andrew Rusnak is an author who writes on topics that include Salesforce automation and digital marketing.

Assess Your Work Order Process

assessmentTake a look at your current work order process. Are maintenance jobs being completed in a safe and timely manner? Do those who request jobs receive status updates and are they notified in a timely manner?

Asking these and other questions is essential for understanding your current work order process and for improving it.

Creating a streamlined work order process is important for several reasons.

A well-rounded process helps ensure that jobs are completed in a timely manner with fewer mistakes and with less frustration at each step.

Here are some tips for jump-starting the changes:

Complete a Work Order Audit

You can’t make the right work order process changes if you don’t first investigate what is and isn’t currently working well.

Begin the change process by auditing the current work order flow. An audit can be completed in several ways and the steps included with it will depend on your industry and other factors.

The most basic audit should include submitting a work order following the current process and tracking all steps included in that process.

You may also decide to send an audit questionnaire to all employees who are regularly involved with work orders. One-on-one interviews and focus groups could also provide valuable information.

Revamp the Request Form

If your audit shows that the current work order request form isn’t working well, take a closer look at the form and assess which changes are needed.

A well-rounded request form should include a description of the maintenance issue, work that’s needed, estimated time to complete the job, tools needed and employees involved.

Based on your industry and work flow, you may determine that other pertinent details are also needed.

After you’ve revamped the request form, determine whether a digital or paper form is the best match for your business.

Choosing between a paper or digital form will depend on whether the employees involved have regular access to a computer at work, your business’s filing system and more.

Implement a Ticket System

A common employee frustration regarding work order processes is that they aren’t kept in the loop on the status of requested maintenance jobs.

If this is a cited frustration among your workers, consider implementing a job ticket system. Ticket systems help show the flow of projects and allow employees who request work orders to see how many jobs are in front of theirs.

Adjust as Needed

After you’ve audited your work order process and implemented the necessary changes, continue to monitor the flow of jobs.

You should expect a few issues as employees become accustomed to the new process. But, if the issues continue for a month or more, return to the process and investigate what’s causing the problems. If needed, make additional changes to overcome the issues.

According to “Recreating your Work Order Process: 100+ Questions to Ask,” periodic reviews of your work order process are the best way to keep things running smoothly.

Updating your work order process can bring many benefits. These include keeping your workers safe, reducing frustrations regarding maintenance tasks and more.

Create a more streamlined process by auditing the current work order flow and by taking the necessary steps to improve it.

About the Author: Shayla Ebsen is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience both in the corporate and freelance settings.