It was Arnold Glasow, a 20th century American businessman and humorist, who once said, “Praise does wonders for our sense of hearing.” Although a tongue-in-cheek remark, Glasow was on to something when it comes to praise and recognition.

Research by Japanese scientists has revealed that paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash, and also encourages them to perform better. That comes as welcome news for those of us who firmly believe in the value of workplace recognition programs.

You can never underestimate the power of recognizing someone for their contributions, and now there’s scientific evidence to back it up. Other studies have shown that employees who feel appreciated are more inclined to stay with their company, have a greater sense of ownership and belonging, and often go above and beyond what’s expected of them. Research has also found that companies that recognize their people outperform those that don’t by 30 to 40 percent.

Magic words: “Thank you”
Extending a “thank you” can go a long way in showing your appreciation. Experts say it’s important, however, to be as specific as possible when recognizing an individual. As an example, saying “Your input at today’s meeting had a major influence on choosing our vendor” is a lot more impactful than “Thanks for your feedback.”

Timing is important, too, as is being sincere and making it personal. Praise shouldn’t be delayed and it should come from the heart. And recognizing someone in person shows that you’re making a special effort to express your appreciation.

Embracing the value and importance of employee recognition should be part of every workplace culture. Whether it’s informal or formal, a recognition program should be looked on as an investment, not an expense. And it should align with a company’s corporate strategies and values.

Focusing on employee recognition
I’m proud to say that we have a robust recognition program at LSI that reflects all of these standards. Known as Catch the Spark, our program is based on the premise that our employees are our greatest asset.

Quoting from a presentation that describes Catch the Spark, “Our goal is to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate employees who are instrumental in creating business outcomes that positively impact the company while demonstrating behaviors aligned with our Corporate Values – Customer Success, Innovation, Excellence, Integrity and Individual Responsibility.”

Cindy Rice, who oversees Catch the Spark, points out that the program has been an unqualified success since first being introduced in 2011.

“The previous corporate recognition program was good, but it was difficult to administer across different geographies, and we didn’t have an internal system to track globally who and what was being recognized,” she explains. “Since we didn’t have a really good way of tracking participation in the previous program, we estimated that about 28 percent of the employee population received recognition in 2010.  At the end of 2011, after four months of Catch the Spark, a built-in quantitative measuring system showed that approximately 35 percent of the population had been recognized.”

By 2012, nearly 70 percent of LSI’s employees had been recognized with Catch the Spark awards. That number has stayed steady, with 68 percent of employees receiving awards through the first three quarters of this year. Our goal for 2013 is to have 80 percent of our employees receiving recognition.

Rewarding employees for great work
The LSI program has three colored-coded levels of awards, based on the colors of the LSI logo. The Orange Spark is an E-thanks, a non-cash-value award that you can use as a simple thank you when other non-cash or cash awards at other levels are not applicable. We also have the Blue Spark award, which is a gift card that comes in five different non-cash levels, and the Green Award, which is a three-tiered cash award.

To create an environment of appreciation, the system allows for peer-to-peer recognition. And the recognition is delivered to the employee’s e-mail in as little as 48 hours. A dedicated website enables employees to nominate people for recognition, congratulate award winners and track their awards, among other things. 

Since we are a multinational company, we use a “market basket” approach to create equivalently valued awards across our global sites.  To enable this, a Purchase Power Parity Index (PPPI) for each country was established based on the respective standard of living baseline. From this research, a market basket of goods and services was created to achieve approximate award-value parity around the globe.

We also believe it is important to allow for flexibility and customization of awards processes and so we have maintained other popular recognition programs within various departments, but Catch the Spark serves as our universal way of saying thanks to deserving employees.

Fond memories of “smiley face”
On a personal note, I think that regardless of one’s experience level or position in a company, there is no better way to be motivated than to be recognized for a job well done. As a new college graduate more than 30 years ago, I still vividly remember the “smiley face” I received from my department manager on a report I had written, and how thrilled I was to receive it.

To this day, even a simple “atta boy” still energizes me and gives me a true sense of accomplishment. It really does not take much to have a big impact on the culture of a company through the use of awards and recognition processes, and to borrow from the famous American author Mark Twain: “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

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It’s that crazy time of year in the U.S., when football, hockey and basketball compete for attention. Flick through the TV channels any fall weekend and you’ll find a college or pro football match, as well as games involving the other sporting venues.

Let’s face it – we love our sports. Some of us more than others, like the fans who paint their faces in their favorite team’s colors. Or those who show up to work wearing jerseys and other regalia that reflect their team allegiances. And you can always count on friendly rivalries emerging in the workplace this time of year.

While America gets caught up in the football/baseball/hockey/basketball frenzy, it won’t be long before the rest of the world gets hyped up by two other major sporting events – the 22nd Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. The Olympics are scheduled February 7-23 in Sochi, Russia, while the World Cup will be held June 12 through July 13 next year in Brazil. Both are global sports spectacles that are sure to generate lots of excitement.

Each event will stir intense patriotism and rivalries, and each will have its fair share of agony and ecstasy. This will be the first time the Russian Federation will host the Olympics; the former Soviet Union was host to the Summer Games in 1980, the official Olympics website states. The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be the first time that the Russian Federation will have hosted the Winter GamesThe Cup, meanwhile, promotes itself as “the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world,” according to its website.

Sporting spirit helps fire up the workplace
Our love of sports and loyalty to teams and players is a common thread among cultures around the world. And sports bring out a lot of admirable characteristics: teamwork, competitive spirit, drive and determination. Many of these characteristics cross over into the workplace, which might explain why we relate so well to sports in general.

The impact of sports on the working world has not gone unnoticed by researchers. A major study undertaken in the United Kingdom a few years ago found that sports “can have a positive impact on boosting morale and improving mood, motivation and productivity in the working environment.”

The study — commissioned by Hudson, a professional services recruitment and talent management consultancy, and conducted by The Social Issues Research Centre — was first published just prior to the World Cup in 2006. You can read an overview of the study and access the complete document here.

Some interesting statistics compiled during the study include:

  • 63 percent of men and 52 percent of women said that sporting success (i.e. their team winning) influences their approach to work.
  • 47 percent of women and 40 percent of men said that sporting success lifts their mood and makes them more productive in their jobs.
  • Only 3 percent said that sporting success is distracting and makes them less productive.

Getting a kick out of the World Cup
The World Cup, in particular, influenced the outlook of those who were interviewed. “Seventy percent of men and 62 percent of women residents in England said that it will have an impact on their working lives – by boosting morale if the team does well, creating a team spirit and providing an environment for social inclusion,” the study summary states.

But it’s not just sporting events themselves that have sway in the workplace. The study revealed that discussing sports on a routine basis among employees and customers can help tear down barriers. “It can make or break a sale or the relationship between a manager and his/her team. In fact, sport enhances creativity and promotes sharing of ideas,” the summary says. And such discussions can improve communication among team members, solidify customer relations and break down hierarchical boundaries.

The researchers also discovered other positive attributes stemming from the sports-work scenario. They included the importance of dedication and commitment; influencing and identifying what makes a good team player; the importance of collective responsibility and the value of working as a team; and the value of individual creativity and flair.

“Sport(s) can teach managers about the importance of thinking creatively and reflect the skills that make a good manager,” the study states.

Promoting teamwork
I’ve found that many managers seize on the sports theme to rally employees and build up enthusiasm around new projects and campaigns. And they’ve used activities such as baseball or soccer games to promote team bonding.

I also believe there is no better parallel for good leadership and organizational success in business than an athletic team, where talent, strategy, culture and discipline are clear and real-time differentiators.  And coaches (aka, the leadership team) are measured and rewarded accurately for their leadership abilities – a win/loss record.

Admittedly, there have been and will always be aberrations in the athletic team model (such as players and coaches displaying unruly or inexcusable behavior), but that’s to be expected in an imperfect world. It’s the core standards of team structure that we should strive for.

So go ahead, cheer on your favorite team and engage in some friendly banter with your co-workers over who has the most talented players. It’s healthy, it’s productive and, just as important, it’s fun!

 

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Forget those energy drinks to re-invigorate your workplace. Try hiring an intern!

Combining bright-eyed, fresh-faced enthusiasm with an unquenchable thirst to learn, interns can be as beneficial to a business as the experience they gain through their internships. They can shake up the status quo with their edgy, idealistic attitudes and questioning minds.

We have first-hand experience at LSI at just how valuable interns can be. Our internship program spans the world and attracts the best and brightest students who are looking for challenging assignments and an invigorating work environment. This year alone, we’ve had 120 interns at LSI locations scattered around the globe.

Tapping universities for talent
A strong internship program such as the one we have at LSI helps build long-term relationships with universities and creates a pipeline for future talent. Interns who work for us have an opportunity to evaluate our business and culture, and we’re given the opportunity to see if they’re a good fit within our working environment. As a result, the process results in many of our interns coming to work for us.

By having interns in the workplace, you’re creating a portal to unique cultural and generational aspects, not to mention a fresh perspective that they inherently bring with them. A prime example is their expertise with social media. They have a firm grasp on how new-age communication vehicles such as Twitter and Facebook can have a positive and forceful impact on how we do business.

And what do interns gain from their experiences with us? They have a chance to see what it’s like to work in a corporate environment and be part of a team. They develop core competencies that compliment the knowledge they gain in the classroom. And they have the opportunity to apply that classroom knowledge in real-life working situations.

Commitment by supervisors is key
It’s important to point out that you need supervisors who are committed to an internship program and are driven to make it succeed, both from the student and company perspectives. They need to be cognizant of such things as matching an intern’s skill set with projects and assignments, and ensuring they’re given adequate time and resources to complete their work. An effective internship environment also requires sufficient planning and hands-on guidance from supervisors.

For the past few years, U.S.-based interns have participated in an annual contest that showcases the work they’ve done while at LSI. Three finalists are chosen from a pool of dozens of applicants to make formal presentations to our executive leadership. And for the first time, we’ve introduced this concept to China and India with resounding results. Our leaders are amazed at how poised and professional the interns are during their presentations.

LSI interns weigh in
I’m proud to say that our interns gain invaluable experience when they come to work for us. But don’t take my word for it. One of our summer interns, Brianna Robinson, provided her perspective on what it was like to work at LSI with a guest blog she wrote for this website in August.

“I knew there would be a lot to learn, but what I did not know and discovered soon enough was just how genuinely welcoming and helpful all the people are at LSI. They insisted there is no such thing as a stupid question and made me feel like my contributions mattered. Not only does LSI run a successful business, but it also maintains a great company culture.”

Brianna noted that interns weren’t just given busy work while at LSI.

“Some intern assignments included verifying design codes of storage/networking chips, testing chip reliability and endurance, creating/testing URLs, redesigning website content/design, and much more! My role was in corporate communications, where I collaborated with LSI’s busy public/analyst relations team on a variety of tasks including drafting press releases, preparing media target lists, assisting in presentation preparations, and conducting research,” Brianna wrote.

Mixing play with work
That’s not to say that our interns don’t have fun while they’re with us. Erin Zebertavage, our global college program manager who oversees the internship program, notes that every location that hosts interns has at least one light-hearted activity for them during their stay. Activities include attending minor league baseball games and amusement parks.

“This past summer, our interns had a friendly competition,” Erin says. “They strategically placed water bottles they received from LSI in photos they took of all the cool places where they were out and about. Prizes were awarded for best photos. They were very creative and quite competitive!”

Whether they’re in the workplace or just having fun, we strive to give every one of your interns a memorable and enriching experience. Again, I think Brianna’s own words sum it up best:

“Overall, my internship at LSI has been an incredibly rewarding and enlightening experience. I made some great friends and developed valuable business skills to apply in future career opportunities.”

Remember to mind your P’s and Q’s
It’s important to point out that our internship program has strict guidelines to protect participants from being overworked, as was recently the case involving a large bank’s operations in England. It’s unfortunate that these situations occur, and companies need to be diligent in preventing such abuses within their internship programs.

There’s really nothing like hands-on experience to broaden a student’s mind and show them what work life is like in the real world. It brings a balance to their education and, as Brianna pointed out, provides valuable business skills that they can’t get in the classroom. In exchange, companies get a fresh perspective and a hefty dose of energy and enthusiasm. Who could ask for more from an internship program?

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Like millions of other people around the world, I was fascinated earlier this summer when Nik Wallenda daringly crossed a river gorge near the Grand Canyon on a wire barely the width of his pinky finger. Without a harness, no less. It was an incredible balancing act, to say the least.

And that got me to thinking about the balancing act that many of us engage in every day. It’s hardly as dangerous or as life-threatening, but it seems like a constant struggle to find equilibrium between work life and personal life.

Having an employer that actively supports family-friendly practices can make a big difference in helping strike that balance. Studies have shown that inviting employees’ families to be part of a company’s “family” can boost morale, reduce stress and increase retention.

Helping families to strike a healthy balance
We have several ways to get families involved at LSI. Two that come quickly to mind are annual “Family Days” that are held at our facilities in India and Japan. These events, which have proven to be very popular, include activities for children as well as adults. Families get to learn more about our company. And, of course, employees feel a sense of pride by getting to show their partners and kids where they work.

Another LSI initiative is to make health and wellness programs easily accessible to families through website portals that are available 24/7. These include weight management and smoking cessation programs and even personal online coaches who can provide guidance on a variety of health-related topics. And in the U.S., employees’ partners can access information online during health care open enrollment, providing the opportunity for couples to make more informed choices together.

We also have a policy that gives employees time off for important family matters, such as teacher-parent conferences. And our sabbatical program offers a one-month leave to employees who have 20 years or more of employment. This time away from work gives employees a chance to “recharge” their batteries and spend more time with their families.

And I can’t think of a better way to show your kids just what you do when you’re at work than have them be part of Take Your Children to Work Day. It’s another pride-prompting event that many of our employees enjoy taking part in and it helps create a special bond between parent and child.

Study shows benefits of recognizing family needs
Work-family balance comes in many other forms, some more successful than others. That was apparent in a case study of Airbus, an international aircraft manufacturer. The study revealed, among other things, that some company-instituted practices are more accepted in some countries compared to others, such as child-care services.

For instance, the company has found on-site child care in Germany to be very popular, especially since public child-care services are less prevalent there. On the other hand, in France, on-site child care for Airbus employees there isn’t needed because the public system is so robust.

The study states that a key objective in the corporate culture should be acknowledgement of seeing “the human being behind the employee” and respecting the employee’s personal time. Working with colleagues across time zones and geographies can be logistically challenging and often requires a flexible approach to schedules and a shared balance of responsibility.

U.S. lags other countries in offering work-life benefits
In the U.S., there have been legislative efforts to strike a better equilibrium. The Work Life Balance Award Act, a bill designed to establish special recognition for employers that develop and implement work-life balance policies, was introduced in Congress during the spring of 2010. The act failed to gain passage in the House of Representatives, but other similar initiatives are being pursued.

According to human resources experts, companies in the U.S. lag behind foreign companies as far as offering sufficient paid leave and work-life benefits to employees. However, more American firms are recognizing the value of such benefits in order to attract and retain top-notch talent. These benefits – which many younger workers are seeking out – include telecommuting, flex-time, job sharing and compressed work weeks.

Striking a balance that every employee is happy with is next to impossible. A more realistic and achievable goal is to strive to accommodate as many as you can with a full-bodied set of benefits. That’s an accomplishment that even Nik Wallenda might appreciate.

If you’re looking for more information on the topic of work/life balance, here is an interesting fact sheet on flexible work arrangements.

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Here’s to our health

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Not many decades ago, the concept of wellness in the workplace – that healthy employees make better workers – was considered to be groundbreaking. Times have changed, and it’s encouraging to note that for most companies, wellness is now a “check-off” program.

The results have been considerable, starting with successful smoking-cessation programs in the 1980s to today’s workplace, where many companies offer employees various opportunities to monitor their health and learn about healthy living while at work.

But let’s face it – staying healthy takes work. And it can be tough to do, especially when work can be so demanding. You have projects and priorities pulling you in different directions. Who has time to focus on their personal well-being? and how do companies make wellness a reality? Six keys to a successful employee wellness program

While not absolute, I believe there are six key elements required to enable a truly successful employee wellness program within a company:

  1. A business value proposition for wellness that’s clear, and fully understood and embraced by company leaders
  2. Programs that engage employees (and sometimes their extended families) to build excitement and create community around a culture of wellness
  3. Programs that target common and meaningful health issues such as weight management
  4. Available tools and training so employees can independently manage their health concerns
  5. Routine and voluntary health monitoring (such as biometric screenings) to help employees identify areas of risk
  6. Use of technology to enhance overall wellness awareness and user experience while enabling scalability and efficiency of program deployment.

I’m proud to say that LSI doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to wellness initiatives. We have a host of programs, and we’re always looking for ways to improve them.

We’re obviously in good company. In the San Francisco Bay area alone, more than 60 companies large and small recently participated in a program to determine the healthiest employers for that region. LSI finished in the top 10 in the 500-1,999 employee category based on the number of workers we have at our San Jose headquarters. This is the second consecutive year that LSI has made the list.

Our wellness programs run the gamut, including on-site fitness centers and exercise classes, incentive-based initiatives, personal health coaches, a worldwide annual table tennis tournament and participation in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), a virtual walking program aimed at changing the exercise behavior and improving the health of employees around the world.

The GCC promotes taking 10,000 steps a day to lose weight and get in shape. It’s working for us at LSI, with employees racking up nearly 4 billion steps over the past four months. That equates to burning off 651,632 pieces of chocolate cake. No matter how you slice it, that’s a ton of calories!

Numerous studies bear out that the benefits of workplace wellness programs far outweigh the costs of offering them. For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that productivity losses due to personal and family health issues can cost U.S. businesses $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.

You can find other insightful information in a CDC article titled “Wellness in the Workplace,” which states that “A wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.” Included in the article are several resources on wellness programs and their benefits.

Another article, “Leading by Example: The Value of Worksite Health Promotion to Small and Medium-sized Employers,” outlines actions small- and medium-sized employers can take to provide for healthier employees, and highlights new tax credits and other programs that are available to smaller businesses under the U.S. Affordable Care Act. The article appears on the website for the Partnership for Prevention, a nonpartisan organization of business, nonprofit and government leaders working to make evidence-based disease prevention and health promotion a national priority.

And the U.S. Small Business Administration offers more insights and resources withWorkplace Wellness: Improving Health and Controlling Health Care Spending. This article includes a link to the Affordable Care Act’s final rules related to new incentives for employer wellness programs, as well as information about preventive services covered under the act.

From the looks of it, employees have more opportunities than ever before to get in shape and stay in shape. And their employers benefit, too, from having a healthier, happier workforce. We’ve come a long way in making wellness a permanent part of the workplace.

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If you’re looking to stir up some lively dinner conversation, bring up the name Edward Snowden. The former intelligence analyst is a lightning rod for hot debates over what constitutes espionage and the rights of people versus the rights of the government.

As I’m sure you know by now, Snowden is accused by the U.S. government of leaking details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press this past spring. This  case got me thinking about security and its importance in the business world. While a breach of security within a company may not have the same tumultuous impact as one involving a country, it can still wreak havoc and have severe repercussions and cause companies to lose millions of dollars in profits.

Many companies such as LSI have intellectual property that needs to be closely guarded because of its great value and the significant financial investment that went into its development.  

Corporate espionage is not uncommon in the business world, especially when competition is intense and companies are constantly trying to one-up each other. A timely example is a Massachusetts technology firm, known as AMSC, that’s embroiled in a legal battle over its intellectual property rights. News media coverage has exposed “the sometimes tawdry world of economic espionage between companies battling for preeminence in emerging energy markets.”

In AMSC’s case, news reports indicate the company has laid off hundreds of workers and lost millions of dollars as the result of software theft. It’s also spent an untold amount of money pursuing the perpetrators in court, and its legal efforts are far from over.

Ensuring strict security key to prevention
Preventing corporate espionage (also referred to as industrial espionage) isn’t impossible, but companies need to be diligent and constantly focused on ensuring security protocols are strictly followed. We have a host of preventive measures that we enforce at LSI, several of which I believe apply in general to many companies, especially those with an international presence.

Many of these security steps are just a matter of common sense, such as prohibiting visitors from entering offices and other areas where sensitive information, material or products are kept. Or keeping laptops with you or storing them in a secure place when traveling.

Other measures include encrypting or password-protecting sensitive data; carefully using cloud-based services, having non-disclosure agreements in place when appropriate, and using complex passwords on computers and smart phones.

Security often extends beyond protecting a company’s trade secrets. If you’re dealing with customers’ proprietary property, that needs to be closely guarded as well. One slip and you could jeopardize a client’s livelihood and lose it as a customer forever.

Working with employees helps companies remain on safe ground
At LSI, we have a vigorous training program around IP protection. We are continually educating our employees as well as contractors about proper security protocols. Reinforcing these procedures is an ongoing and necessary part of doing business. Companies need to work hand in hand with their employees to make sure they understand the importance of keeping intellectual property, trade secrets and other sensitive material secure.

In today’s world, security can’t be left to chance. There’s too much at stake to be that cavalier.

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Nelson Mandela once observed that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

It’s true. Well-educated people run our companies, our governments and our schools. They are inventing the technology and programs of tomorrow while solving the problems of today.

A new school year starts soon for many students around the world, and this “new beginning” is important to all of us. Those with children depend on flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities now offered by employers, and focus on their roles as not just parents but mentors and teachers too.

Those without children also are affected because we’re all both teachers and learners. Even those with an advanced degree or two are still taking courses and learning at work. Sometimes keeping up is as challenging as acquiring skills initially.

But no matter when you start or continue your education, it’s important to stay focused on how much your future depends on the skill level you develop now.

The Global Partnership for Education – which coordinates a worldwide effort to provide a good quality education to children – calls education one of the most important investments a nation can make in its people and its future, and is critical to reducing poverty and inequality.

Businesses face smaller talent pool
In business, we’re faced with a shrinking talent pool, primarily for two reasons: demographics and education. In many places, the demographics are against us – more people are retiring than entering the workforce because the retiring “baby boom” generation born after World War II is so much bigger than later generations. Even some emerging countries are starting to feel this demographic squeeze, although others have growing worker populations.

The second reason, though, is education, and there’s a lot we can and must do about that. The required skill level in the global economy is rising, and educational systems worldwide have not been able to produce an adequate base of talent to meet these changing needs.

That’s particularly true in the high-tech industry, where there’s evidence that we may not have enough engineers to fill our needs, although a recently released study says there are – at least for today. But what about the future and what about the specific skills being taught?

Global education-to-employment system needs updated
At LSI, for instance, we have a highly educated workforce now and will continue to need one in the coming years to stay competitive, successful and profitable. That may not be as easy to accomplish as it sounds because, as The Futurist online noted several years ago, “The education-to-employment system worldwide is badly out of date. The U.S. and most other nations are not producing enough graduates with the kinds of technical, communications and thinking skills needed in the 21st century workplace.”

That, of course, begs the question: What will be needed?

A just-released study, Global Talent 2021, conducted by Oxford Economics with support from HR consultant Towers Watson and many global companies, points to new and different competencies expected to be in demand:

  • Digital skills: Working virtually and using social media
  • Agile thinking, particularly in the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and assess and plan for multiple scenarios
  • Interpersonal skills, such as effective (physical and virtual) teaming and collaboration
  • Global operating ability, including managing diverse groups of people, understanding international markets and being culturally sensitive

Our job as business leaders is to make this happen by ensuring educators understand our needs and students realize the importance of obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields that are in demand. That’s especially true in the high-tech area.

LSI lends a helping hand in math and sciences
At LSI, we start the process early. Our long-time backpack project engages our employees in an effort to ensure young students in need have the supplies required to start the learning process in the earliest grades. In addition, our giving program focuses on education, particularly in the areas of math and science.

Among its recommendations, the Global Talent 2021 study recommended that leaders ensure that education policy is fully integrated into larger economic growth strategies. Specifically, it said, we must expand access to education, increase the average number of years of schooling and improve the quality of education in key criteria (science, technology, engineering and math).

Easier said than done, but we’ve met tougher challenges. The future depends on it.

 

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When I was growing up, my parents always had words of wisdom like “Eat your vegetables!” or “Sit up straight!” and “Don’t stare at the sun!” But I don’t recall them ever saying to me, “Take all of your vacation!”

Of course, my parents didn’t know how important vacation would be to me as an adult. Actually, I’ve discovered that vacation is important to all of us. The health benefits of getting away from it all can’t be overstated. We all need to strike a balance between work and play; but unfortunately, many of us don’t do that.

Give yourself a break
How many times have you said to yourself, “I don’t have time to take a vacation” or “It takes too much effort to plan a getaway.” Work is always pounding at your door and there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get it all done, right?

There are other reasons, too, according to a survey recently conducted by Expedia, the online travel booking website. They include saving vacation days for the future, difficulty in coordinating family schedules, lack of money and the need to schedule a vacation too far out.

The survey, which you can look at here, has a global perspective. For instance, it shows that managers in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and India are most likely to support employees taking vacations. On the flip side, managers least likely to do so are found in Italy, South Korea, Denmark and Argentina, according to the study. And although Americans earn less vacation time than the rest of the world, they usually don’t take it all, the report says.

And what are the top vacations by category? The survey ranks a beach holiday first (35 percent), followed by a romantic getaway (19 percent), city vacation (12 percent) and outdoor holiday (12 percent).

A prescription for stress relief
But let’s look at vacations from another perspective – your health. There are lots of studies out there that show that down time is important to a person’s physical and mental well-being. The Expedia survey, for example, indicated that 34 percent of the respondents reported feeling better about their jobs and believed they were more productive after taking a vacation.

Another study conducted by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health, the United Kingdom’s largest health care charity, pointed out specific health benefits derived from vacations. To conduct the study, called the Holiday Health Experiment, people were invited to apply for 12 slots. Half of those selected were then sent on a two-week vacation either to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives, while the remainder stayed home and worked.

It’s not surprising that more than 10,000 applied for the study. The individuals chosen were given a health assessment that included measuring their resilience to stress, and monitoring their heart and sleep patterns.

Among the report’s conclusions? Those who went on vacation displayed more energy, had reduced stress and exhibited a more positive mood. They also found themselves sleeping more soundly. “Long-term improvement of sleep can have a positive impact on weight and lower risk of common diseases such as diabetes and also heart disease…” the study says.

One subject of the study who went on vacation also benefitted health-wise from her experience. “Her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose drops are corresponding with the reductions in stress we saw on her Heart Rate Variability tests, which is good for her long-term health,” the report states.

And then there’s a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease came up with a sobering conclusion. Those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off annually. A separate survey of women came up with even more startling results. The Framingham Heart Study showed that women who took time off once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Unwind and unplug
At LSI, we recognize the importance and value of vacation time. We offer a competitive vacation policy to ensure that all of our employees have the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. In fact, for the past few years, we have designated one additional holiday for all employees worldwide as a way of saying thank you for their hard work and to encourage them to “unplug” for a day.  

When you take everything into consideration, it’s pretty obvious that vacations are a necessary part of our lives. So my advice to you – take all of your vacation!

 

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All employees deserve a work environment that enables them to be comfortable, motivated and productive. Maintaining a healthy workplace is also good for business. At LSI, we have zero tolerance for anything that compromises our workplace – including harassment.

Often in society, it’s intentional, but many times people are unaware that their behavior is actually harassment. From off-color jokes to inappropriate physical contact, harassment can take many forms. Whether the offenders are aware or unaware of their actions, there really is no excuse for it.

Why one person would harass another goes against the grain of most of us. But unfortunately it happens on occasion, and the consequences can be extremely harmful and painful. No one should be subjected to discrimination, belittlement, stalking or other types of adverse activity – either intentional or unintentional – no matter where they work or live.

Implementing anti-harassment controls
People should be able to go to work and feel comfortable with how they’re treated by their colleagues. Maintaining a hostile-free environment is key and the basis for anti-harassment policies that are in effect at thousands of businesses across the nation.

Here at LSI, not only do we have a policy in place that prohibits any type of harassment, we also require our current as well as new employees to complete anti-harassment training, no matter where they’re located in the world.

By enforcing our anti-harassment policy globally, we’re actually going beyond what many countries require of employers. And rightfully so. In fact, we have a department that’s dedicated to employee relations, ensuring our employees have a work environment they can be proud of and are able to do their best work.

Our policy states, in part, that we “provide an environment where employees can work free of harassment of any kind, including harassment based upon a person’s sex, race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, physical appearance, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, pregnancy or any other basis protected by applicable law.”

Managers key to monitoring compliance
The policy goes on to say that “harassment not only violates company policy, but may also be illegal. Its occurrence may subject an employee to discipline, up to and including termination. LSI’s policy against harassment applies to every employee, independent contractor, consultant, vendor or customer of the company. All managers are responsible for implementing and monitoring compliance with this policy.”

Susan Kodet, our senior manager in Employee Relations, provides some additional perspective.

“People today are better educated and more conscious of what is appropriate and inappropriate at work,” said Kodet. “We’ve also discovered that there are situations where employees honestly are unaware that they are offending those around them with their words or actions.”

Our leaders and employees work with HR to provide a safe and harassment free workplace that everyone can enjoy. At the same time, it’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent inappropriate behavior. The key is having an open culture where employees are empowered and confident that we have their back in stopping these types of situations from occurring.

Clearly, we can never let our guard down in controlling harassment, not even for a moment. Zero tolerance, no excuses.

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“We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.”
Will Rogers, American humorist and social commentator

If there was anyone who enjoyed a good laugh, it was Will Rogers. Peaking in popularity around the 1930s, he used an earthy, down-home style to poke fun at politicians, gangsters, government programs and other topical targets. His humor and wit helped carry the U.S. through the Great Depression.

Considering the amount of time we spend at work, we should heed Rogers’ advice and all share a good laugh or two each day. Having a sense of humor can benefit you and your workplace in many ways, according to several documented studies.

From a health perspective, humor can measurably reduce stress and lower blood pressure. From a business perspective, it can encourage teamwork, promote group cohesiveness, enhance leadership and communication, pump up creativity, motivate employees and help achieve objectives. An online search of “humor in the workplace” quickly uncovers several studies in support of humor’s effectiveness.

Nurturing a happier workplace by cracking wise
Research has shown time and again that people who enjoy their work are more productive and creative. By establishing an atmosphere of collegiality and friendly interaction, employees feel more in their “comfort zone.” Isn’t that the kind of atmosphere you want to be part of at work?

Humor in the office, though, should always be used appropriately, keeping in mind cultural differences. Obviously, there should be zero tolerance for humor that is racially, sexually or culturally oriented or directed at individuals.

Knowing when and where humor has its place is also an important consideration. I’ve been in meetings where a humorous remark helped break tension in the room. On the other hand, you don’t want humor to be constant, distracting or disruptive.

Another benefit of humor is that it can serve as a coping mechanism. How many of us have been frustrated by a task or project that just isn’t going the way we want it to? Stepping back and not taking ourselves so seriously might be the approach needed to get things moving in the right direction.

In addition to off-the-cuff humor, there are structured ways to add some levity to the workplace. It could be something as simple as putting up a bulletin board where employees can post appropriate cartoons and funny quotes. Or employees could plan a “funny hat” day or “finger foods only” lunch.

From my personal experience, a daily injection of humor and fun makes the work day go faster.

 

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