There are few people living today who have not heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  His music is undoubtedly brilliant, and 250 years later it still remains present in many forms of our media – Hollywood movies, television advertisements and even cell phone ring tones.

A key “differentiator” of Mozart’s lasting genius was the diversity of his work. Arguably, there have been few composers who were more versatile than Mozart. He wrote music in nearly every form conceivable – songs, sonatas, operas, symphonies. 

It has been documented that his artistic diversity in part came from his openness to varied cultures, ideas and experiences gained while traveling around Europe throughout his short life.

But what does Mozart have to do with the business world and global companies today?  I believe the “platform” of Mozart’s brilliance — his openness to learn from others and their diverse experiences — is a useful framework when considering the elements that make up a great company culture – openness to versatility and inclusion.

The ability to attract, retain and engage the very best talent from a broad spectrum of demographics is crucial for companies to compete and succeed today.  At LSI, we have a vibrant, diverse workforce, and I consider myself very fortunate to be part of a company that embraces and encourages diversity. Embracing diversity clearly creates competitive advantage; for the past two years, LSI has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Innovators as measured by patent-related metrics.

Elephants, Epidemics and Innovation
Studies support this connection and demonstrate that a diverse workforce can positively impact the bottom line. It also promotes and nurtures an atmosphere of innovation and productivity – two key ingredients that contribute to a company’s profitability. The book, “The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation” by Frans Johansson does a good job of making the case that diversity in our workforce is a fundamental element of breakthrough innovation and creativity. Johansson’s book is worth a quick read.

Let’s look at it another way. Employers who hire people of differing racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds stand a better chance of grabbing larger market share because they are, essentially, reflecting the makeup of their consumer base. In other words, their workers are a reflection of the customers they serve or want to attract.

By tapping into a diverse pool of candidates, a company has a much better chance of drawing in the best and brightest. I’ve found this to be the case time and again here at LSI. We deliberately pursue potential employees who have varying backgrounds, knowing that this increases our odds of ending up with the “cream of the crop.”

From an employee’s perspective, job hunters are inclined to seek out companies that treat their workers fairly, regardless of ethnicity, race or gender. They know that these employers foster a progressive work atmosphere that, in turn, boosts employee morale and encourages employees to work more efficiently and responsively. Who wouldn’t want to work for that type of employer?

Nurturing diversity
So how do you create an environment that embraces diversity?  It starts with leaders who role model a culture that values different opinions and experiences.  For example, at LSI we work hard to put our executives in front of employees on a regular basis to have transparent and candid dialogue about our company and our culture. In these sessions, we encourage our employees to question and challenge our executives in an “unconstrained” but objective way. Diverse opinions and experiences matter.

Our workforce also reflects the generational side of diversity. With people living longer and retiring later, we have employees from several generations working together. Representatives from each generation bring with them their own distinct work habits, technological outlooks and customs. Respecting and taking advantage of what each generation brings to the table further strengthens a company’s chances for success.

An unknown author once said, “Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”  And if done well, possibly someday there will be a “ring tone” that memorializes our work.

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The benefits versus drawbacks of using PowerPoint® presentations can stir lively conversation in the workplace. Some would go so far as to toss out PowerPoint presentations altogether, such as the late Steve Jobs, who believed they stifled creative thinking. Others firmly stand by them as an effective way to communicate.

I believe that a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation can be, well, powerful and pointed. Appealing and engaging slides can bring focus to a discussion, present complex facts and figures in a way that’s easy for an audience to grasp, spark lively dialogue, and enable teams to come to closure on solving a problem or diving into a new project. For example, companywide webcasts, financial discussions and strategic business reviews benefit greatly from solidly crafted PowerPoint presentations. And sending the slides to your audience after a meeting serves as an important resource and often a way to keep a dialogue going. In essence, PowerPoint can become a very effective language for communicating thoughts, ideas and actions.

Of course, getting a PowerPoint presentation “just right” can take a great deal of time and effort. I’ve seen colleagues labor over slides to the point of exhaustion, struggling to cram in as much information as possible. That can be a lose-lose proposition that exhausts both the presenter and the audience.

The key is to strike a balance between too many words and too few; between “eye chart” graphics and appealing visuals – not an easy task, I admit. But PowerPoint slides are meant to enhance a presentation and engage an audience – not overwhelm them with information or eliminate the need for discussion.

You don’t have to search too hard to find useful tips for constructing a “powerful” PowerPoint presentation. I uncovered quite a few, including some that deserve mentioning. Here they are, not in any particular order of importance:

  • Use slides to highlight or underscore thoughts or ideas by displaying a photo or graphic or using just a few key words. In fact, I don’t know of any hard-and-fast rule that says a slide can’t just be an eye-grabbing graphic or photo. As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words.
  • Try to limit ideas to one per slide.
  • Keep in mind the key messages you want to drive in a slide and define the slide accordingly.
  • Keep the words short, simple and direct.
  • Never read a slide word for word. Pick out the key points and reinforce them.
  • Don’t try to use all the fancy features that come with PowerPoint, such as animation or transitional gimmicks. They often tend to distract more than engage the audience.
  • Do use high-contrast color pallets so your slides are easy to read and attractive to look at. Don’t attempt to use too many colors because that can be distracting. It’s actually best to use the same color theme throughout the presentation for visual continuity.
  • Keep the number of slides to a minimum.
  • Make sure to engage your audience in discussion either as you go through the presentation or after you wrap up.

You’ll find many other useful tips and tricks from two sites I recently visited:
https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog889/l1_p11.html and
http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/21cp/syllabus/powerpoint_tips2.htm

It’s important to remember that PowerPoint is just one of the many tools you have in your oratorical tool belt, so don’t be afraid to branch out and add other elements to your presentations like relating a personal anecdote or even asking your audience to take a quick pop quiz.

Clearly, the power of an effective PowerPoint presentation cannot be underestimated. And knowing how to put that power to work effectively will engage and energize your audience – and keep them awake.

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Employees from LSI’s Austin site build a Habitat for Humanity house during our 2012 Volunteer Week.

Take a moment and think – how much of your average day is impacted by a volunteer? Volunteer boards run local schools and volunteer firefighters save lives and property.Volunteers help keep parks clean and our kids play sports under the guidance of volunteer coaches. Every day.

Volunteerism is a winning value and the backbone of our communities, which is why corporations embrace it. This commitment is part of our corporate culture and is supported by everyone – employees, executives, the community, our customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

LSI employees in Bangalore, India, prepare to load trucks with food, toiletries, clothing and other necessities donated by employees to seven organizations.

At LSI, for instance, we’re getting ready for the seventh annual Volunteer Week, during which close to half of our employees will engage in at least one charitable activity. A list of opportunities will be provided for each site and participants select what interests them most. They paint, clean, do landscaping, collect food, cook for the homeless, build houses, mentor students, interact with children and seniors citizens –  any kind of volunteer activity you can imagine.

In addition to LSI Volunteer Week, each site participates in other local activities. In San Jose, groups bring collections for a food shelter, in Allentown employees fill spring baskets for underprivileged children, in Minnesota our people participate in Food Share Month, and in India our Corporate Social Responsibility Committee oversees a number of activities including blood drives.

LSI volunteers in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, put together furniture for Bridging Inc., which provides furniture and household goods to thousands of local families and individuals in need.

Beyond that, our employees volunteer in numerous non company-sponsored activities in their communities, places of worship, schools and local civic organizations.

Personally, I have come to realize how much can be learned about leadership through my own experiences as a volunteer; skills such as engaging varied stakeholders, working in an environment of diverse values and opinions, and achieving genuine commitment to an end vision.     Volunteerism is part of our LSI culture because it’s good for the community, employees and our businesses.

And if you ever doubt the value of volunteerism, remember this: Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers. The Titanic was built by professionals!

 

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LSI employees double up for a fast-paced match during the company’s annual worldwide table tennis tournament.

At LSI, our goal is to bring out the “Wow!” in wellness. And we do it in lots of different ways.From a global fitness competition to an international table tennis tournament to health fairs to personal coaches, we work hard at engaging our employees in activities that are fun, exciting and challenging. Time and again, studies have shown that healthy employees are happier and more productive employees. And our Wellness@Work Program bears that out. It all ties in neatly under the program’s theme: Get Fit, Live Healthy, Love Life.One of our most popular activities engaging nearly 80 percent of the LSI workforce is the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), the world’s largest workplace health and wellness program. This 16-week competition occurs annually in the spring and attracts nearly 1 million participants from around the world.

Winning smiles abound among members of the LSI Global Corporate Challenge team.

We’ve participated in the GCC for the past two years, and our employees are really looking forward to being a part of the action again starting in May. That includes our CEO and his executive team, who in the past have had friendly mini-competitions among themselves to see who has the winning edge. Overall in 2012, the LSI teams walked, swam or biked a staggering amount of mileage that would equate to circling the globe 65 times!

Right now, the competition is heating up among hundreds of employees who are taking part in our annual table tennis tourney. Players of all skill levels and from just about every LSI location are picking up their paddles and getting into the swing of things, all in the spirit of good-hearted competition.

On a more personal level, we’ve experienced great success with our one-on-one wellness coaching program. Employees are matched with professionally trained wellness coaches who provide individual consultations and guidance on achieving optimal wellness.

But our wellness initiatives don’t stop there. We have on-site yoga classes, wellness seminars, weight-management offerings, blood pressure checks and on-site annual health fairs. There’s Badminton Night in Singapore, a bowling challenge in Thailand, therapeutic massages in Germany and the U.S., a team fitness challenge in China…and more. And we’re now researching the feasibility of taking our wellness initiatives to the next level and extending some programs – where they make economic and cultural sense ¬– to the families of our employees.

Having read this far, a fair question might be: Aren’t these programs expensive and time-consuming?

Actually, effective wellness programs may pay for themselves by controlling health care costs, increasing employee productivity and lowering absenteeism.

By encouraging employees to embrace a healthier lifestyle, a company can trim its health care costs and then use some or all of that money to fund additional wellness programs. When we began our wellness initiative, we actually had no budget. Instead, we worked with our vendors to leverage programs they already offered. For example, we worked with our health plan vendor to obtain free videos offering exercise tips that employees could do at their desks. We also enabled employees to link to our cafeteria vendor’s websites, where they could find healthy and nutritious recipes. The employee response was so positive, we ramped up our activities little by little.

Overall, investing in wellness can pay a “healthy” dividend in the short- and long-term. Employee wellness programs are not a fad. They’re here to stay and are being woven into the work culture around the world because they offer a solid value proposition – for both a business and its employees.

At LSI, we’re willing to go the distance to help our employees stay on the path to good health. It’s well worth the effort, as reflected in the Arabian proverb: “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.”

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