All entries for December 2014

The Certification Debate

When it comes to advancing your career in the security industry, certifications can set you apart, but how much do they really influence your career path? A recent study finds that there are 117 different certifications issued by 46 separate organizations. Of these certifications, the most highly requested one is the Certified Protection Professional Certificate (CPP) issued by ASIS – mentioned in just 5.5 percent of security job listings. The debate over certification in the selection process for high profile security roles is very controversial, but just how important are these credentials?

With certificates in various sectors of the security industry, including approximately 67 security generalist certificates, 15 crisis and disaster recovery certificates and 35 cyber and technology certificates – there are numerous opportunities for security experts to advance their credentials.

With components like workplace culture, and communication skills coming into play in the hiring process, the addition of certificates are definitely an extra feather for any advancing security personnel. Here’s why:

  1. Higher Pay Scale
    Security staffers holding certifications tend to make more than twenty thousand dollars higher than the average staffer without credentials. This higher payscale should be reason enough.
  2. Make Yourself a Recruiter’s Dream
    Why wouldn’t you add an extra pin to your lapel? According to a Security Workforce study, 70 percent of respondents view certificate recognition as a reliable indicator of competency when hiring, and almost half require certification.
  3. Makes You Easier to Find
    Perhaps you are looking to advance in your career? Relocate? By adding these certificates to your resume, you are making yourself more apparent to recruiters who use robots and spiders to crawl applications. By entering a long list of keywords, often including certifications, recruiters are able to scan the internet for candidates, putting you on the fast-track for electronic screening.
  4. Networking Opportunities
    By earning a qualification, you become part of an exclusive club – a group of professionals who have earned the same certification as you. While it may not be a luxurious country club, this new certification allows you to network with like-minded individuals in your industry – opening up a whole new window of opportunity.

Be sure to not write off a security expert who doesn’t have those few letters after his last name. Experience can often speak louder than certifications, but combined, can be unstoppable!



Water Conservation in the Hospitality Industry

towels.jpgThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that hospitality facilities, including hotels and lodgings, use about 15 percent of water designated for commercial usage in the United States. Conserving energy is a main concern for facility managers and now the focus has turned to water management.

According to the EPA, restrooms account for the biggest use of water, accounting for about 30 percent of hotel water use. This is followed by laundry operations and landscaping.

Industry giant, Caesars, has dominated in the energy saving arena. Overall, the company has reduced its water use by seven percent per square foot of indoor space from 2008 to 2012 with plans to continue cutting back. These accomplishments are due to the installation of 10,700 low-flow shower heads that produce 1.8 gallons per minute compared to the average 2.5 gallons per minute. They have also installed low-flow sink aerators, which save an estimated 50.5 million gallons per year.

Caesars also sets an example for energy saving in the laundry room. By installing tunnel washers, the company was able to reduce water consumption in laundry facilities by 30 million gallons per year, predicting annual savings of $135,000 to $218,000.

To cut back on landscaping water usage, Caesars reduced the amount of water on its golf courses, using desert vegetation in some areas opposed to grass. While water is a big problem in Las Vegas, executives at Caesars are turning to new and innovative solutions to reduce energy costs including reusing rain water and extracting water from food waste etc.

As the hotel industry becomes more aware of energy costs, so are guests. By asking guests to opt out of daily linen and towel washing, the American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates a reduction of washing loads by 17 percent! This not only saves water, but also extends the life of linens and towels, reducing replacement costs.

The EPA recognizes the importance of conservation. In 2006 they initiated the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge. The program is designed to encourage hotels to use best management practices that will save water and money, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The program states that by simply replacing water using fixtures with WaterSense labeled models, the average urban hotel with approximately 150 guest rooms would save nearly 760,000 gallons of water and more than $7,000 in water costs each year. Participating hotels include Courtyard Hotels, Residence Inn, The Ritz-Carlton, Wyndham and Marriotts. To see the full list of participating hotels, click here.

Short & Sweet: Effective Team Building in Seconds

Team building is a proven method to boost morale and develop better communication in the workplace, however a 2012 study revealed that some team building activities may actually be counterproductive because they inflict peer embarrassment or test employee comfort levels. While growing franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts, Anytime Fitness and Subway are heavily spending on team building activities, you don’t have to break the budget to build morale. We have composed a list of activities that can easily be incorporated into a weekly business meeting or regular regroup.

No. 1: Back-to-Back Drawing

Have a problem with communication? Need to explain the importance of better directions? This is the game for you! Pair off your team and have each person in the pair sit back-to-back. One person will receive a picture of a shape, the other will receive a pen and paper. The person with the picture of the shape must describe the shape without actually saying what it is while the other person draws it. When finished, each pair should compare their drawing and consider how they worked together and where they could’ve communicated better.  

No. 2: A Truth & a Lie

This is the perfect activity should you have newcomers or if you want your team to welcome a new employee. Go around the room, introduce yourself and say one fact about yourself and one lie. The group then has to identify which is the truth and which is the lie. This is a great ice breaker and encourages group communication and creativity.

No. 3: Opposites Attract

This game is perfect for a team that’s just getting used to one another and is effective in just two to three minutes. The group is given a list of characteristics, and then instructed to find people that have different characteristics to them. For example, different gender, different height, different marital status, etc. This is an informal way to break down perceived barriers and encourages easy conversation.

No. 4: Tooting My Horn

Have you had a bad day? Is your team going through a tough patch? Has a team member just been let go? This is a great way to remind your team that they are valued and a vital part of an organization. The group is separated into pairs and then each player has 15 seconds to tell their partner ten things they do well. Each person then has to make two lists: one should be a list of ten things they do well professionally, and one list of things they do well personally. The goal of the game is that they should put these lists in a common place where they can re-read the lists and remember just how worthy they are! According to a study, after 21 days of reading the lists each day, the person will have a greater sense of confidence and pride.

No. 5: Have a Ball!

This is a fun game for a sales environment and can boost energy levels in an office. Use a ball, and agree upon a particular event, maybe a sale or a common question. Each time someone makes a sale, they throw the ball to another team member as a signal of success. This generates team acknowledgement of a particular event and connects team members.

As you can see – just a few moments can generate an upbeat and changed atmosphere. Team building exercises, while they sometimes have a negative connotation can be short, sweet and equally effective – all while not breaking the bank.


How to Reduce Liability at this Year's Holiday Party

Holiday parties are a prime way to boost morale and team work in the office. One key component of most parties, however, is alcohol. A 2012 survey found that 61 percent of organizations plan to serve alcohol at their holiday parties, and of these organizations – only half plan to regulate alcohol consumption – leaving a big hole for employer liability.

According to the survey, celebrations held away from the office, which account for 70 percent of functions, boosts the chance of intoxication and employee misconduct. How can you prevent harassment and intoxication within your team this year?

57 percent of companies plan to use drink tickets to limit employees on their alcoholic intake, while other companies are resorting to only serve certain types of alcohol (42%) and even a cash bar (25%). To avoid these last minute restrictions, one-third of all organizations have a formal or informal policy that allows and limits drinking at work-related events.

The Risks

While employee parties are often a good and fun treat, there are laws that cover employees from some negative situations that often arise (consider harassment and potentially illegal employee conduct). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers employees in environments where 15 or more employees (including regular part-time ones) are gathered. For conduct to be considered unlawful under the Title VII, the conduct must be unwelcome; and the conduct must be sufficiently severe or pervasive. One single, extremely serious incident of harassment at an office party, may leave the organization open to a Title VII claim.

Also, consider the dangers of drunk driving liability. A California appellate court found an employer liable for a DUI accident that left one dead after an employee left a holiday work party at which they consumed alcohol. “It is irrelevant that foreseeable effects of the employee’s negligent conduct (here, the car accident) occurred at a time the employee was no longer acting within the scope of his or her employment,” the court ruled.

How to Limit Liability

Employers should consider taking the following steps to limit their liability while still hosting fun, morale-building festivities this season:

  • Have a comprehensive, written anti-harassment policy stated clearly in employee handbooks.
  • Before the event, send an email to all staff members attending reminding them to act responsibly at the party and clearly state the zero-tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
  • To avoid suggestive attire, enforce the company’s dress code.
  • Make it clear that attendance at the party does not impact the person’s standing at the company – allow attendance to be at free will.
  • Set a tone of moderation regarding alcohol consumption. Stress that excessive alcohol consumption will not be tolerated.
  • Limit the number of drinks, or length of time during which alcohol will be served. Provide substantial non-alcoholic alternatives.

Should an employee or coworker become heavily intoxicated or noticeably drink too much, offer them a ride home in a taxi or, so long as you have not been drinking, drive them home safely. 

'Tis the Season: Holiday Season Productivity Tips

We are officially in the midst of the holiday season, which means that the art of balancing the stress of gift giving and entertaining with life at the office is being tested. According to the American Management Association, about two-thirds of 600 full-time employees surveyed said they experienced stress during the holiday season. 44 percent of executives similarly say productivity decreases during the holiday season. Workplace consultant Anne Grady says that employee frustration doesn’t come from having too much to do, but rather from unclear expectations. So how can we balance work and play this holiday season? Here are just a few tips:

1. Know and Balance Your Stressors

One of the biggest problems with the holidays is an overload of personal to-do lists interfering with the growing office to-do list. If you’re having a panic moment, regroup and make a list of what takes priority. Dedicate specific times to get your to-do list done and keep your work and personal list separate.

2. Get Flexible At Work

Employers can help boost productivity during work hours by compromising. Understanding the needs of employees can create a better environment and boost numbers over the holiday season. Managers should consider easing up on restrictions during this time of the year, offering incentives for good work and should the question arise – beware of opportunities to work from home. While groveling employees may be a temporary hassle, it’s worth it to keep customers happy.

3. Coordinate Calendars

This is optimal time for PTO. Beware that you don’t cut yourself short in the office by being too vacation happy. Make sure that calendars are aligned and the team understands the needs of the workplace in terms of absences and vacation days. Keep a shared calendar so that if there are any discrepancies – you don’t corner yourself too late.

4. Don’t obsess about hours

You’ve set a plan, you’ve set time off dates, and you’re giving your employees some leg room. Don’t stress about employees taking an extended lunch break or coming in a few minutes late, just be aware of their deadlines and work. If employees are not getting their work done, regardless of their time in the office, you will know and be able to act accordingly.

5. Relax!

Tensions in the office this season will show in your customer appreciation. Relax and remember now is the time to be grateful and enjoy your company and work friends. Setting a healthy environment is key to a positive holiday season.

What Your Peers Are Saying: 2014 Contact Center Summit

Following the 2014 debut of the Contact Center Summit, feedback has been pouring in from Directors and VPs of contact centers across the country. Taking place at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota - here are some of the comments we have received:

“Excellent venue and very good selection of vendors.”
- US Airways 

“The event was well planned and staged.”
- TriNet

“Really liked the one-on-one interaction with vendors. It was very efficient and much better than fighting for time at a booth in a trade show.”
- Think Direct Marketing Group 

“Had a very nice time meeting with several different types of companies that offer some very helpful services.”
- Apria Healthcare 

“I spoke to vendors that I never would have spoken to on the phone.”
- ASK Telemarketing 

“Enjoyed the one-on-one format.”
- Jackson Hewitt Tax Service

“I truly believe this environment created a better way to understand what products the vendors had and how they could support our work. And I must say, the networking was fantastic!”
- Universal North America 

“This is by far the best summit I have attended!”
- TrialCard

Sponsors of the Contact Center Summit 2014 include: 

Recap: Contact Center Summit

In late November, Forum Events kicked off the first Contact Center Summit with great success! Directors and Vice Presidents of Contact Centers across the country gathered at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota for a productive day-and-a-half of networking.

Following an informal cocktail reception on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton, overlooking a harbor of boats on the bay as sun set, attendees mingled with peers and solution providers before calling it an early night with high expectations for an even earlier morning!

At registration, Contact Center Summit attendees are warmly welcomed by the Forum Events team who showed them to their personal tables in the grand ballroom. Here, a series of back-to-back informal meetings take place. Throughout the day, attendees enjoy the smooth transition between the 30-minute meetings, allowing them to make strong connections with one another rather than just short, forgettable introductions.

“Really liked the one-on-one interaction with vendors. It was very efficient and much better than fighting for time at a booth in a trade show.” – Think Direct Marketing Group

As consecutive meetings took place, executives also participated in round table discussions and seminars led by industry experts. Topics revolved around customer service impacting the bottom line, building a healthy employee base and cloud-based storage. The seminars, while informative, are equally casual, allowing peers to brainstorm and share their knowledge based on experience.

After a long day of networking, it was time for the fun to start. Come dinner time, everyone had taken some time to relax before heading to the foyer of the main ballroom for pre-dinner cocktails and a packed networking hour. For many, this was a great time to reconnect with people that they had met with briefly, allowing them to move on to a gourmet dinner where everyone can sit and mingle. An event filled from beginning to end with positive interactions lead to casino evening. Here, guests hopped into a photobooth to catch the moment, while also participating in casino games including roulette and blackjack.

By day two, everyone was familiar as meetings re-joined early Tuesday morning following an equally productive breakfast.

Here is some feedback from the event. 




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