Fulfilling the Promise: Feb. 23 Event Highlights Promise Indiana Program

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a number of impactful stories during my time at the Indiana Chamber and as part of the BizVoice® magazine team. One of the favorites was helping introduce the Promise Indiana program in 2015.

In the last year, the number of students with Promise college savings accounts has increased from 5,000 to over 10,000, with deposit activity going from $800,000 to more than $2.7 million. These are not only providing dollars but incentives for young people to realize the postsecondary dream.

What started in Wabash County now has 14 counties activated. An additional 14 are applying to participate. Learn more.

Local efforts are what make Promise programs successful, with community foundations and business leaders part of the success equation. An upcoming event – the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s Promise Indiana Deep Dive Day – explains how it works.

Conner Prairie is the location. February 23 is the date. The event is free, but registration is required. Details and registration.

Workforce Survey: Business Input Needed

The greatest asset of any business is its people. Unfortunately, many organization are facing challenges in workforce and talent development efforts. The Indiana Chamber seeks to provide assistance through various policy and program efforts.

Currently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s 10th annual survey of Indiana employers is taking place. Hundreds of human resources professionals and company leaders have already shared their insights on skills shortages, training needs, incentives and more.

The Chamber Foundation is partnering with Walker, an Indiana-based customer experience consulting firm. The survey sponsor is WGU Indiana. Check out its brief video on “Why We’re Different”:

Among the recent trends: Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years.

In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

View more on the 2016 results. If you have not received the survey from Walker and are interested in participating or learning more, contact Shelley Huffman at shuffman@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-7548.

House Off to Fast Tech Start

A brief update on some tech/innovation legislation at the federal level, courtesy of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center.

Women will play an important role in the 21st century workforce. Congress recognized that this week when it passed the INSPIRE Women Act (H.R. 321) to recruit women into STEM fields and encourage their research and work in technology.

With the HALOS Act (H.R. 79), the House removed an important burden to allow for angel investors to support start-ups – a huge growth sector in our economy.

Thanks to the Modernizing Government Travel Act (H.R. 274), government employees will soon be able to travel smarter and more cost effectively, saving taxpayer money thanks to a bill modernizing work travel.

Lastly, with the Support for Rapid Innovation Act of 2017 (H.R. 239), the Department of Homeland Security is now a few steps closer to being able to utilize the best and brightest within agencies and industries to help combat the ever-growing cyber security threats to both government and business.

Seeding Success: Sonny Beck Named 2016 Business Leader of the Year

Stroll through the expansive Beck’s Hybrids operation in northern Hamilton County and one will find no shortage of inspirational messages. Speak to CEO Sonny Beck for any
period of time and many of those same sayings seamlessly flow into the conversation.

In other words, the “words” are much more than terms or expressions that are placed on paper and forgotten. They are the driving force behind the largest family-owned seed company in the country – one that has experienced tremendous growth over the past quarter century.

Sonny Beck was born three years after his father and grandfather founded the company in 1937. That was a result of Purdue University offering three acres worth of this “great new invention,” hybrid seed, to anyone who wanted it. Sonny earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue, returned to the family operation a short time later and has led – or maybe more appropriately been behind the wheel of – one of Indiana and the nation’s leading business success stories…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Happy Veterans Day! Did You Know Tax Credits are Available for Hiring Veterans?

37738634Veterans, National Guard Members and Reservists remain key assets in helping meet workforce needs.

A free publication for employers, prepared for the Center for America, provides clear and concise understanding along with step-by-step guidance on four new federal tax credit programs: Returning Heroes; Wounded Warrior; Activated Military Reservist Credit for Small Businesses; and the Federal Empowerment Zone Employment Credit.

The guide includes links to the required Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor forms employers need to submit. It features key eligibility and filing details, with guidance on eligibility and the specific steps to take to claim the credits.

American Jobs for America’s Heroes is a nonprofit campaign sponsored by Phillips 66 and foundations to encourage employers to post full-time jobs for veterans, National Guard members and Reservists. Access the guide and additional information.

Suite Deal: New York Life Partners With Local School

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Partnerships between the business community and local schools are nothing new. More and more are taking place in relation to athletic facilities. In Westfield, New York Life has taken a different approach by hosting a special hospitality suite for the last two years at local high school football games.

“We were looking for an opportunity to get involved with the community and let people know of our presence in the area,” says Alex Clark, a representative with the local office of the insurance and financial services firm. “For us, it allows people to see us every other week. They like to work with someone they know, someone who is helping out in the community.”

img_2380The firm hosts various groups – police and firefighters, school guidance counselors and Westfield alumni as examples – as well as winners of a random drawing for each game. The suite area offers catered food, camaraderie with fellow attendees and an excellent view of the game. (Westfield compiled a 7-2 regular season record this year and will open the playoffs Friday at Lafayette Jefferson).

Group sizes have ranged from 30 to 55, with an average of about 40 attendees at each game. The reactions are all positive.

“There’s a lot of buzz. Parents who are coming say, ‘We’ve heard about it, we were curious, you guys have really done a nice job’ and they’re very appreciative of what we’ve provided for them,” Clark confirms. “They’re thrilled and excited. Once they get to come and see the space, they’re really in shock how nice it is.”

New York Life has the benefit of a 171-year corporate history, but Clark notes, “So much of what we do is built on relationships. People can find products and services we offer anywhere. But they choose to do business with us based on the strength of our company and the relationships between our clients and our advisers.”

Tech Thursday: Parker’s Pointers

EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2014 favorite.

Kent Parker’s story is not unique. He grew up in Indiana (a sixth-generation Hoosier in Gibson County), attended school here (the University of Evansville with a 1983 degree in mechanical engineering) and began his working life (three years with United Technologies Corporation) in Indianapolis. Parker returned (with a home in New Harmony and numerous business and civic involvements) years later after a highly successful career that included key roles at Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis and Ariba (a software and information technology firm) in Sunnyvale, California.

The entrepreneur and investor admits, “I never once considered after I left Indiana in 1985 that I would come back here to try and make a living. It just never crossed my mind.” But Parker is back now.

BizVoice: You mentioned that people are the most important factor for growing successful businesses. Does Indiana have enough people – entrepreneurs, members of the workforce?

Kent Parker: “I think there are. Entrepreneurism is locally driven. It requires an entrepreneurial community; within that community, there are layers of people and their roles. When we started Caribou Coffee, the managers and employees we hired – not classic entrepreneurs, but people with skills who were interested in this new kind of activity, new kind of company and the excitement around that.

“What makes an entrepreneurial venture successful is the ability to attract the people who are motivated to have the kind of career experience that truly is much different than working in a larger company or long-established company. You need this entire ecosystem.”

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Business Dining Etiquette Essentials

Business meals are more than just talking shop. They are a way to distinguish your demeanor from the dinner table to the boardroom. You can be the best in your field or tops in your company, but if you mess up the business meal, no one is going to be impressed. What do you need to know about modern table manners to make a great impression?

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She says employ these seven business dining tips to present yourself in the best manner possible and ace every business dining experience that crosses your path.

  1. Invitations: Remember that the person extending the invitation is the host and is responsible for payment of the bill. When receiving or extending invitations, pay attention to special dietary needs. The host may ask about food allergies or sensitivities, kosher, halal, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free diets. Be sure to RSVP or reply within 24 hours with any dietary restrictions.
  2. Guest Duties: As a guest, observe the host for cues. For example: place your napkin in your lap after the host; the host does so first to signal the start of the meal. When excusing yourself between courses, the napkin is placed on the chair seat soiled side down. At meal’s end, place your loosely folded napkin on the left of your plate after the host does. Don’t refold it.
  3. Silverware & Service Signals: Once silverware is used, including handles, it doesn’t touch the table again. Rest forks, knives and spoons on the side of your plate. Unused silverware stays on the table. If you are resting between bites, place your fork, with tines up, near the top of your plate. To signal the server that you’re finished, place your fork and knife across the center of the plate at the 5 o’clock position. Service signals also include closing your menu to indicate you’re ready to order. If you are browsing an open menu, the server has the impression you aren’t ready.
  4. What should you order? Ask the person who invited you (host or hostess) for suggestions on the menu. Ask them to make suggestions or for their favorite dish. Listen carefully because they will provide a top and bottom price range based on the entrées they recommend. Then select a moderately priced item or one of the dishes they recommend.
  5. To drink or not to drink? If the host orders alcohol, and you don’t wish to drink, you simply order the beverage of your preference without an explanation. “I’ll have an iced tea with lemon please” or “Diet Coke please” and continue to browse the menu. You are under no obligation to consume alcohol at lunch or any other time of the day. Polite dining companions will not comment or ask questions. If they do, simply ask, “Pardon me?” and look at them intently. They will realize the impertinence of their question.
  6. Connections & Conversation: It’s the host’s job to keep conversation going during the meal; and guests must contribute with courtesy. Just don’t monopolize the conversation, rather ask questions and express interest. Light topics include books, travel, vacation, movies and pets; avoid politics, sex and religion. If you need to talk to the server, don’t interrupt the flow of the conversation. Rather, catch the eye of the server if you need assistance, or slightly raise your hand. If they are busy, softly call their name or “server?”
  7. Tipping: The host is the person who extended the invitation, and they are responsible for paying the bill. Consider these U.S. tipping guidelines: bartender: 10-20 % of bar bill; valet: $2.00-$5.00; coat check: $1.00 per coat; server: 15-20% of bill; 25% extraordinary service; sommelier: 15% of wine bill. The tip should reflect the total price of the bill before coupons, discounts or gift certificates.

It’s All About the Trust

cReader’s Digest has a long history as one of the trusted, or at least popular, publications. While its overall impact may have declined, it has interesting findings in its recent Trusted Brand survey.

Are some of your favorites on the list?

Seventy-eight percent of this year’s survey participants stated they would choose a brand that’s been identified as more trustworthy than a different brand with equal quality and price. More than 5,000 Americans across the country participated in the online survey.

“Trust is an integral part of the Reader’s Digest DNA and we wanted to continue to capture Americans’ changing attitudes on brand trust, recognizing the most trusted brands in a variety of categories that matter to consumers,” said Kirsten Marchioli, VP and group publisher for Reader’s Digest.

In addition, the study reported 67% of U.S. adults surveyed pay more attention to trusted brands, and another 67% say they pay more money to support trusted brands.

Some of the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands for 2016 are:

  • Airline: Southwest
  • Automobile (passenger cars excluding trucks): Toyota
  • Automobile (SUV/crossover): Ford
  • Bottled water: Dasani
  • Coffee: Folgers
  • Cold cereal: Kellogg’s
  • Computer (desktop/laptop): Dell
  • Credit card: Visa
  • Cruise line: Carnival Corporation
  • Fast food/casual dining: McDonald’s
  • Headache/pain reliever: Advil
  • Juice: Tropicana
  • Laundry detergent: Tide
  • Mass merchandiser retail store: Walmart
  • Mobile phones: Apple
  • National hotel chains/resorts: Marriott
  • National pharmacy/drug store: CVS Pharmacy
  • Nutrition bars: CLIF
  • Soup: Campbell Soup
  • Yogurt: Yoplait

Evaluating the Workplace Seating Chart

10061396After reading the following, people may start thinking about what category they fit in. And managers might consider some potential changes. The conclusions come from Harvard Business School researchers.

Placing the right mix of workers in close proximity to each other can generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance, according to a study from Cornerstone OnDemand.

The researchers determined that there are three types of employees: productive, generalist and quality. Productive workers get work done quickly, but they don’t necessarily get it done well. Quality workers produce stellar work, but they’re not the most productive people in the office. And generalist employees are average in terms of both productivity and quality.

The study’s authors found that the impact on productivity and effectiveness is most pronounced when employees who are strong in one area but weak in another sit near each other. Specifically, seating “productive” and “quality” workers together and seating “generalists” separately in their own group shows a 13% gain in productivity and a 17% gain in effectiveness. “In short, symbiotic relationships are created from pairing those with opposite strengths,” the study’s authors wrote.

While the impact of seating employees close to each other happens almost instantly, the effects aren’t long lasting if the two groups are eventually separated. Once separated, the positive impact the employees had on each other usually goes away within two months, according to the study.