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.

Immigration Matters Continue to Be Debated in Summer Study

The Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues met recently for its fourth meeting. An interesting presentation was provided to legislators by the former director of the statistics division of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

National undocumented immigrant information was provided to the committee along with more specific information for Indiana. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., 106,300 reside in Indiana. That number represents 1.6% of Indiana’s total population.

Marion County, primarily in Wayne and Decatur townships, had the largest population of undocumented immigrants with 12,200; Elkhart and Lake counties came in second and third with 9,400 and 6,100 undocumented immigrants, respectively. Approximately 71,000 overall are in the labor force with 21,500 working as operators, fabricators and laborers, with another 19,100 working in services positions. Sixty percent or 64,200 have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and 77,600 (73%) are between the working ages of 18 and 44. Information on origin of birth was also provided with 67,700 (61%) coming from Mexico.

The committee also heard testimony from Goshen College about unauthorized immigrant students. It was reported that since July 1, 2011, Indiana has prohibited resident tuition rates and state financial aid for undocumented students. Eighteen states, Illinois being one, allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Goshen College has provided scholarship aid for undocumented students for the past eight years. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Goshen provided $123,000 in aid for these students. The next hearing is scheduled for September 21. It is uncertain as to what the committee will decide to do with the information garnered from the four previous hearings and the three yet to be held. The Indiana Chamber will continue to be involved in these discussions.

Beyond the Bicentennial: Chamber Outlines Policy Recommendations for 2016 Candidates

Indiana has many advantages as a leading location to operate a business, raise a family or enjoy a high quality of life. But still more needs to be done to improve that climate and to keep pace with other cities and states, says the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The organization unveiled today its six-week Beyond the Bicentennial campaign (going beyond the state’s first 200 years). It focuses on the “most potentially impactful public policies” and is directed foremost at the major party gubernatorial candidates, John Gregg and Eric Holcomb.

The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, first introduced in 2012, serves as the campaign blueprint. “The Indiana Vision 2025 economic drivers present a great opportunity to highlight initiatives that will benefit Indiana now and in the years ahead,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

The first of the four letters, also released today, emphasizes the Outstanding Talent driver. Recommendations focus on critical improvements at the K-12, postsecondary and workforce levels. In an annual survey earlier this year, 45% of responding employers indicated they had left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants.

“Outstanding Talent is both the greatest challenge for our state and the area of most importance,” Brinegar states. “While businesses are rightfully concerned about their current and future workforces, for individuals we’re talking about the difference between happy, productive lives and what can amount to an economic death sentence if proper education and training are not received.”

The education/workforce needs range from greatly expanding the state’s pre-K pilot program to more students from low-income families, to assisting the more than 700,000 Hoosiers with some college but no credential or degree to gain the skills needed for a rapidly-evolving economy.

Concludes Brinegar, “We hope the recommendations and guidance in these letters will help the gubernatorial candidates and all lawmakers focus on what public policies could be the most impactful for Hoosiers.”

Additional Beyond the Bicentennial letters and accompanying videos will be made available on September 13 (Attractive Business Climate), September 27 (Superior Infrastructure) and October 11 (Dynamic & Creative Culture).

The Outstanding Talent releases are available now at www.indianachamber.com/letters.


WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber spoke at our press event this morning: “We want to encourage employers to set the standard that talent matters.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
In 2012, the Indiana Chamber published Indiana Vision 2025, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to provide leadership and a long-range economic development action plan for Indiana. The mission statement: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

A 24-person statewide task force of business and organization leaders developed the original plan. Many from that group, with some additions, worked for four months earlier this year to review progress, update goals and metrics, and identify potential new research to enhance future Report Cards (progress on each of the now 36 goals under the four drivers is assessed every other year).

The Indiana Chamber thanks Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Old National Bank, Vectren and all the investors in Indiana Vision 2025.

Learn more about Indiana Vision 2025 at www.indianachamber.com/2025.


New Required Federal Poster Updates – Effective Immediately!


It was recently announced that required updates have been made to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) posters (effective in August). We are now shipping our new poster sets that include these updates! Here are the changes reflected on our new sets:

  • FLSA: Effective August 1, 2016, a new FLSA poster is required. The update includes new information about the overtime rule, independent contractors and nursing mothers. Outdated fine information was also removed.
  • EPPA: Also effective August 1, the EPPA poster will be updated. Outdated fine information was also removed from this poster and contact information was updated.
  • FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) posting was updated in April 2016 to be more reader-friendly. This update is included in our latest sets.

You can purchase new sets online.

Or, are you tired of trying to keep up with poster changes? We’re happy to take the pressure off at no added cost. Just subscribe to the Indiana Chamber’s convenient, free subscription service online or by calling (800) 824-6885. You’ll get new posters whenever there’s a required update without even having to order! You’ll join hundreds of other Indiana businesses already benefiting from this service.

You Can’t Require Positivity


Apparently it’s unlawful to ask employees to maintain a positive workplace. At least, that’s the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) view of it.

The NLRB board threw out a provision in T-Mobile’s employee handbook that required workers “to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.”

According to the ruling, forcing workers to be positive all the time infringes on their rights to organize, protected by Section 7 of the NLRA. And employers cannot prevent workers from organizing.

Just a week later, the NLRB shot down another company’s employee handbook that prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that’s offensive to other employees. According to the NLRB, the rule “is not accompanied by any other descriptive language that would help employees interpret what types of ‘offensive’ conduct the rule is targeting.”

So what can be learned? “Avoid the temptation to draft broad statements and instead draft provisions under the purview of whether an employee would reasonably construe the provision … limits their Section 7 rights,” attorneys Thomas Chibnail and John Hasman write in National Law Review.

Talent War is Underway

16342368As the economy has improved, unemployment rates have fallen, and employees have become more demanding. Manta polled small business owners about employee benefits and found that they are feeling the pinch — mostly from prospective employees — about benefits plans. According to the poll, about 47% of potential employees put the pressure on about benefits. Employers are also feeling the pinch from their competitors’ plans.

The most common benefit offered, according to the survey, is paid vacation (72%), followed by flex-time benefits (58%), paid sick leave (57%) and remote work options (46%).

A separate study by Aflac confirms this trend. Almost two-thirds of employees polled were likely to take a job with lower pay but better benefits. And 42% of employees said improving their benefits package was one thing their employers could do to keep them in their jobs — ranking higher than a promotion. What’s more, 16% admitted they have left a job or turned down a job in the last 12 months due to the benefits offered.

Finally, employees who are satisfied with their benefits are much more likely to be satisfied with their jobs (96% vs. 68%) and less likely to be looking for a job in the next 12 months (46% vs. 57%).

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

Business direction background with two people

Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

Talent is Everything

cSignificant numbers of talented people, not to mention entrepreneurs, in the STEM fields come from international backgrounds. Home countries are trying to entice these men and women to return, while U.S. policy makes it difficult for them to stay here, apply the lessons they have learned and be meaningful economic contributors.

The Kauffman Foundation has more:

The United States stands to lose valuable economic contributors unless it removes immigration barriers to international STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who earn advanced degrees here, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

International Ph.D. students in the United States on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields in 2013 – a proportion that has doubled over the past three decades. If the trend continues, the majority of STEM Ph.D.s from U.S. universities will go to international students by 2020.

The report, “Will They Stay or Will They Go? International STEM Students Are Up for Grabs,” conducted by Richard Appelbaum and Xueying Han at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that nearly two out of five international STEM students are undecided about whether to stay in America or return to their home countries after graduation. More than a third of them are aware of programs designed to lure them back to their countries of origin, at the same time U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for them to remain here.

The ability to retain international STEM graduates has implications for U.S. entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. In 2014, 29 percent of all new U.S. startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, reflecting a startup rate nearly twice as high as that of U.S.-born adults.

“Innovation is one of America’s strongest assets, but other nations are gaining on us,” said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “These students represent talented scientists and engineers. If we want to maintain our edge amid intensifying global competition, then our immigration policies must be modified to make it easier for international STEM students to make America their permanent home.”

The Kauffman report draws from 2,322 responses to an email survey of domestic and international graduate students enrolled in STEM programs at the 10 U.S. universities with the largest number of international students. Thirty-four percent of the respondents were international students holding temporary visas.

The report recommends that Congress take action to open the immigration door wider to international STEM students, including:

  • Adopt the Immigration Innovation Act (or the I-Squared Act), which would increase the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000, depending on demand and market conditions.
  • Adopt the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act of 2015 (or the STAPLE Act), which would allow international students who earn STEM Ph.D.s from U.S universities and receive job offers from U.S. employers to be admitted for permanent resident status and exempted from H-1B visa limitations.
  • Amend the H-1B visa system to allow all individuals to switch employers/jobs.

The Kauffman researchers recommended that Congress avoid lumping illegal immigration with legal immigration in one bill, cautioning that “politics should play no role in an issue so critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness.”

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


Don’t Burn Those Bridges

9990321It’s not uncommon for employees to return to a previous employer at some point in their career. It’s sometimes referred to as a boomerang effect. We’ve seen and benefited from more than a few of those occurrences at the Indiana Chamber.

But even more typical is former employers being asked for references about your job performance. Allison & Taylor, which refers to itself as the nation’s oldest professional reference checking firm, offers the following 5 Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette:

  1. Call your former bosses and ask them if they are willing to be good job references for you. Be sure to thank them for supporting you in your job search if they agree.
  2. Let them know each and every time you give out their name and email address.
  3. Keep your former positive references informed of your experiences in climbing the corporate ladder and your educational progress. Provide them with career updates. He/she will be more inclined to see you in a stronger light as you progress.
  4. Remember that spending time with a potential employer takes valuable time out of your former bosses’ day, so try to give something back. For instance, after receiving a good job reference, write a personal thank-you letter or (at a minimum) send an email. Better still, send a thank-you note with a gift card, or offer to take your former boss to lunch/dinner.
  5. If you win the new position, call or email your former boss and thank them again for the positive references. At the same time, you can provide your new professional contact information.