Sleep Strategies that Assist in Employee Productivity

Catch some Z’s….if you can. Workforces are experiencing epidemic sleep deprivation. Emails, tight deadlines and after-hours communication can void employees’ pursuit of rejuvenating sleep. If an employee loses two hours of sleep four nights in a row, the shortfall equates to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08. If it’s illegal to drive in that condition, why is it acceptable to work when equally impaired? Here are sleep strategies that can foster employee productivity and reduce your coffee expenses:

ENCOURAGE NAPPING

Numerous scientific studies indicate that napping refreshes and improves performance. It worked for Winston Churchill — he said that his daily, 2-hour nap allowed him to get 1 ½ days worth of work done in 24 hours. Twenty minute snoozes can also provide an invigorating boost. Adding sleep pods or quiet spaces to your office can give workers a kickstart. Sleep deprivation is so problematic that France recently passed a law decreeing that businesses with more than 50 employees are forbidden to send or receive emails after hours.

LIGHTEN UP

Exposure to natural light helps employees sleep better at night, making them more productive during the day. In a 2013 study, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found daytime workers slept better after exposure to daylight. Workers occupying spaces illuminated by natural light received 173 percent more white light and slept approximately 46 minutes more at night.

MODIFY WORK HOURS

Explore moving your main working hours back one hour. Older workers may be primed to dive in at 9AM, while younger employees are dragging at that hour. This discrepancy results from a shift of an internal body clock as you age. Accommodating this shift will aid your employees as well as your business.

MONITOR FLYING

 

Curtail the negative effects traveling has on your employees’ sleep by:

 

  • Limiting the number of redeye business flights.

 

  • If a redeye is imperative, suggest that all meetings be scheduled at least one day after landing in a new time zone.

 

  • Never permit an employee to fly overnight and then drive. Have him or her picked up by a taxi or car service after landing.

 

Swan Medical’s 2015 Sleep in Business America study indicated that 50 percent of 30,000 employees surveyed at five US companies didn’t received sufficient sleep. Prevent your employees from becoming a statistic. Enhance your team’s productivity by enhancing their sleep.

Tips for Public Speaking with Confidence

Public speaking is many people’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, this fear and anxiety can be overcome with practice and a few simple tips to help you feel more comfortable and confident in front of an audience:

 

AVOID TOO MUCH TECHNICAL JARGON

 

Regardless of the technical expertise of your audience, nobody wants to hear too many knowledge-driven facts and figures; audiences want to be entertained. To achieve this goal, speakers must be cognizant of using too much industry jargon. A better approach is to use conversational language designed to engage your listeners and make the topic personally relatable to them. The cliche “know your audience” has never been truer. Do a little research to find out the key demographics of your audience and why they are there to hear that particular topic. By knowing and understanding this information, you can tailor the speech to inform, interest, and entertain. Lastly, know your main point and get to it quickly to avoid audience fatigue.

 

FORCE YOURSELF TO SLOW DOWN

 

The most common mistake that novice speakers make is rushing through the subject. It is easy to deliver a speech while talking too fast for the material. Audience members tend to lose interest and zone out when listening to a faster-paced speech. The only way to combat this rookie mistake is to intentionally speak slower than what feels normal. It is equally important to frequently pause when speaking, even if this feels awkward. Pausing while speaking conveys to the audience that you are being purposeful and diligent in your word choice. Before the big event, take the extra time to practice in front of colleagues who will provide honest critiques or consider videotaping yourself so that you can work out the kinks and land on an optimal pace for the presentation.

 

BE CREATIVE

 

While it is important to come across as knowledgeable and genuine, nervous speakers often find it helpful to step outside of the box and create a stage persona to help ease jitters and become more confident. Experiment by practicing different styles to find the one most comfortable for you. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in this skin and that it exemplifies the strongest aspects of your personality while minimizing the insecurities.

 

Speaking in public will grow you personally as well as professionally. While many people try to shy away from the opportunity, true leaders understand that speaking confidently in public is an important facet to their career. Like most things, the more you do it, the better you will become. Next time you have the chance to speak in public, whether that be three people in your office or 500 people at your church, accept the offer! Follow the above tips and watch yourself slowly become a confident public speaker!

 

How to Start your Mornings on the Right Foot

The tone of your morning will determine the tone of your day, so it’s time to start planning accordingly. What are some steps you can take to ensure a positive start to your day?

Hydrate

The benefits of drinking water are plenty, but the benefits of drinking water immediately after waking up, instead of coffee, are even greater. After a full night’s rest, our bodies are often dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water when you wake up will not only quench your thirst, it will rehydrate you, fire up your metabolism and provide fuel for your brain.

Make your Bed

Perhaps you think making your bed is a waste of time, or unnecessary. You won’t be home to see it all day, plus, you’re getting back into it at night. Wrong. Making your bed is a very simple action that you can take in the morning that will help you start your day feeling accomplished. Getting the simple and easy tasks out of the way in the morning also give you the foundation to take on larger projects throughout the day.

Exercise

It does not matter what type of exercise you choose to do in the morning, but get your body moving in some way. Whether it be yoga, a brisk walk with your dog or a set of sit-ups, any type of movement in the morning will help get you started on the right foot. As your blood starts flowing, your mental chatter will slow. If you begin to get bored with one type of exercise, change it up.

Stay Unplugged

If you have gotten into the habit of checking your work email as soon as you wake up, it is time to change that. By doing this, you are immediately cultivating a reactive mindset, instead of a proactive one, which will cause you to start your day in a defensive state, rather than a place of inner peace and control. Stay unplugged for the first hour of the day. This will start your day with a peaceful mind, and don’t worry, those work emails will still be there an hour later!

The morning is the setup for our entire day. So instead of rushing through it, slow down and enjoy. Drink water, make your bed, get your blood flowing with exercise and remain unconnected for as long as possible.

How Reading Affects Your Work

In the past year, about a quarter of American adults did not read even a part of one book. This is an alarming statistic! Why? Reading has so many benefits including many directly related to your job performance. What are those benefits?

Fiction Leads to More Creativity

Reading nonfiction books related to your career and subject matter is a given. If you want to continue to learn and grow in your field, you should absolutely be doing this. However, don’t discount fiction books, According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, study participants who read short-story fiction experienced far less need for “cognitive closure” compared with counterparts who read nonfiction essays. Essentially, they tested as more open-minded than those who solely read nonfiction.

Reading Makes you a Better Leader

When it comes to better connecting with others, one study found that people who read for just thirty minutes per week reported a stronger sense of empathy. This ability to relate to other people—to be able to place yourself in their shoes—is a skill that readers have in common with the best leaders.

It Makes You Smarter

Your brain is like a muscle, and you need to exercise it to keep it healthy. The more you exercise the muscles in your brain, the stronger they become. Reading will not only help you to learn new things, it will improve your overall intelligence, too. Think about reading like lifting weights for your brain. The more consistently you do it, the stronger your brain will become!

Your Vocabulary Improves

This may go without saying, but reading regularly and reading a variety of styles will teach you new words and give you the confidence to use them in everyday life. Strong communication skills and the ability to voice your thoughts in a concise and effective way is a crucial tool for any employee to have in their skillset.

Next time you go to turn the tv on to fall asleep, pick up that book on your nightstand instead. When you’re anticipating waiting in the doctor’s office, bring a book to read. Incorporating reading, both fiction and nonfiction books, into your lifestyle will have many benefits but best of all, it will make you a better employee!

How Robots are Entering the Corporate Finance World

Robots today are commonly used in the automotive and other manufacturing industries on assembly lines. The mechanical devices have also been implemented in medical settings to disinfect areas, monitor patients and perform surgeries. Robotic process automation or RPA is now venturing into the corporate finance field.

The use of ledgers and spreadsheet programs keep financial processes trapped in the 20th century. Employees commonly spend the majority of their days gathering, consolidating and verifying information. Time is also spent analyzing data and making decisions. Robotic processes and artificial intelligence have the ability to train software robots to automatically process transactions, perform audits and track compliance. The technology will also have the ability to upgrade their functions based on new information and experience.

Analytic Functions

Many financial executives plan on adopting the automated technology and some already use RPA. Robotic processes expedite accounts received and paid out while helping to maintain client relations. When an error occurs, many man hours are typically required to find and correct the problem. However, by automating the process, errors are detected quickly along with having the ability to recommend solutions.

Cost Efficiency

Companies have the potential of losing profits through errors, fraud or overpayment. Manual audits are time-consuming and often may not detect errors or wasted profits. Artificial intelligence requires less time to perform the function and is better able to monitor and analyze transactions. Equipped with current trend information, robotic processes discover problems that may otherwise go unnoticed. In this way, companies save money while being more efficient.

Educational Options

Depending on the type of AI processes implemented, the technology has the potential to educate employees. The technology can be useful for training employees to see patterns or trends in order for individuals to make better informed financial decisions. For example, the processes are capable of saving companies money in terms of business travel. By storing and analyzing travel and accommodation data, robotics would be able to make cost-effective recommendations based on location and time of year.

AI Assistants

Much like Alexa and Siri act as vocal digital assistants, artificial intelligence could benefit financial employees in a wide range of instances from the office to the boardroom. The processes might be equipped with the capability to quickly access and analyze data before CEOs make a decision. Robotics might also answer questions on the spur of the moment.

The Top 3 Ways to Invest in 2018

For those with extra cash on their hands, it’s best to invest it before spending it on nonsensical purchases. Of course, research and analysis is needed first to make the best investment possible for one’s risk tolerance and goals. Potential investors should act as quickly as possible. Below are the three best ways to invest in 2018.

 

The Stock Market

 

Even though investing in the stock market is an obvious choice, it’s worth mentioning because many people are still skeptical about getting involved in the market. Some even think that there are too many people involved in stocks, so it’s too late for them to get a piece of the pie.

However, a really good strategy is to invest small amounts of money over a specific timeframe into the stock market. Basically, when the market is hot, as it is right now, an investor buys less shares, and when no one is buying, they buy more shares. This keeps things even and makes a high return more likely.

 

Peer-to-Peer Lending Services

 

Being a loan provider used to be an investment medium reserved for banks. Today, there are many investment platforms that make providing a loan possible for the individual investor.

On the most popular platforms, returns are usually around six percent, but could be even higher.

Another strength of this strategy is that some investments require as little as twenty-five dollars therefore, someone who is considering this option can test the waters with little risk before diving in.

 

Real Estate

 

While real estate investing is not for everyone, there are still big returns to be made in the real estate market. Nowadays, there are other real estate mediums besides becoming a landlord. For example, someone could invest in real estate notes. In this scenario, the investor funds someone else’s real estate investment, and gets paid a dividend or interest on their investment. There’s also turnkey rentals, where an investor puts up the money, but someone else manages the property and tenants.

 

In 2018, those looking to invest should use a combination of traditional and new-age strategies.

For example, real estate and the stock market are still profitable investments. At the same time, there’s now peer-to-peer lending services that provide a new avenue of revenue.

 

Chatbots and Customer Service

Every entrepreneur and business owner knows that customer service is key to a lasting and successful project, initiative, or company. Being the department that possibly interacts the most with your audience, it’s highly likely that you have spent countless hours looking for the best customer service employees and tools to elevate your service to the next level. When the digital age arrived, however, the rules with customer service began to change. No longer were you greeted with a, “Hello, how can I help you?” from a real live person, but instead with a, “Please press 1 for more options” message coming from a robotic voice. While both methods are efficient, it’s important to note that the customer service rules have changed, and programs like chatbots will soon become the norm.

 

Chatbots were born out of a necessity to more efficiently police and traffic calls in high volumes. Quite frankly, it would be nearly impossible for a small office of people to handle transferring incoming calls for a large company such as Wells Fargo or Apple in a timely manner. And with the technology available, companies are able to save money by no longer needing to hire that team of switch-board experts. Chatbots are also attractive to businesses because they allow the customer to have total control of the direction of the call, instead of relying on who is on the other end to understand what they need.

 

At first, chatbots were not very sophisticated and often served as a point of frustration for customers. Since they work off of keywords and not actual context, customers had to readjust their own customer service visions and learn how to interact with the new technology. Chatbots have come a long way since then, and have been integrated with machine learning technology that allows for an easier experience thanks to advancements within artificial intelligence.

 

Chatbots are able to do more than just get a customer from one complaint to a solution, however. They also can yield valuable data and metrics that show where the majority of customer complaints come from. Further even from this, because of the real-time nature of chatbots replacing employees live-chatting with customers to troubleshoot, they’re able to point customers in the direction of other services on your site that they may be interested in as well, all from the keywords that you used during your chatbot inquiry. This will drive sales and increase customer satisfaction.

 

The bottom line behind chatbots and customer service is to not be afraid of the growing technology. There is a healthy balance between an in-person customer service rep and chatbots, and by learning about the best practice for both services, you can create a custom service platform that will serve your customers in the best way possible. And as technology continues to advance, look to chatbots to become even more capable of driving your business towards success in more areas than just customer service.

Pepper Rutland, MMR President & CEO, on the Company Being Named One of the Best Places to Work in Baton Rouge

Pictured (l-r) are MMR shareholders and staff: Kevin Alexander, Vice President; Donnie Fairbanks, Chief Financial Officer; Grady Saucier, Senior Vice President; Holly Hollis, Corporate Counsel & EEO Officer; James “Pepper” Rutland, President & CEO; Amber Leach, Marketing Director; Rodi Rispone, Legal Counsel; Tom Welborn, Executive Vice President; John Courville, Senior Vice President; and John Clouatre; Senior Vice President.

Pictured (l-r) are MMR shareholders and staff: Kevin Alexander, Vice President; Donnie Fairbanks, Chief Financial Officer; Grady Saucier, Senior Vice President; Holly Hollis, Corporate Counsel & EEO Officer; James “Pepper” Rutland, President & CEO; Amber Leach, Marketing Director; Rodi Rispone, Legal Counsel; Tom Welborn, Executive Vice President; John Courville, Senior Vice President; and John Clouatre; Senior Vice President.

On Monday our team announced that MMR was recognized as one of the 2016 Best Places to Work in Baton Rouge by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report and the Greater Baton Rouge SHRM, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management and Best Companies Group.  MMR was impressively ranked third out of thirty companies who made the list in the “Large Company: 250 or more U.S. Employees” category.

The competitive Best Places to Work Program identifies, recognizes and honors the best places of employment in Baton Rouge. MMR initially completed an extensive questionnaire about its workplace policies, practices and demographics. Additionally, employees completed an anonymous survey about their engagement and satisfaction at the workplace. Survey questions covered areas such as corporate culture, training and development. The employer and employee surveys were then combined to form a set of data which enabled the analysts to determine the strengths and opportunities of the participating companies.

I am extremely humbled by this honor. One statistical fact that has always stuck with me is that people spend 80 percent of their waking life at work, so if you don’t like what you are doing or the job that you are in, you need to find a new career. At MMR, our employees are the heart of our company, and we strive to promote a culture that fosters personal development and professional growth while offering both tangible and intangible rewards to those with the drive to succeed.

How To Keep Growing As A Business

pexels-photo-largeMMR Group continues to grow. Last month, the company proudly announced the purchase of assets and operations of Vector Electric and Controls, Inc. In our 20 plus years as a company, we’ve learned a lot about progress, expansion, and growth as a business. We’re of the belief that there is always room for growth and opportunities to be more impactful. As such, I want to share with you a few tips about how to do just that, regardless of the type of company you manage or lead.

  1. Hire the right people
    Your human assets are the most valuable part of your company. Even if you have the greatest ideas or the largest budget, without the proper talent to manage and execute each of those, the business is nil. Hence, hiring is the most foundational tip for growth and long term success. Look out for people who understand your company’s objectives, its strengths and weakness, and the details of their role. Invest both your time and money in attracting great employees; doing so sets a positive precedent for everything to come.
  2. Have Clear Goals
    The next step is to define what success is for your business and how you want to get there. Perhaps, for your company that means reaching a certain number of customers, opening a second location,  or earning a set amount of revenue. Regardless of what it is, every business needs a list of clearly defined goals and a plan for realizing them. Overtime, as those goals are reached and as your company evolves, your goals should as well. It’s also important to prioritize these objectives and ensure that the rest of your team is on the same page.
  3. Be Strategic
    This step requires a greater level of perception and calls for realizing opportunities that were not previously mapped out, but make sense based on the position of the business itself. With very calculated marketing, mergers, or other business strategies, companies can build an enterprise that is not limited only to rigid goals, but that moves based on what is expedient for the business. Always be sensible about your choices and alert to the possibilities which surround you.
  4. Learn From Mistakes
    Every choice or strategy will be not an immediate hit. In fact, some can be an outright failure; that’s a normal part of business. The best way to recover is to learn from the mistake. Ask yourself which part or parts of the process went wrong and why. Only then can your and your company create more successful outcomes going forward, rather failing multiple times over an avoidable issue. There is no guarantee that all things will work, so don’t be afraid of risk. Even the largest companies from Apple to Google frequently have major failures. As a company, however, your power is in controlling the controllable.

Finally, every business starts somewhere; many with just a simple idea and the work of a single individual. Nevertheless, no one goes into business with small aspirations. Every entrepreneur’s goal is to bring their skills, product or resource to as many customers or supporters as possible. Following these simple practices and words of advice can make the likelihood of such a reality.

The Truth About Why Employees Stay And What It Means For You

startup-photos-largeRecent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, as of 2012, the average length of time an individual remains in a given job is just under four and a half years. Over the course of a lifetime, the number of jobs a person may have on his or her resume is about 11 (more specifically, 11.4 for men and 10.7 for women). Furthermore, the studies show that the decision to leave is not particular to any one career or industry. These numbers are true for bankers and musicians alike, resulting in turnover anxiety for companies and HR professionals everywhere. Yet, the factors determining why employees leave are equally true for why they stay. Examining such could save companies the estimated $40,000 it costs to replace staff member..

With regard to those who stay, MMR Group recently honored a number of employees which have been with the company for over a decade, some of them almost two. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to say that we have people on our team who have worked with us for so long, who’ve watched our company grow, and likewise, have had a hand in our success in the time they’ve been with us. Other than being amazing people, as all of our employees are, based on this research, I wonder what makes them an anomaly.

According to an older issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), employees stay at a company for two reasons. The first is they enjoy the work they do/their job description is aligned with their passion. This concept was confirmed more recently by a poll in TIME magazine, which shows that over 67% of people surveyed remained at a job because they enjoy the work, making it the number one influence for retention. Secondly, people stay because of what the HBR called a good “company environment” or what we call workplace culture, today. It means that employees feel connected to companies with which they share values, ideals and ways of living (or working, in this instance).

However, the latter is usually more ambiguous. What defines a workplace culture, really? It could be a number of things from how you communicate with employees, whether via email or face to face. And with that, are employees required to make a meeting or can they in whenever? Also, does the office go out for drinks after work or do most people at the company abstain from alcohol? Is the office quiet? Is there vacation time? Do most people use that time for vacation? All of these questions help better define what the culture of your workplace is–from simple to more complex results. Everyone has a company culture/environment, and no particular one is better than the other. Unless, of course, it isn’t a proper fit for the people you hire.

Thus, it’s important for companies to be aware of both factors. Make sure that job descriptions are expressed clearly and comprehensively. In interviews, get to know prospective employees on a deeper level than credentials and job history. Finding out someone’s true passion and how they work on a daily basis can make a world of difference in losing an employee and keeping a great one for life.