Gunning Daily News

Employee Engagement Most Influenced by Immediate Supervisors and Workplace Communication

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As companies emerge from the worst recession since the Depression, they are faced with low employee engagement and poor workplace morale that can slow the recovery process. A new survey by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants, A Xerox Company, finds that an individual's supervisor and the amount of employee communication in an organization are the top two influencers of employee engagement. 

Factors increasing and decreasing employee engagement:
An immediate supervisor can influence an employee's engagement level both positively and negatively. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said their supervisor strongly increased employee engagement, while 41 percent said supervisors strongly decreased employee engagement. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated the amount of employee communication is a strong contributor to employee engagement, and 47 percent said it had a moderate influence. Other factors contributing to increased engagement included change in leadership (31 percent) and rewards/recognition programs (18 percent). Factors contributing to decreased employee engagement are poor morale (49 percent), poor management/leadership (48 percent), downsizing (38 percent), and change in leadership (26 percent). 

"Another trend we're seeing is more common use of social media as part of an organization's employee engagement strategy," says Robin McCasland, chair, IABC Research Foundation and president, Brain Biscuits Strategic Communication. "The differences between internal and external communication are blurring, and organizations that communicate effectively through social media are finding that it enhances a positive workplace culture, supports employee engagement and reinforces a favorable external reputation." 

"One of the key findings of this year's survey is that enhancing the organization's culture and work environment has become the respondents' highest ranked goal for employee engagement," says Bob Carr, principal at Buck Consultants. "Organizations are committing themselves more deeply to effectively engaging their employees, knowing that this is the key to meeting their productivity, retention, and overarching business goals." 

This is the third "Employee Engagement Survey" conducted by the IABC Research Foundation and Buck Consultants to determine how organizations are communicating with employees to keep them engaged and productive. Nearly 1,000 communication professionals participated in this year's survey, representing a broad industry and geographic base. 

Other survey highlights include:
• Goals for Engaging Employees
Last year, companies were most concerned with increasing productivity in the workplace. This year's survey found that creating a new culture or work environment (33 percent) was the most important goal identified by survey respondents, followed by increasing productivity (28 percent) and retaining top talent (26 percent). 

• Communication methods used to engage employees and foster productivity
Similar to the results from the previous year's survey, emails (81 percent) and intranet (72 percent) are the most frequently used communication methods in the workplace for employee engagement. Compared to results in 2010, there was a slight decrease in the numbers for face-to-face communication (46 percent) and a slight increase in the numbers for social media (16 percent).

More than half the companies surveyed used blogs (69 percent), Twitter (58 percent), Facebook (57 percent), instant messaging (57 percent) and YouTube (53 percent) to communicate with their internal and external audiences. 

• Tools added to the corporate intranet
More than 50 percent of respondents said their organizations added content-sharing tools to their intranets within the past five years. Employee profiles/bios, news feeds, traditional blogs and various collaboration tools were popular additions.

To download the complete survey report, visit http://www.iabc.com/researchfoundation.

Retirement Planning: 4 Tips for Late Bloomers

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

Increasingly, Americans are entering the age of retirement without enough savings to do so comfortably. However, it is never too late to focus on life stage retirement planning to make the golden years glisten much more.

Here are some tips to help from retirementplanning.net: 

1. Saving should be a top priority.
Some people may have procrastinated while others hit some bumps in the road. Either way, the closer a person gets to retiring, the less working years they have and less time to save. One should look at finances, consider needs and wants, and reprioritize.

2. Delay retiring, especially if you started saving late in life. This is beneficial for Social Security and health insurance purposes. Social Security income is adjusted for inflation, tax efficient and guaranteed by the federal government. Every month a worker is able to put money toward this benefit, up to the age of 70, the more savings will accumulate. If an employer-sponsored health care plan is superior, depending on their situation, one can save a great deal. When retirement planning, people often forget that Medicare does not cover every needed item, which can be very expensive.

3. Reconsider investments. Whether to invest aggressively or conservatively is a tough decision at any age, but especially for someone who is creating a financial plan later in life. One may invest aggressively to make up for lost time while another may shy away from risk because they don't want to lose what little they have saved. Risky speculation and eroding inflation are heavy considerations. The sound advice from a professional in the retirement planning field should be considered to make the right calls.

4. Take advantage of tax-efficient plans. Taxes can quickly chip away at savings. People entering an age to retire should especially consider as many tax efficient plans as possible, such as a 401k, Roth IRA and traditional IRAs.

How to Repair Asphalt and Concrete Cracks

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As temperatures rise and fall, the volatility can lead to cracks in driveways and sidewalks. Apart from being unsightly, these cracks can allow water to seep in, enlarging them and eventually turning them into holes.

TV carpenter Sean Ennis shares an easy method for filling cracks in asphalt and concrete surfaces.

Tools and Materials
• Wire brush
• Screwdriver (optional)
• Canned air
• Caulk gun
• Concrete or asphalt crack filler
• Putty knife
• Sponge 

Crack Repair How-To
1. Ensure that the crack is as clean as possible—free of stray concrete, dirt, or plant life—by using a wire brush and canned air to remove debris. If necessary, break off loose pieces of concrete with a screwdriver.

2. If repairing a concrete sidewalk or driveway, apply concrete sealant to crack using a caulk gun. If asphalt, use a driveway-specific asphalt filler in the same fashion.

3. Using a putty knife, smooth the filler, pressing it into the crack. Remove excess filler with the putty knife and a sponge.

4. Allow filler to cure for three days.

For more information, please visit www.marthastewart.com.

Tips on How to Swim Safely in Your Backyard Pool

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As we enter the summer of 2011, American Leak Detection professionals are taking steps to educate their local communities on pool safety. It's only June and there have already been 37 drownings and 38 near-drowning incidents reported by the media across America, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. That's why the leak safety business is offering tips geared to keeping families safe while they enjoy their pools. 

"Oftentimes, pool safety is in the back of most people's minds, but it should really be in the forefront of their thoughts when they use pools, especially their own," American Leak Detection CEO and President Bill Palmer says. "Something as simple as knowing where the pool water pump is so that you can quickly turn it off in the event of an emergency can make a world of a difference. As water leak experts, we are more than happy to do our part in helping to keep communities safe when it comes to pool safety." 

Palmer says that homeowners should take the following precautionary steps before opening their pools for members of their households and guests: 

Check and replace necessary pool parts
Replace old flat drain covers and never use a pool or spa with a missing or broken drain cover. Install anti-vortex drain covers to minimize the risk of body and hair entrapment in the suction inlets, and consider installing a Safety Vacuum Release System that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage is detected, Palmer says. 

Make sure it's clean, not green
If your pool is green, that likely means the water could contain molds, fungus, larvae, and other contaminants that could make those who use the pool sick. 

Be cognizant of recalls and equipment reviews
Even by taking all of the proper preventative measures, not knowing if certain parts of your pool are working properly can make your efforts null and void, Palmer says. Be sure to check sites such as CPSC and Consumer Reports regularly for articles on recalls and reviews to ensure that your pool's parts are all in tip top shape. 

Call in the professionals
Have a professional such regularly inspect your pool or spa. Ask where the electrical cut-off switch is for the pool or spa pump. This area should be marked clearly so that, in an emergency, the water pump can be turned off immediately. In addition, loose or falling tiles and pool deck cracks— signs that the surrounding ground is being compromised by water and that there is a leak in the pool system—can cause those using the pool to slip and fall. 

When it comes to public pools and spas, residents can rest more assured knowing they are safer because there are certain requirements public places must implement, such as those in accordance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Safety Act of 2007, enforcing safety requirements for public pools and spas.
However, the safety measures of private, personal pools are controlled by the homeowner. 

"Residents should make good judgments before opening their pool for members of their family or guests. Some of these good judgments include: putting up a wall or fence at least four feet high around the pool; not allowing unsupervised children in the pool; being sure that at least one person in the household knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); not using air-filled swimming aids as a substitute for approved life vests; and keeping rescue equipment, such as life-saving flotation devices, and a telephone by the pool in the event of an emergency," Palmer says. 

For more information about American Leak Detection, The Original Leak Specialists, please visit http://www.americanleakdetection.com.

Question of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

Q: Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?

A: Normally. This is because the fixtures—personal property that is permanently attached to a home, such as built-in bookcases or a furnace—automatically stay with the house unless noted otherwise in the sales contract. Anything that is not nailed down is negotiable, including appliances that are not built in, such as washers and dryers.


Word of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.

Record Wildfire Season Impacting the U.S.

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

As wildfires continue to rage in Arizona and Florida, every state in the country now has the potential for a wildfire. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly every state in the U.S. has already experienced a wildfire this year. Wildfires during the first five months of this year have burned 3.2 million acres, due to soon surpass the 3.4 million acres of land and property that burned during all of last year.
Wildfires are a serious risk to life and property throughout the United States and Canada. As the weather becomes hot and dry, so is the increased potential for wildfires. State Farm® wants to remind you that the best way to reduce property loss due to wildfire is to plan ahead. 

One of the most important steps to reduce wildfire damage is to clear and maintain a defensible space around your home and structures. Clearing or trimming vegetation reduces the chance of fire damage and provides a safety zone for firefighters. Here are several easy and inexpensive ways to create a defensible space:
• Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves 30 - 100 feet around your house.
• Keep trees and shrubs properly thinned and pruned within the defensible space. 

• Remove ladder fuels—plants, low branches, and fire wood that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees.
• Clear five feet around the base of the house and fill the space with fire resistant plants or materials such as rocks or gravel. 

• Take care of the clean, open space around your home on a regular basis by raking up pine needles and removing downed branches or trees.
• Keep your roof and gutters clear of debris and remove overhanging branches.
• Keep grass and weeds mowed at a low height. 

In addition to protecting your home, review your homeowner’s insurance coverage with your agent, especially if you have made recent changes to your property. Insuring your property to at least 100 percent of its estimated replacement cost affords the greatest protection to the policyholder in the event of a loss. Remember to document your belongings by creating a home inventory. An accurate inventory and proof of ownership can make your claim settlement easier and faster. 

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides regional information on wildfire risks and ways to reduce loss to your home and business. State Farm is a supporter and member company of IBHS.

Common Sense Safety Tips for Summer Travel

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

School is out, graduations are over and the official start of summer is near. More than 3 million Californians are expected to hit the roads on the Fourth of July weekend—one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. Whether you have longstanding travel plans, a last minute road trip in mind, or just sticking around town this summer, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reminds you to give some thought to your summer travel to ensure everyone arrives safely and can enjoy the trip. 

Plan Your Trip
• Plan, map and estimate the duration of your driving ahead of time and let others know your plans. You can estimate the cost of gas for your trip at http://fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com/.
• Expect to encounter roadwork, delays & detours —'Slow for the Cone Zone'
• Check road conditions, including possible road closures. Visit www.dot.ca.gov for real time highway conditions.

Prepare Your Vehicle
• Check the tires, including the spare—proper inflation and good tread can save money, time and lives.
• Inspect the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels. Check the A/C.
• Do a "once around" —test all the lights, wipers and clean the windows (inside and out).
• If you're not sure of what to do, consider a quick inspection by a qualified technician. A few dollars up front can mean peace of mind and safe arrivals, as well as no costly on-the-road repairs and trip interruptions.
• Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit, including jumper cables, a flashlight and plenty of bottled water.

Safety First and Always
• Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.
• If you have a flat tire, engine problems or a fender bender, drive out of traffic lanes and off the highway if possible—freeway shoulders are not safe for repair work.
• Always plan ahead, and use a Designated Sober Driver.
• If you see drunk or dangerous drivers, it is legal and encouraged for you to call 911. Clues can help motorists detect a drunk driver: excessive weaving/swerving, especially in and out of the lane; traveling at speeds much slower than the flow of traffic; braking erratically or stopping in the lane; sudden stops for signal lights and slow starts once they change; remaining at the signal lights after they turn green—asleep at the wheel; making wide turns and/or cutting the corner striking the curb.

Buckle Up Drivers & Passengers
• Parents, grandparents and caregivers need to use the correct seat for young passengers and be sure the seat is installed properly. NHTSA and the Office of Traffic Safety recommend keeping infants, toddlers and older children in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements. Visit www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp for assistance with proper car seat installation in advance of your trip.
• Remember that long trips can be particularly tough on your kids, especially in the heat—pack plenty of snacks and cold drinks for the road (consider freezing juice boxes or water bottles overnight).
• Use books, toys, DVDs and video games to keep children occupied and the driver focused.
• Keep children 12 and under in the back seat—it's the safest place.
• Stopping along the drive gives everyone a chance to stretch and makes the trip easier. If you have a fussy baby, do not take them out of their car seat while driving to soothe or provide a bottle. If your child needs that level of attention, pull over in a safe place, such as a rest stop.
• Older children need to ride in a booster seat from about age four until a seat belt fits them correctly. Be sure to try the 5-Step Test at www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp before graduating from a booster to a seat belt.

Focus on the Road
• Don't text or talk on your cell phone while driving—even hands-free. If you need to make a call, check road or weather conditions or respond to a text, wait until you stop in safe place, such as a rest stop or parking lot.
• Don't program your mobile GPS while you are driving. Either have a passenger do it or stop in a safe place.
• Share the driving with other passengers to avoid fatigue.
• Rest—driving while drowsy can be fatal. Even a 30 minute nap can help.
• Stop for food or beverages. Avoid eating while driving.
• Don't fall into the trap of driving while angry—aggressive driving kills.

Never Leave a Child Alone In a Car—Not Even for a Minute
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. An outside temperature of 101 degrees can easily result in an interior temperature of 140 degrees.
• If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
• Place your cell phone, purse or other important item needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in the backseat. This triggers adults to see children when they open the rear door and reach for their belongings.
• Set your cell phone or Outlook reminder to be sure you dropped your child off at day care. Have a plan that if your child is late for daycare, you will be called within a few minutes.
• Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
• If a child is missing, check the pool first, and then your car or any other vehicles at your house, including car trunks.
• Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.

A little advance planning and preparation can keep you, your family and our roads safe during the summer months. This effort is part of the ongoing California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, where hundreds of state and local agencies, advocacy groups and private industries help develop tactics to significantly reduce deaths and injuries. For more traffic safety information log on to www.ots.ca.gov.

Avoid Roofing Scams: 10 Questions to Ask Before Installing a New Roof

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

Following the recent severe weather, "storm chasing" contractors may begin showing up in affected areas, offering questionable products and services to homeowners looking to repair or replace a roof. Promising rock-bottom prices and quick turnaround for a new roof, these often unlicensed and untrained home improvement renegades prey on consumers when they're most vulnerable. 

Unfortunately, this is a common practice that usually results in poor installations that later cause trouble, when the installer has moved on to the next town. 

Choosing a new roof to protect your home and family is a big decision, and deserves careful consideration. 

The nonprofit Metal Roofing Alliance recommends homeowners ask these questions before signing a contract for a new roof:
1. Is the company licensed, and are the employees bonded and insured? How long has the company been in business?
2. What types of roofing materials does the company offer? The industry has evolved—there are many choices beyond the old asphalt shingle.
3. Will the contractor provide a written, final estimate?
4. Can the new roof be installed over the existing roof?
5. What are the environmental considerations of the new materials and disposal of the old roof?
6. What company manufactures the roofing material the contractor will use?
7. How long with will the new roof last? What does the warranty cover?
8. Will the company use subcontractors? If so, how will they be managed/supervised?
9. Is there pending legal action against the company?
10. Can you speak with former customers?

Even without storm damage, most homeowners will have to buy three or more roofs in their lifetime.
A growing number of homeowners are avoiding the chore of several roof installations by choosing durable and environmentally-friendly metal roofs. Resistant to cracking, shrinking and eroding, metal roofs stand up to hail, high winds and even wildfires. Today's residential metal roofing is made to look exactly like common roofing material—such as asphalt shingle, cedar shake, clay tile or slate roofing—only stronger and more durable. No matter the style, most homeowners who choose a metal roof will never have to worry about re-roofing again.
For more information, visit www.metalroofing.com.

9 in 10 American Workers Not Expecting Salary Increase to Account for Rising Cost of Goods

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

89.9 percent of those who currently have a job say they are not counting on a salary increase next year, according to the latest American Pulse™ Survey of 5,242 respondents. Consumers are still struggling with high fuel prices and the rising cost of goods while incomes will likely remain unchanged. Only 10.1 percent think they will see a pay increase while the rest are planning to have less disposable income.
In order to prepare for higher prices and stagnant incomes, most Americans (70.5 percent) are planning to buy just the necessities. Driving less and spending less on clothing are also popular penny-pinching activities.

How to Prepare for Rising Food/Gas Prices If Salary Stays the Same :
Only buying necessities: 70.5%
Driving less: 63.4%
Spending less on clothing: 58.9%
Comparison shopping: 53.1%
Sticking to a strict budget: 50.0%
Buying more store brand/generic products: 49.9%
Spending less on groceries: 42.0%
Nothing: 6.6% 

The vast majority of consumers who expect their salaries to remain the same are planning to cut back—only 6.6% are not planning to make any changes to their spending habits. 

Further, 3 out of 4 Americans (75.7 percent) have little or no confidence that the government’s economic policies will get the economy back on track while 24.3 percent say they are confident or very confident. Confidence was at its lowest in March (21.5 percent), and has been steadily declining since June 2010 (31.2 percent). 

In addition, the majority of American consumers (68.6 percent) are somewhat/very worried that the U.S. government will slip into another recession this year. 11.8 percent are not very or not at all worried while 19.6 percent are unsure. 

The Federal Reserve has suggested printing money as a way to help get the economy back on track, but most Americans don’t think this will work. While 18.0% think creating more currency will boost the economy, over half (61.0 percent) say flooding the market with new bills will hurt the economy in the long run (21 percent aren’t sure). 

Speaker of the House John Boehner’s policy that would match any increases to the debt ceiling with equal spending cuts is mostly favorable among Adults 18+. 44.2 percent somewhat or strongly agree with this plan; 21.7 percent disagree and 34.1 percent are neutral. In order to balance the budget, Americans are willing to make cuts to public workers’ salaries and benefits (49.0 percent), welfare programs (38.9 percent) and military spending (33.8 percent).