This is the fifth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Adversity introduces us to ourselves, as the saying goes. Adversity is actually an opportunity. We discover unexpected strengths and resources when we’re faced with difficulties. This is true in business just as it is in our personal lives.
The pandemic is unquestionably adverse for business. Writing in Forbes, Dana Gerdman recommends examining business adversity from these points of view:
- Identify those areas where you and your team can have an influence. Can you revise your business model to fit within the new community health parameters? Can you put modified workflows in place to promote safety? Control what you’re able to control, and don’t waste resources on things you can’t control.
- Think about how you can step up to address the problem, and what encouragement and support you can give to others so the entire team is involved. Communication is vital during adversity. Make sure everyone understands their part in meeting the challenge, and use technology (Zoom, etc.) to promote team cohesion.
- Look at the size of the problem, and what steps you can take – even if they’re small ones – that will make a difference. Curing a pandemic may not be practical for your business, but you can certainly move to ensure your staff’s safety. WFH (work from home) has suddenly become the standard for many in the service sector. Support WFH by providing document imaging and home office equipment – a useful step to keep staff healthy and help end the pandemic.
- Every problem has an end. We may not know when a cure or a vaccine will be discovered, but we can make accommodations to remain productive in the interim. Now is the time to make sure your business has productivity tools for the present, and for the future. Asset management systems like RFID support productivity with social distancing tools for the short term, and inventory and process management both now and in the long term. Invest in systems that can take you through the current adversity and remain useful long after the problem is solved.
When we face adversity, we have a chance to be our best. Historians point to World War II as a time when America faced tremendous adversity, and we discovered how great our collective strength was – the Greatest Generation. Take on the current adverse conditions and discover the greatness within yourself and your business.
Photo © David Pereiras / AdobeStock
WFH (work-from-home) was an unwelcome mandate for many businesses until they began to see the reduction in operating costs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates savings of $11,000 per year, per employee, just for part-time work-from-home. Full-time WFH represents even greater savings. It’s no surprise that Facebook, Twitter, Morgan Stanley, and other major companies are opting to keep WFH in place permanently.
But are these businesses going overboard with the WFH perks? Many are providing computers, tablets, telephones, and broadband service to their work-from-home staffers. Some are providing office furniture. Google, for example, gives its WFH employees $1,000 for home-office setups. Others even offer meal deliveries for lunch meetings that used to take place in person but are now on Zoom. The employer-hosted Zoom “happy hour” is widespread.
It all sounds like an overly generous perks package. When you look a little closer, however, those so-called perks are almost no different than the standard productivity tools which businesses would provide in an office setting. In fact, some organizations are sending complete workstations from their offices to employees’ homes. This could be an asset-management nightmare if not for RFID tags which track each electronic device, each chair, and each desk that leaves the office. These businesses can then reduce their office size, and the overhead that goes with it, without disposing of excess furnishings.
Most important, organizations successfully making the change to WFH are ensuring that their employees have remote access to paper documents stored in the business’s offices. Retrieving the paper documents would create an unacceptable security risk. Instead, these businesses have imaged their paper documents, creating a secure digital database of informational assets.
Imaging converts paper documents into secure, searchable digital documents. Remote workers access the digital documents from their home offices via employer-provided high-speed data connections, on their employer-provided laptop, seated in their employer-provided chairs at their employer-provided desk.
It’s a win for everyone: WFH staffers have the tools to get the job done, and businesses continue to be productive while enjoying the benefit of lower operating costs.
Studies have already shown increased productivity rates achieved by WFH. Forbes cites several reports of 35-40% productivity improvement, with an output increase of 4.4%. Engagement and retention are also improved – another cost savings. WFH may have started out as an imposition, but with the right productivity tools, its benefits are here to stay.
Photo ©InsideCreativeHouse / AdobeStock
Asset management system RFID (radio frequency identification) keeps expanding its usefulness. Well established for inventory management, RFID is proving itself to be adaptable for an array of other applications, including document management, process supply management, healthcare equipment and personnel tracking, enterprise resource planning, and physical asset management.
Even workplace social distancing is now being supported by RFID wearable technology. Wristbands or badges equipped with RFID sensors warn wearers when they are standing too close to one another.
Now Cellr, an inventive Australian startup, is creating an RFID-based system that will prevent intellectual-property fraud in the wine industry. Like any brand identification, wine labels are considered intellectual property. Consumers expect that the wine is exactly what the label states. However, it’s all too easy for fraudsters to print counterfeit labels and apply them to bottles of inferior wine, essentially stealing the winery’s intellectual property and damaging its brand. Wine fraud is estimated to cost the industry some $7 billion annually.
The new fraud-prevention system utilizes NFC (near-field-communication) and RFID tags embedded in corks at the winery – a kind of “digital birth certificate.” Buyers use a cell phone app to check the provenance of the wine, verifying that the wine inside the bottle matches the label on the outside. (Marketers, take note: As an extra bonus, the combined NFC/RFID tags allow wineries to deliver promotional messages to buyers.)
And of course the RFID-tagged corks simplify wineries’ and retailers’ inventory management, just like RFID inventory systems in other industries.
It’s easy to see how this fraud-prevention technique can extend into other areas. Works of art with embedded RFID can be easily identified as the one-and-only original. Legal documents become tamper-proof if they are printed on paper with embedded RFID fibers. Designer apparel and accessories with embedded RFID tags can be quickly authenticated.
With RFID, questionable provenance is no longer an issue. The chain-of-custody is unbroken. Supply chain reliability improves. Brand trust is reinforced. Manufacturers and retailers are confident that brand integrity is protected, and consumers are confident that they’re getting what they pay for.
Deterring fraud is just one of the numerous applications of RFID. If your business has assets (and what business doesn’t?) there’s an RFID application that fits your asset management needs.
Photo © Robert Kneschke / AdobeStock
This is the fourth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Kindness is a characteristic that isn’t often applied to businesses. It’s thought of as a strictly human trait, but businesses are made up of individuals – individuals who, as part of a business, can be collectively kind. How can a business build a “kindness mindset” that spreads kind behavior both within its own walls and outside in the larger community?
Like other attributes, kindness is expressed in action – taking action to improve a sub-optimal situation, like the classic Boy Scout good deed of helping an elderly lady across the street. In a business setting, the kindness mindset can be applied in four broad categories.
- Leadership: Recognize and reward kind acts by staffers. Demonstrate kindness in speech and attitude by avoiding belittling, negative behaviors. Support employees’ career goals with additional training and education.
- Operations: Look for ways to improve staffers’ work-life balance, especially in WFH; do they have adequate e-resources like imaged documents and electronics? Safety is a form of kindness too: Utilize ergonomic vertical lifts, track-mounted file storage, and other safety equipment to reduce work-related accidents.
- Clients: Being kind is part of relationship-building. If a client has a temporary setback, set aside short-term profits and brainstorm with your own suppliers for solutions that fit your client’s finances.
- Community. Establish opportunities such as career tours and internships for disadvantaged populations. Volunteer time as well as money; showing up and taking part is a visible commitment to your community.
Kindness is not weakness. It is a form of strength. At its essence, kindness is an acknowledgement that everyone in a community has value and deserves the resources needed to reach their optimal worth.
Even more important, kindness is contagious. It’s a truism that you get back whatever you put out, whether it’s positive or negative. When your business acts in kind ways, that behavior will come back to the business in unexpected and beneficial ways. Make kindness a prominent part of your brand.
Photo ©dizdain / AdobeStock