How CEOs Should Manage Their Time in the Hybrid Workplace

After 18 months of leading organizations remotely, chief executives must learn to combine the best parts of what they’ve learned about virtual leadership with the most effective parts of managing face-to-face. The author, who studies how CEOs spend their time, suggests that leaders limit the negative consequences of video meetings, rethink assumptions about the reasons to travel, and protect their alone/personal time even more than before the pandemic.

CEOs are among the millions of professionals who’ve seen their long-established work rhythms disrupted during this ongoing global pandemic. During this period, corporate leaders have learned to use new communication tools, limit travel, and lead remotely.

Now, as they look ahead to reopening offices, some CEOs are already talking publicly about how they plan to work post-pandemic. For instance, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase is most outspoken about returning to a full-time, in-office routine. David Calhoun of Boeing has said he’ll be far less willing to travel for internal meetings with other Boeing employees, which he’d frequently done pre-pandemic.

Leaders should be wary of such categorical pronouncements. Instead, they should reflect on and experiment around how to intelligently combine the best parts of what they’ve learned during the pandemic with the best aspects of the face-to-face management style they utilized before 2020. What they need, in short, is a new approach to time management — one suitable for a hybrid world.

In 2018, my colleague Michael Porter and I wrote an article in Harvard Business Review called “How CEOs Manage Time.” We based it on an ongoing study, which began in 2006, in which we asked chief executives to log their schedules, minute by minute, 24 hours per day, for three months.

Based on data we had gathered from 27 CEOs at the time, we found the average CEO works 62.5 hours per week, sleeps 6.9 hours per night, exercises 45 minutes per day, allocates 61% of time for face-to-face meetings, and spends just 3% of time interacting with customers.

We also offered some recommendations for how CEOs can use their time more effectively, based on our conversations with CEOs after we shared their data. Among our suggestions were that CEOs spend less time running the business, reserve more “alone time” for reflection, block unscheduled time for spontaneous interactions, reduce the average length of meetings, spend more one-on-one time with directors and customers and less with investors, and resist the constant lure of email.

Those recommendations made sense at the time. However, as leaders think about reorienting their routines for a hybrid workplace, let me offer some new recommendations based on more recent conversations with CEOs and my decades of reflection on this role.

When thinking through these issues, keep in mind that the job of the CEO is multi-faceted and involves myriad functions, for which there is never enough time. Despite the time pressure, efficiency shouldn’t be the top consideration. For example, a fundamental duality of all leadership work involves accomplishing tasks and building relationships. This is especially true for CEOs, who rely almost entirely on others to get their job done. CEOs must therefore spend a significant amount of their time building high-quality trusting relationships. In a world of hybrid work, CEOs would be wise to remember that although they can readily do tasks remotely, building relationships work better with at least some face-to-face interaction.

CEOs Have Always Been Hybrid Workers

Some CEOs have emphasized the importance of having everyone in the office most of the time; these benefits include easier collaboration and more opportunities to train and mentor young employees. Other leaders, like Tim Cook of Apple, have proposed having every employee in the office only on certain days of the week. But the view that employees should spend most of their time in the office may overlook the fact that CEOs previously spent as much time working outside headquarters as inside.

In our 2018 study, we found CEO spent just 47% of working hours at the main office — with the rest in off-site meetings, traveling for business, or working remotely. And although CEOs held 61% of their meetings face to face, they were communicating electronically — by video conference, email, and telephone — more than one-third of the time.

In recent months, I’ve been advocating that companies devise a strategic hybrid system that first considers precisely how each employee contributes to its strategy and then analyzes whether WFH or an office setting would better support it. (In my view, trying to bring every employee into the office on a one-size-fits-all schedule is a terrible idea.) So as CEOs guide their organizations in thinking about the right proportion of in-office and remote time for each team and function, it’s worth recalling how much of their own time previously was away from the office.

At the same time, CEOs should recognize that time spent in the office carries symbolic value beyond its functional value. As we wrote in 2018: “How a CEO spends face-to-face time is viewed as a signal of what or who is important; people watch this more carefully than most CEOs recognize.” Even in organizations where many people opt to stay in WFH mode much of the time after Covid, CEOs will likely need to be in the office more than colleagues at other levels of the organization.

Limiting the Negative Consequences of Video Meetings

We have been fortunate that our technology infrastructure had developed sufficiently to make videoconferencing widely accessible before Covid hit. (Could you imagine millions of us trying to work remotely back in the dial-up era?) As a result, video meetings are highly efficient in many ways: I now routinely engage in 30-minute video meetings that used to take an hour when held face-to-face. At the same time, we’ve all grown aware of the many downsides of over-reliance on video meetings. Among them: “Zoom fatigue” and the blurring of work-life boundaries as the commute that signaled the end of the workday disappeared.

For CEOs, over-reliance on video meetings poses three unique risks.

“Popping in” to non-essential meetings. Compared with in-person meetings, video meetings make it easy for CEOs to log in or “stop by.” Although having the CEO show up in additional meetings may boost morale or demonstrate engagement, it can quickly become a problem. Effective CEOs delegate much of the work of managing business operations to deputies, and even before the pandemic, we observed too many CEOs spending too much time in operational reviews. CEOs who find video meetings efficient may exacerbate this problem by being tempted to attend too many of them. This behavior could continue (or grow worse) in a hybrid work environment.

Over-inviting subordinates to group meetings. Video meetings also make it easy to invite or add additional people. Even though asking more people feels more inclusive, it, too, can be a mistake. Smaller groups allow for candor and participation. That’s why, in our 2018 study, CEOs spent 63% of their meeting time with groups of five or fewer people. When meetings get too large, people stay muted and multitask. Engagement falls.

Over-relying on video for one-on-ones. In our 2018 study, CEOs spent 42% of their meeting time in one-on-one meetings, mostly with direct reports — people they know well. The conventional wisdom is that it’s easier to conduct video meetings with people you already know than to initiate a relationship or meet someone new on video.

But even if doing a “check-in” with a subordinate via video feels comfortable, it’s vital to conduct these meetings in person periodically. High-quality relationships involve aligning mutual expectations (each person knows what they expect of each other), increasing mutual understanding (each knows the other’s strengths, weaknesses, leadership styles), and developing mutual trust (each has confidence in the other’s motives and intentions). Such relationship-building benefits from the give-and-take and full co-presence that face-to-face interactions enable better than electronic interactions.

Rethink Assumptions about the Reasons to Travel

As more people have become vaccinated and the perceived risks of air travel have fallen, there’s been widespread debate about whether people will ever be as quick to hop on an airplane for a business meeting or industry conference as they were pre-2020. This New York Times article nicely summarizes survey results and viewpoints on this issue.

Although I agree with those who expect business travel never again to reach its pre-Covid peak, I worry about CEOs who take aim at internal meetings as the trips to avoid. Face-to-face meetings are helpful when building relationships because of the respect leaders shows by going out of their way to get to the other party’s locale. For similar reasons, we have long advised CEOs to visit subordinates in their offices instead of having every meeting in the higher-ranking person’s location.

The most common mistake we observed among the CEOs in our previous study was to underinvest in face-to-face time with their customers; I fear they will now risk underinvesting in face-to-face contact with their own employees, particularly teams far from headquarters. If they do, they risk becoming overly task-focused when dealing with people inside the company and forgetting that being in a relationship with their employees is just as important. I’d urge CEOs to periodically get on a plane to meet with internal teams, too.

One technique to be intentional about this is to set a target ratio for video and in-person meetings with different constituencies. For instance, CEOs who want to visit longstanding customers might aim for an 80/20 mix — 80% by video, 20% in person. When interacting with employees whom they meet only infrequently, such as those who work away from headquarters, perhaps 50/50 makes more sense. After 18 months of meeting primarily by video, boards might also aim for 50/50. Regardless of the numbers, the point is to choose a target intentionally, assess how well it’s working, and recalibrate if necessary.

Treat Alone Time and Personal Time Even More Protectively

Even before the pandemic, most CEOs had trouble maintaining boundaries between work time and personal time. For instance, in our study, CEOs worked on 79% of weekend days (3.9 hours per day, on average) and 70% of vacation days (2.4 hours per day, on average). Moreover, during working hours, CEOs’ calendars tend to be over-booked. On average, 75% of the leader’s time was allocated in advance, leaving limited time for spontaneous interactions or simply time to think.

The post-pandemic reset should be an opportunity for leaders to carve out more time for reflection, reading, and thinking — but there’s a risk that many will go in the other direction. Now that they can participate in video meetings from home, CEOs will require even more discipline to avoid doing this too often — especially those running global companies, who could conceivably join an overseas meeting at any hour of the day or night.

Likewise, there will be immediate savings in commuting costs for CEOs whose companies choose to limit the days employees go to the office. (In our study, the average CEO spent about seven hours per week commuting). Since this is “found time,” leaders may say yes to more meetings, quickly squandering it. Instead, they should consider reinvesting this in additional alone time.

They will also need discipline when it comes to outside requests. Our original article advised leaders to avoid spending too much time in non-essential activities such as leading civic groups or industry associations. (Our research found these can become time-management quagmires.) As meetings of these groups shifted to video, some CEOs’ resolve to limit these obligations may have weakened: It’s easier to say no to a speaking invitation when it requires cross-country travel than when it requires a quick video appearance. When in-person events once again become the norm, CEOs should go back to being more discriminating about what non-essential invitations they accept.

After CEOs complete logging their time for our study, we typically spend a couple of hours debriefing them. In that meeting, which CEO Tom Gentile of Sprint Aerosystems reflected on in our 2018 article, we look at how an individual CEO’s time choices compare with the average leader’s and then identify ways to make smarter time management decisions. Every leader who participated in our study found this reflection exercise illuminating — from uncovering blind spots in their use of time to discovering a handful of areas where they would like to make changes.

As CEOs return to a new hybrid workplace as the pandemic eases, they should reflect upon the best ways to incorporate the new rhythms and tools they’ve learned during the pandemic. They should beware the lure of returning to their pre-pandemic work habits or getting overly attached to things that appeared to work well during the pandemic but may be ineffective in the long run. Much as organizations need to be strategic in the hybrid work patterns they embrace, leaders need to be strategic about how they use their time in this new workplace.

By Nitin Nohria is the former dean of Harvard Business School.

Achieve Success off Social Good

In 2020, it’s becoming clear that the priorities of large businesses have shifted immensely.

More than ever, businesses are making an effort to break the status-quo by using profits to foster their consumer community for the greater good, becoming leaders in their fields in the process.

Here’s a look into how 5 different businesses have approached generating positive impacts for their employees, economies, communities, and the environment, integrating those goals as part of the profit-making process.

CUA

CUA (Credit Union Australia) was founded on the ethos of giving members access to fair and affordable finance while also having a say in the company’s direction.

With a slew of community initiatives that have made up the foundation of their work since 1946, CUA members have the chance to participate in the governance of the company, as well as actively ask questions about their management and financial performance, putting the “people” at the forefront of their decision making as an entity.

Currently providing banking and other financial services to more than 500,000 Aussies, CUA’s community focus extends beyond the power it gives to its members.

In an Australian first collaboration with Australian Red Cross and Infoxchange, CUA has sought to connect people who are isolated with its Connected Future partnership, a digital inclusion initiative that provides essential skills to its members and communities to thrive in an online world.

The credit union has also sought to create deeper social and community connections to support their most isolated members by educating and empowering them to make better financial choices.

T2

Founded in 1996 in Fitzroy, Melbourne, aside from their immersive in-store consumer experiences, T2 is the largest tea retailer across Australia and New Zealand.

Its attitude as a business is skewed towards not only providing the best product in the tea market, but also by continually innovating in attempts to increase sustainability.

In 2020, the company officially sourced 72% of its tea ingredients sustainably, with the remaining 28% on track to be certified sustainably sourced by 2021. All T2 teabags are manufactured entirely from plant-based sources and, all teawares and accessories are derived from suppliers that are ethically audited by the SMETA 6.0.

Patagonia

Patagonia is one of the most popular outdoor apparel brands worldwide, with stores in 16 countries generating $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Their dedication to community fostering has always been front-of-mind, as the company was a founding member of the Textile Exhcnage (formally known as Organic Exchange) – a nonprofit group formed in 2002 with the goal of increasing global sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products.

It was also the first brand to join the network of Bluesign system partners, which seeks out to level up consumer safety through improving the process of textile supply chains, which uses the “Bluesign” system to ensure its products will yield minimal impacts on people and the environment.

Kickstarter

Having launched in 2009, Kickstarter is a leader in the crowd-funding field. Since then, 7.5 million people pledged $1.5 billion to fund creative projects.

The independent company have a dedicated Trust & Safety team which is dedicated to delving into concerns raised by project backers to ensure the security of their projects.

The Body Shop

Skincare and cosmetics brands have been notoriously slow-moving in their efforts towards sustainability and cruelty-free product testing. The Body Shop, however, founded in 1976 with over 2500 stores worldwide, has been a leader in this movement.

The company have a history of engaging customers in “activist campaigns” including “Forever Against Animal Testing” which influenced lawmakers and stakeholders worldwide to discuss the change in legislation around animal testing.

Bringing their ethos into stores physically, The Body Shop’s recycling scheme encourages customers to return empty bottles back into the store for correct recycling methods, to reduce the companies contributions to landfill.

By Bianca Davino from Business Insider Australia
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/t2-cua-patagonia-and-kickstarter-have-all-achieved-success-off-social-good-heres-how-their-strategy-works-2020-6?utm_source=Business+Insider+Australia+-+10+things+you+need+to+know+in+the+morning+in+Australia&utm_campaign=d3b5a4ce14-businessinsider_2020_06_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8a990bd96b-d3b5a4ce14-280925195

How to turn a bad day around

Let’s face it. Life can be full of frustrations—an argument with your teenager over breakfast, a missed train, or even just a spilled coffee can make you wish you could crawl back into bed. How can you change your mood when you’ve started your day off on the wrong foot? How do you stop annoyances from dragging you down and killing your productivity?

What the Experts Say

The good news is you can turn a bad day into a good one. “Happiness is a choice,” says Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Even when something objectively negative happens—your star employee gives notice or you’re late to an important meeting with the CEO—it’s important to focus on the positive things that are also happening. “Studies show that when you’re positive, you’re 31% more productive, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, you have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress, and your creativity rates triple,” he explains. Discontent is also contagious, adds Annie McKee, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute and coauthor of Primal Leadership. “Your negative emotions spread like wildfire,” she says. “It’s worth changing your mood, not just to make your day more pleasant and productive but to spare those around you.” So what can you do when you’re in a downward spiral? Here are some ideas:

Pinpoint the problem

The earlier you catch your bad mood, the easier it will be to do something about it. “We have to have early warning signals that tell us that our resilience is dwindling,” says McKee. She recommends pausing regularly to check your emotional state. “Perhaps you’re being snappy with people, you’re not smiling as much, or you have a headache,” she says. It’s also important to pinpoint and name what’s going on. It’s better to say, “I’m upset because I’m behind on an important project and traffic was terrible today,” rather than the over-simplified, “I feel awful,” McKee says. Having a concrete reason for your unhappiness gives you something to work on.

Take a moment to be grateful

One of the simplest ways to focus on the positive is to think about what you’re grateful for, whether it’s your job, your kids, or the clothes on your back. “There are neuroimaging studies that show it’s almost impossible to be in a depressed state and grateful at the same time,” explains Achor. McKee agrees that gratitude is “a powerful antidote to the urgent feeling of stress and lack of control.” So as soon as you start to feel negative, short circuit your mood by asking yourself, What are three good things that are going on right now? Consider saying them out loud or writing them down. This will help you get some perspective on the bad day. Sure, you may have had a fender bender or missed an appointment, but there are other, perhaps more important, things in your life that are going well.

Take action

Another way to stop yourself from “trending negative” is to “take a single concrete action,” Achor says. Send that email that you’ve been meaning to get to or make a phone call you’ve been dreading. Even choosing a healthier snack, a piece of fruit over a candy bar, can create a positive “mental avalanche” for the rest of the day. “Your brain records a victory,” Achor explains. The effect is even stronger if the action you take benefits someone else. You might be buried in your inbox, but if you take two minutes to send an email praising or thanking someone else, you’ll actually feel like you’ve gained time.

Change your routine

If you’re feeling miserable, don’t hunker down at your desk for the rest of the day. A change of scenery often helps signal to your brain that the current mood doesn’t need to be sustained. “Drive around, take a walk, or just go to a different floor. The key is to put yourself in a different physical location,” McKee advises. And once you’re there, take a few deep breaths. “If you’re heading for or already in an amygdala hijack, you have to do something to get control of your frontal lobe and breathing does that physiologically,” she explains.

You can also do something you enjoy, like listening to music or a podcast or catching up on news. Just be careful about the content you choose! A recent study by Achor in partnership with Arianna Huffington showed that just a few minutes of consuming negative news can cause a bad day. “Try to find a news outlet that focuses on solutions. Or at least create a different ratio. If you’re going to read a negative piece, read two positive ones as well, about medical breakthroughs or someone helping others,” says Achor.

Reset realistic expectations

“Expectations can have a huge impact on mood,” says Achor. “If I expect my flight to be canceled and it’s only three hours delayed, then I’m going to be thrilled. But if I expect it to be on time and then it’s delayed, then I’m going to be upset.” A lot of bad days start when you have unrealistic expectations about what you can accomplish. If your mood is deteriorating because it’s after lunch and you feel behind, don’t despair. “You can rewrite the narrative on the day,” he says. Highlight what progress you have made. “Write down two or three things you’ve already done. You woke up, you had breakfast with your kid, you drove to work, you even wrote a checklist. That way you’re starting at 25% progress.” And then make a list of “short, attainable goals” for the rest of the day.

Learn from your bad days to prevent future ones

When you do have bad days, it’s important to reflect on them before you put them behind you. By taking note of what went wrong—and then right—you can “learn what your triggers are so you stay away from those particular stimuli or at least know how you’re likely to react if you’re triggered,” McKee says. If you’ve tried the above strategies, make a note of what works for you and what doesn’t, and “be more precise in the future in how you turn things around.” And definitely pay attention when bad days pile up. Is there something bigger going on that you need to address? Is there some broader action you need to take? “We’re seeing a movement toward higher workloads and longer work hours and there’s lots of research that shows that when people work more than 55 hours a week, engagement and happiness levels plummet,” says Achor. Consider whether you need to fundamentally rethink the way you do your job or balance your work and family life.

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Think of three things that you’re grateful for
  • Consider what you’ve already accomplished even if it’s minor
  • Reflect on what triggers your bad days and which tactics help to turn them around

Don’t:

  • Believe that you are a victim of your circumstances—you choose whether to be negative or positive
  • Hunker down at your desk—change scenery and take a few deep breaths
  • Set unrealistic expectations for your day

Case study #1: Focus on opportunities not problems

Kate Hanley, a mindset coach and the author of A Year of Daily Calm, often helps her clients develop strategies to get out of their bad days. “People come to me because they’re feeling stuck and they’ve tried everything they know how to try,” she says.

She usually starts by asking them what triggered their negative mood. “I try to get them to pinpoint where it started to go bad,” she says. “Naming it can be really helpful.”

Then she advises her clients to “get curious” and ask a lot of questions about what is going on. Is this a one-time event or an ongoing trend? Have I felt like this before? What caused it last time? “We’ve evolved to scan for danger so once you’re in a bad mood, it can be hard to get out,” she says.

She also tries to get people to reframe problems as opportunities. If an important client meeting gets canceled, what can you do with that free hour? If a direct report doesn’t do a good job on a presentation, how can you help her learn from the situation?

Kate uses these same tactics when she’s having her own bad days. A few weeks back, she noticed she was in an awful mood around lunchtime and quickly identified the cause: two clients had canceled on her that morning. “I don’t like when my appointments get moved a lot because it screws up the rhythm of my day,” she says.

“My mind quickly made a trend out of it but I pulled back and asked myself, ‘Do clients cancel a lot or is it just today?’” With that perspective, she was able to think more positively. She also took a few moments to get out of the office and do something she enjoys—listen to music. “If you ever see me driving around in my car listening to classical, you know it’s been a crazy day.”

Case study #2: Remember it’s just one day

Darin Freitag, who manages residential and commercial projects at the general contractor RYAN Associates says that he can usually tell early on in a day when things are going wrong. “It starts when I receive a phone call from an angry client or I realize that an important project isn’t going to be done on time,” he says. Then “I’m distracted so I’m not thinking clearly and I make more mistakes, like speeding into work and getting a ticket or even backing my car into something.”

That’s when he takes a step back. “I tell myself, ‘OK, something’s going on here. I’m just not in a place where I’m going to win today.” To get himself back into the right frame of mind, his first step is to get some perspective. “I think about how this is just one day in the long haul of a career, or a project, or the business,” he explains.

He reminds himself that it’s normal to have a rough patch here and there and that he can’t solve every problem. “Like many people, I often have this grandiose idea that I’m so important that I can fix anything. But that’s just not true. And if I try to fix it all, it’s just going to get worse,” he says. So he temporarily resets his expectations for the day. “Sometimes I need to lower my standards and be more realistic,” he says.

He remembers one day when he had to give a presentation. Not only did he feel unprepared but there were also technical problems with the projector. But instead of getting frustrated, he took a deep breath and told himself, “OK, this is not going to go as well as I hoped or planned.”

Over time, he’s learned that, while he can’t stop bad things from happening, he can control how he responds to them. “I know I’m going to be miserable until I change my perspective, or accept the situation,” he explains. “I can wallow for a while but it’s not fun and it just leads to depression. I eventually realize that I’m swimming upstream and that I need to stop swimming and just float. And then usually it doesn’t take long for the situation to change.”

By Amy Gallo from Harvard Business Review
https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-turn-a-bad-day-around

Is Your QSR at Risk With Employment Compliance?

Compliance Analytics is your simple solution!

A proactive and preventative risk management approach is key to avoiding damaging issues for the entire network.

Compliance analytics quickly highlights anomalies and “de-risks” any potential liabilities.

Currently, employment compliance is in the spotlight, particularly within the QSR industry. Breaches have seen many a brand’s credibility very publicly come under scrutiny. Non-compliance, by even one franchisee, can affect the reputation and income of every franchisee in the network.

You are probably well aware that the Franchise industry is proving to be particularly at risk when it comes to employment compliance issues such as underpayment of staff. Under the new Bill, franchisors may be liable if their franchisee breaches workplace laws, even if they are not directly involved in the breach. Part of the responsibility of a franchisor is to ensure their franchisees are well equipped to adhere to workplace laws, specifically when hiring and dealing with employees. Best practice at the moment in employment compliance monitoring within the franchise industry is far from ideal and is not preventative:

Typical Franchisor Employment Compliance Review

 

Automated Compliance Analytics

For many organisations, legal resources can be limited. Reviewing hundreds of (franchisees) employment compliances with varying degrees of priority can be hit and miss and very expensive. Under this structure franchisees wanting to beat the system can still potentially manipulate their financials to comply with once-off audits.

To minimise risk and reduce the costly burden of the current system of auditing, franchisors need to be able to understand new regulations or changes to current regulations, and typically respond to them within a specific period of time. Better insight into employment compliance laws is crucial to maintain regulatory compliance and can reduce the pain of an audit process.

In response to these growing issues within the franchise industry, employment compliance analytics solutions have been developed to apply data gathering applications to satisfy current legal requirements and improve across-the-organisation employment compliance.

Along with up to date application of legal obligations**, employment compliance analytics solutions are designed to analyse a large volume of employment compliances quickly and accurately. With Resurg’s ClearView you will discover issues earlier, limit potential exposure and ensure that you stay on top of obligations. Our system enables you to collect and connect all of your employment compliance data in one place for real-time predictive analytics of employment compliance. The system will flag the franchisees that need auditing, saving time and money on lengthy audit processes.

ClearView will help turn your employment compliance practices from reactive to proactive. Our preventative early warning system detects potential problems and by doing so reduces your risk. ClearView will ensure that any required audits are being directed to the at-risk stores, minimising the time and resources usually required in this area of your business. Ongoing real-time analytics from multiple data sources makes it very difficult for franchisees to evade the audit system through standard records manipulation.

Our customised operational analytics use your data to benchmark and compare results across the network, quickly highlighting anomalies and “de-risk” any potential liabilities.

Ultimately, ClearView will grant you peace of mind and allow you to put your focus and resources toward positively building your franchise operation.

**Resurg partner with employment relations specialists ER Strategies, who provide tailored support and advice for the franchise sector.

Schedule a free consultation with our team to reduce your employment compliance risk

Do I need cyber insurance for my business?

When it comes to cyber insurance, many people in small and medium sized businesses assume that the risks involved with cyber security don’t affect them, or that they are already protected. They say things like “We don’t take credit card payments so we’re not at risk”. Or, “We have anti-virus protection and the website is secure”. But when they learn about the different risks and areas they could be liable for, such as being responsible for client data, and data privacy laws, many are surprised.

Before you bury your head in the sand, consider one common cyber security incident:

What would you do if you had a security breach and had to tell your customers you’ve lost their data?

Data security breaches are a more common occurrence than you may expect, especially for SMEs. The Notifiable Data Breach Scheme managed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner actually imposes certain threshold requirements where businesses are obligated to notify clients about the breach, and notify the Privacy Commissioner. Not only would this affect the company reputation, but also take up valuable time and resources to fix.

The Notifiable Data Breach Scheme applies to agencies and organisations that the Privacy Act requires to take steps to secure certain categories of personal information. This includes Australian Government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more, and regardless of your annual turnover applies to credit reporting bodies, health service providers, and TFN recipients, among others.

So, it’s more than worth taking a few minutes to learn about common cyber misconceptions, how your business could be affected, what the potential costs might be, and what the options are if you need insurance cover.

How could cyber threats affect my businesses?

There are some scary statistics when it comes to the cost of cyber risks:

• $10,299 – the average cost of cyber crime for small to medium-sized businesses (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017)

• $1.9 million – the average cost for medium sized businesses (100-500 employees) if hit by a cyber attack (according to Webroot, 2017) with the figure over $1million for larger organisations (Radware 2018-2019 Global Application and Network Security Report)

• 25 hours downtime or more – was the number of hours it costs for one in four businesses hit by cyber attacks (according to Small Business Best Practice Guide 2017)

• Downtime is the main impact of a cyber security threat (39%), followed by expense for re-doing work (25%), inconvenience (27%), financial loss (11%) and data loss (13%). Of those that had lost data, over half (52%) had not been able to recover it.

• 54% of cyber attacks are from email or phishing scams (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017)

• Up to $2,100,000 fine from the OAIC for not complying with mandatory data breach laws for a company and up to $420,000 for an individual. (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, February 2018)

• 59% of Australian organisations are affected each month by interruptions caused by cyber crime (according to Commonwealth’s Stay Smart Online guide for small business)

• 2,500% increase in the sale of ransomware on dark net sites since 2016 (according to The Ransomware Economy, Carbon Black 2017)

When people see these stats, they see that the relatively low cost of cyber insurance is dwarfed by the volume and range of potential costs that it covers for.

4 main reasons why SMEs are easy targets for Cyber Attacks

Attacks on small and medium-sized enterprises are on the rise due to:

1. Lack of resources 1 in 4 Australian small businesses have fallen victim to cyber crime (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017) as SME clients are focused on their core business offering – be it as a Real Estate Agent, Lawyer, Accountant, Doctor, Mechanic, Manufacturer or whatever industry they specialise in. SMEs often lack the time, resources or expertise to understand their cyber exposures.

2. Lack of education on Cyber Large organisations provide training to their employees on the importance of cyber security and the key risks to be aware of. Simple human mistakes like lost smart-phones or accidentally sending an email to the wrong person, are the cause of 30% of cyber incidents (according to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner Quarterly Report December 2018.)

3. Weak network security or IT infrastructure SMEs typically handle their own IT systems and security themselves, or outsource to someone as they lack the expertise. This contracts with more robust IT teams and operations in larger organisations.

4. Businesses hold valuable data There is a common misconception that SMEs won’t be a target of cyber threats as they have no data or information that is of value or worth stealing. SME data is more valuable that people think. Even if the SME isn’t the direct target, the SME might be a critical point into the integrated supply chain of their valued partners.

Costs associated with cyber attacks for businesses

The costs a business may incur due to cyber security breaches come under three main categories:

1. First Party Costs The businesses’ own cost to respond to the breach, including but not limited to IT Forensic Costs, Credit Monitoring Costs, Cyber Extortion Costs, Data Restoration Costs, Legal Reorientation Expenses, Notification Costs and Public Relations Costs.

2. Third Party Claims The businesses’ liability to third parties arising from a failure to keep data secure, including data held on behalf of businesses by either an outsourced supplier or freelancer, or cloud service provider for which businesses are legally liable. Insurance Coverage is available for claims for compensation by third parties, investigations, defence costs and fines & penalties for breaching the Privacy Act.

3. Business Interruption Reimbursement for businesses’ lost profits resulting from a Business Interruption Event. In a lot of cases policies provide coverage these days not only limited to malicious attacks. Coverage can be made available for Business Interruption Loss arising from unauthorised access, any damage to the business data and/or programs, and any system outage, network interruption or degradation of the businesses’ network.

Laws & regulations governing Cyber & Privacy Risks

There are many laws and obligations which businesses must adhere to in relation to cyber security:

• Privacy Act 1988

• The Information Privacy Act 2014 (ACT)

• Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979

• National Health Act 1953 (NH Act)

• Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990

• Crime Act 1914 (Crime Act)

• Anti-Money Laundering and Counter- Terrorism Financing Act 2006(AML/CTF Act)

• Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 (HI Act)

• Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2012 (PCEHR Act)

• Personal Property Security Act 2009 (PPS Act)

Security is simply managing risk

There are various ways businesses can manage cyber security risk:

• Reducing the risk businesses should seek to put in place procedural, technical and physical controls in order to reduce their exposures.

• Accepting the risk an internal process a business has taken to evaluate the risk versus reward

• Transferring the risk insurance should be seen as an additional layer to the security process, not an alternative

• Avoid the risk When the likelihood and impact from the risk to the business is too high businesses can remove the risk source, for example by deleting old data, deciding not to start or discontinue the activity.

What does Cyber Insurance cover?

Cyber Insurance covers a business for the cyber exposures it faces from both third party claims (for example actions brought by the Privacy Commissioner or clients suing for breach of privacy) and first party cover including Business Interruption and other expenses that might incur as a result of a cyber attack. The first party expenses a business might incur include, but are not limited to, costs to repair or restore systems, credit monitoring services if data has been breached and public relations expenses.

What can I do now to avoid cyber and data privacy risks?

In addition to considering insurance coverage, there is still lots you can do to mitigate potential risks for your business.

Nine Steps to tighten your Cyber Security

1. Network Security Protect your networks against external and internal attack. Manage the network perimeter. Filter out unauthorised access and malicious content. Monitor and test security controls.

2. Malware Protection Produce a relevant policy and establish anti-malware defences that are applicable and relevant to all business areas. Scan for malware across the business.

3. Monitoring Establish a monitoring strategy and produce supporting policies. Continuously monitor all systems and networks. Analyse comprehensively for
unusual activity that could indicate an attack

4. User Education and Awareness Produce user security policies covering acceptable and secure use of the business’s systems. Establish a staff training programme.
Maintain user awareness of cyber risks.

5. Home and Mobile Working Develop a mobile working policy and train staff to adhere  to it. Apply the secure baseline build to all devices. Protect data both in transit and at locations.

6. Secure Configuration Apply security patches and ensure that the secure configuration of all systems is maintained. Create a system inventory and define a baseline build for all devices.

7. Removable Media Controls Produce a policy to control all access to removable media. Limit media types and use. Scan all media for malware before importing on the company system.

8. Managing User Privileges Establish account management processes and limit the number of privileged accounts. Limit user privileges and monitor user activity. Control access to activity and audit logs.

9. Incident Management Establish an incident response and disaster recovery capability. Produce and test incident management plans. Provide specialist training to the incident management team. Report criminal incidents to law enforcement.

Want to learn more or have a question?

Polina Kesov is a specialist in cyber insurance and Director at ii-A www.ii-A.com.au. To find out more about the risks involved in cyber security and what your insurance options are, get in touch for a free consultation with Polina.

The Golden Rules of Goalsetting

Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success

Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Are you clear about what your main objective at work is at the moment? Do you know what you want to have achieved by the end of today?

If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. Think about it: having a million dollars in the bank is only proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. If your goal is to practice acts of charity, then keeping the money for yourself is suddenly contrary to how you would define success.

To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between, there are some very well-defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

Learn five techniques for setting effective goals.

The Five Golden Rules

1. Set Goals That Motivate You

When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” frame of mind.

Tip: To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen.

2. Set SMART Goals

You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be: Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time Bound.

Set Specific Goals

Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Set Measurable Goals

Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To reduce expenses” how will you know when you have been successful? In one month’s time if you have a 1 percent reduction or in two years’ time when you have a 10 percent reduction? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.

Set Attainable Goals

Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.

Set Relevant Goals

Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.

Set Time-Bound Goals

Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

3. Set Goals in Writing

The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might.” For example, “I will reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year,” not “I would like to reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year.” The first goal statement has power and you can “see” yourself reducing expenses, the second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked.

Tip 1: Frame your goal statement positively. If you want to improve your retention rates say, “I will hold on to all existing employees for the next quarter” rather than “I will reduce employee turnover.” The first one is motivating; the second one still has a get-out clause “allowing” you to succeed even if some employees leave.

Tip 2: If you use a To-Do List , make yourself a To-Do List template that has your goals at the top of it. If you use an Action Program , then your goals should be at the top of your Project Catalog.

Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.

4. Make an Action Plan

This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term. Read our article on Action Plans for more on how to do this.

5. Stick With It!

Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

Key Points

Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced. By following the Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting you can set goals with confidence and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do. So, what will you decide to accomplish today?

Source https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_90.htm

How to Improve your Digital Marketing

1. Be a critical consumer of marketing material

When it comes to Digital Marketing business owners have to be critical consumers of marketing material. What this means is that owners need to ensure that they are examining the digital landscape for best practice and strong strategies for digital marketing. This might involve investigating companies within your industry or brands that you admire and analyzing what they are currently doing in the digital marketplace. In order to launch your own successful digital marketing campaign business owners need to be aware what current digital marketing works and be able to identify what makes a good or bad approach by being a critical consumer who analyses the good and the bad on any approach they find themselves exposed to.

2. Target your audience not everyone

Like conventional marketing you can’t possibly distribute material that will work equally with the entire potential market. Digital marketing depends upon your ability to segment out your customer base and analyse the demographics of those that are most susceptible to your service or product. To do this it is vital that you engage with your customers and record vital data about your interactions. There are a few ways to do this:

A. Seek feedback on your product or service through a means that is easy for customers to engage with such as verbal post booking sales, email surveys (short) or quick post trip phone calls. Easily captured, concise information in large quantities is the best kind of information.

B. Engage with customers across the entire digital landscape such as forums, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, TripAdvisor, Pinterest), email or through blog/website comments. It is vital that you store the information you gather.  Useful tools for monitoring your social media are Hootsuite, Sprinklr and Sprout Social.

C. Have a positive and consistent approach to dealing with complaints.

D. Conduct marketing research (small in scope, looking for specific answers) and feasibility assessments. A great set of tools for conducting small scale yet excellent market research are Google Trends and Google Surveys.

A digital marketing strategy that has all of this information at its disposal is that much more likely to have a higher rate of conversion and thus a higher chance of increasing your profit.

3. Talk to your customers the way they like

This point ties closely into targeting your audience however it is vital as there really is no point conducting a digital marketing campaign that isn’t seen. While most internet user surveys show that people prefer to receive marketing material via email as opposed to mail outs or phone calls there are large swathes of the population who find applications with ‘push notifications’ (Popup notifications about sales and discounts) and social media sales (limited time period) to be the best sales method. Those types of marketing systems target the often untapped market of the millennials.

4. Understand how Google and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) impact your digital marketing

Fully understanding how websites are ranked and tracked by the various search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo etc) is a complicated subject area. With that being said a company doesn’t need a huge budget to improve their SEO. Below is a list of four methods that any person with an intermediate level of web design knowledge could look at to improve their websites Search Engine Optimisation.

  1. Structure: It is vital that your website contains the standard structure of most websites this includes such things as a site map, about us section, contact us section, services page. A great thing about this particular element is that most website design tools such as WordPress have templates that come stock built with the basic structures required for beginning web design. A further improvement could be to look at where your users are landing and to improve those major draws; this can be investigated using a tool such as Google Analytics.
  1. Content: A simple and yet hugely effective method of improving your SEO rankings is through producing high quality content on your website. This could be as simple as producing a high quality blog that utilises excellent industry keyword usage or more advanced methods like unique, branded tags and page descriptions. A great article that talks about the simple ways to improve SEO is provided by Xero the cloud accounting software provider. Click this link to check it out SEO For Small Business.
  1. Keywords: Keywords and how to use them is something that always comes up during any discussion about SEO and often there is too much value assigned to them. It is important to note that using too many keywords can be just as detrimental if not more so than using not enough to your websites ranking and search mapping. Keyword usage should be treated strategically; every page should not be stuffed with keywords that may not even make sense in the context of the page. Keywords should be used correctly, in context and only when it’s appropriate. A great way to use them is to tie them into the meta-tags on pages or include them in the content tags/categories and in image titles.  If you aren’t sure what keywords you should be using tools like Keyword Planner or Google Trends as mentioned earlier could be a great beginning step.
  1. Ease of access: The final short tip is to ensure that your website is accessible through the most common browsers and devices. In particular there has been a recent shift in SEO algorithms to prioritize those websites that have a functional mobile website. This is because recent internet statistics have shown that the mobile web browsing volume is growing at a substantially quicker rate than traditional web browsing.

5. Understand Pay Per Click advertising

Pay Per Click advertising is an excellent tool for targeting specific audiences based off their keyword searches. That being said it can be costly, business owners must very selective on the market that they want to target and how much they want to invest. Below is some useful information regarding Pay Per Click advertising:

  • You are only charged when a customer clicks on your ad and follows through to your website.
  • You can track the source of each click in detail due to a tracking code.
  • You can be very specific on who your ad targets.
  • You can trial a variety of keywords for minimal cost.

One simple but often overlooked complication about Pay Per Click advertising is the fact that while a customer may land on your website the conversion rate of that traffic to sale and therefore profit is dependent upon your website content.

This article is just a small taste and reminder about the basics to digital marketing. For further information regarding this topic it might be worth going back and reading the below articles:

1. Mass Marketing With A Twist: Data-Driven Electronic Direct Mail (eDM) Campaigns

2. 5 Great Ways to Improve your Social Media Presence

Managing Change – Three Ways To Manage Change In Your Business

Any business that is serious about innovation and growth will have to master the ability to manage change because innovation will always lead to change. Before we get into the five points of the article, it’s important to provide a little context regarding change management in business and why it is such a huge area for improvement.

A PwC Report in 2013 from the Katzenbach Center with over 2,200 participants from various levels of business highlighted that the global success rate of major change initiatives is only 54% and 65% of employees feel pressured to adapt to too many changes at once. Already we can see that managing change is a difficult process as just over half succeed and more than half of employees feel pressured by change. Furthermore 48% of respondents stated that their company’s lacked the skills to ensure that change could be sustained. While an astounding 44% of survey participants reported to not understanding the changes they were expected to make. With these seemingly damning results the conclusion from the report was that any change management process should focus on being culturally driven from the top down and should be characterised by open communication and clear purpose.

With this information in mind here are three ways to improve your ability to manage change successfully in your business.

1. Drive Change Through Culture

In the Katzenbach Center report it was outlined that 84% of respondents believed that an organisation’s culture was vital to the success of the managing change. What this points to is that it is vital when aiming to make any long term changes within your business to consider the culture of your organisation and to understand that any significant change will be affected by the culture. With that being said a great way to try to drive change with your culture is by getting your employees excited about the changes by outlining their personal opportunities for development and growth during the process. Nothing motivates people more than showing them the personal benefit in what they are doing.

Another approach that could be used is to create a ‘Cultural Change Board’ to help drive change. This board would be made up of key individuals within your business who hold influential positions and importance to the culture of the company. While the owner or director and managers may be driving the strategic implementation of the change, this board would help get the rest of the employees on board. An example of individuals that might be a part of this group could be an individual who has great personal relationships across the whole business; this individual could be asked to get the others excited about the transformation by talking about its benefits. Another individual might be a long term employee who can add some perspective on how the employees and business are going with the transformation to the executive and managers. Another individual might be a young, innovative manager who is typically known as an ‘ideas’ individual. All three members of your ‘Cultural Change Board’ should liaise with management to convey the opinions and feelings about the process transformation. This technique not only opens up a strong line of communication between the staff and management but also helps to more firmly connect the change to the culture, as other employees will see these influential staff members as willing participants. If you can successfully use your businesses culture to drive the changes you want to implement your chances of success and long term adoption increase significantly.

 2Role Modelling From The Top Down

This step of the change management process seems to be very simple but its value cannot be overestimated. It is imperative that from day one of the transformation process that the desired process changes are integrated into the daily processes of all relevant employees. This goes from the most junior floor staff all the way through to the director or board members.

Role Modelling of the new processes in manager and staff daily routines has a twofold effect. Firstly employees that see their leaders undertaking the process changes will feel inclined to participate themselves. Seeing your manager or director undertaking the proposed changes creates a personal accountability for the changes in each employee. The second effect is that employees that see others undertaking the new changes in their daily routines will have a support network to draw upon. If individuals are unsure of how to execute the process or change they need only look at their neighbour and mimic their execution.

Obviously this point is very self-explanatory but the impact of not holistically carrying out the changes across all levels of the business cannot be overstated. A lack of consistent engagement with the changes will kill the transformation very quickly.

3. Fully Engaging With Change

Engagement with the proposed changes goes beyond simply telling employees to undertake the process changes or modelling them yourself. Engaging with change is a process that is enriched by structured communication. Some businesses when undertaking significant change will hold large ‘Town Hall’ style meetings. At these meetings employees from all levels of the company are invited to discuss how the changes would impact them.

Another method of opening up communication and increasing engagement would be to host IC (Innovation and Change) Meetings where a smaller numbers of employees would meet with their direct managers and discuss how the changes impact them, how they (changes) will help them and talk about how they will go about implementing the changes. These smaller meetings are great opportunities for management to get a feel for how their employees are dealing with the changes and to get a macro view of the transformation process.

A fantastic idea for managing change that was used by a global publishing house was hosting an Internal Change Fair. This fair basically brought together all the various departments and management teams to produce a short presentation or display that highlighted how the changes were being introduced and managed going forward. It provides a great way for individual departments to showcase innovative thinking and for driving change by making it slightly competitive amongst employees.

Change management is vital to any evolving small-medium enterprise; never forget that change starts at the top and that most people struggle with it. The role of the manager is to facilitate the easiest pathway for their employees to adapt.

Email Management: The Key To Workplace Efficiency

Email is one of the great contradictions of the modern workplace. Not only is email one of the largest drivers of productivity but it is also one of its most frequent obstacles. This is because while email is one of the most vital tools for any business owner or employee due to its ability to facilitate immediate communication, this immediacy is often also highly distracting and obstructing for deliverables. The process of managing your emails is a repetitive task that almost all workers must undertake to carry out their duties effectively. With that being said it is a thin line between obsessively controlling your email and being controlled by your email. To help people with this admittedly difficult task we have included in this article some tips for managing your email more effectively.

Control Your Email – Don’t Be Controlled

Some people will obsessively check their email to action, archive, prioritise and reply to any new email they receive. While others will wait until their inbox piles up with a sufficient number of unanswered emails that it motivates them to action them all by close of business or end of the week. While not everyone falls into one of these two management styles both are equally damaging to productivity and workplace efficiency. Constantly checking email can disrupt your train of thought or ‘work-flow’ thus impacting deliverables, while not checking or actioning your email can delay deliverables and cause communication issues.

Below are four excellent ways to ensure that you are controlling your email and not the other way around:

1) Restrict when and how many times you check your email during the course of a day. For example checking and actioning your email three times a day (Morning, Lunch and Afternoon) can help boost productivity by preventing distraction.

2) Establish email filters that automatically sort and categorise your received mail by the level of priority to prevent wasting time individually organising and sorting your new emails.

3) Restrict your email software from notifying you with audio tracks or visual prompts to further reduce the chance of being distracted from your working rhythm.

4) Create an automatic reply which informs people when you will be actively checking and actioning your emails.

Creating A Prioritising System

While most people will attempt to prioritise and action emails relatively quickly many people can’t or don’t. With that in mind, it is important to consider how much time you spend actioning emails each day as it can detract from delivering and as the old business adage goes  “time is money!”. This is why it is vital to master the ability to prioritise. There are dozens of ways to make email prioritisation more effective but we will discuss a few of them by using a brief hypothetical example.

Scenario

Contact: “Dave – Telstra – IT Support” Dave sends me more than a dozen emails a week and sometimes quite a few per day. His emails vary from those that can be actioned within a minute (simple requests) or more complicated projects and issues that may require a week or more of work. Dave manages a large team of staff who also liaise with me and as such I am often cc’d into many emails simply so I am informed.

Example Priority System

With Dave and the example in mind I have created a priority system whereby various levels of emails and requests are filed, categorised and scheduled. For example “Urgent” requests or those needing to be completed within a day or two are always filed within my “Urgent” folder or label, less significant emails to be actioned within a week or two are filed into the “Pending” folder or label. If an action or email is “On Hold” then I refile it into my “On Hold” folder or label. These folder or label structures are systematic and are applied to all my clients and contacts…always with no exceptions.

Consistently applying priority divisions using folders or labels can be a great first step towards controlling your email priorities.  Another useful organisational folder or label to use is “To Read”. Any emails where you are a cc or bcc receiver could be filed into the “To Read” folder. The best method to do this is not to waste time reading the whole email as your receive it but instead skim over it to determine if it is an urgent or actionable email and then file them to fully read later. In order for this simple folder or label system to work it is important to have a means to keep track of tasks and actionable deadlines within your email.

A great way to keep track of your emails is by utilising the built-in calendars most email services provide. Both Google and Outlook, in particular, have excellent calendars with a high level of functionality for setting reminders, colour coding, flagging etc. Being able to set reminders at later dates for specific emails can be great for time management and preventing yourself from being bogged down in your new emails. For example entering “To Read – Dave – Data Error 2/2/016” into a calendar tells you firstly who it is from (Folder – Dave), what it is roughly about and the date it was received. The date on your calendar is the date you need to action that email. While setting the reminders will take a small amount of time it is worth it for the organisational gains.

A more advanced method of email prioritisation could also be by creating email filters that automatically move and label emails as soon as you receive them. Almost every email service provider offers this functionality. An example of this might be that Dave sends me a daily email with the subject line “Report – Successful Data Connections”. This report requires no actions normally but is more for reference on an ad hoc basis as needed. To control this email I establish a filter within my Gmail to archive those reports automatically to the “Data Connections Report” folder or label. This means I have one less email in my inbox but it stores them effectively for use later if needed. There are many tutorials available online for creating filters but I have included links to two of the most popular services Gmail and Outlook.
Gmail: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6579?hl=en

Outlook:https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Manage-email-messages-by-using-rules-50307363-0e79-4f6a-95c0-04b922a2ff13

It is important to remember that you have to find a system that makes sense to you and works for your purposes. Any priority system will be unique to each user but the most important things to remember are consistency, organising folders or labels and where you can automated reply’s and filters.

Fostering Positive Email Behaviours

One often underrated element of training and documentation in businesses is Email protocols. Establishing email protocols and standards of communication across your business can be very effective at limiting your internal email bloat. This could be as simple as formalising communication paths such as;

Emails to upper management from staff must run through their manager who then forward or action them to upper management
(Staff – Manager – Upper Management). Having this formalised within a memo or as part of a wider reaching training session would be helpful.

Another simple protocol that could be put in place is establishing a live chat application within your business such as WhatsApp or Skype. Often an email request that requires a very short response (less than 2 minutes) could be completed by a short, one line instant message that takes half the time to notice and reply to. Providing a means for employees to communicate without calling or physically communicating (interrupting another person) can be extremely beneficial to reducing email management demands.

In summary, email management is a vital component of any business or workplace. Business and workers that learn to more efficiently manage their email will see an improvement in their overall work productivity.

Daring To Dash…Business Intelligence Dashboards

This article will discuss what a business intelligence dashboard is, some of its benefits for small business owners and some of the difficulties dashboards face for large scale adoption among small to medium enterprises.

What is a business intelligence dashboard?

A business intelligence dashboard at its most basic is a piece of software that displays important information about your business in real time. A dashboard system automatically processes data from your business’s major systems (e.g. point of sales systems, customer relationship management software, accounting software, staff rostering software etc) and presents that data securely to you in a visual format in real time.

On business intelligence dashboards the metrics that may be displayed can vary greatly from business to business as it depends on the owners/managements needs and the available outputs from their internal systems (Where the dashboard gets all its data from). Some metrics that may be displayed might be sales (daily/weekly/monthly comparisons), number of sales (by department or store and or comparisons), revenue, net profit, gross profit, costs, transactions per staff or countless others.

Below you can find a generic example of what a business intelligence dashboard may look:

Demo Dashboard

 

What are the benefits of having a business intelligence dashboard?

A professionally constructed and implemented dashboard can be a very powerful tool for owners and management to monitor and improve their businesses. Just three of the major benefits of operating a business intelligence dashboard are:

1) Information Accessibility: A dashboard consolidates a large proportion of meaningful data that businesses produce. A dashboard makes the collection and aggregation of the data easy often displaying multiple systems worth of data in one to two pages using graphs and tables. The process of analysing data which may have taken days or weeks to gather and analyse before can be done in real time, as often as business operators would like from either their computer or mobile devices via the internet.

2) Business Improvement: A dashboard makes business improvement and strategic planning easy as it places all the information managers need right on their computer monitor or mobile phone. A dashboard provides all the analytic and comparative data needed to improve and review business practices. Without data a business can’t improve itself, a dashboard supplies the data needed in an easily accessed and reviewed manner.

3) Reduced Administration Time: A dashboard reduces the need for staff or managers to store, aggregate and analyse data that the business generates. Gone are the days of generating countless reports or creating complicated Excel analysis matrixes. The dashboard automatically processes the data directly from business systems and presents it in a ready to use format.

These are only some of the many benefits of a sophisticated business intelligence dashboard; other tangible benefits may include: Modernisation of record keeping systems, employee performance improvement, visual goal tracking, comparative analysis, data that is mentally easier to process.

What are some difficulties with implementing a dashboard?

There are always difficulties when implementing a new technology into a business, the two major difficulties for business intelligence dashboards are the selection of the dashboard’s metrics and of course the construction of the dashboard.

1) Metrics Selection: A dashboard being an informational tool is only as effective as the information it is told to display. What this means is that business owners and developers have to be thoughtful and informed about what are the “key” business metrics for your business and also what are the underlying metrics for those key data sets. For example, if a key metric for your travel agency is sales then important underlying metrics that might need to be displayed could be number of leads produced/used, quotes/invoices sent, uptake rate of quotes, sale closure rate and or average transaction value. What data your dashboard displays will vary greatly depending on your business industry and needs so it is something that should be thought about in detail prior to contracting a developer.

2) Dashboard Design: Building a dashboard is a sophisticated and detailed process which requires expert knowledge and superb technical skills. This is because a dashboard needs to not only gather all your important information automatically but also analyse and display it in real time. Luckily for business owners and managers there are some very capable business intelligence companies out there such as Resurg which can cater for their dashboard needs. If you are interested in possibly discussing or implementing a dashboard for your business check out our dashboard page and give us a call or email us.