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CEO: Hiring Deaf Workers Helped Grow Our Company

There are myriad benefits to companies that hire disabled people, from gaining excellent problem-solvers with above-average attendance and productivity records, to earning federal tax credits.

“Unfortunately, too many companies worry that the benefits will be offset by the costs to accommodate those employees – not true, by the way,” says Sean Belanger, CEO of  CSDVRS, the parent company of Stratus Video (www.stratusvideo.com), which provides On-Demand Interpreting to hospitals, and ZVRS video phone service for the deaf.

While unemployment is just more than 7 percent nationally, it was 13.5 percent as of September for disabled workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“At Stratus Video, 68 percent of our employees who don’t work as interpreters are deaf or hard of hearing,” Belanger says. “All of our 250-plus contractors across the country are deaf, and three of our eight company vice presidents are deaf. We’ve grown to more than $50 million in revenue and we were recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of top Tampa-metro area businesses. Thanks in large part to our diverse workforce!”

Integrating Stratus Video’s hearing and non-hearing employees involved facilitating communication, which wasn’t difficult, Belanger concedes, given that’s the company’s specialty:

 In-house trainers teach the hearing employees American Sign Language.

 Each employee has access to a video phone and video software so all can communicate both visually and vocally.

 The company’s Human Resources department found coverage for hearing aids and cochlear implants, not covered by insurance, to ease communication for hard-of-hearing employees.

Benefits to the company have been numerous, Belanger says. His deaf employees are committed, engaged and come up with solutions to problems based on insights unique to their experience. A U.S. Department of Education study supports that assessment. It found that disabled employees in general are average or above average in performance, quality and quantity of work, flexibility and attendance.

“If that’s not enough, companies that hire disabled people can also qualify for federal tax benefits,” Belanger adds.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disabled person is defined for work purposes as someone who is deaf or has serious difficulty hearing; blind or has serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses; has serious difficulty concentrating, making decisions or doing errands alone because of a physical or mental condition; serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs; or difficulty dressing.

Among the tax incentives are the Work Opportunity Credit; the Disabled Access Credit; and the Architectural Barrier Removal Credit. In addition, the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit offers incentives for hiring vets with service-connected disabilities. You can find out how much your company may qualify by using the Hire Gauge, a free tool at ThinkBeyondtheLabel.com.

Belanger suggests thinking creatively when recruiting disabled employees. His company recruits from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Technical Institute for the Deaf and Gallaudet University for the Deaf. They also hire four deaf interns every summer.

Belanger was recently named CEO of the Year by the National Association of the Deaf.

About Sean Belanger

Sean Belanger is chief executive officer of Clearwater, Fla.-based CSDVRS, an Inc. 5000 company and parent company of Stratus Video, of which he is also CEO. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he has 30 years’ experience in the technology industry. He previously served as CEO of the Paradyne Networks and general manager of 3Coms’network service provider division.

 

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Great Communicators Get the Health-Care Jobs, Promotions, Experts Say

2 Specialists Share Tips for Getting Your Message Across

There’s a bright spot in the U.S. employment picture: the health-care industry.

Health-care employers added 17,000 jobs in November, and they’ve been adding an average 27,000 jobs a month since December 2010, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

That’s the good news. The bad news is nearly 10,000 health-care workers have lost jobs since August; there were 136 mass layoffs in that time period.

“Finding work in health-care is definitely getting easier, but the stiff competition means you’ll need more than credentials to land those jobs,” says Stephanie Roberson Barnard, a communications consultant who specializes in training medical professionals to speak and write clearly and effectively.

“Check any online job-hunting Web site for science, technical, pharmaceutical, biotech and medical jobs and you’ll find one common requirement: ‘excellent communication skills,’” she and co-author Deborah St. James write in their new book, Listen. Write. Present: The Elements for Communicating Science and Technology (Yale University Press; 2012), www.ListenWritePresent.com.

Unfortunately, the science-rich education required for health-care professionals leaves little room for learning how to craft a message for a particular audience, be it an email or a PowerPoint presentation. And that’s essential not only for getting jobs, but for keeping them and winning promotions, Barnard says.

She and St. James, deputy director of publications and communications for a North Carolina biotech company, offer these tips for getting your message across:

• Plan: Take time to get to know your clients, colleagues and co-workers. Establish rapport and cultivate a collaborative relationship by finding out about others’ interests (check out the pictures in their offices for clues) and inquiring about them. If you have never been to their offices, look them up on Google or their company’s Web site. Always keep your personal conversations light and professional.

• Listen: Smile, nod, and acknowledge the speaker – and mean it. Really focus on what the person is saying and not just on the words. Truly effective communication requires your full attention. It’s better to spend a few minutes concentrating on the other person’s message during a conversation than wasting time trying to remember what he or she said because you were trying to do something else. It’s okay to write or type notes as long as you ask permission first.

• Present: Practice. Practice. Practice. Need we say more? Of all the tips we offer, practicing is perhaps the most important one. People in our audiences often suggest that it’s possible to over practice. They claim that too much practicing makes a talk appear staged. We have found that the “stiff” presenters are the ones who haven’t practiced. They’re so busy trying to remember what they’re going to say, they can’t tune into the audience or deviate from their slides. In contrast, the speakers who have mastered their content seem to glide about the room, exuding just the right amount of enthusiasm.

• Meet: Respect people’s time by presenting materials simply. The biggest complaint people have about meetings is that they last too long. For this reason, presenting your ideas in a simple, concise fashion will give you the advantage of appearing focused and prepared. Remember, never compromise content for simplicity.

• Serve: Be kind to others. It costs nothing and requires no skill. Your kind words, good deed, or thoughtful gift may even launch a cascade of positive gestures among others. A recent study by researchers from the University of California San Diego and Harvard University suggests that cooperative behavior spreads among people. This ripple effect can have a wonderful positive impact on the corporate culture of your organization.

“Good leaders must learn to communicate not only within their field of expertise but also to reach people outside their field of authority, influence and passion,” Barnard says. “With proper training and practice anyone can become a better communicator.”

About Stephanie Roberson Barnard

Stephanie Roberson Barnard has trained thousands of pharmaceutical industry professionals on how to be more effective speakers, writers and communicators. She has also coached hundreds of health-care professionals on presentation skills for FDA hearings, CFO reports and scientific speaker programs, as well as national and international congresses. Her clients include AstraZeneca, Bayer Corporation, WL Gore, and Boehringer Ingelheim. This is her second Yale Press book collaboration with Deborah St. James.

About Deborah St. James

Deborah St. James is Deputy Director of Publications and Scientific Communications at Grifols. She has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry for more than 20 years. Prior to her current position, she was Bayer Corporation’s senior manager for national sales training in the pharmaceutical division. She is a former college English instructor and Senior Editor of Better Health magazine.

 

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11 Highest Paying Jobs

A quick glance at the highest paying jobs in the United States proves that this country values its health care, technology and public administration jobs the most. Surgeons and other health professionals top the list, which also contains specialists in software and networking. Engineers and academic deans also do well.

1. Anesthesiologist

With a median salary of $290,000 and a top end salary of $393,000 per year, anesthesiologists easily top the list when it comes to salaries. They receive high compensation for the hours they spend making sure that patients sleep comfortably and safely through all different kinds of surgeries.

2. General Surgeon

The surgeon performing the actual operation earns high pay as well. The median salary for a general surgeon is $260,000, while top surgeons can bring in as much as $412,000 per year. The job requires years of training, but the payoff can be worth it in the end.

3. Obstetrician/Gynecologist

These physicians work long and varied shifts based on the whims of unborn babies. They have to carry high malpractice insurance because of the unpredictable nature of their work. The median salary for an obstetrician is in the $210,000 range.

4. Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists have a higher earning potential because of their years of medical training. The median salary hovers near the $185,000 mark. Psychiatrists have the ability to prescribe medication for mental illness, which sets them apart from other mental health professionals.

5. Academic Dean

Deans make about $150,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are the educational administrators of colleges and universities, providing the school’s vision and direction. The dean represents all that the school wishes to project to students and the public.

6. Product Management Director

These technology specialists are behind many of the technological advances we use on a daily basis. With a median salary near $148,000, they can afford to spend their days helping to drive the invention of new gadgets for companies around the globe.

7. Software Engineer

Software engineers help create the programs that make it possible for people to use computers effectively. They are extremely vital to our current computer-driven business world, and their median salary of around $144,000 proves it.

8. Dentist

Keeping a nice, healthy smile is an important part of overall good health. Dentists can expect to earn a median salary of $142,000 per year, with top end jobs paying as much as $237,000.

9. Airline Pilot

We trust airline pilots to deliver us, our friends, and our families to the air and back to the ground safely day in and day out. The expertise and high stress involved in flying an airplane for a living is tempered by the nice paycheck, which is usually around $134,000 per year.

10. Actuary

Actuaries receive high pay because they are responsible for weighing each financial decision made by a business. Their expertise allows them to bring home a median salary of $133,000 per year, with top positions paying as much as $222,000.

10. Electrical Engineers

We need electrical engineers and electronics specialists to make sure that we always have the least expensive power available at all times. Engineers are constantly working to make power development and consumption more efficient. For their efforts and for the years of necessary training, these specialists can expect to earn around $112,000 per year.

Jessica Bosari writes about careers for Education-Colleges.com, a site offering tips and information for those considering careers in education and looking for education colleges.

 

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