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2013’s 15 best-read stories: Marissa Mayer’s funeral home, Elon Musk’s apology…

End of 2013 year

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If I were to guess, I’d say a lot of readers were looking for new jobs in 2013: Many of our most-read stories of the year had to do with perks packages, best-paying gigs, and where to find the region’s happiest employees.

The stories you also read the most: Anything about impactful, top CEOs (Yahoo exec Marissa Mayer and Tesla head Elon Musk were two of your favorites), and the fresh-faced up-and-comers you wanted to add to your Roledex.

Below, see the top 15 stories of the year, ranked by your clicks.

1. Our readers’ No. 1 pick this year was a look at Silicon Valley’s most successful women of 2013 – the leaders of giant tech firms, savvy entrepreneurs, top lawyers and execs in healthcare and education.Meet Silicon Valley’s most influential women here. (Note: This is an annual special, and if you have great candidates for next year, let us know.)

2. This story highlighted the companies everyone wants to work at – the ones with ridiculous perks and inspirational leaders. Read “Silicon Valley’s 7 happiest companies (and what employees secretly say about them).”

3. Harvard prof Clayton Christensen wrote the book on tech disruption. Here he explains the real threats to Apple, Tesla, VCs and academia: “Disruption guru Christensen: Why Apple, Tesla, VCs, academia may die.”

4-5: Speaking of perks, Facebook and Google have a lot of them (an in-house ergonomics team anyone?). An inside look at the everyday perks at these two companies took the No. 4 and 5 spots. Read “Facebook’s 12 most fantastic employee perks” and “Google’s 10 best perks: Cars, sleep pods — you name it”.

6. Our readers love executive news, especially when it’s unexpected. Like when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer bought a funeral home for a big chunk of change: “Marissa Mayer buys funeral home, report says. Price? $11.2 million.”

7. Despite Silicon Valley’s skyrocketing rental rates and crazy awful commutes, the region has some amazing perks the rest of the world doesn’t. Read all about them here: “The 10 employee perks Silicon Valley gets that America doesn’t.”

8. Hollywood has its star couples, Silicon Valley has its own power pairs. Take a look at who they are: “Meet Silicon Valley’s power couples.”

9. While many Silicon Valley employees enjoy crazy perks like free food or bikes, that doesn’t always mean they love their jobs. Our readers wanted to hear what companies are really the best places to work. Here employees ranked their companies, and we gave you the cream: “Bay Area’s Best Places to Work — See who topped the list.”

10. Remember No. 7? Well, the reverse can be said – there’s several perks America gets that Silicon Valley doesn’t: “9 perks the average American gets that Silicon Valley doesn’t.”

11. Getting a job at a top tech company in Silicon Valley is no easy task — especially at these companies. Learn who the toughest interviews in the Valley are: “Google, Facebook among toughest interviews — their questions revealed.”

12. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had a phenomenal year, from paying back his $535 million federal loan to presenting his Hyperloop transportation plan. But the charismatic CEO isn’t infallible: “Elon Musk admits Tesla’s math was wrong.”

13. Kids, plan early if you want to be a success in the Golden State. Here are the majors that can help you land the best jobs (and the majors you should avoid at all cost): “The 5 best and worst college majors to land a job in CA.”

14. Some of these eye-popping paychecks will make you want to head back to school and get those degrees from No. 13: “Silicon Valley’s 25 highest-paid CEOs — see who made the list.”

15. We found Silicon Valley’s young phenoms and gave you an inside view on how their brains work. (Note: Also an annual special, so feel free to nominate names for the next class.) “40 Under 40: All the winners revealed.”

Shana Lynch is Managing Editor at the Business Journal. Her phone number is 408.299.1831

 

 

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Is Your Work At Home Policy Spurring Jealousy?

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Do you let your employees work from home at least some of the time? That’s great. Dozens of studies have shown that the ability to work remotely is one of the biggest perks employees of all ages desire. But is your work at home policy inciting jealousy and resentment in the ranks?

That’s not so great. But chances are, according to a recent survey by Kona, that’s what’s happening.

Seven in 10 workers in the Kona survey say they would rather telecommute than work in the office. Among those between the ages of 35 and 44, the number is even higher at 81 percent.

But the majority of employees (57 percent) in offices that allow remote work say the policy spurs jealousy among those who don’t get to work at home.

How can you make sure working at home makes your employees more productive, not more resentful?

Your Work at Home Policy

Set a Work At Home Policy

You should write a work at home policy as part of your employee manual. Every employee should read and acknowledge it.

The work at home policy should cover issues such as hours to be worked per day or week, how the person will protect the business’s confidential information, liability issues, what equipment will be provided and how the employee will be monitored when working at home.

Be Sure Your Policy Can’t be Construed as Discriminatory

Clearly, not all jobs can be done at home. For instance, your accounting clerk might be able to work from home, while your retail sales clerk can’t. What’s important is that you treat all employees in the same job classification or with the same duties the same when it comes to working at home.

If you let one accounting clerk work from home because she has children and don’t allow a childless accounting clerk to do the same, you could be at risk of a lawsuit. And you’re likely causing gossip and resentment.

The only reason to treat employees in the same job differently is if one has a legitimate reason for needing to work at home that is not discriminatory. For instance, if one worker has a disability that requires working from home. As you can see, this area can be tricky, so it’s best to consult an attorney to review your work at home policy.

Communicate Clearly

Communication is key for businesses with virtual workers. When employees who work in the office feel they can never reach the work at home staff, or don’t understand why certain people are working at home, resentment grows.

Everyone on your team should know the expectations for work at home employees, including what hours they are supposed to be available, multiple ways to reach them (email, phone, IM, etc.) and what tasks they are working on.

Emphasize to work at home employees the importance of keeping a high profile so others on the team see that they’re working.

Monitor Work At Home Employees

There are many ways to do this, from having them check in with status reports every few hours to using time-tracking software like Toggl to using software that monitorswhat they’re doing on their computers.

Assess Results

Resentment occurs when employees feel that others are taking advantage of your work at home policy. To ensure employees aren’t abusing the privilege of working at home, it’s crucial to regularly review their productivity, progress and results. This can be done differently depending on the job and the person, but you might want to set daily or weekly goals or quotas.

Check in with remote employees quarterly or even monthly to make sure that everything is still working out. Remind workers that telecommuting is a privilege that must be earned, not a right, and you’ll get better results.

Reserve the Right to End the Work At Home Policy

Speaking of privileges, your work at home policy should state that you have the right to forbid telecommuting at any time. Otherwise, you may find yourself in legal hot water if you want to pull a Marissa Mayer (or Tony Hsieh) and have everyone work in the office.

Address Jealousy Openly

Despite your best efforts, it’s inevitable that people will get jealous—they’re only human.

When these issues arise don’t push them aside. Be alert for resentments that are brewing. Address these issues with the person who’s expressing jealousy. You may find the root cause is something completely different than someone else working at home – and that you can nip it in the bud to create a much happier employee.

Jealous Photo via Shutterstock

 

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How To Make Your Company One Of The Best Places To Work

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Without a doubt, for a business to stay successful for the long run, it must have quality employees who work hard. When a company does not strive to keep the best employees, the business will in time, fail. Now, many businesses, in a bid to save money, do not heed this advice and the company suffers tremendously. Fortunately, when following these five tips, a company can make their organization one of the best places in their industry to work.

Open door policy with management: Now, in many large, old, companies, one cannot directly approach upper management without going through a lot of hoops. This can be detrimental to the relationship between people in the business and make people hate coming to work. To encourage the sharing of ideas and plans, a company must foster an open door policy for all employees. With this strategy, workers will love coming to the office, and the company can increase profitability by sharing and coming up with new strategies and ideas for the business.

Training and education: When most people land a job, they do not expect to stay at the same place for four decades. In the past this was the case, but now, people like to move across the country and even across the globe to find new work. Retaining top employees is a big concern for businesses and one way to do it is to offer plenty of resources for training. When employees can learn new skills and obtain more education, they will enjoy their work environment and likely stay longer. Furthermore, when an employee receives more education, he or she will be a valuable asset to the company. In fact, when landing a job after college, many do not care about their salary as much as they do about their future schooling opportunities.

Work remotely: Being able to work remotely can be a great perk for many employees. Now, when allowing workers to complete tasks from home or other locations, a company must set some rules. However, when one follows all the rules, the company can improve relations with the worker and get the same finished product. Remember, there are plenty of people who want to spend more time with their families or work from home some days so they can skip the commute. When managed well, an employee will work just as hard and will love their job, although Yahoo and Best Buy might disagree.

Benefits: When looking at job opportunities, many realize how important it is to have solid benefits more than having a high salary. When a company offers a nice 401k and plenty of sick and vacation days, they will likely come to work with energy and feeling happy. Furthermore, a smart and savvy entrepreneur should provide full health benefits to all employees as they will appreciate the gesture and will not head to another company to obtain healthcare. Remember, with solid benefits, a worker may be willing to accept a much lower wage when he or she loves the company they work with.

Promoting Within: When an organization passes up on current staff members and looks for outsiders to fill positions, the employees are likely to get upset and may head to the competition. For this reason, a smart company should always try to promote talent from within. By holding an internal job fair or having a job board, the company can keep talent and fill positions that would otherwise be difficult to fill. With this method of promotion, the company will save a lot of time and money and will get more out of their current employees who want to work hard and rise to the top.

When taking the time to hire the right employees, a business will succeed. Without a doubt, when looking at the top companies in the United States and around the world, one will notice that they all hire and retain the top talent in their fields. Remember, a company is only as good is its employees.

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Alexander J. is a writer who loves doing research on a wide variety of topics, such as business, finance and technology. Writing keeps his mind sharp and allows him to continue learning new things every day.

 

 

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Getting Respect Working From Home

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How often have you been working at your home office, when your brother calls you wanting to chat, or a friendly neighbour comes over to ask you for some help? You’re working at home, but everyone seems to think that your work involves sitting around the home doing nothing all day but answer some emails or occasionally talking on the phone.

What can you do to stop these distractions so you can work, and even get some respect for your home business?

Set a Schedule at Home

If you have regular working hours, you can post them on your office door, inform your family and friends, and if anyone comes over to chat during your scheduled work time, you can politely ask them to leave. This schedule will help people realize you are working, and make your business look more professional.

Even better having these regular working hours will help you be more productive if used properly. By focusing on your work at a regular time everyday, you train your mind and body to go into working mode. If you you plan your work hours when you have the most energy, it’s even better.

Remember that this doesn’t have to be a 9-5 work schedule, play around with it at first to find out what hours are best for you, and then stick to it.

Dress for Success

Since the inevitable stereotype of working from home is a person working in his or her pyjamas, try to break the image by wearing comfortable business casual clothes.

You want to be comfortable while you work, but wearing clothes that are too casual, will make you appear less serious, and can make you feel a bit too relaxed to work at your peak efficiency. By wearing business casual, you keep the comfort, but if a neighbour, client, or family member drops by they’ll see that you are treating your work professionally and it gives you an advantage. If they see you wearing old jeans and a sweatshirt or worse actual pyjamas, it will be very hard to convince them that you are working.

Learn to Say No

Sometimes people don’t take a hint, you can tell them that you’re working, print up a super-sized schedule for your door, explain that you’re about to talk to an important client, but they still want to talk.
In this case, you have to firmly tell them that you do not have time to talk, go out for coffee or even let them in your front door. Try to be polite but firm when you do so, don’t tell them you don’t want to talk, simply say you are working but can talk to them when you are done. Give them your schedule and explain that between certain hours you are unavailable, but you’d be happy to talk after work.

Your at home business is important, and people need to realize that working from home actually involves working. So treat your job like a regular job and insist others follow suit, even if they disagree with you.

Dan Clarke is a business coach, specializing in helping people who work at home expand their business, solve problems and find a great work/life balance. Find out more about him at his website, Be Happy Working at Home.

 

 

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Workplace Flexibility: An Interesting HR Concept

business_meeting_2The world around us has changed so much that some of the things we see nowadays are things we would never have imagined. Workplace flexibility is a concept which if well nurtured will transform the world of human resource.

The whole idea behind the concept is to have some elasticity when it comes to when, where and how work is done. It affords the employee convenience to work at times when they are comfortable and from places where they feel comfortable. At the end of the day, tasks are completed and work is still done. A few HR personnel argue that work is done more efficiently because people work in a more relaxed environment.

What is Workplace flexibility?

It is basically an arrangement between an employee and employer where they agree to have some elasticity in terms of how, when and where work is done, provided that the objectives of the company are met. It should afford the employees some convenience, but at the end of the day they have to do all that is required of them, so as to meet all their obligations to the employer.

Possible ways in which the flexibility comes in

1.      How work is done

There are a number of options here. For example, when it comes to hourly jobs, the employer and the employee can agree to use a monthly or annual hours instead of the traditional weekly hours. This way an employee can take a 3 month holiday provided he gives the employer high quality hours as agreed. People are also at liberty to share one job, depending on the arrangement. One can work from Monday to Wednesday while the other works for the rest of the week.

2.      Where people work

The conventional style of working involves people waking up every day to go to work. Workplace flexibility allows employees to work remotely or from home. How it is effected is highly variable, but there should be an agreement on how many days an employee works at home, as well as how regularly it should be done. Working remotely allows the employee to work in a client’s workplace or from an office that is not his or her main workplace.

3.      When people work

Here, the human resource manager and the employee agree on the time when work is done. For example, if the employee has to work for 8 hours a day, then they could agree that the employee starts his day whenever he is comfortable as long as he is loyal to the dedicated hours. Thus an employee can come to work at 6:00 am and leave at 2:00 pm. He can come to work at 8:00 am and leave at 5:00 pm. Other forms of flexibility on when to work include part time working, part year and variable year employment arrangements. To further illustrate this, workers can put in more hours during peak seasons and less hours during off-peak seasons when there is less work. The amount of leave days can also be altered so as to suit the needs of employees.

Are there pitfalls?

For the arrangement to work, the employee must be very loyal so as to honor the arrangement. It therefore means it might be risky to have such an arrangement with an employee who you have not worked with before. Some employees will fail to honor their part of the bargain, which slows you down.

Sometimes, you need to have an employee around, who you can call upon to tackle emergency situations. This arrangement might not work in this aspect, more so because the employees might be away from the workplace at a time when you need them.

It is quite difficult to promote teamwork with this kind of understanding. Employers’ give up their control over employees, which makes it very difficult to assign an employee tasks which require him or her to work directly with others. Some online software however overcomes this problem by allowing people to interact and have conferences through these platforms.

All in all, it is a good concept. As long as both the employee and the employer agree on how to go about it, is something that should be embraced by human resource departments.

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  •  License: Image author owned

Sarah Filer has teamed up with Breathe HR to offer HR advice, Sarah has been in the HR industry for 3 years and Breathe HR is a cloud based HR management system.

 

 

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Why Your Business Website Needs SEO

The internet is an integral part of any business that has embraced the use of various online platforms to market its products and services. Websites are essential tools for all business organizations. The benefits a website on the development of a business cannot be understated. It is one of the most effective ways to attract the attention of an international audience who may actually be potential clients and customers. Perhaps, websites could not have the ability to execute their functions quite efficiently in the absence of search engines. Undoubtedly, search engines rank the websites according to their popularity or page views per day. It is from this factor that websites are required to be optimized well in order to boost its rankings in the leading search engines. This article explains why your business website needs SEO.

Increased Visibility:

A business needs to have as many clients as possible to enhance its profitability. As much as the physical location of a business is vital, developing an online presence is equally critical. The internet revolution has swept many and as a result, more people are developing a liking towards making online transactions. With such untapped potential of the online fortunes, websites are evidently useful in bridging the gap between the business and the online potential. Unfortunately, there are literally thousands of businesses already with an established online presence. This therefore, necessitates that a highly optimized website is required to compete amongst the thousands that are already online. By doing this, search engines will easily capture it in their first page. A first page ranking in a giant search engine like Google certainly translates into increased visibility, thereby giving your business the potential to be accessed by millions of people from all over the world.

Increased Sales:

If your business depends on its website entirely to make its sales, then this is another reason why your business website needs SEO. In fact, increased visibility of the website is closely related to increased sales. This is because a high number of views increase the sales per view that your website will be making. The impacts of increased sales are well known; your business will be bursting with profits and with enough ambition, you will be able to expand it into a larger one and even develop more websites.

Good Business Reputation:

The main search engine players like Google, Yahoo and Msn have a tendency to give priority to the websites of businesses with a good reputation. In essence, a reputable online presence enhances the confidence people will have in dealing with your business organization through its well optimized website.

There are quite a number of reasons why your business website needs SEO apart from the ones discussed above like the ability to load pages faster, easy navigability by the engines and usability among others. However, developing well optimized websites is not an easy task. It is essential to hire an expert in web SEO to develop and manage your websites, besides feeding it with quality, optimized content.

John is a well experienced web designer and a writer on this site www.make-a-web-site.com.

 

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Five Tips to Help You Run Your Business from Home

If you’re a parent or live an otherwise busy lifestyle, working from home can make everything easier. Running your own business is never easy, but when you work from home, you’re able to make your own schedule, be available when your kids need you, and more – not to mention that this flexibility means you’ll have more time to spend with your family or doing hobbies since you won’t have a commute. Interested in taking the plunge and running a business from home? Here are five tips to help you get started:

Tip #1: Choose your business carefully.

There are a lot of scams out there that advertise specifically to stay-at-home mothers (and fathers). They take advantage of your wish to work from home, but unfortunately, you’ll never make any money with these scams and it is likely that you’ll even lose money. Common scams include data entry where you have to purchase a list, blogging where you’re paid per view rather than a base salary or per-post salary, and anything that requires you send a check or money order. You should never have to pay to work! Instead, look for legitimate opportunities that play to your strengths. This can include party-based sales (like Tupperware), freelance writing (where you’re paid per word or per project), taking surveys (make sure you research the company before signing up), and online community management or social media jobs.

Tip #2: Set up a no distraction zone.

Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can stop everything and referee a fight between the kids or make your spouse a snack. Set up a zone in your house, like a home office, where you can do your work – and while you’re in this area, your family is not allowed to disturb you, unless someone is on fire of course.

Tip #3: Professional communication is key.

Working from home might have some potential clients raising an eyebrow. Make sure your communications are professional. Get a business line if you can afford one or at least make sure your voicemail message is professional. Put up a website where people can see your services. Use an email address from either gmail or your own domain, rather than Hotmail, Yahoo, or another service. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to communicate seriously.

Tip #4: Learn how to say no.

When you work from home, everyone will automatically assume that you can do things for them. Relatives and friends will ask for favors like dog sitting or picking up their kids all the time. They won’t know that they’re annoying you and hurting your business unless you tell them, so don’t be a doormat. Most people are mortified to learn they’ve been inconveniencing you. They just equate being home with having free time. If there is an emergency like a sitter that cancels at the last minute or a neighbor who’s car needs a jump, the great thing about working from home is that you can help out a friend. But in non-emergency situations, learn to say no.

Tip #5: Prepare for business expenses and taxes.

Just because you’re running your business out of your home doesn’t mean that you won’t have business expenses just like any other business. Make sure you budget for these costs, which could include business insurance, travel, office supplies, banking fees, and more. You may also have to pay for childcare some days when you have important projects to get done and your spouse is at work. Also, don’t forget to budget for your taxes! They won’t be automatically taken out of your paycheck like at a normal job, so you’ll owe a lump sum every quarter.

Allison works with BusinessInsurance.org, where you can go to find cheap business insurance if you need a plan for your work-at-home business.

 

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