Is Your Company’s Network Management Sound?

Young Business Executive Using LaptopTechnology is changing rapidly.

Is your business’s network management staying on pace with those changes or falling behind?

The antiquated main IT focus on hardware setup and troubleshooting has morphed to include tasks related to cloud services and more.

Since sound network management is directly linked to effective internal communications and business success, here’s how to ensure yours is staged for success now and in the future:

Consider Information Security

Your top concern regarding the rapidly changing technological landscape must be the security of your company’s information.

Hackers are a dime-a-dozen and information can be compromised on many fronts.

Work with your network management team to pinpoint holes in information security and take rapid action on any concerns that are voiced by the team.

Assess Company Technology Policies

Whether on a work computer, a personal smartphone or another device, employees can now access thousands of apps and software programs with ease.

This shift in available technology has softened the edges of once-strict company technology policies.

Workers who once feared the wrath of their IT department after downloading software without permission now don’t see the problem of installing an app for the transfer of company photography or of using an online spreadsheet program for the input of company data.

Before the use of such software at your company gets out of hand and possibly compromises the business’s security, take a hard look at your technology policy.

Assess whether the policy addresses the latest evolution in smartphone apps and other technologies and work with your network management team to revise the policy as needed.

Look to the Future Workspace

Employees who sit at desks in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day are quickly becoming the exception rather than the norm.

Flex and telecommuting policies are changing the way people work.

This workspace revolution is also changing the standards tasks that are associated with network management.

Just a few of the issues to consider regarding your company’s future workspace include how to deal with employees working from their private computers, how cloud services will change the way you do business and more.

Rather than ignoring these impending changes, face them head on to keep your network management one step ahead of the game.

Hire Innovators

If you are asking the question as the article, “Are you ready for the next generation of network management?” looks at, take an overview of your current workforce and consider the answer to that question.

If your company has an in-house IT department, consider the best professionals to hire into the department who can help lead your network into the next generation.

If your network management is outsourced, take a close look at how it’s being managed and if changes are needed.

By placing your network management into the hands of innovators, you can rest easier knowing it will stay in step with the future of business technologies.

Is your business ready for the next generation of network management?

Answer that question with confidence by considering the security of your company’s sensitive information, by assessing the business’s technology policies and more.

By taking action on the network’s weak spots now, you can keep pace with future changes in the technological landscape.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com

About the Author: Shayla Ebsen is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience both in the corporate and freelance settings.

Should You Be Dialed-in to After Call Surveys?

Customer Services RepresentativeIf you have ever been asked to provide your opinion or give feedback after you complete a call, you have just been involved in an after-call survey.

You may wonder if these surveys provide any value to the business, especially if you were one who elected not to participate.

Do they have any value in today’s business world? If so, what do you need to know to make them effective?

Know What You Want to Learn

There should be a reason for everything you do in business, and after-call surveys are no exception.

You should know what information you want to find out, how you will learn this information and what you will do with it. If you do not have answers to all of these questions, you don’t need to take a survey.

Creating a goal doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, for these surveys, you should keep it simple.

Learn which call agents receive the best marks in customer satisfaction. Find out what percentage of customers have their problems answered when they call.

Keep your goals to one or two points to ensure that you get the information you are looking for.

Know What to Ask

Even if you know what you want to find out in these surveys, you won’t get the information if you don’t ask the right questions.

Make sure the questions are straightforward with enough options for the customer to answer accurately, but don’t overwhelm the person.

You cannot get feedback for complicated issues in this manner; keep your expectations simple and your questions easy to answer. You will use these surveys to gauge perception about general topics.

This may include finding out if the customer had a long wait time, if his or her questions were answered and if he or she was treated courteously.

Know How You Will Use the Data

Customers don’t mind filling out surveys or answering questions if they know their answers make a difference. They want to see that you make changes in your business based on the information they provide.

You should know before starting a survey what actions you will take with the results.

Obviously, if everything comes back positive, you won’t need to make changes. If you have less than desirable results, you should have a plan of what you will change.

As the article, “After Call Surveys: Are They Really Effective?” mentions, you should have a plan to follow up on any negative feedback.

You may even want to implement a mailed survey or contact specific customers if the reaction is strong enough.

The goal of any survey should be to make your business stronger, better and to improve customer satisfaction. When you accumulate information directly from the customer, this is your best weapon to improving your services or product.

Take your survey results seriously and they will be a valuable tool to help ensure that you retain customer loyalty so that your business thrives.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including customer service and technology.

Build Your Online Portfolio from the Ground Up

White Keyboard with My Story Button.Is your online portfolio ready to impress?

With potential employers checking out new hires online, having an online portfolio makes good business sense, providing a valuable introduction to your skills.

Your choice of information and how you organize it could make the difference between being hired and being overlooked, so just what should you include?

Start with these six things:

Lead Off with an Introduction

Visitors want to get a feel for the person behind the portfolio, so be sure to include an introduction.

Your introduction should inspire confidence, giving a brief background on what you do, and who you are. Keep it short, but relatable. Your visitors are interested in the person you are and what you are like to work with – you don’t need to include your life story.

Industry Awareness

As the article “The Power and Impact of an Online Portfolio” points out, it’s a good idea to start by asking yourself about the expectations within your industry.

What skills, qualifications and personal attributes are employers in your industry looking for?

By cultivating an awareness of what employers want, you can tailor your profile to make sure it answers those needs.

Clear Focus

Avoid confusion by keeping your focus clear.

An overcrowded portfolio will fail to make an impact. Instead, summarize your key skills in one or two sentences that will leave visitors in no doubt as to what they’ll get when they work with you.

Be sure to include a strong introduction, an easy to browse selection of your work, a clear call to action to encourage contact, and visible contact details to facilitate that.

Qualified Statements

The maxim “show, don’t tell” holds true when it comes to your online portfolio. It’s not enough to simply list what you’ve done – details about your achievements are a must.

For example, if you re-designed a website for a restaurant, don’t just show your design. Talk about how many more visitors they got as a result, or how much revenue increased after it went live.

Leave your visitors with a clear impression of what you can achieve for them when they hire you.

Your Best Work

Choose your work for your portfolio carefully.

This is your chance to show your best work. It can be tempting to include everything you’ve done. However, it makes better business sense to take the opportunity to showcase the best of your work.

As well as choosing your best work, be sure to include some background on each project, such as the remit for each one and how you set about completing it.

Provide the Right Layout

Layout matters when it comes to your online portfolio.

The focus should be on your work, not on the layout surrounding it. Aim for a clear, professional look that easily draws attention to what you want to say.

Your portfolio should be easy to browse, leaving your reader free to focus on the quality of your work.

Make sure your portfolio is mobile-friendly too, or you could risk losing mobile visitors.

Your online portfolio gives you an opportunity to make your first impression count.

Take the time to plan and build it with this in mind so potential employers will like what they see when they visit your online home.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn is an author who writes on a range of topics including social media, SEO that works, and careers.

Take Your Resume on the Road

Airplane At The Terminal Gate Ready For Takeoff - Modern InternaDon’t automatically turn down the idea of taking a gap year in between college and your first professional job.

If you spend that time traveling, you could be looking at better job opportunities on the horizon than if you go straight from college dorm to cubicle norm.

Here are some great reasons to fill your backpack and roam if you want to:

You Can Demonstrate Your Independence

Many employers complain that kids go from living at home to living on campus and then starting their first professional job without ever having to be independent. They then end up with young employees who don’t know how to manage their time at work, and can’t manage project tasks without asking everyone within sight for help.

When you do some traveling either solo or with a buddy, you can prove to interviewers that you know how to take matters into your own hands and take care of yourself without your parents’ help.

That says a lot for a 20-something, and it will help distinguish you from other job candidates.

Your Resume Will Grow

If your only jobs prior to college graduation were part time gigs like pizza delivery guy or dog walker, your resume is probably full of a whole bunch of white space. You need to find some way to bulk up your resume so it looks like you’ve actually done something worthwhile.

As the following article looks at, here is how travel enhances your resume.

You can add all the places you traveled to, new skills that you learned along the way, and include some references of places you stayed, such as bed and breakfasts, hostels, etc. If you picked up a new language during your travels, add that to your resume, too.

More to Discuss During the Interview

Interviews can get downright terrifying, especially when your interviewer asks you something, you answer with a couple brief words, and they say nothing more. It’s like they’re waiting for you to fill the empty air, but all you can hear are crickets.

As someone with some traveling under your heels, you won’t be short of stories to tell of your adventures.

You’ll find some way to integrate your travel tales with the job requirements your boss is looking for. Is he looking for a problem solver? Tell him or her about the time your taxi driver didn’t show up, but you made it to the airport anyway.

Is he or she looking for an arbitrator? Tell them all about your haggling skills in the open markets in Morocco.

You’ll Become More Worldly

There’s nothing more boring than a person who’s never been away from their hometown.

If a person doesn’t travel, they have little to no way to truly understand people or world events. There’s just no context in life unless you actually venture outside your front door.

A worldly person can make conversation with just about anyone on some topic or another.

As a job candidate – even one only recently out of college – you’ll exude more confidence and worldly experience if you take some time to travel before you settle in to a professional job.

Don’t let others dissuade you from traveling when you’re young and out of college. There’s no better time to see the world.

This is a time of life when you have no ties, no commitments, and no timeframe when you have to get back.

Roam around the world and come back a better person.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com

About the Author: Kate Supino is an experienced traveler and recommends it to anyone who is the least bit curious about the world.

Do Your Workers Need More Education?

secretary-and-boss-discussing-10054901

If you are reviewing your employee benefits package, you may want to consider continuing education.

While not one of the traditional components of benefits packages for employees, it is an attractive addition.

People like the idea of getting education for free to help their careers and income potential to grow.

Benefits for Employers

Offering continuing education doesn’t just benefit the employee; it provides advantages the employer as well.

The most obvious advantage is the fact that you can promote from within when a higher position opens up. Instead of hiring strangers to take a supervisory position, you can place someone you already know and trust in that job.

It also helps reduce the cost of turnover because employees are more likely to stay with an employer if they feel they can continue to grow and advance.

They also know that they will make more money if they can promote up through the department or even move into a new department within the same company.

Happy Customers

The better trained your staff is, the better satisfied your customers will be.

This translates into more revenue for you. Even small businesses can benefit from helping their employees get more education.

For example, say you own a beauty salon.

As the following article looks at, by offering your staff the opportunity to take cosmetology online classes, they can learn new techniques or expand their knowledge while continuing to work. They can sell their new skills to customers in the form of additional services.

This concept works for just about any small business, so explore how it can help your company.

Are There Any Downsides?

Even if you can see all of the advantages to offering employees continuing education, you may wonder about the downside. The first is the cost.

Of course, you can limit the cost by offering to pay only for tuition or for a portion of the tuition.

To prevent your employees from getting the training and then leaving immediately, you can also include a requirement of service for a reasonable period of time.

For instance, an employee may need to be employed for at least a year and plan to stay at least a year after completion of education.

The other big disadvantage to employers is that employees have gained new skills that they can take elsewhere. However, this is not as big of a problem as you might think.

By offering educational help as part of the employee benefits, you show that your business cares about the people who work there. It inspires loyalty in the staff and the employees are less likely to leave.

People who make a decent salary and have the opportunities to grow and face new challenges in their jobs are less likely to look elsewhere for jobs.

Instead, they will turn their focus inward when they are ready to make changes.

By offering continuing education to employees, you equip them to become even more valuable to your organization and encourage them to stay and share their new skills with your company.

Photo credits: Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Got Credit

 

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including business and education.

Is Your Website a True Hit?

If you wish to maximize your profits and expand your business, you should consider making your products or services available to consumers in foreign countries.

The Internet has made it possible for businesses of all sizes to go global, but you may have to localize your website if you want to reach out to a non-English speaking audience.

Website localization refers to the act of modifying a website to make it comprehensible, usable and suitable to specific local markets, and it can be beneficial to your business in many ways.

Here is a look at why you should localize your website….

Cross Language Barriers

English is presently the most widely used language on the Internet, but this may change in the future as the number of Internet users outside North America and Europe continues to grow.

Many businesses are beginning to realize that English may no longer be the global language, and they need to localize their websites if they want to be competitive in foreign markets.

According to an article entitled “Website Localization Key to Improving Customer Experience“, a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory in 2014 showed that consumers in foreign countries were strongly biased towards localized websites, and a large percentage of them avoided English websites.

In Europe, it was estimated that only 44 percent of Internet users were open to using non-native language websites.

Website localization enables you to cross language barriers and attract and engage consumers in foreign countries as effectively as native language websites.

Increase Revenue

Most Internet users prefer to buy products from companies that can communicate with them in their native languages.

Being able to understand product information clearly and communicate meaningfully with companies can help them make better informed purchasing decisions.

By localizing your website, you can reach out to potentially millions of new customers and increase your chances of converting them. This can lead to a significant increase in revenue.

Improve Search Engine Visibility

Another benefit of localizing your website is that it can help you achieve higher rankings in native language search engines.

The translated parts of your website will be indexed by native language search engines, and they will be more easily found by Internet users who perform searches in their native languages.

As such, you will see an increase in traffic to your website.

Build Credibility

Generally, consumers have greater respect for companies that can communicate in their native languages and offer products and services that are tailored to their cultures.

Localizing your website is a way to show your foreign customers that you are truly a global player, and you are committed to giving them the best shopping experience possible. It will help you gain their trust, loyalty and long-term business.

As the business world continues to become more global, an increasing number of companies are localizing their websites to gain a stronger foothold in foreign markets.

You need to do the same if you want to stay competitive.

About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to growing your business.

Study up Before Going the Franchise Route

Are you thinking about purchasing a franchise business?

Many people are drawn to franchises because they allow you to be a business owner with much of the legwork already done.

The business plan, what the store will sell, the logo and the advertising are all taken care of for you.

Franchises are often viewed as the best of both worlds because you run a business and start making a salary immediately, whereas if you opened your own new business, it could take months (if not years) to see results.

Businesses that can be purchased as a franchise include Allstate, Arby’s, Chick Fil-A, Econo Lodge, Subway, U-Haul and hundreds of others.

Study Up Before Purchasing

If you’re thinking about owning a franchise, it’s important to study up beforehand to make sure that it’s the right business for you.

The best way to start out is by reading books on franchising. There’s no better way to understand the scope of the industry than by learning from those who have been there before.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out the top 8 books to read for franchising.

The top three books on the list include The Educated Franchisee by Rick Bisio, Become a Franchise Owner by Joel Libava and Franchising for Dummies by Michael Seid and Dave Thomas.

Is Franchising Right for You?

In addition to reading books on franchising, it’s important to learn all you can about the industry to make sure that it’s what you want to do.

Just because the business plan and product are taken care of doesn’t mean the work is going to be easy. You can expect long hours, little vacation time (especially when starting out) and other stressful situations that will arise.

To be sure franchising is for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you willing to run the business someone else’s way? – This is perhaps the biggest question you will need to ask yourself. Yes, you are in charge of the franchise, but the systems are already in place and more than likely, the owner is not going to be willing to change them just for you. Make sure you’re willing to work under someone else and adapt to their way of running a business, not your own.
  • Can you afford the start-up costs? – Franchise start-up costs can range from a couple thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before choosing a company, make sure you can afford the cost it will take to get your store up and running. If you can’t afford it, consider picking up a part-time job, working overtime or selling unused items to bring in some extra money.
  • Is running a franchise something you will enjoy? – The best way to test the waters when it comes to franchising is to talk to other franchise owners. Ask if you can meet them for coffee and learn what they like, what they don’t like and what the challenges are which come with the job. If you see yourself being happy by running a franchise, then by all means, go for it.

Running a franchise requires discipline, a support system and the motivation to see your franchise succeed.

Once you’ve done your research on franchising and figured out if it’s right for you, it’s time to move forward with running your own franchise business.

About the Author: Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC. She writes on a variety of topics including small businesses, social media and personal finance.

Happier Employees Make for Better Results

Can you say with certainty that you have a bunch of happy employees? What if it is just a few?

Whether the numbers are high, medium or low, happy employees make for a world of difference in the business world.

For those individuals running large companies, there is sometimes a disconnect with the workers. This may not be due to an unpleasant owner, but more so because there are so many employees for one to keep track of.

Meantime, those running smaller operations can have an advantage in that they oftentimes have one-on-one relations with the various employees, especially the managers of different departments.

No matter what your relationship is when it comes to owner-employee, there are a number of ways you can increase the odds of having happy employees, employees who typically will turn out to be more engaged and more productive.

Insurance Brings Peace of Mind

There are various opportunities for medical coverage, wellness, and growing with the business you can offer your employees. They include:

  • Health benefits – Next to one’’s salary, having the proper healthcare coverage in place is likely paramount for the majority of employees. Locating affordable health care plans does not have to be an agonizing chore for you as a business owner. If you don’’t like the one you currently have in place and/or are just interested in seeing what else is out there, you have several roads to travel. While your HR (human resources) head may be tasked with the assignment, you or they can network with other business owners you are friendly with to see who they use. You can also turn to the Internet and use social media and blog posts to learn more about employee health insurers’’ who may be a good fit for your company;
  • Fitness – Going hand-in-hand with health benefits, encourage your employees to stay or get fit. Not only is it for their benefit, but healthy employees are less likely to miss work days or be out of action for an extended period of time. You can offer something as simple as gym memberships to qualified and interested employees (typically after their probationary period is over). Having a solid wellness program in place benefits your employees and your overall business goals;
  • Advancement – Lastly, if you worked at a company that gave you little or no room to grow and advance, would you stay there very long? In most cases, the answer would be no, so make sure your employees have options to move up the corporate ladder no matter what size business you run. Not only is there financial incentive for employees when having the opportunity to move up in the business, but there self-esteem and ability to work better with co-workers and customers will grow too.

When you give your employees the ability to care for themselves and their families, not to mention achieve some personal professional goals, you are more likely to have an overwhelming majority of happy employees.

As a business owner, what makes your employees happy?

About the Author: Adam Griffith writes on different topics for the Internet, among which are business, health and finance.

Time for a Move to Boost Your Career?

As the U.S. economy continues to gain momentum, rising employer confidence has led to stronger employment gains.

The job market performed exceedingly well in 2014, and it is not expected to let up this year.

Some cities are projected to experience faster job growth than others, and they are becoming increasingly popular destinations among job seekers.

If you are looking for a job, it is recommended that you give these cities a try:

U.S. Employment Outlook for 2015

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 2.95 million jobs were created last year, making 2014 the strongest year for job growth since 1999.

Unemployment rate slipped to 5.6 percent in December, which was significantly lower than the 6.7-percent rate recorded a year before.

This year, economists are expecting employers to become more bullish on employment, resulting in average monthly job gains of 250,000 to 300,000.

Some of the industries that will be seeing significant job growth in 2015 include the restaurant, retail, healthcare, finance and construction industries.

As mentioned in an article entitled “$800 Million Springfield Resort Casino to Create 2,000 Temporary Jobs“, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the U.S. construction industry will add about 30,000 jobs this spring.

Top 5 Cities for Job Seekers

In a recent survey, Manpower Group asked 18,000 employers from 100 metropolitan statistical areas about their hiring plans for the first quarter of 2015.

Below are the top five cities for jobs in 2015, according to the survey.

Cape Coral, Florida

About 32 percent of employers in Cape Coral, Florida said that they will be stepping up their recruitment efforts. The city is known as one of the top cities for startup businesses, and it is experiencing rapid job growth because of its booming tourism and hospitality industries.

McAllen, Texas

Located at the U.S.-Mexico border, McAllen is home to major facilities belonging to big corporations such as General Electric and Nokia, thanks to the U.S.-Mexico tariff-free trade agreements. These corporations and other employers are fueling job growth in the city, with 29 percent of them projecting an increase in employment.

Deltona, Florida

Deltona ranked joint-third on the list with Grand Rapids, Michigan, with 26 percent of employers planning to hire. This city is producing many new jobs in the hospitality and professional services industries.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan is a hub for auto and aviation manufacturers, as well as office-furniture manufacturers such as Herman Miller. About 26 percent of employers in the city are expecting to hire more workers.

Oxnard, California

Oxnard, California is home to a major port between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and therefore, it is a city that is driven by international trade. 24 percent of employers from this city indicated that they will increase hiring.

Your ability to land a good job depends mainly on your work experience, academic qualifications and skills.

However, you can increase your chances of success by targeting potential employers that are located in a city with a high job-growth rate.

About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to careers.

Time for a Career Consultant?

Are you feeling stuck in your career? If your career is a little lackluster, a career consultant can help you get it back on track.

A career consultant is a worthwhile investment of time and money if you need some help moving forward, but naturally you want to choose the right consultant to make sure you get a return on that investment.

So how can you do just that?

Follow these four tips to help find the right career consultant for you.

  1. Know Your Goals

A career consultant can help you find what you want to do, gain clarity and narrow down your options. However, they will be much better able to help you if you start off with a clear idea of your aim.

Are you looking for a complete change of career or are you more interested in moving forward in your current field? Do you have specific goals regarding earning more money or being able to work from home?

It’s ok to have a lot of unanswered questions – that’s why you’re hiring a career consultant – but try to start out with an idea of your overall aims. That way, you’ll be better placed to choose a consultant whose methods and track record are well suited to those aims.

  1. Research Their Credentials

As the article “How to Find the Right Career Consultant for You” points out, anyone can set themselves up as a career consultant.

The lack of consistent accreditation can make finding the right consultant seem like a minefield, but don’t worry.

There are other ways to find out how well qualified your career consultant is:

  • Search engines. By searching for their name, you can see what others have said about them online;
  • Professional references. Ask if they can provide you with professional references to follow up;
  • Find out if they have previous clients who would be willing to talk with you;
  • A good consultant will usually have some level of visibility, such as books, papers, social media or speaking engagements.
  1. Make the Most of Your Consultation

Any career consultant worth your time will be happy to offer you a free initial consultation, either in person or by phone or email. This helps you both assess one another and figure out if you’d be a good fit.

Prepare some questions before hand to learn more about how they work and what exactly they can help you to achieve.

The consultation is also a good opportunity to see if there’s chemistry between you. Do you feel you could work well with this person?

A career consultant doesn’t occupy the same place in your life as a friend, but a certain level of rapport and ease of conversation is a must.

  1. Assess Their Methods

Every career consultant works differently.

Some are more hands on than others. Some lean more towards “tough love” while some are more holistic. All good consultants will help you with goal setting, but some will have a more formal approach than others, and some will set very specific homework.

As well as getting a feel for how they work and what kind of success they’ve had with those methods, finding out more about how they approach coaching will help you to decide if their methods are right for you.

Everyone is different, so be honest with yourself about which methods are most likely to motivate you.

A career consultant can help you turn your career around and guide you in the best direction for you.

Of course you’ll still be responsible for the work needed to get there, but the right consultant will act as your trail guide, showing you the best routes and helping you avoid the rocky ground.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including social media, career consultants and changing careers.