Check out what's new with this month's business management files.

Shorter Vacations in Vogue

There was a time when management annoyed the workers by not letting them take two-week vacations. These days, however, employees wouldn’t want to take the full two weeks at once anyway.

Nearly 80 percent of the people responding to a survey conducted by the American Productivity & Quality Center in Houston say they would rather take a few brief vacations during the course of the year – maybe one full week and then several long weekends. And not only is this what they’d prefer, it’s what they’re doing.

The reason? Try getting your work schedule, your spouse’s schedule and your kids’ schedules to line up for a 14-day window. Even if you’re on your own, it’s difficult to get everything you need done to let you get away. And even if you were able to get away for two weeks, there probably would be four weeks worth of paperwork waiting for you upon your return.

Not Just an Old Wives’ Tale

This bit about breakfast being the most important meal has some solid backing to it. A study reported in In Health magazine suggests that skipping your morning meal can increase your chances of suffering a heart attack.

A researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada found that volunteers who blew off their a.m. repast had a much higher level of thromboglobulin, a protein that is known to expand as blood cells prepare to clot. The study found the level of the protein to be nearly three times higher than normal on the day that subjects did not eat breakfast, indicating that the blood was more likely to clot, resulting in heart failure.

Don’t Worry About It

We hear from stress management experts (did you notice how the words “stress” and “management” are right next to each other?) that, on average, only 2 percent of a person’s worrying time is spent on things that might be benefited from worrying. The overwhelming 98 percent of the time is wasted thusly:

  • 40 percent on things that never even happen anyway

  • 35 percent on things that can’t be changed no matter what

  • 15 percent on things that turn out better than expected

  • 8 percent is blown on useless petty concerns

Now that we know this, we can limit our worrying to trying to figure out which 2 percent we should be limiting our worrying to. Oh, don’t worry about it.

You Go Bye-bye Now

Nobody ever gets fired from a job anymore. Oh sure, a lot of people get called into their manager’s office and walk out unemployed – but technically they haven’t been “fired.” The National Council of Teachers of English has uncovered some rather creative language that companies now use to avoid having to use the term “fired,” which they find so unappealing.

  • Tandem Computers Inc. calls a layoff “a focused reduction” or “reducing duplication.”

  • Stanford University uses the gentle term “repositioning” when referring to a termination.

  • A merger between Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America resulted in the dismissal of 14,000 employees, a move that Bank of America terms, “a release of resources.”

  • National Semiconductor had a “reshaping.”

  • Digital Equipment used “involuntary methodologies” when it let go 3,450 employees.

  • A publication of AT&T Bell Laboratories contains helpful information on a “special service pension eligibility enhancement for certain occupational employees who may be involuntarily terminated under a force adjustment program.”

  • Wright State University doesn’t expel students who don’t measure up to its academic standards. Of course not – it “expedites their progress toward alternate life pursuits.”

Toot Your Horn

Meeting customers’ needs is just one part of keeping them satisfied. It also is very important that customers be aware of the benefits they receive and of the company’s efforts on their behalf. Let them know you’re on their side and working for them.

Marketing veteran Karl Hellman recommends telling customers what benefits they can expect from doing business with your firm. Explain how the company works and what the customer can do to get the most benefit out of the company’s products and services. This demonstrates confidence and credibility – two keys to successful sales efforts.

A 5-cent Makeover

The nickel is getting a makeover. The back side of the new 5-cent coin will commemorate the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition. The U.S. Mint hopes to issue the nickels late this year or in early 2004.

In 2006, nickels will return to a depiction of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia home, although the image probably will be somewhat different than the current one. Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase and was the force behind the Lewis and Clark expedition, will remain on the front side of the new coins.

The last change to the nickel’s design was in 1938. The current Jefferson and Monticello images replaced what was known as the “buffalo nickel,” which had been in circulation since 1913.

Latest figures show nickel circulation at 18.9 billion.

The Turnover Challenge

Preventing turnover is a major challenge today; it’s becoming difficult for companies to replace those who leave, due to a decreasing workforce and lack of skilled labor.

“Employees are leaving one company for another, not due to compensation issues, they’re leaving because of a breakdown in the communication process,” states John Kreiss of ZweigWhite, management consultants specializing in contractor services. Getting to the root of communication problems can go a long way toward preventing the unwanted and costly turnover.

Kreiss shares some tips that will help reduce the turnover rate:

Ask employees for suggestions. “Conduct a confidential survey to bring up any employee concerns or problems and provide an opportunity for management to address these problems before they grow into bigger issues,” says Kreiss.

Share financial information. “Sharing financial information can often be a difficult thing to do at first, but this type of open communication goes a long way toward instilling trust with employees,” adds Kreiss.

Take advantage of exit interviews. “It’s important to track why a staff member is leaving and ask open-ended questions to find out what areas of the company can be improved to prevent other employees from leaving for the same reasons,” concludes Kreiss.