Is Viral Marketing For Your Business?

Every few days, there seems to be a new viral video surfacing online. A couple years ago it was flash mobs, then the Harlem Shake and of course you can never forget the adorably sweet cat videos making the rounds.

The right elements contained within your video can mean the difference of just a few likes, shares or views to millions. You want to keep your video simple, they should strike an emotional cord – whether it be funny or pulls on your heart strings, it should contain an offer of some sort or a connection back to your company.

With a fickle and ever-changing audience mood, viral marketing can be hit or miss. Your idea could be clear genius and relevant and still not garner much of a viral impact or it could be online for two years and then take-off. Knowing this is part of the planning process. For this reason, pumping money into a viral video may not be the right strategy for your organization. Keeping it light, easy and with a ‘homemade’ feel is key. At InFUSION Group we can help you determine if a viral marketing strategy is a good fit for your organization, assist in developing a plan and work with you to get your videos seen.

Our expertise in human resources, marketing, leadership and corporate culture will provide your organization with the tools it needs to sustain and grow your business. At inFUSION Group we strive to implement specific solutions that will work for your particular organization.

Get on Board! Increasing Retention and ROI of New Hires.

Now Hiring

For the first time in a long time, the job market is as busy as the supermarket on Sunday. As of the 3rd Quarter of 2014, there were 4.8 million job openings in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics this was the highest level of job openings since January 2001. Even better yet, we saw a significant net increase in employment after accounting for turnover.

In the thick of budget season, there is no doubt you are counting and recounting your FTEs (full-time equivalents) and forecasting 2015 hiring needs. You’ll account for the basics like salary and benefits, but new hires come with an additional premium – the cost to get them on board. From external costs like job-board postings, screening fees and background checks, to internal costs like recruiting staff and learning and development, a new hire starts costing you money before they even start.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, we love to see organizations growing and putting people back to work. We just think that your human capital should be looked at like any other investment you make. Maximizing your return on investment isn’t a mere monetary endeavor – it takes time and resources. But when you pay the higher price up front, your returns take a jump, too!

Off Boarding – It Happens

All too often, the best day of a new hire’s employment is the day after their interview. You know – when you celebrate, thinking you struck gold on LinkedIn and scored the perfect person for the job. Fast forward to
usually about two weeks later, and your onboarding efforts may already be starting to get off track:

• The new hire just doesn’t seem to fit in
• The new hire isn’t getting up to speed quickly enough
• There just isn’t enough time to hold his or her hand
• Your training program doesn’t fit the needs of the new hire
• The HR team is small and overworked; the hiring team is short-staffed

The next thing you know, the new hire is a termination time bomb. Maybe they even feel it more than you do. And maybe they move on to a company that doesn’t use terms like “proactive” and “self-directed” to cover up the fact that their new recruits are stranded on a desert island with a training binder and an emergency e-mail contact.

Hire Education

A holistic onboarding program starts with the first new hire contact and doesn’t end until your new recruit reports for work for the 91st day. Think of onboarding like a high-maintenance date. From providing the right job description and setting realistic performance expectations, to supplying them with the right tools (and we don’t just mean a stapler and chair), new relationships require nurturing. If you’ve done well, your new hire…

• Fits in with your culture
• Is committed and engaged
• Has gotten up to speed

Moreover, your organization experiences lower turnover rates, improved brand image and reduced recruiting costs.

Talent is not as easily found as it is squandered. Don’t lose good people by getting off on the wrong foot.

Are You There Success? It’s Me 2014!

How The Rut Was Dug…
2006: the year Twitter was launched, the year Western Union killed the telegram, the year NASA launched the first mission to Pluto (back then it was still a planet), and of course, the economy started to slow down. Then in December of 2007 the recession hit us full blown. Eight years ago, we saw the writing on the wall. We put our corporate growth initiatives into hibernation. We changed our focus from innovation to efficiency, from bolstering profits to protecting capital, and from proactive leadership to conservative management. We hunkered down, saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and coasted our way there.

So, now what? It’s 2014. Our economy is on the upswing, innovation in technology hasn’t slowed since 2006 and consumer confidence is 70% higher than it was at the start of this decade. We should be jumping up and down shouting “carpe diem.” Instead, we are trying to find the best shovel to get us out of our rut. Is it the technology shovel that will upgrade our tools and position our infrastructure for growth; is it the talent shovel that will bring us the brightest innovative minds? While the tools of change are important, it really starts in the collective minds of your leadership. So read on to get elevated.

Why Don’t Organizations Change?
Simply put: change is hard. It’s a long and often dirty process, and even the most informed change
initiatives are subject to the same variables that undermine less well-thought plans: people, technology, processes, money and the overarching culture of our organizations. It’s easy to see these variables as road blocks and avoid change as a result. The best way to overcome these obstacles is to change the way we think of them.

Outdated technology and tools: Over the last decade the recession rut kept many organizations from updating their infrastructure. Getting bogged down in the need to update MCIF, HRIS, and intranet systems will keep you from embarking on large scale change initiatives. While these tools are necessary and help create better programs, updates should not stop you from exploring change and making incremental progress. What’s certain is that these problems can’t continue to be the quiet elephant in the room. Contract an expert to examine your current capabilities, determine the gap between what you have and what you need, then create a plan and budget to get updated.

Sunken cost investments: From time to time, we all buy a bridge. We make investments in programs that look like the airplane to the future, and instead we take a ride on the Titanic. Don’t wait for the last life raft. Just jump ship. So now that you get the metaphor, let’s shoot straight. You spent too much time and money on a failed program; you teeter between frustration and the hope it will just magically click. The truth is, the longer you continue trying to make it work, the more time and money you are wasting. Accepting you are in a rut is the first step to getting out.

Bureaucracy: All that focus on efficiencies has really strengthened your operations. You have a new arsenal of forms, protocols and procedures all coveted by their creators. Strengthening controls is an important measure especially when your organization is subject to regulation and auditing, but have you gone too far? If the reins are too tight, you may stifle innovation. Sure, you need processes, protocols and procedures… but you also need passion! It’s a good time to unwind some of the red tape. Get your administrators on the next hot phrase in pop management text: “adaptive controls.”

Progressive Thoughts from Professional Thinkers
So now that we’ve countered some of your arguments against change, we’ll turn to the experts to discuss how you should reinvigorate your organization. Dan Mroz, PhD and organizational guru, is certain when he tells us, “there is no set formula for innovation,” but he does offer some fantastic suggestions. Hint: it’s all about people. 1) Create a learning environment: Learning encourages collaboration, idea generation and professional development – innovate by drawing out the best in your people and putting them in the right roles. 2) Consider your attitude: If your culture needs to be re-energized, examine the projected attitudes of your leaders. Do you truly encourage an open, honest and collaborative environment? 3) Celebrate small wins: employee recognition is more than just perks and bonuses. Celebrate your employees when they contribute to organizational knowledge. Mroz advises celebrating small wins because it creates an “organic sense of progress.”

Amplify the Message:
Uplift your organization by supporting the developmental needs of your employees.

If brainstorming meetings with your team turn up more roadblocks than possibilities, MIT scholar Clark Gilbert may suggest you need more “Energizers” among you. “Energizers see realistic possibilities; de-energizers see roadblocks.” Energizing your staff by creating a compelling vision for change. Take their minds off of past or current problems by presenting an inspiring possibility for the future. Do be certain that the goals of each member of your change teams are realistic. If it is overwhelming or difficult to execute due to resource issues, the discussions of possibilities will quickly turn back to roadblocks.

Amplify the Message:
Lead change efforts with a strong vision that is both inspiring and realistic.

Ultimately, it’s about recognizing when it’s time to change and taking steps to snap yourself and your organization out of a rut. The Recovering Leader recommends concrete action when you have accepted you are in a rut. Among his advice is the need to “face it” by discussing your organization’s complacency with an advisor who will give it to you straight. He also advises you tackle the “bigger enduring issues” first. Remember the top reasons organizations don’t change? Those reasons are things that can be, well, changed. Rank them in order of importance and knock them out of the way.

Wellness Programs: The Penn State Experience!

Written by Guest Blogger: C. John Holmquist, Jr.
Holmquist Employment Law Firm, Troy, Michigan

Penn State is planning to implement a wellness initiative called the “Take Care of your Health Initiative” next year. The program had three components: the completion of a WebMD online health risk assessment; having a preventative physical examination; and having a biometric screening that would give a full lipid profile as well as blood pressure, body mass index, and waist circumference. Employees who completed the three steps would be entered in a raffle to win one of six $500 cash prizes. Employees who did not complete the three steps would have a monthly deduction of $100 from their pay. Spouses and domestic partners are required to participate in the first two steps.

The program was not well received by the employees and the faculty; some referred to it as the “Sandusky tax” in reference to the monetary exposure from the football scandal. On September 29, 2013, the university suspended the $100 monthly surcharge and encouraged employees to utilize the initiative to find out about their health.

The Penn State wellness program caught the attention of Representative Louise M. Slaughter (D NY) who wrote a letter to the EEOC on September 23, 2013, expressing her concern with a program that “coerces private health information from participants.” Ms. Slaughter who authored the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) stated that the Penn State program raised concerns with the type of information collected and the “voluntariness” of participation. Representative Slaughter stated in her letter that any employer who coerced employees to provide genetic information through monetary incentives would violate the core intent of GINA and other civil rights laws. She urged the EEOC to promptly issues regulatory guidance for wellness program compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws.

The EEOC held a hearing on May 8, 2013 where panelists addressed the treatment of wellness programs under federal law, specifically the ADA and GINA. To date, no action has been taken by the EEOC. One commissioner tweeted “I agree.” with a link to an article discussing Representative Slaughter’s letter.

On September 26, 2013, Towers Watson issued the results of a survey concerning employer action to increase the success and effectiveness of wellness programs. The survey found that nearly 8 in 10 employers viewed lack of employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to changing behavior. The survey also found that for 2014, 4 in 10 US companies will use penalties such as an increase in premiums or deductibles for employees who do not complete the requirements of health management activities. That figure will jump to 61% for 2015.

Employers in Michigan have another consideration with respect to imposing penalties. The Michigan Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act prohibits employers from making deductions from employee pay without the “full, free, and written consent” of employees obtained without intimidation or fear of discharge. The statute further requires written authorization for each wage payment subject to a deduction. Under Michigan law, an employer would not be able to automatically deduct the $100 without the written consent of the employee, which certainly would not be expected to be forthcoming.

It is very surprising that employers are implementing penalties even though it has not been settled that they are able to do so without violating federal law. The EEOC has made it clear that HIPAA compliance does not necessarily guarantee that an employer does not violate nondiscrimination laws. The agency has also made it clear that wellness programs are acceptable as long as they are voluntary.

An employer needs to carefully consider how to effectively engage its employees in wellness programs in a world without EEOC guidance. Penalties are easier to target than incentives; a penalty changes the status quo of the employee while a bonus does not. A comparison of the incentives offered with the penalty in the Penn State program establishes that the university felt a penalty was the better way to achieve employee participation. The incentive offered in light of the number of employees was, to say the least, minimal. No one wants to be the test case for the EEOC on the voluntariness of employee participation. Using penalties to achieve participation is an invitation that the EEOC may, at some point, decide to accept.

Whatever Happened to that Plan?

As the summer sun gleams through your office window, it’s difficult to think back to the cold winter that passed. But, that is where we are going today. Back to December when you vowed that 2013 was the year you’d plan ahead, stick to a calendar and figure out what’s so smart about SMART goals. Back to January when you pulled an overnighter to put the finishing touches on your production calendar and optimize your new monthly tracking charts. Back to that harried day when you drove through the snow for a grueling hour hoping you wouldn’t be late for the management meeting where you were rolling out the best annual business plan you’d ever written.

So…yeah…whatever happened to that plan? If you’ve stuck to that production calendar and dutifully completed your tracking charts for the first 8 months of this year, bravo! You are as rare as the great white buffalo, a master of business to behold and applaud. Yes, we love you, we envy you, but you can stop reading now….

Okay, now that the rest of us are alone, let’s talk about why we keep finding ourselves in this empty ritual of slaving over an annual plan only to abandon it before first quarter results are in. It was, after all, a great plan. You downloaded a cool template, you asked for input from your team, you aligned your business unit’s goals with the organization’s and you delivered it passionately back on that cold, snowy morning. So, what went wrong? Chances are there is more than one answer, but here are a few of the most common causes of business plan failure:

1. The Earth isn’t flat and neither is the market.
We often write plans in our happy place. Much like New Year’s resolutions, we commit to goals that are attainable in the most perfect, static conditions. Be it your commitment to launch a new product or finally hit that next million-dollar milestone, you need to consider whether outside influences or market challenges could derail that goal. Doing the research doesn’t cloak you from failure, but it softens the fall. Picking up the pieces is infinitely easier when you have considered alternate courses of action and mitigation techniques in your plan. A few extra bullet points can be the difference between an irrelevant document and a darn good starting point to correct the course mid-year.

2. It’s always easier said than done.
Great leaders, heck even good ones, have big visions. You believe whole-heartedly that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars. Unfortunately, you may be leaving your team wondering what planet you live on. When you write your goals and layout the strategies and tactics to achieve them, don’t forget to analyze your resources. Do you have a team dedicated to carrying out that plan, or like the rest of us, is your team going to make incremental progress between carrying out the day-to-day business? If an honest analysis proves you need to hire someone, put it in the plan. If it isn’t deemed worthy of an extra salary, it can be revised, downgraded or parked for future consideration.

3. If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
Commitment: feared by many and lacking in boardrooms across America. Even the best-laid plans will crumble quickly without it. It isn’t enough to write the plan or make a jazzy PowerPoint explaining the plan, you have to get real buy-in. Sure, a table full of executives nodded their heads after you concluded your presentations, but I’ll bet a couple of them were thinking about their fantasy football matchup within 30 seconds of your last word. Real buy-in probably won’t happen the first day you present the plan. It will happen when you come to meetings weekly and monthly showing them the progress you are making on your goals and telling them what you need from them to get it done. Set goals, make progress, and then demonstrate results. Yes, I know…it is always easier said than done.

So, as you enjoy the end of summer and prepare for the fourth quarter, dust off your forgotten plan and figure out how you can really do it better next year. Maybe practice on that quarterly plan, speaking of which, that’s due soon…get cracking!

Looking Ahead: Technology and Government Affairs

Written By: Christopher R. Brown, CAE

As technology continues to develop at a very fast rate, social media in government affairs advocacy will also continue to expand. Failure to keep abreast of developing social media techniques will quickly leave government affairs executives behind as their ability to connect with potential advocates will lessen against the onslaught of social media messaging in many public policy debates.

Take for instance the actions last week with the Supreme Court, which undertook two cases surrounding the issue of marriage equality. It can be safe to say that this is a contentious issue with diverging viewpoints on the matter. The issue exploded on Facebook following the introduction of a red and pink modified version of the Human Rights Campaign equality logo. The image went viral when thousands of people changed their Facebook and Twitter profile images to speak out in support of marriage equality. Senator John Tester, a Montana Democrat, even announced his position on the subject on his Facebook page. Twitter was also buzzing on the topic of marriage equality before, during and after the Supreme Court proceedings. This is a major transformation from the days, not so long ago, when advocacy groups would gather at the Supreme Court building or on the National Mall, and hold signs supporting or opposing a public policy issue. While that still took place last week, the impact of social media adds an additional layer of complexity, as well as an avenue for citizen involvement, on high-level public policy issues.

The activity last week illustrates the sheer power that social media can have on an organization’s advocacy program. In this example, those who have discussed the issue and have a Facebook and Twitter account tend to be demographically younger. What this tells advocacy professionals is that they need to align their own organizations with the use of this technology platform in future advocacy activities, as many marketers have done already. Recently the New York Times Magazine published a story that discussed major differences in the use of technology in the 2012 Presidential campaign. The main premise was that Republicans are woefully behind in the development and use of technology in campaigns and need to vastly improve their performance in this area. Yet this article also illustrates how technology is used in campaigns and advocacy activities; if an organization wants to be relevant, it needs to embrace technology, and more importantly, have a defined strategy of how it will be used.

Technology in advocacy has changed tremendously since 2000. Prior to 2001, it was still common to mail a letter to a Member of Congress using the United States Postal Service and Capitol Hill offices were learning how to incorporate e-mail communications from constituents into their operations. The combination of the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill in 2001 with significant advances in technology and the use of the Internet completely changed this landscape. Advocacy professionals throughout the first decade of the 2000s saw grassroots communications switch from mailed letters to faxed letters to the extensive use of e-mail and online advocacy tools that allowed organizations to develop structures to mobilize their members and employees to communicate with lawmakers. The second half of this decade saw the introduction of Smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a host of other applications and online resources that can be used for advocacy purposes. The amazing things your members and employees can accomplish online, compared with 2001, is truly mind-boggling and is a ripe opportunity to use technology to harness your online advocates.

The explosion of discussion, posts and tweets on the marriage equality issue last week also shows the power of these systems to sway public opinion. Not having a social media response, let alone a consistent social media presence, can lead to disastrous results for your organization.

Social Media – It’s More Than Just a Marketing Tactic!

Written By: Amanda Trombly

Social networking has changed the world. Anyone with an internet connection can now communicate with current friends, old friends and new friends from all over the world at any time they’d like. During the early days of social networking, that’s all it was about.

But now, the corporate world has jumped onto the band wagon and has integrated itself into the newsfeeds of millions of people across the globe. In fact, over 3.8 billion dollars were spent on social media (ad only) marketing in 2011. This doesn’t even include the status updates with the news/offers/incentives that companies post. Businesses, small and large, have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers (or potential customers) like never before. Not only can they continually keep their products/services/brands in the forefront of their customers’ minds, but they have the opportunity to receive feedback from their target markets, good or bad.

The question is: how can a company capitalize on this valuable resource?

The answer is…complicated. So, allow me to suggest a few ways (as a consumer and a self-proclaimed social media addict).

1.)    Clogging a news feed with several updates per day is a surefire way to get your company ignored, “hid” or “un-liked”. Instead, post a useful update twice or three times per week.

2.)    Make your posts interesting. Include something entertaining like a little-known fact or a funny picture every once in a while. Such posts entice discussion; and when people comment or “like” your post, it’s likely that their friends will see it, too!

3.)    Respond to complaints. If your valued customer is taking the time to post a complaint on your page, then he or she deserves a prompt and polite response. Your social media administrator should be well-versed in public relations and/or customer service in order to handle all sorts of direct communications with your clients/customers.

4.)    Offer discounts to your followers that you don’t offer on your website or elsewhere. It makes your followers feel special.

I’ve seen social media marketing done very well; but I’ve also seen it go terribly wrong. To me, the trick is to understand the medium itself. It’s social. It’s a conversation. It’s a relationship between a company and its consumer. It’s such an excellent opportunity to connect. When it’s done right, the sky is the limit.

How can Infusion Group help? We work with clients to understand their unique social media needs. Then we present you with a recommendation that identifies what resources you will need to execute that plan. Finally, we assist you in turning your ideas into quality content all while managing the details of the process.

You’ve come a long way, baby…even with a baby!

From the moment America’s moms started trading in their aprons for college degrees and resumes, there have been countless debates surrounding working mothers and their roles in the workplace. They have been ridiculed for “abandoning” their families. They have been accused of making poor life choices and having imprudent priorities. They have been criticized for having to take time off work for family needs. Working mothers have been facing these judgments for decades; but in order to be part of the workforce, they have had to put the guilt aside, ignore the glaringly obvious social criticisms, and focus on their careers (while simultaneously juggling their families’ needs).

It is now 2013 and more than half of married mothers of children under the age of 18 are in the workforce. Surely these working moms do not have to deal with the judgments of decades past, right?

It is true that many employers have made huge strides in providing family-focused benefits to working mothers. It appears that employers generally appreciate the value of career women and have agreed to take the good with the bad, so to speak.

But the stigma still exists. In many cases, regardless of their qualifications, single men are still viewed “more employable” than moms of any kind. Employers want low-maintenance employees and who can blame them? But working mothers often bring a unique value to the companies they work for. They have an exceptional way of balancing several tasks without blinking an eye. They can easily make tough decisions and they tend to keep their cool under pressure. After all…they’re moms!

In order to employ these talented, career-oriented, well-educated women, employers must accept the fact that working moms have distinctive needs. They don’t just need enough time off to take care of family matters. They need predictable, yet flexible hours coupled with a general understanding that working mothers are in a constant battle to strike a balance between their work hours and their home life. They need that understanding from their employers and their co-workers.

Working moms have come a long way from the days of relentless judgments, but I believe there is still room for improvement. I hope there comes a day when there isn’t a need for a blog post, or a study, or an article or even a verbal discussion about this topic. Until then, working moms, don’t underestimate the value you bring to your job! That value has brought your employers to what they are today.

Written By: Amanda Trombly

Election Day – Time Off

Every state has a public policy to encourage voting. Although specific laws may vary from state to state, in general they all require that employees are provided time off to vote. Some states require employees to request time off in advance, some require employers to provide paid time off, some specify that time off is required only if the polls aren’t open two or three hours outside of the work day, and some states have no specific law on the subject at all. There are also some new laws that address absentee or early voting. So, the best thing to do… check on the law in your state. Your Secretary of State office is the place to start. And, the employee that is in major violation of your attendance policy because they came in late on voting day… you should probably call your attorney before you terminate.

Politics in the Workplace

Every company is going to have a different culture as it relates to our nation’s politics… some companies may even encourage discussion from corporate management down to employees, others will hear political discussions only from the union headquarters down to members, and some companies will try to avoid the topic in any “official” capacity at all costs. No matter what the culture is at your organization, opinions can run very hot and the topic can evoke a lot of emotion. The desire to sway political opinion with employees and coworkers can be very tempting. If you feel compelled to discuss your favorite political candidate or initiative, here is some advice: 1) limit discussions to non-work time; 2) always respect the privacy of others; 3) understand and appreciate the diversity of your workplace; and 4) learn how to politely “agree to disagree.”  It would be very easy to advise, “don’t ever discuss politics in the workplace,” but that isn’t the reality. The subject comes up at the very least in casual conversation.

So, what if someone wants to know how you are going to vote? What if someone continues to discuss political beliefs that make you uncomfortable? How do you handle the coworker or boss that continually tries to get you involved in political discussion?  First of all, remember that it is your right to cast a private and independent ballot. Although politics can foster conversations about our differences and that is often a good thing, you don’t have to share your opinion with anyone. You don’t have to share how you will vote. Handling these conversations in a polite way is best. Use some diplomacy and tact. Below are some effective phrases (especially if said with a smile) to handle those inquiries that you may find intrusive:

• I don’t like to discuss politics
• My mom doesn’t even know how I vote
• My parents taught me to avoid the subjects of politics and religion
• My big focus is on getting my work done/this project/this meeting topic
• Sorry, I need to get back to work… no time for politics
• I’d rather not discuss politics on company time (offer to discuss at lunch or after work if you want to)
• I’m burned out on politics after all the television advertisements last night