Stephen Koppekin's Blog

Executive Orders: Changing Requirements for Federal Government Workers

The Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors and Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Orders are bringing changes to contractor’s and subcontractor’s contracts in 2017. Signed into law by former President Obama, contractors and subcontractors that enter into or renew federal contracts this year should be aware of the new requirements to provide complete paycheck transparency and paid sick leave for covered workers.

To read about the requirements for these Executive Orders, go to Stephen’s blog here.

Stephen Koppekin has specialized in resolving and negotiating employment issues for over forty years, using his vast knowledge of comparative economics, law, and dispute resolution to support him.  Stephen enjoys writing about the latest labor topics on his websites.

How to Create an Apprenticeship Program

Apprenticeship programs prepare workers to compete in today’s changing economy. It’s a great idea to implement a program in your workplace because it’s a win-win-win situation that benefits employers, employees, and workforce systems by keeping up with advancing technologies, innovations in training, and developments in human resource management. Take a look at what I mean:

  • Employers will have lower turnover rates, lower costs of recruitment, an increase in productivity, and have a safer workplace.
  • Employees are guaranteed a paycheck that will increase as training progresses, will get hands-on training (while simultaneously earning a degree), have a career with a competitive salary, accumulate little educational debt, and will earn an industry-recognized credential.
  • Workforce systems will help businesses thrive by building a skilled and productive workforce.

Apprenticeship programs are usually used in industries like entertainment, construction, and manufacturing. However, they can also be used in growing industries like healthcare, information technology, transportation, and energy. Are you considering creating an apprenticeship program for your business? Read below to make sure you’re creating the best apprenticeship program possible.

The most successful apprenticeships come from collaboration amongst a variety of partners. To read more about this extensive collaboration, visit Stephen Koppekin’s blog here.

Why All States Should Follow California’s Private Information (PI) Definition

Companies like LinkedIn and Yahoo had their fair share of data breaches last year. In May, a hacker stole 6.5 million encrypted passwords from LinkedIn and posted them to a Russian crime forum. What’s even better is that the hacker sold an additional 117 million email and password combinations to a handful of other websites. And just last month, Yahoo announced that its data theft was much worse than they originally let on by saying more than one billion accounts were affected. Keep in mind that this issue has been going on since 2013.

This is why businesses need to take huge steps to protect the usernames, email addresses, passwords, and security questions and answers its consumers use. However, the issue is that the definition of what information qualifies as PI varies greatly amongst different states. Take a look here.

 

Exploring IKEA’s New Parental Leave Program

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, all Ikea employees will receive up to four months of paid parental leave. Regardless if employees are paid hourly or by salary, working in the stores or in the corporate offices, male or female, regardless of sexual orientation or even giving birth, adopting or fostering a child, all workers will have access to this groundbreaking policy.

This already expands on Ikea’s previous benefits that granted five days of paid leave to new parents, along with eight weeks of paid disability leave for new mothers. Time and time again, the company has always been hailed as a great place to work because of their benefits. In 2012 and 2013, Forbes deemed the company one of the best retail companies to work for. In March 2016, Ikea was listed on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® List.

Ikea’s move is an effort improve the company’s productivity levels and to attract and retain talent in today’s labor market. Providing paid parental leave helps companies recruit — and retain — top talent. This significantly lowers the turnover rate, which in turn, may save money since the replacement process for employees can get costly.

Ikea’s new parental leave program is an investment they’re willing to take with the anticipation of potentially great payoffs. Many factors go into choosing an aggressive employee leave program.  If it is right for your company, I can help putting one in place.

Stephen Koppekin is a seasoned professional in labor and employment matters. As a supporter of gender equality in the workplace, Stephen has written about the challenges females encounter in the workplace. You can read his other blog about gender equality here.

3 Tips for Being More Productive Every Day

At times, we all get distracted by random bouts of chaos in life. We need to get back on the wagon and back to being successful again. To be more productive in your life, you must stay motivated and focused. Push yourself to keep going and do not get easily distracted. There are 3 ways to keep up your productivity levels every day.

1. Set Strict Deadlines

Deadlines are very important tools to use in society. When you meet a deadline, it shows that you are fast and competent. Everyone wants a great worker, but no one wants a great, slow worker. Set a deadline to show that you plan to get a lot of great work done in a short amount of time.

Good things come to those who wait, but you should not wait if you do not have to. To be productive, consider the speed at which you work and amount of time it takes to complete your goals. Time is an element that goes by quickly, so always take it seriously.

2. Reward Yourself

Sometimes, the best way to push someone to be productive is to offer incentives. Some parents promise to buy cars for children who get good grades or graduate from college. Some employers provide bonuses to employees who go the extra mile in their work. There is no reason why you should not reward yourself for a job well done.

You know what you like the most. Set a goal and promise to reward yourself once you meet that goal. Even if it is only to get the reward, you will still work harder each and every day.

3. Make a Conscious Effort to Be More Productive

To do anything well, be conscious of the efforts. Remind yourself that you are striving for a goal and how important is to stay focused and meet that goal. Tell yourself about the consequences that come from not doing what you are supposed to do.

Being productive starts with knowing your goals consciously, setting realistic deadlines and monitoring your progress along the way. You also must be conscious of your surroundings and remove distractions that could undermine your progress.

The same way that you replenish an old car, there are times when you need to replenish yourself. Follow these 3 basic steps to be more productive so that you get more work done in the day.

The Challenges Female Entrepreneurs Continue to Face

Today’s business landscape is extremely different from the past. Women are beginning to find their voice in the business community. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are currently 9.1 million women business owners in the United States and these businesswomen employ over 7 million people.

Despite this upward trend, women still face many barriers when it comes to entrepreneurship and growing their ventures. Here are some of the most common challenges faced by female business owners.

Social Expectations

Unfortunately, there are still many social expectations and stereotypes of women in today’s society. Women are often expected to play the role of homemaker and caregiver in addition to their professional roles. This means there is much more of a demand on their time and very little extra time for professional development and growth.

In addition, many people have fostered a stereotype that women are too emotional and indecisive to be good leaders. Many women try to overcompensate by being more competitive and aggressive than necessary in professional situations. Women can overcome this issue by being authentic and true-to-self regardless of the circumstances.

Access to Role Models

Male entrepreneurial successes are much more visible and publicized in today’s culture. For women, this means discovering a good role model or mentor can be more challenging than it is for men. Many men offer “good old boys” clubs and social events where women struggle to find the same support systems and connections. In business, networking is extremely important so this challenge is particularly hurtful. Women can challenge this tradition by creating their own support groups and sharing their ideas and successes in online forums that can be accessed by women across the globe.

Access to Funding

Funding is another issue for women entrepreneurs. Many businesses require large investments and women have more trouble raising the capital than men do. Investors tend to give their money to business owners who reflect their own image, style, and beliefs. Unfortunately for women, the large majority of venture capitalists are men, and choose to give money to their male counterparts. To reverse this trend, women should ignore the trend and focus on putting together a business plan that can’t be resisted!

These are just a few of the more common struggles for women entrepreneurs. Despite the odds, women should continue to pursue the dream, focus on what can be controlled, and run a great business!

What’s the Difference? Exploring Efficiency and Effectiveness

In the business world, companies want to utilize efficiency and effectiveness when training new employees. But these two words mean very different things. An efficient employee produces work quickly and with a good quality by using the least amount of time and resources possible. The effective employee produces high quality work over a consistent period of time. Ultimately, employers would want their employees to embody both of these qualities, however they don’t always go hand-in-hand. Luckily, there are ways to train or identify these qualities in all of your hires.

What is Efficiency

Efficiency is an employee’s ability to complete a task in the least amount of time possible while also conserving resources and ensuring that the work is good quality. Without a high standard of quality, efficiency is useless. It’s important for members of a company to recognize various ways to be efficient, such as avoiding unnecessary meetings or spending time on tasks that could be delegated. Efficiency allows employees to be more productive, though it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll also be effective.

How You Can Improve

Fortunately, efficiency can be taught to employees and colleagues. By learning different ways to be more efficient with work, you can hold workshops to teach employees certain skills and tactics to use when trying to be more efficient. If someone’s inefficient, it’s usually possible to teach them efficiency by giving them the resources or skills that they lack. You accomplish this goal by asking employees what they need to be more efficient and then trying to provide those resources in the office, either in the form of training and brainstorming sessions, or tangible objects that improve productivity.

Effectiveness

Effectiveness occurs when employees in a company are able to consistently produce high quality work that furthers the company’s mission. Having effective employees is incredibly important because it means that you don’t have to worry about time and money being wasted when they’re completing their work. They accomplish what needs to be done and it reflects well on the business as a whole. An example of an effective employee is a salesperson who consistently persuades people to purchase the company’s product.

How You Can Improve

Employers can improve effectiveness through performance reviews and constructive criticism. By focusing on an individual employee’s effectiveness to the company as a whole, employers can help encourage new avenues of growth. Where’s the best place to find this super skill? Unlike efficiency, effectiveness is harder to teach, so choosing applicants carefully in the interview process can be a great way to arm your office with motivated hires. How can you test the effectiveness of an applicant? Utilize any and all references provided. This is useful because you’ll speak with people who’ve worked with the applicant in the past.

As the leader of your company, it’s always beneficial to take stock in the qualities that your employees exhibit. Where can you improve as a company? How will those changes impact your bottom line? To truly thrive in today’s market, an employer must ask and answer those two questions early and often.

Detox Quick Guide: Here’s How You Can Successfully Step Away from Your Computer

The onset of digital life has opened up new doors on how we communicate, work, and relax. More often than not, we’re spending large chunks of our days online or using screens. When we return home at night, we embark on similar paths.

Why consider a digital detox? To start, spending too much time staring at screens can have direct, negative impacts on our physical and emotional health. And for the thousands of Americans who are using screens to complete work during, and well-beyond the traditional office hours, it’s no surprise that productivity levels decrease, stress levels rise, and moods turn sour.

Detoxes: More Common Than You Think

We embark on detoxes in many areas of our life. Perhaps we’ve eaten too many sugary sweets during the holidays and need a January cleanse. Maybe we’d like to limit the amount of martini’s we drink at night. Your next step? Restrict your consumption of post-work drinks for a month.

The truth is, no matter what we’d like to detox from, the important step is realizing the need for an intervention. And just like any of the vices listed above, taking a break from our digital lives can offer significant improvements on how we work, play, learn, and live.

Ready to get started?


Not sure where to start? Take a look at the following 6 tips to help you start and complete your very first digital detox.

  1. Take regular hikes

Do you need an activity to ease into your detox? Why not begin weekly hikes where you leave your laptop, phone, and even any fitness tracker behind. Taking small, frequent hikes can improve so much more than your day. You’ll leave the trail feeling energized and stress free. Channel this weightlessness into your workday and beyond.

  1. Travel without your phone

If your digital overdose is closely tied to the activities you perform at home and at work, why not remove yourself from the equation? Take a trip where you’re able to leave the brunt of your work and your life at home. For those who find it impossible to step completely away from their jobs, try and limit the work you do to a set hour each day. Then, for the rest of the trip, enjoy the time off.

  1. Say Yes to Yoga or Pilates

Choose an exercise routine that limits your use with technology. Yes, running or walking are great ways for you to stay in shape but it can be easy to reach for your headphones and iPod to blast music along your route. Yoga, on the other hand, mandates that you spend quality time with yourself. You’ll have your mat and maybe an instructor. But beyond that, you’re on your own to listen and quiet the inner voices you may hear.

  1. Sign up for a Camp

Summer camp is not just for the kids in your life. And for the true technologists out there, signing up for a dedicated program may be the best option for you. While there aren’t camps in every city or state, do your research to see if any strike your fancy. Much like the summer camp days of your youth, you’ll be focused on activities that aren’t in your day-to-day agenda. This can be a great alternative for those who find it impossible to leave their iPhone for even a few minutes.

  1. Eliminate the temptation

If you’re looking to detox at home but can’t force yourself to give up on the savvy tools you use frequently, put yourself on a time out. Just as a parent may take away a toy when their child exhibits bad behavior, consider this tactic for yourself. Hide your remotes or remove the batteries. Ask your partner to stash your chargers in a sneaky spot. Once your battery drains, you’ll be left with a useless tool.

  1. Start Small

With all detoxes, changing your life radically can feel like a difficult burden. Instead of pulling all of the plugs at once, remove small slices of your tech habits over time. This may mean leaving your phone downstairs at night. Or vowing to only check social media twice a day–once before and after work. This strategy may help more beneficial for you in the long run than delving into an intense week of no tech. Not only will you build sustainable practices into your day, but you’ll be more apt to find new ways to unplug in the process.

Completing any detox is extremely hard work. But with the right motivation, you’ll be able to step away from your technological screens and devices. Chances are, you’ll return with a refreshed attitude and a commitment to limit your use.

To learn more about the work that Stephen Koppekin offers, visit his website or say hello on Twitter.

The 5 Steps of Effectively Managing an Unhappy Email

In the age of digital communication, employers and managers often find themselves fielding complaints from employees over email. While this may not seem like a strange fact, for anyone born before the dawn of the internet, learning how to effectively manage these problems over a device can pose a big challenge. While you may prefer to have conversations in person, it’s just not feasible. Small business owners must be well-versed in dealing with unhappy emails. Lucky for you, there’s a simple 5-step solution that’s able to dispel hostility quickly. You can check out more of this solution in this recent article. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll outline the simple steps below.

  1. Wait

You might be able to send emails at the speed of light, but that doesn’t mean you’re required to respond to them in an equally quick manner.

  1. Analyze

When you give yourself and your employee time to think about the content, you’ll benefit from having more time to consider the complaint. Revel in this privilege. It’s one that’s not often found when an employee visits your office and springs a complaint on you! While you’re considering the content, begin to outline solutions to offer. This can also be a good time to revisit the workload, quality, and history of that employee. Is this a first time complaint? Could there be larger problems at hand?

  1. Confront

As a business leader, you have two options in this scenario. First, you could email the employee back and offer a time to meet in person to discuss the email. Or you could pick up the phone and schedule a time directly. Personally, I like the second option best. It shows your employee that you care about the situation.

When the meeting happens, take a rational approach to the meeting and lay out your talking points. You’ll want to address the concerns that were outlined in the message while bringing insight to the conversation.

  1. Listen

This very important step requires that after you deliver your message, you spend time listening to the verbal complaint. You may be tempted to skip this step after receiving the email with the problem stated, but listening again can show your willingness to hear the problem and understand what’s going on.

  1. Correct

It’s not always fun to take a management role especially when you’re asked to correct an employee’s stance. But at times this may be necessary especially when dealing with a rash employee. Keep your attitude professional and your tone calm. Kindly re-explain your position and look for ways to meet in the middle. This will help you forge the right solution for the current problem.

As a leader in today’s economy, mastering all forms of communication is an essential element of the job. Don’t let the digital world scare you away from your managing responsibilities. And keep in mind, like all forms of communication, this process perfects itself over practice.

8 Ways To Practice Mindfulness at Work

How do the most successful CEO’s and leaders remain calm, focused, and motivated at work? Many will report that they wake up early to accomplish tasks in the morning or they’ll always sneak out for a walk or run after work. But what happens when you’re in the office and you’re feeling overwhelmed? You check the clock but it’s only 3:00pm. Lucky for you, there’s an easy solution: mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on one task at hand while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings using a therapeutic technique. While it may seem strange to associate mindfulness with your work at the office, it’s technique has the unique ability to re-focus attention. Best of all, many of these practices require little effort.

8 ways to practice mindfulness at work

  • Start your day with a note. Before you launch into your day answering emails and fielding calls, take a few minutes to create a thoughtful to-do list. This way, you’ll be able to schedule all of your most important tasks and not let them slip away. You’ll also be able to pencil in essential tasks for you, like taking lunch or enjoying a morning break.
  • Go for a walk. When work begins to mount on your desk, there’s never been a better time to head outside for a short walk. You’ll be able to de-stress from the work, especially if you’re in the midst of the afternoon slump.
  • Breathe deeply. Studies consistently show the powerful benefits of active, deep breaths. The best thing about this activity is that you can take a few breaths just about anywhere. Morning commute, at your desk, on your walk home. It’s always the right time to focus on breathing.
  • Repeat your affirmations. What’s your go-to phrase or quote that always seems to motivate you when challenging times arise?
  • Listen to your favorite songs. Often times, our affirmations come from song lyrics. Even if yours does not, listening to a powerful or calming song can help boost your mood. Plug in your earbuds, step away from your desk, and focus on the music.
  • Read a poem. Sometimes, it takes doing a wildly different task to get us back on track. If you’re feeling unmotivated, skim a few poems online or read one of your favorites.
  • Assign mindful objects. These might include setting an alarm on your phone or adding photos to your desk. Each time you notice these items, take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on the task at hand.
  • Slow down. When you take the time to complete your work, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes. You’ll also benefit from energy reservation. Those that don’t panic are able to keep their stress levels low and accomplish far more.