USPS Begins Closures

The US Postal Service has started telling employees at more than 200 of its mail sorting offices across the USA that their facilities will shut down soon.

After a five month review of the USPS mail processing network, which currently consists of 461 Area Mail Processing plants, USPS said 223 are set to be merged with other plants.

As plants close, not all jobs will be lost, however 35,000 jobs will be cut from the current workforce, and these are in addition to the 34% reduction of its workforce since the year 2000.

USPS has the difficult task of trying to reduce its operating costs by $20bn a year in order to stay viable.

US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said “As we go forward with this change it is going to be difficult but we must do this in order to keep the Postal Service healthy financially going into the future.”

While USPS promised Congress a halt on mail plant closures until May 15th, in the hope of changes to legislation being passed, the halt on closures did not stop closure reviews from occurring.

It has however stated it still will not be closing sorting offices prior to May 15th.

It is also waiting on a regulatory review of changes to 1st Class Mail deliveries, as it wants to turn 1st Class Mail into a 2 to 3 day service, and to stop overnight deliveries for nearly all mail. While this will slow down parcel delivery fairly dramatically, it will reduce costs and that is clearly the main objective.

First Class Mail makes up just over 40% of total mail volumes, but actually contributes more than 60% of its overall revenues. Mail totals however, have shrunk by 25% since 2006 thanks to widespread use of e-mail.

The company is currently $13bn in debt with a legal borrowing limit of $15bn, but is forecast to make over $14bn in additional losses every year moving forwards unless dramatic changes are made.

20 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Employees Productivity

When a company’s revenue drops, employee productivity is an area that gets most of the blame. Some part of this blame is justified, if employee productivity levels are low. However, blaming won’t help raise productivity levels; the opposite may occur. Take a cue from our 20 tips to increase employee productivity and see the difference.

Set Good Employee Mentoring Practices In Place

1. Establish Employee Accountability

Clearly defined accountability lines help employees to work comfortably and establish relationships with others, with no blame games.

2. Ensure Consistent Performance

Employers must follow up on milestone achievements and do regular follow up with feedback. Only this will ensure that the employee puts in consistent effort throughout the project.

3. Avoid Micromanagement

Trust employees to do their jobs and give them freedom to work in their individual styles. Let them know they’re trusted, while encouraging and motivating them.

Implement Employee Reward Practices

4. Encourage

A word of encouragement here and there works miracles with employees. They’ll work faster to hear more encouraging and motivating words from you.

5. Recognize

Use employee productivity monitoring tools and other processes to note who’s the most productive. Recognize these people individually in private and also in public, in front of their peers and superiors.

6. Reward

Make sure that you award productive and successful employees with money, stock options and promotions. Such awards are the best form of encouragement for employees.

7. Reach Out

Seek out employees, both the top performers and the average ones for a chat. Come across as approachable people, rather than distant managing figures. Doing this will make employees warm up to you.

Good human resource practices

8. Provide Options For Additional Training

Make it possible for employees to opt for training courses that enhance their skill sets and core competencies. Offer them interest free loans, and help with the tuition fee if possible. You will earn employee gratitude and enhanced productivity, besides.

9. Conduct Team Building Exercises

Take your employees to an offsite location at least twice a year. Organize team building games so that employees learn how to depend on each other and share resources. This will help make them better team players.

10. Provide Written Processes For Everything

Create a detailed step-by-step process for everything, from how to redress issues with salary payments, to sexual abuse, to employee complaint redressal. Put up these processes on your Intranet for easy access.

Use The Right Employee Productivity Software

11. Content Blocking Tools

Use tools such as System Gate or Ez Internet Timer to prevent employees from accessing certain websites and IM programs. Doing this will ensure that employees spend their time doing what you’re paying them to do.

12. Time-Tracking Tools

With the right timer software, you can achieve maximum productivity and ensure that people complete their work within an allotted time period. These tools allow both you and the employee to track and analyze time wastage.

13. Tools To Monitor Internet Access

Use software tools provide you a report of the sites your employees visit, how much time they spend on each site and so on. When employees know you’re using such tools, they’ll automatically restrict their online activities, thus enhancing productivity.

Enable Employee-Friendly Processes

14. Keep Communication Channels Open

Make it possible for any employee, big or small, to walk into a senior manager’s room for complaint redressal. Listen to employee suggestions and reward them for good ones.

15. Pay Well

Do an annual survey of salaries for all levels in your industry and pay your employees accordingly. This will keep them from looking out for other jobs and keep them productive.

16. Enable Regular Reviews And Feedback

Conduct two performance appraisals each other, along with a mini-appraisal every quarter. This will help employees understand and increase their performance metrics. Deliver the feedback respectfully but firmly.

17. Train Managers To Be Humane

A good manager can help achieve greater productivity levels just by being respectful, understanding, firm yet kind, and easy going. Train your managers on how to deal with troublesome employees, how and when to encourage, reprimand and motivate. Build managerial assets and you’ll see the difference it makes to employee productivity.

 

18. Set Realistic Targets

Know how much is achievable within the available time, given the employee’s skills and abilities. Setting targets that are either way above or below employee abilities will result in burnout, or boredom.

19. Emphasize Team Work

Initiate team building exercises to encourage team bonding, inter-team dependency and team work. Employees, who feel that they are valued, wanted and much appreciated members in a team always perform better. Team work also encourages a healthy competition, which raises productivity levels.

20. Rotate Tasks

For example, ask your coder to do some technical writing, or ask your graphics designer to create mockups. This increases an employee’s core competence, reduces boredom and monotony.

This article has been written by Dean from Invesp  – a landing page and conversion rate optimization company helping businesses in optimizing their online campaigns.

Five Ergonomic Tips for Telecommuters

Beginning February 27th, the country will celebrate National Telecommuters Week. With this week of awareness, it is a perfect time to discuss health issues for those who telecommute. The luxury of working from home can have its advantages but the comfort and relaxed nature of doing so can lead to certain health issues. Ergonomics is the science of equipment design that helps to keep you healthy and pain free.  Here are five simple, low-cost ways to improve your ergonomics.

1.     Adjust your desk and chair height – one size does not fit all. Depending on how tall you are and your vision needs, there are multiple ideal scenarios for the height of your desk and chair. One example is a relatively tall person will need to raise their office chair to a lower position and possibly even use a stand to raise their screen to a higher level. Another example for an average height person with a desk that is too tall. This is especially true for telecommuters who work on a non-traditional workspace like a kitchen counter top. In this case, make sure that your chair is tall enough that you don’t have to strain looking upward.

2.     Use ergonomic keyboards and wrist guards – carpal tunnel and arthritis are major problems affecting people as technology is moving workers to the keyboard and the mouse. Prevention is the best way to attack these injuries. The key is giving your wrists plenty of room to rest naturally on the desk while you type. Ergonomic keyboards allow for natural positioning of not only your hands but also your arms. They also help to reduce wrist fatigue and discomfort. You might also want to consider using a wrist guard to keep your wrists in a more natural position and prevent you from working in a position that is not comfortable to your wrists.

3.     Don’t forget a foot rest – this is probably one of the most overlooked causes of back pain and leads to restless leg syndrome. If you are a short person and your feet do not rest flat on the floor when you are sitting in your office chair, you need a footrest! Use a shoebox, a wooden box or a plastic container. Anything that supports the weight of your feet will do.

4.     Wear a headset – tilting your head and cradling the phone for hours while you multitask is a leading cause of chronic neck pain. An easy fix for this is a headset instead of a handset. If you use your cellphone a lot, buy a Bluetooth earpiece so you can continue to talk while working.

5.     Take a 10 minute break every two hours – time flies when you are deep into a project or typing repetitively. Your legs, back and Gluteus Maximus need a break to support proper blood flow and muscle use. Not only does your body need a break but your brain will benefit from a short break too. If you easily lose track of time, set a clock to beep every two hours as a simple reminder to take a break.

Of course, there are many other ergonomic tips that can help you save some pain with a little preventive precaution. What are some good tips that didn’t make our list that you’ve found for increasing healthy telecommuting?

Author Bio: Greg Buckskin writes on technology, TV, and pop culture at CableTV.com.

Hostess Down; Health Up

An all-American classic of unhealthy food may be on its way out of existence. Hostess Foods, the maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos, Sno Balls, and Wonder Bread, has officially filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Several factors converged to weaken Hostess’ revenue. First, several large companies began offering competing products. Hostess wasn’t able to maintain the same popularity against similar snacks like Little Debbie Snack Cakes or Entenmann’s baked goods. Second, Hostess is a union company, unlike most of the competing bakeries. This means that they face much higher costs in labor and massive liabilities in pensions for past workers. Third, Hostess also failed to invest in modernizing their fleet and other equipment to keep pace with competitive changes.

But the most significant problem for the company is very simple—people don’t like their snacks anymore. Whether we notice or not, Americans are becoming more health conscious than they were 25 years ago. According to one study, as recently as the year 2000, 54 percent of American’s were eating white bread at home, compared to only 36 percent today. When it comes to snacks, more Americans are also looking for healthier snack alternatives like yogurt or energy bars.

Twinkies and Sno Balls, on the other hand, are considered the ultimate unhealthy food. No one reaches out for these products because we think eating them is a good idea; we only do it if we like them enough not to care about the ingredients. And therein lies Hostess’ problem. With fewer customers that even like their products and many others who choose not to eat them for health reasons, there isn’t much of a silver lining to look for.

In reality, bankruptcy will be a temporary thing for the company. This status allows companies to restructure their debt, escape union obligations, and default on some pension obligations. For the time being, there is still a market for snacks that are nearly void of nutritional value, but there still isn’t much of a future in this market. If Hostess hopes to grow or even exist for the longer-term it will need to respond to where the market is going rather than where it has been.

Is the bankruptcy a good thing? It certainly isn’t for the shareholders or workers. Hostess now has legal permission to make changes that will take money out of their pockets. But for the rest of us, the bankruptcy is probably positive. For one thing, it represents progress in our dietary habits—something that has needed to happen for a while. It might also force Hostess’ board and shareholders to look for healthier products and products that will actually sell. If Hostess can turn itself around, we may all benefit. If not, we’ll just buy our baked goods from someone else—exactly what most of us are already doing anyway.

Tim Cooley has worked in the health and fitness community for many years.  Although he is sad to see the company flounder it just goes to show if you don’t meet, they will walk right by.  You won’t catch him eating a Twinkie at his desk working for Cox Cable Deals.  You can follow Tim on Twitter @ TimlCooley

How A Touch Screen Kiosk Can Improve Your Business’ Reach

Many businesses are now using touch screen kiosks to promote their products or services in places that simply would not be reached without the use of kiosks. By setting up kiosks in key locations, such as inside malls or other high traffic areas, companies and even small businesses can reach a much wider demographic than they otherwise could if they solely operated out of conventional shops or offices. In this way, kiosks function as satellites to the main stores or offices.

Other businesses prefer to use kiosks within the actual stores. This can be very useful for retailers, because it allows them to free up storage space. Since the consumer can browse the business’ website on the kiosk and choose the items they wish to purchase, they can simply see a sample at the store and have the actual item delivered to them from the warehouse. Stores would only need to carry a single size if they are clothing store, for example, and the customer can find information on the item they are interested in and have the size they would prefer delivered to them. This eliminates the need to keep all sizes and styles in-stock at the store or showroom.

 Types Of Kiosks

Another great thing is that there are so many different types of electronic kiosks. There are retail kiosks that allow consumers to browse the products being offered by the company. There are also medical kiosks that can help to bring medical attention to far reaching areas. These kiosks can measure and deliver information about things like blood pressure and body weight.

And then there are educational kiosks that are used in schools and other learning centers. These interactive kiosks help students to learn using their own initiative and curiosity. It can make learning a lot more fun for younger children and also help develop computer technologic skills. All these different types of kiosks can help to promote your business in ways and places that would not otherwise be possible.

Stacey Cavalari is a technology specialist writer for Phoenix kiosk, a Kiosk Manufacturer firm in Tempe, AZ. Phoenix Kiosk specializes in custom kiosks for small to large size organizations.

Why Your Company Cannot Afford to NOT be on Facebook

No longer is Facebook the domain of media-savvy college students connecting across campus. In the last four years, Facebook has opened its doors to everyone – almost literally. For businesses, this presents an amazing opportunity. Why? Because there are over 800 million users on Facebook today, and each one could be converted into a customer.

In this way, Facebook presents a unique opportunity. A normal Facebook user has his or her personal profile that is used to connect with friends and interests. So, too, can a company. Similarly, the business is able to develop a persona.

Take away the digital aspect and think about it like this: if you are unsure about where to buy a nice dress for a special occasion, you probably turn to your best friend. If your best friend has a great recommendation, you are likely going to check it out. If your best friend says they don’t know for sure, but their close friend – who you’ve never met – has a tip for a good find, you would probably still trust that advice.

You trust your friends because you know them and presume that they would not steer you wrong. This is what your business can develop through Facebook. Through your Facebook page, you can interact with customers in a way that is impossible in your store or through your website. You, too, can begin to share likes and dislikes, give tips that are helpful, and develop trust.

Crowdspring gives us a more concrete statistic as to why your business needs to be on Facebook. They reported in 2011 that 51% of Facebook users “are more likely to buy the brands they…are a fan of.” Out of the 800 million users, that is quite a high number of people who buy products sold by pages they “like” on Facebook.

Your business cannot afford to not be on Facebook. It’s a simple way to grow your brand and develop a relationship with customers. The ultimate benefit is that, of course, it is free. Through diligent postings, you can convert Facebook users into clients without spending any money.

To get started, just set up a page. Be sure to post regularly, keep that persona you develop – don’t be a wishy-washy friend, and interact with customers. Results may not be instantaneous, but they will develop.

Liz Childers works at Apex Creative, helping clients with their social media needs.