SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Four Key HR Trends To Watch In 2018

Chee Tung Leong , CONTRIBUTOR



You may have already noticed it.

Subtle changes in your office space allowing you to concentrate more. Your boss being that little bit more concerned about your professional growth. Maybe it's also gotten just that bit easier to get your application for time off approved.

2017 has seen people analytics arrive "with a vengeance": this year, 69% of companies studied have been actively taking steps to improve the way they look at people data, compared to only 10-15% before.

If managers are able to effectively analyze and predict staff needs accurately, making the office environment more productive, improving career development, and implementing human resource processes should become much easier.

 The increasing adoption of human resources (HR) software has helped streamline the data analytics process and expedite “social connections” by providing management with the speed to act on these real-time and actionable insights.

With this as a strong foundation for progress, 2018 promises to have some radical changes to the HR landscape.

1. Shift from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience
With the growing influence of millennials and the increasing transparency catalyzed by the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience. 2018 will finally be a year where leaders start to focus on developing the “Employee Experience”, an ecosystem that integrates three core dimensions: engagement, culture and performance management.

This new focus will drive leaders to examine their employee journey map and optimize it much as customer experience teams do for customer journeys. It will be an exciting time where HR will continuously experiment with technology in the market such as pulse feedback tools, employee wellness apps, modern communication and productivity tools that will help facilitate the understanding and development of the employee experience.

2. Race to Digitalize HR
An important corollary to improving the employee experience through analyzing employee data is the digitalization of the workplace itself. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools like GetLinks or Arya have disrupted recruitment practices, effectively lowering costs and obtaining candidates with the better fit.

Josh Bersin shares his perspective, “just as many digital disruptors have toppled businesses in travel, retail, and other industries, we should essentially ‘topple’ our HR thinking with the adoption of digital solutions,” he says. “HR organizations now have to learn how to ‘be digital,’ not just ‘buy digital products.'”

In this vein, Singapore-based OCBC Bank recently developed an in-house mobile app, HR In Your Pocket, giving employees a holistic HR resource center for submission of leave and claims, tracking medical and lifestyle benefits, and internal job postings. It also features an in-app chatbot to address questions employees might have about HR.

As this rolls out, such practices are getting high visibility in many other companies. In Asia, where HR practices in some countries are still relatively nascent, there is a significant opportunity for ‘leapfrogging’ - skipping legacy technologies and processes altogether and progressing directly towards a more digital HR that would rival developments in more advanced countries.

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Beat the Street?

It was all explained to me a decade ago by well-known SBSer and SMB Nation member Bob Hood from Chicago, IL. Loosely translated he indicated many a wise person has gone to their grave trying to “beat the street” in investor parlance. Yet it seems that Harrisburg, PA-based D&H Distributing has done exactly that according to its most recent quarterly report. Because D&H Distributing in privately held, it doesn’t file standard reports like a 10K statement so it’s a bit difficult to confirm its growth; it doesn’t report revenues or earnings. But taken at face value, here is what I know about D&H’s success in beating the street.

Top Growth Categories at D&H, September to November 2017 (year-over-year):
Digital Signage 51%
Connected Home 42%
Server Products 36%
Network Security 26%
Workstations 19%
Wireless/networking 17%
Notebooks/desktop 14%
Printers 13%

Gartner reports that server shipments grew 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2017 after declining 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017. IDG reported similar numbers. If you look closely above, D&H is reporting that Server Products are up 36%, clearly a case of beating the street. But hailing from Seattle and the home of Microsoft Servers, forgive me for being a bit skeptical. I dug a bit deeper.

First there are two different measurements. Gartner and IDC are measuring server shipments. D&H is measuring the category of server products. So the growth rates don’t align (not apples to apples). D&H offered the following as sources of server-side growth.

1. Server refreshes – Small businesses tend to lag behind in upgrading technology. There are a number of five to ten year-old servers out in the small business channel running Windows Server 2008/2008 R2, and we are seeing a bit of a refresh cycle for that market.

2. Component and accessory add-ons – Many competitors and peers in the channel focus on selling a lot of inexpensive servers. D&H focuses on selling servers built to last. We sell more memory and hard drives per system than our competitors, on average. We sell upgraded RAID solutions on average far above the channel. We sell remote management modules, encryption modules, premium RAID keys, and other advanced technologies, even on servers for small businesses. All of these items are sold based on the value proposition of each one. The greater market tends to selectively overlook this strategy.

3. More sophisticated server solutions – D&H actively recommends high-availability solutions for our clients, typically two or three servers and an iSCSI or FC SAN. Most of the channel reserves this kind of solution for the mid-market and up, but there are a lot of small businesses who rely heavily on their data and systems being available. Those are the customers we cater to.

4. Focus on new technology – when Intel brings out a new family of technology, we drive that message in the market not only through our Intel customers, but through our HPE and Lenovo DCG customer bases, also. We find that we traditionally get a head-start on selling the latest and greatest by educating our customers on the value proposition and business advantages of moving to a newer technology platform, which tends to bring some server upgrades onto the calendar for D&H and its customers.

Any way you slice it, it’s both bold and impressive that D&H can beat the street. It’s niche focus on small business has resulted in extraordinary returns from expertise.



Forward looking
D&H is headed towards it’s 100-anniversary and it expects to add a 5% increase in its customer base over the next 18-months. “The distributor foresees significant opportunities for resellers who are looking to expand, as the industry faces a potential SMB back-office refresh cycle, spurred by the latest end-of-service dates for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 solutions.” What it’s referring to is the end of mainstream support on January 9, 2018. You read it here first!

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Snapchat introduces a redesigned app that separates your friends from brands

All mixed up

By Casey Newton    @CaseyNewton


Snap today introduced a redesign of its flagship app intended to promote more intimate sharing among friend groups while pushing professionally produced content into a separate feed. The redesigned Snapchat includes a new dynamic friends page that incorporates both chat messages and ephemeral stories, and pushes items from your close friends to the top of the feed for the first time. It will begin appearing later this week for a small test group, and is expected to roll out more broadly in coming weeks.

The move comes at a time when Snap is under mounting pressure to grow its stagnant user base. The core idea in the new Snapchat is to put your friends on one side of the app, and brands on the other. In the center is Snap camera, which will remain the app’s home screen. (It produces 3.5 billion snaps a day, the company says.) The left side of the app is now for sharing and discussing, while the right side is for searching and consuming.

The idea is not completely new. The left side of the app has always been for chats with friends, and the right side has always been for brands. But before now, stories — the ephemeral, public photo and video posts that disappear after 24 hours — have been housed in their own tab to the right of the camera screen. The stories tab blended content from friends and brands, to sometimes confusing effect.

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Guide to Improving Your Business Capabilities

The way that you run your business will have evolved over time. From the early days when there may just be you working for your business, to the current day when you may have a number of employees, your business processes will have changed withBusiness Capabilities the increase and possible variation of workload; but are you working effectively? One way to boost your company’s bottom line is to review your working practices, procedures and environment, and take action on your findings.

With business growth comes the need to recruit staff who can help you accomplish your business goals, but you may not have considered that the working practices that they bring onboard could be harming the effectiveness and productivity of your business. You need to fully understand how your employees perform their duties to make changes that will benefit the business. It could be something as simple as moving the printer nearer the reception desk, or slightly more complex changes that require an examination of the company’s culture. One example of when the company’s culture needs to be addressed is if colleagues have too many meetings that fail to achieve the action points detailed in the agenda. The culture of your organisation needs to work with your objectives in mind, and not against them.

IT Infrastructure
Office workers are often frustrated by the technology that is in place in the office. While your IT infrastructure may have been adequate when you initially started your business, you are required to update your technology periodically. A slow computer that takes too long to load is a sign that you need to address your IT issues by upgrading the memory on the computers.

Seek out specific software solutions that can help your employees fulfil their roles. There is software available that can help HR, accounting and even warehouse management. You will lose time while you implement the new systems, but most will be compatible with your current infrastructure and will boost productivity with time-saving technologies.

The Office
As previously mentioned, simple changes to the layout of an office can significantly boost productivity. You need to ensure that the environment that you provide for your employees is conducive to optimal output. The impact of the aesthetics of the work environment on workers’ wellbeing is well documented, but have you taken advantage of this research? Workstations that are placed in natural light, office plants, artwork on the walls and a fresh coat of paint have been found to reduce fatigue, headaches and stress. As well as your staff’s mental wellbeing, you must also cater for their physical health: choose ergonomically designed office equipment. By taking care of the people that help you run your business, they will reciprocate and take care of you.

The need for change is often prompted when you recognise that your business is not performing as well as you know it can. There are many reasons for a reduction in performance, but by taking time to understand the workings of your business intimately, you will be able to identify solutions to the issues raised.

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Top 2018 Employee Engagement Learning Trends

The New Year is right around the corner, and most employees are thinking about one of three career-related decisions. It is time to search for a new job, stay with my company or go back to school to improve their education.

A complicated reality to accept for most business owners is retaining top talent to save the expense of hiring new employees. Have no fear. We researched the latest employee engagement trends for you to use at your company in 2018.

1. Flexible Workplace Options
Think about the convenience you will add to non-customer facing employees lives such as accountants or telephone customer service reps with work beat the odds 01from home option. It can be a once per week or month program that can be beneficial to single mothers, students, or employees with disabilities. According to Forbes, a recent study by CTrip stated: “remote workers ended up making 13.5 percent more calls than their comparable office workers, which is the equivalent of almost a full extra day’s worth of work in a given week.” Employees working from home feel valued by their employer. The pressure of meeting a quota motivates them to work harder.

2. Healthcare Tailored to Employee Needs
Imagine what your employees will think if you introduce healthcare benefits that will suit their lifestyle. You can lower healthcare costs for employees that exhibit financial hardship. An example of a successful launch is Schneider Electric that noticed a decrease in healthcare claims after implementing an employee program where workers can select personal options that will meet their healthcare benefit needs.

3. Performance Management Technology
The day of paper surveys handed out to employees is a thing of the past. In 2018, companies will use online feedback platforms such as 360-degree feedback to discover their thoughts on improving products and the appearance of your shop. The feedback they offer to your competitors and how to improve the customer service experience will help companies succeed. It might appear to be an expense you would prefer not to spend, but employees speak with customers every day. They are the ears and eyes of your business.

Another trend in technology will be online invoicing platforms that help employees focus on important work versus entering mundane spreadsheets that consume their time.

4. Mobile Fosters Employee Engagement
The workforce attracts employees of all ages. The age of technology through smartphones will change the way employers communicate with their team. Most people prefer to receive information from text because emails can accidentally be deleted or end up in junk mail. Human resources departments will connect with employees with the following strategies:

  • Onboarding documents sent via SMS versus email
  • Friendly reminder of upcoming training or workplace events
  •  Connect with employees on payroll inquiries versus phone calls, emails

5. Time Off Programs
The popularity in Silicon Valley with some start-ups is granting unlimited vacation to help ease stress most people experience with heavy workloads. A few examples include a full day paid off for your birthday, half work days on Friday’s or a day off on the weekend if your state football team has a game. You can be creative or send a poll to employees to find out if 1 Personal Day per year will help with studying for exams, taking their child to the dentist or a day to relieve stress. If you notice your team is burnt out, it will negatively impact your bottom line.

A productive employee is one that will spend a few hours after their shift ends to do a good job cleaning up inventory.. It means an employee that will go the extra mile to put a smile on disgruntled customers face. The more productive employees are, the result can be increasing your profit.


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