Connect with us

Business

Three truths that dare businesses to treat their employees differently

Avatar photo

Published

on

Three truths that dare businesses to treat their employees differently

Employers and employees are being asked to do a lot to embrace ‘new normal’ models of work and workplace characteristics.

However, it can often be challenging to understand just how practical many of these models are to implement. For starters, there’s a lack of qualitative evidence and case studies for what ‘new normal’ working conditions will mean for most businesses. 

Those operating in 2022 and beyond are already seeing certain trends – let’s call them truths – come to the fore that will really impact how they proceed in business.

Those truths can be summarised as dealing with higher absentee rates, countermeasures to combat staff availability issues, and finding new ways to recruit and develop talent.

By understanding these truths and finding ways to address them, businesses are much more likely to be able to chart an acceptable path forward.

No people, no work

The first truth of the new business era is that work doesn’t get done if there’s no one around to do it. 

This speaks to multiple themes: the challenges of recruiting and retaining talent in the current environment; and the state of the ‘bed’ that employers have made for themselves when it comes to staff wellbeing and care.

On the available evidence so far, businesses that don’t take specific mitigating actions to address the risk of fluctuating staff availability and unstable resourcing levels may already be experiencing bumps to their business-as-usual operations.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

This is apparent in the numbers. 

Among U.S. workers that attend an office or shared space at least some of the time, “52% say they are at least somewhat concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus from the people they interact with at work, including 20% who are very concerned,” according to Pew Research.

Staff availability issues are apparent in other geographies such as Australia, where government figures show “22% of all employing businesses” are dealing with staff unavailability issues caused by Covid, with larger businesses the most likely to be impacted.

What this means for businesses is an immediate need to create workplace conditions where one person’s work or workload can be seamlessly picked up by someone else if and when the need arises.

That’s a marked departure from pre-2020 ways of working and may not come easily for many businesses, where knowledge often sat with certain people, and it is not always obvious to ‘outsiders’ how processes or workflows function. 

To better prepare for fluctuating staff availability, employers will almost certainly need to undertake a process discovery and mapping exercise to document exactly what each staffer does and how they do it.

Having processes well understood and well documented ensures that if a substitute comes in for temporary air cover, they have an agreed set of instructions they can follow, shouldering the workload of the missing staff.

Countermeasures to combat availability

The second truth is related: employees will rest easier if they know their temporary absence from work isn’t going to create a burden on or headache for their colleagues.

Businesses should avoid normalising “working through” Covid. Rather, they should focus their efforts on firstly understanding and documenting how employees work and then on automating portions of these processes to make them faster to execute and less labour-intensive or reliant on individuals to execute. Covid has certainly forced us to adapt to a hybrid/remote working model, and the modified processes should cater for this new norm where possible.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Where other employees need to step in to cover for the absence of a member of their team, it is not difficult to understand how automated or bot-enabled assistance could make that task significantly easier. 

A bot could act as a process guide, stepping people who are otherwise unfamiliar with a process through each stage or each decision needed to progress an interaction or transaction through to completion. 

That kind of guided assistance will likely be extremely helpful to someone acting in an unfamiliar role. While they’re unlikely to be able to complete the process as quickly as their absent colleague, they can process some volume, and they’ll be a lot more efficient than if they had to figure out the stages of the process on their own. In some cases, automated workflows and bots could even complete the task without any human intervention.

Bringing new hires up to speed

The third truth is that the augmentation systems that benefit sick workers and their temporary replacements can also benefit other worker cohorts. 

Training and mentoring younger recruits, for example, was traditionally quite hands-on, requiring the assignment of a ‘buddy’ to show them the ropes – something more conducive to being performed in-person than virtually. According to a PwC survey, a company’s “least experienced workers need the office the most”; those with zero to five years of professional experience “are more likely to want to be in the office more often”. 

However, in a hybrid working world, that kind of close in-person mentoring may still not be possible. 

Democratising access to well-documented processes and creating bots that can guide anyone through an unfamiliar process can be great aids for more junior staff.  A flow-on benefit is meeting the requirements of younger workers who expect an enhanced level of automation similar to the modern apps they interact with in their personal lives.

Wrap in some artificial intelligence to those capabilities, and it is likely that newer hires will be able to function with less hand-holding during a time when staffing may be short and where having every employee productive in at least some capacity is more important than ever before.

Keep up to date with our stories on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Read More

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Business

Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

Avatar photo

Published

on

Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Read More

Continue Reading

Business

At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

Avatar photo

Published

on

At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

___

Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

Read More

Continue Reading

Austin Local News

The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

Avatar photo

Published

on

The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

Read More

Continue Reading