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How to Hire the Best Employees

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Hiring the best employees means your business succeeds. Good hiring practices can also save you up to $50,000, the cost of finding, interviewing, training and equipping an employee. It can be challenging to choose the most qualified candidates, though.  Consider tips that show you how to hire the best employees.

    1. Capability

      In addition to easy jobs, the best employees tackle hard tasks that require effort, creativity and perseverance. Evaluate a potential hire’s willingness to learn, grow and take on additional responsibility as needed.

    1. Character

      In addition to skills, your employees must have a good character. They should be honest, truthful, selfless, a team player and respectful.

    1. Commitment

      Employees do occasionally move on to other jobs and careers, but you don’t want to hire a chronic quitter. Examine a candidate’s resume, job history and references for a pattern of commitment.

    1. Compatibility

      Your business culture is an important part of your success since employees work harder and smarter when they get along with each other. Be sure a potential employee is compatible with your existing employees, supervisors and clients before you hire them.

    1. Compensation

      When an employee receives the compensation they deserve, they feel appreciated and motivated to perform to the best of their ability. It’s always a good idea to double check that an employee candidate is comfortable with the compensation before you send an official job offer.

    1. Competency

      The best employees have the skills needed to do the job they’re assigned. Check education and experiences, too, as you ensure your new hire is competent for the position and duties.

How to Evaluate Potential Employees

During the interview process, an employee can create a persona that gets your attention. You have to comb through their application carefully to ensure you know exactly what kind of employee you’re getting.

First, read the cover letter. It gives you a good idea of the candidate’s passion, past performance and future potential.

Next, get creative during the interview. Applicants can easily rehearse traditional questions and hide their true potential, leaving you without a real look at their capabilities. Creative questions like, “How did your first job prepare you for this position?” can help you see a candidate truthfully and discern how they will act when faced with an unexpected challenge.

Finally, talk to former associates including supervisors, co-workers and subordinates. Discover the truth about how the candidate performed their job, treated others and stepped up to the plate.

To build a better company, you must know how to hire the best employees. Use these tips during your next hiring event to reveal the employees who will best help your company succeed.

529 Plans Versus Life Insurance for College Savings

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Many parents purchase 529 plans that allow them to save for their children’s’ college education. Life insurance is another savings vehicle for children, so compare both plans as you choose the best option for your child’s future education.

529 Plans

529 Plans are a unique way to save for your child’s college education. The money grows tax-free, and distributions are not subject to federal income tax. You can open an account with a 529 Plan manager or your financial planner. Consider these facts about 529 Plans.

Uses: Spend 529 Plan funds on tuition, books and other college expenses at a qualified school, including vocational schools, colleges and universities. If you withdraw the money for something other than education, you will owe penalties and taxes on the distributions.

Fees: Expect to pay a 529 Plan fee based on your portfolio. Additionally, you may owe a broker fee if you purchase the policy through a financial advisor.

Investment Return: When you invest in 529 Plans, you choose the portfolio in which you invest your funds. There is no limit to your return potential, but you also aren’t guaranteed a return since you invest in mutual funds, bond mutual funds or money market accounts.

Financial Aid: While 529 Plans allow you to pay for college, they do affect your child’s financial aid package. Your child could lose up to 5.64 percent of the 529 Plan’s total value in college financial aid.

Life Insurance

Cash-value or whole life insurance policies accrue cash over time. Buy a policy when your child is born, and it could pay for your child’s college education in 18 years. These policies grow tax-deferred. Understand several facts about using life insurance for college.

Uses: Life insurance is flexible since you can use the accrued money for any expense. Your child can withdraw the funds for college or buy a car or house or vacation if they get a full scholarship or decide not to attend college.

Fees: Expect to pay regular premiums for your life insurance policy. You’ll also owe the insurance agent a commission.

Investment Returns: The type of life insurance policy you buy dictates the returns you receive. On average, you could see a three to six percent return over 10 years.

Financial Aid: Borrow money from your cash-value or whole life insurance policy for school, and you don’t have to claim it as income on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms. Overall, it will minimally impact your child’s financial aid eligibility.

When paying for your child’s education, start saving early. If possible, invest in 529 Plans since they’re specifically designed for education.

Choose A Secure Password With 11 Tips

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Strong passwords protect your information from cybercriminals and keep you safe as you use the internet.

1. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

The best keywords are difficult to guess, so use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols.

2. Use at least eight characters.

Longer passwords are more difficult to guess, so aim to make all your passwords at least eight characters long.

3. Avoid common words.

It’s amazing how many people set common words like “qwerty” or “12345” as their passwords. You secure your accounts when you use more challenging passwords.

4. Opt for unique phrases.

Single-word passwords are easy for hackers to crack with their dictionary software. Phrases like “I like ham sandwiches” or “the dog ate my homework” are more challenging to hack. Consider misspelling phrases, too, and replace letters with numbers or symbols or abbreviate words. Examples include ilIkeh@msandw!ches or tHed@g8myhomew*rk.

5. Avoid using your name or familiar numbers.

Hackers can easily find information about your life and use those details to hack into the websites you use. Never use your:

  • Name, including nickname or maiden name
  • Birth date
  • Social Security number
  • Street address
  • Family members’ names or birthdates
  • Pets’ names
  • Address, current or former

6. Don’t reuse passwords.

When you change your password, pick a unique password that you’ve never used on any site.

7. Give every site a different password.

Use the same password for multiple sites, and you invite a hacker to access all your information. Instead, use a different password for every site. A password manager can help you remember all your different passwords.

8. Use a two-factor authentication.

A two-factor authentication or 2FA increases your log-in security. It typically includes your password and a PIN, code, fingerprint or voiceprint.

9. Don’t save your passwords.

Browsers typically prompt you to save passwords. Always click no. Someone could gain access to your device and then log into websites using your saved passwords.

10. Log out of websites and devices.

After using a website or device, log out. This step reduces the chances of someone logging onto your device and gaining access the sites you used.

11. Change your passwords often.

At least once a month or more often for bank or social media sites, change the password. Set a reminder alarm on your phone’s calendar if necessary.

When you secure your passwords, you make it more challenging for cybercriminals to steal your personal information. For additional safety tips and details about cyber insurance, talk to your insurance agent today.

Practical Tips To Avoid Phishing Attacks At Work

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

According to a phishing study conducted by KnowBe4, employees in the insurance, manufacturing and technology industries click phishing emails or open infected attachments more than employees in other industries.However, no industry is immune to phishing attacks. Use several practical tips to protect your company from phishing attacks.

1. Recognize spam.

Emails designed to gather and steal information can be disguised to look like they originate from a legitimate company. Check every email carefully before you open it, and look for this and other signs of spam.

  • Originate from an unrecognized sender.
  • Ask for confirmation of personal, financial or banking information.
  • Contain a sense of urgency.
  • Threaten to contact the police or other organization if you don’t comply.

If you notice any of these signs, mark the email as spam and delete it.

2. Use secure websites.

Employers may need to order or pay for items online. In this case, they should only use secure websites to share personal or financial information. A lock icon on the browser status bar and https URL indicate that the site is secure.

3. Carefully update information via email.

Cybercriminals can practically duplicate the look, logo and other details of a legitimate company as they attempt to steal data. Your employees should always verify that the email is from the right company before they submit personal, financial or other secure information. Even then, they should use caution since anyone can hack into email and access the sensitive data it contains.

4. Avoid clicking on certain links, files and attachments.

Links, files and attachments from unknown senders may contain a virus or spyware that can compromise your entire network. Remind employees not to click on email links, files or attachments from senders they do not know or are not expecting.

5. Beware of pop-ups.

Annoying pop-ups can also be a tool cybercriminals use to gather sensitive data. Legitimate companies do not gather information via a pop-up, so employees should not click on pop-ups, copy a pop-up’s web address into a browser or enter personal information into a pop-up screen.

6. Utilize IT security measures.

Your computer system should feature IT security, including a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and spam filters. Update these measures regularly, and instruct your employees to keep them intact.

7. Hold frequent training.

Human forgetfulness and evolving phishing scams require you to host frequent cybersecurity training. It teaches your employees to recognize and avoid phishing scams and can dramatically decrease risks.

Phishing scams can harm your company now and into the future. In addition to purchasing cyber insurance, protect your company when you take these practical steps.

Building Valuation: Closing the ‘Underinsurance Gap’

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

When settling Building Insurance claims, it can be tough to determine the real cost of replacing or restoring damaged property. Unfortunately, the methods that policyholders, insurance companies, and agents usually use to set the right amount of coverage all have their weaknesses; according to insurance experts, this means some buildings might be underinsured by up to 40%!

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Basing the amount of coverage on the purchase price of a building doesn’t factor in possibly significant changes in the value of the location. The same problem applies with using real estate appraisals, which are based on the sale price.

Although setting coverage by estimating square footage and material costs can be fairly accurate, these methods depend on the validity of the data plugged into the formulas. What’s more, changes in zoning or building regulations can have a significant impact of the value of the building.

As a construction professional, you can’t afford to “guestimate” the cost of building repair or restoration after a loss. For example, you probably have a strong grasp of arcane and complex zoning and building ordinances in your everyday work.

We’d be happy to provide a complimentary review of the valuation of your buildings for coverage purposes and recommend any needed changes. We can then explore opportunities to improve the accuracy of building valuations for your clients — and ours, so that we can help close that 40% “underinsurance gap.”

Top Tips To Reduce Stress At Work

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Three in four adults report that work stress affects their personal lives. Since April is National Stress Awareness Month, your HR department can share several tips that help your staff reduce stress at work.

Schedule your Day

Your productivity naturally wanes during the day. Be proactive and schedule tough, unpleasant or high-energy tasks for the moments when you have the most energy, and leave mundane or boring tasks for low-energy times. With this tip, you’ll get more done and feel less stressed.

Listen

Maintain an open-door policy that welcomes co-workers to share challenges they face. With this information, you can address areas that should be changed and help your staff find solutions that reduce their specific stressors.

Eliminate Interruptions

Email, pop-ins and phone calls interrupt your train of thought and can affect your deadlines. If you can’t turn off your phone, shut your office door or set up office hours, work to manage your response. Accept the reality that you will face interruptions and try to remain calm. Then perform triage and prioritize the interruptions as you deal with the most important things first and delegate or leave the rest until tomorrow.

Take A Deep Breath

Give yourself a moment to breathe deeply when you feel tense, overwhelmed or angry. Simply inhale through your mouth, count to five and exhale slowly through your nose. This break can calm your mind and body during meetings or after frustrating encounters with clients or co-workers.

Improve Interoffice Relationships

Encourage team members to build trust and improve communication. Team bonding exercises and problem-solving techniques eliminate troublesome interpersonal problems and related stress.

Exercise

Take exercise breaks throughout the day to reboot your body and your brain. A quick walk during lunch, stretch breaks every hour and yoga, basketball or a bike ride after work can help you relax.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Stress eating may help you feel better in the moment, but it can actually make you feel sluggish, irritable and tired. Boost your protein intake and cut sugar as you fuel your body to work and think efficiently. Stock the break room with healthy snacks and water, too.

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly, make decisions and handle challenges. Implement a good sleep hygiene routine so you can stay alert and function at your best while at work.

Buy Plants

Plants brighten your workspace, clean the air and help you relax. Your plants may also lower your blood pressure and quicken your reaction time, helping you get more done and feel less stressed.

These top tips help your co-workers feel less stressed at work. Implement them in your workplace today.

Employee Retention Tips For Your Business

By Employment Resources | No Comments

To help your business grow and stay healthy, you need to retain your employees. Your company will experience higher employee and customer satisfaction ratings, and you’ll save money and conserve resources when you maintain a consistent workforce. Gain these benefits and protect your company when you implement several employee retention tips.

Hire Quality Employees

During your hiring process, try to fill positions with staff members who fit in with your culture, possess essential skills and embrace your company’s vision. Employees are more likely to stay long-term when they feel at home in your company.

Clarify Expectations

Ensure every employee understands their production goals and other expectations. They’ll experience less stress and feel more secure and motivated when they have a clear set of goals to achieve.

Tap Into Talents, Skills and Experiences

Every employee has a hidden skill or two that can benefit your business. Get to know each member of your team, and discover the unique talents, skills and experiences they possess. You can then maximize each staff member as you stretch them professionally and enhance your business.

Provide Tools, Training and Growth Opportunities

Equip your employees for success when you provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs. You can also schedule performance reviews and ongoing training workshops, seminars and classes that help your employees feel professionally fulfilled and satisfied.

Appreciate all Employees

Incentives, gifts and rewards show employees that you value and appreciate them. Consider offering:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Competitive salaries
  • Free lunches
  • Regular verbal thank you’s

Each of these appreciative measures boosts morale and gives your employees reasons to stay.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Protect your employees from stress and other health problems as you encourage work-life balance. Offer nontraditional work hours or a flexible schedule, extra holidays, realistic work expectations, and more breaks. Your efforts improve employee morale and satisfaction.

Strive for Fairness

Most businesses implement different pay and incentive levels, but do your best to be fair and equitable. Offering only certain employees higher pay, extra bonuses or other perks will negatively affect employee morale, productivity and longevity.

Welcome Feedback

Give your employees freedom to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions as you create an open environment that welcomes improvements and innovation. Be sure to take all suggestions seriously, and give employees credit for their ideas as you keep your team excited and involved in your company’s growth and success.

Conduct Exit Interviews

When employees do leave, conduct exit interviews and ask why they’re moving on. Their insights can help you improve operations and reduce future employee losses.

With these tips, your company can improve employee retention. You’ll then gain a variety of benefits that keep your business healthy.

Freezing Your Credit

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

In early September, the credit reporting agency Equifax announced a significant data breach. Hackers were able to access the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses of 143 million consumers, which put their identity and credit at risk. A credit report freeze is one protective measure Equifax recommended. Every consumer, including you, should understand this protective measure as you protect your data, identity and credit.

What is a Credit Report Freeze?

A credit report freeze allows you to restrict who can access your credit report. When a freeze is in place, only certain professional entities can see your information, and it’s less likely that an identity theft can access your data.

Ways a Credit Report Freeze Affects You

When you place a credit report freeze on your account, it affects you in several ways.

1. It prevents certain entities from accessing your credit report. This includes potential employers, mortgage companies and car dealers.

2. Existing creditors and any debt collection agencies they hire and government agencies responding to a court order or subpoena may continue to access your credit report.

3. You can continue to access your free annual credit report.

4. It does not affect your credit score.

5. You will continue to receive prescreened credit offers for credit or insurance. Call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online to optoutprescreen.com if you wish to stop receiving these offers.

How to Place a Credit Report Freeze

Contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies to freeze your credit report.

To place a freeze, you must provide your name, birth date, Social Security number, address and other personal information. You will also have to pay a fee. It typically ranges from $5 to $10 but varies based on where you live.

How to Know if Your Credit Report Freeze is Successful

After placing a credit report freeze, you will receive a confirmation letter from the credit reporting company. It includes a unique password or PIN you will need if you ever choose to lift the freeze.

How to Lift a Credit Report Freeze

Your credit report freeze remains in place indefinitely. However, you may want to lift it so you can apply for a job or credit. To do that, simply contact the credit reporting company to request a lift. You will provide your password or PIN, pay a fee that varies by state and indicate if you want a temporary or permanent lift.

A credit report freeze can protect your personal data and identity. Consider monitoring your bank, insurance and credit card statements, though, too, and purchase cyber liability insurance as a further protective measure.

Tips to Combat Email Phishing Attacks

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

As many as one in five office workers fall prey to phishing incidents, but 14 percent of office workers don’t recognize phishing attacks. Learn more about phishing and how to combat attacks on your personal or company email.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a scam that cybercriminals use to gain access to sensitive information. It often occurs via email. The cybercriminal will send you an email that looks official but actually includes spyware, malware or other malicious software. When you open the link or download the file from the email, the criminals can access confidential information like bank account information, your social security number and other data. In many cases, you never know that your information has been compromised.

How to Recognize a Phishing Email

Phishing emails are designed to look authoritative so that you will open them and give the cybercriminal access to your computer. While these emails often look like they’re from a real company, you can usually recognize them via five signs.

    • Sender AddressBefore opening any email, look at the sender’s address. It may look similar to the official company’s address but could be slightly off. For example, it may use dot-net instead of dot-com or include a small spelling error like micrsoft or mircosoft.
    • GraphicsCybercriminals do a great job of imitating the graphics of popular companies. However, the logo, colors or design may be slightly off in a small way.
    • Spelling and Grammar ErrorsMost companies and organizations employ a team of copywriters who write professional content that’s typically error-free. Emails with spelling or grammar errors, are possibly phishing schemes.
    • LinksEmail links are a cybercriminal’s primary phishing tool. You can hover your mouse over any links and verify that it matches the address of the email’s sender, a sign that the link is safe.
    • ThreatsCybercriminals use threats and fear to manipulate consumers. They may say that you will lose money, face criminal charges or suffer another devastating consequence if you don’t open the email. In most cases, these threats are meant to incite fear and get you to comply with their complicit wishes.

Steps That Protect Your Email

You can’t prevent cybercriminals from targeting you. However, you can take steps to protect yourself.

  • Install spam filters and virus scans.
  • Learn to recognize phishing emails.
  • Only open email links from verified and trusted sources.
  • Delete any emails that look suspicious.
  • Train coworkers and associates to recognize phishing threats.
  • Purchase cyber insurance that protects you if you are a victim of phishing.

You can’t stop cybercriminals from targeting your email, but you can use these tips to protect yourself and your data.

Tips To Foster New Cybersecurity Professionals And Protect Your Business

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

By 2019, the cybersecurity industry will face a deficit of over two million professionals. Whether your company needs a solid cybersecurity team or already has a great team in place, consider taking steps to fight this deficit and protect your business.

Detail the Threat

Incite current employees to enter the cybersecurity industry when you detail current threats, including phishing scams and cyber breaches. Employees who are aware of the threats may step up and seek further training so they can protect others.

Make Cybersecurity Everyone’s Job

Cyberbreach costs exceed $100 billion annually in the United States. Despite your cyber liability insurance policy, your company is not immune to breaches. Ensure that every employee understands the basics of privacy and security in their daily operations. With ongoing training, your team will be equipped to protect your company.

Recommend Schools that Align with National Cybersecurity Guidelines

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sponsor a program that supports cybersecurity education for all elementary to postgraduate students and aims to improve the number of trained cybersecurity professionals. Currently, 200 universities have earned the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) status in the U.S. Highlight these schools as you encourage people to enter the cybersecurity field.

Encourage Hands-on Training

In addition to four-year degrees, a variety of hands-on certification programs also train students to handle cyber challenges. They include the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), Security+, Network+, GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). The hands-on education means graduates are prepared to succeed as security specialists, security analysts or other security professionals immediately after graduation.

Introduce Practical Skills

A cybersecurity training program will include technical classes in risk management, data mining and statistical analysis. However, students must know other skills such as collaboration, conflict management, perseverance, and attention to detail. These practical skills provide a well-rounded education and enhance a student’s ability to succeed in the cybersecurity field.

Offer an Annual Scholarship or Tuition Reimbursement

Sometimes, finances prevent someone from pursuing a cybersecurity career. Reduce financial strain with a scholarship for current employees and their family members. You could also offer tuition reimbursement that allows employees to boost their current cybersecurity skills or pursue advanced training.

Allow Flexible Work Hours

If your employees express interest in pursuing cybersecurity training, give them a flexible work schedule. They can work a different shift, share duties with another employee or telecommute as they balance work and classes.

Your company can do its part to train new cybersecurity professionals. Take these steps so that more trained personnel can fight cybercrime and keep data safe.