Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

Resolve to improve productivity in the new year with 5 simple strategies

Now is the time of the year where every website, magazine or television show has their annual take on resolutions for the New Year.  BCN Services has compiled its own list from various sources around the web and what has worked for us, as well.

The key to successful resolutions is threefold: having a plan, reviewing the plan and making necessary adjustments to the plan throughout the year.  The suggestions listed below are simple and cost-effective things to implement and, hopefully, will have a positive impact on your business success in the new year.

  1. Plan out each day.  There is an ongoing debate in business coaching about whether it is better to plan your day the night before or first thing in the morning.  Either way, the important thing is to make a plan.  A great way to get started is to identify the top five things that will make the day a success and outline when and what needs to be accomplished.  Another key tip, is to be specific.  Research shows that the more specific you are with plans and goals the more often you will them.
  2. Get control of your email.  We hear complaints about managing email from clients all the time.  Everyone has increased access to email, texting, and data in general with the proliferation of smartphones, and tablets. Several studies have shown people who schedule email management time with beginning and end times are more productive and less stressed than those who reach for their email constantly or whenever they hear an email notification.  Another great tip: Code your emails based on urgency, action needed and/or if others needs to be involved.
  3. Meeting management.   Employees everywhere complain about too many meetings, nonproductive meetings and meetings that last too long.  Here are some tips to alleviate meeting madness:
    • Always have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time.
    • Set a specific time limit and stick to it.  Several Fortune 1000 companies have started limiting meetings to 15 minutes.
    • A more radical idea that has become popular is to only have meetings where everyone stands to energize and shorten meetings.  Research has shown that this keeps employees focused and on point.
  4. Motivate employees.  A motivated workforce can move mountains and improve overall morale.  Employees are more motivated when they have clear goals, when collaboration is welcome and when they are not micromanaged.  Work with employees to set clear goals they understand and allow them to have a say in the goal, why it is important and plan for rewards or consequences goal if a goal is not achieved.
  5. Recharge.  Americans waste more vacation and paid time off than any other country.  Everyone, including owners, managers and employees need to time to recharge their batteries, sharpen the saw and reflect.  Encourage employees to take time and make sure that you do as well.

All of us at BCN Services wish you and your staff a safe and successful new year!

BCN 25-year logo

The Magic of Christmas is an inspiration for us all

I am truly humbled.

For 22 years, I’ve been in the people business. I am privileged to serve great business people. They work with our company to effectively support manage their most important asset:  Their people.

Magic of Christmas

How do we do it?

Modern-day cloud software, professional expertise, and processes and efficiencies all help, but our most important tool is the people of BCN Services who are well-trained and certified and are  specialists in human resources, benefits, payroll, risk management, accounting and technology integration.

Day in and day out, our clients and their employees need our BCN specialists to go to the wall for them — and they do — which is what makes BCN so different.

A special volunteer brings magic to Christmas

A couple of years back, I attended a charity golf outing and was introduced to Debbie Williams-Hoak, who works throughout the year to provide for children in our local communities who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.

Her program is called “The Magic of Christmas” and it works like this: Families list the clothing they need and the toys they want.  Donors shop, buy and wrap each child’s gifts.  Local law enforcement officers become Santa Claus and deliver the gifts. This gift-giving and bond-building encourages trust by engaging the community’s children in a positive way.

I introduced Debbie to my staff last Christmas.  They responded generously with both their time and gifts.

BCN staff gives from the heart

This year, I brought Debbie back to retell her story because we have added a few new members to our team. My staff responded again by more than doubling their donations and we collectively provided a Christmas for 30 children in need in our community!

So this week’s blog is about my friend Debbie and the amazing people of BCN, and how they make a difference.  I am honored by all that you do. Thank you!


Andrew C. Hans, President and CEO

Add humor to motivate, encourage teamwork and boost morale

We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Did you know that it’s easier to smile than to frown? Scientists have discovered that your body has to work harder and use more muscles to frown than it does to smile.

Why not add a little humor to your workday and reap the benefits?

Research has shown there are many benefits to using humor in the workplace and here are just a few from the experts:

Ten Benefits of Humor in the Workplace

  1. Humor gets people to listen.  In a Harvard Management update “Let the Good Times Toll – Building a Fun Culture,” David Stauffer says: “Consistent use of appropriate humor makes people want to read and hear what you say.”
  2. Humor connects us with others. “Positive sounds such as laughter or a triumphant ‘woo hoo!’ can trigger a response in the listener’s brain,” says Jane E. Warren in a December 2006 article in The Journal of Neuroscience. “The response is automatic and helps us interact socially by priming us to smile or laugh, and thereby connecting us with the other person.”
  3. Humor encourages people to work together. “A growing body of research shows that when you share a laugh with someone, you’re mirroring not only one another’s body language, but also the hormonal and neuronal activity, prompting a mutual investment in each other’s well-being,” Drake Baer writes for Fast Company in “Why Humor Makes You More Creative,” May 2013.
  4. Humor improves decision-making. “Positive moods prompt more flexible decision-making and wider search behavior and greater analytic precision,” says Lydia Dishman in January 2013 for Fast Company,“Secrets of America’s Happiest Companies.”
  5. Humor boosts overall brainpower. “A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower,” according to Robyn McMaster in a September article for Brain Based Biz.
  6. Humor provides motivation. In a 1999 Academy of Management Journal article, B.J. Avolio advocates humor for boosting morale. “The use of humor in organizations has been associated with improving morale among workers, creating a more positive organizational culture, … and increasing motivation,” Avolio says.
  7. Humor reduces absenteeism. “Humor is associated with enhanced work performance, satisfaction, workgroup cohesion, health, and coping effectiveness, as well as decreased burnout, stress, and work withdrawal,” says Jessica Mesmer-Magnus in a 1986 meta-analysis of humor in the Journal of Managerial Psychology.
  8.  Humor improves productivity. Employees buy into it. “In one study of more than 2,500 employees, 81 percent said they believe a fun working environment would make them more productive,” according to Lauren Breeze, in a 2014 article in Perspectives in Business.
  9.  Humor burns calories. In an article “Give Your Body a Boost with Laughter” in WebMD in June 2012, R. Morgan Griffin writes: “Laughing 100 times can burn as many calories as 10-minutes on a stationary bicycle.”
  10. Humor improves blood flow. “Watching 15 minutes of funny video can improve blood flow to your heart by 50 percent,” Denny Watkins writes in 50 Ways to Beat the Reaper” in Men’s Health in October 2007

Do you need more tips for making your workplace more productive and efficient? Let the HR experts at BCN Services assist you. Contact us at 800-891-9911 or contact us here.



Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator


Can sunshine hurt employee productivity??

With summer in full swing, the kids are out of school and our daylight hours are longer, employees should be able to get more done, yes?  School schedules aren’t in the way, there’s more time to do things after work in daylight, and we are getting more exercise.

But employees are also taking more vacation time which can hinder productivity.  Replicon, a software company which focuses on time and expense, noted that more than 52 percent of employees will take a vacation during June and August.  This can potentially hurt productivity, especially if you are a small business or a company with specialized skills.

So how does an employer keep productivity up during summer?  Below are some tips to consider:

  1. Friendly competition ­­ Consider having contests that challenge and reward employees and at the same time increase productivity.  See who can complete the most tasks in a given week or day then reward the winner(s) with a prize such as tickets to an event or an extra hour at lunch.
  2. Fun Fridays  ­­Here at BCN Services, we celebrate Fridays during the summer months with recognizing a current event or “holiday” such as National Ice Cream day where we have ice cream sundaes served in the break room or take 20 minutes and play a “minute to win it” challenge with a prize for the winning team or person.  Sometimes a break from the daily grind can help an employee refocus and actually produce more.
  3. Recognize hard work­­  If you notice an employee going the extra mile or completing a task before its deadline, reward them with a Starbucks gift card, or buy their lunch one day.  This not only encourages this hard work but will motivate other employees to step up their game as well.  This can do wonders for employee morale.
  4. Share vacation pictures  Put up a board in an area or create an internal web page where people can share photos from their vacations.  This encourages employees to communicate with each other and can boost attitudes and keep people engaged.

While these ideas seem basic enough, sometimes you just have to take the first step and implement ideas like those suggested above.  If you would like help in creating an environment in your office that promotes more productivity and better morale, please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

Enjoy your summer and BE Productive!



Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Good employers find a way to manage across generations

The two main generations of today’s workers  – Boomers and Millennials – don’t always agree on the kinds of HR-related benefits that contribute to job satisfaction.  In fact, each group has different views on retirement packages, health care, flex work schedules, supervisor/peer feedback, career advice and other benefits which affect their job satisfaction.

Keep in mind that each generation brings its own mental map to the workplace, but it is the job of a manager to understand this, develop generational intelligence, and create a plan of action. A good example would be maintaining a broader scope of benefit offerings to accommodate workers’ varying preferences, without incurring additional costs for the organization.

In the realm of health care plans, many companies are incorporating health savings accounts and higher-deductible packages into their benefits offerings shifting more responsibility for costs and control to their employees.

Create dream jobs for prospective, rising stars

The key to recruiting and retaining the most valuable, young rising stars is going to be the ability for employers to create dream jobs for those superstars.  Such jobs are built on a longer-term understanding of tremendous work conditions, rewards and flexibility which begins with the interview process all the way through onboarding, or the process of welcoming a new hire into the fold.  This includes:

  • Training and mentoring
  • Setting clear objectives
  • Providing feedback often

Surprisingly, generational characteristics are based on little scientific research.  While there are certainly differences among how each of us approaches work, emerging research is starting to turn around traditional thinking about the generation gap.  When there are differences, it was observed, they are related more to age than generation.

All generations share top work motivators

In fact, studies conclude that all four generations share the same top work motivators of desire for continuous employment and opportunities for promotion.  All generations expect the following from their employers and their work experience:

  • Working on challenging projects
  • Receiving competitive compensation
  • Have opportunities for advancement and chances to learn and grow in their jobs
  • Be treated fairly
  • Have a good work-life balance

It is important for employers to maintain a balance and ensure that employee offerings accommodate the needs of all generations of workers.

BCN Services can help your organization develop a menu of benefits that will meet your organization’s needs and keep your employees motivated and satisfied in their jobs.

Sources:, Forbes, Time



Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager

Tips for all: Respect fellow employees’ time and workspace

Does it seem sometimes that tempers are short in your office?  Are people not as patient as they could be?

Working in close proximity – particularly with people that have differing habits – can be stressful.  It’s important for everyone to be respectful of each other and it never hurts to remind people to do that.  Most people want to get along and do the job that they were hired to do.

Whether you just want to send an email reminder or adopt a policy and update your handbook, here are some ideas that many employees can rally around:

  • Be aware of how loud you speak on the telephone.
  • Don’t hold meetings in shared work areas. For conversations with three or more people, go to a conference room or a break area.
  • Don’t hold interoffice conversations on a speaker phone.  Pick up the phone when calling others.  If several people need to be included on a call, consider a conference call, or move a speaker phone conversation to a walled office or conference room.
  • Always show up on time for meetings and be respectful of other people’s time.
  • Keep meetings to the time scheduled. Don’t force the next group to stand in the hallway outside of the conference room waiting for you and your group to finish.
  • Pay attention during meetings and avoid multi-tasking, such as scrolling through emails on your smart phone or computer.
  • Don’t take your bad mood out on others.  Everyone has stresses at work.
  • Eat lunch in the cafeteria or break room. Avoid eating smelly food at your desk.
  • Stay at home when you’re sick to avoid passing germs to others.
  • Put your personal cell phone on “vibrate” mode to prevent disturbing others.
  • Avoid wearing perfume or cologne at work.
  • Ladies – don’t wear revealing clothing. Let others see your skills, not private body parts.
  • Respect your co-worker’s property (and company property).
  • Don’t take things from others without asking. Refrigerator lunch and coffee cream stealers – that means you!

When troubles do arise, don’t let your employees put you in the middle.  Employees may look to a supervisor to address issues that they don’t want to confront themselves.  Express your support for all your employees by encouraging them to try to work out their differences among themselves first.  If they would feel more comfortable with you – as the supervisor – to be there, that’s okay, but avoid taking sides.

Use these tips to help employees work through problems:

  • Don’t reciprocate bad office behavior.
  • Stay calm and don’t get emotional or angry.
  • Meet with the person in a private location and explain how his or her bad manners or behavior are affecting you.
  • If the problem continues or worsens after you’ve spoken with the offender, seek help from your manager or a representative from HR.

If you need help developing a policy for your business or need help with a specific employee situation, contact BCN Services for assistance.




Sue Kester, HR Manager

Employee gender-identity matters must be considered in company policy and procedures

The topic of gender identity can be a new, and sometimes uncomfortable, area for employers.

It is widely considered sex discrimination when someone is treated differently for failing to conform to sex stereotypes or for changing their sex. Consider these matters as you look at your business policies:

  • How do you handle coworkers that feel uncomfortable around a transgender employee?
  • What about your dress code as it relates to gender identity?
  • What about use of public restrooms?

Be aware that there are no federal laws protecting gender identity, but more and more states are adopting them.

Don’t put restrictions on transgender employees

Take care not to address coworker concerns by putting restrictions on the transgender employee.  All employees must be treated with dignity and respect, so reasoning that you were trying to appease all employees won’t protect from an unlawful discrimination claim.

Transgender or gender-transitioning employees live and work full-time in the clothes of their target gender. A dress code should be applied to gender-transitioning employees in the same way they are applied to other employees of that gender. Dress codes should never prevent transgender employees from living full-time in their gender identity.

Consider how you handle public restrooms

Multiple-occupant, gender-segregated restroom facilities are most commonly seen in the workplace. But employers may want to consider a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom, much like the “family restrooms” that are becoming common in public places.  But be cautious: You cannot require a transgender employee to use a unisex bathroom if gender-specific bathrooms are available.

As always, the BCN Human Resources team is available to discuss specific situations in your workplace and help guide you with any and all employee matters. Contact us here.



Sue Kester, HR Manager

Take steps to curtail workplace gossip and the problems it causes

Gossip means different thing to different people. To some, it refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing while others believe that gossip involves just untrue tales and still others think it can include truthful remarks. Another belief considers gossip to be any talk of a person’s or institution’s affairs — whether personal or professional, harmless or slanderous.

Unfortunately, gossip is rampant in most workplaces. Sometimes, it may seem as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They talk about the company, their coworkers and their managers.

The dangers of workplace gossip

Some negative consequences of workplace gossip include:

  • Erosion of trust and morale
  • Lost productivity and wasted time
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear information as to what is and isn’t fact
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides
  • Hurt feelings and reputations
  • Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment

How and when do you manage workplace gossip?

The key is to know when the gossip has gotten out of hand. You need to act if the gossip is:

  • disrupting the workplace and the business of work,
  • hurting employees’ feelings,
  • damaging interpersonal relationships, or
  • Injuring employee motivation and morale.

Gossip should be managed exactly as you would manage any other negative behavior from an employee in your workplace. Use a coaching approach, when possible, to help the employee improve his or her behavior.

But, when needed, gossip management starts with a serious talk between the employee and the manager or supervisor. If this discussion of the negative impacts of the employee’s gossip has no effect on subsequent behavior, begin the process of progressive discipline with a verbal warning, then a formal written verbal warning for the employee’s personnel file.

If you decisively deal with gossip, you will create a work culture and environment that does not support gossip.

Do you need help managing a workplace issue such as excessive gossip or other bad behavior? BCN Services can help you assess your situation and develop an action plan and set appropriate policies to avoid future problems. Contact us for assistance by calling 800-891-9911.




Lisandra Quinones, Human Resource Administrator

A lesson in customer service: Analyze what works for your company

A coworker gave me a book on tape to listen to a few weeks ago.  I had heard of the company, Zappos, but didn’t know much about them or their core values.  This online retailer started very small and grew quickly beyond anyone’s expectations.

There were setbacks along the way, but they learned and are now a leading company in customer service.

What was their path to success?

They developed a set of Core Values, polling their employees to ask their opinions and from this exercise developed the following:

Deliver WOW through Service:  Zappos is known for their service.  They will go above and beyond to serve their customers. One of the things they do during the holiday season when their customer call center is extremely busy, is to have every employee from EVERY department help with phones for a few hours.  Even CEO Tony Hsieh participates.

Embrace and Drive Change: So many of us fear change, but not at Zappos. They never want anyone who works for them to be content with the status quo.  This is what keeps them ahead of their competition.

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness: They started an internal blog that highlights the fun and goofy things they do within each department.  This adds humor to the work day which makes employees enjoy their work environment even more.

Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded: Do not be afraid to take risks and make mistakes; this is how their company learns and grows

Pursue Growth and Learning:  An office library has the top books that CEO Hsieh finds inspirational.  This library is free to all employees and visitors.

Open and Honest Relationships with Communication: The company works hard to have strong relationships in all areas, both internal and external.

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit: Employees that work here care for each other.  Many interact outside of the office and this creates a desire to do the best they can at their jobs.

Do More with Less: There is always room for improvement and Zappos is always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their operation.

Passionate and Determined: Zappos believes in what they do and they never take “no” or “that won’t work” for an answer.

Be Humble: Being respectful of everyone is a key value to the company.

Each employer should find its own values

I think that every company has their own set of core values.  While these work for Zappos, they may not work for you or others.  It’s important to evaluate your mission and your core values, write them down and implement them throughout your organization.

We strive to be a trusted adviser to our clients, provide solutions to problems, and service our clients with respect and excellence.  What are your core values?  Can we help you discover yours? Contact us today.



Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Walking the talk: The benefit of engaging your employees

Getting employees to feel connected and enthusiastic about their job is vital to the productivity of any organization.  The most important thing you can do as manager is to walk the talk.  How you behave says more about the truth of the company than what you say.

Engagement should begin at the interview process.  Emphasize how the company conducts business and why it matters. This helps interviewees understand what they are getting into if they are offered a position, or allow them to decide if the company’s culture is not a good fit.

When joining a company, employees should arrive with expectations that match the company’s and be able to engage in the company culture immediately.

Prospective employees will spot non-verbal cues

No matter what a manager says during the recruitment process, the interviewee will notice if there are non-verbal cues that don’t match up.  For example, if the culture is informal and collaborative, make sure the recruitment process reflects that.  Does your recruitment strategy reflect the kind of person the organization wants to attract?

If you are recruiting for an office position, make sure an office tour is part of the interview process.  This gives applicants the opportunity to experience the environment and the way in which workers interact with each other.  Additionally, create opportunities for candidates to speak with employees as well as managers so they can see for themselves your company is a great place to work.

Make sure you welcome them!  Think about what happens when you meet new people.  The experience of being introduced into a tight-knit group can be alienating.  The close bond and inside jokes can make you feel excluded.

An engaging workplace will help new staffers settle in

The same can happen within your organization.  The more engaging your workplace is, the more satisfying it will be for all employees.  New employees are more likely to feel left out, so be sure you help them settle in, join social outings and help them learn the culture as well as the practicalities of your company.

Make sure you personalize things and make connections.  Go to lunch.  Find out what matters to the employee and use that information to tailor how you manage and reward your employee.

Engagement can shift with workload, season and time of day, so don’t assume the way you managed and rewarded an employee when they start will work a year or two later.  Stay engaged with the process, and constantly looking for ways to update your approach.

Engaging employees can be time consuming.  As a manager, you will need to find the right balance.  What you will get back will be productive positive employee who sticks with you.

Also, an engaged employee is the most successful tool to retention and recruitment.  Employees who are fully engaged in your business are likely to work harder and to act as ambassadors for you.  This will become vital as the economy picks up.



Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager