Enough with the Millennials Already – Gen Z to the Rescue

By CEO Jim Annis

Millennials are no longer the newbies. As HR experts, we are “over” over-analyzing this generation. We’re also tired of everyone blaming them for whatever ails us at the moment. It’s time to press the refresh button.

Welcome Generation Z! This generation is the largest on the planet, numbering 72 million and counting. Ages 25 and younger, they represent 25.9 percent of the population and by 2020 they will account for one-third. Every generation looks down their noses at the young upstarts. In order to succeed together we want to change this.

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Success Insurance

By CEO Jim Annis

As a business owner, how do you ensure (and insure) your business will work and be successful? Put your risk management hat on. Identify each risk and decide what to do about each. There are four main strategies: avoid it, reduce it, transfer it and/or accept it. Buying commercial business insurance is obvious. The tricky part is how to ensure that your business decisions are the right ones. Start working on your business versus in it.

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Your Work is Honorable so Sell Yourself

By CEO Jim Annis

This article speaks to you – the student – who may be facing the philosophical duel that society has been fighting for a while now. Which is more important? Education or experience? In my mind, there is no clear winner. It is akin to, “which came first? The chicken or the egg?” So as a student or recent graduate, how do you avoid getting sucked into the debate all together and best position yourself when applying for a job or an internship?

All professions and all kinds of work, assuming they are legal and ethical, are honorable in my eyes. Work has many definitions. In terms of a career, it can be, “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income.” However, I would urge you to use the broader definition, “involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

I am sure if you have chosen to be a secondary education student you have worked in a meaningful way, can meet deadlines and have at minimum a glimmer of ambition that an employer like me can appreciate. First, you need to acknowledge all that you have done and account for it. Begin a table/list of all the “work” you do or have done that might be transferrable to a job. Start with your studies: group projects (time management, leadership, results); internships (technical skills mastered, essential knowledge gained, network building/mentors and contacts); Greek leadership (civic engagement, wellness/safety training, risk management, diversity and inclusion, accounting/finance, awards achieved); and then work in your general work ethic, tenacity, presentation skills and specific technical abilities.

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We Still Need Artists in the Workplace

By CEO Jim Annis

Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space, once said, “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin … or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”

At the August Governor’s Conference, one of the break outs included a gentleman who was touting all the engineering jobs coming into the workplace, and the need to keep up the emphasis on STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Math) education to keep the workforce supply with that skillset. During the discussion, a woman addressed the speaker and the audience with the following question, “what thought have you given as to how artists factor into this?” The man was stumped and said, “I have not given it any thought.” This is the disconnect that I hope to bridge with this article.

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What Did You Expect Us to Do?

A Play in Two Acts by CEO Jim Annis

Cast of Characters

Older generation: Traditionalists, Boomers and GenXers who get upset with younger generations for being addicted to their devices (versus being workaholics like themselves).

Younger Generation: Gen Y and Gen Z who have been told to not play outside alone or talk to strangers, who are watched by helicopter parents through a tracking device and are socially isolated from true relationships while ironically always connected via social media.

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Moving at the Speed of Nevada

By CEO Jim Annis

The accolades are everywhere, “Reno is Starting to Look Like the Next Silicon Valley,” ‘Reno Places #9 in the Top 100 Best Places to Live,” and the list goes on. This is a speeding train. You decide whether you want a ticket to ride and then pay for it.



Unemployment peaked at almost 14 percent in 2011, when Governor Brian Sandoval signed a law aiming to diversify the state’s economy. Great companies started moving in, then Tesla and Apple hit the radar and Reno took off full speed ahead. More names keep coming, Cascade Designs. Mary’s Gone Crackers and most recently PODS. I truly believe that Tesla and Apple get too much credit. Granted, they put us on the screens of the site selectors. In all honesty we were already an option for many relocations and big names, like Microsoft who were already here. Hopefully we will continue to attract companies that are more true community partners than PR hype.

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Work Culture is like Diet and Exercise

By CEO Jim Annis

Company culture is probably the most written about and one of the most misunderstood subjects. The term refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle business transactions. Often implied, it develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.

Most importantly, culture takes commitment. What you do consistently every week defines your results and the health of your organization. You cannot eat a single apple and be healthy, but an apple a day has been shown to improve longevity. You cannot “fix it” in a day, just like you cannot “undo” heart damage from 50 years of unhealthy eating habits. We wish it were that simple. So what’s a company to do?

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Conducting workplace in-house investigations

By Jim Annis


The words, “in-house investigations,” might lead to CLUE board game flashbacks like: Case File Confidential; suspects that begin with names like Colonel and Professor; Rooms and Weapons; and “Who dunnit?”

Failing to perform in-house investigations will not result in fun and games — that’s how employees win lawsuits. Why do an investigation? The onus is always on the employer. Ignorance equals risk. Begin an investigation when the gossip starts, before you receive a complaint and before you are sued. The three most common issues involved in an investigation are harassment, whistleblower, and discrimination. Whatever the issue, following the suggestions below can help manage the risk.

What should be investigated? All gossip, what you hear through management by walking around, subtle “please do not tell anyone” conversations (then do not promise confidentiality — you must address a problem) and comments in anonymous suggestion boxes. Small bumps can become a cancer. Assume each issue is legitimate and drive that type of cultural commitment daily.

When should it be investigated? Immediately. No exceptions. Look forward and reason backward. Go big-picture and follow the trail, with an eagle-eye view. Imagine the timeline spread out from when it happened to two or three years down the line if you wind up in court. If an employee put you on notice Monday, October 1 and then you did not do anything for three weeks, you’re toast. If you took action Monday afternoon upon notice, then you should be evaluated more positively.

Why would you investigate it? You have a responsibility to employees. You’ll lose them is they perceive a lack of commitment to a healthy work culture. Response to an investigation is generally positive: “Management is handling the issue.” If you get rid of the issue, good job — shareholders will be happy.

Who should do the investigation? Investigations are hard. Period. Who you assign to do them is crucial. Options include in-house HR, a PEO, outside HR consultants, an objective person in leadership with no direct reporting, or a person who is not highly emotional.

What’s the end game? Document the following in order:  failure, conclusion, report and follow-up. The most important point is to reach a conclusion. Write it all down on a factual basis, no opinions, based on tangible information. It’s harder to do than you think. Follow up with the complaining party by calendaring three months down the road, and develop a feedback loop. If you do wind up in court, this is what you want the suing employee to relay to the judge: “My employer followed up with me so I felt good.” You win. Investigation is not a dirty word. It’s clean and can help make your environment “sparkle.” You will almost always discover something in the process that will help improve the workplace.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

The Sexy Side of IT Security

Did we get your attention? The topic of informational technology (IT) security is boring, but so important. Most of the statistics are downright scary:

  • 52 percent of people email documents from work to home via personal email account
  • 66 percent of people that take work-related information home do not take time to delete or erase
  • 51 percent of companies have an IT security policy that is not strictly enforced
  • 65 percent of smaller organizations say that, in general, their organization’s sensitive or confidential business information is not encrypted or safeguarded by data loss protection technologies


When it’s done right, IT security can be sexy. Why? Confidence is sexy. If you are confident in the protection of your data, that’s attractive. Here are a few ways to get that confidence factor:

What are your employees downloading (and potentially taking home)

Think about how easy it would be to put a thumb drive in one of your office computers or printers and download confidential data. Do your sales people have their own cell phone versus a company phone? If yes, then they have an automatic database of clients. You can purchase software that detects downloading activity and alerts you.

What is your risk potential

Do you keep social security numbers, health or credit card information? Can employees open attachments to or click links embedded in spam? Do they leave their systems unattended? Do they not change their passwords frequently? Do they visit restricted sites? If you answered yes to any or all, your business data is at risk. There are very specific laws out there – especially for credit cards and health info – with which you must comply.

Do you have any policies?

Even the best security technology can be defeated by bad practices and human error. A security policy stipulates what should and should not be done. It addresses three security properties: confidentiality, integrity and availability. Many employees do not even comprehend that the work they create at work is not their own. If it is work done on company time and equipment, it belongs to the company. Reviewing what your employees do and do not have access to is critical.

Are you assuming your provider has it?

Your IT department or contracted service can monitor and initiate IT security controls for you. Our employees cannot access certain sites that have to do with hot buttons like alcohol, as our IT administrator has blocked content.

The basic assumption is you’re compromised. You have to assume somebody is on your network right now, sitting there and learning and watching what you’re doing. What will you do today to be confident and sexy in your IT security management?

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Sure There Is Plenty of Time To Get Your Job Done

So, how are things going? Although the common response in the past was “fine,” we more often hear “busy” as a response. Culturally, busy has become a more attractive term than fine. Perhaps the recession taught us that if we were busy, we were doing okay. Even if we weren’t busy, we wanted the perception to be that we were because that equated to being successful. This trend recently prompted a viral New Year’s resolution on Facebook not to use the word “busy” at all in 2014. When you think about your life – work and home – is it true that you are busy all the time? Here are some ideas to ponder:

The workday

It is truly a job to be in control of my time. I’ve been saying for years that multitasking – including email – is highly inefficient. We have more time than we think we do. When you say, “I don’t have time for this,” truth is you have not made the time for it because people on average work 5.5 or 6 hours out of an 8-hour day.

To schedule or not to schedule

Sometimes we find ourselves in what feels like a perpetual meeting all day long. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to be there?” Set your priorities and make a choice. Be sure you can trust others to attend meetings and debrief you. If you keep your calendar in 15-minute increments, you’ll think about how precious those 15 minutes are.

Leave me alone

Down time is important. Whether you are catching up on industry news, or getting organized, understanding the impact on the rest of your team is crucial. Do they have authority if you are not available? Is delegation an expectation that you have of each other under certain circumstances?

It is not due to incompetence

If there is someone on your team who has a hard time getting their “job done” maybe the work process is wrong. Maybe they have too much workload, especially since companies are still relying on part-timers to do a full time job.

It sparks creativity and creates new opportunities

Work processes may be more involved than they need to be. Being in control of your day allows time to simplify. Exploring is part of good management. For example, we just implemented better staffing software, which should allow 20 percent more business with the same number of people.

As we get organized, we become more efficient. I recently went back to the “new” old Franklin Day Planner and cannot wait to be more in control of my day in 2014. When was the last time you felt there was plenty of time to get your work done?

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.