Tag Archives: York County Coast Star

Bench Strength: 5 Steps to Building a Strong Bench


This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star)

There is nothing more energizing to a company than growth. Increased sales, positive cash flow, an expanding customer base, outpacing your completion. It is very exhilarating for executives and employees.

But with this excitement comes challenges. Growing from a small company to a large one requires outstanding talent. Talent that can adapt, change, thrive and deliver. Growth brings newness, unpredictability, ambiguity, and often stress. Having equipment, capacity, sales and cash will only prove helpful if a strong team is ready and able to step up. In sports it is called bench strength.

Red Sox manager John Farrell enjoyed the upper hand over the St. Louis Cardinals in last year’s World Series. Farrell had one of baseball’s most productive benches. Being able to look down the bench, seeing the right player to send out on the field at a critical time in the game proved to be a significant advantage, propelling the Sox to the championship.

I recently spoke to a business owner who was looking at doubling his business in the next two to three years, expanding his facility, and opening his business to some new, promising markets. Yet, his excitement was tempered by the sober reality that his bench strength was weak—strong enough for today, but lacking in capability for what loomed ahead.

So what steps should an organization take to build bench strength?

  1. Know What You’ve Got: Evaluate your current staff. Their ability and willingness to change, adapt, and learn are essential traits. Ongoing assessment of your employees will allow you to know your current capacity and determine what your future needs will be. At the same time, through training and coaching, you can begin to raise skill and performance levels. All high performers should have a development plan in place to ensure future readiness. While growing your staff is a critical first step, sometimes individuals who performed in the past will be unable to help you in the future. Bench strength means having high potentials that are ready to step into new roles. Difficult decisions must be made. Continue reading

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Health Insurance: Decision Time


(Written by Rick Dacri & published in the York County Coast Star, August 22, 2013)

It’s decision time. The deadlines for implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are fast approaching. Delay, in hopes that Congress will suddenly derail it, is a mistake.

Most employers have moved beyond a wait and see approach and are taking steps to deal with the new rules and regulations. The Act is complex and employers should quickly meet with their health insurance brokers to get their advice and counsel. The focus must be on developing the correct tactics to handle the vast implications of the Affordable Care Act.

The news has been filled with stories of companies opting to drop their existing health insurance coverage, fire workers to fall below the 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) threshold for mandatory coverage or reduce employee hours below 30 to avoid offering coverage. The reality is very different. What I hear from my clients is that they definitely plan to continue providing coverage and this trend is affirmed by a recent International Foundation of Employee Benefits survey. 69% of participants indicated they would definitely continue coverage and another 25% said they are likely to do so. Only 4% said they are likely or leaning toward dropping coverage.

Employers who currently do not offer health insurance must now decide whether to continue that practice or not. Under the “play or pay” rules, Continue reading

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Bullying: It Has To Stop



It keeps happening. Bullying. In the schools, playgrounds, social media, and work. We read about suicides of young people who were bullied. Now Rutger’s basketball coach Mike Rice is fired after striking and berating his players. But his termination only happened after a video of his behavior went viral.  The problem is not just in schools and with young people. Bullying is occurring on a daily basis in the workplace and employers are at a loss as to what to do about it.

Survey after survey point to widespread workplace problems. The findings of the Workplace Bullying survey conducted in 2011 found that half of the companies surveyed reported incidents of bullying. Victims report experiencing mental and emotional harm along with stress related physical damage including hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headaches. A Canadian study even suggested that co-workers who witness bullying are also traumatized by it. And it is costing employers a lot in decreased morale, increased turnover and absenteeism, and drops in productivity—all impacting the bottom line.

So what does workplace bullying look like? Victims report a number of behaviors including verbal abuse, shouting, swearing, name calling and malicious sarcasm; hurtful gossip, rumors and lies; threats and intimidation; cruel comments and teasing; and even physical assaults.

While most bullying occurs between peers, much of it happens at the hands of supervisors directing their fury at staff. Continue reading


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Problem Solving: Blame Games Cost Companies

By Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates, LLC

(This article was originally published in the York County Coast Star on November 15, 2012)

My friend Terry is a successful sales executive — in spite of the fact that the employees of his company actively work against him. No, they don’t dislike him or try to overtly sabotage him. What they do is much worse — they refuse to give him the information he needs to make a sale and the president of the company encourages this behavior. It’s crazy.

When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe it. Why would the president deliberately sanction behavior that undermines the growth and success of his own company? A little background:

Terry works for a firm that specializes in printing, mailing and archiving critical documents, primarily for financial institutions. This includes the design and delivery of bank statements, electronic statements, bank checks, etc. It’s all pretty sophisticated and technical.

To help these customers, Terry must work with their executives, IT professionals and the purchasing department to understand their needs. Then he meets with his own company’s employees to help him prepare a quote for a specific job, and this is where the problems begin. You see, to generate an accurate proposal he needs to know how long it will take for programming, production and shipping to do the job. Mistakes made here can be very costly, so Terry and the other sales executives depend on the people who know this stuff. But, when he goes to the respective company managers for input, he finds them reluctant to provide him this essential information. They force Terry to figure this all out by himself.

When I heard this I was shocked and asked why they would refuse to do their jobs. Turns out, if an employee makes a mistake on a quote, let’s say they estimate it will take less time to do the job than it actually does, there is hell to pay. The president will come running down to the offices and production floor demanding to know who made the mistake that cost him money! Continue reading

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What Are You Reading?

People don’t read anymore. I hear this all the time and unfortunately see more and more evidence of it. The newspaper industry is struggling to redefine itself as readership plummets with advertising dollars following.

As a former paperboy (Worcester Sunday Telegram), I love reading newspapers and look forward everyday to getting my morning papers that I devour with a cup of coffee. Reading keeps me abreast of what’s going on in the world and is essential for my business success—who wants to work with a consultant who’s not aware and can’t carry on a conversation?

Here’s what I’m reading: every day I get my local paper, The Portland Press Herald and the Wall Street Journal (Saturday is my favorite issue as I enjoy reading Peggy Noonan’s op-ed. I rarely agree with her politics, but she writes so beautifully). On a weekly basis, I read the York County Coast Star (for purpose of self-disclosure, I write a monthly business column for the paper) and BusinessWeek magazine. On a monthly basis I read HR Magazine. On top of this, I read various blogs and get daily news and business updates on the Internet. I also read books and have fallen in love with Kindle, which I read on my iPad. If you want to view what I’ve read, I’ve posted them on my LinkedIn page.

 What are your thoughts on this? What are you reading? Comment below. For now, though, I’m writing this on Saturday morning so it’s now time to read Peggy Noonan’s column

Rick Dacri

Dacri  Associates, LLC

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Strong Economy Brings Workforce Challenges

(This article was written by Rick Dacri and was originally published in York County Coast Star, April 19, 2012 edition)

 The evidence continues to pour in that the economy is rebounding. The unemployment rate continues to decline, job growth is up, factory production and retail sales are increasing, and corporate profits are reaching pre-recession levels.

While employers may be breathing a collective sigh of relief having survived a devastating recession, a number of workforce challenges are emerging including the need to hire, retain star performers, increase wages and maintain productivity.

Recruitment: Over the last few years, employers have avoided making new hires. Many were forced to cut their workforce while others used technology and productivity gains to avert the need to hire. Now with increased demand, there is a need to expand their workforce. Before taking the plunge, employers should first evaluate their recruitment initiatives. The old ways of hiring no longer work. Employers must put in place systems that ensure they attract and hire the best candidates that can make an immediate contribution to their business.

Understanding your true needs, having in place a positive recruitment brand that will attract quality performers, trained interviewers that can identify the gems while passing on those that aren’t what they appear to be, and a compelling argument and compensation package that will get prospects to say “yes” when offered, are just some of the key ingredients needed. In this new economy, employers will need to embrace new recruitment technology and social media. Recruitment has changed and employers must adapt.

Retention: When unemployment was high and the economy teetered upon disaster, employees kept their heads down and were thankful that they had a job — any job. That’s changed. Job growth is up and employees are beginning to get restless. More and more employees will begin to look for greener pastures and employers must take steps to protect their star performers and avoid the loss of key staff.

It is time for employers to begin to assess the level of employee engagement and morale. Individual employee meetings and employee surveys are great tools to immediately put in place. Strong front line supervisors must have their ears to the ground and have the pulse of the organization. No business can survive or thrive when key employees are quitting.

Wages: Wages staggered or remained level over the last three years. We are now seeing an uptick across the board. Before reacting to this, employers should be surveying the market to assess their competitiveness. Where wages are low, adjustments must be made. At the same time, simply raising wages will not automatically put you at a competitive advantage. Employers must receive a return on every payroll dollar. Performance based pay systems and focused incentive pay, properly administered, will ensure that productivity increases at a faster rate than payroll dollars. A balance must be struck: employees must be paid competitively, with star performers receiving the larger share, and employers must realize higher performance while still enjoying increased profits and growth.

Productivity: Productivity is the key. But one element essential to this is strong front-line supervision. Employers can hire the best, retain their stars, and pay top dollars, yet without great supervisors, everything crumbles. Supervisors can either be the leaders that drive your organization forward or an obstacle that cripples your company. Invest in the development of your supervision. Supervisors are essential to employee engagement and that translates into higher productivity and customer service, increased retention, lower levels of absenteeism and injuries and increased quality.

We have emerged from the dark side of the recession. Now is the time to invest in your workforce to ensure your continued viability, growth and profits.

Rick Dacri is a workforce expert, management consultant, and author of the book “Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.” Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped organizations improve individual and organizational performance. He can be reached at rick@dacri.com and www.dacri.com. Readers are encouraged to send comments, questions and ideas for future articles to Rick Dacri at rick@dacri.com.

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Human Resource Department: 10 Tips to Operate Without One

How do you effectively operate your business without a formal Human Resource Department?  After all, aren’t those folks in HR the “people people” who handle all those employee issues while the rest of us do the real work?  Aren’t they the experts on pay, benefits, compliance, and forms—something the rest of us would never dare to touch?

A well run Human Resource Department can provide an organization tremendous value with their expertise.  Having someone to lean on to handle the difficult employee and legal issues can provide any manager peace of mind.  However, some companies are just too small to afford a dedicated department while others believe they can operate just fine without HR.

So how do firms successfully manage without a formal HR group?  Here are 10 tips:

  1. Give managers the authority to make HR decisions: when situations occur, managers must be able to act, without the need to have to kick a decision upstairs.
  2. Encourage innovation: productivity improvements can only occur with a steady stream of new ideas come from the people closest to the operation.
  3. Train managers in their new responsibilities: before you can hold managers accountable for hiring,  retaining, and motivating their staff, you have to train them on how to do it.  These are complicated concepts, so education is key to a successful transition.  You need to prepare your managers first.  If you just dive in, you’ll probably  make mistakes.
  4. Hold managers accountable for workforce decisions: without accountability, nothing good happens.  Hold the managers accountable for hiring      quality staff, retaining good employees, increasing productivity, etc.  And when good things happen, reward them.
  5. Develop systems that promote consistency: without consistency, productivity, morale and profitability will dip.  Develop good systems and standards, encourage lots of communications between the      managers, and follow your procedures.  When deviations from procedures do occur (and they will), make sure everyone knows why.
  6. Know the law: state and federal laws change frequently.  Have an outside expert regularly monitoring regulations that can impact your workplace.
  7. Use an outside expert to handle thorny  workforce issues: no matter how skilled your staff may be, there are  going to be times when you need specific expertise.  You don’t want a manager guessing about      how to handle a sexual harassment investigation.
  8. Utilize experts to help with problems  and to train and coach your managers: to ensure that your managers  have the skills to do handle their new responsibilities, get them the needed expertise.
  9. Address workforce issues immediately: when behavior issues are handled right away, there is far less stress for the managers and fewer concerns for error and lawsuits.
  10. Involve your employees: employees are a vast resource that when tapped can offer an abundance of ideas.

Operating without a HR department is not easy.  For smaller organizations there is little choice.  Regardless, preparing your organization and managers to directly oversee their workforce can be positive for all.  Training, systems, accountability standards, outside expertise and the commitment to make it work is the formula to bringing your workforce closer and focusing your managers on your most important asset—your people.

(This article was part of my regular column in the York County Coast Star, November 17 2011 edition)



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