(BPT) - Over the past decade, technology has reshaped the retail industry in profound ways. Ninety-six percent of Americans are now shopping online, according to a recent study from CPC Strategy. Which means today’s business leaders face increasing pressure to keep retail spaces relevant and engaging for customers.
One solution to captivating today’s consumer is a simple one: Build meaningful connections with local communities, says Etienne Veber, president of Field Trip Factory, a firm that helps design, schedule and promote interactive learning experiences within retail environments.
“Technology provides greater convenience and lower prices,” Veber says, "but it is not a replacement for human interactions."
The increasing lack of human connections in our daily lives represents a unique opportunity for retailers to thrive in today's environment, he says, by identifying their core values and concerns, and then expressing them through meaningful learning experiences and a deeper sense of community.
"We learn by doing, and retail environments can be incredibly powerful as teaching platforms,” Veber says.
The value of purpose
When companies express a sense of purpose to their customers, it has a profound effect on the confidence in the brand. Eighty-five percent of companies with a strong sense of purpose say they are backed by their communities, because they are seen as “good and helpful corporate citizens,” according to a survey by Deloitte.
Furthermore, 89 percent of firms with a purpose say clients and customers trust the quality of their products and services — versus the 66 percent of firms that do not have this sense of purpose.
As a way to demonstrate its commitment to its local communities, multi-format food retailer Giant Eagle, Inc. developed an interactive program that connects with local school children. “Be A Smart Shopper” helps young students and their families learn about making healthy food choices.
Over the years, it has been a very effective way for Giant Eagle’s retail Team Members to uphold the company’s common purpose to improve people’s everyday lives and well-being in a community-centered way, and so far more than 600,000 families have been reached across Pennsylvania and Ohio. Educators love the program because it supplements the classroom curriculum and gets their students really engaged. Ninety-five percent of them are planning to come back with their students next year!
“Our Be A Smart Shopper program is an important part of how we fulfill our commitments to education and health and wellness,” says Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet. “Through the program, our retail Team Members are able to meaningfully impact how the children in our communities think about the foods they eat, and encourage involvement from the children in family meal planning.”
Expressing purpose in the retail space
A retailer can build trust and loyalty by expressing their values in innovative ways. Their stores are more than places to shop. They can build opportunities right in the towns and cities in which they serve.
Host in-store classes and events: Business leaders, store managers and longtime employees, with their industry knowledge, are community gurus. With that mindset, what better way to connect with the community than to open the doors for an on-site event? Things like hands-on demonstrations, seminars, consultations and even heading up an ongoing club are all engaging ways to share knowledge and help people solve their most common pain points.
Champion local causes: Transform company values and industry knowledge into a community asset, and direct resources to solve problems in the community. Reaching out to local nonprofits, being a major sponsor to make a local event even bigger and better, or paying employees for their time to volunteer are all ways a brand can build a meaningful community presence.
Find a partner: Most businesses do not have the in-house expertise to organize, plan and publicize in-house events and initiatives, which is why some turn to a trusted partner for expertise in that field. For example, as Giant Eagle planned its Be A Smart Shopper Program, Field Trip Factory took the lead with the curriculum (with input from educators), and created the online tool that makes it easy for teachers to discover the program and sign up their class for an event. Each participating store can easily set its availability on the Field Trip Factory platform and these educational events take place without disrupting their day-to-day business activities.
Today’s retail climate is a uniquely challenging one, due to the rise in technology. To learn more about finding opportunities to engage with customers and communities, visit fieldtripfactory.com.
(BPT) - What's your goal for 2016? Do you want to lose weight, learn a new skill or quit smoking? Perhaps you've decided to set goals around your career instead. Earning more money or getting promoted are common pursuits, but what if your goal is bigger than just moving up in your current career? What if your goal is to change tracks entirely? What if 2016 were the year you decided to follow your ambition and become a teacher? It's possible, and now's the perfect time to pursue the role you've always wanted. If you're sick of heading to work feeling uninspired and you're ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of teaching, these four steps can help you make a successful career transition into teaching today.
Change your priorities
Many people want to change jobs, but that desire is often overshadowed by concerns about how much money they'll earn, how they'll be seen by family and friends or their fears of trying something new. To change your career, you need to change your priorities. Make pursuing your passion your number one objective and everything else will fall into place.
Seek expert knowledge
If you're going to make a career change, you want to do it right, and that means learning from the best in the business. For example, if you want to teach, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Western Governors University's (WGU) secondary teacher prep program as the top program in the nation in terms of quality from a list of 2,400 programs. The school is the top producer of STEM teachers in the nation, making it an ideal destination for STEM professionals interested in inspiring the next generation in these important fields. To be your best you need to learn from the best so focus on what you want to do and start researching who does it better than anyone else.
Knowledge is essential and the right connections will make sure it doesn't go to waste. Connect with existing friends in your desired field or reach out and make new contacts through social media or conferences and join clubs that cater to what you want to do. For aspiring teachers that can include networking with principals and current teachers. Often these connections open up doors for student teaching opportunities which can lead to full-time employment following graduation. Above all, make sure you listen to those you meet instead of pushing your own agenda. Take in more business cards than you give out and you'll build contacts that will help you grow in your new profession.
Have faith in yourself
Changing careers can be nerve-wracking, but it's also exciting. This is your chance to do what you've always wanted to do so don't listen to those who tell you that you can't do it. Have faith in yourself, your research, your education and your decision and you won't regret your decision for a single moment once you're finally in the career you've always wanted.
To learn more about the programs available through WGU, visit WGU.edu.
(BPT) - It’s an all too familiar monthly event: you write out a rent check and wait for the funds to disappear from your bank account. But what if instead of making endless payments on something you don’t own, you could own a home of your own? When you finance a home purchase with a mortgage, you build equity and increase your percentage of home ownership with each payment made.
“Homeownership may sound like a big step, but it’s not as out of reach as you might think,” says Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance.
Vanderbilt Mortgage offers these tips to home financing to help you realize a place of your very own:
Assess your financial situation.
Before you even begin to look at homes, you should know what you can afford. Consider your debt-to-income ratio which is your monthly income compared to your total monthly bills. After figuring your ratio you will have a better idea as to what you can afford for a mortgage payment. To determine what your monthly mortgage payment might be, use an online mortgage calculator.
Budget and save.
Financing a home begins with budgeting to ensure you have an appropriate down payment. Be sure to set a realistic goal and use the idea of your future home as an incentive to stick to it. You can set up a savings plan, evaluate your current spending, and consider earning extra income to help reach your savings goal. Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements along the way toward reaching your goal!
Maintain your credit.
There are a number of ways you can build your credit, ranging from opening a checking or savings account to paying all of your bills on time. Getting a secured credit card can also help to build your credit. Be sure to monitor how often you use the credit card and how much you spend so as not to create revolving credit debt. Try to minimize your outstanding debt and keep existing debts in check.
Apply for a loan.
Know ahead of time what information and documents you’ll need to complete a home loan application to help make the application experience as easy as possible. Documents needed may include: proof of income, employment information from the past two years, state-issued identification, proof of residency, and your social security card. Brush up on home loan terms so you can be knowledgeable throughout the process.
Stay on track with your payments.
After you have moved into your dream home, be sure to make your mortgage payments in full and on time. If you can, plan an optional early mortgage payoff by making additional payments toward your principal balance each month.
Care for your home.
The financial responsibility of owning a home is just the beginning. You worked hard to finally get to this point, so why not keep your home in top shape? Create a home maintenance checklist and make a point to regularly go through it. Keep track of routine items like checking HVAC filters, cleaning the sink disposal and cleaning out the gutters.
Follow this guide to fulfill your dream of owning a home. For more information on home financing, visit vmfhomeloan.com.
(BPT) - More American families than ever before have two parents working, but recent studies show many employers haven’t adapted to this change in the workforce demographics. Working parents feel burnt out and unloved at work, making them less creative, less productive and more likely to quit because of work-related stress, according to the 2015 Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.
Employers can do their part to create a culture that supports working parents and reduces the risks of valuable employees quitting or experiencing burn out. Managers should watch for signs of employee burnout and provide opportunities for working parents to voice their concerns. The Modern Family Index, which surveyed working parents across the country and in different industries, found:
* Sixty-two percent of working parents don’t believe their employers care about them. They also say employers are inattentive to the needs of working parents (64 percent) and don’t have their best interests at heart (76 percent).
* Just 34 percent of managers are concerned working parents struggle to balance work and life demands, while just 30 percent worry about whether working parents feel their company doesn’t care about them.
* Although nearly all parents say they experience burnout, 70 percent don’t speak up about it. Meanwhile, 60 percent of managers say working parent burnout can be avoided. The same percentage of parents say their manager wouldn’t even realize when parents experience burnout.
* Seventy-nine percent of working parents and 77 percent of managers say to curb burnout, changes need to occur in the office, not at home. The first step is for parents to begin voicing their concerns.
“Many of the parents we surveyed expressed frustration with their employers and indicated they feel their companies don’t really understand or care about the stresses they face,” says David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, a provider of employer-sponsored child care and other work/life solutions. “All employers must consistently look for new ways to ensure the culture they are cultivating is one that resonates with and is valued by their employees. The labor market is tightening. Jobs are expected to outnumber workers by 5 million by 2020, and competition for top talent will continue to intensify.”
However, the survey indicates the blame does not fall squarely on employers. Both employers and parents need to do better to adapt to the new realities of modern families. “Good communication between employers and working parents will benefit both groups,” Lissy added.
Working parents can take several steps to improve their work/life struggles. Kim Callaway from Horizons Workforce Consulting agrees that the first step is communication. Parents should talk to their managers. Often, managers are unaware if an employee is struggling to balance work and home demands. Talking to a manager means you can work together to find a solution. “Don’t just point out a problem,” she says. “Be prepared to suggest a viable solution. You can also take advantage of the annual employee opinion survey most employers conduct and share your concerns in an anonymous forum.”
In addition to speaking up, parents can also take other steps toward a more satisfying work-life balance.
* Learn more about your employee benefits. You may be unaware of some, such as back-up child care or a telecommuting policy that can help.
* Be realistic and honest about your work and personal goals. When both you and your employer understand your goals, you can work together to achieve them.
* Take a vacation. Employees who take less than 25 percent of their earned vacation are more likely to feel burnout, according to a recent study by Horizons Workforce Consulting.
* Rest is vital to your overall well-being, and a lack of sleep negatively affects satisfaction with life, health, work and financial success. The Horizons Workforce Consulting study also found 60 percent of working adults don’t get enough sleep each night.
* Managers should watch for signs of employee burnout and provide opportunities for working parents to voice their concerns. Regular meetings about work-life issues can help generate ideas for solutions and give employees a better sense of community.
“People want to work for employers who understand and support their needs,” Lissy says. “This year’s study shows communication among employees, managers and company leadership needs to improve. When working parents express their needs and employers listen and respond, the whole organization benefits.”
(BPT) - Within the first few seconds of meeting someone, an opinion is immediately formed that can last forever. This encounter often sets the tone for the relationship that follows. So how can you make your first impression a positive one?
Here are some tips to help you knock your first meeting out of the park:
1. Take pride in your presence
Physical appearance is the first thing people observe before an introduction. Always dress appropriately for the occasion, whether it’s a casual lunch or a formal business meeting. A go-to suggestion is to maintain a clean and crisp appearance for most events because you can’t go wrong – think business casual. This look can be trendy and professional and will position you in a positive light. Being mindful of your appearance will give you more confidence to help make a great first impression.
2. Share your best smile
A warm, genuine smile is your best tool in making a first impression unforgettable. “A self-assured and convincing smile starts with regular oral care practices to keep your teeth clean and your breath smelling fresh,” says Dr. Christopher Ramsey, DMD. An easy way to do this is by adding a mouthwash, like Crest Pro-Health Advanced Mouthwash with Extra Deep Clean to your daily routine. “These advanced mouthwash formulas strengthen teeth, kill germs and freshen breath, so you are guaranteed to have and maintain an impressive smile,” says Dr. Todd Snyder, DDS, AAACD.
3. Showcase your positive attitude
For people who get nervous when interacting with others, it is essential to sustain a calm attitude and optimistic outlook. Go into the meeting with an open mind and learn something new. Contribute to the conversation and maintain engagement. Showing attentiveness is often contagious, as the person you meet catches on and reciprocates.
4. Be conscious of your body language
Body language is a crucial element in daily human interaction. From the way you walk to a meeting, to the hand gestures used while you speak - body language is just as important as the words you say. Start by standing tall, making appropriate eye contact and giving a firm handshake. Demonstrate open body postures by keeping your head up and relaxing your shoulders. Crossed arms and legs make you appear closed off and unapproachable, so be mindful of how you might appear to others.
5. Be yourself
Being true to yourself is the best way to be presentable to others. Be comfortable with your personality. If nervousness kicks in, take a few deep breaths and remember to be calm and confident. A composed demeanor will put anyone at ease, sealing the deal on an excellent relationship as you move forward.
Making an everlasting first impression is simply about being at peace with who you are and being ready to meet others. Try some of these above tips at your next meeting, networking event or job interview.
(BPT) - Today, veterans are returning to civilian life by the tens of thousands, eager to apply their highly refined talents in sustainable careers. Yet, national employment numbers reflect the challenges veterans face in pursuit of this goal. The September Bureau of Labor Statistcs unemployment rate for Gulf War Era II veterans decreased to 5 percent, which is the same for both men and women. Overall unemployment for all Veterans over 18 years old is at 4.3 percent (4.1 percent for men, and 5.9 percent for women). Overall unemployment stands at 5.1 percent. The only segment where veteran unemployment is worse than general population unemployment is women veterans (5.9 percent vs 5 percent). The improvement in veteran unemployment suggests veteran hiring programs implemented by companies such as Prudential are having a real impact helping service members transition to civilian employment.
Throughout its long history, Prudential has had a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifices of veterans. In 2010, the company established The Office of Veterans Initiatives to help prepare military service members and their spouses for meaningful careers. Headed by Chuck Sevola, a former communications officer in the U.S. Army and staffed by veterans, Veterans Initiatives works to strengthen relationships with corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies so they can collectively provide educational and employment opportunities to veterans and their families.
“Veterans bring significant value to the workforce, including practiced leadership skills, discipline, the ability to perform in stressful situations, and a solid work ethic,” says Sevola. “We recognize the sacrifices made every day by these men and women and believe their experience and leadership can only make our company stronger.”
Veterans Initiatives established VETalent, a partnership between Prudential and Workforce Opportunity Services, a nonprofit organization that helps companies build strong talent pipelines through unique work-study programs. VETalent, a nine-month work-study program, prepares veterans and spouses of active duty service members for careers in information technology, sales and business operations. Participants receive extensive job training and classroom work followed by on-the-job training to qualify for full-time career opportunities with Prudential or other companies.
When the VETalent members graduate from the program, they work as full-time consultants for Prudential, after which time they become eligible for full-time employment offers from the company. To date, Prudential has hired 88 veterans and/or spouses from VETalent and another 192 have been hired by other companies. In addition, another 40 veterans and/or military spouses are in active programs at Prudential and other 82 are in programs with other companies, helping to earn the company the recognition of “Top 100 Military Friendly Employers” and “Best for Vets” for six consecutive years.
Since its inception in Newark, New Jersey in 2010, VETalent has expanded to additional Prudential sites in Dubuque, Iowa with Northeast Iowa Community College, Dresher/Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania with Penn State-Abington University; Jacksonville, Florida with the University of North Florida; Hartford/Shelton, Connecticut with Western Connecticut State University; Roseland/Newark, New Jersey with Rutgers University and New Jersey Institute of Technology; and El Paso, Texas with El Paso Community College. The program also has been implemented by 26 other companies across 20 additional locations.
Service members who will be leaving the military soon and those who have an interest in information technology or business careers can visit www.wforce.org/veterans/program-overview and www.prudential.com/veterans to learn more about the VETalent program or about Prudential's other programs for Veterans.
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