Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

This weekend is commonly known as Labor Day Weekend, culminating in the celebration of Labor Day on Monday. It’s what the celebration is all about. Or is it?

What once was a celebration of the efforts and contributions of working men and women in America, has become synonymous with the end of summer, the start of another school year, the onset of football season, barbecues, a three-day weekend and sales, sales, sales.

That’s quite an evolution from its original purpose. Interesting when you think about how much time we spend at work throughout the year. One study shows that the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. It also points out that 80 percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. When you consider that as of July 2017, there were more than 160 million people in the civilian labor force in the US, that’s a lot of unhappy people! So, what’s to celebrate?

According to the Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Amen. No matter how you choose to celebrate Labor Day 2017, let’s take a minute to remember the real reason we commemorate the day.

By the way, ever wonder where the whole “can’t wear white after Labor Day” thing started? It was a silly rule started with the vacationing elite; the ones who left the city for a summer at the cottage on the ocean or a cabin in the mountains. They could afford lighter fabric, white articles of clothing associated with summer months. But at the end of summer – signified by Labor Day – it was time to return to reality and the summer wardrobes were exchanged for “real life” clothes. If you wore white after Labor Day, it was thought you were still vacationing. Thankfully, that rule has gone by the wayside. Who thinks this stuff up anyway?

Wishing you a safe and happy Labor Day.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Ten years? No way!

Yes, way! Ten years ago, the hashtag was born. First used in a tweet on August 23, 2007, the symbol formerly known to most of us as the pound sign took on a whole new meaning. Chris Messina, web marketing specialist proposed the hashtag as a way of grouping or classifying the content in messages; a way to organize online conversations. Today, it’s estimated that 125 million hashtags are tweeted every single day. That’s a lot of hashtags! Let’s hear it for social media.

Here’s the beauty of this social media thing – it gives people another way to connect to others with similar interests, thoughts or persuasions. And not just on a personal level, but on a business level. Social media for businesses is not an option.

The benefits of social media for your business are many, including raising brand awareness, showcasing your company to a huge audience, gaining valuable customer insight, converting leads, increasing web traffic, distributing your message faster and farther. These are all great but to me the number one benefit is the ability to directly engage with customers; build relationships; communicate. I’m not talking about sales “pitching” either. It’s not about continually blasting out the hard sell. It’s about a two-way communication channel, engaging with customers, building relationships and trust and developing advocates. It’s a process, not an event. Aim for quality in your program, not just how many likes or followers or connections you generate. The rewards won’t come overnight, but in the long run, they’ll be much more valuable.

In the words of John Powell, “Communication works for those who work at it.”

Posted by MJ Thomas

What kind of training?

Safety training, sir!  Egad, NOT the dreaded safety training! There you have it. As important as safety, safety meetings and safety training are to the well-being of employees in the workplace, the mention of safety training in any shape or form is often met with moans, groans and assorted eye rolls. Why?

Is the training the same year after year, time after time? If it’s the “same old, same old” chances are employees are tuning out. Is the presentation boring? Are you subjecting them to death by PowerPoint? Are they engaged in the program? Are they participants or spectators? Is the training just a repeat of the presentation you’ve used for the last five years? Are you engaged in the presentation or are you reading documents word-for-word just to meet requirements? Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.

It’s time to change things up. Here are some things to consider for your company’s safety training to hit the mark.

Safety training is serious but it doesn’t have to be boring. Use visuals; be unpredictable; tell stories; use video and demonstrations; interact; have a conversation; be relevant. Explain the whys and the wherefores – don’t just recite an endless list of rules. Employees should feel like the training is created specifically for them. What’s in it for them? How does it affect their lives? What does it mean to them?

Bottom line? Give them reasons to listen.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Aha, Ta-da and Boo-ya!

In case you were wondering, the above are all exclamations of success and triumph; something – that due to a recent experience – I thought I would talk about today. Specifically, the great feeling that washes over us upon successful completion of a task that is totally new; that stretches the boundaries of our comfort zone.

The details leading to my epiphany are too lengthy to mention here so I will cut to the bottom line. Adopted a dog. Agency told me he was six years old. According to the vet, he’s more like three years old. He likes to chew things. In a span of 24 hours, the electric cords to my new paper shredder and my vacuum cleaner (neither plugged in) were in several pieces on the floor. This guy is quick. Took my eyes off him for a minute.

After the initial meltdown, it was time to figure things out. Hmmm, I wonder if I could fix these myself? Never done anything electrical. Could be tricky; maybe even dangerous; no clue how to get started. After an extensive Internet search and a chat with a very knowledgeable Home Depot employee, I set out to tread the unchartered waters. The trepidation felt upon plugging each repaired device into an electrical outlet for the first time was quickly replaced by a great sense of accomplishment. Now, I realize this is only a big deal to me, but we’ve all had those moments when we’ve conquered something new; something we didn’t think we could do.

The benefits of trying something new are many. It helps you overcome fear, you discover unknown talents, you become more creative, gain knowledge and increase your confidence. In the workplace, it makes you more marketable. The new talents and skills you acquire make you versatile and that can result in exciting opportunities.

The reality is that too often we hesitate to try new things until we are pushed. It’s easier to keep things status quo; easier to stay within the confines of the comfort zone. Today’s challenge? Expand your comfort zone. Try something new. The opportunities are endless.

By the way, anyone need any electrical work done? Just kidding. Definitely, just kidding.

Posted by MJ Thomas

“You talking to me?”

There you have it. One of the top ten movie quotes of all time. In this case, it was Robert De Niro’s character in Taxi Driver who coined the famous phrase. It’s also the foundation for this week’s blog.

When a person greets you with a “Hello” or a “Good Morning” or even a “What’s up?” how do you respond? Do you even respond at all? Twice in the last few days, I observed one person’s greeting to another totally ignored. Well maybe not totally. One situation warranted the blank stare response. Both were in customer situations. Awkward. In the first scenario, the sales person greeted a customer and welcomed her to the store. No response; nothing. I happened to be standing nearby, so I asked her
how she felt when people just blew past her without acknowledging her greeting. She said she was used to it; that it happened all the time. Wow.

What’s so hard about acknowledging people? Responding to a person’s greeting doesn’t mean you become their new best friend. It means you recognize them. Greeting is a basic function of communication. Yet, how many times have you passed someone in the hallway and one of you puts your head down and stares at the floor to avoid saying anything? How many times have you walked into a meeting and no one acknowledges your presence? How many times have you entered a store or a restaurant and you feel invisible because no one greets you?

We all have the need to be recognized and acknowledged; the need to feel connected. It just makes the experience that much better. Taking time to acknowledge the people around us may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference.

Have a great weekend.

Posted by MJ Thomas