Posted by & filed under Career Development.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss your organization’s new health and wellness effort as just a passing trend. Recent research shows that workplace wellness programs maintained consistently over time save employers money in long-term health care costs.

Highmark, Inc., Pennsylvania’s biggest health insurer and one of the largest in the United States, published a study in the March/April 2011 issue of American Journal of Health Promotion that found health care costs of wellness plan participants rose 31 percent over the course of four years, compared to 46 percent for those not involved in the program. This 15 percent difference saved the company the equivalent of $336 per participant over the four years.

The study measured the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs by simultaneously tracking 10,000 wellness plan participants at 47 Highmark employer groups, as well as a risk-matched comparison group. The research concluded that even online programs had a positive effect on health care costs for participants. Employees who were involved in work health and wellness programs also had an increased tendency to seek preventive care.

From a Highmark, Inc. press release:

The study also found that wellness program participants developed a greater tendency to pursue preventive services such as preventive physicals, mammograms and cancer screenings, than their comparison group counterparts, possibly as a result of self-care knowledge obtained from their worksite wellness programs. Preventive care measures often cost employers more in the short term, but can help to save longer-term health care costs.

In a separate study, researchers at the University of Michigan tracked the financial impact of workplace wellness programs in a Midwest utility company over the span of nine years. During that time, the company spent $7.3 million to implement and maintain the program and discovered $12.1 million in savings associated with participation– including medical and pharmacy costs, time off and worker’s compensation– a total net savings of $4.8 million.

The University of Michigan study differed in three ways from other studies, according to researchers:

First, it shows that wellness programs work long-term, even though the employees who participated aged during the study. Second, the study took into account all bottom line costs for implementing the wellness plan. For instance, indirect costs such as recruitment and costs for changing menus. Most studies include just the direct costs to the company for paying for employees who participate. But even using the very conservative U-M figures showed a cost savings, Yen said. A third difference is that it looked at lost work time as well as pharmacy and medical costs, Schultz said.

The long-term wellness of your staff should be a high priority, not only because you care about your employees’ physical health, but because you also care about your organization’s financial health. Investing money in workplace wellness programs over a long period of time can insure that you have a healthy and productive staff, while saving a substantial amount of money on health care costs.

1. Build the program sustainably and gradually.

It takes time to build a strong program and gain the support of involved employees. Don’t expect to see results overnight, but carefully plan and implement a wellness program that fits your organization’s needs.

2. Get employee buy-in.

A wellness plan may be for the benefit of the organization as a whole, but remember that it also has to be appealing and useful to employees as individuals. When you start a wellness program, get input and feedback from participants and take into account what they would like to see.

3. Make it fun.

If workplace wellness programs feel like work, they are less likely to be successful. Find opportunities to make activities, resources and other program offerings fun and enjoyable. Check out a few ideas to get started in your organization.

What do you think of wellness plans at work? Do you have one in your organization?

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

No matter what your industry, the people within your organization are the most important asset you have. People– not technology, not numbers, not machines — are what propel you forward and create a thriving company. To achieve long-term success, it is important for leaders to invest in nurturing talent through professional development.

With so many options available for learning and development, it can be overwhelming to sift through them all to find the most appropriate and effective resources for your organization’s needs. At Employee Development Systems, Inc., we have been perfecting our top-quality, instructor-led classroom training programs since 1979, and we are able to customize our courses to fit the values and goals of your unique organization.

Some of EDSI’s Professional Development Offerings:


  • Communications
  • Professionalism
  • Accountability
  • Performance and change management
  • Coaching
  • Conflict resolution
  • Leadership

Our clients are worldwide and cover a wide variety of fields, including Levi Strauss & Co., Social Security Administration and Time, Inc. We consistently receive positive feedback from EDSI course participants, who have seen noticeable changes and progress in their employees as a result. Here are just a few of our client testimonials:

I am happy to state that this is one of the most highly attended courses and ranks head and shoulders above most others in our curriculum. It affords you the opportunity to learn your Behavior Style as well as others that you interact with on a consistent basis. We evaluate each course and I must tell you the results of IPE are impeccable. I am able to measure my return on investment with this product through positive feedback and persons continually asking me to offer it more often. – Gladys Williams, AFLAC (Increasing Personal Effectiveness course)

“Communicating to Manage Performance,” CMP, was established as our core management program for all management/leadership employees. As you know, we are completing the delivery of CMP, to the Shaw E& C Executive Leadership Team. The evaluations and feedback have been outstanding and have reinforced Shaw’s commitment to leadership development. – Henry Aranda, The Shaw Group (Communicating to Manage Performance course)

Your course Professional Presence in a Casual World matched our needs wonderfully. While standards in the way we dress, interact and communicate continue to change, learning to be professional at work is crucial to personal success. I appreciated the opportunity to be able to reference course concepts and examples in employee discussions and performance reviews. I believe this course has already had an impact on employee performance while helping individuals become better positioned for career advancement. – Sharon Robinson, Children’s Miracle Network (Professional Presence in a Casual World)

Interested in learning more? Read more client testimonials and download a free EDSI catalog with detailed information about our courses, learning library and other training and professional development resources.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, refers to how we relate to other people and use our social skills to succeed in our personal and professional interactions.

EQ requires us to tune into each situation intellectually and emotionally, utilizing our knowledge and intuition and adjusting our behavior for the best fit.

What is your Emotional Intelligence? What are your current strengths? What do you need to work on? Download our Emotional Intelligence Skillbuilder e-book for free, and gain valuable insight and tips for heightening your EQ!

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Since childhood, we have been conditioned to try to avoid failure at all costs. No one wants to fail academically or socially in school, and certainly, no one wants to fail professionally. We see failure as something to be ashamed of, instead of seeing it as we should: as an opportunity to learn and grow.

The truth is: we have all failed, and we will all fail again. What matters is how we fail. We should try new ideas, take occasional risks and push our limits. If we succeed the first time, wonderful; if we don’t, we should take the lessons we learned from our false starts and apply them to our future endeavors. Committing to employee development means that we must make an ongoing effort to expand our knowledge, skills and talents, and part of this process involves failing occasionally.

Chris Brogan, president of Human Business Works and a well-established business consultant and writer, embraces this idea, writing in his blog that we should “fail often, fail fast and learn”:

Many innovations have come through failure. Post-It notes came about because of glue that didn’t set right. Sam Walton was told he couldn’t make up his own sales at his Ben Franklin store so he quit and founded Wal-Mart. Henry Ford ran two automobile companies that failed before he got it right.

Edison said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Failure is a beautiful thing. It leads to more chances to try something new.


Employee Development Through Failure

If you tried something new and it didn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn from it.

1. Put aside your ego and be honest about failures.

Chris Brogan’s “fail fast” concept is that if you get your mistakes out of the way early in the process, it is much easier to get back on track and work toward success. If you realize an idea  is doomed to fail early on, don’t keep plugging away at it out of stubbornness or pride. Stop, reevaluate and adapt your original idea so it is better and stronger.

2.  Write down what you learned.

After a failed attempt, take the time to record your observations about what happened. What went right? What went wrong? What would you do differently next time? What did you learn from the experience? What are your next steps? If you worked with others on the project, do this employee development exercise individually and then share your thoughts as a group.

3. Accept and move on.

Failing is disappointing. Show yourself some empathy, acknowledge the disappointment and be confident that you won’t make the same mistake twice. Move on to the next project, using the knowledge you just gained.

How do you deal with failure? How do you use it for employee development?

Learn about EDSI’s Powerful Choices course.

Posted by & filed under News.

Denver, Colorado – The rise of casual work environments and flexible work hours in recent years has included various benefits for employees, such as improved morale and work-life balance. However, these changes also have contributed to a careless attitude toward work results and an acceptance of average (or below average) performance as the norm. One poll, conducted by the national employment firm, Jackson Lewis, found that 40 percent of human resource managers linked relaxed attire and flexible work schedules to a laxity in workplace behavior and 44 percent noticed an increase in tardiness and absenteeism.

Moreover, 21 months of historically high unemployment rates are creating an unprecedented need for a professional edge in the job market. The importance of professionalism in the workplace cannot be overlooked as a key to improved employee performance, career success and advancement. Those organizations that stress the importance of professionalism in the workplace are usually growing, vibrant entities.

The retooled program has expanded concentrations in the critical areas of building professional competence and matching one’s own professional presence to the culture of the organization. Building professional competence includes identification of personal, business and strategic competencies, self-assessment of the nine most important competencies within those areas, and improvement in areas that need to be strengthened, as well as other critical skills.

Another unique feature of the program is teaching learners to align their skills with organizational culture. Learners will develop political awareness of approved interaction and behavior methods as well as the ability to communicate, develop work patterns and create individual power within the structure of an organization’s culture. When employees apply the skills delivered in the Professional Presence in a Casual World program, they will see a notable difference in how they are treated by others, and in return, how effectively they can accomplish the challenges put before them on the job.

According to Suzanne Updegraff, CEO of Employee Development Systems, Inc., “This is not a simple etiquette course. Recognizing that American business is rapidly falling behind those in other developed and under-developed countries from both an educational and an innovative perspective, organizations wanting to progress are refining their employees to be more professional in the workplace and in interactions with clients, customers and colleagues. Professional Presence in a Casual World has always been a cornerstone program for Employee Development Systems, Inc., but now it provides even more valuable information and core skill building.”

Readers are encouraged to download the attached Competencies for the Future handout, courtesy of Employee Development Systems, Inc., view the most recent professional development videocast and sign up for the professional development newsletter, in order to supplement their learning experience. To learn more about this exciting cornerstone program, please contact Sherman Updegraff, Managing Director, Employee Development Systems, Inc. at 800-282-3374, or visit

About Employee Development Systems, Inc.

Employee Development Systems, Inc. is a Colorado-based training and assessment firm that was founded in 1979 and offers employee development, management development, leadership and professionalism courses and accompanying behavioral style assessments, surveys and other tools. Employee Development Systems, Inc. provides services worldwide to Fortune 500 clients as well as small to medium-sized businesses.

The organization’s mission is to enhance the interpersonal skills needed to perform at a more productive level, to develop a workforce that adapts to change, and is creative and innovative, and to make the client organization the employer of choice. This is accomplished through establishing trust, building relationships and fostering behavioral change. Employee Development Systems, Inc. training and development initiatives address employee engagement, multiple generations in the workplace, and the ramifications of social media and collaboration.


Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Do you think of yourself as an effective manager? Do you spend time consciously working on your leadership skills the way you would any other talent or ability? How often?

Management development can sometimes get lost in the shuffle when you are focused on your busy work schedule, but it should be an important part of your daily routine. Good managers realize that building strong working relationships with their employees and enabling them to do their best work requires regular attention. Check in with yourself every day to make sure that you are rising to the challenge of being the best manager for your team.

Management Development in 4 Easy Steps

1. Be accessible.

It is absolutely essential that your team knows you are available to coach, direct and assist them as needed. Do your employees feel comfortable coming to you with problems, concerns or other issues? Do you often stay closed away in your office, or do you make a point of walking around and talking with people throughout the workday? Do you make time for one-on-one meetings? Pay attention to your habits, big and small, and what message they convey to your employees. Strive to be accessible and supportive.

2. Ask questions.

Resist the temptation to tell employees how you would tackle a project or a problem; instead, ask questions and provide guidance to help them figure out how they would approach the situation. Create an environment where new ideas are encouraged and valued. Give them the freedom to think for themselves and they may come up with a better solution than you would have. Management development often involves stepping back and letting others’ ideas take off.

3. Take an interest.

Get to know your employees and show that you are taking an interest in them, both professionally and personally. It makes a difference to your team when you notice that Jerome has a knack for graphic design and likes hiking with his family on the weekends and Lydia is going to night school for her MBA and speaks fluent Italian. Stay tuned into how employees are doing on the job, and be ready to step in with support or problem-solving when necessary. Help them with setting and achieving their career development goals and demonstrate that they are a valuable part of the organization.

4. Map a clear strategy.

Develop a concrete plan of action for your team, and communicate it to your employees, both as a “30,000-foot view” and as small tasks and milestones. Know where you are going, and help your team take pride in their work and become invested in the success of the organization.

What are your own personal daily reminders for management development?

Learn more about EDSI’s Communicating to Manage Performance course.

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

Does a cluttered desk really lead to a cluttered mind? Neatniks will argue that a tidy and orderly work area is absolutely essential to doing effective work. Messier people, on the other hand, will argue that there is a “method to the madness” and that clutter does not necessarily translate to disorganization.

You may be comfortable with some papers or books piling up on your desk, but it is important to recognize when a chaotic workspace begins to hinder your work productivity. Does it take you 20 minutes to locate the report you need for a colleague? Do you have a hard time focusing on the task at hand because of the mess around you? If so, it might be time for a little spring cleaning to clear your desk and your mind.

Work Productivity Through Organization

1. Start with the papers.

The flurry of papers that descends on your desk every day can be challenging at best, seemingly impossible at worst, to tame. Begin with this spring cleaning task because it is usually the most difficult, and everything else will be easy by comparison.

Divide your papers into piles according to category, then file them in a way that you will be able to find and access them easily. This can be as simple as clearly labeling file folders and keeping them in a rack on your desk or as intricate as color-coding and alphabetizing folders in a large filing cabinet—use whatever system works for you, just as long as every paper has a home. Ask for help from an organizationally gifted colleague if you are having trouble getting started. If you maintain this system, you will notice a positive change in your work productivity.

2. Find a place for everything.

Are you familiar with the saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place”? Many times, a messy workspace is created when you simply don’t know where to put your possessions. Look closely at your desk and its drawers and identify the items that always seem to be in the way and have nowhere to go. Now think of a solution you can implement to improve your organization. For example, if you have a habit of pasting Post-It reminders all over your desk and then losing track of them, consider putting them up on a bulletin board instead. If you have a drawer full of loose paperclips, pens and highlighters, buy a segmented drawer organizer to make it easier to find what you need.

3. Get your hands on cleaning products.

When was the last time you actually wiped down your desktop or computer? A lot of dust and grime has probably accumulated since then, so finish your spring cleaning with a thorough dusting. Clean the desktop with a damp rag and a little spray cleaner; tackle the computer screen and keyboard with electronic wipes and a can of air duster.

Do you find that having a tidy workspace improves your work productivity? Do you have any plans to do a desk spring cleaning?

Learn more about EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

How many hours a week do you spend in meetings? And how many of these hours do you think are productive and the best use of your time?

Many organizations fall into the trap of overscheduling their employees in too many staff meetings that take away from the real work that needs to be done. Often, the knee-jerk reaction to any problem or conundrum is to call an emergency team gathering, without considering possible alternatives.

Staff Meetings Aren’t the Only Solution

1. Use ongoing collaboration tools.

Instead of spending an hour or two a week checking in with your team at various meetings, use online collaboration tools to stay up-to-date as each project progresses. Share information and delegate duties through wikis, task lists, file-sharing websites and other tools that create more transparency. If you know exactly what everyone is working on and what else still needs to be done, you have less need to all staff meetings.

2. Chat via instant message.

Instant messaging (IMing) can actually be a helpful work tool, not a means of procrastination, when used effectively. Get your team to use the same program, such as Google Chat or AOL Instant Messenger, and stay logged in during the work day to answer quick questions or share links or other relevant information (employees can put up an “away” or “do not disturb” message when they need to do uninterrupted work). You may be able to solve a problem in a one-minute IM chat that would take 30 minutes in a group meeting.

3. Discuss over email.

The most frustrating staff meetings are those that cover topics that could have been resolved with a few group emails. If you just need updates on various projects or information that doesn’t require discussion or analysis, skip the meeting and send an email. Gather the information that you need and save everyone time. If you need to check in with employees individually, do so outside of the group context, either through in-person conversations or one-on-one emails.

How do you keep staff meetings from taking up too much of your workday? What alternatives do you use on your team?

Subscribe to the EDSI monthly professional development newsletter.

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Finally, some optimistic news about the economy: the US unemployment rate is now at 8.9 percent, its lowest level since April 2009. Total payroll employment has grown by 1.3 million, an average of 106,000 per month, since February 2010.

The Labor Department reported that the nation’s employers added 192,000 non-farm jobs in February, up from an increase of 63,000 jobs in January. Job growth took place in manufacturing, construction and service-providing industries.

  • Manufacturing employment rose by 33,000 (including machinery, more than 9,000, and fabricated metal products, more than 7,000).
  • Construction employment also grew by 33,000, after a decline of 22,000 in January, which may have been affected by winter storms. The largest growth in this category was within specialty trade contractors (more than 28,000).
  • Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 22,000.
  • Job growth within the service-providing sector was also substantial; 47,000 jobs were added in professional in business services, 29,000 in employment services and 7,000 in management and technical consulting.
  • The health care sector added more than 34,000 jobs.
  • Not every sector had job increases; state and local government both had layoffs. Local government has lost 377,000 jobs since September 2008.

The number of people looking for work in the country still remains high, 13.7 million, though it has decreased by 1.2 million since last year. The unemployment problem will not be solved over night, but steady job growth is a positive sign of progress. Many economists are optimistic that employment gains will continue in future months.

A few experts shared their opinions in the New York Times:

“Economic recoveries can be like a snowball rolling down a hill, in that it takes time to get some momentum,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “People hesitate until they feel that the recovery’s durable enough, and then they have a tendency to jump in. Maybe we’re finally getting to that jumping-in moment.”

“It’s a puzzle, a genuine puzzle why that number has been stuck,” a senior economist at Credit Suisse, Jay Feldman, said. “I expect it to recover somewhat in the coming months as the labor market improves and more people become encouraged about their job prospects.”

Have you noticed the recent job growth in your industry? In your experience, do you think the economy is turning a corner?

Read our tips on how to grow in your job with employee development.

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Recognizing the skills and talents of your employees should be an ongoing activity, not just reserved for one day out of the year. However, much like Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to do something special for the person you love, National Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent occasion to show your employees that you value the work that they do.

National Employee Appreciation Day is the first Friday of March every year; even if you don’t have a large budget to throw a lavish party or buy expensive gifts, you can still celebrate in small, thoughtful ways.

1. Write thank-you notes.

Sometimes a simple “thank you” is worth more than any gift you can buy. Write each of your employees a sincere note expressing your gratitude for their hard work. Tell them specifically what they bring to the team and thank them for their contributions.

2. Give a little indulgence.

Along with your thank-you note, include a small gift card for a treat each employee would enjoy. For example, buy a gift certificate for the local coffee shop for the caffeine addict, one for the video rental store for the movie buff, one for the bookstore for the avid reader. These are small tokens, but they show that you know your employees well and care enough to make a little extra effort.

3. Buy lunch.

Pick up the tab for a staff lunch out, or order in some delicious take-out and have a leisurely lunch in the employee lounge. Take the opportunity to relax and spend time with your employees outside of your normal work environment.

4. Give the gift of time.  

In honor of National Employee Appreciation Day, give your staff the afternoon off or offer time off in the future. Present employees with a gift certificate good for a day of working from home, an extra day of vacation or an extended lunch break.

How do you show appreciation for your employees? Share your ideas in the comments.  Are your employee development plans designed with the employee uppermost?

Learn more about EDSI’s Leading With Credibility course.