Intellectual Property Protection Measures Are Critical During Labor Disruptions

A key sits atop a tree stump.Labor disruptions, whether caused by strikes or natural disasters, can involve quite a bit of change. They require companies to implement new measures on a level that is quite sudden. During such transitions, it’s important that these organizations not only move to ensure continuation of operations, but that they also protect any information that’s vital to long-term success. So when the question of how to protect intellectual property during labor disruptions, what do you do?

First of all, it’s important to understand what represents your company’s intellectual property. While you might generally think of an invention, i.e. a machine that’s been trademarked, intellectual property at a business can include particular technical and manufacturing processes that are necessary to creating your products, and/or providing for your services. Without a doubt, intellectual property protection measures are absolutely critical during labor disruptions.

What are trade secrets? 

Unlike other forms of intellectual property, trade secrets represent things that give your business a competitive advantage, but aren’t necessarily filed to be protected under law through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trade secret protection can be ensured through confidentiality agreements (as long as they’re well protected and don’t leak).

How Do You Protect These Things?
Whether you choose to protect your business’s vital information through a trademark, copyright or patent, or through what’s considered a trade secret protection program, it’s vital to devise a protection plan – particularly when you’re contracting temp employees. In such instances, these contractors may quickly move on to other companies, so it’s important that they not share any secrets that could cause you to lose any advantage over industry competitors.

Know Your Intellectual Property
What vital processes or goods constitute your company’s intellectual property? Make a list.

Implement Confidentiality Agreements
Confidentiality agreements, otherwise known as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), can extend to cover your business’s intellectual property, and have the employee/contractor agree that they will not share particular company secrets.

Safeguard Your Intellectual Property
Do you have IT security in place that properly shields IP information from contractors or employees who do not need to know it? For example, is IP data available in a cloud file that is accessible to everyone, or just the required few?

Ensure You Have Backup Programming
Make sure you’ve backed up your programming/files, so in case you lose important data, you can easily retrieve it again. Otherwise, you could lose your intellectual property for good in the instance of a crash.

Establish What IP Is
Help employees/contractors learn what constitutes your company’s intellectual property. This might include taking a measure as simple as labeling machines/documents.

Make IP Rules Clear
Giving team members confidentiality agreements to sign is one thing, but people tend to skim documents and sign without much thought. Talk about IP verbally and allow team members to ask any questions they might have.

As we mentioned earlier, labor disruptions have a tendency to require rapid change within a company. In such critical moments, it’s necessary to have proper IP protocols in place from the get-go. During disruptions, this can help make any required transitions as seamless as possible. For more ideas on how to manage temp workforces, read our other post: Adapting a Temp Workforce to Business-Specific Needs: What to Focus On.

Hope Is on Its Way This Christmas for a Mother and Daughter at the Mayo Clinic

This holiday season Strom Engineering has decided to branch out from its network of partners and families to help two strangers.

In the hustle and bustle of gift-buying and travel-planning, it’s easy to forget some families are staying put this Christmas. Unfortunately, that is the case for one single mother and her child as they prepare for life at the Mayo Clinic in 2019.

The first year of life for this toddler was spent at Children’s Hospital. Heart failure that occurred at birth continues to affect the child and the future of the family. The child has endured a magnitude of surgeries, mostly addressing different conditions such as tricuspid atresia, disposition of arteries, hypoplastic aortic arch, ventricular septal defect (VSD) and many more.

Doctors have told the mother her baby may never walk or talk due to the amount of brain damage that occurred so early in life.

Incredibly, her child has proven the doctors wrong. However, this little fighter still needs a new heart to keep walking, talking and beating the odds.

The battle continues, requiring 24-hour care attached to an oxygen tank. This single mother has made the financially distressing decision to quit her job and spend every waking moment of 2019 with her child at Mayo as they wait on the heart transplant list.  

The immense pressure for a new heart and financial support is mounting. That’s why Strom Engineering has partnered with the Best Christmas Ever (BCE) organization to support this family this Christmas.

We are raising $5,000 to buy gifts for the family. Monetary donations are being accepted now through December 24.

Best Christmas Ever (BCE) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that partners with business leaders and communities to lift up families who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. Hundreds of families struck by tragedy are nominated by friends and acquaintances, then 200 are selected by Captains to receive Surprise Best Christmas Ever gifts.

As a Captain, Strom Engineering is raising money to buy gifts the family needs this Christmas. By partnering with BCE and this family’s nominator, Strom can identify what the family specifically needs this Christmas. For a single mother who is without a job and lacking in financial support elsewhere, the donation money will go directly to her.  

Strom Engineering is excited to deliver this courageous family hope as they wait in uncertainty on the heart transplant list. You can do your part by going to our donation site and helping us deliver the best Christmas ever.

Risk Management & Temp Workforces: What You Need to Know

A worker wearing safety gear in an industrial settingHaving a solid risk management plan is important for any industrial workplace and involves evaluating potential dangers, determining their financial impacts, and developing solutions to negate or minimize any negative consequences.

Managing risks with a permanent staff is one thing, but what considerations should be taken into account when bringing on temporary workforces — particularly when the stakes are so high?

Risk Management Basics

Let’s first review some risk management considerations and explain why they’re important:

Step 1: Determine the threats – Consider Murphy’s Law, which is the idea that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. What potential hazards are there at the worksite?

Step 2: Evaluate how certain threats make your critical assets vulnerable – Critical assets are anything that could drastically hinder your overall operations. This can include: manufacturing processes, company patents, financial data, workplace equipment, and more.

Step 3: Figure out the risks – Determine how likely any attack on your identified critical assets are and how bad any negative impacts might be.

Step 4: Develop a plan to reduce the risks – How can you avert disaster? What specific risk management processes and procedures can be put into place to protect against hazards? It’s important to emphasize regularly maintaining safety practices. To see how Strom can help with planning, see our Crisis Planning services page.

How does risk management relate to temp workforces?

The protection of workers – both temporary and permanent – is directly related to managing any risks. In other words, the more you can guard against risks, the safer your workforce will be. If you’re an organization considering bringing in temp workers, consider the following:

  •   Communicate with the temporary labor provider – , thorough communications ensure that proper safety standards are established so that they may be put into place before the workers arrive onsite. This is extremely important.
  •   Ensure that training has occurred – Under federal OSHA guidelines, temporary workers must receive the same training in terms of safety that permanent workers receive. Everyone must follow the same safety procedures, and while temp workers may not be on the site for as long, it’s important for them to be just as informed as any permanent staff.
  •   Make sure all employees handle your critical assets correctly Safeguarding and backing-up company patents, manufacturing processes, and controls/access points are highly important.While you may hope that every worker would be respectful of a company’s critical assets, in practice this is not always the case.

At the end of the day, both the host employer and the staffing agency have a dual responsibility to ensure that proper safety guidelines are being followed. The key here is to emphasize communication. If you are able to do this, averting disasters and maintaining proper risk management will be that much easier.

To learn how temporary staff can help your workplace, read our other post, Labor Dispute Preparation 101: How Temporary Staffing Can Help.

 

Adapting a Temp Workforce to Business-Specific Needs: What to Focus On

A woman in work gear positions a headset.In the event that a labor disruption occurs, utilizing a temporary workforce can help your business seamlessly transition and keep any drop in productivity to a minimum. Being able to draw from a database of workers with a variety of different skills, such as those provided by Strom, allows you to find people to fit your business’s specific productivity needs. However, when it comes to how to train temporary employees, there are a number of things you’ll want to keep in mind during the transition:

Make Sure Assistance is Readily Available – Before temp workers even arrive onsite for their regular shifts, ensure that you’ve deployed knowledgeable staff available to consult workers at each station. Utilizing a buddy system of sorts is worthwhile.  

Highlight Processes – Workplace processes that emphasize efficiency, particularly in the area of machine operation, should be followed to a T. In addition to basic process training, ensure that proper documentation is readily available in instances where workforce members need to refer to documented procedural guidelines for reference.

Make Sure Workers Are Correctly Equipped – Having the right equipment is a must, especially in manufacturing and industrial workspaces. This isn’t just limited to equipment that helps get the job done efficiently, but also safety equipment that protects workers from injury.

Protect Intellectual Property – As one of your business’s most important assets, intellectual property should be protected with the utmost sensitivity. Ensure that all loose ends are tied up by getting temp workers to sign agreements intended to protect any proprietary information.

Emphasize Protections Against Injury – Job sites, particularly those in manufacturing, can present safety challenges if workers don’t follow proper protocols, or if the job sites themselves aren’t up to compliance. Therefore, thoroughly helping temp workers understand safety nuances is absolutely critical. Companies such as Strom Engineering can help businesses mitigate safety concerns by providing onsite consultations, particularly during instances where regular workforces aren’t being utilized.

Pay Attention to Specific Certifications – Even when drawing from highly skilled databases of temp workers, there are certain operations that will require additional training through certifications. Such certifications are important to pay attention to, as they can help you meet and exceed industry compliance. Certifications may also range based on different geographic locations.

Make Temp Workers Feel Welcome – Even if they’re only temporary, temp workforces can play an integral role in supporting your organization, particularly during ramp-up periods. Thus, make sure to treat them with respect and compliment team members on a job well done when warranted.

In regards to temporary employees, training is up to both sides – the temp staffing agency and the host employer – to make the situation safe and beneficial for all involved. When everyone works together, productivity can be maintained and your company can transition seamlessly to move beyond the challenges presented by labor disruptions. To learn more about temporary workforces, read our other post, Labor Dispute Preparation 101: How Temporary Staffing Can Help

Why Plan for Strike Staffing: The Importance of Preparation

When your company is facing a strike, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most: maintaining a capable workforce, even if the employees on the team change. What happens during a union strike is that the striking employees depend on the fact that you won’t have a solid plan in place to deal with the sudden change.

While the union understands that hiring replacement workers during the strike is a real possibility, there is an assumption that temporary employees will not have the experience or qualifications to meet your company’s production needs. When you utilize a company like Strom that completes total background checks and pulls from an existing worker database, it’s like having an ace up your sleeve. Here’s how working with Strom can we give you an advantage at the bargaining table:

Better Leverage

The quality of your backup workforce has a big impact on the length of a strike and could prevent one from occuring in the first place. Union leaders will know whether your worker contingency plan includes qualified temporary employees. If you are planning on hiring directly on your own, you lose a bit of negotiation leverage, because there are never any guarantees that the hiring process will go smoothly.

Available temporary employees vary by time of year, economic conditions and industry, so not having a predetermined plan is simply not worth the risk. When you communicate that you have a proven partner that knows why a plan for strike staffing matters, there is a major change in negotiations.

More Productivity

If your situation devolves into a strike, it’s important to know that you have more than just leverage — you have a capable team to handle necessary work. Demonstrating that you are capable of maintaining your workflow during a strike is essential; otherwise, the union may sense business failures and utilize attrition to get a better deal. What’s more, staying productive during a strike will provide assurance to your clients, partners and customers that you can still get the job done. Strom works to provides you with a team of qualified workers that is more than  capable of maintaining handling your business operations responsibilities, so you can keep your business workplace moving like it always has.

Getting Back on Track

When a labor disruption strike is over, returning to a sense of normalcy is essential. You need to rebuild relationships, handle employee transitions, deal with paperwork, and much more — all while maintaining a productive work environment. It’s not easy, but companies like Strom Engineering can help make the process easier. We have assisted hundreds of clients through the process been in these types of situations countless times, and know how to work through the unique challenges a situation like this presents.help you reduce bad blood, while keeping your temporary employees as a backup for future disruptions. When all is said and done, your workforce will returnhave capable temporary workers will leave and day to day activity can resume. in your back pocket, and the union will know that going forward.

Prepare for the Future

It’s easy to think about creating a temporary worker backup plan, but it takes action to make it happen. We are here to help. Get set for anything union leaders throw at you with help from some of the most knowledgeable strike experts in the business.

Contact our team to get set up with a contingency plan that you can rely on.

Alternate ending for A/B testing:Read our blog “Labor Dispute Preparation 101: How Temporary Staffing Can Help” to learn more about making a plan.

Tech Considerations for Natural Disasters & Their Role in Continuity

Servers in data center

 

From wildfires raging in California to hurricanes directly off the southeastern U.S. coast, 2017 proved to be a busy year for natural disasters. Mix that in with the renewed threat of winter storms, and it’s absolutely clear that you should plan accordingly for business continuity — not only after such disasters strike, but also during the disasters.

There are many facets to disaster recovery, but in the modern world, no doubt one of the most important areas is technology. So how do you safeguard your technological assets, and what role can technology play in the process? Consider the following when it comes to natural disasters affecting technology.

Backing up Your Data

Company data storage is important, especially when it concerns finances and sensitive information. A good idea: Utilize a data center server located offsite that safeguards your critical business data. If you’re utilizing a server onsite, make sure it’s properly backed up. Servers can and will go down, so for any information that must be readily accessible to meet consumer/partner demand, consider keeping hard/printed copies on hand.

Onsite Power

The most obvious impact of a natural disaster is a power outage. Most recently, Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caused a widespread blackout that lasted over 40 days. Backup power generators can be utilized to ensure that basic business needs are met.

Cellular Networks

Hurricane Harvey inflicted significant damage on southeastern Texas, particularly Houston, and resulted in significant cellular network outages. In such situations, it’s important to keep in contact with employees, partners, and clients. Ensure that other methods of contact are made known, whether it’s through landlines or meeting up in person. Cellular hardware solutions are becoming available as another viable form of communication. goTenna, for example, allows you to send messages to others directly via Bluetooth, even when cellular services are down.

Payment Processing

If you have brick and mortar locations or simply need to accept and process payments onsite, ensure that alternative methods of payment are available when credit card/bank systems are down. Utilize mobile solutions, virtual terminals, or online payment portals (i.e. PayPal). Credit card information can also be recorded manually and processed when online systems are back up.

Planning ahead for natural disasters is absolutely critical. Proper continuity planning ensures that your business keeps up and meets demand, even in trying times. For more tips on business continuity during natural disasters, see our previous blog post: Questions to Ask When Creating a Business Contingency Plan for Natural Disasters.

 

The Importance of a Contingent Workforce in Today’s Business Climate

As the economy grows increasingly diversified, to keep up with demand and cut down on unnecessary spending, manufacturing businesses are increasingly relying on contingent workforces. These employees provide flexibility and keep businesses competitive in their respective industries.

What Is a Contingent Workforce?

A contingent workforce is a labor pool where employees are hired as needed, in a non-permanent capacity. They are often brought on during labor disruptions to maintain production as well as during times of regular business operation. In any case, they provide companies with a number of benefits that aren’t possible with regular full-time workforces, including:

The ability to increase and decrease labor Businesses can bring contingent workers on when production is in high demand and taper them off during times of the year when production isn’t as high.  

Business continuity during labor stoppages Strikes and other forms of labor stoppages don’t have to ruin businesses. The utilization of contingent workers allows companies to persevere and continue to meet consumer demands.

Saved time Utilizing a contingent workforce often means outsourcing some HR-based tasks to independent contractors. Some companies representing these temporary workforces, such as Strom Engineering, will handle those tasks for you, freeing up time and internal resources.

Cost Savings The ability to scale up and down, as mentioned earlier, is an obvious benefit. That includes only having to pay employees when they’re doing the work. When it comes to contingent workers vs direct hire, permanent workers often require paid downtime when production demands aren’t as high.

According to a 2015 study from Deloitte, 51% of people surveyed from corporate HR indicated their need for contingent workers would only increase in the coming years. Therefore, contingent employees are only growing in terms of demand. Not only that, but labor pools feature a wide range of employees with diversified job skills, giving businesses in the manufacturing sector plenty of options to choose from.

To learn more about the benefits of contingent workforces, contact Strom Engineering today. For more information on how temporary workforces can help, read our other post, Labor Dispute Preparation 101: How Temporary Staffing Can Help.

How Can Companies Prepare for Employee Picketing? Rules to Know

 

Strikes can sometimes present volatile situations. Employment is an integral part of a person’s life, and therefore, passions naturally run high. It’s extremely important not only to protect the premises from incidents that could occur during the strike period, but to also ensure the safety of striking workers and any non-unionized and temporary employees still onsite.

Picketing Rules & Laws

By definition, a picket line is the area where locked out workers gather to present their demands visually and a line is established that people from both sides do not cross. Many states have laws regarding picket lines. Picketing regulations from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) outline what is permitted and what isn’t. Here are some general guidelines to pay attention to for safer strike security (it’s important to note that picketing rules and laws can vary by state).

  • Picketers generally need to be employees of the business they’re picketing.
  • More than one person cannot picket at a single entrance when there is no active strike.
  • Picketing cannot interfere with those who are still working entering or exiting the premises. In other words, picketers cannot physically block entrances.

Preparing for Employee Picketing

While it’s important that both sides respect each other, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure order and safety before the picketing even begins:

Notify local authorities. In the event that picketing gets out of hand, police can be readily available to wind things down in a way that’s peaceful and orderly. Having police assigned to the event makes everyone feel safer.

Set the boundaries. Notifying picketing individuals beforehand that they are not to enter the building or business property can help set boundaries and minimize any possibilities of violations.

Prepare to report any illegal behavior. While picket lines are expected to be generally peaceful, illegal activity can occur. It’s important to document any illegal activity and report it to the local authorities accordingly.

Know your limitations. Picketing is a regular and expected part of the strike process. Picketers have the right to be there, and as an employer you must respect those rights. Employers cannot intimidate picketers. Unions and employers may, however, work to end picket events by working together.

Establish a contractor gate. Establishing a well marked contractor gate will allow non-striking contractors to enter the workspace without forcing them to cross the picket line.

Preparing for employee picketing during a strike ensures the safety of everyone, whether they’re part of the picketing or working on the business property. For more information on picketing regulations and how you can prepare for a strike, contact the experts at Strom today.

For information on what to do once strikes have been resolved, read our other post, After the Strike: How to Improve Employee Morale in the Workplace

 

 

Tracking Everything: How to Document Business Processes

 

Documenting your business’s practices, especially if you function in the manufacturing sector, can be critically important. Not only is it essential for tracking standard practices when you bring on new hires, it’s also vital in any instances where a labor disruption occurs. This is true whether the disruption is the result of a labor dispute or due to some form of disaster – whether natural or because of error. So what’s the best way to go about ensuring that everything is correctly documented? When it concerns how to document business processes, consider the following:

Use images & transfer processes to flow charts – Flow charters are distinctively easy to follow and break down processes visually. Real images can be utilized as well to document steps.

Define clear objectives – What is the clear objective of each step in the process and how does it connect with the next step? Ensuring that you’re defining how each part of the process relates to the next is critical. Also emphasize why each step in the process is critical.

Make sure everything’s covered – During the documentation process, it can be critical to discuss each step with your employees. While you might be overseeing the overall operation, they could know something you’re leaving out that’s absolutely vital.

Use checklists – Such documentation can be utilized during the actual processes, or to keep track of machine maintenance that’s integral to ensuring safety and efficiency.

Document safety standards – OSHA compliance and safety standards in the workplace should never go unchecked. Each step of the process can be unique when compared to the next. Different techniques help ensure ultimate safety for each individual in the workplace.

At the end of the day, it’s about crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s. Process documents should tie everything together. In the event of a labor disruption or natural disaster, it may be necessary to bring on temporary workers. Thorough documentation ensures that adding new employees to the workforce in such times is as seamless as possible.

Strom Engineering provides complete documentation services, covering facility features and equipment. To learn more about this service we provide, visit our documentation solutions webpage.

 

 

After the Strike: How to Improve Employee Morale in the Workplace

 

Utilizing a temporary workforce helps maintain continuity by ensuring businesses meet their obligations to partners and customers even during instances of labor disputes. But what happens when conflicts are resolved and businesses and workers’ unions are back on good terms?

A top benefit of utilizing temporary workforces during strikes is the ability to disband once an agreement has been successfully reached. This not only paves the way for permanent workers to return to the workplace, it also offers a sense of normalcy among all parties. Nonetheless, it can be expected that some resentment may persist — making it an important priority to boost overall morale. When it comes down to how to improve employee morale in the workplace post-strike, consider the following.

Resentment can exist in different ranks – Not only may the workers returning to the jobsite feel resentment, but such feelings may also exist within other ranks of the organization. When assessing morale post-strike, it’s important to examine people at all levels, including management teams.

Focus on the manager-employee relationship – It’s critical to establish an open line of communication between managers and the staff they oversee. Employees need to feel comfortable taking any concerns they have directly to management. This means issues can be addressed immediately before they have the chance to cause larger problems down the line.

Recognize contributions – Let employees know when they’re doing their jobs well. This provides a sense of job stability and accomplishment among the ranks.

Utilize industrial psychology – When seeking to boost morale immediately following a strike, it can be extremely beneficial to utilize a licensed industrial psychologist who can assess what’s going on and recommend practices to remediate on any existing resentment.

Understand better workforce morale means higher productivity – The mental welfare of your employees is of course one of the most important issues at hand. But it’s not only important for their sake; it also helps your business prosper. Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a positive work environment significantly contributes to overall business productivity. It’s simply a win-win.

For more information on how Strom can help your business prosper during the post-strike phase, contact us today. For more information on how to improve your workplace, read our other post, How to Analyze Business Processes.

 

 

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