Corra Daily Planet » 2007 » March

Internet Security–Theft Could Be an Inside Job

Fri, March 30th, 2007 - 11:05 am - By Gordon Basichis

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We saw this fact sheet on
What We’re Worrying About

These days, computer security threats are coming from all directions. Here’s what is keeping entrepreneurs up at night, according to a recent survey by the research firm Forrester.

By: Inc. Staff

  1. Viruses and worms: 73%
  2. Spyware: 66%
  3. Spam: 64%
  4. Outside hackers: 57%
  5. Identity theft: 55%
  6. Security configuration compliance: 55%
  7. Employees violating security: 46%
  8. Internal hackers/attacks: 41%
  9. Regulatory compliance: 39%
  10. Dont know: 28%

Copyright © 2006 Mansueto Ventures LLC. All rights reserved., 375 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Corra, being a background screening service, hears a lot of the uglier stories out there. Companies find their files and data, their intellectual property and proprietary information, compromised or outright stolen by hackers, crackers, and, worse, perhaps, their own employees.

While many companies put up firewalls and take elaborate precautions to assure Internet and database security, by not conducting the proper background checks, they leave themselves upon to inside predators. That’s why it is always wise to conduct criminal background searches and Credit Reports. The criminal search is obvious, while the credit report may often indicate those desperate enough to be susceptible to breaking the law.

So take Corra’s advice and be sure to check them out before you hire.

Sycophants Make for Obnoxious Employees

Thu, March 29th, 2007 - 12:13 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this article, which is an excerpt from Goldsmith’s book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” on Strategy +
The Favoritism Test
by Marshall Goldsmith

Learn to avoid the pitfalls of rewarding sycophants in the workplace.

I have reviewed custom-designed leadership profiles at more than 100 major corporations. These documents typically feature boilerplate language that describes the leadership behavior each company desires. Such chestnuts include “communicates a clear vision,” “helps people develop to their maximum potential,” “strives to see the value of differing opinions,” and “avoids playing favorites.”

Not one profile has ever included a desired behavior that reads “effectively sucks up to management.” Although given the dedication to fawning and sucking up in most corporations — and how often such behavior is rewarded — it probably should. Almost every company says it wants people to “challenge the system,” “be empowered to express their opinion,” and “say what they really think,” but there sure are a lot of companies that are stuck on sucking up.

Not only do companies say they abhor such comically servile behavior, but so do individual leaders. Almost all the leaders I have met say that they would never encourage such a thing in their organizations. I have no doubt that they are sincere. Most of us are easily irritated, if not disgusted, by derriere kissers. Which raises a question: If leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it dominate the workplace? Keep in mind that these leaders are generally very shrewd judges of character. They spend their lives sizing people up: taking in first impressions and recalibrating them against later impressions. And yet, they still fall for the super-skilled suck-up. They still play favorites.

The simple answer is: We can’t see in ourselves what we can see so clearly in others.

Perhaps you are now thinking, “It’s amazing how leaders send out subtle signals that encourage subordinates to mute their criticisms and exaggerate their praise of the powers that be. And it is surprising how they cannot see it in themselves. Of course, this doesn’t apply to me.”

Maybe you’re right. But how can you be so sure that you’re not in denial?

I use an irrefutable test with my clients to show how we all unknowingly encourage sucking up. I ask a group of leaders: “How many of you own a dog that you love?” Big smiles cross the executives’ faces as they wave their hands in the air. They beam as they tell me the names of their faithful hounds.

Then we have a contest. I ask them, “At home, who gets most of your unabashed affection? Is it (a) your husband, wife, or partner; (b) your kids; or (c) your dog?” More than 80 percent of the time, the winner is the dog.

I then ask the executives if they love their dogs more than their family members. The answer is always a resounding no. My follow-up: “So why does the dog get most of your attention?”

Their replies all sound the same: “The dog is always happy to see me.” “The dog never talks back.” “The dog gives me unconditional love.” In other words, the dog is a suck-up.

I can’t say that I am any better. I love my dog, Beau. I travel at least 180 days a year, and Beau goes bonkers when I return home from a trip. I pull into the driveway, and my first inclination is to open the front door, go straight to Beau, and exclaim, “Daddy’s home!” Invariably, Beau jumps up and down, and I hug and pat him and make a huge fuss. One day my daughter, Kelly, was home from college. She watched my typical lovefest with Beau. She then looked at me, held her hands in the air like little paws, and barked, “Woof woof.”

Point taken.

If we aren’t careful, we can wind up treating people at work like dogs: continually rewarding those who heap unthinking, unconditional admiration upon us. What behavior do we get in return? A virulent case of the suck-ups.

The net result is obvious. You’re encouraging behavior that serves you but not necessarily the best interests of the company. If everyone is fawning over the boss, who’s getting work done? Worse, it tilts the field against the honest, principled employees who won’t play along. This is a double dose of bad news. You’re not only playing favorites, but also favoring the wrong people!

Leaders can stop encouraging this behavior by admitting that we all have a tendency to favor those who favor us, even if we don’t mean to.

We should then compare our direct reports on three measures.

First, how much do they like me? (I know you can’t be sure. What matters is how much you think they like you. Fawning is acting, and effective suck-ups are good actors.)

Second, what is their contribution to the company and its customers? (In other words, are they A players, B, C, or worse?)

Third, how much positive personal recognition do I give them?

What we’re looking for is whether the correlation is stronger between measures one and three or measures two and three. If we’re honest with ourselves, our recognition of people may be linked to how much they seem to like us rather than how well they perform. That’s the definition of playing favorites.

And the fault is all our own. We’re encouraging the kind of behavior that we despise in others. Without meaning to, we are basking in hollow praise, which makes us hollow leaders.

This quick self-analysis won’t solve the problem. But it identifies it, which is where change begins.

Corra knows that sycophants are not necessarily the best workers. They may spend more time sucking up than actually working. As with many other things, there is a dark side to a person being overly complimentary. Honesty is often the first victim. Besides who needs someone running behind you, telling you how wonderful you are when either you already know it or you know it is for obvious political gain.Aside from an extensive interview and perhaps psychological profiles, there isn’t much you can do to determine if you are about to hire a sycophant. Maybe it’s an indicator if he leaves a greasy slime on his chair when he leaves–just kidding.We think personal reference checks may be helpful. And, of course, sometimes when someone is being overly nice, he is hiding something from you. So always run a criminal search, and we always recommend an education verification. When people lie, they lie about education most often.As Corra says, check them out before you hire.

The Right Web Team Can Help You Grow Your Business

Tue, March 27th, 2007 - 11:42 am - By Gordon Basichis

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We saw this article on

Building a Better Web Team

Expanding your business online requires an integrated staff. But that’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity.

The epicenter of my life is at that little dot where technology and media intersect.

I spend a great deal of my time working with businesses on practical steps they can take to develop their online presence. It’s a great deal of fun, but it also forces executives and managers to step outside of their comfort zones when they make decisions. I’ve experienced the clash between the online and offline departments. It’s rarely pretty, and often involves heated exchanges.

I assumed these problems of opposing interests would go away the further we moved into the digital age. When the current work force moves along, I thought, the next crop of “native digerati” would inherently understand what skills were needed to operate in the world and how those skills would be applied.

I was foolish to think that.

The last few months I’ve had one very basic question thrown at me from small and mid-size media employers, employees, and potential employees. The question has come, in various forms, from companies searching for people to lead their online departments, students hoping to secure a job when they graduate, and mid-career media types looking for a way to stay relevant in the digital age.

In a nutshell, the question boils down to this: What skills do companies need to effectively work with media and technology?

The top publishing executive of a small magazine with a staff of about 30 first posed the question in July. She wanted to move her business beyond the printed page. To do that, she realized she needed someone to run the online component of her business without upsetting her print staff.

She eventually boiled her company’s online vision down to three simple areas: she wanted strong editorial stories, an elegant layout, and a Web-friendly display. It wasn’t long before she realized that she had two of those three skill sets in-house — the editorial and graphic departments — but she didn’t have anyone who could customize their off-the-shelf Web publishing system, which meant all of their content was posted with pre-made templates. It’s impossible to have a unique and flexible site with pre-made templates.

With that knowledge in hand, she decided that her first hire should be a Web producer.

Good Web producers should have a strong background in programming (ASP.Net, C#, Java, Microsoft Visual Studio), a solid base in Web development applications (HTML, CSS, XML), and a passing understanding of graphics (Flash, Photoshop). It’s imperative that this person has excellent verbal and written communication skills along with some project management experience.

Once her producer is in place, the publisher can use her in-house editorial and graphic design staffs to create her Web presence, and since she’s using staff already with the publication, she can be sure that her online and offline platforms will share a similar editorial and graphic language.

That solved the publisher’s problem, but it didn’t exactly answer the question from my students’ perspective. They are facing a dizzying array of choices at our university. Should they major in Computer Science, Electronic Media and Broadcasting, or Journalism? Which major will make them more attractive job candidates to companies?

I tell them, not at all sarcastically, yes and all of them.

Let’s go back to our Web producer. Six months from now, once the publisher’s operation is humming along, she will be forced to make another choice. The site has attracted a spate of new visitors and advertisers, so it’s time to expand. Who is the next hire?

The answer is that for every new property you add to your site, you’ll need to hire specialists in each area. If you want to add video and audio, you’ll need a specialized C#/ASP.Net programmer who can manage that section of the site, you’ll need someone who can shoot and edit digital video and audio (Final Cut Pro), and you’ll someone to manage that editorial process.

At Northern Kentucky University, we offer a hybrid degree called Media Informatics, which trains students on media creation, database programming, and Web development. This hybrid degree is gaining traction in universities around the country, precisely because the job market demands students have a wide range of digital skills.

Which brings us to our last question: What should companies do about mid-career employees?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but these people offer the greatest opportunity for a small business because they bring specific institutional knowledge. As online operations grow, mid-career workers spurred on by attentive managers can get specialized training — for instance, editing digital audio for podcasts — that will allow them to more easily work across multiple mediums, while insuring that the online and offline properties don’t spin off into two separate entities.

This is a boon for the company as they can bring experience to their new platform, while giving seasoned employees a new challenge.

Brad King is an assistant professor of media informatics at Northern Kentucky University, and he blogs about technology and culture at MIT’s Technology Review.

Corra regards this as an extremely helpful article. Any company looking to take maximum advantage of its web presence should read this article very carefully. With research reporting back that a visitor decides within seconds whether he wants to explore your website or not, you best make a terrific first impression.

Then there are IT people and IT people. Some are much more creative than others, and that group is a lot more difficult to find and recruit than your average snap in the pieces IT person. You want a staff that gives thought to your objectives and then designs a unique and possibly innovative website that will keep those eyeballs coming.

Corra recommends that in addition to the criminal background search you run an education verification search and an employment verification search. For greater detail and sense of your candidates ability, you may want to conduct several reference checks as well. These often differ from employment verification searches as they go into greater and more subjective detail about your candidate.

Be unique and be innovative. Your business and the world at large is better for it. But as Corra says, check them out before you hire.

Californians Feeling Funky on Their Job Prospects

Mon, March 26th, 2007 - 1:44 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this article on Earth

LOS ANGELES, March 23 /PRNewswire/ — The California Employee Confidence Index dropped 1.5 points in February to 61.5, according to the latest Spherion(R) Employment Report. This recent survey of California workers, conducted by Harris Interactive(R) on behalf of Spherion Corporation, shows that fewer workers are confident in their ability to find a new job and in the future of their current employer. The survey also found that more workers were likely to look for a new job in the next year.

Results from the California Employment Report: — Forty-eight percent of workers believe that the economy is remaining steady, an increase of 10 percentage points from January. — Sixty-one percent of employees are confident in their ability to find a new job, a seven percentage point drop from last month. — The percentage of workers confident in the future of their current employer decreased by four percentage points to 65 percent in February. — Thirty-seven percent of workers say they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months, an increase of six percentage points from the previous month.

“After rising to a new high in January, we saw the percentage of workers confident in California drop last month as fewer have confidence in their personal job situations,” explained Lauren Steel, territory vice president for Spherion. “This is somewhat surprising because workers of all skills and levels are in high demand, especially in the major metropolitan areas across the state. In fact, we have started to notice a new hiring trend which emphasizes the talent shortages that employers are currently facing. Companies are now looking to use specialized contract workers to fill their open positions that would have traditionally been staffed by full-time workers. It’s certainly an option we recommend when full-time talent isn’t available and critical business needs must be attended to.”

Spherion Corporation is a leading recruiting and staffing company that provides integrated solutions to meet the evolving needs of companies and job candidates. As an industry pioneer for 60 years, Spherion has screened and placed millions of individuals in temporary, temp-to-hire and full-time jobs. Positions range from administrative and light industrial to a host of professions that include accounting/finance, information technology, engineering, manufacturing, legal, human resources and sales/marketing.

Corra, being headquartered in California, can sense a slight malaise among people. One one level the job market is very robust with amazing salaries being offered to candidates with exceptional skills. Clerical employees and laborers are not finding it hard to get work, either. But in the middle, there is some pressure as many industries pick up their proverbial catcher’s mitt and move their offices elsewhere.

The recent Nissan move took a big bite out of the job market. There are others either moving or talking about it. It’s raised enough concern that certain pundits are calling for incentives to keep and lure companies here. California is, after all, the birthing ground for many smaller and medium sized businesses.

As HR Managers, you are are recruiting from the largest state in the country. Many souls immigrate to California from around the country and around the globe. So be sure to have a comprehensive employment screening program in place when recruiting candidates. Be sure to run criminal checks and education verification searches. A Social Security Trace will assure you that your candidate is legally entitled to work in the U.S. A credit check is necessary for anyone with access to sensitive databases, cash or product, or proprietary information.

So, workers whether they are optimistic or not, should realize that any company that wants to hire them will check them out before they hire.

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