Workplace News….Employee Recognition Important during Holidays (And the Rest of the Year)

Newswise — Whether it’s a festive holiday party, an end-of-the-year bonus or a thoughtful gift, many employees can expect something from their employers during this holiday season.

Although giving gifts and parties can certainly be appreciated by employees, do they offer employers any long-term benefits?

It seems many organizations think they do.

A recent CareerBuilder survey of more than 4,000 workers and more than 2,600 employers shows organizations are more likely to provide holiday parties and perks this year. According to the survey, 40 percent of employers plan to give their employees holiday bonuses, up from 33 percent in 2010. Fifty-eight percent of employers are planning a holiday party for their employees, up from 52 percent, and 30 percent of employers plan to give holiday gifts to employees, up from 29 percent.

Research on employee recognition demonstrates that sincere, credible recognition is appreciated by employees and can enhance their motivation and performance, said Tom Becker, chair and professor in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Delaware.

“This is likely to be true whether the recognition is provided during the holidays or at other times,” Becker said.

Providing parties, bonuses and other forms of acknowledgement, including gifts, for employees’ work has symbolic value beyond the objective value that may be attached. “They send a message that the employment relationship is more than simply a transactional one. That message is especially important to convey if employees have endured a year of no raises, extra workloads, threats of layoff or many of the other conditions common in workplaces right now,” said Kimberly Merriman, an assistant professor of management and organization at Pennsylvania State University.

The key to gift giving and other forms of recognition around the holidays is being sincere, explained Robert Eisenberger, a professor in the psychology department at the University of Houston. He studies perceived organizational support—what makes employees feel supported and cared about—and has recently published a book titled “Perceived Organizational Support: Fostering Enthusiastic and Productive Employees.”

“What’s important is the genuineness of what you do,” he explained. “If the employer just goes through the motions of giving a gift that doesn’t really indicate they value employees, then it doesn’t count for much. What, really is important is a genuine indication of valuation and caring.”
What type of a gift or recognition will seem genuine to employees?

“One is the amount of time you are willing to spend on indicating you care about employees. For example, taking employees or subordinates out for a meal shows you really care about them, because it’s easy to give them a few dollars, but taking the time to treat employees to a meal involves effort and planning,” Eisenberger said,
It’s important to know employees’ needs and values, said Becker. “That’s a key principle of management. This allows managers and others to select a form of recognition or reward that employees will welcome. For some it might be money and for others a simple and sincere verbal acknowledgement of a job well done.”

Becker said non-monetary recognition can be just as effective as a bonus. “Forms of recognition besides money include written or verbal praise; symbolic rewards, such as plaques and certificates; small, meaningful gifts; or anything else that employees perceive as sincere recognition of their contributions and accomplishments,” he explained.

It’s important to be consistent, according to Merriman. If gift giving is eliminated after years of doing it without a credible explanation, employees are likely to be upset. “The motivational effects may be most obvious in the absence rather than presence of such recognition, since employees anticipate receiving something,” she explained. “For instance, one organization I know of experienced employee backlash when it stopped giving out holiday turkeys. The company wisely reinstated the tradition the following year.”

In order to manage employee entitlement perceptions, like the turkey example, organizations should separate financial rewards from the tradition of holiday recognition and instead provide a form of recognition that can be maintained each year, Merriman added.

“The trick is finding something that can be maintained—even in lean years—but still has value to employees. Here are two creative things a company might consider: providing free on-site car washes to employees for the day or providing free on-site gift wrapping. Of course, most employees would most value some extra paid time off during the holiday season if possible!”

Although general recognition such as parties and gifts can be expected to improve morale and help employees feel support from their organization, most of the benefits come in the form of positive assessment and appreciation, said Robert T. Brill, an associate professor psychology at Moravian College.

Because this show of holiday recognition is general and not tied to any one employee’s work, employers should not expect it to impact employees’ work habits, Brill said.
“It will go a long way toward morale and the worker’s sense of commitment and gratitude to the employer, but changing performance usually will require a more ongoing, systematic approach to performance feedback and management. A one-time reward for basically being a part of the organization does a great deal for attitude and emotional connection, but little for long-term performance change.”

Although many organizations may not have time for it during the hectic holidays, Brill said individual recognition—such as performance bonuses instead of blanket holiday bonuses—by employers would be most effective at improving motivation.

Eisenberger stressed that it is important for employees to feel supported all year, not just around the holidays.
“If people aren’t supported and card about the rest of the year and then a show of that is made just around holiday time, it isn’t taken very seriously,” he explained. “If you just do it on one occasion during the year, it’s not going to have much effect. It needs to be part of a pattern of indicating that employees are valued and cared about. It’s just like with relatives, you can’t be nice to relatives on the holiday and not be nice to them the rest of the year.”

Released: 12/12/2011

Source: The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/employee-recognition-important-during-holidays-and-the-rest-of-the-year

Advertisements

Experts Offer 15 Predictions for 2012

Newswise — For the 31st consecutive year, The University of Alabama Office of Media Relations offers predictions from faculty experts for the coming year. So, what’s ahead for 2012? Look for President Barack Obama to face, and defeat, a surprise Republican nominee, online doomsday groups to spike, the Occupy Movement to re-emerge, fuel prices to remain unstable and much more.

Expanded versions of each of these guesses is available atwww.uanews.ua.edu

Obama to Battle, Beat Late-Entry Republican

President Obama is likely to win re-election in 2012, but his Republican opponent will not be one of the current candidates battling one another in the early primaries, a University of Alabama political scientist predicts. “I think there are a lot of Republicans who are not going be satisfied with the best of who’s out there now,” says Dr. Richard C. Fording, chair of the UA political science department. “They don’t have a candidate who can beat Obama,” he says. Although a new candidate – for example, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, businessman Donald Trump or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — might be behind in organization and fund-raising, she or he would avoid the scathing political battles under way in the debates and in the Iowa caucuses.

Cuba May be State’s Next Big Customer

The Alabama business community needs to practice its Spanish, and that suggestion has nothing to do with the state’s controversial immigration law. Dr. Jase Ramsey, an assistant professor of marketing at The University of Alabama, predicts the United States will continue to ease trade sanctions on Cuba and, as early as this time next year, some U.S. businesses will visit the island nation on state-sponsored trade missions to size up market potential. “Alabama’s proximity to the Communist country makes our businesses especially attractive for potential foreign direct investment into Cuba,” Ramsey says. “A key component that will determine who gets access to Cuba is prior relationships with the Castro regime and with Cuban politicians.

Online Doomsday Groups to Spike

Warnings about apocalyptic cataclysms in 2012 potentially will serve as a catalyst for Internet hysteria, a University of Alabama psychology professor predicts. According to some scholars, the ancient Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end in 2012. Figures in popular culture and the Internet are taking this prediction seriously. The result could be panic on the level of the Y2K scare of 1999, says Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, assistant professor of psychology. “We’re going to see a lot of doomsday groups grow online,” says Guadagno, an Internet scholar. “If one of them gets big enough, we’ll see hysteria spreading over the Internet. Then we’ll see the kind of crazy things some people were doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999.”

New App to Displace Craigslist, Professor Predicts

Application software, also known as an application or an “app,” seems ubiquitous these days. The computer software is designed to help users perform specific tasks. You can play games, learn guitar, set up a workout program, shop and a jillion other things. Dr. Craig E. Armstrong, assistant professor of management at The University of Alabama, says he expects someone to create, within the next year, an “app” that performs “Craigslist” functions for the exchange of goods and services. Need to find someone to paint your house? Check the app. Want to earn some extra money by applying a skill you have? Check the app. The app platform will displace Craigslist because it will enable transactions with less traction and allow buyers and sellers to create reputations, Armstrong says.

Social Media to Serve as New Opinion Polls

One of the biggest changes from the 2008 presidential election to the 2012 election is the increase in social media outlets and usage. Dr. Kristen Heflin, assistant professor of advertising and public relations in The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, says she expects the public to have more access to candidates than ever before – and that access will include the good, the bad and the ugly. “Social media will continue to serve as an echo chamber for candidate gaffes, as we’ve already seen …” Heflin says. “Social media will be mined for information on public opinion. Social media buzz will serve as the new opinion polls. News organizations will base their stories off of social media buzz.”

Has the ‘Occupy’ Movement Faded? Don’t Bet on It

As Occupy encampments around the country seem to be fading as we move into a new year, some analysts and media personalities are criticizing the movement for lack of focus and mission, and they are voicing the inevitable predictions of doom and failure for the movement. But, not so fast, my friend, says Dr. Gary Hoover, a UA economics professor. He says the movement only appears to have gone dormant in places like New York and Oakland where demonstrators were forced by police to leave their staging grounds. “ … I predict that we have not heard the last of the Occupy Movement. In fact, I think they will be heard again and re-emerge on the political and economic landscape more determined and forceful than ever.”

Female Running Mate May Determine Election

Whereas many eyes were on presidential candidates in the final days of 2011, one University of Alabama professor believes the vice presidential race is the one to watch. Dr. Janis Edwards, associate professor of communication studies, says the VP slot may actually determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. “On the Republican side, none of the current candidates is likely to beat Obama, despite his perceived weakness,” Edwards says. “Romney is not popular, nor a good campaigner. Gingrich will produce buyer’s remorse. Therefore, the partner on the ticket could be very meaningful for Republican momentum, especially if there is great appeal to women voters.” Edwards says there is an outside chance that current vice president Joe Biden could assume the role of secretary of state, opening up the vice presidential spot on the Democrat side.

Stressful 2011 Could Make for a Depressed 2012

2011 has been a turbulent one for the people of Alabama, and a professor in The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing thinks many people will feel the effects mentally during 2012. “I predict an increase in the number of patients seeking care for a new-onset of depression, anxiety and mental health conditions,” says Dr. Amy Bigham, assistant professor of nursing. Traumatic events can cause anxiety, stress and depression later, once the initial shock wears down. “The year 2011 was stressful for many Alabamians due to changes in the economy, increases in job losses and natural disasters,” says Bigham.

Year of Natural Disaster to Bring Changes in 2012

The United States was particularly hard hit with a string of natural disasters in the past year: unprecedented summer heat and drought in the Southwest, deadly tornadoes, a massive blizzard in the Northeast, major river floods in the Midwest, an earthquake on the East Coast followed by a hurricane that caused massive flooding. So we can expect municipalities around the nation to look for ways to mitigate losses caused by natural disasters. “The U.S. can no longer afford to ignore the management of catastrophic losses at the state and federal levels,” said Dr. William Rabel, professor of finance and head of the insurance program at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. “They will have to identify and evaluate exposures and then select the optimum tools for controlling and financing losses. “Every state and the federal government will need a chief risk officer.”

One of Least Productive Years in Congressional History Ahead

The 2012 congressional elections will see Republicans hold onto the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats hold onto the Senate, a University of Alabama political scientist predicts. But, new faces may emerge as Republican and Democratic candidates challenge incumbents in primaries. “This will be a status-quo election for Congress in terms of the partisan breakdown,” says Dr. Stephen Borrelli, professor of political science. Borrelli also predicts continued stalemate in Congress as the presidential election approaches, particularly if unemployment continues to fall. “You’re going to see one of the least productive years in the history of Congress,” Borrelli says. “It will be all they can do to keep the government running …”

Tablets, Other Mobile Devices to Become More Evident in Hospitals

iPads aren’t just on little Bobby and Susie’s list – medical workers also have an iPad or other tablet device at the top of their holiday gift-wish list. Dr. Heather D. Carter-Templeton, in The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, says there will be a surge in the use of tablets and mobile devices in the hospital and community health clinical settings in 2012. “Recent studies have found rapid growth in the use of mobile technology among health-care professionals, such as physicians and nurses,” she says. “They’re small, easily portable and can carry a tremendous amount of evidence-based information accessible at the point-of-care.” However, the industry must adjust, she says. “The type of work, the physical space of the nursing unit and who will be using the devices needs to be considered when planning for the use of mobile technology within the clinical setting.”

Middle East Unrest, Sputtering Economies to Keep Fuel Prices Unstable

Fuel prices will remain unstable in 2012 as pressure from all sides influence the cost of crude oil, according to a University of Alabama engineering professor who follows the petroleum markets. A decrease in demand the last month or so of 2011 slightly reversed jumps in gasoline prices in the United States, but there is too much political uncertainty ahead to believe that should continue, says Dr. Peter Clark, professor of chemical engineering. If anything, demand in the U.S. should increase with the slow-recovering economy and the annual price spike from the summer thirst for fuel. “Volatility in the oil market translates to volatility in gasoline prices,” Clark says. Continued unrest in the Middle East and instability among European economies, combined with a recovering economy at home, could mean higher prices at the fuel pump in 2012, he says.

Health Care Will Continue to be a Pain in the Head

If you think the health-care reform debate has been intense and confusing so far, take two aspirins and try to follow it through 2012. “I think that in 2012, Americans will begin to seriously debate the entire health-care question,” says Dr. William Rabel, professor of finance and head of the insurance program at the Culverhouse College of Commerce. “Not just how it is financed, but how it is created and delivered as well. Whether Obamacare is upheld by the Supreme Court or not, it is only a transitional phase as we grope our way to a health-care system that will have substantial differences from the one we know today,” Rabel says.

Occupy Protesters Unlikely to See Increase in Court Victories

Recent events surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement have led to questions regarding the First Amendment rights of citizens. Dr. Matthew D. Bunker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism, says protesters could expect mixed results in litigation. “Public places such as parks and streets have traditionally been considered public forums for the expression of ideas, but the government retains the ability to impose reasonable restrictions based on the time, place or manner of the speech,” Bunker says. “That means that courts will often side with local officials who try to regulate tents and 24-hour campsites for reasons of public health and safety.” For media members covering the events, Bunker says results were likely to be similar but that the courts might see an increase in individual actions for false arrest or excessive force.

Low Interest Rates Ain’t Gonna Last

So, if interest rates are at record low levels, it’s pretty safe to predict that they are going to increase, right? “Right,” says Dr. Benton Gup, professor of finance at The University of Alabama, “but let’s not make the same mistakes that led to the failure and consolidation of thousands of financial institutions in the 1980s. Simply stated, when market rates of interest were low in the 1970s, lenders borrowed short-term funds at low rates and made long-term fixed rate mortgage loans at slightly higher rates.” Gup says the important point is that mortgage lenders should not make long-term fixed rate loans unless they can hedge their interest rate risk or match the maturity of their assets and liabilities. So, look for interest rates to go up but in a more constrained lending environment.

Released: 12/20/2011

Source: University of Alabama

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/experts-offer-15-predictions-for-2012

Social Media Is Having a Major Impact on Businesses

Companies are shifting to digital platforms and media to interact and collaborate with customers and employees

Newswise — As businesses become increasingly global and competitive, social media is playing a major role because of its ability to bridge distances and enable the development of relationships, a key component for any business.

”It is totally reshaping the way organizations communicate,” says Andrea Goldberg, the president and founder of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC in Bedford, NY, and an industrial and organizational psychologist with a background in marketing, communications and human resources.

“Increased openness and collaboration are greatly impacting the workplace and leading to the creation of internal and external networks and communities. Driving much of this is the relatively new phenomenon of social media, which is also contributing to organizational effectiveness, branding and customer support,” Goldberg said.

A 2010 Burson Marsteller study of Fortune 100 companies found that 66 percent used Twitter; 54 percent had a Facebook page and half managed a corporate YouTube channel. And, according to another survey, 73 percent of businesses plan to increase their social media presence, while 90 percent of marketers have adopted social media as a valuable tool.

Savvy companies, both large and small, have recognized the value social media can bring to their organizations; something that employees and customers are expecting more and more.

This is due in large part to the increased use of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn by people of all ages as well as the numbers of technically oriented people entering the workforce who have grown up with social media. For these people, social media is an integral part of their lives and they expect it to be part of their work environment as well.

“A new business environment is emerging as many employees have the ability and the desire to use these tools to interact with their colleagues, managers and customers and to accomplish work differently than by traditional methods,” said Goldberg.

On the customer or external side this has been demonstrated by the growth of sites such as Yelp and Angie’s list that allow customers to evaluate vendors. Twitter is being used to respond to customer concerns and Facebook enables customers to become fans.

On the internal side, Goldberg sees organizations transforming and shifting strategies because of the way social media is impacting recruiting and selection, communications, rewards and incentives, defining job roles and leadership and training and development.

The fact is that social media has already become a common part of the workplace, so companies need to accommodate the new realities, said Goldberg.

She said some of the positive outcomes stemming from these realities include new marketing and public relations channels; better customer acquisition, service and loyalty; new approaches for branding and communications; collaborative innovations for product development; opportunities for thought leadership; recruitment of hard-to-find skilled candidates and increased employee engagement.

This trend does come with some risks. Employees posting unacceptable comments about colleagues and/or their company on Twitter and other social media outlets have occurred.

To mitigate misuse, companies need to develop policies governing use of social media that restricts certain content including personnel matters, contract negotiations and corporate policies.

Forward thinking companies are leveraging employees’ social media skills and training them to become brand stewards to help promote loyalty and support for the organization. Positive postings on employees’ social networks can boost an organization’s employment brand. “They can help position the company as an employer of choice,” said Goldberg.

She also pointed out that organizations actively involved in social media often have employees more engaged with their companies. “The value is they get people talking and interacting across boundaries, borders and silos,” she said.

Benefits include greater transparency, trust, responsibility, innovation and improved customer service, she added.

But some things have to be in place before social media use can be effective, says Goldberg. Realistic expectations and guidelines must be established and clearly communicated to all employees while allowing opportunity for dialog and commentary. Also, employees should be aware of not only the benefits but also the limitations of social media. “Employees need to be careful how they use company information on social media networks,” she said.

Another way to enhance satisfaction is to encourage employees to offer ideas and suggestions and incorporate them into both company programs and products. “They need to know management is listening to them and they are important to the company’s success. And that helps build trust,” she said.

However, despite the proven benefits not all organizations have jumped on the social media bandwagon. Others are slow to see its value.

Goldberg pointed to Accenture as an organization that had made social media part of its culture. The global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company provides avenues for employees to connect through an internal Twitter Network, a company blog and a YouTube site.

Kevin Kramer, Accenture’s director of human capital, said “We are very wired. People here are excited about social media and have been using it for years. We are hooked on our mobile devices.”

Goldberg said that social media is not just the domain of young people. “The fastest growing segment of social media users is over 40. In part, that’s because so many young people are active users and there is not much room to grow. Nevertheless, older people are learning just how effective a tool social media can be and that’s why they are the fastest growing group.”

Released: 12/13/2011

Source: Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/social-media-is-having-a-major-impact-on-businesses

The Paradox of Gift Giving: More Not Better

Newswise — Holiday shoppers, take note. Marketing and psychology researchers have found that in gift giving, bundling together an expensive “big” gift and a smaller “stocking stuffer” reduces the perceived value of the overall package for the recipient.

Suppose you’re trying to impress a loved one with a generous gift this holiday season, says Kimberlee Weaver, assistant professor of marketing in the Pamplin College of Business. One option is to buy them a luxury cashmere sweater. A second option is to add in a $10 gift card.

If their budget allows, most gift givers would choose the second option, as it comprises two gifts — one big, one small, Weaver says. Ironically, however, the gift recipient is likely to perceive the cashmere sweater alone as more generous than the combination of the same sweater and gift card. “The gift giver or presenter does not anticipate this difference in perspectives and has just cheapened the gift package by spending an extra $10 on it.”

Weaver is part of a research team that recently discovered, through a series of studies, what the team has called the “Presenter’s Paradox.” The paradox arises because gift givers and gift recipients have different perspectives, Weaver says. Gift givers follow a “more-is-better” logic; recipients evaluate the overall package.

“People who evaluate a bundle, such as a gift package, follow an averaging strategy, which leads to less favorable judgments when mildly favorable pieces (the gift card) are added to highly favorable pieces (the sweater). The luxury sweater represents a generous ‘big’ gift. Adding on a ‘little’ gift makes the total package seems less big.”

The same contradictory effect can be found in other situations, says Weaver, whose research article, “The Presenter’s Paradox,” co-authored with Stephen Garcia and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“People who present a bundle of information assume that every favorable piece adds to their overall case and include it in the bundle they present,” she says. However, notes Garcia, associate professor of psychology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan, “this strategy backfires, because the addition of mildly favorable information dilutes the impact of highly favorable information in the eyes of evaluators. Hence, presenters of information would be better off if they limited their presentation to their most favorable information — just as gift givers would be better off to limit their present to their most favorite gift.”

Weaver and her co-authors found that the paradox was strongly evident in seven studies across many product domains, from bundles of music to hotel advertisements, scholarships, and even “negative” items such as penalty structures.

When asked to design a penalty for littering, for example, those who were put in charge preferred a penalty that comprised a $750 fine plus 2 hours of community service over a penalty that comprised only the $750 fine. However, perceivers evaluated the former penalty as less severe than the latter, Weaver says. “Adding a couple of hours of community service made the overall penalty appear less harsh and undermined its deterrence value.”

The discovery of the Presenter’s Paradox sheds new light on how to best present information, says Weaver. “Whether it is a public relations expert pondering which reviews to include on a book jacket, a music producer considering which songs to include in a music album, or a legal team building up arguments for a case, they all face the important task of deciding what information to include in their presentations. So do consumers who apply for a job and homeowners who try to sell their house.”

All of them, she says, run the risk of inadvertently diluting the very message they seek to convey by their efforts to strengthen it. “Fortunately, there is a simple remedy: take the perspective of the evaluator and ask yourself how the bundle will appear to someone who will average across its components. Doing so will alert you to the fact that others will not always share your sense that more is better.”

“Prompting consumers to consider the overall picture entices them to adopt a holistic perspective, which allows them to correctly anticipate evaluators’ judgments,” says Schwarz, professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Michigan. “But when left to their own devices, presenters are unlikely to notice that evaluators do not share their more-is-better rule.”

Released: 12/12/2011

Source: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/the-paradox-of-gift-giving-more-not-better

Environmental Update….Affordable Solar: It’s Closer Than You Think!

Photo Credit: Sarah Bird, Affordable solar power is on the horizon, says Joshua Pearce, pictured here with a high-tech photovoltaic panel.

Newswise — It’s time to stop thinking of solar energy as a boutique source of power, says Joshua Pearce.

Sure, solar only generates about 1 percent of the electricity in the US. But that will change in a few years, says Pearce, an associate professor of electrical engineering and materials science at Michigan Technological University. The ultimate in renewable energy is about to go mainstream.

It’s a matter of economics. A new analysis by Pearce and his colleagues at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, shows that solar photovoltaic systems are very close to achieving the tipping point: they can make electricity that’s as cheap—sometimes cheaper—as what consumers pay their utilities.

Here’s why. First, the price of solar panels has plummeted. “Since 2009, the cost has dropped 70 percent,” says Pearce. But more than that, the assumptions used in previous studies have not given solar an even break.

“Historically, when comparing the economics of solar and conventional energy, people have been very conservative,” says Pearce.

To figure out the true cost of photovoltaic energy, analysts need to consider several variables, including the cost to install and maintain the system, finance charges, how long it lasts, and how much electricity it generates. Pearce and his colleagues performed an exhaustive review of the previous studies and concluded that the values given those variables were out of whack.

For example, most analyses assume that the productivity of solar panels will drop at an annual rate of 1 percent or more, a huge overestimation, according to Pearce. “If you buy a top-of-the-line solar panel, it’s much less, between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.”

In addition, “The price of solar equipment has been dropping, so you’d think that the older papers would have higher cost estimates,” Pearce says. “That’s not necessarily the case.”

Equipment costs are determined based on dollars per watt of electricity produced. One 2010 study estimated the cost per watt at $7.61, while a 2003 study set the amount at $4.16. The true cost in 2011, says Pearce, is under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market, though system and installation costs vary widely. In some parts of the world, solar is already economically superior, and the study predicts that it will become increasingly attractive in more and more places.

In regions with a burgeoning solar industry, often due to favorable government policies, there are lots of solar panel installers, which heats up the market.

“Elsewhere, installation costs have been high because contractors will do just one job a month,” says Pearce. Increasing demand and competition would drop installation costs. “If you had ten installers in Upper Michigan and enough work to keep them busy, the price would drop considerably.”

Furthermore, economic studies don’t generally taken into account solar energy’s intangible benefits, reduced pollution and carbon emissions. And while silicon-based solar panels do rely on a nonrenewable resource–sand–they are no threat to the world’s beaches. It only takes about a sandwich baggie of sand to make a roof’s worth of thin-film photovoltaic cells, Pearce says.

Based on the study, and on the fact that the cost of conventional power continues to creep upward, Pearce believes that solar energy will soon be a major player in the energy game. “It’s just a matter of time before market economics catches up with it,” he says.

The study, “A Review of Solar Photovoltaic Levelized Cost of Electricity,” was coauthored by Kadra Branker and Michael Pathak of Queen’s University and was published in the December 2011 edition of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 15, Issue 9, pages 4470-4482.

Released: 12/8/2011

Source: Michigan Technological University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/affordable-solar-it-s-closer-than-you-think

Professor Offers Holiday Tipping Advice During the Economic Downturn

Newswise — DURHAM, N.H. – With pocketbooks stretched even more during the holidays this year, Americans may find it difficult to tip their service providers as much as they would like to, but according to a University of New Hampshire professor who researches service expectations, consumers should do their best to give something.

“Giving a gift during the holiday is a fundamental part of every joyful season, and one such holiday extra is the giving of a ‘tip’ to those individuals that have provided a service during the year. However, extra money for many Americans has been tight this year due to the economic times which many have not recovered from. So this time of year, when we feel obligated to buy presents and tip our various service providers, it may be difficult to decide who to drop from your gift list or reduce in tips if money to spread around is limited,” said Nelson Barber, associate professor of hospitality management at UNH.

“During the holiday season, tipping is more a gesture of thanks to individuals who provide services on a regular basis to you and your family,” Barber says. “We all know that both gifts and tips are great, and for many, holiday tips can make a huge difference in their annual income.”

How important are tips? According to a survey by PayScale, personal-care workers, including makeup, barbers, hairdressers, nail technicians, and cosmetologists, receive 25 percent of their income from tips.

Barber offers the following tipping advice:

How Best to Tip?
Prioritize your most important service providers by considering those who have provided you services and the extent of interaction with them, particularly those who may not be that obvious, even if you may not have tipped them regularly. “Do not make your tipping decision solely based upon ‘an implied obligation.’ At the top of your list should be those individuals that enhance your life considerably,” he says.

Think about the valued housekeeper or the barber that squeezes you in or the individual that delivers your newspaper to the front door when it is raining or snowing saving you the walk down the driveway. “These are the people that should receive the top dollars rather than infrequently used service providers,” Barber says.

How much should I tip?
When deciding how much to tip, remember that tipping is discretionary. Consider the length of time you have been receiving the service and whether you live in an urban or rural setting where tipping levels may vary. Consider the relationship to the service provider. Are you close? Is the relationship informal?

“If you don’t think tipping is necessary in a particular circumstance, then don’t tip. The following is a guide and amounts have been adjusted for today’s economic conditions. It is not implying a moral duty to tip. If you are using a service that is widely known to be a tipped service, such as hair salons and valet parking, then tip for good service,” Barber says.

Some suggestions for minimum tipping are:
• Day care provider: $20 and a gift from your child
• Parking garage attendants: $20 or a gift
• Housekeeper: no more than one week’s pay or a gift
• Nanny: no more than one week’s pay or a gift from you and your child
• Newspaper carrier: $15 or a gift
• Package carrier: a gift of no more than $15
• Home caregiver: no more than one week’s salary or a gift
• Pet groomer: 25 percent the cost of a session or a gift
• Baby sitter: no less than half one evening’s pay
• Hairstylist for women: minimum half the cost of one visit. Tipping the owner who provides you the service: yes at your discretion.
• Hairstylist for men: minimum half the cost of one haircut.
• Manicurist: $10
• Sanitation worker: $5 to $10
• Mail carriers working for the United States Postal Service may not accept cash gifts, checks, gift cards, or any other equivalent.

If consumers need to reduce their tipping amounts, Barber suggests adding a note of thanks with the tip.

“I find, depending on the service provider, including a note expressing how much you appreciate them adds value and can make the gift mean more even if the amount given is less,” Barber says. “Service workers depend on these gifts as part of their income. So unless you’ve lost your own job, or are having financial troubles of your own, try to give.”

Released: 12/5/2011

Source: University of New Hampshire

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/unh-professor-offers-holiday-tipping-advice-during-the-economic-downturn

Workplace News….New Research Finds Obesity Negatively Impacts Income, Especially for Women

Newswise — WASHINGTON – A new report from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Health Policy (GW) uncovered an overall wage differential between those of normal weight and those who are obese, especially when it comes to women. The research, released today, demonstrates the impact obesity may have on a person’s paycheck.

Examining years 2004 and 2008 in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to quantify obesity-attributable wage gaps, the GW research team found the connection between obesity and reduced wages to be stronger and more persistent among females than males. In 2004, wages among the obese were $8,666 less for females and $4,772 lower for males. In 2008, wages were $5,826 less for obese females, a 14.6% penalty over normal weight females.

“This research broadens the growing body of evidence that shows that in addition to taxing health, obesity significantly affects personal finances,” said Christine Ferguson, J.D., Professor in the Department of Health Policy. “It also reinforces how prevalent stigma is when it comes to weight-related health issues.”

Additionally, the research shows that there are significant differences in wages dependent upon race. In 2004, Hispanic women who were obese earned $6,618 less than those who were normal weight. In 2008, the differential doubled for Hispanic men who were obese to earnings of $8,394 less than normal weight counterparts, while for women the gap narrowed slightly.

Other key findings from Gender and Race Wage Gaps Attributable to Obesity include:
• Both men and women who were obese experienced reduced wages compared to their normal weight counterparts.
• For both genders, and all racial categories, except Hispanic men, the wage differential narrowed between 2004 and 2008, despite the economy worsening.
• Caucasian women who are obese experienced a wage penalty in both 2004 and 2008 while Caucasian men only experienced a differential in 2004.
• Hispanic women who were obese experienced a wage differential in both 2004 and 2008; Hispanic men who were obese only experienced a wage differential in 2008.
• In both years, wages for African-American men who were obese were higher than their normal weight counterparts, while for African-American women, wages were similar between those who were obese and those who were normal weight.

The research builds upon findings discovered by GW last year, which raised the different ways that obesity impacts each gender. That report was focused on the individualized costs of obesity which outlined the overall, tangible, annual costs of being obese based on a series of measures including indirect costs, including lost productivity, and direct costs, such as obesity-related medical expenditures, to estimate the price tag of obesity at the individual level. On average, those costs are $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man . The biggest difference among gender was wages, leading them to dive deeper in this focus area.

About the Methodology
The GW research team explored wage differentials more NLSY79 wave years 2004 and 2008 to further quantify obesity-attributable wage gaps. The NLSY79 provides detailed information about earnings, education, employment status, and employment characteristics, but also provides information about health and household characteristics. The NLSY79 follows the same panel of participants over time.

Released: 12/1/2011

Source: George Washington University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/new-research-finds-obesity-negatively-impacts-income-especially-for-women

Previous Older Entries