Plan for When the Possible & Unthinkable Hit the Workplace

Our company is well-known for being a thought leader and being innovative, which has increased our profitability over the long term. We have learned that you must plan for both the possible and the unthinkable for success.

The possible

Strategic planning helps identify the “possible.” We’ve developed a financial model, strengthened our HR process, formally defined marketing efforts, put ownership agreements in place and updated our technology.

We recently implemented a Crisis Action Team, or CAT, for business continuity. The CAT takes key areas and assigns a responsible party for making certain communications sync up in the event of a tragedy: power outages, loss of building features, operating on a virtual basis, defaulting to cellphones if landlines were down, etc.

The goal: How we would connect, given personal pressures to account for one’s family first? We have several scenarios with specific crisis roles with a backup, sometimes two deep. You can’t put a price on the safety of your people. We determined that family is the priority, which removes stress from all of our employees.

The unthinkable

A few years back, one of my key employees, the CFO, fought cancer with a vengeance for two years. He reached the end of his Family and Medical Leave Act benefits and still was unable to come back to work. He had a wife, two kids in college and an 11-year-old girl still at home. We saw this situation unfold over a long period, and it still took us by surprise.

We pride ourselves in HR policy manuals, protocols and procedures as they take the emotion out of human capital decisions. Without a policy, the right thing to do is not defined, not consistent and not transparent.

With our combined 100 years of experience, we had no policy for this “unthinkable.” I anguished over it. We now have a key employee policy with paid leave for up to 12 weeks during the typical FMLA period, then paid leave with disability after that.

Being flexible during day-to-day operations makes us better leaders, and policies and procedures help when we are “just” human. We combined the best of both when we implemented the policy, then made it retroactive for our CFO.

I encourage you to use the strategic planning to hit your stretch goals out of the ballpark to reach the possible and account for the unthinkable, too, as it is often forgotten but can easily be incorporated.

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

You’ve Graduated High School: Now What?

Memories of high school prom are fading, the end of school is looming and most likely if you are graduating this year, you have a wicked case of senioritis. What are you going to do after you walk across the stage? As a staffing agency, we see many graduates wander through our doors wondering what to do next. With careful planning, creative experimentation, and old-fashioned persistence, your high school diploma can turn into a world of possibilities.

What are your choices?

  • College is there for anyone, any time. If you can’t commit to college now, wait.
  • Trade and technical school career training (e.g., culinary, bank, media focus, photography and computers). Find out if these programs are available in your current school now or if you need to wait until after high school graduation.
  • ROTC/military
  • AmeriCorps/Peace Corps
  • Work experience is key. Try different things that you might like. You can always change your mind. A career is not set in stone.


How will you decide?

  • What is your skill set? Your passion? Your personality? If you don’t know, your high school guidance counselor has assessments readily available.
  • A staffing agency is a great place to start. If you can pass a drug test, you’re hired!
  • According to Workplace Magazine, less and less four-six year degrees are required. Fulfilling employment does not require a degree; however employers say that post-secondary education (skill building, certification, etc.) is attractive and shows a commitment to lifelong learning.


To whom should you listen?

  • People in your circle who are happy with their career choices and are willing to share their experiences.
  • High school counselors, religious leaders, and teachers you admire in specific subject areas can all help you formulate next steps.
  • Your parents and role models like relatives and neighbors.


Remember, nothing is going to happen overnight. It is never too late to start. Today’s choices will not be the same choices you have six months from now. As cliché as it sounds, you can do anything you want to do. We have a friend who started medical school at 35. She will be 42 when she is done…and it’s okay! Set priorities based on your values, make a decision, and then go do it. If you don’t like it, make a new decision and make something else happen. Repeat after me, “I trust it is going to work out as long as I am proactive. I will find support for the actions I wish to take.”

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

The Value of Exit Interviews

When putting the ideas for this article together, we first admitted that we do not conduct exit interviews ourselves. In being honest with each other, we realize that we fall into the same trap that other companies do. How would we improve something we do by using an exit interview process? Would we ask questions because we "think" it is the right thing to do? Or, is the reason we've never done it just status quo? We reflected that when someone is fired, we really do not want to go back and relive and rehash everything. When someone leaves, we are too busy trying to find a replacement. As HR industry experts, when we looked at the topic of exit interviews, there are varying opinions as to their value. So what's the best way to conduct them both from the employee and employer perspective?

The Employee Side

If you are the employee that is leaving - either voluntarily or not - an exit interview truly is not the time to be "honest" to a fault. There is always a polite way to tell the truth. This is not the time for over sharing. Avoiding burned bridges is key, because through the Internet, we are all connected more than ever. You may wind up working for the company again if you are leaving on favorable terms. And if you are not, moving forward while maintaining the best possible relationships will help your career in the long-run. Words to remember include respectful, constructive, positive, and objective. Ideas on how to improve the company - without slamming anyone personally - are safe topics.

The Employer Side

The value of an exit interview can be realized through people, policies and procedures and may yield positive business results. Our philosophy would be to treat it like a disciplinary action by focusing on the action not the person. Having a neutral third-party independent contractor conduct exit interviews is a great way to maintain data integrity, keep it a true process, and neutralize emotions. Questions should be consistent for each employee leaving the company. Asking productive questions that can make the most impact makes sense, for example, "What is a company process that you would change and how would you improve it?" This is not an invitation for open-ended questions where the exiting employee feels free to write a narrative of their life.

An exit interview is the first step to a job interview - for the replacement person and the next position for the employee that is leaving. Ensuring that progression happens positively is the real goal. 

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied's division directors, contributed to this article.