How to keep up internal initiatives

By Anastasia Warren, Marketing Director


It’s no secret that company initiatives can often get lost amid the demands of day-to-day work. Programs revolving around things such as company culture, wellness, or giving back can be easy to forget after the initial roll-out to employees.

So, how do we keep these important initiatives that feed our company’s success at the forefront of our employees’ minds?

1. Create a hashtag.

#Duh. In the age of social media and technology, it’s never a bad idea to create a hashtag specific to an initiative and encourage employees to use it. For example, we rolled out a volunteerism program in 2017 with the goal of giving back 360 hours of community service collectively to Reno and beyond. We created the hashtag #TACGivesBack as a fun way to encourage employee engagement and increase exposure.

2. Remind, remind, remind.

It’s not enough to announce a new program once and then assume the entire staff is on board. As with brand messaging or really, anything else in business, it takes multiple reminders and a constant drive to continue for anything outside of day-to-day tasks. Send a weekly update, set quarterly goals, send out reminders – the way to make these initiatives successful is to continue to drive them day in and day out.

3. Publicize.

When someone does a great job, reward them! Whether it’s posting on social media, sending out an all staff email, or giving them a gift card for good work – always make employees feel good about their contribution – as they deserve to.

4. Make it fun.

No one wants to do extra work if it’s not enjoyable – fact. We encourage wellness at TAC, and we have a group of employees that goes walking every day at 10am and 3pm. Not only does this get us out of the office, but allows us to decompress and spend time with our coworkers. Employees go on these walks because they LIKE to, not because they have to.

5. Lead by example.

Bottom line, lead by example. If the people putting in place the program don’t participate, it’s difficult to expect the rest of the team to do so either.

The State of the Workforce

It’s no secret that many things have changed in the Northern Nevada community. Along with new companies coming in, housing costs on the up and up, and the rise of entrepreneurship – the workforce and their demands are changing as well.

We saw an almost $2 per hour wage increase in the span of mid-2015 to late-2016.

This is substantial.

Now, wage plays a MAJOR role in employees being drawn to companies, but the workforce now expects more than a paycheck.

We surveyed our employees throughout Northern Nevada, and found the top three reasons why employees leave, in order of importance.

1. Poor work environment.

2. No possibilities of permanent work.

3. Money.

Bottom line? Pay competitively, treat your employees well, and offer a plan for growth or stability within your company.

If you do these things, you will ensure you remain relevant and have a fair shot at the best employees for your business.

Selecting the right employee for conference attendance

By CEO Jim Annis

Conference attendee selection might be agonizing at your organization because 1) everyone wants to go, or; 2) it’s just the opposite and you resort to drawing straws and the short one is sent off. Budgets are tight, you’ve set goals as to what you want to accomplish and you want the most out of your resources — financial and human. What do you do? Work backwards. The secret is to have enough managerial insight to envision that ideal attendee’s behavior pre-, during and post-conference. Select someone who just gets giddy over the end result that you want and the expectations set forth. Here’s how to picture them:


Think of the person who has self-selected their career path (with or without your input) that includes professional development. Lifelong learners are great choices as they are typically eager to “sharpen the saw.” Someone who might have a current role in your succession plan, or perhaps shows the chutzpah it takes to offer them as a potential future leader. Your ideal attendee will feel proud to represent your company, understand and respect that it is a great expense and pay attention and follow the conference attendance FAQ (what are the meal dollar limits, how to process travel expenses, pre-arranging for a company credit or debit card or pre-paid expenses to ease employee financial burden, etc.) that you provide. You should have no hesitation that the employee will respect your wishes and the employee handbook.

Pick the one who will best represent your company on a professional level — a true brand ambassador whose positive energy and willingness to step up to the plate and manage the role responsibly is evident. Networking either comes as second nature to them; or they are a diamond in the rough but is coachable, enough so that they will commit to it even if they are uncomfortable because they know it is part of furthering the company’s goals.

The minute they get back to the office

They will give their boss a formal, hand-written thank you. A bit much, you say? Not at all. If you paid for them to go, it is an expectation that they should offer appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate the benefits of the experience. A sincere “thank you” can go a long way, particularly if they would like to attend future conferences.

Immediate follow-up with other attendees and vendors is crucial. Your candidate should connect via social media (starting with LinkedIn as a priority). Adding contacts to the company CRM database creates win-win. Coach them to understand the value of developing relationships and how it benefits your company — and them personally — along the way.

One week post-conference

The employee must have the ability to communicate effectively, verbally and in writing and they should summarize and prioritize the takeaway/what they learned, match it to your company’s strategic plan, identify skills gaps, and then package information in a “handoff” type format.

Invite them to please share! The attendee should be self-directed enough to create opportunities for those who did not attend, including distribution of links to virtual conference websites, videos, handouts, and summaries of takeaways in report or PowerPoints, as well as setting up a brown bag lunch session or present a high-level summary at the next all-staff meeting.

Once you’ve done this, take it a step further. Put yourself in the scenarios above and rate yourself. Would you be that ideal attendee? Take the challenges and expectations above, apply them the next time you go to conference and then let me know how it goes!

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

8 Ways to Stay Energized

It’s May Day, the weather is nice, and you’re feeling lethargic as the 2 p.m. slump hits.

You may be in your cubicle at your desk. You may have had too many cups of coffee today. You may be in a conference meeting trying to stay awake.

How do you stay alert, refreshed, energized, and active when you work in an office setting?

Let us tell you.

1. Standing desk.

If you’re company offers standing desks, take it! It’s a great way to avoid the seated slump we have all fallen victim to. Not an option? Consider standing every hour or taking a lap around the office every once and awhile. It does wonders!

2. Set a timer.

Take number one a step further and set a timer. Make sure you are moving or standing every hour. In addition, there are many apps like this one that remind you when it is time to stand or move.

3. Meditate (Just take a break).

You don’t actually have to meditate (unless you want to), but simply taking 10 minutes every day to relax and step away from your computer will help you to stay refreshed and come back with more creative ideas. Consider this app to help you clear your mind for just 10 minutes a day.

4. Take a walk.

At TAC, we have a walking group that takes off in the morning and afternoon for a walk a little less than a mile. This is a great way to encompass all things previously mentioned and get out with your co-workers to MOVE.

5. Get a workout buddy.

If possible, find a colleague that wants to work out with you! Maybe you can meet up before work, go for a run at lunch, or change straight into your gym clothes after work… having an accountability partner at the office helps immensely with follow through.

6. Healthy snacks.

Have you ever worked until you are so hungry that all you can think is to run to the nearest drive through? #Same. Keep healthy snacks such as almonds, dried fruit, or healthy meals in the fridge in the break room so you never have an excuse to go for the energy-sucking, “easy” foods.

7. Tell your co-workers.

Trying to be healthier? Trying to simply feel better? Tell the people around you. That way, they’ll ask you why you’re not working out at lunch or why you’re sitting in your chair for 8 straight hours.


As always, remember to get the amount of sleep you feel you need to perform at your best, 7-9 hours is generally recommended.


Happy May, and happy healthy work-life!

Recreational Marijuana Legalized in Nevada

By Megan Annis, Client Care and HR Manager


Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, effective January 1, 2017, Nevada voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older. As such, marijuana use by employees is expected to rise and increase the volume of marijuana-related issues in the workplace.

Employees May Not Use or Possess Marijuana At Work

Nevada law allows employers to prohibit marijuana use and possession by employees while at work. Employers also have the right to terminate or discipline employees who violate workplace policies prohibiting the use, possession, or impairment by marijuana while at work (barring certain accommodation obligations).

Off-Duty Marijuana Use and Positive Drug Tests

If an employee appears to be impaired at work, employers can send the employee for a reasonable suspicion drug test. First, the behaviors in question must be carefully documented. It can be challenging to determine when an employee is under the influence or impaired at work. It may be “easier” if the employee is visibly affected or slow to react; however, side effects from marijuana vary from person to person. As a result, employers should not automatically assume that someone was “under the influence” if their drug screen comes back positive. Steps must be taken to evaluate if legal medical marijuana accommodations are required before the employee is disciplined or terminated.

Reasonable Accommodations For Medical Marijuana Users

Nevada’s medical marijuana law requires that employers attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the medical needs of an employee who holds a valid medical marijuana card, subject to certain limitations. Specifically, employers do not need to provide reasonable accommodations that would:

(a) Pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property or impose an undue hardship on the employer; or
(b) Prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his or her job responsibilities.


Employers are advised to engage in an interactive process with an employee who holds a valid medical marijuana card before taking any negative employment action due to the employee’s off-duty marijuana use.

  1. If the employee tests positive for marijuana, the question becomes why the employee is taking the marijuana. Employers must first determine if the employee has a valid medical marijuana card.
  2. If the employee is taking marijuana for medical reasons, the employer must evaluate if they can reasonably accommodate the employee’s medical needs, including the use of off-duty medical marijuana (and further accommodations may be needed for the potential underlying medical condition that necessitates the marijuana consumption).
  3. If this was simply recreational use, the employee may be terminated in compliance with the company’s drug and alcohol policy. Or, the employer may choose to consider marijuana a lawful product, and remind the employee that they cannot be impaired at work. Further signs of impairment may lead to termination.

Note: There is no reasonable accommodation requirement for recreational marijuana use.

Workers’ Compensation and Marijuana

If an employee has a lawful medical marijuana prescription, a positive test following a Workers’ Compensation injury should be treated the same as a positive test for any other lawfully prescribed drug.

Final Thoughts

If faced with a positive marijuana drug test result, ask the applicant/employee if he or she holds a valid medical marijuana card, and if so, determine whether an accommodation for off-duty medical marijuana must be made. Take time to remind employees of your policies in light of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. Remember that as your partners in business, we’re here to help guide you through these uncomfortable conversations to ensure the best outcome for your employees and your business.

Positivity vs. negativity in the workplace

By Jim Annis, CEO


It’s morning. You wake up, throw your feet over the bed and – oops! – there’s the family dog. What do you do? Kick the dog? Or pet the dog? That’s always been my litmus test about whether a person has a positive versus negative attitude. I would pet the dog … err … if I had one.

What about in the work setting? I can honestly say that I used to work for the most negative guy in the world. The perspective taught me that positivity is so much more important that anyone realizes. Workplace attitudes affect every person in the organization, from the employees to the company owner – and it truly starts from the top. Attitudes influence the overarching workplace environment, which in turn determines employee morale, productivity and team-building abilities. Understanding this relationship is an important tool in creating a harmonious workplace — but even more important, it is imperative to develop a great place to work with high employee engagement.


Accepting a compliment gracefully or helping to create a positive atmosphere itself releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Bottom line: People’s brains respond to positivity naturally.

Being positive for positive’s sake isn’t enough. I’ve also learned over the years that positivity has to be genuine. Over the years, my employees have taught me that my optimism can get in the way of being real at times, which can impede decision-making. We have all run across people who are positive but they are more “sizzle than steak,” or there is something artificial going on. Authenticity is invaluable. The loudest, biggest, most popular person at a party isn’t the steak – their sizzle is “all about me.”

Successful leaders are typically positive, not negative. When you are truly interested in maintaining relationships with colleagues, have sincere interest in a person, provide support for one another, are kind and compassionate, forgive mistakes, inspire one another – all these are aspects of positivity in the workplace. If you are truly thrilled when you see other people succeed, that is an example of meaningful work. Meaningful work builds loyalty in any organization and provides a sense of security.

The inevitable

Sooner or later you will get the negative employee. Typical characteristics include all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, labeling, jumping to conclusions and blaming others. Negativity leads to distrust, a cutthroat environment, pressure and stress, and it’s harmful to productivity. Negative-attitude employees are typically hard to manage and you get sucked into the negativity. Overcoming that one toxic person is exhausting. In fact, it takes five positive comments to overcome one negative. However, being a critical thinker does not mean you are negative. You cannot have a kumbaya. You need some type of tension at work as an impetus to change, or you would be bored and lack innovation.

How to get it

Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” Life’s obstacles are limitless. A positive attitude at work – starting at home with petting the dog – is the only way to minimize negative impacts and maximize joy. Who doesn’t want to be joyful?

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

View original in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Skilled labor or higher education? There’s third way

Not really. There is a third path — one that is bigger and global, where we move away from assuming that all high school seniors go on to college or trade school or anything at all but “ad hoc” training.

Is this a case of “what’s old is new again?” No. This is big. When we — and hopefully school counselors — sit down to talk to our children about their future, we would be remiss to only talk about the “old ways.” That simply is not the amorphous reality our kids face tomorrow. Here’s why.

Higher education

The age-old stigma that “you could have done better” — if you do not go to college and you love something not requiring a college degree like becoming an auto mechanic — has faded. Today, college graduates are heavily in debt, have difficulty finding jobs, apply to hundreds of positions without hearing back from one potential employer. U.S. employers have a bad reputation for insisting on perfectly qualified candidate delivered on a silver spoon or they won’t hire, resulting in a “skills standoff.” Employers want workers to fill a role right away without any training. Why spend the money on an employee who may leave short-term? To get a job, you have to have that job already. Filling a job vacancy is like inserting a part into a washing machine. You either are the part or you aren’t. So the employer waits … and waits … resulting in both millions of unemployed people and unfilled job positions.

Skilled labor

Our region has a huge deficit of qualified skilled workers. Compared to higher ed, apprenticeships are the new college, without the debt. That’s attractive. EDAWN’s big push for certification training (which can result in a good-paying job right away) might be what we need to support industry. But is it what today’s job seekers want? Does Nevada’s high-school-educated population have the skills to pass the reading, writing and math skills test requirements for today’s modern warehouse or manufacturing jobs where the modern toolbox is now the computer?

The “other” options

Creating it: What about the grade-school-aged kid being home-schooled through online ed who has a great idea and starts a company, then never goes to traditional high school, college or trade school at all? With a strong set of mentors, a problem worth solving and an idea that seems strong, kids – not just adults – are converting their passion into entrepreneurial profit-generating businesses.

Gigging it: Upwork and the Freelancers Union annual report found that 55 million more people chose to freelance this year, or 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Almost 81 percent of traditional workers surveyed said they would “be willing to do additional work outside of (their) primary job if it was available and enabled (them) to make more money.” Freelancers in the “gig economy” select projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals from a global pool. Rather than being forced into a position or resolving to their inability to attain employment, giggers pick up whatever temporary gigs they can land (think Uber). People tend to change jobs several times throughout their working lives and the gig economy is an evolution of that trend.

How do we prepare our kids?

Our work experience will differ vastly from theirs. Their friends might already be coding and creating their own apps for sale on Google Play. Artificial intelligence, software and robotics are replacing human labor and or doing things more quickly, which has displaced some industries altogether. Traditional postsecondary education is not a fluid enough solution. What education will be required for this shifting, out-of-the-box cultural and business environment? We might not be able to guide them. They will probably be comforting us on how to adjust to their workplace reality while creating their customized education tools as they go.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.


Read original published in the Reno-Gazette Journal here.

Gen Z willing to trade hard work for job security

By Jim Annis, CEO


Generation Z is a force to be reckoned with. They were born between 1994 and 2010 and — if you assume a college path — they began hitting the workplace last year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z makes up 25 percent of our population, outnumbering millennials and baby boomers. According to Robert Half, by 2020 Gen Z will comprise 20 percent of the workforce. So how do we ready the workforce for them? How do we ready them for the workforce?

Unlike their Gen Y predecessors, today’s Gen Z college students rated “opportunity for career growth” as the most important expectation of their first job (36 percent), followed by fulfilling work (19 percent) and stability (19 percent). Friendly work environments and schedules demanded by Gen Y are low on Gen Z’s priority list. It’s a back-to-basics approach. Anything you offer Gen Z employees to help reach important career goals (i.e., job shadowing, mentoring and continuing education) will be welcomed.

 These employees who grew up during the Great Recession want a job with good pay. Offer it to them through a career path for more security, which they feel the world does not have. After seeing their parents struggle after significant change in their lifestyle, they are skeptical about Social Security or anything else. They value order, structure, work ethic and a sense of predictability in their lives.

Get ready for a switch: Gen Z wants to have genuine conversations and connections with higher-ups because they have higher expectations of relationship with their bosses. Social media has a place, but it is not the preferred communication with you. On the other hand, reduced face-to-face with co-workers can cause conflicts at work. Think about how easy it is to “unfriend” when a conflict presents itself. Management and mentoring regarding conflict resolution and presenting options for open and honest verbal dialogue will be key to their peer-to-peer success. In terms of work environment and design, you can create “refuge” work spaces available for distraction-free time which can double as a quick casual meeting area for employee-manager coaching.

Gen Z mirrors their Gen X “parents” in that they are project-oriented and ready to run with whatever is given to them – with a twist. They prefer extensive feedback and input from supervisors and upper management; however, do not mistake this for the typical micromanagement needed for Gen Y. You’ll need to shift gears and let the reins go a bit to keep them engaged and loyal.

And what about loyalty and longevity? Keeping A-level talent is already tough with competition in the marketplace today. For human resources professionals and management doing strategic planning, the job-hopping of Gen Z will be a major barrier for retention. Eighty-three percent of today’s students believe that three years or less is the appropriate amount of time to spend at their first job. Over 27 percent of students believe staying at your first job for a year or less is preferred. Tactics to mitigate this tendency include effective and frequent training and professional development opportunities. The goal is to help Gen Z employees find a niche within the company to meet their security and advancement needs.

I know, I know. Just when you thought you had management of Gen Y somewhat under control, we’re now putting a spin on the ball as we pass it to you. Like anything, the only thing constant is change. We believe that like any generation, Gen Z’s positive contributions to the workplace will be significant. To quote one of my favorites, John Wooden: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Embrace the best of Gen Z and manage the rest.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.


Read original article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.

Spring has sprung

Happy First Day of Spring!


TAC’s 2017 theme is centered around growth.

Growth for our clients, growth for our internal employees, and growth for the city of Reno and beyond!

That is why, we gave each TAC team member some gardening tools with the request to, “plant something and watch it grow,” in honor of the first day of spring.


Learn how TAC can help your company grow at

Customize your employee benefits package

By CEO Jim Annis

Gone are the days of “simple” easy-to-target advertising on three TV stations to broad segmented target markets. With thousands of cable channels, smartphones and online data, we now have microsegmentation. Microsegments aim to limit customers into very small segments — or even as individuals — which helps modern marketers determine exactly what the customer wants at every level. This has the pitfall of hyper-fragmentation. How do we reach everyone cost-effectively?

The human resources field faces similar challenges. Traditionally, there are four ways to reward people: compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation. Individual employees used to be motivated by the standard “one size fits all” benefits plan. Now benefits are valued differently by everyone. To keep top talent in this competitive marketplace, benefits are becoming highly customized and microsegmented – even down to the individual reward level. For this hyper-segmentation, you need data and a system.

Keeping employees happy is essential to productivity. Here are some of the best company perks around. Buzz60

How to start

Start with a budget. If you have $25 per employee, begin there. If you have $2,000 per employee, great! That gives you lots of flexibility to customize. Next, gather data. Human resources can use online tools like SurveyMonkey to gather individual preferences. Simply ask the question, “What would you like to receive for a job well done?” Then determine what will trigger the reward system and set a date for implementation. Individualized reward examples include a season ski pass, a rescue puppy for the SPCA supporter, Tesla charging stations, concert tickets, a monogrammed hiking backpack or REI membership, a new MacBook, cooking classes, coffee of the month club, Blue Apron/healthy delivery option, Burning Man tickets or a membership at a yoga studio. FYI: Gift cards to a bar probably will be frowned upon by your risk manager (smile).

If you are not prepared yet to customize per employee, start with a division or department. Delineate an annual “fun” budget of $1,000. Allow each to decide how to spend it on some type of team activity which can be used wither at or away from the office. At The Applied Companies, our staffing division loves to have lunch brought in. Finance loves to go to Picasso and Wine after hours. We were surprised at the diversity of uses within our small group, which validates the power of choice.

The risks of rewards

Are you trying to reward your employees or simply “fix” something? You do not give a biscuit to dog doing bad behavior. Attracting and retaining talent must be your goal. Benefits will not prevent people from job-searching or leaving; however, they do provide a nicer environment while they are there. Depending on your work culture, there could be a perception of inequality. Favoritism could rear its ugly head and employees may think they are getting less than others. It’s human nature. Take the opportunity to talk. You can motivate the people who did not receive anything by offering it as an example. “This is how you can improve” can be the opener for next steps.

New version of us

These types of benefits strategies are typical of the new HR 3.0. As an industry, we are getting away from cookie-cutter systems like performance reviews, and going to more casual, individual and continuous dialogue. You must follow the laws and ensure compensation plans are still fair, equal and gender-neutral, but you can customize rewards. This level of detail may leave you wanting to run for the hills, but if you do not want to go the way of the dinosaurs, then keeping nimble, relevant and progressive are all ways to stay competitive in the talent war.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

As seen in the Reno Gazette-Journal.