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3 Ways Technology Is Building Efficient Teams Amidst Staff Shortages

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With staff shortages affecting every sector, it’s more important than ever for businesses to invest in technology that supports their employees and makes it easier for teams to do more with less.


Calendar – Calendar

As worker shortages affect companies in every sector, many businesses are turning to technology to increase efficiency. Chatbots, specialized software platforms and automation allows businesses to punch above their weight. Many options include significant investments of time and financial resources. Some are free to trial or implement permanently.

Here is how tech can help you stretch your team further.

1. Chatbots multiply customer service teams’ capabilities.

Higher education is one example of an industry that adopted chatbots to expand small teams’ capacity. For the past seven or eight years, text-based chatbots have become increasingly common for moving potential students through the marketing funnel and then supporting them once they arrive on campus.

In 2016, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot to connect with admitted students via text. They saw a 3.3% rise in orientation attendance, a key indicator of whether a student intends to enroll. Since then, other universities have turned to chatbots. As budgets shrink, they use AI and outbound texting capabilities to alleviate stress on admission counselors, financial aid officers, and other student support staff.

AI offers a solution for businesses whose clients need a high-touch experience. An online clothing store might ask if you need help finding your size. A research agency might ask if you need help accessing reports. Chatbots allow you to schedule appointments with ease.

One downside to chatbots is that they require employee time to program and build the associated knowledge base. And as recently as 2018, consumers reported annoyance with chatbots. However, the tools have continued to evolve and grow in value, offering excellent potential for time-strapped businesses.

What to Consider Before Implementing Chatbot Technology

If you’re considering implementing chatbot technology, here are a few questions to ask yourself and steps you should take.

  1. What kind of startup time and resources can I invest in this? If you decide that the long-term ROI is worth it, you may need to make some tough decisions in the short term to build a quality chatbot.
  2. How much of this can I outsource? As you look at different vendors, ask how much programming and testing they do and how much additional work your team will have to take on. You may bring in a vendor and another contractor to get you up and running.
  3. What matters most to our customers? Do your people want simple customer service questions answered at all times of day and night? Do they want important reminders texted to them? The answers to these questions will help determine the vendor you use.
  4. How will this fit with our current tech ecosystem? Ideally, a chatbot will integrate with your existing customer management system. If it doesn’t, it may create more hands-on work for your team–not less.

2. Industry-specific software platforms streamline the customer experience.

The healthcare industry is an example of using cloud technology and white-label platforms to streamline data and improve the customer experience. Apps allow patients to access their records, communicate with providers, pay bills, and view test results from home. This level of accessibility allows care providers, scheduling staff, and patients to focus on solving problems rather than managing information.

On the in-patient side, individuals can use tablets during hospital stays to request help, order food and comfort items to their room, sign forms, and review their medications. This flexibility lets nurses batch their care trips to each room.

One patient-facing platform is Navigating Cancer, used by more than 2000+ oncology providers to support 1.5 million patients. Their app allows patients to message their provider about medications and ask questions. Patients can also read up on symptoms they may experience and how to manage the symptoms.

“We are trying to focus on how we can bring all these parties together to enable patients to have a single place to get the key information they need to make their care successful,” said Bill Bunker, CEO of Navigating Cancer.

In addition to helping ease the customer experience, this platform allows businesses to flag potential issues, streamline data entry and sharing, and reduce the time employees need to spend searching for notes regarding clients or patients.

How to Evaluate Platforms for Your Industry

Chances are if your industry has a gold-standard client interface platform, you’re already using it–or at least aware of it. But if you’re part of a developing industry or aren’t happy with your current tech stack, here are a few things to do about it.

Research efficiently.

Use a software marketplace like G2 to read peer reviews and compare different options.

Ask around.

Contact your connections at other businesses, or take the chance to expand your network. Do your due diligence before buying an expensive, flashy new software that isn’t tried-and-true.

Ensure that you’ve optimized tech for employee productivity.

You can get excited about a new platform that makes everyone’s job easier. But make sure that it will fit within your established SOPs or that you’re willing to take the time to build out new ones. Consider having a few employees test new tools for usability and measure the learning curve.

3. Automation reduces repetitive tasks.

Automation is the gold standard for increasing productivity without losing quality–but you must set it up well to work. It can assist with lead scoring, outbound marketing, project management, and more.

Social media is one obvious candidate for automation. By using tools connected to LinkedIn, for example, sales professionals can automatically send messages to qualified leads. Recruiters can filter applicants. Development professionals can mine data about potential donors.

Social media scheduling has been around for years, but the back end of scheduling platforms continues to evolve. Social media managers can set up approval processes that alert designated individuals when a post is ready for approval. Automated responses to specific keywords in comments allow account owners to “interact” immediately during campaigns.

In many workplaces, automated tools allow dispersed teams to stay connected and up-to-date on team priorities and water cooler conversations. For example, a dispersed team might not have the chance to chat about the previous night’s episode of Yellowstone. But a Slack end-of-week check-in might ask about the best media consumed that week, sparking conversation via an appropriate channel.

How to Add Automation to Your Business

  1. Take inventory of every repetitive task your people perform. Ground-level employees and mid-level supervisors are often best positioned to evaluate what tasks could use automation. This audit can also give you valuable insight into redundancies in your company.
  2. Check the tools you already have. Many offer at least some level of automation. Search their help centers and YouTube channels to learn how to make the most of your current investments.
  3. Consider hiring a consultant—or crowdsourcing from within. Consultants can help you figure out what automation will best serve your business. If you don’t have the budget to hire someone externally, evaluate whether one (or more) of your current employees have skills in this area. Could you take someone off another project to free up their time to help implement automation?

What You Can Do If You’re Part of an Overwhelmed Team

If your company is short-staffed, here are a few tips for using technology to fill the gap…whether or not you have significant decision-making power.

Automate your emails.

Sort incoming emails into folders so you can focus on the important ones. Turn on automated replies to let senders know you’ll get back to them in a business day so you can batch your email replies. (This is especially doable if you have an internal chat system such as Slack or Microsoft Teams that allow colleagues to reach you quickly when needed.)

Templatize your communications.

Do you find yourself sending duplicate emails over and over? Save them as email templates, so all you have to do is edit a few details to reply to common inquiries.

Ask for resources—especially if you feel overwhelmed.

Even if your company can’t hire more employees, there are less expensive things they can do to support their people. Perhaps most importantly, they can support employees’ mental health. A variety of subscriptions for mental health platforms offer meditation, mindfulness, and on-demand virtual counseling sessions. Ask your HR department if your employer provides any of these options. If not, ask them to look into it, citing research correlating mental health with productivity.

Featured Image: Thirdman; Pexels.com. Thank you!

The post 3 Ways Technology Is Building Efficient Teams Amidst Staff Shortages appeared first on Calendar.

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6 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month beyond February

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Celebrating Black History Month is a great way to honor the significant contributions African Americans have made throughout history. However, to create a truly equitable workplace and ensure that our employees feel seen, heard and valued daily, it’s essential to recognize Black history as an integral part of American history throughout the year.

Research shows that workplace diversity positively impacts employee engagement and productivity. In other words, creating an environment of inclusivity for all employees isn’t just the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. An authentic celebration of Black heritage throughout the year can help companies foster understanding and empathy among coworkers from different backgrounds. Such a celebration also allows employees to learn more about their colleagues’ experiences, promoting a deeper sense of community and understanding.

Related: It’s Black History Month. Here’s How to Show Black Employees You Care.

By recognizing Black history all year long, companies can show their employees they care while demonstrating a commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, valued and respected. Celebrating Black culture is one way to ensure all employees feel included in the workplace, no matter what month it is.

Here are six ways to be a better ally and celebrate Black History Month beyond February:

1. Celebrate authentic Black history and culture

Make sure that all employees have access to accurate and current information about the African-American experience and contributions throughout history. Encourage employees to learn more about the accomplishments of African Americans in a variety of fields — from science and engineering to art, music and literature.

How to implement it: Provide employees with a list of books, movies and articles by African Americans that tell the stories of African Americans throughout history. As opposed to non-African Americans telling the stories about African Americans (which has been the norm for too long).

Related: Be Intentional About Diversity

2. Plan authentic events

Celebrate Black History Month by planning events that make meaningful connections to the African-American experience. Invite guest speakers to share their unique perspectives on Black success stories and create opportunities for employees to engage in dialogue about important topics such as race, identity and inclusion.

How to implement it: Engage in an open dialogue with employees about the types of events they would like to participate in, such as movie screenings, group discussions and panel talks. Use their input to plan engaging activities focusing on Black culture and history.

Related: Here’s the No. 1 Question White Leaders Ask Me About Black History Month

3. Show authentic support

Show employees that their contributions are seen and valued by celebrating their success throughout the year. From recognition awards to career advancement opportunities, ensure you’re actively engaging with all of your employees so they know their work is appreciated.

How to implement it: Highlight employee achievements in company newsletters and recognize them at team meetings. These small gestures can go a long way in making your workplace more inclusive for everyone!

4. Host educational events

Consider hosting educational events such as lectures, workshops and brown bag lunches that focus on learning more about the roots of Black history in America. Provide professional development resources and opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful conversations around race, culture, and inclusion.

How to implement it: Invite experts in the fields of African American studies or Civil Rights to speak to employees about the history and legacy of Black people in America.

5. Incorporate inclusive resources into training

Include inclusive language, images, historical facts, etc., into all existing workplace diversity curriculums and training materials. Such a universal approach will help employees become more aware of the impact that race, gender and ethnicity have on daily workplace interactions.

How to implement it: Incorporate examples from Black history into existing diversity training materials such as videos, readings, and case studies. Ask employees for feedback about which resources would be most useful for learning more about Black history and culture.

6. Develop authentic mentorship programs

Invest in mentorship programs focusing on developing collaborations between African American employees and their colleagues of other ethnic backgrounds. Establish safe spaces where everyone can share their experiences openly and without judgment.

How to implement it: Create an inclusive environment through team-building exercises, cross-cultural conversations and networking events. Facilitate dialogue among employees of different backgrounds and encourage them to share their insights and ideas.

Celebrating Black History Month is an important way to remind everyone of the contributions African Americans have made to our society over the last several hundred years. Yet it’s also important that we recognize these achievements throughout the year in the workplace. By incorporating authentic resources into the workplace, employers can create a more inclusive atmosphere for all employees — no matter what month it is.

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3 Growth Stocks to Buy Now Before They Heat up

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The gradual decline in inflation and decelerating wage growth might prompt the Fed to slow the pace of rate hikes this year, which might help growth stocks to stage a recovery. So, fundamentally strong growth stocks Salesforce (CRM), HF Sinclair (DINO), and Box (BOX), which look poised to soar in the near term, might be ideal buys now. Keep reading.

December’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell 0.1% for the month, in line with the Dow Jones estimate, marking the largest month-over-month decrease since April 2020. Moreover, the Labor Department reported that employers added 223,000 jobs in December 2022, reflecting a slowdown from the pace of job creation seen earlier in the year.

Also, average hourly pay, which had been increasing at an annual rate of 5% in September, fell to 4.6% in the month.

The sky-high inflation and the Fed’s aggressive interest rate hikes to tame it have affected growth stocks significantly last year. However, the easing inflationary pressures and declining wage growth signals that the Fed’s rate hikes are having their intended effect, which might prompt the Fed to slow its rate hike pace.

The Fed is widely anticipated to deliver a 0.25 bps rate hike in its next meeting, a step back from a 0.50 bps hike last month.

Furthermore, as per Fundstrat Global Advisors co-founder Tom Lee, US stocks will surge back toward record highs in 2023 once the Federal Reserve signals that it’ll ease up on its monetary-tightening campaign. Lee also said that he expects the S&P 500 to steadily climb to hit 4,800 points this year.

Given this backdrop, fundamentally strong growth stocks Salesforce, Inc. (CRM), HF Sinclair Corporation (DINO), and Box, Inc. (BOX) might be ideal buys for solid returns this year.

Salesforce, Inc. (CRM)

CRM provides customer relationship management technology that brings companies and customers together worldwide. The company’s service offerings include Sales, Service, Marketing, and Commerce. The company provides its services through direct sales, consulting firms, systems integrators, and other partners.

The company’s forward Price/Book multiple of 2.79 is 32.8% lower than the industry average of 4.15.

During the third quarter that ended October 31, 2022, CRM’s total revenues increased 14.2% year-over-year to $7.84 billion. The company’s gross profit increased 14.5% year-over-year to $5.75 billion, and non-GAAP income from operations increased 30.9% year-over-year to $1.78 billion.

The consensus EPS estimate of $1.36 for the fiscal fourth quarter ending January 2023 indicates a 62.3% improvement year-over-year. The consensus revenue of $8 billion for the same quarter represents a 9.2% year-over-year growth. CRM has an impressive earnings surprise history as it has surpassed the consensus EPS and revenue estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

Also, the company’s revenue and levered free cash flow have grown at a CAGR of 24.1% and 21.8%, respectively, over the past three years.

The stock has gained 26.7% over the past month to close the last trading session at $167.97.

CRM’s POWR Ratings reflect its promising outlook. The stock has an overall rating of B, which translates to Buy in our proprietary rating system. The POWR Ratings are calculated by considering 118 different factors, with each factor weighted to an optimal degree.

It has an A grade for Growth and a B for Sentiment. Within the 138-stock Software – Application industry, it is ranked #27.

Beyond the POWR Ratings just highlighted, you can access additional CRM grades for Value, Momentum, Stability, and Quality here.

HF Sinclair Corporation (DINO)

DINO is an independent petroleum refiner that produces and markets high-value light products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, renewable diesel, and other specialty products.

Its forward non-GAAP P/E of 3.80x is 53.8% lower than the industry average of 8.23x. Its 0.27 forward non-GAAP PEG multiple is 59.6% lower than the industry average of 0.68.

The company pays $1.20 annually as dividends, which translates to a yield of 2.81% at the current price. Its four-year average dividend yield is 2.99%.

DINO’s sales and other revenues grew 126.2% year-over-year to $10.60 billion for the third quarter that ended September 30, 2022. Its adjusted EBITDA increased 267.9% year-over-year to $1.50 billion. The company’s adjusted net income increased 368.2% year-over-year to $982.90 million, while its adjusted EPS rose 257.8% year-over-year to $4.58.

Street expects DINO’s revenue to increase 106.6% year-over-year to $37.99 billion for the fiscal year 2022. Its EPS is expected to rise 789% year-over-year to $14.96 for the same year. The company has surpassed the consensus revenue estimates in all of the trailing four quarters.

Moreover, the company’s net income and EPS have grown at a CAGR of 39.1% and 33%, respectively, over the past three years.

The stock has gained 9.7% over the past month and 61.8% over the past year to close the last trading session at $56.90.

It is no surprise that DINO has an overall rating of B, equating to a Buy in our POWR Ratings system.

It has a grade of A for Growth and Momentum and a B for Quality. It is ranked #10 among 93 stocks in the B-rated Energy – Oil & Gas industry.

In addition to the grades stated above, we’ve also rated DINO for Value, Sentiment, and Stability. Get all DINO ratings here.

Box, Inc. (BOX)

BOX provides a cloud content management platform that enables organizations of various sizes to manage and share their content from anywhere on any device.

On January 10, BOX announced that BETC, a global communications, marketing, and advertising agency, have chosen BOX’s secure content management capabilities to power collaboration and accelerate processes around content management.

Sebastien Marotte, President of EMEA at BOX, said, “We’re delighted to support BETC in powering the next generation of creative content for their prestigious clients. We look forward to our continued partnership as BETC continues to expand its use of Box and develop its Content Cloud journey.”

In terms of forward non-GAAP PEG, BOX is currently trading at 1.36x, which is 14.8% lower than the industry average of 1.60x. Its forward Price/Cash flow multiple of 16.32 is 11.2% lower than the industry average of 18.37.

BOX’s revenue increased 11.6% year-over-year to $249.95 million in the third quarter that ended September 30, 2022. Its gross profit rose 15.2% year-over-year to $185.46 million. Also, its EPS came in at $0.03, compared to a loss per share of $0.12 in the year-ago period.

Analysts expect BOX’s revenue to rise 9.9% year-over-year to $256.48 million in the fiscal fourth quarter ended January 2023. Its EPS is estimated to grow 42.6% year-over-year to $0.34 in the same quarter.

Its revenue and levered free cash flow have grown at a CAGR of 15.1% and 29.1% over the past five years.

The stock has gained 22.4% over the past year to close the last trading session at $31.99. It has gained 10.1% over the past month.

BOX’s strong fundamentals are reflected in its POWR Ratings. It has an overall B rating, which equates to a Buy in our proprietary rating system.

It also has an A grade for Growth and Quality and a B for Value. BOX is ranked #6 among the 78 stocks in the Technology – Services industry.

Click here for the additional POWR Ratings for Stability, Momentum, and Sentiment for BOX.

Consider This Before Placing Your Next Trade…

We are still in the midst of a bear market.

Yes, some special stocks may go up. But most will tumble as the bear market claws ever lower.

That is why you need to discover the brand new “Stock Trading Plan for 2023” created by 40-year investment veteran Steve Reitmeister. There he explains:

  • Why it’s still a bear market
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You owe it to yourself to watch this timely presentation before placing your next trade.

Stock Trading Plan for 2023 >


CRM shares were trading at $168.63 per share on Wednesday morning, up $0.66 (+0.39%). Year-to-date, CRM has gained 27.18%, versus a 5.98% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.


About the Author: Kritika Sarmah

Her interest in risky instruments and passion for writing made Kritika an analyst and financial journalist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in commerce and is currently pursuing the CFA program. With her fundamental approach, she aims to help investors identify untapped investment opportunities.

More…

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OpenAI Rolls Out New Tool to Combat ChatGPT Plagiarism

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Since its launch in November, ChatGPT has disrupted various industries — from real estate to law. However, in the context of academia, teachers have growing concerns about whether using the tool is considered cheating.

ChatGPT, created by artificial intelligence company OpenAI, has the power to create essays, poetry, draft legal documents and more when given a prompt. While the results may need some editing, the tool’s efficiency has garnered worldwide attention for its accuracy.

Related: Professionals In This Industry Already Can’t Imagine Life Without ChatGPT: ‘I Can’t Remember the Last Time Something Has Wowed Me This Much.’

Public schools in Seattle and New York City have already banned the use of the tool over cheating concerns and its power to disrupt genuine learning. Now, OpenAI has announced a new feature that may help teachers spot the presence of ChatGPT in essays and other assignments, CNN reported.

The feature, called “AI text classifier,” is similar to the plagiarism software Turnitin in that when submitting a body of text, the tool will rate the input on a scale ranging from “likely generated by AI” to “very unlikely.”

While educators have been longing for such a tool to combat the increasing use of ChatGPT, OpenAI has admitted that the new feature is “imperfect” and should be “taken with a grain of salt,” CNN reported.

“We really don’t recommend taking this tool in isolation because we know that it can be wrong and will be wrong at times – much like using AI for any kind of assessment purposes,” Lama Ahmad, policy research director at OpenAI, told the outlet. “We are emphasizing how important it is to keep a human in the loop … and that it’s just one data point among many others.”

Related: Princeton Student Builds ChatGPT Detection App to Fight AI Plagiarism

Despite the imperfection of the new feature, OpenAI told CNN that the decision to release the “AI text classifier” has to do with hopefully deterring individuals from claiming AI text was composed by a human, as well as addressing the question of whether humans have a right to know if they are interacting with artificial intelligence.

“This question is much bigger than what we are doing here; society as a whole has to grapple with that question,” Jan Leike, a lead on the OpenAI alignment team, told CNN.

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