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Lowe’s and State Farm deliver home security discounts

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Lowe’s has teamed up with State Farm to help give consumers greater access to its proprietary cloud-based platform, Iris, a DIY safety and security home management system.

Specficially, State Farm will be offering its customers special promotions on the Iris Safe and Secure kit and the Iris Smart Home kit. Some qualifying customers will receive discounts on their home insurance as well.

Iris allows users to monitor and control smoke alarms, water sensors and more using a smart phone, PC or tablet. It also notifies users of possible water leaks or fires.

"Iris offers simple security monitoring solutions for homeowners that can include fire, carbon monoxide and flood sensors to provide users with immediate notification, direct to their smart phone, in the case of an emergency," said Kevin Meagher, VP and general manager of Lowe’s Smart Home. "Our relationship with State Farm is just another example of how the Iris smart home platform helps make homes safer, more efficient and easier to manage. The Iris platform will continue to evolve as we look to add more devices, products and services to the already growing program."

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GrainCorp CEO resigns upon rejection of $2 billion takeover bid

BY HBSDEALER Staff

After the Australian government blocked a $2.2 billion takeover bid by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), GrainCorp’s CEO Alison Watkins resigned from her post at the Sydney, Australia-based grain handling company.

"I have carefully weighed my options over the past two days," Watkins said Monday in a statement. "I had planned to leave the company at the time control passed over to ADM. Given last week’s unexpected developments, I feel it is in the best interests of GrainCorp, our people and customers that I move on now and allow the Board to find new leadership to take the business forward into its new phase."

Treasurer Joe Hockey blocked the ADM deal last week, citing concerns that the Illinois-based company would have too much influence in the country, where GrainCorp is the only major publicly traided grain company left. The acquisition would have offshored most of Australia’s wheat shipments and grain-export infrastructure. ADM had agreed to buy the company in April.

According to multiple media reports, Watkins will join Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. in March as group managing director. GrainCorp mentioned her pursuit of a new opportunity within the corporate sector, but didn’t elaborate.

The company is currently seeking a replacement. In the interim, chairman Don Taylor will serve as temporary executive chairman.

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Unused vacation days can be detrimental

BY HBSDEALER Staff

At organizations offering paid-vacation plans, most full-time employees (86%) have sufficient tenure to accrue from six to 20 vacation days annually. But many fail to take all their leisure days, which can negatively affect performance and morale, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in collaboration with and commissioned by U.S. Travel Association, a trade organization.

The survey, Vacation’s Impact on the Workplace, was conducted Aug. 22 through Sept. 5, 2013, with a randomly selected sample of SHRM members.

What type of vacation-benefit plans do organizations offer? Slightly more than one-half of organizations (55%) offer paid-vacation plans, while the remaining 45% offer paid-time-off plans that combine vacation and sick days.

For organizations with a paid-vacation plan, new full-time employees with one year of service receive an average of 11 paid vacation days.

Rollover practices

Overall, 61% of organizations report that, on average, employees have at least three unused vacation days each year. Most organizations (62%) let employees roll over vacation days — 54% allow limited rollover days, and 8% provide unlimited rollover.

More than one-third of companies (38%) require employees to use all of their vacation days each year or lose them.

“We found that the ability to roll over time off determined whether employees took all their vacation time,” said Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center. “Many employees seem to want to reserve vacation time, saving it for the next year, if they are able to roll over time from year to year.”

Among organizations with a limited rollover policy, 56% allow one to 10 vacation days to be rolled over annually.

Vacation’s bottom line

A large majority of HR professionals (from 88% to 94%) think that taking vacation is either “extremely” or “very important” for a variety of factors related to talent management, including morale, wellness, performance, retention, a positive culture and productivity.

Fewer, although still a majority (70%), believe that taking vacation is “extremely” or “very important” for inspiring creativity. 

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“It is important for managers and company leaders to see the value in employees taking a vacation,” said Lisa Orndorff, SHRM’s manager of employee relations and engagement. “They should also encourage their people to use their leave, ‘unplug’ if possible and take a break from the work, even if it’s just a day or two every few months.”

Based on the survey findings, SHRM’s research analysts advise HR professionals to take the following steps:

• Know the numbers. Since HR practitioners overwhelmingly agree that it is important for employees to take vacation, it would be valuable to know how many vacation days they are using and whether they are neglecting to take R & R time. If employees are not taking vacation days, find out the reason.

• Take a lead. Make sure the vacation policy fits with your organization’s culture and that the policy is being communicated and applied accurately and fairly throughout the company.

• Understand your employees. Many employers are doing more with less in the current economy. This could mean that your employees have greater workloads and are taking on more responsibility. Managers and leaders should encourage employees to take vacation and ensure that workers do not think there is a stigma associated with requesting leisure time.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

© 2013, Society for Human Resource Management.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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