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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Halloween Rituals, Superstitions & Traditions

t-or-tThe American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason – this superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

Many other, now-obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be apple-bobbingmarried. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband.

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces. Other rituals were more competitive: at some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

TIP TUESDAY: What Do Employees Want? Part 2

Inc. magazine has suggested 10 things employees want that will help you keep them on board. The first five were published in our blog post of Oct. 11, employees-wants2016; here are the remaining five:

6. Employees want attention. Just because you’re giving employees the control they crave doesn’t mean they don’t want guidance and feedback. Hiam suggests checking in with them every few weeks, even if it’s just for a minute or two. “Look them in the eye and ask how things are going. Find out what’s really going on in their world,” he suggests. “Responsibility is about giving them a chance to make a difference, but attention is the human dimension of managing.” And don’t be fooled into thinking that the traditional annual performance review is your big chance to tell your employees what’s working and what’s not. In Pink’s words, “There’s no way to get better at something you only hear about once a year.” That’s why, at Meddius, Gunther uses the year-end to make decisions about promoting employees, and uses the quarterly meetings where goals are set, to address big operational issues within each department.

7. Employees want opportunities for innovation. Not long ago, Google announced its 20 percent creative time policy, which encourages employees to work on any innovative ideas they have that are company-related during 20 percent of their hours at work. ionnovatingBoth Hiam and Pink applaud this concept. “People need to be given a chance to bring about something new and exciting,” Hiam says. “Just asking people for ideas doesn’t create innovation. It’s a culmination of creativity and leadership.” Though you might not be able to give your employees this much time on the clock to work on side projects, you can always foster innovation through employee brainstorming sessions that allow the staff to work with new people and generate fresh ideas.

8. Employees want open-mindedness. When your employees come to you with their ideas, you need to treat them with equal parts sensitivity and honesty. Be sensitive because, according to Hiam, the more an employee gets shot down by an authority figure, the less likely he or she will be to make suggestions in the future. It’s also important to be honest because, as that authority figure, you may know what’s best for your business and what’s not. You don’t have to accept every idea that comes your way, but, Hiam says, “Don’t just shut someone down. Say, ‘Here’s what I know: years ago we tried something similar. Here’s what happened. Give some more thought to your idea, and come back if you think you can make it work.'”

9. Employees want transparency. When Meddius publishes each department’s quarterly goals, Gunther does it as well, not because he needs reminding, but because he believes his employees should be cognizant of where the organization’s going. “Employees, especially the younger work force, want transparency,” he says. While it’s not necessary to publish that information, Hiam emphasizes that the communication channel between a manager and his or her employees should always be open. “That’s why you need to build it by talking about ordinary everyday things,” he says. “You need to have rehearsed talking about ordinary things before you can talk about anything major.”

paycheck1loc10. Employees want compensation. Your employees do need to provide for themselves and their families, so, of course, salaries, bonuses and benefits are important, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Pink’s research on what motivates employees has led him to one conclusion: “The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.” He says it’s better to pay people a little more than the norm and allow them to focus on their work than to pay them based on performance. “Don’t pay people a measly base salary and very high commissions and bonuses in hopes that the fear of not having enough food on their tables will inspire them to do extraordinary things.” The way Gunther has employed this strategy is by providing his employees with full health care benefits at no cost, so they can rest assured that their families are fully protected. “It’s a huge expense, but to employees, it’s really valuable.”

THROWBACK THURSDAY: History of Stenography

Thomas Lloyd (1756–1827), known as the “Father of American Shorthand,” was born in London and studied thomas-lloydat the College of St. Omer in Flanders, where he first learned his method of shorthand. This very method of shorthand earned him his nickname as he published the most complete and official record of the First Continental Congress from the notes taken in his shorthand. Some of his other prominent accomplishments include working for the Unites States Treasurer, and reporting the first Inaugural address given by George Washington, which was then published in the Gazette of the United States.

Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos (narrow) and graphein (to write). It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short) and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy), depending on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.

steno-2Shorthand was used more widely in the past, before the invention of recording and dictation machines. Shorthand was considered an essential part of secretarial training and police work, as well as useful for journalists. Although the primary use of shorthand has been to record oral dictation or discourse, some systems are used for compact expression. For example, healthcare professionals may use shorthand notes in medical charts and correspondence.

There were, and still remain, any forms of shorthand. A typical shorthand system provides symbols or abbreviations for words and common phrases, which can allow someone well-trained in the system to write as quickly as people speak. Abbreviation methods are alphabet-based and use different abbreviating approaches. Several autocomplete programs, standalone or integrated in text editors, based on word lists, also include a shorthand function for frequently-used phrases. Many journalists use shorthand writing to quickly take notes at press conferences or other similar scenarios.

TIP TUESDAY: A Dozen Things an HR Manager Should Know About His/Her Business

  • The company’s current share price (if its is publicly traded)
  • Profit (bottom line) over the last two years
  • Revenue growth (top line) over the last two years
  • Key productivity (cost management) strategies
  • Primary product brands or services offered
  • How the company makes money
  • How customers are being satisfied
  • How the product is manufactured or service is delivered
  • How products/services are developed, marketed, and sold
  • Customer retention and attraction strategies
  • Key suppliers and customers
  • What gives your company a competitive advantage

(from the book, Best Kept HR Secrets” by Alan Collins.)

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday!

On this day in 105happybirthday3-facebookjumbo893, the melody to “Happy Birthday to You” – arguably history’s most popular, most sung, most recognized tune – is copyright registered by Patty Smith Hill and her sister, Mildred J. Hill, who published the song as “Good Morning to All” in their book Song Stories for the Kindergarten.