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THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Chicago Theatre Opening Oct. 26, 1921

The grandeur of The Chicago Theatre often leaves its visitors breathless. The elegant lobby, majestic staircase and beautiful auditorium complete with murals above the stage and on the ceiling, are components of an amazing building called “the Wonder Theatre of the World” when it opened on October 26, 1921 with Norma Talmadge on screen in “The Sign on the Door.” A 50-piece orchestra performed in the pit and Jesse Crawford played the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. After a “white glove inspection,” a staff of 125 ushers welcomed guests who paid 25 cents until 1 p.m., 35 cents in the afternoon and 50 cents after 6 p.m.

The Chicago Theatre was the first large, lavish movie palace in America and the prototype for all others. It was constructed for $4 million by owners Barney and Abe Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz, and designed by Cornelius and George Rapp. It was the flagship of the Balaban and Katz theatre chain.

Built in French Baroque style, The Chicago Theatre’s exterior features a miniature replica of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, sculpted above its State Street marquee. Faced in a glazed, off-white terra cotta, the triumphal arch is sixty feet wide and six stories high. Within the arch is a grand window in which is set a large circular stained-glass panel bearing the coat-of-arms of the Balaban and Katz chain—two horses holding ribbons of 35-mm film in their mouths.

The grand lobby, modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles, is five stories high and surrounded by gallery promenades at the mezzanine and balcony levels. The grand staircase is patterned after that of the Paris Opera House and ascends to the various levels of the Great Balcony.

chicago theater 2

Photo from Curbed Chicago

The 3,600 seat auditorium is seven stories high, more than one half of a city block wide, and nearly as long. The vertical sign “C-H-I-C-A-G-O,” at nearly six stories high, is one of the few such signs in existence today. A symbol of State Street and Chicago, the sign and marquee are landmarks in themselves, as is the 29-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ.

Balaban and Katz spared no expense on the workmanship and materials for this miniature Versailles. Marshall Field’s supplied the drapes, furniture and interior decoration. Victor Pearlman and Co. designed and built the crystal chandeliers and lavish bronze light fixtures with Steuben glass shades. The McNulty Brothers’ master craftsmen produced the splendid plaster details and Northwestern Terra Cotta Company provided the tiles for the facade. Artist Louis Grell painted the 10 ceiling murals in the auditorium, the largest mural over the stage measuring over 30’ across.

During its first 40 years, The Chicago Theatre presented the best in live and film entertainment, including John Phillip Sousa, Duke Ellington, Jack Benny, and Benny Goodman. The Chicago Theatre was redecorated in preparation for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and “modernized” in the 1950s when stage shows, with few exceptions, were discontinued. In the 1970s, under the ownership of the Plitt Theatres, The Chicago Theatre was the victim of a complex web of social and economic factors causing business to sag. It became an ornate but obsolete movie house, closing on September 19, 1985.

In 1986, Chicago Theatre Restoration Associates, with assistance from the City of Chicago, bought and saved the theatre from demolition and began a meticulous 9-month multi-million dollar restoration undertaken by Chicago architects Daniel P. Coffey & Associates, Ltd. and interior design consultants A.T. Heinsbergen & Co. of Los Angeles, interior design consultants. The Chicago Theatre reopened on September 10, 1986 with a gala performance by Frank Sinatra.

Since that time, an array of the entertainment world’s brightest stars and greatest productions have graced the stage, including Allman Brothers Band, Arcade Fire, Blues Traveler, Kelly Clarkson, Harry Connick Jr, Ellen DeGeneres, Aretha Franklin, Kathy Griffin, Gipsy Kings, Indigo Girls, Alicia Keys, David Letterman, Lyle Lovett, Oasis, Dolly Parton, Prince, Diana Ross, Van Morrison, Widespread Panic and Robin Williams.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Economy at at Glance

Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.il.htm for a snapshot of the national, regional and Illinois BLS logolabor markets, as well as links to hundreds of informational files and charts about employment and labor – past, present and future.

The BLS, established in 1884 and today employing 2,500, is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy. Its mission is to collect, analyze, and disseminate essential economic information to support public and private decision-making. As an independent statistical agency, BLS serves its diverse user communities by providing products and services that are objective, timely, accurate, and relevant.

TIP TUESDAY: Successful Onboarding to Help Ensure Employee Retention

{from SHRM online}

New employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.

Onboarding new hires at an organization should be a strategic process that lasts at least one year, staffing and HR experts say, because how employers handle the first few days and months of a new employee’s experience is crucial to ensuring high retention.

Getting Started with the Onboarding Process

Finding the best candidates for positions in your organization is only part of building an effective team. The process of onboarding new employees can be one of the most critical factors in ensuring recently hired talent will be productive, contented workers.

However, in some organizations, onboarding is often confused with orientation. While orientation might be necessary—paperwork and other routine tasks must be completed—onboarding is a comprehensive process involving management and other employees that can last up to 12 months.

Before implementing a formal onboarding program, employers should answer some key questions to attain team and upper management buy-in, including:

  • When will onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
  • What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
  • What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
  • How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

Once these questions have been answered, HR professionals and upper management can devise a plan of action to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow while getting fully acquainted with the organization’s culture.

“If we don’t worry about onboarding before the employee starts, then we’re way behind,” says Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR, an HR technology company. “Rather than having a stack of papers waiting for their signature, send them out to the employee beforehand, for electronic signature. Give them their benefits selection. Find the technology to help you automate the paper-pushing process.”

In addition to having new employees fill out new-hire paperwork online, consider providing the answers to questions they may have, such as where to go on day one, whom to ask for upon arrival and what to wear. Set up new hires’ desk, phone, computer and password logins before they arrive. Let current employees know about the new hire, and when he or she is arriving.

“The worst thing for a new employee is being wooed through the recruiting process,” says Peterson, “then arriving on the job and the receptionist isn’t even expecting you.”

Click here to read the full article with more informatioon about successful onboarding at SHRM online.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Dictaphone is Still Around

{from the website SoundRecordingHistory.net}

Since the creation of sound recording, scientist, technicians and engineers all around the world strived to create dictation devices -machines that are used for recording speech for needs of future transcribing or for playback. As technologies advanced through the decades, new and more refined versions of these devices appeared on the market, managing to find their way not only to the common user but to the many professional environments, from the medical facilities, boardrooms, public telephone services (police, hospitals) and many more.

The first Dictaphone machine was created only few years after Thomas Edison created his first phonograph recording device. Seeing that his cylindrical tinfoil storage medium provided little in terms of usability and sound quality, his greatest rival Alexander Graham Bell created much more user-friendly wax cylinders which provided much better sound and easier manufacture. As a test sample of this new technology, Bell and his manufacturing Volta Laboratory created the “Volta Graphophone Company” which was responsible for promoting the first dictaphone to the general public. In the following years Bell and Edison tied to secure the market with their devices, but in the end reusable wax cylinders that appeared during late 1980s proved to be the reason for the success of dictaphone. By 1907, the name Dictaphone became so successful that it became synonym for all recording devices of similar use, even though Edison tried to regain the dominance with his own ” Ediphone”.

During the following 100 years, Bell’s dictaphone company changed owners more than 10 times, and improved their recording tech with the accordance to the available technology. Between early 1900s and 1950s, wax cylinder Dictaphones continued to lose their significant weight, and improve their capacity of recording longer sessions. As the more manufacturers entered into competition, and the need for finding new technology for the military use in World War II, magnetic tape emerged as the much cheaper and more reliable way of storing sound data.

During 1950s many types speech recording devices were made, most notably ones that could record significantly longer sessions than the general recorders. Arrival of cassette tapes almost destroyed the Dictaphone industry, but the surviving Dictaphone factory (now under the ownership of Lanier Business Solutions) created its own cassette-based dictdoctaphoneaphones that were small, portable and had excellent speech-recording capabilities.

The late 1970s introduced a new standard of Dictaphone magnetic tapes – mini cassettes, micro cassettes and pico cassettes. These smaller storage media enabled manufacturers to create more compact  recording devices which were able to record as much as the previous non-portable versions. By the late 1980s, digital recording brought the latest generation of Dictaphones to the market, which remain the default means of sound recording up to this day.

Some of the most important innovations of Dictaphones without a doubt became their “endless loop” ability (particularly popular in the health care community, which demanded strict conditions for recording in highly sensitive and potentially dangerous areas) and “multi-channel recorders” which even today are used by telephone emergency services who monitor calls and transcribe computed speech into text on the fly.

As of 2007, the Dictaphone division of Alexander Bell’s original company is part of the Nuance Communications, a multinational computer software and technology corporation focused on health-care and medical technologies.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: 14 Facts About Remote Workers

{from Remote.co}

As a workplace phenomenon, flexible jobs have come under quite a bit of scrutiny from academics, news organizations, businesses, and government agencies—all looking to come up with stats about remote work and insight into how job flexibility impacts the marketplace.

The result? A wealth of studies, news articles, and corporate white papers that offer an array of amazing stats about remote work and the many benefits telecommuting offers to employers and workers alike. Remote.co has culled through some of the data to offer a few of the most interesting facts about remote work:

1. Remote work can increase worker productivity.

It’s hard to dispute: companies and at-home employees alike say remote work is a boon to productivity. Distractions like water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, and loud colleagues are a non-issue, according to an infographic based on data from SurePayroll, a web-based payroll provider for small businesses. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they preferred to work alone to “hit maximum productivity.” What’s more, two-thirds of managers say employees who work remotely increase their overall productivity.

2. It drives employee efficiency.

Fewer distractions (for the disciplined remote worker) can lead to higher efficiency, a report from ConnectSolutions concluded. The numbers: some 30 percent said that telecommuting allowed them to accomplish more in less time, while 24 percent of those surveyed said they were able to accomplish more in about the same amount of time.

3. It lowers stress and boosts morale.

Stats about remote work show that 82 percent of telecommuters reported lower stress levels, according to one study, and that’s a good thing not only for remote workers, but for the companies that employ them. The study by PGI, a leading provider of software services, found that 80 percent of workers reported higher morale when working from home, while 69 percent reported lower absenteeism.

4. It reduces employee turnover.

Remote work options reduced employee turnover, and “job attrition rates fell by over 50 percent,” according to a study published by Stanford University. The report, based on stats about remote work from a China-based firm listed on NASDAQ with 16,000 employees, described the WFH, or work-from-home, arrangement as “highly profitable” for the company.

5. It decreases real estate costs and overhead.

Companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs, remote work stats show. Two examples from big companies, according to a Forbes magazine report: Aetna (where some 14,500 of 35,000 employees don’t have an “in-office” desk) shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million. American Express reported annual savings of $10 million to $15 million thanks to its remote work options.

6. It often leads to greater employee engagement.

It might seem counterintuitive, but remote workers are often more engaged with colleagues and supervisors than in-office workers, Harvard Business Review concluded. The plethora of technological tools to help workers stay connected makes the difference—in fact, a separate study found that 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.

7. It positively impacts the environment.

For many employers, going green is a big incentive in the shift toward remote work. In fact, studies show that employers who have embraced telecommuting have helped reduce their carbon footprint. In 2013, annual fuel consumption decreased by 680 million gallons, about 0.5 percent of the nation’s gas consumption, one study found.

8. It meets demands of younger workers.

A robust 68 percent of job seekers who are millennials said an option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in specific employers, according to a survey by AfterCollege, a career network for college students and recent grads. “Policies that cultivate a flexible, fun, and casual work environment have a positive impact” on young people’s interest in specific employers, the survey found.

9. It’s the future of work. 

Just a few short years ago, working from home may have seemed out of reach across some industries. Today, not so much. In 2015, 23 percent of employees reported doing some of their work remotely, up from 19 percent in 2003, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. A New York Times report also noted that telecommuting is fast on the rise.

10. It’s a global phenomenon.

Worldwide, more than 50 percent of people who telecommute part-time said they wanted to increase their remote hours. Additionally, 79 percent of knowledge workers in a global survey by PGI said they work from home, and 60 percent of remote workers in the survey said that if they could, they would leave their current job for a full-time remote position at the same pay rate.

11. There’s a growing digital nomad population.

Over the past decade, a rising number of young professionals, primarily from the United States and Europe, have leveraged the use of technology to work remotely and live a nomadic lifestyle.

A forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37 percent of respondents have already worked virtually.

12. It’s driving workplace transformation.

According to a forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum, work flexibility, including telework, is “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace.” A Gallup poll found that 37 percent of American workers have worked virtually in their careers, a four-fold increase since 1995.

13. Employees are working remotely more often.

Americans who telecommute for work are doing so for increased amounts of time. According to a Gallup survey, the number of workers who work one day or less from home shrank from 34 percent to 25 percent between 2012 and 2016. In the same time period, the number of people working remotely four or five days a week rose from 24 percent to 31 percent. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 43 percent of Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely last year, up from 39 percent in 2012.

14. It keeps older workers in the workforce longer.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, Americans over the age of 64 are working more than any other time since the turn of the century. According to a survey by the AARP, 74 percent of older Americans would want work flexibility and 34 percent would like to work from home. Steadily increasing life expectancies and inadequate retirement savings have forced many Americans in this age group to delay retirement. Others choose to work into their 70s and beyond to stay active and engaged in their communities.