Why Nike Sales are Slipping China

Old_Nike_logoNike retail sales have been dropping for the past three quarters in China, and executives at the company predict similar declines for the next two quarters. Investors claim not to be worried about the decline in earnings, but this did not stop Nike from replacing its top Chinese executive last May. Several other management positions in its Chinese division have been replaced, and Charlie Denson, Nike’s second in command, retired on July 1st after almost 35 years with the company.

Last September, Nike blamed the initial slowdown on rising input costs, not on weaker economic conditions. Today, Nike’s best-selling lines of sports clothing, which had dominated the Chinese market for years, is being beaten out by its major competitors, Adidas and Hennes and Mauritz. The cheaper, hipper street wear of these other companies has left Nike wading through unsold inventory.

Analysts tend to agree that Nike’s image and clothing style does not meet the sophistication and proper fit for the nation’s shoppers. According to an analyst for Canaccord Financial Inc., Camilo Lyon, you have to be a “smarter retailer now.” Consumers are more “educated and global and sold to a lot more. Everybody is forced to become sharper.”

Nike executives had explained away the low retail sales by blaming the slow economy and shifting consumer interests. They maintained that their strategy is the right one to capitalize on the Chinese economy. Since 1982, when they entered the Chinese market, Nike became the best-selling sportswear by advocating a sports-centric achievement model. They sponsored sports leagues and athletes. They promoted heavily at the 2008 Olympics, which helped almost double sales to $2 billion by 2011.

Since last summer, however, Chinese inventory began piling up and retail sales began declining. The major hurdles on the back end are higher costs for materials and labor, which are mostly in China. The company has been trimming its supply chain and increasing costs to meet this challenge, and last year it sold off the lagging brands Cole Haan and Umbro.

Nike recently began to look at the bigger picture. When the demand for Nike’s brand image was so strong, specific consumer tastes didn’t matter as much, according to an analyst for Cowen & Co. Now, however, customers demand a tighter fit, and, the analyst continues, Nike has “realized there’s room for improvement.”

Adidas has been outselling Nike with cheaper, more fashionable sportswear, such as their youth-directed line of clothing NEO. China has become NEO’s biggest market. The success of this combination of fashion and sports indicates Adidas has a better understanding of the Chinese customer’s needs. The underlying impression is that hard-core sports has fallen out of favor, since Nike’s sportswear is being outsold by clothing lines that cater to lifestyle and fashion. In China, these concepts tend to win out over Nike’s sports-centric achievement message that anyone can aspire to great things. Academics and work ethic have become more important to the Chinese parents and the consumer culture.

Several analysts still recommend buying or holding Nike stock, despite the recent slump in retail sales. Nike’s overhaul of its Chinese management team and its recent efforts to remake and upgrade its merchandise suggest a potential rebound. Donald Blair, Nike’s CFO, said that sales are already growing at Nike’s largest retailers. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Blair said.

Some analysts advise a neutral position. Though Nike’s North America ratings remain strong, the Chinese market continues to pose challenges. Things are showing signs of improvement, but China’s retail sales may not turn around any time soon.

Why Education is So Important for Women to be Successful

Schoolgirl_Pune_IndiaThroughout history, women have been portrayed from mild-mannered to clueless to strong and smart. However, with many women still making less than their male counterparts, education has become much more important for a woman to be successful in today’s world. When looking at a higher education degree online, knowledge is the key to success. 

Income

For most women to be successful, their education needs to let them make as much money as possible. A good salary is tied in with so many aspects of success in today’s world, from buying the latest designer clothing to living in the biggest house in the neighborhood. Earning a high income lets women be successful in all this and more.

Raising Children

Success in educational endeavors continues to be important to women raising children. Not only does it show women as positive role models, it also teaches kids to never give up and be disciplined and self-motivated in their own educations. Education throughout the ages has provided such women as Madam Curie and others, demonstrating that women play perhaps the most important role in how children view education.

Career Options

Obtaining an education gives women choices in life. Looking at a Masters in Education Degree resource, women are able to choose how they live rather than having to rely on men to support them. Sometimes it’s the other way around, with men having to rely on women to help them financially. Now there’s a switch that would make all the early supporters of equal rights very happy.

Self-Confidence

This is perhaps the most important reason education is so vital for women to be successful. Having confidence in one’s abilities is key to success in all aspects of life, be it relationships, raising kids, job success or more. While we have all met folks who could use perhaps a bit less self-confidence in their lives, having a healthy level of self-confidence and self-esteem can help women go far in achieving their goals both personally and professionally. After all, years ago people laughed when a young girl would say she wanted to grow up and be President of the United States. As we now know, that is not only possible but also quite likely in the years to come.

Gender Equality

As more women become the primary breadwinners in families, they prove to be the difference between families living comfortably or living in poverty. Without educated women, more families than ever before would be struggling financially.

The Disparity of Women in STEM Jobs

gender disparity STEMWe like to pretend that gender inequality in the work place is only an issue that the cast of Mad Men have to deal with. While things have gotten much better since the 1950s, there is still a long way to go – especially in certain industries. STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are home to the fasted growing job markets in the world, and women are getting left in the dust when it comes to filling these positions. Personally, I don’t think this is an issue within the STEM industries, but an issue with gender roles that starts at an early age.

Media Portrayal of Women and Men

It’s old hat by this point, but media plays a profound role in how people view each other as well as themselves. Studies have shown that everyone is biased, even if they think they are well rounded. When it comes to race, people across the board struggle to associate minorities with good traits; when gender gets studied, people (including women) have a hard time associating success with women.  So let’s apply this to STEM jobs.

The only strong female character that embodies that geeky persona (that I can think of) is Abby from NCIS, and even she is still somewhat of a goth sexpot. The stereotype has shifted from weak rolled women, to powerful and successful women characters like Mackenzie Allen in Commander in Chief, Sydney Bristow in Alias, and Max Guevara in Dark Angel just to name a few. These strong female leads are then paired up with their token male nerds who are never lacking glasses, collared shirts, and the occasional sweater vest. Even the “sexiest man alive,” Bradley Cooper, played this stereotype in Alias with his character Will Tippen.

This stigma of putting women in powerful roles and men in the nerdy ones has had real world consequences. There are more women than ever going to law schools and climbing the corporate ladders in managerial positions, but there is a stagnant number going into STEM jobs.

Breaking Down the Numbers

The U.S. Department of Commerce released this study in 2009 that documents the growth in STEM jobs over nine years and compares genders. You can see the numbers broken down in this table…

As you can see by looking at the percent of female workers in each area of STEM jobs, the growth was negligible, stagnant, or even reversed. This goes against other trends such as women accounting for half of the work force and making up for the majority of college graduates. Even so, with women making up the majority of college graduates, women only make up 20% of the computer science degrees. While you don’t need a computer science degree to go into a STEM job, this disparity mirrors the one in the job market and it highlights the bigger problem referenced above. There are simply very few women, comparatively, actively looking for STEM jobs.

It’s not a matter of consciously sexist employers throughout the industry, there are just no women applying for the positions that are becoming available. For this to change, we need to see a shift in how society views the nerds among us. More girls need to go to hacker camps and be shown that it’s okay for girls to be computer nerds to.

Thomas McMahon majored in Creative Writing, but managed to get a job in the STEM industry anyway with Page One Power, a link building company that also offers link building training.

Bringing Down the Barriers— Women, Business, and the UAE

AD20121104304168-1-Afra_Al_Basti,Businesswise, the UAE is a country that’s really opening up. In a drive to attractive foreign investment and encourage international trade, Dubai created free-trade zones that provide a host of perks for foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up a business in the UAE.

We’re not talking about another Silicon Valley or Wall Street, but rather zones that hold opportunities for businesses in a number of different sectors and industries: media, finance, ICTs, healthcare, autos… the list goes on.

Here are some of those perks:

  • 100% foreign ownership of the business. Before you had to go into partnership with a UAE national. This national would own the majority share of the business. Not anymore.
  • Purpose-built offices and warehouses
  • Exemption from taxes and customs duties while operating within the free zone
  • Zero limitations on sponsorship or recruitment, so if you wish to promote your business or to hire more employees, you can do so to your heart’s content.

What about women in business there?

Some men may still have their reservations when they’re dealing with women in business, but the UAE is gradually shedding this conservative attitude. Now with the UAE economy booming, more and more women have been setting out on their own business ventures, organizing their own business banking, and enjoying general business success. In fact, there are now some 20,000 companies in the UAE, and these are owned by 13,000 women.

There are also The Dubai Women in Business Council has existed since 2002 and aims to encourage the acceptance, education, and awareness of women in business. And in 2012, Ras Al-Khaimah held its first forum for women in business.

Where do the opportunities lie?

There have been calls for women to think outside of the box, rather than opt for more female-oriented industries such as fashion or retail, if they want to succeed in business. There are two main areas that offer business opportunities which businesswomen might want to make the most of:

  • Education— Education presents all kind of opportunities. The UAE requires well-designed executive programs that are tailored to specific industries or sectors. And as well as the need for training programs for UAE nationals, there’s a greater need for technology to be integrated into training.
  • Creative industries — Fashion and retail aside, if women who are starting a business can come up with an original business idea to serve other creative industries, there’s real scope for business. This is mainly due to the demand for localized products that take into account Arab language, cultural sensitivities, and relevant content.

While the UAE is still conservative in its ideas and traditions, its attitudes towards women in business have relaxed, allowing women to enter the business playing field easier and experience business success. So don’t be surprised if you attend a business meeting and find another woman is leading the negotiations, or that all the directors on the board are all women. Embrace it and, deep inside, congratulate them on their success.

The Importance of Offering Employee Benefits Programs

Employee benefitsCash isn’t always enough in this day and age to recruit the best talent for your company. It’s also important to provide an attractive benefits package. As well as a competitive salary, good benefits help to build a strong working relationship between employees and employers. Companies find that a strong benefits plan promotes improved work habits and can help to reduce employee turnover. Overall, it can decrease costs and gives employees an enhanced sense of security and belonging.

The type of employee benefits provided can vary with each company. It is important for business leaders to consider their options carefully. For example, the industry in which a business falls can help to determine the most appropriate benefits package to provide. Jobs that require for employees to work outside in bad weather may want to offer additional paid sick leave. Conversely, indoor office positions may require a completely different type of package.

One of the most fundamental employee benefits is medical insurance. Basic coverage allows employees to visit a medical practitioner when they become sick. This helps the employee to save money and also helps the business as it encourages workers to get treated. Therefore, they are able to resume work more quickly while not spreading the illness to fellow employees. Most health plans also include prescription medications. A business owner has many coverage choices when it concerns group health care.

Most employees list a solid retirement plan as one of their most important benefits. A retirement program allows them to prepare for their financial future after leaving the workforce. For smaller businesses a payroll deduction retirement account is easy to initiate and maintain. This allows both the employer and employee to contribute equally to the fund. There are other retirement benefit plan choices that are employer-assisted and are usually determined by the size of the business.

Offering solid employee benefits is essential for any company that wants to be competitive as they can retain dedicated and hard-working staff members. When a business is able to reduce employee turnover they are not investing as much in hiring and training.

Some industries are highly competitive and therefore must compete for the most qualified potential employees. This means that businesses must be more responsive and creative in designing benefits plans. The more progressive an organization is, the more likely the chance they will offer a flexible structure to their employee benefits. Employers with limited and conventional plans may find it difficult to hire and retain the best workers.

 

 

Women in Congress Matters, The Key for Women Entrepreneurs

gty_women_in_congress_kb_130103_wblogThis month we saw the result of women harnessing their voting power with the swearing in of a record number of women into the 113th Congress. With this change, Congress now has 101 women – 20 Senators and 82 Representatives.  Can these powerful women of the 113th Congress change U.S. politics? Better yet, how will more women in Congress impact women entrepreneurs?

Promising News for Women Entrepreneurs

More women legislators means more diverse views representing a wider pool of the electorate bringing different experiences and perspectives to the table on issues impacting women-business owners -  crowd-funding rules, financial reform, banking lending cap increases, and new government agency programs and research initiatives designed specifically for women entrepreneurs.

Policy Champions

With more women elected, we have more champions to ensure that our economic message is taken seriously.  Because there is support from party leadership going to women who are in these positions of power, we will see an increased role in women-business owners participation in policy discussions, congressional testimony, and political initiatives.

Members To Watch 

These four legislators will increase the reach and effectiveness of a new women’s movement while also putting women’s financial concerns on equal footing with other pressing issues.

  • •Senator. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) – Sen. Gillibrand’s priorities lie in rebuilding the American economy by helping small businesses get loans and partnering with the private sector to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.  As a member of the slow moving Senate expect Sen. Gillibrand to work to get capital flowing to women entrepreneurs not just from banking institutions but private equity firms as well. The Senator also has indicated that her number one priority is to create good-paying jobs and she knows the role women play in creating these types of jobs.

 

  • •Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) – Sen. Warren will return to Washington in her new role as a member of the Senate Banking Committee. As a member of this committee she will have oversight over Wall Street and the financial system which is critical in accessing business capital. Sen. Warren will continue to advocate for consumers and women-business owners whom see believes big banks left vulnerable by taking too many risks.

 

  • •Representative Maxine Waters (CA) – Rep. Waters has taken her seat on one of the most powerful committees in Congress – the House Financial Services Committee. In her role as ranking member she will become the democratic voice on banking and financial services matters in the House of Representatives. She has long been on the forefront of championing small businesses and encouraging economic development. Despite her critics, expect Rep. Waters to push back and work on issues surrounding job creation and how women-business owners are key to job growth.

 

  • •Representative Nydia Velázquez (NY) – Rep. Velázquez  will serve as the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee. As a long time ranking member of this influential committee she has sponsored and co-sponsored several pieces of legislation on issues involving women small business owners and economic development. Expect to see Rep. Velázquez continue to focus on initiatives to expand financial services to historically underserved communities while improving the capabilities of banks and other financial institutions.

Even though Congress will remain divided politically, more women in Congress will make a difference if we combine our efforts in championing critical issues. The more we focus on issues that are less divisive, the better chance we have in moving the needle forward in seeing policy change.

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Sheena is a government relations strategist with 15 years of experience managing advocacy and political involvement programs for Fortune 500 companies and leading trade associations. She is the founding principal of SDF & Associates a boutique government relations firm and founder of {Nexxuss}, an advocacy network for women entrepreneurs. Email her at sheena.deanne@nexxuss.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SheenaDeanne and @NexxInfluence.

Why some women are taking back to school instead of work

women in school

Workers are giving up on the labor force in mass numbers, and they’re mostly women. But they aren’t giving up forever; instead, women seem to be holding off their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in decades — more women in school than in the work force.

In the two and a half years since the recovery of the current recession officially began, men age 16 to 24 have gained 178,000 jobs, while females have lost 225,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.

Allegedly discouraged by insufficient openings, 412,000 women have quit the working force entirely in the last two and a half years, meaning they’re not looking for work and going back to school, New York Times reported.

But what does a working woman do when she wants to go back to school? There are work schedules, family schedules and finances that need to be considered when looking for new educational avenues. In a nutshell, time is our most precious commodity, and scheduling that time becomes essential to a successful start or returning to college. The first consideration for a working woman as she considers going back to school is scheduling.

Back to School?

College isn’t what it was decades ago when the only option was to attend class in a lecture hall, surrounded by other similarly aged peers. College options now exist from the traditional to the virtual, offering opportunities for e-learning to working women. Distance education through online college resources, can exist in a class-by-class basis or as structured programs, making it a good choice for many working women.

Massive Open Online Courses

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are growing in popularity as online use increases around our nation. More of these free online college courses are being offered, providing a little to no-cost solution. Increasingly, MOOCs are a good opportunity for working women on a tight budget and time, but who also want to upgrade their knowledge base or skills. The benefits of participating are that these courses are free, and that taking a MOOC is a good way for working women to exchange knowledge and experiences after some years away from school.

Many of these MOOCs at the present time offer “certificates of participation” acknowledging your work. However, as the online course area evolves, more colleges and universities are expected to start offering academic credits for taking online courses with a particular institution or learning facility. This can be a particular disadvantage for a working woman looking quickly for academic credits.

E-Learning Programs

Another popular alternative for working women involves distant learning programs and degrees. These structured online educational resources provide a smaller ratio of student to teacher, opportunities for direct involvement with course instructors, and structured methods of feedback and assessment. Working women can experience the benefits of e-learning programs in a different way, such as earning course work credits, which still allows for flexible schedules and study times.

Some see a disadvantage of e-learning in the lack of personal interaction and new methods of thinking that can come from classroom discussions, where all course participants are seated in the same room.

In-Person Programs

For the working woman who envisions a more traditional return to school, in-person student programs at local colleges or universities offer the most hands-on approach to going back to school. Many colleges, especially community colleges, offer a large selection of courses in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate full-time work schedules. More university programs are offering hybrid programs that involve e-learning through online resources, coupled with in-person meetings at regularly scheduled intervals.

Benefits of in-person educational programs, for example, include direct engagement on a regular basis with professors and students, leading to networking opportunities and potential learning that happens as a result of discussions.

However, the costs of these programs can sometimes be out of reach for the average working woman, as well as finding ways to accommodate work and school schedules.

How to Pay

Financial considerations, for example, play a huge role in the decision to pursue educational opportunities. Applying for grants, scholarships or other benefits can take a lot of time and effort in the search and application process. Fortunately, helpful financial support sources exist that can assist successful women in their next life steps.

It’s obviously helpful for a woman to reach out to her place of work first. Maybe your company can offer some financial assistance, if the intended coursework is helpful with your current or future work within the organization. The next step is to explore the opportunities offered at the financial aid office of the chosen school.

Financial aid advisors can help prospective students with tips and resources, and suggest specific organizations for financial aid help. Government funding resources are one area to explore. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, and can be found online. Or groups like Scholarships for Women, which provides extensive lists of scholarships and grant resources.

Women might consider organizations in their chosen field of study for alternative funding sources. Professional organizations are a good source of scholarship and grant potential. Womenworking.com offers an extensive list of associations and organizations that support women going back to school with scholarships. There are also charities like the Rotary Club or non-profit organizations. Religious, ethnic, cultural and interest-based organizations are also worth investigating as sources.

Working women might also consider taking a long-term approach to the cost of going back to school. Taking less classes over a longer amount of time can limit current costs for working women, whose budgets are already stretched. This approach may take longer to complete, but can help reduce the financial stress for women that are trying to balance current work, families and lives.

 

Realizing a Vision: Launching a Business or Growing Your Business

Imagine yourself leading your business as a highly  successful woman entrepreneur and leader.

One of the most famous baseball players and coaches in the world of baseball once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”  The player was Yogi Berra.

“I skate to where the puck will be, not here I’ve been.” Wayne Gretsky, world champion National Hockey League player and considered the greatest hockey player ever.

Does Visioning For A Business Really Work?

Successful entrepreneurs and business owners believe it does.  Sandy Abrams, founder and CEO of Moisture Jamzz Inc. and author of Your Idea, Inc. (http://www.yourideainc.com/about.html told me she was visualizing what she wanted to do, her products and who she would sell to as  she was planning her initial business. Sandy continues to vision the changes she wants to make with her business each year. Sandy’s cllients include Origins, Aveda and Linen’s n Things to name a few.

Babson College and visioning assignments for MBA students:

While attending Babson College in Massachusetts I  enrolled in a women’s entreprenuer and leadership MBA course taught by Dr. Candida Brush. One class assigment was on visioning our lives.  Our visions were to be written, shown in a visual way and with a timeline with goals and dates of competion.  Why is this significant to visioning with a business.  Dr. Brush is the Chair for the Entrepreneurship Division at Babson College (http://www.babson.edu/faculty/profiles/Pages/brush-candida.aspx) and understands what is needed for women to become successful entrepreneurs . She has also co-authored several books on the subject and has resarched and helped women entrepreneurs globally.

Four important key points when charting your path:

These points are the same for launching a business as well as growing and changing the business.

  • Values:   Your vision is based upon what is important to you now and going forward. Sharon Hadary, the former and founding executive director of the Center for Women Business Research is the co-author of How Successful Women Lead. (http://howsuccessfulwomenlead.com/authors/sharon-hadary).  Sharon has found highly successful women know their values and stick with them. Their visions reflect their values.
  • Set high goals: Additionally Sharon Hadary found that setting high goals was another charactheric of successful women. Once those goals were reached, the women set higher goals and continued to do so each time their goals were reached.
  • Purpose:  Vision gives a reason for doing things, a base from which you set your goals and a strategy to accomplish those goals.
  • Future Directed:  Your vision shapes how you look at your future. It can be measured by time (weeks, months, or years) or events.

Realizing a Vision: “Write It Down, Make It Real.” 

Sandy Abrams recommends “Write It Down, Make It Real.”  Sandy writes in her book, “Your idea has been swirling around in your head long enough. It’s time to put it on paper. When something is committed on paper, it takes on a new reality.” Write out your goals no matter what stage you are in with your business.

Additionally Sharon Hadary learned in her research, it is important to define your success.  Sandy suggests to include a vision for your success, how you will look and feel about it.

Your vision statements need to be clear for you.  Something you can easily remember and keep in a place you can refer to on a regular basis.  These statements are also the key points you will want in your business plan or as you make adjustments to your plan.

Realizing a Vision: A “Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

Pictures can deliver a message or thought instantly. Visual thinking can give you a clear and convincing picture to motivate you to act and accomplish your mission and goals. There are even companies online to teach people how to create a vision board as well as “vision board” software to download.

I prefer to use my imagination to create a vision board. I have seen vision boards created by high school girls before starting their businesses.  A year later the girls found what was put on the vision board had come to close to fruition, if not totally.  The results may not have been a specific yet it was a path that was better at the time.

To help you move forward with charting your path you’ll want to create a picture of your idea and how you want your future to look.   When you make your idea and goals visual, all of it takes on a new meaning.  Remember, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

This is to be fun while also helping you to sort out what you want and how you define your success once you achieve your goals.

  • The first step is to use photographs, magazines and news clippings to match your vision.  You want to make a picture, drawing or collage that expresses your vision.  Use anything that will help you express your vision.   You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like.
  • Have fun with it.  Take some time and make it your own.  Work on it in a room where no one will interrupt you. You do not need to do it all at once. A step at a time may be the best way for you.

Keep your vision board in front of you.  It is a mental image of how you see yourself and the business.  Place it where you can easily see it.

Realizing a Vision: Create a Timeline

You have your vision in writing and also visually.  Next step is to create a timeline to determine how long it will take you to reach your initial destination and goals.

  • Give a date or length of time to accomplish your goals.
  • Think realistically about the length of time it will take to reach each goal.
  • You may find it necessary to make some changes and slow down a bit.  For some goals you may reach them faster than planned.

What did I learn through my visioning project at Babson College?  Dr.Brush showed me I was trying to do too much at once.  I still have my originak vision board and timeline as a reminder. The new one is a bit more realistic as is the timeline. My written vision has changed a bit as have my goals. I have learned to remind myself of the vision.  If I do not refer to it on a timely basis I get off track with nonessential activities that take me away from my goals.

Author Sylvia R.J. Scott is the Founder and Managing Director of the Girl’s CEO Connection LLC.  She is also the creator and producer of the “Realizing a Vision” conferences and workshops. Sylvia is a leading advocate for equipping and engaging today’s high school girls as a new generation of entrepreneurs and creative women leaders.  Her book Realizing a Vision, A Girl’s Guide To Entrepreneurship will be available in November 2012.

Case Study: Redesigning Out of Touch HR Departments Without Returning for A Top MBA

A 2012 study by Kenexa titled, ‘Employee Attitudes and Engagement’, found that human resources departments are consistently out of touch with their company’s workforce in several categories. Today, several startup firms are exploring innovative strategies for mitigating HR problem areas, from initial employee recruitment and training to high retention and workplace satisfaction.

Kenexa surveyed employees and HR professionals nationwide to arrive at their conclusion. In the area of engagement, 69 percent of HR professionals believed their employees were actively interested in their work duties; however, only 34 percent of workers agreed with this claim. The study also found a notable disparity with perceived employee retention; 83 percent of HR professionals thought all the workers would remain with their company for at least one year, but only 41 percent of employees felt the same way. Though there were narrower gaps between HR professionals and employees in the areas of ‘fair benefits’ and ‘adequate compensation’, the findings still revealed a notable discrepancy. And the largest disparity found that, while 81 percent of HR professionals believe their employees would recommend the company to a friend or loved one, only 38 percent of employees said they would. The study notes that, if left unresolved, these differences could spell trouble for any company. “Understanding the gap between employee and HR perception is the key to changing employee messaging to increase engagement and affect the company’s bottom line,” it reads.

The Kenexa study confirms a long-standing suspicion about modern corporate culture: HR departments are disconnected from the needs of their company’s workforce. In order to foster a positive professional environment, HR professionals must communicate with every member of the workforce and strive to accommodate his or her individual needs. During the recruitment process, employees should be instilled with the company’s values and policies in order to initially succeed in their new environment. Every employee should be continuously evaluated, as well as trained on new duties and responsibilities, throughout his/her tenure with the organization. In addition, considerations should be made for employees with specific needs. For instance, flexible schedules should be made available for employees with other important obligations, such as mothers with young children or part-time students.

Today, several startup companies are paving the way for widespread improvement of relationships between HR professionals and their employees. Some of their strategies tackle the initial recruitment and hiring of new talent. The Resumator, for instance, allows hiring officials to post job openings online and then track all of the applicants for any given position. Another company, Jibe, establishes relationships between employees and potential employers via online social networking. Other startups look at ways to improve employee retention and workplace engagement. Vemo allows HR professionals to analyze various employee metrics (turnover, employer reviews, etc.) to determine areas of improvement. Others take a more unconventional approach to building workforce satisfaction, such as Keas, which uses a role-playing game template to lead employees in health and wellness-building activities. TribeHR, has even devised a program that allows HR professionals to build profiles for each employee that feature specific information, such as vacation days and personal goals. And some startups specialize in improving logistical HR responsibilities; one example is Expensify, an online receipt generator that greatly simplifies the process of completing expense reports.

Just as the Kenexa study revealed inherent problems in the current HR framework, startup companies like those listed are working to mitigate these problems using innovative solutions. For any company to succeed, the relationship between employees and HR professionals must remain positive, communicative and mutually respectful.

Julianna Davies is a freelance writer and researcher for a site that recently released the top MBA programs of 2012. When she isn’t writing she is baking, her favorite hobby.