Author: healthcompareguide

If you’re considering finishing a degree or staring a new educational path, you’ll soon discover that graduating as an adult learner is a great deal different from graduating as a young adult. A few time management tips gleaned from personal experience can help you adjust to college life as an adult a little more easily.

Going back to college as an adult learner presents more challenges than I originally anticipated. I did well while earning my Associate’s Degree just out of high school, earning my Bachelor’s Degree should be no different, right? I soon found out going back to school as an adult student was anything but easy.

This time around I was struggling to read through a chapter of easy text while dealing with constant interruptions from my kids, husband, and the constant reminder from the clock ticking toward the end of my allotted study time. I realized I was going to have to make some changes to manage my study time more effectively before my grades suffered.

Time Management Tips for Adult Students

1.  Outsource whatever you can. To make room for study time, I took a look at my finances and determined what I could spend on babysitters, housecleaners, takeout food, and extra trips to the library for some peace and quiet. By outsourcing as many of my usual tasks as I could, I carved out a significant portion of my week to devote to schoolwork (and part time work to fund my outsourcing).

2. Create a firm schedule. If I was going to stay on track and meet my educational goals, I needed to replace my flexible stay at home mom routine with a firm schedule. It was difficult to adjust at first, especially for my children, but the end result was a significant increase in my productivity.

3.  Naps rule. In order to carve out quiet study time, I gave up several hours of sleep a week to study while my family slept. To stave off the effects of sleep deprivation, I learned the value of a power nap. 15-20 minutes of rest in the afternoon was enough to keep me going for the rest of my day. I popped in a movie for my kids, created a nest behind my knees with blankets, and encouraged my baby birds to curl up in the nest for the duration of the cartoon. Sometimes they napped, sometimes they just cuddled, but I always got my power nap in and made it through the day.

4.  If you can’t beat ‘em, enlist ‘em. On days when I absolutely could not get away from my kids to study, I made flash cards and let them quiz me on terms and study questions. The kids enjoyed helping and they learned a few facts along the way. My five year old became an expert in labeling the parts of the brain, and would quiz me every night while taking his bath.

5.  Create a buffer. One of the most valuable time management lessons I learned was to provide a time buffer in my schedule every week. I allotted time for schoolwork early in the week and set a goal to turn in assignments early rather than at the last minute. This gave me enough flexibility to allow for all those unexpected things in life that happen when you have a family (like the stomach flu at 3 AM, trips to the Emergency Room for stitches, and in-laws dropping in for an unexpected visit).

Higher learning can be an enjoyable experience for the adult learner, and the entire family, but your approach to the changes you’ll need to make will help determine how your family views and adjusts to those changes. Keep a positive attitude, de-stress often, and set achievable time management and educational goals that fit your lifestyle. Managing your time effectively when taking classes as an adult student requires a good deal of preparation, juggling of responsibilities, and setting a strict schedule.

Jamie Simmerman is a registered nurse and freelance writerFollow her on Twitter

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Vitamin D: Are you deficient? Do you need supplementation?

Vitamin D deficiency and supplementation has been in the news a lot recently and for good reason. Studies are now showing that Vitamin D deficiency is more serious than we thought and that Vitamin D supplementation can help people avoid or mitigate many diseases and chronic conditions.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a failure of the bones to properly develop in children and osteomalacia, that causes weak bones and muscles.

Scientists are studying the link between insufficient levels of Vitamin D in other diseases and conditions including:

  • Depression
  • Chronic  pain
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • And an increase in death rates for any cause.

Where can you get Vitamin D?

Our bodies can naturally produce Vitamin D from the sun’s UV-B rays, however there are several factors that prevent many people from getting adequate D from sun exposure.

People are more likely to use sunscreen and to be indoors during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. Additionally, those with darker skin tones have more difficulty producing D from sunshine. Those who live in climates where the sun is very limited during the winter months might also find themselves Vitamin D deficient.

Many doctors now recommend that you expose your arms and legs to the sun for 15-20 minutes a day to help your body make the Vitamin D that it needs. You  can still protect your face with sunscreen and a hat.

There are many food sources of Vitamin D, including milk and dairy products that have been enriched, however most fall short of the 2,000 IU daily that many experts are now recommending for adults.  However, many are still nutritious and provide other nutrients that support good health and may aid Vitamin D’s work in your body, so including them in your diet is a good idea.

Foods that contain Vitamin D

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Fortified Milk, Orange Juice, Yogurt and Cereals
  • Sardines
  • Eggs

Vitamin D Supplements

If you have low Vitamin D levels and can’t bring them up with sun exposure and diet, Vitamin D supplementation is available. Talk to your doctor to find out the recommended dose and brands that are reliable.

It is possible to overdose on Vitamin D as it accumulates in the fat cells over time. Daily doses of up to 10,000 IU are known to be free of side effects that produce toxicity, however it is always wise to consult with your physician before taking mega doses of any supplement.

Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

While nobody is immune from D deficiency, certain people are at higher risk, to include:

  • Breastfed infants. Talk to your pediatrician about supplementation especially if your child has darker skin.
  • People with dark skin. Darker skin tones are less able to absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Older people. As the skin ages, it is less able to convert sunlight into Vitamin D.
  • People living in climates with limited sunlight or whose occupations keep them out of the sun or the homebound
  • People with certain fat malabsorbtion disorders.
  • The obese and those who have undergone gastric bypass.

How can I tell if I have a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Your physician can give you a blood test called the 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D. This test can measure the amount of Vitamin D circulating in your blood and let you know if supplementation is warranted.

This test is not routinely given so ask your doctor about it at your next visit especially if you have any risk factors for either D deficiency or the diseases and conditions that have been linked to low levels of Vitamin D.

Other Benefits of Vitamin D

Much research is being done on the role of Vitamin D in helping our bodies avoid disease.  It is possible that high levels of Vitamin D can:

  • Reduce the risk of cancer
  • Improve cancer survival rates
  • Reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Provide greater resistance to viruses including those that cause the flu and common cold.

We are only beginning to learn of how Vitamin D works in our bodies and the role it plays in our long term health and wellness. Follow the tips in the article to make sure that you are getting plenty of D and be sure to ask your doctor about having your blood levels tested and if supplementation is right for you.

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Should I get a flu shot?

Nobody wants to get the flu, but many people also have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine. You might have heard people say that the only time they have caught the flu is after getting a shot or that vaccines can cause autism or auto-immune disorders.

The flu vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent contracting the flu each year, particularly combined with good hygiene practices, for example, hand washing. While most healthy adults and older children have no problem recovering from the flu, it is often recommended that they get vaccinated, both to avoid the inconvenience of being sick and to help stop the spread of the flu virus to more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and young infants.

Every year the flu vaccine is formulated to be effective against the strains that epidemiologists believe will be most prevalent during the coming year. Of course, there is always a chance that a new strain will unexpectedly become prominent, so that there is no guarantee that the vaccine that you receive in any given year will protect you from all strains of flu that circulate in your area.

If you are concerned about thimerosol, you can request a thimerosol free vaccine. You can also get a nasal mist version of the flu shot if you have an objection to needles.

Per the Center for Disease Control, the following people are highly advised to get vaccinated for the flu every year.

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    • Health care workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Additionally, the CDC states that the following groups should not get the vaccine:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
  • Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in, so it is recommended that you get the vaccination as early in the Fall as possible, although you will still benefit from the vaccine for as long as the flu is circulating in your area.

Many health insurance plans will cover the cost of vaccines; additionally many employers will contract with “shot nurses” who can come into the workplace to vaccinate their employees. If costs are a concern, check with your local health department to see about the availability of free or low cost shots. Many pharmacies and grocery stores offer the flu shot and might be less expensive than getting it through your doctor’s office.

Side effects of the vaccine include:

  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Low grade fever
  • Aches

Additionally, the flu mist nasal injection can cause:

  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

You should seek contact your doctor immediately if you experience more serious side effects.

If you choose not to get the flu vaccine, it’s important that you protect yourself from the flu in other ways and take care to avoid spreading it if you, or somebody in your family contracts it. Be sure to:

  • Wash hands often
  • Avoid touching mouth and nose
  • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces often (door knobs, telephones, computer equipment, etc)
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Stay home from work and other activities when sick
  • Cough into the crook of your arm or your shoulder
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Get enough sleep

While most healthy people can recover from the flu with no issues, it’s still important to do your part to help control the spread of influenza as it can be deadly or profoundly incapacity to the elderly, young children and those with immune deficiencies.

What are you doing to protect yourself from the flu this year? Will you be getting the flu vaccine for yourself and your family?

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Our Top 7 Articles to Get You Motivated to Get Moving This Weekend

here’s no better time to start an exercise program than now. The days are getting cooler but there is still plenty of light to keep you energized and alert. Here are 7 of the best articles we’ve posted on exercise and being active to give you some motivation to get started today.

How to Walk Yourself Happy

We were meant to move and experience the world at a stroll. When that opportunity is denied us our minds rebel . We feel stuck and suddenly anxious. When my children were babies, we wore circles into the carpets walking them around and around until they were finally soothed by the same rhythm they’d learned in the womb.

3 Ways to Look and Feel Better Now

Looking and feeling good is an important part of enjoying life. We don’t all have to look like movie stars, but we can take care good care of ourselves and live up to our full potential. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Live yours well by getting enough rest, drinking lots of water, and taking time out for enjoyable recreation every day.

9 Ways to Get Batman’s Body by the End of the Year

Getting Batman’s body is not for the faint of heart, but it certainly is an admirable goal. Besides, if you have to go out in tights and a cape, why not do it with some bad boy style.

Warning: Are You Training Your Child to be Fat?

When you send children the message that physical activity is something that must be organized, involve special equipment, or require a trip to the gym, then you are teaching them to segment their lives in a way that can be detrimental to their future health.

6 Tips to get Your Next Fitness Routine Started Off on the Right Foot

Sometimes, simply starting a new routine is the best thing you can possibly do. Soon enough, your routines will become habit and your habit will lead to a dramatic improvement in your overall lifestyle.

The best way to turn your routine into a habit isn’t just to start, it’s to start off right.

How to (Seriously) Have Fun While Exercising

Many people cite the main reason for not sticking to an exercise regime as boredom. Going to the gym no longer holds the appeal and excitement that it did early on, and repeating the same sets of exercises day after day becomes a chore.

So how do you spice up your exercise commitment? By learning to (seriously) have fun while exercising!

Your Top 3 Excuses for not Exercising Destroyed

You’ll totally start exercising…tomorrow. Or maybe next week. When the weather cools down. When it gets warmer. When you can afford a gym. Someday. Sound familiar? Almost all of us know how important exercise is and the ways that it can help virtually any problem yet we come up with reason after reason to put it off.

So what are you waiting for? Make this weekend the first weekend of a more active lifestyle!

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Our Top 10 Articles to get you Motivated to Eat Right

It seems so easy to eat right and exercise in the summer. After all, who wants heavy, fatty foots when it’s so hot outside and who wouldn’t want to be enjoying the sunshine and fresh air? Come Autumn though many of us start to slack and rich, comfort foods call our names. If you want to stay motivated to eat healthy, wholesome foods read these articles.

1. Gross, No Wonder We’re So Fat This article breaks it down: we eat too much, we don’t move enough and we blame our fat on everything else.

2. 10 Foods You Thought Were Okay but Really Aren’t It’s not enough to be motivated to lose weight, you also have to take the initiative and read the labels yourself to find out the truth about what you are eating.

3. 10 Ways to Stop Craving Chocolate Even if chocolate isn’t your weakness you can apply these tips to help you cope with any sort of food craving.

4. Stop Being Bored With Your Diet! Any of the 7 Things Will Help You Eat Happier and Healthier Don’t get in an eating rut, try these tips to add a healthy variety to your diet.

5. 10 Foods that Will Help You Live to Be 100 While there are no miracle foods, these healthy choices stand out from the crowd.

6. 10 Lies the Food Industry Wants You to Believe Don’t believe everything you see written on a package or hear in an ad. The food industry has its own interests; it’s up to you to protect yours.

7. Staying Hydrated: 5 Facts You Need to Know It might not seem like it, but water is one of the most important nutrients we take in.

8. Meal Planning, the Key to Healthy, Tasty, Inexpensive Eating It’s easy to resort to fast food or convenience foods if you don’t have a plan for good eating. Make it easier on yourself to eat healthy and plan ahead (plus it’s easier on your wallet, too!)

9. These 5 Things Will Help You Eat Less Meat and Love Every Meal Cutting down on meat is a good way to limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet and leaves you more room for healthy fruits and vegetables. This article offers tips on how to break the meat habit.

10. 11 Things Your Grocery Store Doesn’t Want You To Know Be a more informed consumer and be empowered to make healthier choices with the tips in this article.

Good luck and remember you can eat healthy and exercise all year long!

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Problems with picky eaters? Let this mom of five give you some advice on how to get picky eaters to eat healthy foods

Picky eaters can be quite a challenge to moms and dads who want nothing more than to give their child the best possible start in life, including healthy eating habits. As the mom of five, I’ve dealt with:

  • A child that would only eat white or beige or American cheese-orange colored foods.
  • A child that will only eat single ingredient foods.
  • Children that would happily chow down on seaweed but turn their noses up at a ham and cheese on wheat.
  • Five children that  gobbled up everything in sight as infants only to come to a screeching halt at around 2 years old.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way that I hope will help.

1. It’s probably not your fault. While it’s awesome that many people who fed their children a variety of interesting, gourmet and ethnic foods wound up with adventurous eaters who turn their noses up at chicken nuggets, there are many people, like this writer, who did the same and still wound up with fussy eaters.

A period of picky eating is normal and many children will go through it. If you’ve always provided your child with a reasonably varied and nutritious diet, you have nothing to feel guilt about. And the next time somebody responds to your woes about your picky eater with “Little Smugly eats everything, even the chicken feet when we go for our weekly dim sum” just look them in the eye and say “How nice, so do a billion Chinese kids”.

2. Don’t give up. It will take gentle parental perseverance and some maturity to help ensure that your child’s normal pickiness doesn’t become completely ingrained. There is no reason for you to have to completely cater to your child’s pickiness, however at the same time be mindful that you’re not turning this into a battle of the wills. Nobody wins when parents and children lock horns.

3. Remember – if the worst thing about your child as an adult is that they have a picky palate and are not adventurous with food, count your blessings. Some people simply dislike strong flavors, particular textures and enjoy eating the same things over and over. There is nothing wrong with that. Just be sure to teach them to be gracious about it.

4. Just because your child is picky, doesn’t mean he won’t like “adult” or “unusual” foods. Like I said above, my kids that will munch on dried pieces of nori as a snack won’t touch mashed potatoes. My kid that begs for kimchi acts like you’re killing him if you put broccoli on his plate. My son that won’t eat sauce on his pasta loves pickled jalapeno slices. Don’t be afraid to offer your child new foods, you might be surprised what they do like.

5. Let them see you eating new things. They will learn if you enjoy it and eat it with gusto and they will also learn if you don’t care for it and model how to politely deal with foods you dislike.

6. Don’t be unduly alarmed if you toddler or preschooler goes through a jag when they eat only a few things. This is generally completely normal and will resolve itself. That said, in rare cases extreme pickiness with food can be a sign of a developmental disorder or a problem with the child’s digestive system or feeding problems related to sensory disorders or motor skills development, be sure to look at the whole picture when deciding if it’s a normal phase or something more serious.

It’s important to go straight to your pediatrician if you feel like your child is malnourished, has inordinate difficulties swallowing or chewing, gags or chokes on food frequently or has problems maintaining eye contact or responding to their name.

7. Offer healthy choices in small portions. Even if you child doesn’t eat the bounty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats you provide just yet, you’ll be modeling good eating habits. Plus, you, your spouse and other children need to eat healthfully, too, right?

8. Know that it’s okay to give in sometimes. I generally give my children what they want to eat (within reason!) for breakfasts and lunch and then dinner is Mom’s choice. If your child is happy eating pb&j, baby carrots, an apple and milk for lunch every day, why mess with it? This way, I know that they are getting a decent amount of calories and nutrients during the day, so if they decline to taste dinner, it won’t do any harm in the long run.

9. Find a happy balance with snacks. Of course, you don’t want them to spoil their meals by eating too many snacks, but it’s been my experience that over-hungry children rarely are cooperative eaters. The same goes for over-tired children.

10. Don’t let them drink all of their calories. Limit milk to a couple of child-sized servings a day and consider making juice a sometimes treat.

11. Again, keep portions small. It’s not so overwhelming for the child and it avoids waste. It can be helpful and reassuring to look up portion sizes for various foods, even if you feel like your toddler isn’t eating enough, finding out that serving sizes for most foods for this age group are 1/4 cup or so can be a relief.

12. Avoid temptation. Keep junk food out of the house so you won’t be tempted to give in just this once when your child begs for chips or cookies for a snack. Don’t go overboard and ban such foods altogether, but the idea is to have these be sometimes foods that aren’t stocked in the house all of the time.

13. Make eating fun. One thing that my children particularly enjoy is a muffin tin filled with small, healthy snacks for treats. For example, baby carrots in one cup, whole grain cereal in another, apple slices in the next and so on. Children love things that are novel and fun so use that to your advantage.

14. Related to the above, don’t be afraid to be silly. Some parents dig in their heels and demand that their child eat this or that because they are the boss and they said so. It will be less stressful for both you and your child if you focus on the goal of getting them to eat a reasonably healthy diet instead of obedience and enforcing your authority. If it takes being playful or singing songs or letting them play jokes on you such as eating your carrots, well why not?

15. Eat the healthiest versions of your child’s “safe” foods as possible. If they like pizza or chicken nuggets, try making your own at home to be able to control the ingredients and fat content.

16. Try different forms of the same foods. Cooked vs. raw vegetables, for example. Baked chicken vs. stewed chicken. Hard boiled eggs vs. scrambled. Texture plays more of a role in picky eating than taste, in my experience, and method of preparation can greatly affect the texture of most foods.

17. Enlist positive role models. Have a friend with a child who’s a great eater? Invite them over for a meal! Perhaps your child’s beloved uncle would be willing to come over and chow down on a salad in front of your kids. The key is not to make a huge deal out of it and compare your child but to let your child seeing people they admire eating various foods with pleasure.

18. Encourage you child to learn about nutrition. Sometimes it’s better if they read about a healthy diet from a book or at school rather than from mom and dad. Of course, you should be telling them these things, too, but I can’t tell you the number of times my kids have rushed home to tell me that “Radishes are good for you, mom” as if it were a completely novel fact that I couldn’t possibly know.

19. If you can, take your child shopping with you at a farmer’s market. If not, the regular grocery store works, too. Let them pick out something for the family to eat together and involve them in the preparation. Older children can also pick out recipes from a cookbook and help you find the ingredients and cook a meal.

20. Better yet, let them have their own little garden patch. Even if you don’t have room for a full vegetable plot, you could try growing tomatoes or herbs in a container. It’s fun and will help them see food in a whole different way.

The important thing to remember is that picky eating is not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent and there are ways that you can help your child learn to make better food choices, even if they turn out to be the kind of grownup who only likes plain baked chicken, unseasoned green beans and a naked baked potato for dinner. Show your child a happy, positive attitude towards food and eating and I guarantee you that will stick with him or her for life.

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Caring for Your Body During Flu Season

It’s flu season again, and your body needs special care during the next few months to stay healthy and strong. While extra precautions may not always prevent you from getting the flu, they can affect how quickly you recover and how badly you suffer from symptoms should you contract the virus. While full-ledged flu season lasts from December through March, early outbreaks begin cropping up now, in early fall. Here are some tips for caring for your body during flu season.

Tips for Caring for your Body During Flu Season

1. Wash your hands. Wash long and wash often. Healthcare professionals recommend that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. During flu season, it’s best to wash for at least 30 seconds or longer, whenever you can. Use plenty of soap and running water, scrub vigorously, and don’t forget to scrub under your nails, between your fingers, up your wrists, and the backs of your hands as well. Dry thoroughly, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. You should wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, before eating, and after coming in contact with frequently contaminated surfaces like door handles, public bathrooms, money, light switches, and pens.

2. Take your vitamins. A healthy body is better prepared to fight off disease and your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. If you don’t normally take a multivitamin, flu season is an excellent time to start. Look for a liquid multivitamin (such as Centrum Silver found at any WalMart) and follow the directions on the packaging. You can also visit your local health foods store to explore what herbal and organic options are available for vitamin supplements if you prefer more robust options. Liquid multivitamins work best because they are easy to absorb. Pill supplements can sometimes lead to digestive problems or pass through the system without ever being utilized by the body. Some healthcare professionals even recommend holding the liquid under your tongue for 20 seconds before swallowing to quickly absorb vitamins more effectively.

3. Drink plenty of water. The majority of Americans don’t drink nearly enough water to regulate body systems effectively. Thirst is quenched by soda pop, sugary teas, and energy drinks. These drinks are not as easily absorbed by the body and do not fully fulfill your body’s requirements for hydration, no matter how much you drink. Your body needs unaltered water to carry out normal functions, including fighting off the flu. Try to get in at least 8-10 glasses of water every day, but even adding one or two extra glasses to your normal intake can help give your body’s immune system a boost.

4.  Avoid public places whenever possible. Do your grocery shopping at a time when there are fewer people in the store, avoid flying or traveling by bus when possible, and don’t go to unnecessary public gatherings during the flu season. The flu virus is contagious even in the early stages and many people continue their daily routine without knowing they are infected. This provides an opportunity for the flu to spread unchecked in public areas. If you do have to go to a public place during flu season, try keeping your hands in your pockets and keep your distance from others when possible. If it’s especially important that you do not contract the flu (if your immune system is currently compromised) wear a medical face mask or scarf over your nose and mouth when in public to reduce your chances of contracting the flu virus.

5.  Rest and exercise. Regular exercise and adequate rest each night will help strengthen your immune system and prepare your body for defense against colds and flu.

6.  Know your body. Know what your baseline temperature runs, check your blood pressure often, and pay close attention to any signs that your body is fighting off an infection. These signs can include a change in appetite, unusual hot or cold spells, paleness, changes in body temperature, an increased heart rate, decreased appetite, an increased thirst, changes in sleep patterns, or even irritability and body soreness. Early signs of the flu can include extreme tiredness, headache, body aches, and a runny nose.

7. Get a flu vaccine. While flu vaccines are somewhat controversial, they are widely recommended by healthcare professionals and are still your best defense against contracting the flu.

8.  Visit your doctor at the first signs of contracting the flu. There are antiviral medications available now that significantly lessen the duration and severity of the flu, but they are only available from a doctor.

Taking extra steps to take good care of your body during flu season will often reward you with a flu-free year. However, if you do happen to catch the flu, these steps will prepare your body in advance to provide the best defense possible, thereby shortening the time you suffer with the flu and lessening the severity of the symptoms.

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3 Talent Management Lessons from Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has become one the largest corporations in the world, and hinted this Spring at plans to global in the near future. Nearly every North American citizen has shopped in a Wal-Mart at some time, and many Americans make a trip to the shopping super center at least once a week. Yet, if you take a look at the average Wal-Mart employee, you won’t find an over abundance of competence or training. So how does the corporate giant maintain such wild popularity and levels of success?

  1. First Impressions Matter. Walk into any Wal-Mart and you’ll instantly come face to face with a Wal-Mart greeter. Have you ever wondered why they go through the trouble of paying someone minimum wage just to stand at the door and say, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”? They are setting you up for the ideal customer service experience- even if you don’t get it. From the moment you cross the threshold, the subliminal message is “we care about you- the customer”. Even if the rest of the employees you come in contact with are miserably incompetent, you still received the initial message that you matter to Wal-Mart. If you’re struggling with training new staff and finding new talent, you can still provide a quality customer experience if you pay attention to first impressions.
  2. Bigger is…well, better. Have you ever counted the number of cash registers in the front of a Wal-Mart store? Have you ever seen more than a handful of the registers open at one time?  The message is clear, “We have the potential to meet your shopping needs- even when the entire city goes shopping at once- and we expect hordes of customers to shop here regularly.” Even if you have to wait in line to check out, you always have the hope that a cashier will open up in the empty aisle next to you and speed you through the checkout process. This scenario happens frequently: A customer waits in line for five minutes, a cashier puts out a call for front line assistance, a new register opens up, and five customers who were facing another ten minutes in line flock to the cashier and speed through the checkout line in the next five minutes.  Wal-Mart responds to the flux of shoppers by meeting their need for speed. However, they do not staff twenty empty registers so that each customer spends less than five minutes on checkout consistently. They make good use of their resources by putting idle cashiers to work elsewhere in the store until they are needed. Besides, customers who have to wait a bit are much more appreciative of a speedy checkout when the opportunity presents itself. Smart and productive.
  3. Change is Good. Every few years, all Wal-Mart stores are required to perform certain upgrades. New paint schemes, changes in item placement, and even the layout of the bathrooms are all dictated by corporate decision-makers and each Wal-Mart store has a certain given time frame to comply. Was there anything wrong with putting the bread next to the milk? Probably not. But someone decided that change should take place and Wal-Mart strives for consistency among all stores. Someone within the Wal-Mart corporation knows that change is good; companies should strive to meet customer needs more effectively. Failure is okay. We can always move the eggs back to the dairy case, but we’ll never know if they sell better when placed next to the bacon if we don’t try.  Wal-Mart employees expect change because it happens often.

What can you learn from Wal-Mart that can be applied to your own corporation? How are you managing your talent? Evaluate your customer’s first impressions, your employee productivity level, and your approach to change and failure to see how your business measures up to one of the largest corporations in the world.

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