When the Great Recession hit, business travel was one of the first things to go as companies looked for ways to cut back. But a new report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) shows employees are taking to the rails, roads, and skies again, as confidence in the economy continues to grow.
The group says American companies are booking more business trips than they were this time last year by 2.8 percent, and their employees are spending 7.6 percent more money on the road. The GBTA expects both numbers to keep going up as the economy rallies.
That pleases Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley, who studies global collaboration and co-authored a 2009 report on the potential negative consequences for business relationships when companies skimp on travel.
"I think we’re going to have healthier, more functional teams, more effective work," Neeley explains. "You can have similar effects without the face-to-face contact but it takes much longer."
So where does that leave video calls and other high tech tools for connecting remotely?
"I think a lot of companies got their toes wet with teleconferencing thinking it would eliminate travel, and really what it’s turned out to be is an extra tool for businesses to compete," says Kevin Mitchell, Executive Director of the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group.
The report’s most encouraging finding, Mitchell believes, is that companies are spending 7.1 percent more on conventions and other group travel – an investment that pays off longer term.
Note to bees: do not stop and smell the roses.
A new study released by the environmental consulting firm Pesticide Research Institute and nonprofit group Friends of the Earth says about half of the garden plants sold at big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart contain neonicotinoids (neonics for short), a pesticide highly toxic to pollinating insects – like bees.
Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment NY, a statewide citizen based environmental advocacy organization, says home gardeners are buying plants, completely unaware that they're laced with poisons.
"Gardeners are putting these in their homes," she says, "and there’s no warning they could actually have a negative effect on bees."
There are no federal requirements necessitating that plants treated with neonics be labeled. Leibowitz says the lack of labels on plants is a big problem. Just imagine, she says, that you’re a bee and all that yummy nectar you’re drinking, and the pollen you’re carrying back to the hive is laced with poison and you don't know it.
For bees, this is akin to a plot twist from a horror film. “The flowers," says Leibowitz, "are killing the bees...They just had a little snack, had a little drink and they’re going back to their hive and they’re poisoning the queen.”
Leibowitz says it’s not just farmers, but home gardeners who also now need to pay attention to pesticides.
Tim Brown, an Associate Scientistis with the Pesticide Research Institute and one of the authors of the new study, gets "super science geeky" when he explains how a neonic pesticide works.
“It targets the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors,” he says.
For all the non scientists out there, those are within the teeny, tiny bee brain. But Brown notes, we humans have a lot riding on the wellbeing of the tiny brains of bees.
"A lot of the foods we enjoy eating," he says, "almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries -- there are a number of crops that are pollinated by bees and if we’re not protecting their health then we’re going to see impacts. Either we’re not going to get the supply that we want or it’s going to be a lot more expensive to get these foods."
Joe Bischoff, Regulatory & Legislative Affairs Director for AmericanHort, a horticultural industry association, says the pesticide question is a thorny one for growers. If we stop using neonics we’ll also have a problem he says. Think of the white fly, or the asian long-horned beetle. Not all bugs, notes Bischoff, are helpful to plants.
“If you throw only one chemical class at many of these insects, they overcome it," he says. "In the long run this is a dangerous situation."
Bischoff says growers are worried about controlling problem insects, but he says we should remember that growers are businesses -- they wouldn’t buy pesticides if they didn’t have to.
And the study, he says, could be flawed. The research was based on the presence of pesticide in plant tissue - like flowers. "Bees don’t consume flowers," says Bischoff, "they consume pollen and nectar."
The pesticide also has a half life, meaning it decays and loses its potency over a certain period of time. Instead of banning neonics outright Bischoff says growers should use it more wisely.
But some big box stores are taking anti-neonic action. BJ’s Wholesale Club says it's working to sell plants that are neonic free and Home Depot will require all its suppliers to label plants that they have treated by the fourth quarter of 2014.
Brown says there aren't a lot of studies that look at how long the toxicity of a neonic lingers. One complication is that different varieties of plants metabolize poisons according to different time frames. A lot, he says, depends on the method of application. When a pesticide is sprayed on the surface of a plant the residue won’t necessarily be broken down by enzymes, but the sunlight can cause its strength to fade. But still, a poison may linger for months or years presenting a harmful dining option for bees.
"We know for a fact," says Tim Brown, that if the pesticides are in the tissue of the plant, "it’s in the pollen and nectar too."
We’re gonna pause in our regularly scheduled host-blogging for something a little different today: video, not text. Pictures, not words.
He’s trying to claw his way back into the company. The company, meanwhile, looks like it’s trying to move on.
And with that… here you go:
Video produced by Preditorial
Google is mining its search data from the World Cup games, trying to make factoids that go viral. Its "newsroom" is focused on happy thoughts, not sad ones — like Brazil's brutal defeat.
Flint Dollar had to leave a Catholic school after officials learned he plans to marry his partner. Federal anti-discrimination laws don't cover sexual orientation, so he's fighting back another way.
Several red states, including Louisiana, have been diverting some offenders away from prison and into drug treatment and other incarceration alternatives. But not everyone is embracing the effort.
A racing mind and a pounding heart aren't all bad — the stress response can help humans and other animals deal with the unexpected. So what makes a vital system, that evolved to help us, turn toxic?
So far, so good. ISEE-3, the versatile 1978 space probe that took a detour to greet a comet in the 1980s, is now on track to get close to the moon, scientists say, though course fixes can be tricky.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro watched Brazil's World Cup semifinal against Germany in a bar in Sao Paulo. She speaks to Robert Siegel about the game and the devastation it sowed among Brazilian fans.
In his new ad, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor uses his Bible to respond to an opponent's attack.
College graduation is supposed to be the start of something big. For millions of students who graduated in the middle of the Great Recession, it was a big disappointment.
The Department of Education has been tracking members of the class of 2008, who graduated right at the start of the financial crisis.
And today the government delivered some new data on those 1.4 million grads.
The big takeaway is that, by 2012, more than 80 percent of them had had jobs.
“It’s taken a few years, but their employment numbers have gotten better,” says Ted Socha, a mathematical statistician with the National Center for Education Statistics, who ran the study.
Megan Nicklaus, who runs the career center at Colorado College, remembers those years well.
“Students were having to reevaluate and say, ‘Okay, what kind of intermediate step might I be able to take that will still set me up for when the market bounces.’”
On average, graduates of the class of 2008 have had a couple jobs. Sixteen percent of them have had three. But unemployment is creeping up, and many recession grads report not being able to find enough hours at work.
Scott Hoberg was a senior at Fordham University, thinking about law school, when the recession set in.
“It was sort of playing out in the background,” he remembers.
Today, Hoberg is an attorney in Cincinnati. His friends from Fordham? “Many of them haven’t found exactly their dream jobs, and certainly not jobs they’re using their degrees for.”
There are, we learned today, certain degrees were almost recession-proof: nursing and science, to name two.
Alex Wernli graduated from Iowa State University in 2008.
"When I started school, I gave absolutely no thought to getting a job,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to be an engineer, and it’s kind of what I wanted to do.”
Students who studied science, technology, engineering and math spent a lot less time looking for work.
Werli had a job lined up before he graduated. They also made a lot more money out of the gate: $65,000 on average.
“This was the lucky class,” says Tony Carnevale, who runs the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. “They came in under the wire.”
Phoebe Berke graduated one year later, with an English degree from San Francisco State University.
“It almost did feel like we got a pretty raw deal, graduating in 2009, like right after everything had kind of fallen apart,” she says.
Berke says she did odd jobs, and she tutored.
“Finally, in 2012, I got my first ‘real job,’ my first nine-to-five job, and I was really excited about that because it felt like I had finally gotten over the hump.”
Legal recreational marijuana went on sale Tuesday up in the state of Washington.
Not to be outdone, there's a proposal in front of the city council in Berkeley, California — a state where marijuana is so far legal only for medicinal use — that would oblige pot dispensaries in the city to provide free pot to the poor and homeless in an amount equivalent to 2 percent of their annual sales.
And the ordinance says it's gotta be good stuff, too.
Interns at top firms in Silicon Valley and related tech firms can, reportedly, make between $5,000 and $7,000 per month. Some of them are still in high school.
It might appear insane for a high school intern to make more pay, annualized, than his or her teacher before even leaving said high school.
But it’s not. It’s a reflection of the tech sector’s realities.
Partly, it derives from competition for talent in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM). “The demand for STEM skills is increasing virtually exponentially while we aren’t turning out graduates at the same rate,” says Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute.
Silicon Valley and tech firms are increasingly competing with Wall Street for such graduates.
But there’s more to the insatiable drive for talent: The tech sector is a roiling mass of instability. The floor of Silicon Valley is littered with tech companies that didn’t reinvent themselves in time.
“It’s the changing of the landscape that has a lot of firms unsettled about where things are going,” says Kyle Mayer, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. Apple went from a computer company to making smart phones and tablets. “Amazon started out as a marketplace for selling books. Now not only are they a marketplace for selling everything, they do a lot of back-end storage, with servers that store a lot of other companies' data.”
Tech and new media firms that have to constantly reinvent themselves or die need a rare kind of creative, conceptual talent: not simply people who can solve a question proficiently, but who can redefine the question itself.
“It’s not just about the smartest person in the room,” says Mayer.
Of course, in many cases, a prospective intern or candidate may well be the smartest in the room - inventing viral apps in their spare time or hacking a network for fun. But it’s not enough.
Individuals don’t solve complex problems in the tech sector. Teams do. Having a “good fit” – someone who can work well in a team such that it becomes more than the sum of its parts.
“It’s important to remember: What’s the cost of getting the wrong person in there?” says Russell Coff, professor of strategy at the University of Wisconsin Madison. “In many cases it’s a creative endeavor, putting together product development teams, and there’s only so much you can handle in terms of a personality that doesn’t fit.” An internship is a good way to suss that out.
Given that many firms have become famous for what Mayer calls “acqhiring” - buying out smaller companies not for the product but for the highly successful team inside - $7,000 for an intern is a small price to pay.
Bloomberg analyzed Glassdoor salary data to chart out the highest-paid interns. Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley's heavy-hitters dominated the list:
We compared their salaries to a few other Bay Area companies on Glassdoor to figure out just how much more these interns are pulling in. These numbers are approximate, averaged from user submissions, but they paint an interesting picture of an intern's value in the tech sector.$4,280/mo
First, just to put things into perspective, median American household income was $51,371 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. That's a little over $4,000 per month.$5,859/mo
Zynga, the mobile and social games giant behind FarmVille and others, didn't appear on Bloomberg's list. But according to Glassdoor, the company pays its interns nearly as much as Google, Facebook and Microsoft per month on average, edging out the likes of Apple and Amazon.$4,230/mo
Compare Zynga to Electonic Arts (EA), makers of blockbuster console gaming franchises like "Madden NFL" and "Battlefield." EA interns earn less than Zynga's but their salary is nothing to sneeze at, especially when most American households make.$4,371/mo
Pixar, the Disney-owned animation studio with Silicon Valley roots, pays its interns, on average, a measly monthly rate compared to the tech giants accross the bay.$2,952/mo
Electric car manufacturer Tesla also shares some DNA - and a co-founder - with the tech world. But Tesla interns don't make nearly as much as their counterparts in the tech sector.$6,309/mo $1,268/mo
One of these average salaries is earned, on average, by Yelp's software development interns. The other is the marketing interns' monthly rate. Guess which is which.$2,600/mo
Newspaper interns might not fare much better than marketing interns in the Bay. The San Francisco Chronicle's summer internship is advertised at $650 per week.????
For what it's worth, none of the Bay Area-based Glassdoor interns have submitted their salaries to the site.
If only Crumbs had paid attention when fondue was a thing.
"Remember when we [were] all supposed to go eating fondue? "says Rita McGrath, a professor of strategy and innovation at the Columbia Business School. "I mean, in New York there must have been 20 fondue restaurants."
The reason we don’t see gaggles of fondue restaurants anymore? Because trying to build a lasting business on a temporarily popular item can be dangerous.
"People get bored, people get fat, people just want to move on to something else... and the question you have to ask is, 'Well, when the fad has run its course, what do you have to offer beyond that?'"
Adam Fleck, director of consumer equity research at Morningstar, says competition from other bakeries and other desserts meant trouble for Crumbs. Beyond fads and cake frosting, he notes, a company dependent on just one product is especially vulnerable.
"Consumer preferences can change on a dime," he says - which was especially troubling for Crumbs at a moment when kale chips and quinoa are what's for dinner.
“You know these cupcakes were very high calorie,” Fleck notes.
There are successful businesses that sell just one product. But most are in markets where it’s easy to predict demand - like steel. So, says J.P. Eggers, an assistant professor of management and organization at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “They are, in general, able to deeply understand what their customers are after, deliver what they want, how they want it, at the price that they want it.”
But there are plenty of stores that sell mostly cupcakes. Eggers says it’s unlikely they’ll all go away. He says when the cupcake bubble burst, Crumbs found itself with some odd store locations. Adam Fleck says the company expanded too quickly and got burned.
Which companies stand to learn from Crumbs' crumbling? We started brainstorming.
— Sally Herships (@sherships) July 8, 2014
Add to our list!:
One guy's Kickstarter quest for $10 to make his first potato salad has now raised over $50,000 — a kind of Internet joke gone viral. Here are three modest food projects to consider instead.
The unemployment rate for Americans age 55 and older is 4.4 percent -- lower by more than 1.5 percent than the population as a whole. By contrast, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 21 percent.
But older workers are also at greater risk of suffering long-term unemployment than any other age group. More than half of older workers have been unemployed for six months or longer, and many of them have been actively looking for more than one year. When older workers leave the job market for a period of time -- for instance, after a layoff, or to care for a spouse or elderly parent -- they are more likely to experience a significant decline in pay and job quality (working part-time or on contract) than other age cohorts.
And older workers often feel their age status acutely in the workforce. L.D. Kirshenbaum is 52 and lives in San Francisco. Several years ago, after a divorce and with a teenager at home to support, she found a job working half-time at a local Apple retail store.
Kirshenbaum graduated from Reed College, she’d worked as a journalist and launched a mobile news app. But she says she had to earn her cred with co-workers at the Apple store. “You’re sort of judged on your cool factor,” she says. “How clever are you with social media, do you take pictures of your lattes?”
Since then, Kirshenbaum has gone on to be an independent consultant on mobile marketing -- working with developers half her age.
“There are definitely younger co-workers that assume everyone’s uncool unless proven otherwise,” she says. “I have had colleagues who are my age, and they’re very self-conscious about showing themselves to be as young as possible. They’ll wear jeans every day, and they’ll never be caught dead wearing a wristwatch.”
The challenge is amplified when job-searching, says Ofer Sharone at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He’s interviewed older workers extensively for his book, “Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences.”
HR managers can easily tell how old someone is, and how old they look, from LinkedIn, says Sharone. And he says they wonder: “Will the worker stick around? Maybe they want to retire, maybe they’re not as energetic, maybe they won’t work as many hours, maybe they’re not as technologically savvy.”
Sharone says most of the stereotypes are contradicted by research data on cognitive ability and job performance as we age. For instance, he says, older workers are likely to stay in a job longer than young workers. Also, they can be trained or retrained to be competent on new machines and technologies. And they bring experience and contacts that can benefit the organization, and also younger workers, through mentoring.
Sharone says what older workers need -- especially those who are job-hunting without success -- are groups to attend for career counseling and peer-group support, “to realize that other very competent, talented people are also not getting a job,” says Sharone. “And this lessens the fear that something is wrong with them, the degree of self-blame.”
Lauren Botney has attended a class for 55+ job-seekers at a local community college in Portland, Ore. She is 58, a lawyer by training, and she successfully ran a family-owned construction business. Now, she is trying to get back to full-time work after raising two kids (they are now teenagers) on her own.
“Back in the old days -- and I’ve been told to be careful using that phrase -- but, for my generation, once you started to have the gray hair, you were considered to be the sage expert in your field,” says Botney. “I think that now, there’s a feeling among many in the workplace that people of my vintage don’t understand anything about computers and therefore we’re too slow or we’re doddering.”
Botney’s trying to neutralize that stereotype by getting a digital marketing certificate from Portland State University.
“The one advantage that my age and experience brings,” says Botney, “is that I can usually do it faster than a newbie. And I should be able to. I’m better at knowing what the right questions are. That’s something that comes with time, experience and maybe a touch of intuition.”
In 2012, Medicare was rocked by allegations that hospitals were systematically overcharging the program by miscoding electronic medical records. A study released Wednesday took another look.
Brazil, without striker Neymar, was in shambles. Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos scored two goals each for Germany, and Miroslav Klose became the highest goal scorer in World Cup history.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities.