How You Can Leverage $1.9 Billion To Improve Cybersecurity In Your Community

Recently, the Biden Administration passed an infrastructure bill which included about $1 trillion in funding to government cybersecurity. This shone a new and much-needed light on the fact that government organizations, and the people within them, should be aware and diligent when it comes to cyber threats.

Recently, a number of cybersecurity attacks showed the U.S. Government the importance of having a secure infrastructure, designed to withstand cyber threats. With so much of day-to-day life moving online both as a result of the pandemic and due to evolving technology, cyberattacks are more and more commonplace. However, state and local governments, especially ones located in more rural areas, are often ill-equipped to handle them.

With this funding, Senator Maggie Hassan, who was a key influence in including the funds in this bill for this reason specifically, hopes to provide state and local governments with the tools and resources necessary to strengthen their cybersecurity.

With these issues finally being brought to light and resources being diverted to them, it might be time to take a look at your own government branch and see where you can improve the cybersecurity measures within your own team of government employees.

There is no training or measures required for state and local governments to take to improve cybersecurity. This both places the burden of responsibility on management and allows you to honestly evaluate the needs of your branch and request the appropriate resources. 

Something as simple as providing your team with online resources and training can be crucial to strengthening cybersecurity and protecting the infrastructure and economy of your community

Perhaps the more rural areas and their local governments were without resources to provide this sort of training to your team before. But now, with a new push towards not only encouraging re-enforcement in this area, but also providing the funding to allow it, getting local government employees trained via simple, effective, and cheap online courses is easier than ever! 

 

How to Keep Seasonal Hires Safe in National Parks this Summer

Summer is here, and with it, seasonal hires in government areas like National Parks. It’s critical for these temporary employees to get trained on safety as quickly as possible. They’re only available to you for a short time, and working in the parks can be a dangerous occupation.

Luckily, the development of short 15-minute refresher courses has proved an effective way to bring these seasonal employees up to speed. Especially for returning seasonal employees, who might already be familiar with the process but still need to be reminded of or updated on certain training to ensure everyone’s safety while working in the dangers of the National Parks.

These employees are often more difficult to reach while on the job, since they are not restrained to one office or even a single building, they are working outside in the elements. They’re also more likely to work irregular and long hours. Therefore, getting in-person training is inconvenient and difficult. With online courses, it can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, and can be completed in a short time frame at the convenience of the employee. For example, employees can complete these courses in their own downtime or during a commute. 

In addition, the consistency and ease of these refresher courses boosts morale for outdoor-loving employees who don’t want to worry about working an in-person safety session into their busy work schedule. It’s a uniform form of training in a job where consistency is unusual.

Safety procedures should serve the worker, not the other way around. Workers might sometimes use their judgment in a moment and stray away from procedure in order to actually be safe. Short, simple online courses provide the best framework of safety for these workers, without putting them in such a rigid environment to unintentionally put them in an unsafe position. 

Since employees should be encouraged to use their own judgment and discretion to find the safest course of action, spending an excess of your budget on in-depth safety training is not only unnecessary, but can be counter-productive. 15-minute online courses are an amazing option as they’re cheap, can be used multiple times, and are easily distributed among employees. The short length also encourages employees to complete and pay attention to the content being presented to them.

Online courses are an amazing way to bring National Parks’ seasonal employees up to speed quickly, effectively, and cheaply. Don’t waste your or your summer hires’ time and resources on extensive and often irrelevant safety training, instead keep them actually safe by giving them a simple framework and allowing them to make judgment calls when on the job.  

 

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How Government Organizations Can Benefit from Online Training in a Post-COVID World

In a post-COVID world, the benefits of online learning for government organizations have gone from convenient to absolutely necessary. With a decline in revenue and therefore a slash in budgets, finding areas where money can be saved and time can be used most effectively is at the top of the list of priorities.

There may be some hesitancy, and certainly there are some cases where in-person learning might be seen as the better alternative. Even so, new hire orientation, management and sensitivity training, and even something as small as learning how to use a new desktop application are all examples where prepackaged training would be beneficial. It’s important to know why virtual learning should be implemented now more than ever.  

Saving Time and Money

Because of the limited budgets associated with most government organizations, it’s crucial to review the costs of in person training compared to virtual ones.

When planning in-person training, the needs of the humans in your audience cannot be ignored. Bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, and travel time all have to be taken into consideration and planned for. There’s the time required for set-up, and the time required to take everything down. Speakers who arrive late hold up the entire event, attendees who arrive late miss important information, and tech issues might take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to resolve.  

There are the time-wasting costs of this, and the monetary ones. Locations have to be booked, food has to be prepared, people have to be paid. Even if you already have a location free of charge and require those attending to provide their own food, you’ll still have to pay people (whether W-2 employees or contractors) to set up the area for your event and take it down.    

On-the-job training is also expensive and wasteful. Hours of a valuable employee’s time is spent training a new hire when they could be handling other important tasks. This is (at least) twice as much time and cost consuming as it would be if you could simply give the new hire a course to watch, read, and complete.  

Learning virtually is significantly cheaper, as it generally comes at one upfront cost. It can be carefully written and produced to be as time-effective as possible, with no opportunities for employees to miss parts of it. Once a course is bought, it can be used and reused time and time again, eliminating the need to pay for multiple events or hours of another employee’s time. 

Increased Accessibility

Even as we return to “normal”, remote work is here to stay, especially for those who are at higher risk for COVID-19. Remote employees who perhaps live hours away in another city or even another state can still receive the training they need with an online course. Not only are they receiving the required training, they’re getting the same exact information as their colleagues who work on-site and in person.   

Government organizations don’t have the flexibility that private companies enjoy, which makes accessibility an important factor in evaluating virtual training. Getting access to the virtual types of courses you might need is drastically easier than getting the same info from an in-person format. There is no travel time, and no cost required to fly or drive people to the event. It’s more easily worked into a person’s busy schedule, and all employees can review the information at a time and place that works best for them, making them more likely to retain and understand the information.  

For on-the-job training, e-learning also makes new-hire training more accessible and more consistent. With a more traditional, person-to-person method, if an employee who would normally be in charge of the training is out sick or on vacation, someone else would have to be found to fill their place. That person may not be as knowledgeable or comfortable with training, therefore decreasing the standard of knowledge in the workforce.

With a course, new hires will get a consistent onboarding experience. This also is applicable to continuing education courses for established employees. Everyone can be given the same course, or access to a webinar (either recorded or live), and regardless of who is there for work that day the same knowledge can be passed to everyone by an expert.  

Increased Efficiency

Government organizations have to be especially conscious of processes and covering their bases thoroughly due to the usually legal nature of their businesses.

There is little to no chance an important piece of information is left out of an e-learning course.  When you give your employees a course to complete and review, you know everything they need is in there. There is no human error of verbal communication from a tired supervisor who might forget to mention a seemingly small, yet critical piece of information to new hires. This also applies to seasoned employees who are learning a new application or continuing their education for work. E-learning is far more consistent and effective across the board, which means a higher quality of work from employees.   

Purchasing a course also provides the benefit of being taught by an expert in the field, someone who knows exactly what they’re talking about and can convey it well. A team of people puts in the work to build a course, so the quality is great and the information is accurate and complete.  With it, employees are quicker to be up and running.

It also provides the benefit of employees being more likely to learn the information provided.  If they don’t understand something the first time, they can go back and reread or rewatch the section explaining it. If necessary, a colleague can easily provide further clarification.

This same material can be used for a long time, essentially until it is no longer relevant or outdated. When that happens, either a new course can be purchased to replace it, or new materials can simply be incorporated into the old course to provide the required knowledge.  

Regardless of the number of employees an organization might have, or what needs to be taught, learning via a course is a better alternative to in-person training in many situations.  

It saves time and money by consolidating all required knowledge into one course, for one price, and since it can be used as many times as necessary, it becomes a long-term investment for the company purchasing it. Accessibility is increased because courses are available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The efficiency of course learning is greater, as it does not require someone to sacrifice their time to teach, and is taught by someone who knows exactly what they’re talking about.   

It’s time to evaluate the needs of your government organization, and see where e-learning can be used to make the most of the time and resources available to you.

 

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End of Year Performance Reviews in a COVID World

Everybody’s ready to call it a wrap with 2020. Yet, not all is lost this year. Your organization may still be able to carry out effective end-of-year performance reviews as a way to start a conversation about challenges still looming over next year.

In fact, performance reviews in 2020 are the perfect jumping-off point for discussing what is and isn’t working in the time of COVID. Your organization may need reviews more than ever this end-of-year to reset goals impacted by the pandemic and discuss what obstacles – personal or professional – are in the way of achieving them. 

Let’s go over what successful EOY performance reviews can look like during the pandemic and how they can further manager-employee understanding and professional growth. 

1. Back to the basics during the pandemic

Managers often see performance reviews as a means to give promotions or fire employees. However, their role is much broader. 

This end-of-year, most organizations aren’t making any more big staff changes. Instead, performance reviews can be a channel to work out challenges, build manager-employee rapport and strengthen organizational values. 

In this way, performance reviews are an opportunity to get back to the basics during the pandemic and identify your employees’ core purposes and goals.

2. Evaluate employees within a business-not-as-usual framework

This year is hardly business as usual. As you go to evaluate employee performance, it’s important to keep the pandemic framework in mind. A few pointers to review employees fairly include:

  • Analyzing employee performance from the entire year, including pre-pandemic.
  • Considering the employee’s adapted role and metrics during the pandemic.
  • Looking at personal or professional challenges in this adapted role, including remote work.

At LaSalle Network, for example, a recent performance review revealed that an employee named “John” was struggling to meet deadlines due to juggling full-time parenting and working. His manager empathized with his situation and adapted his schedule to help strike a better balance. 

3. Highlight highs and lows with rewards and grace periods 

This end-of-year, some organizations are opting for simplified performance reviews such as pass/fail. Others have ditched scales and percentages entirely for a more conversation-based review. Whether you decide to have standard assessments or adapted ones, it’s important to emphasize highs and lows. 

A good performance review during the pandemic will reward employees for working hard under challenging conditions, as well as granting grace periods for those who weren’t able to overcome them. For each employee, you should discuss these highs and lows openly, so that you’re both on the same page for next year. 

Capturing these highs and lows in your performance reviews will be important towards making sure your employees feel appreciated and setting clear expectations moving forward. 

4. Remotely but not impersonally

Another aspect to consider for end-of-year performance reviews is the remote factor. Conversations can be tricky over video conferencing software because of the lack of cues such as body language, as well as possible connection issues. It’s hardly ideal when your employee doesn’t hear a comment for improvement because the audio cut out. 

It’s essential that you put on the video feed for the conversation and try to create a comfortable atmosphere for open discussion. In fact, CEO of Know Your Team, Claire Lew argues that the first 10-15 minutes of the performance review should be dedicated to catching up. This can set the stage for greater reflection and takeaways for both the manager and the employee. 

5. Following up for ongoing feedback

Ongoing feedback is key to keeping your employees engaged. Managers hate giving it and yet, doing so over the course of the year can ensure that you’re supporting employees’ professional development.

In a COVID world, ongoing feedback is also essential as organizations adapt to the changing situation. Your team may have to pivot once again, which means the goals you set during the end-of-year performance review season may need to be revised. 

Ongoing feedback can resolve the challenges of a dynamic workplace by discussing areas of improvement all year round. 

6. Getting started early for meaningful performance reviews 

Meaningful performance reviews are possible but don’t wait until the last minute. You’ll have a better sense of how to evaluate your employees by starting early. Think ahead to next year and brush up on your performance management skills now. 

At Enterprise Training Solutions, we offer courses to help you navigate performance reviews in the time of COVID. Specifically, we have expert-created instruction in:

  • Professional in Human Resources: Performance Management
  • Planning an Effective Performance Appraisal
  • Detecting and Dealing with Performance Problems
  • Keeping Top Performers Challenged
  • Creating a Plan for Performance Management

This November, take control of one area you can: performance reviews. Your organization will benefit from conversations that strengthen employee-manager rapport and company values moving into next year. 

Even if assessment tools are naturally more lenient this year, performance review conversations may have a positive impact on your workforce next year.

Experience the proven, easy-to-use, and cost-effective benefits of online training by scheduling your free online training consultation today!

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Diversity Training in the Wake of Anti-Racism Protests

The death of George Floyd in May of this year sparked widescale outrage and protests across the nation and later the globe as Black Lives Matter posters were waved from New York to Tokyo.

Companies from all over changed their social media profile images to black backgrounds in solidarity of the movement, but such actions have not sufficed for many people.

Instead, consumers and employees alike have expressed their desire to see companies and local institutions commit to tangible change within their policies and workplace environments.

As the nation continues to become more diverse, employers are being made aware of these new responsibilities for providing their employees with safer and fairer workplaces.

As a local government employer, it’s important that you understand the legislation involved in these matters so that your organization can maintain compliance. 

Lacking a strong understanding of what it means to have diversity in the workplace can create blindspots that may unintentionally lead to unfair employment/workplace practices, which could have serious legal repercussions.

The following content is meant to educate you about local changes being implemented within organizations and steps that you can take to bring your own work environment up to speed on modern diversity training best-practices. 

Compliance with State and Federal Law

There is legislation that state and federal governments have created in an effort to prevent unlawful or unfair employment practices within organizations, private or public. 

For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits any employer from participating in the discrimination of employees based on sex, color, race, religion, or national origin. 

This applies to employers that have 15 or more employees and isn’t limited to private organizations but also impacts federal, state, and local governments. The full details of Title VII can be read at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website

Some other relevant laws put in place include: 

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1969
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
  • The ADA Amendments Act of 2008

It’s vital that you also check your state laws periodically to stay up to date on any recently passed legislation related to diversity in the workplace or other compliance issues. 

Failure to do so may lead to lawsuits, fines, or other penalties for unfair or unlawful employment practices, regardless of whether they are intentional or not. 

Local Organizations and Government Bodies Implementing Change

There are already sweeping changes in diversity training occurring within various organizations across the United States. We mention some of them below. 

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 

The University is launching new equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training for all incoming students. Although it is only now being unveiled, the Executive Director of EDI, Jodi Thessing-Ritter, says that the program has, in fact, been in development for several years. 

The EDI training involves a 50 minutes online course that contains videos, quizzes, and modules of info covering a variety of topics including race, religion, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, and gender expression. 

The City of Dayton

The city of Dayton has recently hired a consultant to provide diversity training to help build cultural awareness among city employees. The consultant, Daniel Juday, will also strive to help employees develop more trusting and meaningful relationships. 

The Navy

A new Navy task force has been established in an effort to address racial and gender biases.

Although the Navy has long been committed to inclusion and diversity for many years, Vice Adm. John Nowell stated, “…I think it’s safe to say that as we look at current events it’s really put a light on the fact that we need to do more. We need to do it more quickly.” 

The task force recommends reforms in recruiting, health care, promotions, military justice, and five other key areas in the service. 

The City of Manchester

Thanks to a $20,000 grant, the City of Manchester will have all city employees receive diversity training later this year. 

How to Maintain an Inclusive Environment in Your Organization

Any diversity training implemented within your organization should be thoroughly considered. Take these points into consideration as you move forward in making your own organization more inclusive.  

Implement Solid Equal Employment Policies

As an employer, implement a strong equal employment opportunity policy. Make sure that it is upheld across all levels of your local government organization. 

The policy itself should include transparent assurances that if employees file complaints, then you’ll protect said employees from retaliation. All prohibited conduct should be clearly laid out in the policy as well. 

Once the policy is in place, be sure to train relevant parties like supervisors, managers, and employees about the policy and its contents. It’s up to you to set the standards and expectations people have about this subject. 

Train Managers and Employees

All Human Resource managers and employees should be trained on equal employment opportunity laws.

During any diversity training, remind employees of relevant company policies that are in place and that all employees will be held accountable for their actions. Immediate and appropriate corrective action should be followed through in the event of violations of company policy. 

Promote a Culture of Inclusivity Within Your Organization

As a local government employer, it’s your responsibility to actively practice inclusivity in your workplace. 

Remember to take the initiative in helping people feel valued and welcome at your organization by interacting with different people, appropriately connecting with employees, and creating useful employee resource groups. 

Diversity Training Amid Lockdown

As the nation continues to change and become more diverse, it’s important that we make sure that our workplaces feel welcome to said diversity. 

Doing so will help your local government agency foster an environment of professionalism that cultivates an appreciation and respect for personal differences across your workforce. 

However, the nation still being in lockdown poses a challenge to many organizations who would want to conduct group diversity training at this moment.

It’s for this reason that online training solutions are more necessary and convenient than ever. 

We offer on-demand training dedicated to compliance and risk management, covering the subject of diversity in several courses, including Bridging the Diversity Gap, Understanding Workplace Diversity, Your Role in Workplace Diversity, and more.

We hope that our accessible online training will help you and your organization create safer and fairer workplaces for all individuals. 

Experience the proven, easy-to-use, and cost-effective benefits of online training by scheduling your free online training consultation today!

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Cybersecurity in the Upcoming 2020 Elections

As the 2020 presidential election draws near, state and local government agencies are making preparations to counter present and future cybersecurity dangers that threaten to undermine our nation’s election process.

Last year, state and local governments suffered 162 ransomware incidents, and these attacks show no signs of letting up, even amid the global health crisis. 

To bolster the nation’s overall safety, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has generated and released its plan for protecting not only the infrastructure of this year’s election but also the infrastructure utilized by campaigns and political parties. 

From disinformation campaigns to phishing attacks, CISA aims to identify and mitigate any security issues that might compromise the integrity of this election year. Some notable points from CISA’s plan include: 

  • Creating public awareness campaigns that discuss cybersecurity threats. 
  • Providing local and state cybersecurity officials, as well as private companies that provide voting equipment, with additional information about security threats. 
  • At the local level, helping to develop incident response and crisis communication plans. 
  • Offering services such as physical security assessments, remote penetration testing, and vulnerability scanning, among others. 
  • Conducting voluntary security assessments.
  • Working with private firms and briefing staffers about the best practices to follow regarding campaigns.
  • Providing the public and elected officials with information concerning foreign influence campaigns. 

Although these measures are being taken, CISA Director Christopher Krebs stated that much of the responsibility of securing the voting infrastructure will fall to the state and local government agencies.

Below you’ll find a list of enacted and pending bills relating to cybersecurity that have been made at the state level. 

State-Level Cybersecurity Bills: Enacted

  1. Alabama | AL S 54 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 98: Insurers and other entities licensed by the Department of Insurance must develop, implement, and maintain an information security program. It also provides for reporting to the Commissioner of Insurance, the confidentiality of provided information, and for civil penalties under certain conditions.
  2. California | CA A 74 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 23: Makes appropriations for the support of state government for the fiscal year and provides that activities performed by the office shall be designed to minimize overlap. It also works in coordination with statewide cybersecurity efforts. 
  3. Florida | FL H 5301 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 2019-118: Requires the designation of a state chief information security officer and creates the Florida Cybersecurity Task Force.    
  4. Florida | FL S 2500 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 115: Makes appropriations, including funds to county supervisors of elections for cybersecurity initiatives. 
  5. Georgia | GA H 30 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 3: Appropriates funds to the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center to enhance cybersecurity technology for private and public industries through unique education, training, research, and practical applications.
  6. Georgia | GA H 31 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 319: Appropriates funds for cybersecurity training and cybersecurity initiatives in schools.
  7. Iowa | IA H 692 – Status: Enacted: Provides for penalties for using voter registration information, including resale or redistribution of the voter registration list without written permission of the state registrar, for purposes other than those permitted.
  8. Louisiana | LA H 74 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 292: Creates the crime of trespass against state computers, provides for elements of the crime, and also provides for criminal penalties.
  9. Mississippi | MS S 2831 – Status: Enacted: Establishes the Insurance Data Security Law and provides the purpose and intent of the act. It also defines certain terms within the act, requiring insurance licenses in the state to develop, implement, and maintain an information security program. The bill further requires certain notification, investigation, and confidentiality in a cybersecurity event.
  10. Montana | MT H.B. 2 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 483: This bill appropriates money to various state agencies for the upcoming biennium, including funding for many relevant cybersecurity programs and technologies, including next-generation antivirus software, cybersecurity staff, cybersecurity student programs, and many more. The State Information Technology Services Division will report to the legislative finance committee quarterly on the Montana Cybersecurity Enhancement Project.
  11. North Dakota | ND S 2110 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 468: Expands the powers and duties of the Information Technology Department to oversee cybersecurity strategy for all executive branch state agencies. This includes institutions under the control of the State Board of Higher Education, counties, cities, school districts, or other political subdivisions.
  12. Nebraska | S.B. 123 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 546: This bill enacts provisions governing the security and integrity of elections, requiring an annual training class on cybersecurity for those who administer elections. Any records of the Secretary of State or county or city clerk related to election information are confidential and not public records. They may be disclosed only under limited circumstances. 
  13. New Jersey | NJ S 2297 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 213: Revises provisions relating to the State Blockchain Initiative Task Force. 
  14. Nevada | NV S 69 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 392: Revises provisions relating to emergencies and cybersecurity.
  15. Nevada | NV S 123 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 546: Revises provisions relating to elections.
  16. Ohio | OH H 166 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 10: This bill provides funding for cybersecurity initiatives, including the establishment of a cyber range. The cyber range will: (1) provide cyber training and education to K-12 students, higher education students, Ohio National Guardsmen, federal employees, and state and local government employees, and (2) provide for emergency preparedness exercises and training for cybersecurity.
  17. Oklahoma | OK S 261 – Status: Enacted, Chap. 163: Relates to the security of election materials, coercion, and election emergencies. The bill also authorizes post-election audits for certain purposes, provides procedures, and specifies the duties of the Secretary of State Election Board and the Secretary of County Election Board. It also specifies requirements relating to office space and arrangements for county election boards while prohibiting the providing of false or misleading information to prevent registration or voting.
  18. Virginia | VA H 5001a – Status: Enacted, Chap. 1: Revises the budget bill; makes appropriations to various state agencies and programs, including cybersecurity programs.
  19. West Virginia | WV H 2452 – Status: Enacted, Act 123: Creates the West Virginia cybersecurity office and removes the requirements of the Chief Technology Officer to oversee the security of government information. Also created the Cybersecurity office  and provides that the Chief Information Security Officer oversees said office and is authorized to create a cybersecurity framework to assist and provide guidance to agencies in cyber risk strategy.

State Level Cybersecurity Bills: Pending

  1. Georgia | GA S 21 – Status: Pending – Carryover: Will require each local board of education to prescribe mandatory instruction concerning cybersecurity every year in every grade, from kindergarten through grade 12. It will also require the State Board of Education to prescribe a minimum course of study in cybersecurity, providing for duties of the State School Superintendent. 
  2. Illinois | IL H 2829 – Status: Pending: Will create the Financial Institution Cybersecurity Act. The bill provides that persons and entities operating under the authority of the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation under the Banking Act, the Insurance Code, the Savings Bank Act, the Credit Union Act, the Corporate Fiduciary Act, and the Residential Mortgage License Act must maintain a cybersecurity program to protect the confidentiality of their information system.
  3. Illinois | IL H 3017 – Status: Pending: Will create the Veterans Cyber Academy Pilot Program Act and provides that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs shall establish and implement a pilot program to provide veterans residing in the state with access to cyber security training, certification, apprenticeships, and additional resources to enter the cyber security field of work. The pilot program shall run from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023. The bill also provides specific requirements to the department in implementing the pilot program.
  4. Michigan | MI H 4348 – Status: Pending: This bill provides executive recommendations for an omnibus bill, including funding for improvement of the state’s cybersecurity framework.
  5. Minnesota | MN H 17 – Status: Pending – Carryover: Appropriates money from the Help America Vote Act account for certain authorized purposes and provides for the purposes of modernizing, securing, and updating the statewide voter registration system and for cybersecurity upgrades as authorized by federal law.

Needless to say, states and their local government agencies are going to be making a considerable effort to keep this election year secure and free of external interference. 

The federal government has made notable progress towards improved cybersecurity with the founding of CISA and other agencies, but much of our digital safety is still in the hands of local government organizations like yours. 

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Cybersecurity

With these new laws turning cybersecurity training into a requirement, it’s important that your organization be outfitted with courses that don’t just meet the educational standards but are also convenient and easily accessible to your employees. 

Since everyone is still working from home, getting your people into the office for training isn’t an option for most employers, which is one of the reasons that our online training solutions are ideal.

We offer current and on-demand courses dedicated to Cyber Security, which you can consume on your schedule.

As an ETS Learner, you also receive access to over 60 state and national affiliations and accreditations courses, the completion certificates, and the option to print course materials when needed.

Let’s all do our part in keeping our organizations, our people, and our elections safe from cyberthreats. 

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Adapting Your Workplace to the COVID-19 Outbreak

In our previous article, Preparing the Workplace for the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we explained what the novel coronavirus is, the danger it poses, and some steps local government employers could take to prevent COVID-19 infections in their workplace. 

Since then, the pandemic landscape in the USA has shifted significantly. 

The purpose of this article is two-fold: 

  1. To give you an overview of some of the notable regulatory changes that have occurred in response to COVID-19.
  2. To provide valuable tips for your local government on how to respond to potential disruptions in day-to-day operations/services that could occur, given that more cases of COVID-19 are expected to arrive.

State and Local Government Responses to COVID-19

It’s said that 3/4ths of Americans are now living in lockdown with 38 states having issued stay at home orders. 

Over 425 executive actions have been issued in 50 states and American territories, these actions including but not limited to declarations of state emergencies, school closures, and retail and business closures. A few notable actions have been listed below: 

California

  • Executive Order No. N-35-20 — “…Allows local governments more flexibility to utilize the skills of retired employees and reinforces the importance of the delivery of food, medicine, and emergency supplies.”
  • Executive Order N25-20 — “…The order allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically. The order allows local and state emergency administrators to act quickly to protect public health.”

Louisiana

  • COVID-19 Task Force — “Governor John Bel Edwards (D) has established a COVID-19 task force. The taskforce will lead the state’s planning for different scenarios relating to the spread of coronavirus, offer guidance to the Governor’s Office and the Unified Command Group, and to agencies, local governments, businesses, and organizations.” 

Indiana

  • Executive Order 20-09 — “…Governor Eric Holcomb (R) has issued an order relating to government body meetings, government purchasing, and continuity of government.” 

Nevada

  • Executive Order 006 — “Governor Steve Sisolak (D) issued an order allowing virtual meetings for government bodies.”

Puerto Rico

  • Legislative Action RCC 659 — “Allocates $500,000,000 to various government agencies to finance a portion of the first phase of the Strategic Plan to Reactivate Our Economy, Support Our Merchants, and Protect Our Workers, in response to the emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

How Your Local Government Can Respond as Employers

As mentioned in our previous article, the ways in which your local government agency can mitigate health risks to your employees are numerous. 

Some of the more standard strategies involve encouraging sick employees to stay home, upholding hygienic practices in the workplace, and taking advantage of teleworking options. 

Below are some additional considerations that were brought up both by OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and King County’s coronavirus pandemic guide for businesses and organizations

Social-Distancing

The majority of Americans are already practicing social-distancing in public, but there are other ways in which the practice can translate into the workplace beyond maintaining a minimum of 6-feet between yourself and others. 

As an employer, you can take measures to allow telecommuting wherever possible. However, not every individual has the necessary tools for remote work, so taking steps to ensure the availability of the relevant tech and infrastructure for telecommuting could go a long way. 

Depending on the structure of your organization, it may be worth permitting staggered shifts as another method of reducing person-to-person interaction. 

Prepare for Absenteeism 

Local government organizations should anticipate employee absences. These absences may result from an employee getting sick, having to care for a sick family member, or having to watch over children now that many have been dismissed from schools and daycare centers. 

Some employees may have family members who are immunocompromised and thus prefer to stay home lest they bring the disease back from work, while others still may remain home for fear of possible exposure to the virus. 

The loss of an employee who performs an essential function in your organization could bottleneck your day-to-day operations, so to prepare for this possibility, consider cross-training employees to perform these essential roles.

Keep your Workforce Educated on Treatment and Prevention

We shared some advice on this subject in our previous post, but its importance warrants reiteration. 

Your local government organization should be actively encouraging disease prevention behavior such as hand washing, sanitizing surfaces, avoiding the touching of the face, and staying home if feeling sick. 

Establishing Communication Protocol

During this period, it’s more important than ever to uphold high standards of communication in your workforce. 

A failure in communication could become the catalyst for breakdowns within your organization, the growth of false rumors, and even disintegration of trust and morale between team members.  

As an employer, it might be worth asking: 

  • How can you increase awareness of and support employees that are currently experiencing anxiety and fear during this health crisis?
  • What part can you play in the prevention of false rumors and misinformation circulating in your local government organization?
  • What can you and your leadership team do to keep your employees adequately informed regarding the latest health updates about the outbreak?

As a local government organization, it’s vital that you feel capable of handling this crisis to maintain the greater health and welfare of your local communities. We hope that the implementation of these provided strategies will bring you one step closer to that goal.

Adjusting to New Work Circumstances

The modern workplace has been shifting in significant ways for the better part of a decade due to innovations in technology, among other things. 

The current health crisis caused by COVID-19 has accelerated the pace at which organizations of all shapes and sizes have had to adapt to said innovations. 

If your local government agency has been struggling with the transition to remote work, we can assist you with our suite of cost-effective packages

Whether you’re working remotely for the first time or want to operate more efficiently in your current virtual workplace environment, our courses provide everything you need to thrive so that your agency can come out of this crisis in better shape than when it arrived.

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Preparing the Workplace for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Since its troubling December outbreak in Wuhan, China, the Coronavirus has gained more and more public awareness as it continues to spread across the world. 

The virus was declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization on January 31st, and the CDC, as well as other public health organizations, are expressing increasing concern regarding the disease. 

As a result, the CDC has henceforth issued travel notices encouraging people to take the necessary precautions when traveling to Hong Kong, Iran, and Italy, given the rise in COVID-19 cases within these countries. 

What is COVID-19 and how dangerous is it?

To be clear, the virus itself is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and it is responsible for the illness now known as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 

Coronaviruses are part of a larger group of viruses that are typically common among animals, and it is rare for them to spread from said animals to humans. Regardless, it has certainly found its way to our species. So, how do you know if you have it?  

Patients to date have typically expressed certain symptoms that range from mild to severe. 

Mild:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Dry cough

Severe:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Organ Failure

It’s worth noting that some people infected with the virus have only experienced a runny nose or sore throat, while others still haven’t shown any symptoms at all. 

Why? It’s likely because those individuals have stronger immune systems.

It was also reported that, among the 82 deaths that were linked to COVID-19 in Wuhan, 80% of the victims were over the age of 60, and 75% of them had health disorders that made them more vulnerable to the virus (high-blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc).

Strategies Employers can use to Prevent COVID-19 Infections in their Workplace

COVID-19’s impact hasn’t yet reached the levels of China or Italy in the U.S. but there’s still a concern that it could reach a pandemic stage here. Rather than trying to hastily react to the problem as it continues to spread, it’s best to take preventative steps to minimize risk as much as reasonably possible. 

Here are some steps that employers of local government organizations can take to keep their workplaces free of the outbreak:

Encourage sick employees to remain home

If any employees show signs of acute respiratory illness, it is recommended that they stay home and return only after their symptoms are gone. 

This may sound like common sense, but a recent Accountemps survey reported that 90% of employees will go into the office despite being unwell. 

Encourage clean hygiene in the workplace

We don’t mean simply bringing up clean hygiene during a Monday team meeting, but rather taking proactive steps to make it easy for members of the workplace to keep things clean.

This looks like providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles, providing alcohol-based hand rubs around the office, and doing routine wipe-downs of the most germ-ridden objects like keyboards, doorknobs, etc. 

Advise employees who are traveling to take preventative measures

It’s advised that employers ask their employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before and after traveling. 

Consider Teleworking Options

If the cause for concern is great enough in your area, it’s worth investigating the viability of teleworking options for your employees. Remote work is already gaining popularity in modern work culture, so for many, telecommuting wouldn’t be too drastic of a change. 

Attending meetings via video calls would allow employees who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, but still feel well enough to work, to interact with their coworkers and attend important discussions. This way, no one gets left behind. 

Reacting Appropriately in Light of the COVID-19 Outbreak

It is always important as employers of local government organizations to remember the rights of your employees and to protect them when necessary. One unfortunate impact of the spread of COVID-19 is the rise of anti-Chinese sentiments. 

People in countries including Malaysia, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Canada have all reported instances of anti-Chinese racism. A British citizen named Sam Phan wrote in the Guardian

“This week, my ethnicity has made me feel like I was part of a threatening and diseased mass. To see me as someone who carries the virus just because of my race is, well, just racist.”

For this reason, local government organizations should make sure that Chinese employees and American-Chinese employees are not discriminated against during this time of heightened tension. 

Because of these unfortunate incidents, it may be a good time to cover the anti-harassment policies of your organization or re-conduct the relevant training altogether.

If you don’t currently have the proper training materials or simply need some help getting started, our enterprise training solutions may come in handy. 

Our online courses provide a slew of convenient features that allow employees to go through training without slowing down their day-to-day. 

Does this sound like something you could use? If so, don’t hesitate to explore our available compliance and risk management courses here.

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Exploring State Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws in the Wake of #MeToo

It has been a few years since the #MeToo movement went viral across the United States. In response to the outcry for change, many states took action by passing legislation aiming to prevent future cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The impact of these legislative measures varies, ranging from laws that curtail the use of non-disclosure agreements to requiring sexual harassment prevention training within businesses. 

The purpose of this article is to inform you of which states are making changes now and in the near future so that employers can properly prepare local government organizations appropriately, and in so doing, avoid any hefty fines that follow noncompliance.  

Let’s take a look at the states which have made the most significant changes to their legislation.

Illinois 

On January 1st of this year, it became required for businesses in Illinois to provide annual training on how to identify and prevent acts of sexual harassment in the workplace as part of an omnibus bill called The Workplace Transparency Act. 

Companies that don’t comply with these legislative changes will be hit with potentially severe fines, ranging anywhere from $500 to $5000.

While it was initially required that businesses with at least 15 workers adhere to the law, on July 1st of 2020, it will change so that even a business limited to one worker will need to comply. 

Understandably, many employers have been caught in a panic trying to fill this training gap before the July 1st deadline. 

California

On January 1st, 2019, California passed three laws: SB 820, AB 3109, and SB 1300.

The stated purpose of these laws was to limit any employers’ efforts to prevent business disclosure information, especially when relating to unlawful acts and sexual harassment cases in the workplace. 

It’s also required that any employer that has five or more employees must provide preventative sexual harassment training to their staff.

The law was initially going to go into effect on January 1st, 2020, but that deadline has since been delayed to January 1st, 2021 in response to the business community voicing their need for more time.

Unlike its Illinois counterpart, this law will not require the training to occur on an annual basis. Instead, employers must repeat the training once every two years.

New York

Recent anti-sexual harassment laws prevent employers from including non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements as a way to resolve claims of sexual harassment. 

The recent legislation also prohibits New York employers from including provisions that mandate pre-dispute arbitration claims of sexual harassment within employee contracts.

The law also declares that any clauses in existing contracts that mandate arbitration of sexual harassment claims are null and void.  

As in Illinois, New York employers will be required to provide training annually.

Delaware

On January 1st, 2019, the Deleware law H.B. 360 went into effect, requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide interactive sexual harassment training and new employees must receive said training within one year of employment. 

The training would thereafter need to be repeated once every two years. Also as of January 1st, 2019, all Deleware employers are required to distribute sexual harassment notices to current employees and new employees at the beginning of employment. 

Maine

Although Maine has required employers to provide sexual harassment training for quite some time now, this state like others made a point to update its training laws in 2018, though the requirements are slightly different from other states that share similar laws. 

Maine’s anti-sexual harassment training laws require that employers with 15 or more employees must provide training to new employees subsequent to one year after hire.

Employers are also required to use a provided checklist during the training as a way to help define sexual harassment and to summarise the topics that each training covers.

Additional States

Although the states listed above have made the most substantial changes to their legislation regarding sexual harassment laws, there’s a total of 15 that have made initiatives in that direction.

  • 13 states have made laws that limit or prohibit employers from making it a requirement that employees sign a non-disclosure form as a condition for employment or as part of a settlement agreement.
  • Five states expanded the reach of workplace harassment protection to include interns, graduate students, and even independent contractors. 
  • Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Oregan extended their statute of limitations for filing a harassment claim. 
  • 11 states enacted anti-sexual harassment measures such as mandatory training and policy requirement for employers. 

Takeaways for Employers & Future Outlook

While the #MeToo movement may not be getting as much coverage as it did when it went viral in 2017, its impact is still present across the country.

A report created by the NWLC in July 2019, stated: 

“In October 2018, on the one-year anniversary of #MeToo going viral, nearly 300 organizations aligned against sexual harassment and sexual violence came together to call for strengthened protections against sexual harassment and violence at work, and schools, homes, and communities–demanding concrete advances in “20 states by 2020.”” 

For employers, this means that even if your state has yet to update its anti-sexual harassment laws, you can likely expect these changes to arrive at your doors in the near future. 

However, instead of waiting to change your policies in reaction to new legislation, why not take preemptive action? 

While each state will have its own requirements regarding anti-sexual harassment policy and training, we’ve created relevant courses that go above and beyond most minimum requirements for both management and employees. 

Like much of our quality online training material, these courses conveniently provide you with an assignment due-date configuration, email reminders, as well as full course completion status reporting whenever you need it. 

If this sounds like something you could use at your local government organization, feel free to view our available compliance and risk management courses.

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Meeting the Rising Demand for Data Science Professionals

 

If anything new has become apparent in the 21st century, it’s that data is eating the world at a faster pace than ever before. It’s estimated that internet users generate approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day, and that number is constantly rising. 

Projections suggest that by 2020, there will be 40 trillion gigabytes of data in existence. To provide even greater perspective, a 2017 study showed that 90% of all data present in the world today was generated only in the past 2 years. 

However, this data is unless there’s someone who can make sense of it. 

Companies are beginning to utilize big data to help make more calculated business decisions, and those who fail to do so may inevitably struggle to keep up with the modern age. 

This is why organizations all over the world are scrambling to fill their data science positions, a task that is uniquely difficult given the myriad of skills needed for an individual to fulfill the responsibilities of the role, such as: 

  • Python coding
  • Advanced statistics
  • Proficiency with the Hadoop Platform
  • SQL Database/Coding
  • Apache Spark
  • Machine learning and AI
  • Data visualization

And given the fact that data science as a field is still in its infancy, that list of needed skills will only continue to grow in size. 

Why Local Governments Need Data Scientists 

Big data is used for a multitude of tasks, from predicting hurricanes for pre-emptive evacuation to giving you appropriate recommendations on your Netflix feed. 

For local governments, big data can be used for making a variety of data-backed decisions that can help reduce traffic congestion, lower crime, improve the environment, and of course, make intelligent budgeting choices. 

Dubuque, Iowa, a city with a population of 58,000, took advantage of big data as early as 2009 during an effort that increased the city’s revenue by $18,000

Their local government managed to accomplish this by teaming with IBM to improve sustainability efforts by installing smart water meters in homes. 

It took time to gather the relevant data, but over time, they were able to learn how their homeowners used water.

They were able to find ways to make water usage more efficient in ways that would have been impossible without big data. 

This kind of impact isn’t limited to Dubuque, Iowa. Local and big governments around the world are making the choice to create a foundation for intelligent decision making via their investment in big data and data scientists. 

Can Organizations Fill the Need for Data Scientists?

Although the benefits of big data are plenty, local governments won’t be getting any of them unless they acquire people equipped with the skills and experience needed to analyze and understand the data. 

It’s become more and more apparent that a career in data science is becoming increasingly promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that there will be nearly 30% growth in the field of data science in the coming years.

The result of this projected growth means the creation of nearly 50,000 jobs in the field of data science, most of these jobs filling the needs of private and government organizations. 

The incentives for individuals to develop the skills for data science are not exactly lacking, either. According to Glassdoor, “data scientist” is the highest-paying entry-level job within the USA, the median base salary starting at $95,000.

Although there’s projected growth in this field, many organizations are still in great need of talent today. And for many local governments and businesses, their need for data scientists is simply too great to wait any longer. 

For this reason, many organizations are turning to in-house training to develop their own talent. Doing this is often difficult and time-consuming unless a third-party is brought in to assist with the training, which in itself may end up hurting their budget. 

Individuals within their organizations can go back to school to acquire the relevant skills, but school is more expensive than ever, and many people–especially professionals–don’t have the time to invest in college classes given that they’re already entrenched in their present careers. 

An ideal solution would be a training program available online and on-demand, allowing individuals to learn at their own pace while providing a solid framework that’s cost-effective for individuals as well as organizations.

The good news is that you’re experiencing that solution at this very moment, 

Enterprise Training has an extensive list of Information Technology courses that cover a variety of topics including Apache, Blockchain, MySQL, and so much more. 

ETS learners gain access to over 60 state and national affiliations, as well as accreditation courses, and we also offer IT certifications to solidify your expertise in the data science field. 

If you’re interested in positioning yourself for a promising career in data science while making a positive impact in your organization and the world, begin your training today from the comfort of your own home. 

Experience the proven, easy-to-use, and cost-effective benefits of online training by scheduling your free online training consultation today!

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