Tag Archives: work-life balance

Why Your Employees Plan To Quit in 2014 (& How To Stop Them!)

Roughly 21 percent of full-time employees plan to change jobs this year, reports Yahoo News about new research from CareerBuilder. Can your firm afford a one-quarter employee turnover?

Citing over dissatisfaction with their job, chances to be promoted, and work-life balance, this is the largest expected turnover since the recession, post 2008. Last year, just 17 percent of full-time employees planed to change jobs.

According to the CareerBuilder, among those who were unhappy with their job, 58 percent plan to leave in 2014, citing concerns over salary and feeling unvalued.

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” writes Chad Brooks, a BusinessNewsDaily contributor.

In fact, of the 79 percent of employees who do not plan to leave their jobs in 2014, many cite work-life balance satisfaction—also a contributor to job unhappiness—as the source.

So if positive work-life balance leads employees to stay with their firm, and negative work-life balance motivates employees to leave it, isn’t it time your law firm reevaluate its policies and perks?

Many companies, including law firms, have accepted the advantages (and disadvantages) of offering Flex scheduling.

This may mean working one day per week, or every two weeks, remotely.

“I work a four-day week which is incredibly valuable, and I’ve been really encouraged to see that some of my male colleagues have switched to working flexibly so that they can meet the demands of a young family,” says Lauma Skruzmane about her city law job to The Telegraph.

“For me, this also underlines the fact that balancing work and family is not to be branded a ‘women’s’ issue, but it is a challenge that all parents, or other careers, face.”

But parents aren’t the only demographic looking for flexible hours.

Working from home can be a relief for anyone. Perhaps your law office is experiencing temporary negativity in its corporate culture. Maybe the office has become of hub for gossip or distraction.

Whatever the reason, traditional workspaces may not be the most productive environment for all your associates. Allow them to take advantage of new media and technology, which often means anybody can be digitally anywhere at any time.

A healthy work-life balance also means adequate exercise.

Sign your firm up with a local gym. Give your employees incentive to work out at lunch or after dinner. Exercise will help improve efficiency and productivity among your staff by relaxing the brain and increase endorphins in the body.

Finally, lead by example. Take coffee breaks. Make time for face-to-face visits with your employees. And, don’t miss your child’s first student bake-sale because you felt obligated to stay an extra hour at the office.

Let you employees take five every once in awhile or risk taking their two-weeks notice.

While for many companies’ increases remain conservative for the coming year, employers still need to keep their organizations competitive. The strategy going forward is to wring every last drop of positivity out of the raises for their people, and turn to alternate methods, like enhanced reward programs, to increase engagement, boost productivity, and improve overall work-life balance.

If you’re an HR or compensation professional, the salary information in this comprehensive webinar will provide you with the tools you need to prepare your budgets for 2014 and keep pay competitive.

Our compensation experts will also provide you with an in-depth look at 2013 compensation spending and anticipated 2014 compensation trends, projections, challenges, and alternatives, including:

  • Trends and statistics: Base pay data for a variety of industries, regions and employee groups
  • Competitive intelligence: Insight into how other companies make pay decisions and best practices
  • Future state: Outline of what companies are planning for 2014 and beyond

Take the course here today!

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Lawyer Moms Can Do It All? Entreprelawyers Welcome Here.

Watch out female lawyers, the bar has been set for working moms.

Havona Madama, attorney at law turned entrepreneur, started out as an associate for a small insurance firm in Chicago.  Then, she started her own practice specializing in emerging technologies. Now, she’s a multiple start-up business owner in Brooklyn, New York.

“I didn’t realize how many day-to-day things entrepreneurs do when I was working mostly as a lawyer and sometimes as an entrepreneur. Now that it’s the other way around, it’s like “oh, wow! It’s an interesting combination of skills you need to be a full-time entrepreneur,” Madama said in an interview (link to video here) with Spencer Mazyck of Bloomberg Law.

Working with high-tech entrepreneurs everyday at the law office may have made it easier for Madama to open her own home office.

Initially, Madama started with a toddler clothing line, Dulcet Clothiers, all the while running her own partnership law firm full-time.

As her daughter grew and became more active, Madama started to look for family-friendly workouts. She created a yoga video for moms with children under three, who are still too young to go to formal classes.

Thus Tuesdays At Ten was born, an umbrella organization under which she could form more companies, including her most successful, KidKlass. KidKlass is an aggregator app and website for kid’s classes in Brooklyn, New York.

Constantly looking to learn and grow as a person, Madama was motivated to provide the same for her daughter. But, finding children’s classes, recreational and educational services in New York was both time-consuming and frustrating.

In today’s “generation waiting list,” Madama was looking to take the stress out of parenting.

It takes a lot of time to find local classes, recommendations from other parents about these classes, and ways to register officially online, as opposed to lengthy paper applications in-person.

It was then that Madama made the switch between full-time lawyer to full-time entrepreneur.

Is this a total abandonment of law? Not really.

“The kinds of clients I work with respect what I’m doing,” explains Madama.

Should she ever go back to practicing, her entrepreneur clients might value her experience even more highly. First-hand knowledge of what it takes to run a household (for family lawyers), a Fortune-500 firm (for corporate lawyers), or an insurance company (for litigants) is critical.

In fact, more lawyers should practice what they preach.

So, don’t be afraid to volunteer with your local non-profit organization to see the ins-and-outs of running a small, non-profit firm. When you go back to your not-for-profit clients, you may bring more compassion in addition to expertise to the negotiating table.

If you’re working on a contentious financial merger between two companies, spend a day shadowing the CEO of each company. Or, better yet, become a customer and watch how the day-to-day operations are handled on either end. You’ll have, at least, a bit more insight to why there’s so much emotion, as well as technical complexity, at play.

Finally, if you’re a hiring manager, don’t dismiss the non-legal experience of the incoming freshman class of associates. First, employment opportunities for young lawyers have been scare. And, secondly, experience beyond textbooks and courtrooms might—in the end—make it into both.

If a lawyer can successfully transition to be an entrepreneur, don’t underestimate the value of an entrepreneurial mind wishing to become a lawyer.

If your firm is ready to push their limits, encourage your associates to come up with profitable business ideas. Become your own venture capital firm and fund the best business ideas of your employees (at a percentage ownership and margin, of course).

The job market is in transition. Hybrid lawyers are abound. Embrace the entreprelawyer.


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Work-Life Balance, A Reality? Curbing Resentment Among The Single Vs. Married-With-Children Ranks

For years, the married-with-children attorneys at law firms had an unspoken hall-pass that allowed them to leave school early, get notes from the other kids, and generally put in a few less hours of homework a day, and all the while maintaining equal rank with their single counterparts.

But, today, a more draconian economic environment has made billable hours the only measure for advancement in the workplace. Do the time and thus reap the benefits.

In the modern world, there’s less leniency for those who have chosen a level work-life balance that favors family over the firm.

So, when offices decide to champion work-life balance programs, the end result is often an uneven distribution of reward and, consequently, conflict among the ranks.

“Many Americans who work for companies that embrace flexible hours are confronting a sort of office class warfare,” The New York Times reports.

“Some employees have come to expect that the demands of their children, in particular, will be accommodated—and not all of their colleagues are happy about it.”

The NYT article cites the story of a 31-year-old associate, Megan, at a large law firm in Washington, D.C. Megan was forced to pick up the slack for a more senior attorney who had a part-time schedule due to child and family commitments.

Megan, married without children, managed the entire legal matter—and admittedly gained valuable experience—but soon found that the senior lawyer took all the credit.

“If the woman I was working with had said to me, ‘I’m going to be checked out, can you run everything?’ I would have been fine with that,” Megan told the NYT. Yet, the reality is poorly managed flextime programs can end up benefiting some to the detriment of others.

Deborah Epstein Henry, founder of Flex-Time Lawyers, told the NYT that resentment among those forced to cover for other employees is common. “It’s the reason that a lot of work-life balance programs fail,” Henry replied.

“In an ideal world, no one else is saddled with more work if their colleague works a reduced schedule.”

What can law firms do to encourage a productive and happy work-life balance among employees, but curb any ensuing resentment?

Most lawyers would argue that billable hours and bringing in business are the two most important measures for advancement within the practice of law.

And, many law firms create a culture around this idea. Hard work is rewarded through career development and bonus structures.

However, if your firm is uncomfortable with this cutthroat environment, create a clear policy outlining expectations for your associates—of all levels.

For your flextime employees, assign one employee to manage the schedules for everyone. This way, gaps are filled and no single person picks up the slack.

In addition, make hour and work product requirements clear from the outset of any flexible schedule program. Make these requirements (and the fact that your employees are meeting the requirements) transparent to the entire office.

Accommodate your married-with-children and single associates equally. For example, don’t scoff at a request by a single associate for vacation time taken in, say, Bali, when other married associates are also taking time off, but to explore the Grand Canyon with their children.

Require that employees take 100 percent of their vacation time and don’t judge how they spend it.

That being said, don’t excuse inferior hours or work quality in those associates with families. In the end, it’s up to the individual to juggle his home and work obligations while producing, in the least, a minimum required standard of excellence.

For those associates who seem to be struggling, arrange a meeting with the firm administrator to discuss options. Don’t let the first conversation between manager and employee occur during performance review time once a year.

As a law firm manager, keep track of and care about the continued success of your associates. Be mindful of time management issues.

Speak to employees about where they see their work and commitment to the firm in comparison to their peers. And, let them know where in the chain link you perceive their performance to be as well.

Sometimes just the appearance of an even hand is enough to curb resentment at your firm.


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How Women In Law Can Have It All (With A Little Help From Your Firm)

It’s a fact that law firms struggle with gender bias issues. A dual sex workplace inevitably yields questions concerning harassment, wage gaps, and equal paths to partnership.

Within the gender debate, women dominate. After all, it’s the woman who bears offspring, takes maternity leave, and then has years left of biologically-intertwined medical needs with her children.

Law firms worry about hiring young women—aspiring mothers—and, they’re not in the wrong.

Female lawyers are often the first to give up their post in favor of family.

Naturally, having children brings with it a set of new demands and time constraints that certain jobs can’t afford. Plus, being a stay-at-home mom is still a highly respected profession in America.

Julie Turaj speaks out proudly for those former attorneys turned mothers, saying to Parents Magazine, “A job will always be there, but kids grow up in the blink of an eye.”

“I had a demanding job. In one year, I pulled 16 all-nighters and often worked entire weekends. It wasn’t just the long hours that got to me-the pressure was enormous too. I was planning on going part-time after Kaitlyn was born, but I knew even that would be hard to manage.”

As a female attorney, does the story sound familiar?

Of course, Mrs. Turaj expects to work again. But, when she does, it won’t be back in her former corporate office. She says, “I’d like to practice a more emotionally satisfying kind of law, such as being a victims’ advocate or working at a nonprofit agency.”

“My goal is to leave the world a better place—and I’m starting with my children.”

An admirable goal that many women share. Although these parents seem quite satisfied in their choices, law firms decidedly are not.

Firms lose valuable employees year after year in a time when training and rehiring comes at a significant cost. In addition, senior attorneys spend time and effort to mentor and shape associates into future leaders only to discover female attorneys are quitting to do the same (for the next generation).

The idea that the glass roof hasn’t shattered or that women still face difficult career choices is evident in articles like Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent piece in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and rejoinders like Froma Harrop’s “News Flash: No One Can Have It All”.

Yet, men and women are still opting to give two-career marriages a try.

In fact, the percentage of two-income married couples rose 31% in the U.S. from 1996 to 2006. Now, 47.5% of all American married couples are dual-career couples, cites the Harvard Business Review Blog.

Ultimately, female attorneys—like all women in high-powered positions—would like to have their cake and eat it, too. But it’s a team effort.

In marriage, articles like Jackie Coleman and John Coleman’s piece for the HBR Blog, “How Two-Career Couples Stay Happy,” explain how spouses can manage the expectations of their partners when it comes to communication, children, and work.

However, creating a successful work-life balance that accommodates family is not the sole responsibility of married couples. Law firms and corporations play a role in keeping their employees happy because retaining the firm’s most productive associates is a sound business strategy, not just a social service.

Countless studies reveal that great places to work are also the most productive places to work. While this should not come as a surprise, it’s quite surprising that companies and law firms are still slow to adjust to the aforementioned, famous gender issue.

So, here are four simple steps to help retain your female lawyers. It’s not about changing their minds, asking them to raise billable hours and not children. The idea is that mothers—and fathers—can, actually, have it all with your help. Here’s how.

1. Employ Flex Time

Stop fighting the trend. Flex time has been proven again and again to be both an asset to the employee and to the firm.

The 2011 Best Law Firms for Women looked at firms with written reduced hour policies and firms who offered full-time telecommuting. In addition to mentoring circles specifically for women, the working mother’s stated need is flexible schedules. There you have it.

Where Flex time fails is the uneven enforcement and one-size-fits-all policy. Develop a policy that is as elastic as the hours you keep.

The written policy should, however, include parameters for making partner while on the telecommuting path; a coordinator who becomes the point of contact between flex-lawyers and the firm; and a method for tracking and monitoring work product, billable hours, and client satisfaction for those telecommuting attorneys.

2. Give Summer Vacation

Children have summer vacation, so why not parents? It’s important that families spend time together during the holidays, so consider giving extra time off during the summer to all your employees.

Not only does summer vacation correspond with school schedules for kids, but also any lawyer would enjoy (and benefit from) an annual break. Employees will come back refreshed and refocused on casework.

Plus, you’ll find parents trying to take off early anyhow—this way, your firm can preempt the problem and balance the work schedules of its associates to ensure clients are fully covered.

3. Create A Kid Space In The Office

Some firms offer childcare services. But, if your firm is not prepared for this option, or can’t afford it, consider creating a kid space, instead.

A kid space can be a place where older children do homework, play games, or hang out safely while their parents finish up work. A kid space allows working parents to drop by and actually visit with their children before bedtime without leaving the office.

Having an area and even a single room devoted to children also sends the message to female (and male) employees that your firm is family-friendly.

4. Embrace Short-Term Losses For Long-Term Gain

Finally, the reality of working parents means law firms often sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gain. An absence of a senior attorney for six-months to a year on maternity leave may cost your firm, but losing a valuable employee totally—their potential for partnership or bringing in new clients in the future—is far more catastrophic.

Or, allowing an important associate a few years of part-time status to gain their full-time return later may seem costly now. But, it will certainly redouble in benefits when the individual’s loyalty and appreciation for your firm’s flexibility shows up in superior work product and case knowledge in the future.

Don’t forget that each time an employee leaves and another’s rehired, salaries tend to jump. Retention keeps costs low, employee satisfaction high, and parenting attorneys happy.

In the end, if you make families a priority, your firm will become one.


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Curbing The Compulsion To Always Say “Yes” & Redefining Workplace Priorities

Remember when recruiters told you to say “yes” when asked about certain abilities?

“Yes, I can use that software.” And, “yes, I feel comfortable in a managing position.”

They were not lies per se, rather exaggerations. After all, you had plenty of time to learn these new skills once you were hired.

Today, your deficiencies may have caught up with you. If not, your compulsion to gratuitously say “yes” certainly will.

The American workforce is obsessed with the word, “yes.” When your supervisor asks questions, employees assume that their statements are rhetorical.

Can you stay late tonight? Yes, of course. Can you come in this weekend? Yes, absolutely. Do you want replace all your personal and familial priorities in favor of professional ones? Wait a minute here….

Changing your priorities is the subject of Greg McKeown’s article for the Harvard Business Review Blog, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will.”

In the article, McKeown reminisces on the day after his daughter’s birth. A day he missed in order to attend a business meeting at the request of his boss.

“As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. And even if the client had respected my choice, and key business opportunities had resulted, I would still have struck a fool’s bargain,” he recounts.

“My wife supported me and trusted me to make the right choice under the circumstances, and I had opted to deprioritize her and my child.”

But it doesn’t always have to be a fight to balance priorities in life and work. In part, McKeown’s story is a reminder that individuals are responsible for their own choices. Sure, firm managers and supervisors will put on the pressure. Nevertheless, it’s always been our choice—even in the workplace—to say no.

So, why is it so hard to say no?

Office culture often promulgates the notion that the boss is always right. When he says jump, you ask how high or how far, even when it’s off a cliff. Associates and employees often lose sight, in these instances, of common sense.

In addition to office culture, the English language is a culprit.

McKeown points out that we frequently use the term “have to” when it comes to work assignments. The truth is, few tasks in life or at work qualify under the have-to situation.

Perhaps, “it would be best if” describes, more appropriately, how employees can feel. But again, the culpability is shared. Managers and supervisors in a position of power also have a choice to make.

As a law firm manager or managing partner, it’s easy to get carried away with directives. Yes, your job is to delegate. No, it’s not to dictate.

As a leader, you should create a culture of equality—not just of gender or race—but of yeses and nos. Allow your employees to refuse meetings or assignments when it’s the right thing to do. Family, career path, and mental health should, at times, come first for your employees.

When an associate politely dismisses a task, don’t forget to ask and understand the reasons why. Respect and communication must go two ways, even if the hierarchy technically flows in your direction.

Otherwise, you may find that your employees will take McKeown’s advice and avoid working for or with people who don’t respect their priorities.

“There are people who share your values and as a result make it natural to live your priorities,” McKeown writes.

“It may take a while to find an employment situation like this, but you can set your course to that destination immediately.”

In reverse, as the associate, don’t let language become a barrier. Learn how to communicate with due respect and courtesy when it comes time to prioritize family occasions over work ones.

Language is a tricky business. People tend to understand the meanings of the words “yes” and “no”. But, few know the correct usage for employing them.


As a manager, learn how to maximize employee performance without adding stress to the workplace with The Center For Competitive Management’s audio conference on July 13, 2012, 11:00 AM To 12:15 PM Eastern time.

Sign up for “Leadership Methods to Maximize Employee Performance” here.

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Turning The Smartphone Off & Still Satisfying The Client

How many times have you been at the movies and snuck out to take a work call?

Or, had the win of a big sports game spoiled because you were unable to watch it? How many times have you cancelled on an important date with the (potential) man of your dreams because work ran late (again) in the evening?

Professionals in high-powered, high-stakes industries, like law or medicine or finance, live at the office or by their phones. The constant struggle to achieve an adequate work-life balance always tips in favor of the former.

These over-worked, over-stressed professionals often wonder: what would it be like to have just one night off?

Well, that’s the exact the experiment Leslie A. Perlow ran at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and discussed in her new book, Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work.

It turns out, Perlow’s experiment improved not just employees’ work lives, but also the effectiveness and efficiency of the work process itself (read, Harvard Gazette).

The experiment implemented a process called “PTO.” It creates predictable time off for employees. “Time off” aptly implies, no computer and no phone for work purposes.

Employees on the same project team schedule time off on different days so that one person will cover for the other, and so that no project is left completely unattended.

“The happy result for BCG was that individuals engaged in PTO experiments were more likely to see themselves at the firm for the long term (58 percent versus 40 percent) and were more likely to perceive that they were providing significant value to their clients (95 percent versus 84 percent),” writes Perlow in her book.

Employees took their free night off to go to the gym, spend time with their families, or make up for much needed rest.

One night off per week, where a person’s eyes and ears were not in tune 100 percent to their blackberries, made a noticeable difference in the participants’ home lives—in terms of increased happiness—and work lives—in terms of productivity.

“The experiment created an open culture where the biggest value wasn’t the fact that I was getting a Tuesday night off, it was that we were a team trying to address work-life issues,” said Bob in Perlow’s book about the experiment. Bob was originally skeptical of the plan.

Today, all skepticism is put aside. The successful PTO program is currently in place in hundreds of BCG teams globally.

“This modest experiment generated such powerful results—not just for individuals’ work-lives but for the team’s work process and ultimately the client—that the experiment was expanded to more and more of BCG’s teams. Four years later, over nine hundred BCG teams from thirty countries on five continents had participated,” writes Perlow in her book.

Ultimately, the success of the PTO program lay in its ability to raise dialogue and team communication about work-life balance issues.

Also, once a place for structured dialogue was established, the PTO program boosted collaboration among teams, as team members helped to cover one another’s nights off, while satisfying the needs of their client.

In the end, the PTO program was also a great success for the client, according to BCG’s results.

For the management consulting industry, the experiment changed the way large, traditional firms perceived work culture.

It suddenly seemed possible to work for a big corporation and—once in awhile—leave work at the office and off the smartphone.

“By starting with one small, doable change—a unit of predicable time off each week—team members discover that challenging the way it is and the way they have presumed it has to be is not as inconceivable as they as they once believed.”

And, it doesn’t “have to be” that way for law, either.


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Stuck In A Rut? Revitalize Your Law Career By Learning To Unicycle (For Example)

Sometimes it’s difficult to get up in the morning. The sweet aroma of coffee brewing is just not enough to squelch the pounding in your head caused by today’s 6am alarm.

Maybe it was last night’s late hours working, encroaching deadlines, or the unexpected morning meeting that’s keeping you down.

Or, maybe your excessive sleepiness and general lack of motivation is a sign that you’re stuck in a rut.

According to Lesly Cardec at the Levo League, you might be stuck in a professional rut if:

  • Your work is no longer challenging.
  • You can’t remember the last time you learned something new.
  • You haven’t been asked to take on something new.
  • You have lost the motivation to learn.
  • You no longer feel passionate about what you do.

If any of these statements hit a little too close to home (and can’t be classified as Friday afternoon blues), then you may need to make a change in your career choices.

But where to start?

Ruts represent negative, cyclical behavior reinforced by the inability to find a point of departure. Translation? With so much overwhelming you at work, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Simplify the problem.  What is the one part of your day with which you are most dissatisfied? Tackle one problem at a time.

If you are starting to dread mornings, introduce a new morning habit. For example, instead of rushing straight to work, try reading the paper, a book, or a blog at your neighborhood coffee shop for a half an hour. Start small. This way, when you wake up in the morning, you have an activity, storyline, or cup of Joe to look forward to.

If it’s more sleep you’re after, set a bedtime. In the same way that you put your kids to sleep, put yourself in bed, too. No matter what work has yet to be completed, your best hope for professional productivity and efficiency is to be well rested.

Be a beginner. Most people derive pleasure out of doing something new—a hobby, or project, or language, for example. So, become a beginner again. Sign up for those culinary classes or take that rusty bike for a ride. Buy your first unicycle.

If you can’t get motivated to learn, then find a partner in crime. Ask your husband or wife what hobby they’ve always wanted to do. Then, do it together. For a while, you’ll be borrowing somebody else’s enthusiasm—second-hand stoke—until you discover the exact pastime that interests you.

Choose a friend, family member, or loved one unassociated with your job. That way, you feel recharged and relaxed without feeling tempted to discuss work.

Find a career challenge. Now that you’ve identified some issues in your personal life and made active changes in your activities and routine for the better, it’s time to apply this newfound energy to your career.

What is the wrench in your chain at work? Write down as many solutions to the problem as you can think of—the crazier the better! Consider the list, and implement the simplest, most reasonable solution (after all, you do still work at a law firm, not the zoo).

Next, become a beginner. Learn about new features of your online legal research program, e-discovery software, legal apps for the iPhone or iPad, and other gadgetry. Sign up for a legal technology, innovation, or leadership conference.

At work, you’ve now solved one problem and started something new. How does that feel?

Hopefully small steps in the right direction will get you out of your professional rut. And, by improving your habits and lifestyle at home first, you may rekindle passion for your career without any professional changes at all.

Nonetheless, ameliorating aspects of your personal life will certainly help motivate you to improve your professional one, and to find a perfect balance between the two.


Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profits as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.

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