The Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business’ Seventh Annual Business Symposium on March 19 kicked off with Norm Nixon’s keynote address and continued throughout the day in breakout sessions led by world-class speakers who addressed critical topics relevant to today’s businesses.
During the “Dealing with Mental Illness in the Workplace” morning session, a panel comprised of experts including Diana Ketterman, author of “A Child of Royalty,” therapist Minda D. McCabe, LCSW, BCD, and Jorge Gutierrez, chief executive officer of the BMOC Group, spoke on the characteristics of workers dealing with mental illness and the appropriate responses employers can take to support their employees. The panel discussed various topics including employee assistance programs (EAPs), which are designed to help employees early on in their struggle with mental health; mental illnesses’ impact on productivity; and community support resources for persons dealing with a mental crisis. According to the panel, one in four workers experience mental illness, and that mental illness costs employers more than $60 billion dollars annually.
The Lunch & Learn portion of the day offered several session options, including “Millennials in the Workforce: How to Adapt” presented by Chelsea Varney, a business analyst for AIG. Varney spoke about the unique aspects of the tech-savvy millennial generation, such as the need for constant feedback, immediacy, the use of alternative forms of communication (FaceTime, Skype over email) and a desire for progress and promotion. Varney also claimed that millennials want flexibility and transparency in their employment situation. The presentation clarified who exactly is a millennial (20-to-30-somethings born after 1984), how to overcome generational differences through mentorships and reverse mentorships, and emergent technologies that may help change the workplace in the future for all generations.
The day started well for Nancy Tilson Sinback, executive officer of the Top of Virginia Building Association, based in Winchester, Virginia, who was impressed with the event from the keynote onwards. “I really enjoyed Norman Nixon’s talk. Although I don’t know the first thing about basketball, everything he said was relatable to me in a business sense. I also found particularly interesting ‘Millennials in the Workforce: How to Adapt,’ by Ms. Varney, since we’re all seeking to create a multigenerational workforce.”
Jeremy Sanders, graphic designer at SpecialMade Goods & Services in Winchester, Virginia, hit a number of breakout sessions, including “Social Media Strategies,” “Dress for Success,” and “Marketing to the New Cultural Reality.” “I found ‘Marketing to a New Cultural Reality’ interesting because it focused on the Millennial generation – people born between 1981 and 2000. The session attendees were a mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. It focused on the inherent characteristics and stereotypes for Millennials and how to best capture that audience in your marketing efforts.”
A session offered twice during the day touched on one of the most important free marketing tools for businesses today, social media. In “Social Media Strategies,” Sabine Grant, CEO and co-founder of LSi Media, spoke on the importance of growing a business’ social ecosystem. Grant advocated for the adoption of several social networks, most notably Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Blogger, Pinterest and Instagram. She discussed the importance of writing content with keywords (words that searchers most often use to find a website) and creating backlinks (links on other sites that return users to a website) through smart, curative blogging and posting on social media sites. These techniques help boost a website’s search engine optimization (SEO), thereby boosting a page ranking (where a page sits during a user’s keyword search).
Lisa Prodywus, marketing coordinator for Winchester, Virginia-based regional accounting firm Yount, Hyde & Barbour (YHB), said she found Grant’s session particularly valuable, especially its focus on using keywords in marketing materials and the advice, as well as the information, she gleaned on both improving the content and reach of blog posts and bringing additional value to customers from all social sites.
Photos: Jason López and Jon Graham