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If you’re a board member of an organisation, do you know how to relate to management? You know you’re supposed to oversee their work, but how should you do so? Micromanage? Hands-off? Should you involve them in discussions? How should you relay board deliberations? Do you apply them at all in major decisions? Or perhaps a need to know basis? In this guide we examine how the board should oversee the executive team.
Boards and management – who makes what decisions?
Let’s start with the obvious – management reports to the board. The board’s decisions always outrank management’s.
But what kinds of decisions should each group make?
The board generally makes high-level decisions, and management makes low-level decisions. The board’s decisions fall mainly into four categories:
• HR-related decisions, especially CEO succession;
• financial decisions, like capital allocation;
• strategy and mergers & acquisitions; and
• governance decisions relating to organisational structure.
On the other hand, management typically implements the board’s vision, so their decisions tend to be tactical and operational. In other words, management will determine how to put into practice the actual vision of the board.
To take one example, the board is responsible for ensuring the organisation’s financial viability. If the revenues are not keeping pace with expenses, the board needs to take action in some meaningful way (maybe replacing the CEO, for example). However, it’s the responsibility of management to ensure that the organisation maintains its financial footing on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, the financial buck stops with the board, but it’s management’s job to keep the ship afloat.
Work to achieve the same vision
If you’ve ever been on a board or in a management position, you know the two sides don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to what the organisation is about. This is not always because there’s an inherent problem with the two groups. It’s usually just because board members are not involved in the organisation’s day-to-day activities and therefore don’t see what the management sees with the same regularity.
Acknowledging that this inherent tension exists is the first step toward success since that removes the impugning of sinister motives by either side. Still, both groups need to work toward the same vision. According to Carol Stephenson, the board’s main job is to establish a compelling vision for the organisation, “a vision that recognises that a company has a purpose as part of a larger community.” More than that, for the sake of company morale, management needs to embrace the vision as well. If everyone in the organisation–board, management, employees–can get behind a shared vision, spirits will be improved, and productivity will likely go through the roof.
Oversee management without micromanaging
So far, we’ve established that boards should make high-level decisions, be on the same page with management, and oversee without micromanaging. Easy task, right?
First, the board must communicate to management regularly, do so honestly, and deliver both good and bad news without reservation.
Especially if an important decision is on the horizon, communication from the board to management should be done early and often. One of the quickest ways to kill morale is for management (and employees) to be blindsided by a consequential decision. Imagine a round of layoffs or a reorganisation with little to no notice from the board. The spirits of the whole organisation can be ruined with that kind of communication strategy.
For example, Nvidia empowers employees to give back to communities via its Inspire 365 Initiative. The company matches employees’ personal gifts all year round and encourages staff to volunteer during off-hours.
Additionally, Nvidia involves employees from the onboarding stage, presenting them with donation vouchers for a charity of their choice and monthly challenges for acts of kindness across various settings.
Based on Nvidia’s 2023 Financial Year Report, the company has successfully contributed more than $25 million through its combined donation efforts, collaborating with over 5,000 nonprofits across 50 countries.
Provide safe spaces for constructive criticism
Perhaps more importantly, allow for regular input from management on issues that matter. Again, this is a management principle that applies to anyone in leadership. Not only should you allow managers to solve their problems (with guidance), you should enable them to provide meaningful input into high-level decisions.
As board members, you make the final call. But you do so at your peril if you build a wall around your boardroom, resisting any ideas that might come from management. Not only will you diminish the management team, but you’ll also be excluding viewpoints from people who know more than you do about the organisation’s day-to-day functions.
Again, while you as a board member have the final say, you don’t know everything, and you don’t always have the correct opinion. Your perspective is limited, and you don’t always see everything you need to see to make the right call. That’s not your fault.
• invite management into low-stakes feedback sessions
However, when you set it up, ensure that management feels free to share its views without fear of recrimination. The goal is to gain valuable feedback and not create a threatening environment. Also, be sure to act on at least some of the feedback you receive. That way, your efforts to solicit feedback won’t be panned as empty gestures.
In conclusion, then, it’s clear that board-management relations are vital to the health of any organisation. And while there are many ways to damage those relations, if you follow these best practices, you’ll be well on your way to organisational happiness.
You're reading How The Board Should Oversee The Executive Team
How can the board ensure good corporate governance? If you’re a director and not asking this question, start now!
A board’s duty is to steer an organisation to success. Providing good corporate governance is the duty of every board member, and a board is only as good as the directors who sit around the table. So, what makes an effective board member? What traits should they have?
How can the board ensure good corporate governance?
The board’s effectiveness will dictate how the organisation functions in the long run. This means that the individual members of the board need a set of attributes that will allow them to provide proper stewardship and guidance and help the management team deliver on their strategic goals.
Let us examine some of the behavioural attributes that make an effective board member and director.
Being passionate about the business or a specific area of expertise is essential for a company director. A complete buy-in to the organisation’s mission, vision, values, and ethos will motivate people to give their best. Being passionate about the business will also help connect better with the other board members and the executive team.
All directors should possess a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. What was relevant in 2010 might not be applicable in 2023. There is a need to learn, unlearn and evolve constantly, and this is only possible with an innate sense of curiosity.
A director needs to ask the right questions and evaluate the short term and long term consequences when making a decision. It is not about having the correct answers all the time but focussing on the process of figuring out the solutions through critical interrogation and being curious helps immensely with this.
Successful directors can articulate their thoughts and opinions in a structured and straightforward way; they can tailor the content of their communication to the target audience and get their point across succinctly. Specific topics at board meetings can be controversial at times, and having the competency to navigate them using good communication is key to success. A confident director who can communicate their opinions clearly can help the organisation make better choices at solving problems or capitalising on opportunities.
No one director can be an expert on all subject matters. Hence it becomes highly imperative that a director listens to their colleagues when it comes to the conversations about the business. Other directors will contribute ideas/critiques from their area of expertise, and it is vital to include all their inputs when making a decision.
Proper listening at board meetings will also unearth some unarticulated business needs. Good listening coupled with curiosity to ask the right questions can lead to successful decision making in the boardroom.
There have been several incidents in the past where board members have been unethical, and it has negatively impacted their careers and the reputation of the organisation they represent. This is unfortunately prevalent in both for-profits as well as for-purpose organisations. A few examples of unethical behaviour are insider trading, embezzlement of donor monies, and overstating revenue and profits to lure investors.
As Potter Stewart puts it, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do” It is imperative that a director is highly ethical and does the right things without breaking the law. The tone for ethics in the organisation is set at the top.
There are times when the management team might be motivated by short term incentives like share price or performance-based compensation. It is the responsibility of the board to make them think long term. An effective director will focus on thinking strategically over a three to five year period and not focus too much on the next quarter or two.
Boards are incentivised to think longer-term and put strategies in place to execute the long term vision of the organisation. This long term thinking will help an organisation widen its moat and reinvest profits in growing its business.Stay compliant, stay competitive
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Changes in the industry and business can have a massive impact on a company’s short, medium, and long-term strategy. The organisation’s strategy must foresee some of these changes and should be able to withstand and thrive when the environment has changed.
As Michael Porter says, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do“. There are several competing priorities for a business that requires attention and resources, and at some level, all decisions made by Boards are resource allocation decisions.
A good company director will prioritise all decisions that have the most impact on the business, and frequently this means choosing only to execute a few things amongst many competing priorities. The ability to focus is hugely valuable in the boardroom to ensure good corporate governance.
Being on a board is time-consuming. Board meetings and committee meetings require a lot of preparation time, and a director should be good at managing their time effectively. There is nothing worse than turning up for a board meeting without reviewing the papers and being prepared for discussions. Time management is crucial for a director to be successful.
As Malcolm Forbes puts it, “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together“. Diversity can manifest in many forms – people on the team, gender, race, thoughts, opinions, ideas, and a successful director needs to embrace diversity. This would also mean working with people from various backgrounds, building meaningful relationships at work, championing inclusion efforts, and accepting every different point of view before making decisions. It is a fact that diverse boards make better decisions.
Good corporate governance is down to great directors
Good corporate governance combines the skills, knowledge, focus and passion of the board of directors. Directors are leaders of the organisation, and people in the company look up to them for direction. By exhibiting some of these behavioural traits, they can inspire other team members to work together with them to achieve the organisation’s strategic goals.
Times have changed and so has the way you play board games. You no longer reach for the box to play your favorite game but instead turn on your computer.There’s an extensive list of games you can play, and board games are still a lot of fun.
You’ll definitely have some fun with the following board games for Windows 10 users and might even become addicted to them. The following options are classic board games you may have even grown up playing.1. LUDO Blitz!
If you like to play the game Trouble, then you’re going to love LUDO Blitz! This board game for Windows 10 is the intense version of Trouble. Each game is limited to six minutes, and your goal is to get to the center of the game board.
Starting off in the staging area, you do whatever needs to be done to reach a safe spot in the center. You earn points as you move, but you have to protect yourself from other players and their bombs. If you’re hit by one of these bombs, you have to go back to the staging area and start all over again.
You can protect yourself from these dangers by searching for bonuses and power-ups that have shields and bombs you can use as well. If you can move your piece to a space that is already occupied, you’ll move that player’s game piece back to the staging area where they will have to start over.
LUDO Blitz! can be played with a maximum of four players and is free to download to your Windows 10 computer and phone. It’s a great game to keep your mind in shape.2. Battleship War 3D – Sea Fight
Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve still heard of the classic board game Battleship. This is the game where two players try to destroy the other one’s fleet. Player one has no idea where player two has his/her fleet which makes the game more challenging.
By using a grid that has individual squares identified by letters and numbers, you arrange your ships on the main grid and record the other player’s shots.
If the square you announce is empty, you add a white peg to your primary grid, if it’s a hit you add a red one. Just continue until you manage to sink all your opponent’s ships.
Unlike the original game, this version lets you use modern or ancient ships or even ships from the middle ages. As your ships change, so do the ship’s weapons.3. AlphaJax
If you like playing Scrabble, you’ll like AlphaJax as well. You can play AlphaJax in two modes: pass-n-play and online. You’ll need to try to put words together with the letter tiles you have.
Just like in Scrabble, the points you get depend on the value of the letter tiles you use. To multiply your score, try to create words over the point multipliers that are placed across the board.
Play up to thirty games at once and get notified about your opponent’s moves with push notifications. There’s an Xbox Live title that allows you to chat with your opponent. You can also randomly choose games or have the game match you up with someone with your skill level.4. Free Backgammon
Backgammon is a classic board game you can play with two players and two sets of dice. Each player also gets 30 markers/checkers that’ll be placed on the board with 24 narrow triangles that are also called points.
The object of the game is for you to move all your checkers to your home board. Make things more interesting by doubling the stakes and forcing your opponent to accept or forfeit.
Make sure you roll the dice correctly. If not, you won’t find an open point to move your checkers, thus losing your turn. Backgammon is a great brain training game that will keep you thinking about how to make the best move.Conclusion
Just a simple guy that can’t enough of Technology in general and is always surrounded by at least one Android and iOS device. I’m a Pizza addict as well.
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It’s not common for Google to not be the dominant search engine in a given territory. But in the case of Russia, Yandex holds around 52% of the total market share, with Google holding 46%.
What’s also uncommon is that this data is made publicly available by Yandex, by aggregating data from Yandex Metrika (Yandex’s version of Google Analytics) into the Yandex.Radar Tool.
A lot has happened in the Russian search market over the past couple of years, starting with a FAS (Federal Antimonopoly Service) ruling against Google in 2023.
The ruling meant that Google had to open up the Android operating system more, allowing users to easily change default search engine away from Google.
This has had a significant impact on Yandex’s Android penetration.
Further to my interview with Seznam, I’ve worked with Yandex on getting insight into the changes that have happened in Russia over the past two years, as well as answers to some common Yandex questions.
I’d like to thank Melissa McDonald, Elena Pershina and Anastasia Nazarenko for their time and cooperation in making this interview happen.Since the 2023 FAS ruling against Google, meaning they had to open up Android to competition, third-party data sources have shown Yandex’s market share continuing to rise against Google. What do Yandex estimate to be the state of play in Russia in terms of market share now in 2023?
In August 2023, Google introduced a choice screen on Android that provided over 55 million users in Russia with the option to select their preferred search engine. The choice screen offers an option for users to choose Yandex, Google, or chúng tôi as the default search engine for Chrome mobile.
This change opened up the Android platform, and users have been selecting the option that works best for them. Since this change, we have seen a significant impact on our mobile search market share.
Yandex’s search market share on Android devices has increased by approximately 12% from 40% in August 2023 to 52% in June 2023.
We, therefore, suggest webmasters open their sites in chúng tôi for the indexing robot. This also helps ensure that there are no problems with the load on the site server when the robot calls for these files.Does Yandex give any preference to URLs that contain Cyrillic versus Latin characters?
Yandex does not give any preferences for URLs containing Cyrillic or Latin. However, we recommend webmasters use a clear structure and human-readable URLs on their sites.How big of a factor is mobile usability in Yandex’s ranking determinations?
Mobile loading speed and user-friendliness are extremely important to Yandex search rankings.
Yandex has been taking significant steps to lead efforts for the growing mobile audience in Russia – recently mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic for the first time.
In February 2023, we launched the Vladivostok algorithm, which takes into account the mobile-friendliness of pages, including the size of webpage content, vertical scrolling, and accessibility on mobile devices.
In November 2023, we opened up our Turbo-pages technology for publishers that allows publishers to create light versions of pages that open quickly on mobile even with a slow connection.
Turbo-pages load about 15 times faster than regular pages and the speed is achieved by optimizing layout, storing page content on Yandex servers, and using our own content delivery network.
From the launch of Turbo-pages to the end of 2023, more than 10,000 websites created Turbo versions and Turbo-pages appeared in more than 45% of the search results for queries from mobile devices.
In 2023, there were over 10 billion visits to Turbo-pages and tens of millions of unique users selected Turbo-pages.
Turbo-pages bring several benefits, namely saving time – we calculated that last year Turbo-pages saved 317 years that would have been spent by website visitors waiting for pages to download.Does Yandex have any issues in processing websites that utilize CDNs?
No, we have no issues processing websites that utilize CDNs or even special recommendations for it.
We always support technologies that help users to more efficiently navigate sites.How much of an impact have you seen voice search have on the Russian market?
Voice search is still in the early stages compared to Western markets but it is continuing to gain wide adoption.
Yandex introduced the Russian market to voice search in October 2023 with the launch of our intelligent assistant, Alice, in our search app.
Today, approximately 20% of queries in the Yandex search application are voice queries to Alice.
Alice has over 35 million monthly active users across multiple platforms that range from our smart speaker, Yandex.Station, to our in-car infotainment system, Yandex.Auto.
Not only have more users started to regularly rely on voice search but more smart products are being developed for the Russian market and other search providers have since launched their own voice search capabilities in Russia.How do you see the use of voice search developing within Russia in the coming years?
We believe that voice search together with smart devices will continue to increase in popularity.
Over the coming years, as the technology improves, the integration into smart devices from home appliances to connected cars will spread the use of voice search.
We envision voice search to become as ubiquitous as the use of Wi-Fi. Anywhere there is connectivity, there will likely be some form of an intelligent assistant to help users with their queries and commands.How big a role does the Alice virtual assistant have to play in the future of virtual assistants?
Yandex has been leading the way for the future of intelligent assistants in Russia.
We have combined our search, machine learning, and speech recognition technologies to build an ecosystem around Alice to the benefit of users and businesses.
We then added Yandex.Dialogues, a skills platform for third-party developers, which led to businesses introducing tens of thousands of new skills such as ordering pizza from Papa John’s, or exercising with Reebok.
At the same time, we also put out our first smart speaker, Yandex.Station, and added Alice to multiple other platforms that expanded its usability from Yandex.Navigator to Yandex Browser.
Alice is also on third-party devices such as the LG XBOOM speaker, which exclusively integrates Alice in Russia.
Most recently, Yandex unveiled Russia’s first smart home ecosystem powered by Alice. Alice can now turn on lights, adjust a thermostat, control a TV, or even make coffee.
Leading manufacturers such as Philips, Xiaomi, Samsung, and Redmond will offer Yandex smart home compatible products, including smart bulbs, plugs, and appliances.
Yandex’s smart home system runs on an open API, enabling third-party manufacturers to integrate their smart devices.How often does Yandex update its ranking criteria/algorithms?
We regularly update our algorithms. We update our algorithms so frequently that we do not make separate announcements for most of them.
We typically announce and provide official names of algorithms that are significant updates and change the general approach to the layout of search results.
For example, Vladivostok, the mobile page ranking algorithm that we mentioned earlier, which was named in honor of the capital of the Russian Far East region because it has the largest share of mobile Internet users in Russia.Moving away from search for a moment, how popular are Yandex’s other assets (such as Direct, YaBrowser, Maps, Metro, Taxi, etc.)?
Yandex is the market leader in almost all of the product segments you mentioned.
After more than two decades of building intelligent products and services powered by machine learning, we have come to offer Russian users an entire ecosystem that helps them better navigate both the online and offline world.How popular are services such as Maps in comparison to their Google counterparts?
Yandex services remain the most popular among Russian users.
Yandex.Maps, for instance, has long helped Russian users get from point A to point B, as the leading mapping service in Russia.
Today, the service helps tens of millions of users also find points of interest, check transport schedules, and get directions, among other features such as checking business hours and directly booking reservations from the search results.
The service, which Yandex built for the local market, is especially well known for having highly relevant and accurate results.
Google provides strong services in Russia that bring competition to the market and help drive innovation.
Our most recently, we added the “Good Place” feature, which awards certificates and distinctive stickers to the best organizations in their categories.
The Yandex ratings and reviews of organizations are an important consideration for users as they choose how they select points of interest in Russia.
Screenshot taken by author, July 2023
This article was originally featured on Undark.
This past August, a video about titanium dioxide in tampons went viral on TikTok. A blonde woman holding a large box of tampons suggested that the mineral’s presence in the products could cause period cramps, ovarian cysts, irreversible uterine damage, and even cancer.
Research conducted on rats has found that titanium dioxide is harmful if inhaled in large quantities, and the European Union has banned the mineral as a food additive over possible health concerns. But in the US, regulators maintain that its use in food and personal care products is safe. In response to the TikTok turmoil, doctors and journalists at major outlets—including USA Today, Gizmodo, and CBS News—as well as health and wellness websites, jumped in to dispel the tampon rumors. “Titanium dioxide isn’t making tampons into toxic death sticks,” wrote OB/GYN Jen Gunter on her popular women’s health Substack, The Vajenda.
But the fracas raised a real issue: Serious questions about tampon ingredients remain. The few scientists who have studied the subject have identified potentially toxic compounds in some menstrual products. Yet companies are not legally required to divulge their ingredients to US customers. And even if brands do provide a list, there is not a lot of conclusive research to help consumers understand what the presence of substances such as microplastics or phthalates actually means for the user’s health.
Researchers who spoke with Undark emphasized that there’s little evidence to suggest tampons cause harm when used as directed. At the same time, the researchers noted, it’s fair for laypeople to wonder what’s in their menstrual products, particularly given that some scientists are asking similar questions.
“Knowing what ingredients are in there, and what the implications might be, and what they might do to your body—I think that should be just a starting point,” says Inga Winkler, an associate professor at the Central European University in Vienna who has studied menstrual health as a human rights issue. “And the fact that we are fighting about this, I mean, it’s a really sad starting point.”
About a decade ago, Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou was chatting with two other researchers about the possible presence of pesticides in the military’s cotton uniforms when she remembered it was time to change her tampon. In the bathroom, Kioumourtzoglou made a connection between that discussion and her personal life. “Tampons have cotton. Cotton has pesticides. What did I just put inside me?” she wondered. Kioumourtzoglou walked back to the conversation and asked: “Have you ever heard about what’s in tampons?”
Kioumourtzoglou, who is trained as an air pollution epidemiologist, was especially interested in a pesticide called glyphosate, which farmers often spray on cotton plants. The US Environmental Protection Agency says that when properly used, glyphosate poses “no risks of concern to human health.” But in 2023, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic” based on limited evidence in humans, but sufficient evidence in experimental animals. These mixed conclusions—combined with the cotton plant’s ability to absorb heavy metals—led Kioumourtzoglou to wonder if pesticides, particularly glyphosate—in cotton fibers can make it through the tampon manufacturing process. Now an associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, she recalls feeling frustrated when she searched for answers, and nothing turned up.
The first question calls for basic research that involves taking tampons apart to understand what’s in the cotton stuffing. Over the past couple of decades, a handful of scientists have attempted do this. Their results suggest that many tampon brands do contain potentially toxic substances, though generally at very low levels.
The researchers noted that the rates of absorption of phthalates through the vulva and vagina specifically are not known.
One early study, published in 2002, calculated the concentration of dioxins in four brands of tampons. Dioxins are a byproduct from the process of whitening rayon, a semisynthetic fiber added to some tampons to increase their absorbency. According to the EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, long-term exposure to dioxin levels above a certain threshold can impact reproductive health and lead to birth defects, among other issues. The study found trace amounts of dioxins in all of the tampons, but at levels much lower than dietary exposure. These results were replicated in a 2005 study.
Researchers have also looked for compounds that are thought to disrupt hormones, such as phthalates, which increase plastics’ flexibility and might have made their way into tampons during the production process. A 2023 study sampled 12 tampons and found phthalates in all of them. Although the levels were below the threshold for toxic effects from exposure through the skin, the researchers noted that the rates of absorption through the vulva and vagina specifically are not known. Still, they identified tampons and other menstrual products as “an important source of chemical exposure in women.”
Research on vaginal drug delivery has shown that the vaginal canal offers a suitable environment for chemical absorption and circulation. The canal is rich in arteries and lymphatic vessels. And vaginal mucus is sticky, so it holds some molecules against the vaginal wall for a long time; this forced proximity can stimulate absorption. Conditions may change over time, however, as the vaginal environment is dynamic. The qualities that facilitate absorption—such as pH level, temperature, mucus production, and vaginal wall thickness—may vary depending on a person’s age, health, sexual activity, and where they are in their menstrual cycle.
This ever-changing environment poses a challenge for scientists who want to understand precisely what happens to a tampon when it’s placed inside the vagina and how much of a given toxin is absorbed by the body. Broadly speaking, researchers can choose from two clinical approaches. The first approach, in vivo—Latin for “in a living organism”—often entails studying animals because of the technical and ethical complications of conducting research on human subjects. Researchers in the field tend to design studies that are in vitro—Latin for “outside of a living organism.” These studies minimize the messy distractions of the whole organism while isolating specific bodily conditions.
One such study was conducted by Leonardo Pantoja, a researcher at Middlesex University in London. Pantoja’s team used a setup called the “Syngina” to identify release of microplastics from tampons. The Syngina releases a saline solution at the average rate of menstrual flow until a tampon leaks; manufacturers have used the apparatus since the 1980s to test tampons’ absorbency. The results of Pantoja’s study, published in 2023, found billions of nanoplastic particles released from tampons that would be in contact with the vaginal wall. The fibers in many tampons are not woven, Pantoja explained, which facilitates the process of releasing nanoplastics. Given differences in friction and vaginal pressure, Pantoja suspects that his study may have underestimated the release of microplastics. Pantoja explained that it was his team’s intention to examine the least harsh conditions so as not to exaggerate the possible health implications of their findings.
These studies minimize the messy distractions of the whole organism while isolating specific bodily conditions.
There were no statistically significant findings about mercury and other metals, but Kioumourtzoglou explained that the very small sample size could have contributed to this.
Like all studies, this one had limitations. For example, participants self-reported details about their tampon use. And the BioCycle study didn’t check participants’ blood for glyphosate, leaving Kioumourtzoglou without an answer to her question. But in finding an association between reported tampon use and oxidative stress—even one that is not statistically significant—the study can be used to attract funding for further research, said Kioumourtzoglou.
Recently, she and team of researchers received $35,000 for a small pilot study to analyze popular brands of tampons for the presence of certain pesticides and metals. Once the team has recorded concentrations of these contaminants in the tampons, they will place the products in samples of menstrual blood provided by study volunteers. The goal, explained Kioumourtzoglou, is to see if any potentially harmful chemicals leach out of the tampon into the surrounding blood.
She hopes the broader community of scientists will also pursue studies about menstrual products. “The more people who work on it,” she said, “the better.”
Women and teenage girls need access to period products, according to public health experts who have sought to draw attention to period poverty—a term used to describe the inability to afford or otherwise access menstrual products. Globally, period poverty, combined with stigma associating periods with uncleanliness, has caused youth to miss school, and it has also kept adults from fully participating in the workforce.
Stigma might also influence the health care guidance that physicians and nurses offer patients in the clinic. Some health care providers are not sufficiently trained on the substantive issues, said Winkler, the professor at Central European University. And they might not take their patients’ concerns seriously. “People are constantly being told that it’s all just in their head,” said Winkler. Better sex education could contribute to menstrual literacy, she continued, enabling people to make autonomous, informed choices about their body.
But comprehensive sex education may not be enough, given the murkiness surrounding what’s actually in tampons. The FDA regulates these and other menstrual products as medical devices, which comes with little government oversight for ingredient disclosure. As of 2023, New York is the only state in the US that requires manufacturers to list all ingredients in period products on the packaging. (Although the New York law only applies to products sold within the state, the rule appears to have a ripple effect on products sold in other states.) But even with regulation of ingredient disclosure, Pantoja explained that the meaning of terms like “organic” or “pure” are not standardized.
Knix Wear, a brand of period underwear, is facing a class action lawsuit, with consumers alleging that the presence of PFAS forever chemicals betrays the underwear’s marketing. Another brand, Thinx, is reportedly settling a similar lawsuit.
For women navigating the feminine hygiene aisle at the grocery store, it can be challenging to balance cost, chemicals, environmental sustainability, and comfort. But, being able to make those choices for yourself,” said Winkler, “I think that’s really key.”
Colleen Wood is a writer and educator based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, New Lines Magazine, and The Washington Post, among other outlets. Find her on Twitter @colleenwood_.
Employers conduct reference checks by contacting a job candidate’s professional and personal connections. The goal is to better understand the candidate’s skills, qualifications and demeanor.
Your reference check questions should discern whether a candidate would fit in at your company. They cannot pertain to your candidate’s personal information.
Your company should develop a process to ensure consistency among all reference checks and determine which questions to ask references.
This article is for business owners and hiring managers who are planning to conduct reference checks for prospective employees.
A job candidate may ace the interview, but that doesn’t always make them a perfect hire. You can better understand an applicant’s compatibility with your company by checking their references, especially if you ask the right questions. We’ll share 32 reference check questions that focus on a candidate’s performance and what it was like to manage and work alongside them. These questions can help ensure a successful hire and a valuable new team member.What is a reference check?
A reference check is when an employer reaches out to people who can shed light on a job candidate’s strengths and speak to their qualifications. These contacts tend to be previous employers but also may include university professors, longtime colleagues and other people familiar with the applicant’s work.
As an employer, you may find that reference checks help paint a full picture of a potential hire. Unfortunately, people lie on their resumes sometimes and present qualifications they don’t actually possess. If you ask your applicant’s professional references the right questions, you’ll learn more about the candidate’s skills and qualifications than you would from a traditional job interview alone.
Reference check goals include the following:
Confirm the written or verbal information the potential employee provided.
Learn about the candidate’s skills and strengths from someone other than the candidate.
Gather information about the applicant’s job performance in past roles to predict their success at your company.
With all of this information, you should have an easier time choosing which candidates to move forward in the hiring process.
Did You Know?
Reference checks can help you avoid hiring horror stories and costly personnel and management headaches.What information should you ask a reference?
When developing your list of reference check questions, you should determine the information you want to confirm about the job candidate. You may be interested in the references’ insights about the candidate on these topics:
Ability to understand and follow directions
Ability to work well as part of a team
Standards for office behavior and ethics
Interests, specialties and demeanor
Ability to give directions and ensure that subordinates follow them (if they’re applying for a leadership role)
Anything else that stands out on the candidate’s resume or emerged during their job interview
Some of these topics are more appropriate to discuss with professional references; others may be more suitable to ask personal references. For example, a former supervisor can speak to how well a candidate operates as part of a team, while a close friend or mentor can describe the candidate’s interests, specialties and demeanor.
Just as there are specific questions you should never ask a job candidate, there are questions you can’t ask a reference. You must only ask questions that pertain to the job; inappropriate questions can subject your company to discrimination claims.
Consider the following problematic questions you should never ask references:
Anything related to demographics or personal information: Don’t ask about a candidate’s sexuality, age, religion or similar matters.
Anything related to personal health: Don’t ask about a candidate’s medical history or the existence of disabilities. You can ask whether the candidate is capable of performing the tasks the job requires.
Anything related to credit scores: Although you can request a credit score from a job applicant, the Fair Credit Reporting Act bars you from asking references about an applicant’s credit score.
Anything related to family: Don’t ask whether a candidate has (or plans to have) children or a spouse. If you worry that a job applicant with a family might not have enough time for the job, ask references if they think the job’s time demands will suit the candidate.
Gathering references is an important step to ensuring you make the best hiring decisions for your vacant positions. Check out these other tips for hiring the best employees to build your team as effectively as possible.32 reference check questions to ask
Now that you know what information to request from a reference, you’re ready to develop your list of reference check questions. Below are 32 common reference check questions to use. You may think some don’t apply to your company, but you should speak with your hiring manager before eliminating any questions.Introductory reference check questions
Is there any information you and/or your company are unwilling or unable to give me about the candidate?
If you can’t share any information with me, can you connect me with any former employees who worked closely with the candidate?
Can you confirm the candidate’s employment start and end dates, salary and job title?
What is your relationship to the candidate, and how did you first meet?Reference check questions for getting to know the reference
For how long have you worked at your company?
For how long have you had your current job title?
For how long did you work with the candidate, and in what capacities?
Can you think of any reasons I should be speaking with another reference instead of yourself?Performance-related reference check questions
What positions did the candidate have while at your company?
In what roles did the candidate start and end?
What did these roles entail?
What were the most challenging parts of the candidate’s roles at your company?
How did the candidate face these challenges and other obstacles?
What are the candidate’s professional strengths, and how did they benefit your company?
In what areas does the candidate need improvement?
Do you think the candidate is qualified for this job, and why or why not?Reference check questions to ask managers
For how long did you directly or indirectly manage the candidate?
In what ways was managing the candidate easy, and in what ways was it challenging?
How did the candidate grow during their time working under you?
What suggestions do you have for managing this candidate?Reference check questions to ask employees who reported to your candidate
For how long did the candidate manage you, and in what capacity?
What did you like most and least about the candidate’s management style?
How did the candidate’s management style help you grow and learn?
How could the candidate have better managed you and your co-workers?Reference check questions to ask co-workers
For how long were you among the candidate’s colleagues, and in what capacity?
What did you like most and least about working with the candidate?
How did you grow and learn while working with the candidate?
How did the candidate support you and your other colleagues?
In what ways could the candidate have been a better co-worker to you and your colleagues?Reference check questions about ethics and behavior
Why did the candidate leave your company?
Did this candidate’s behavior lead to any workplace conflicts or instances of questionable ethics?
If the opportunity arose, would you be willing and/or able to rehire the candidate, and why or why not?
Just as you can speak with your hiring manager about potentially removing certain questions from this list, you can discuss adding other questions. As long as any additional questions shed light on how your candidate would perform during employment with your company and you don’t ask for personal information, there’s a good chance you’re asking the right questions.
Did You Know?
Some candidates may need more scrutiny than others. Some employers conduct background checks to verify job candidates and their credentials.How to conduct a reference check
If you decide to check references for new hires, implement a formal procedure at your company. This will streamline the process of obtaining your candidates’ references. From start to finish, your hiring team should follow these steps to conduct a thorough reference check:
Decide how many references to obtain from each applicant. Two or three should suffice.
Include a section for references in every job application. Ask candidates to include their references’ full names, phone numbers, email addresses and relationship to the candidate.
Get permission to contact the reference. Include a clause in your job application that the applicant signs to give you permission to contact their references. You should also email a reference to get their permission to ask them questions about the candidate.
Decide whether you’ll conduct your reference checks by phone or email. While sending questions by email will save your company time — especially if you have a standard list of questions you send to all references — verbal checks via phone or video chat, or even in-person meetings, can offer you a clearer understanding of a candidate.
Develop a list of reference check questions. Consider the list above to determine potential questions.
Watch out for red flags. Not every candidate is entirely truthful on their resume, so do your research before contacting a reference.
Establish a standard note-taking process. Don’t expect to remember every single thing you discussed during a reference check. Work with your hiring team to develop a note-taking format and process the whole team can understand and use.
If an employer discovers that a job candidate misrepresented their qualifications or lied on their resume, they can rescind the job offer.Reference checks help employers make good hiring decisions
Reference checks give you a chance to fill gaps that arise while you’re getting to know a candidate during the interview process. Talking to an applicant’s personal references can tell you if they’re the right fit and help you avoid a costly bad hire. By allowing you to discover the candidate’s management style or determining how they’ll respond under pressure, reference checks can tell you much more than an interview alone.
Once you’ve conducted reference checks on all of your job candidates, you should have all of the information you need to decide which one is best for the job and reach out with a formal job offer letter. If the candidate accepts, congratulate them and yourself — and start your onboarding process.
Natalie Hamingson contributed to this article.
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