December 2023 | Issue #23
Like stormtroopers? Us too. This one said he’ll share his holiday background with you next week. Stay tuned.
It’s official, the holiday season has arrived! This is a special time to prepare for gathering with friends and family, enjoying the season, and to start dreaming about what the new year will bring.
To that end, I want to provide a sneak preview of what we will be prioritizing in 2024. Next year, we will focus on scalable excellence. This entails maintaining the highest technical caliber standards which are aligned to the parameters of the effort and folding in efficiencies and processes that enable us to do so. We will continue to tailor solutions in response to our clients most pressing and emerging needs. This includes cyber exercises, weather resilience, social divisiveness, and health equity which are all areas that align to our core capabilities and help clients build resilience. Culture remains paramount for us, and in 2024 there will be emphasis on what Being CONSTANT means – from our professionalism to our ability to connect and everything in between.
We continue to spotlight growth – from empowering our people to stay curious about future client needs, to progress tracking, creative solutioning, and we will bring to fruition the many growth capabilities we have cultivated.
Stay tuned for more details about all of the above in January’s CONSTANT Summit. As always, thank you for your commitment to making the world a safer place.
Founder + CEO
CONSTANT's December Birthdays
Let’s cheers our peppermint hot chocolates and creamy eggnogs to celebrate these very special birthdays:
- Kevin Koller – December 6
- Emily Long – December 9
- Dana Bell – December 18
Happy Birthday to Kevin, Emily, and Dana!
Join us as we celebrate these team member work anniversaries this month:
- Maggie Peters – 3 years (December 7)
Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our mission!
The Gift that Keeps on Giving (Business)
Business Development by Jeff Philippart, Business Development Director
As we come to the end of the year, CONSTANT is planning attendance at industry conferences for 2024! Conferences provide a great opportunity to expand networks, seek guidance, and gain fresh perspectives from our clients, partners, and colleagues. We saw all of these positive outcomes and more from the team that attended the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Conference in November (pictured below):
As we look ahead to opportunities for connections in 2024, note the following:
- CONSTANT exhibited with a refreshed booth at the IAEM Conference, and our team had the opportunity to connect with clients, partners, and colleagues far and wide. Additionally, our team members were able to attend informative industry sessions that stretched across multi-disciplinary emergency management topics. You can check out the sessions, and their slide decks, here (select a date in the range of 11/05 to 11/08 and click on an individual session to find a link to a presentation). We encourage you to review presentations relevant to current projects or your interests.
- We are seeing an uptick in conference speaking opportunities in 2024. Please refer to the Staff BD Resources page’s calendar for more information and reach out to Nicole if you have interest in submitting a topic. Notable conferences currently accepting speaking submissions include the National Homeland Security Conference, NACCHO 360, and the National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference, along with several SLTT conferences.
- As CONSTANT continues to grow in 2024, there will be more opportunities to attend conferences and events that support our company goals and your personal professional development.
In closing, my favorite holiday memories are the times spent with family and friends. While I was in the Air Force, I spent many holidays away from home, so I learned to cherish the time when we are all together. Peace and Joy to you and yours during this holiday season.
It's About People: Building Client Relationships for Impactful Outcomes
Operations by Jayson Kratoville and Derek Morrison
In our field, we know that people are the “x-factor” in any risk equation. Are people going to evacuate? Do people trust the vaccine? Will that person click on that suspicious link? Will people with access and functional needs have the resources they need? For the work we do preparing communities for their worst days and biggest challenges, the magic is in how we prepare for that x-factor.
The same is true in consulting. We know how to write great products, build and deliver great exercises, and facilitate great community outreach sessions. The magic is in our ability to connect with our clients’ needs and collaborate with them to get the best outcome. A critical first step is establishing trust with the client. To do so, it’s essential to understand where they’re coming from. Here are some things to puzzle out in early meetings and reevaluate throughout:
- Is the project vision concrete or flexible? Sometimes clients were highly involved in the scope and want to follow it to the letter; other times they are using it just as a starting point, with many scenarios in between.
- How involved does the client want to be in decision-making? Sometimes clients are engaging us to take care of something for them; others we’re supporting an effort they’re driving.
- Who is taking the lead on stakeholder interactions? Sometimes clients want to be the face of every engagement, others they’d like us to just take care of it for them.
- Is the client’s communication style more direct or indirect? If they’re more direct, the team can brace for feedback and know it’s part of the evolution of the project. If they’re more indirect, the team should dig for feedback that
- Is the client more responsive or do they benefit from follow-up? This is an especially important question at a time of shrinking budgets and significant turnover.
The Client Relationship Management training coming up on December 11 dives into these questions and more. This will be followed by a session early next year connecting our client relationships to a team-wide growth mindset, aligned with BD’s vision. Our goal is to continue empowering the team to build great relationships, working together with our clients in a healthy way to make the world a safer place.
People and Culture by Maggie Peters, Director of People and Culture, and Lauren Day, People and Culture Business Partner
Season's Greetings from Your P&C Team
The holidays are almost here, and your P&C Team is here to bring joy and cheer in this month’s update. As we reflect on and celebrate our team’s many accomplishments over the last year, we are looking forward to our 2024 adventures alongside each of you, filled with renewed energy, shared goals, and as always, a commitment to making the world a safer place.
- Christmas Day (Monday, December 25)
- New Year’s Day (Friday, January 1)
- Remember, you can swap any holiday for another day within this calendar year. Just request this swap from your Manager and make a note on both days of your timesheet. All swaps must be within the same calendar year.
Professional Development: December 11, 2023, 12:30-2:00pm ET. Client Relationship Management Training.
Our goal is to provide tools and strategies for establishing and maintaining trust and camaraderie with the communities we support. The relationship with the client is key to smooth projects, healthy working dynamics, better outcomes for the community, and expanded business/impact. The session will be recorded and posted on CONSTANT University.
Benefits Highlight – Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Updates for 2024: The IRS has recently announced that they’re raising the annual contribution limit for Healthcare FSA’s to $3,200 in 2024, which is up from $3,050 in 2023. Additionally, team members can now carry over any unused funds up to $640, which is up from $610 in 2023. Our benefits open enrollment window for 2024 will start in January, so you will have an opportunity then to enroll in this benefit and/or adjust your contributions if desired.
EAP Highlight – Relaxation Rx Webinar: Most of us feel too busy to even think about taking time out to relax. But the reality is that regular relaxation is crucial. If we don’t stop regularly to “refuel,” we risk emotional and physical burnout. Even a small investment of 5-10 minutes a day can have a huge return. Available this month on our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through Uprise Health, the “Relaxation Rx” webinar will include demonstrations of relaxation techniques that provide immediate as well as long-term benefits. You’ll also learn how to detect burnout “triggers” and discover ways to regain a sense of balance and motivation. You will leave feeling recharged and better able to tackle daily demands. To login, use Employer Code 70101.
Important isolved Updates, W-2 Forms Going Out Soon: We will be mailing out the 2023 W-2 Forms no later than January 31, so now is the time to login to isolved and ensure your current mailing address is up to date. Also, while you’re logged in, take a moment to review and adjust (if needed) your tax withholdings for 2024 using the “Tax Updates Wizard.” For quick and easy access, you may elect to receive your W-2 electronically [under Electronic Delivery-Tax Forms below your name in isolved on top left corner]. W-2 forms will always be available for view/download/print in isolved under Employee Self-Service, W2/ACA/1099 Forms.
Guardian 401(k) Website Updates: You will soon see many changes coming to the Capital Group American Funds 401(k) plan website. These changes include the addition of Multi-Factor Authentication [MFA] to enhance information security, new password guidelines that will require you to create a new enhanced password when your next login, and the ability to customize your user ID (optional). We haven’t been provided an exact date when these updates will occur, but we wanted to give you advance notice of the changes and will pass along additional information as it’s received.
Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
EDI by Co-Leads Lona Bryan and Maggie Peters
Thank you to everyone who participated in our October meeting. Those slides are now available on the EDI Page on SharePoint.
Next Meeting: Wednesday, December 20, 9am PT/12pm ET – We will finalize decisions on 2024 goals, outreach, and observances (education pieces)
Reach out to Lona and Maggie, EDI Co-Leads, if you ever have a need to assist a client with their EDI efforts or how to incorporate EDI into our engagement.
What do Christmas trees eat to freshen their breath? Orna "mints"
Finance By Loretta Pascuzzo, Sr. Accounting Manager
As 2023 comes to a close, I want to thank you all for your hard work and dedication that makes this company truly amazing. I know that we have the best team to tackle and exceed any challenges that 2024 might bring.
Changes to Finance: In an effort to take the pain out of expense reporting we will be importing AMEX charges on the 16th and 1st of every month. If you have any questions regarding expense reporting guidance can be found here.
2023 Year End: Please take a moment to confirm that the following are correct in isolved before W2s are sent out:
- Social Security Number
- Tax brackets and standard deduction amounts to change in 2024.
- If you need to update your tax filing status this can be done through isolved.
- Flex Spending accounts increasing contribution limit to $3,200 in 2024.
- 401k contribution limit increased to $23,000 for 2024.
- If you are age 50 or older you are eligible to defer an additional catch-up contribution up to the limit of $7,500 for 2024.
Holiday Reflection: The holiday season is a time for family, love, and laughter. My greatest holiday memories are of my whole family (30+ people) gathered around the tree exchanging small gifts followed by a potluck brunch. The excitement and anticipation of seeing everyone made sleep almost impossible the night before. Though the faces may have aged, and some may not be here to gather this year, the feeling is still the same. My wish for all of you at Constant is that you feel the love and warmth of family and loved ones this holiday season.
Compromised QR Codes? Don't Even Snow There
Information Technology By Morgan Forrest, IT Manager
As we head into the end of the year let’s discuss QR Codes. We have seen a huge uptick in this new Phish method in recent months. QR codes are everywhere. Hackers use them to send people to sites that are compromised.
- Exchange policies and firewalls are having difficulty filtering them because they appear as images or non-scripted files.
- CONSTANT Associates and other companies generally don’t use QR codes to send links or sites so if you see these, be very questionable of their origins.
- If it is not from a sender, you recognize the best policy would be to mark it as junk.
The first person to solve this correctly and email it to Brea wins a prize!
Which word in the dictionary is spelled incorrectly?
What falls in the winter but never gets hurt?
How many bananas can you eat on an empty stomach?
The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?
What does December, January and February have in common?
Our mission is to make the world a safer place.
It’s that simple, and that’s why we are here. We have a strategic plan for the next three years, called CONSTANT Strategy, which outlines what our biggest priorities are:
- Take care of our people
- Forward our mission
- Respond to our clients’ most pressing needs
- Expand strategically across markets
- Build infrastructure for the future
To help us execute on our mission, we have developed the CONSTANT Credo and our aligned core values (see the graphic below). We live by these.