Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Smoking and Weight: The Effect on Employment

Two other blogs caught my eye this week. One dealt with economic impact of weight on earnings and the other the lifetime cost of a pack of cigarettes. The first was from Freakonomics and was titled The Wage Effect of Fat. This blog discussed a study on obesity and the effect on hourly earnings, with the conclusion being that people with lower levels of body fat, thus higher levels of fat free mass, had higher hourly earnings. This held true across sex and race. They concluded this might be related to productivity. I think this can be extended to several issues. I think people who are percieved as being fat have fewer job opportunities and job opportunities that have lower earnings potentials. I know many employers are hesitant to hire overweight people, especially those that are very overweight, for a number of reasons. These may include the effect they may have on insurance costs, the effect on productivity, and the perceptions customers may have of the employee and thus the company. Once they are hired I think weight may have an effect on productivity in the long-term, tied to the long-term effect of weight on health. It doesn't make any difference how productive you are in the office, if you are not there.

The second article came from Kris Dunn's The HR Capitalist blog and dealt with his discussion on smoking and his thoughts on tring to stop smoking at his company, Smoking Discrimination- Truth or Fiction for HR Departments? He referenced an article that discussed the lifetime cost of a pack of cigarettes, which for men is $222 per pack. So this gets into the discussion of what is the cost of a pack of cigarettes to the company? What is the cost of lost productivity due to smoke breaks, poor health, absenteeism. And what is the effect today on the earnings potential for the smoker. In some states, for example in my home state of Georgia, you can refuse to hire someone on the basis that they smoke. Not just at work, but smoke at all. Thus smokers are running into the same issues as someone obese. Fewer potential job opportunities and job opportunities that have less economic potential. Kris Dunn was pondering putting in a smoking cessation program at some point, but not now, and he pondered if he was doing anyone a favor by waiting.

My answer to that question is "NO". No favors done to the employee or to the company. If you are dealing with a similar issue in your company now might be a good time to think of instituting a wellness program. Tie it to the new year and your employees making the traditional resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, etc. Help them out. Resolve to be a healthier company for their benefit and for the benefit of the company.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Performance Management: Making it Work

Compensation consultant and blogger Ann Bares wrote, in her blog Compensation Force, about the Trifecta of Effective Performance Management. She points out that for performance management there must be three components:
  1. A well designed program that has defined objectives, appropriate metrics, and ease of use.
  2. Top management support that makes performance management an integral part of the organization..
  3. Management Execution. This means that performance management actually gets done and done correctly.

My experience with performance management throughout my career has reflected the same things. I have found that if you make a system overly complicated, such as MBO/BARS, that no one will buy into it. So you have to arrive at a system that is effective with defined measures, accountabilities and competencies. I have also experienced what happens to a system when company leadership doesn't really care. There is no support, no accountability, no tie-in to company strategy or performance and thus, part three, managers do not do performance management. There is "no time" or they avoid unpleasant situations. Hey, it is not going to reflect on them, so why go through the effort.

I am not going to spend anytime talking about the positive effects of effective performance management, but I do encourage you to read Ann Bares' blog and click on her links if you have a greater interest in effective performance management.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Look Out! Here Comes Unionism.

If you thought unions have gone the way of the dinosaurs don't look now but here they come. They have been in the news in the US quite a bit the last month or so. First the UAW dealing with the auto companies. Then the writers in Hollywood. And now home-based child care workers. Yes, that is right HOME-BASED child care workers. In New York City these workers are joining the powerful New York City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. They are looking for more money and, in particular, health benefits and retirement benefits.

An article on MSNBC, entitled Writers a rarity- A union with power argues that the writers may be one of the most powerful unions in the country because they deal in intellectual capital. And the home-based child care workers may have a similar claim. The trend seems to be less power for unions that have workers that make things and more power for unions that have workers that work on brain power.

With the prospect of a Democratic administration starting in 2009 unions stand to gain even more power. Legislation is already floating that will take away secret ballot elections, opening up the prospect of the intimidation factor in union elections. Changes in the make up of the NLRB may also bring about more union friendly decisions. And just a Congress and Administration controlled by the labor friendly Democratic party bodes well for union friendly legislation.

So hold on to your HR hat (the one of many you wear) and be alert for union activity. Get those supervisors trained now.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Gee that was funny"- The Value of Humor in the Workplace

Chris Robert, an assistant professor of management at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that humor is good in the workplace, according to an article in MU News Bureau. "Occasional humor among colleagues, he said, enhances creativity, department cohesiveness and overall performance. The conclusion was made by examining theories on humor and integrating literature from a wide variety of disciplines that touch on the subject." The article goes on to quote him saying "...Humor isn’t incompatible with goals of the workplace. It’s not incompatible with the organization’s desire to be competitive. In fact, we argue that humor is pretty important. It’s not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”

I have always thought that humor was good in the workplace. I have always enjoyed hearing and telling a good joke or funny story. Just as in personal relationships, humor is important to make the person or people you are dealing with more "human." Of course, since this is an HR blog I must point out that the humor needs to be work appropriate otherwise you run the risk of stepping on someone's sensibilities. It is also important to point out, as did Robert, that humor has a major cultural component to it and may not have a universal translation.

I just know that having a co-worker putting a smile on my face makes the day go by much more smoothly.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Human Resources Salaries

I just received my November copy of HR Magazine. The cover story is the 2007 HR Salary Survey. I have not had a chance to read the article in depth. However, after a scan two things stuck out to me:
  1. There is a greater number of HR positions that include short-term and long-term incentives in the compensation mix. This indicates that there is an increasing use of metrics in HR. How else do you give out incentives without having some metrics to measure.
  2. The second thing I noticed was that HR generalist are close to the bottom of the totem pole. Specialization is where the money is, especially for a specialization in Compensation and Benefits.

Take a look at the article, assuming you get the magazine. (Right now the SHRM website is still displaying the October issue.) Where do you fit in? Get incentives? What are they based on?