Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Carnival of HR: Keeping You Informed

HR bloggers keep working despite the holidays, bringing you valuable information. Find it here at The Career Encouragement Blog. You will find out information for the present and the future. You will learn about leadership and culture. And as the New Year of 2009 approaches read about self assessment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And The News Just Keeps Getting Better: More Possible Legislation in 2009

I had the opportunity to hear a webcast today, sponsered by SHRM Atlanta. Two attorneys were talking about the upcoming administration and Congress and what that might mean for employers and HR. Well let me tell you, nothing I heard improved my "impending 2009" mood.

Here is the list of things that need to be watched for:
  1. Healthcare reform- Nothing new in that. Several attempts at nationalized legislation. Not sure what will happen but something is coming.

  2. Employee Free Choice Act- I have talked about this one. It is starting to get national play. Still high on the union "wish list", but the UAW's unwillingness to help the auto companies may have soured some support for it. But still big.

  3. RESPECT- This is the supervisory law that changes the definition of supervisor and takes away assigning and directing from their definition as a supervisor. Now to be a supervisor they must, for the MAJORITY OF THEIR JOB, "hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge or reward." If they don't then they will be considered part of the bargaining unit. Nothing like having your first line supervisors being union members too.

  4. Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act- Sounds like it will impose safety regulations beyond OSHA.

  5. Health Families Act- All employers will be REQUIRED to provide 7 PAID days of sick leave to all full time and part time employees if you have more than 15 of them.

  6. Family Leave Insurance Act- Employers of 2 or more employees must provide insurance and up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

  7. Working Families Flexibility Act- Gives every employee, on an annual basis, the opportunity to negotiate work hours, schedule, or location of work. The employer must respond within 14 days. If the employee doesn't like that the company then has to renegotiate. (I am not sure to what end.)

  8. Employment Non-discrimination Act- Provides protected class status to gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. One version includes transgender workers, who self identify.

  9. Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act- Changes the statute of limitations on filing pay discrimination.

  10. Paycheck Fairness Act- Requires that pay between men and women has to be proven to have been decided on some other factor other than sex (education, training and experience) and (here is the problematic part of the burden of proof) the difference must be based upon "business necessity."

  11. Equal Remedies Act- takes the caps off of monetary damages imposed by the CRA of 1991 and puts all discrimination penalities on par with race.

  12. OSHA- the number of inspections will be stepped up.

  13. Minimum wage will go to at least $9/hr.

  14. Comprehensive immigration reform will put the burden solidly on the employer, will modify the I-9 and, hopefully, will improve employment verification.

Well there you go. If something strikes your fancy (of fear into your heart) check it out. Help legislators make informed decisions.

BTW, now would be a very good time to do an attitude survey with your employees. Find out if you may have some trouble brewing. One organization I know that does a very good job of this is Intellectual Capital Consulting. Check them out if you would like more info.

Friday, December 12, 2008

He Knows If You've Bad or Good... So Be Good..

The refrain from the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town is "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." Don't we wish that was really true. The unfortunate truth is that quite often we don't know if employees are being bad until it is too late, and Santa isn't telling. An article in the Wall Street Journal Online, Businesses Say Theft by Their Workers Is Up, tells the story that many businesses have seen an increase in money and goods walking out the door with employees who are having economic difficulty. A number of employers are reporting that it has become a big problem. In 2007 companies on average lost $2.4 million to employee fraud.

One of the disappointing things about this is that quite often the person that is taking is the last person you would expect. They are a trusted employee. Though when I read that I was not suprised. A federal fraud investigator once told me that the most common embezzler in the U.S. was the trusted whitehaired grandmother worker who is the right-hand of the male president of the company. She has check signing authority and she usually takes over a $1 million before she is caught.

So the lesson here is to be more aware. Watch for unusual patterns of behavior. Do you have an employee working late that does not typically do so? Watch inventories closer and be aware of what may be walking out the door.

In addition, theft from the outside increases in hard times, and just at this time of year in general. I visited a client the other day in a downtown office building where the street side doors were locked. To gain entry you had to go around to the other entrance to go past the security desk. There had been a problem with people coming in and going to upper floors and going through desks and stealing money. In a company I had worked in before we had a similar issue. We had a nicely dressed young man walking around the office stealing from purses in desks. He was stopped a couple of times, but he told people he was a new employee and was lost or people who saw him just assumed he was. The lesson in this is that you need to be alert, keep your valuables secured and not assume the best of people. Because we all know what ASS-u-me means. If you think someone should not be there then call security or management.

Having money taken, goods stolen, your identity lost is never a pleasant experience, but to have that occur in December and in tough times makes it all that much harder.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overcoming Inertia: Get Your Lazy A** Moving!

Interia is defined as "...the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest." To overcome intertia the body or object needs to be acted on by some outside force. (Your physics lesson for the day.) I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and did no posting while gone. When I returned I tried to post again, but overcoming the inertia of being inert was difficult. So you have not seen much from me lately. (No one has been clamoring for my return, so maybe there is a message in that, hmmm...) Anyway, I was acted on by an outside force and it is getting me to post again. The outside force was the HR Bartender, aka, Sharlyn Lauby, who TAGGED ME. According to her blog the rules for tagging are the following:
  • Link to the original tagger(s), and list these rules on my blog.
  • Share 7 facts about myself in the post - some random, some weird.
  • Tag 7 people at the end of my post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

7 Facts About Me

  1. I once studied monkeys and chimpanzees. Worked on a project that was teaching a chimp a specialized language.
  2. I abandoned that line of study 3 years into a Ph.D. Never looked back.
  3. I have raced in several triathlons, despite my size. I race as a Clydesdale.
  4. I am 57 and I have been married 37 years this December 18th. We were high school sweethearts.
  5. I regret that I never served in the military, even though I came from a military family.
  6. I have a wicked, sometimes ribald, sense of humor. (Scratch the sometimes, substitute often.)
  7. I don't understand people who have a victim mentality.


Cathy Martin of Find Your Metrics That Matter

Michael Moore of Pennsylvania Labor and Employment

Dan MacCarthy of Great Leadership

Phil Gerbyshak of Slacker Manager

Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent

Ann Bares of Compensation Force

Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist

So there you go. I am off the couch and posting again. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Women Bosses: Still A Way To Go

This past year women have made major strides moving into positions of power in business, politics and the military. The Army has its first female four-star general, we had several female presidential candidates, we are getting another female Secretary of State and women show up in many power positions in the entertainment business both on the screen and off. And for the first time we have women from three different generations all in the workplace at the same time.

Things couldn't be better for women. Or could they? According to an article in the online version of Marie Claire it turns out that many younger women hate working for older women. In an article, entitled The Pink Ceiling, author Meredith Bryan discusses the difficulties many younger women have working for older women bosses. These include:

  • Older women bosses who are hopelessly fixated on sexism in the office

  • Women bosses who are tyrants and who see their female charges as competition (called the Queen Bee Syndrome)

  • They feel judged by "set in their ways" bosses who insist "This is how I had to work to get here"

  • Unprofessionalism from bosses who blur the personal and professional lines by "making friends" and being too personal. Women bosses give less feedback and constructive criticism than to male bosses.
Many of the younger women interviewed preferred to work for male bosses.

Bryan does hold out hope that this will get better as time goes by and more women make it into the upper company ranks. She states that currently records show that only 15% of executive postions are held by women.

I have often seen that women managers can be tougher in general than many male managers and I have seen them less tolerant of womens issues, sort of the "I have done it and made it" line of thought. But I think some of the things Bryan talks about are also generational issues as much as they are female boss issues. And like the one commenter to the article said, I don't think the glass ceiling or sexism has gone away entirely in the workplace, but it has reduced and many younger women have not had to deal with the issue yet. Hopefully many won't have to.

Human Resources is certainly a good test case for younger women dealing with older women bosses since the vast majority of the profession is female. So how about some comments from some of you and tell us about your experiences, either as a younger woman working for an older female boss, or as the boss dealing with younger women subordinates?

BTW, I want to thank a reader and student who pointed me to this article. I don't normally read Marie Claire , unless I have to sit while waiting for a haircut or doctor's appointment. Unfortunately I missed this one. And yes I do read womens magazines, as should all men occassionally, it is a good way to stay up on what might be important to the women in our lives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Carnival of HR: A Feast of Information

A Thanksgiving feast of HR information has been published over at Fortify Your Oasis. As you are sitting there multi-tasking while watching football take a look at what Rowan Manahan has published.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Affecting Legislation and a Referral to a Great Blog

Michael Moore over at Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog has posted about the Employee Free Choice Act. I know you may be tired of reading about this but you NEED TO. It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that will have an effect on day-to-day HR. In my opinion nothing good will come from this for companies or employees. Only unions, who make their money off of employees, will gain. Mr. Moore has an upcoming list of articles that EVERYONE needs to plan on reading. So bookmark him. (Or keeping coming here, I will have the links too.)

I was thinking about this legislation and other legislation that has been proposed and is likely to pass. I know that many HR types do not like to be political, but you need to be. You don't need to necessarily be espousing your views on particular people to your employees. But I think it is your duty as a representive of your company and employees to pay attention to legislation. DO NOT blindly accept legislation proposed, regardless of which party or legislator it is proposed by.

I think it is your duty to OBJECTIVELY evaluate each piece of legislation. Ask the questions:
  • Is this good for my business?

  • Is this good for the employees of this business?

  • What will be the cost associated with this legislation?

  • What will be the benefit to us of this legislation?

Once you have the answers to these questions the next step is to INFORM your personal legislator. Remember, most of these people have NEVER run a business! They do not know what it is like to make a payroll or to have to deal with the recordkeeping, or how to deal with day-to-day empolyee relation issues. So EDUCATE them. Give them a professional assessment of the impact of that legislation. And if you are against it, let them know. If you are for it, let them know.

BTW, the reason you do this with your local legislator is that you have a vote to wield and other votes to influence. And since ALL politicians want to stay in office they listen to their voters. So be political by being involved in the process of helping legislators understand the impact of their actions. Make your voice heard beyond just the ballot box.

Carnival of HR: It Is Up and Informative

Over at Ask A Manager is the most recent Carnival of Human Resources. It is a great resource for some of the best in HR blogs. Give it a gander! (For all my non-English speaking readers, that means "give it a look". It is also a male goose. I have no idea what they have in common.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Confiscating Individual Retirement Accounts: An Awarenss Alert!

Congress confiscating individual retirement accounts? Sounds outragous doesn't it? Well this article in the Carolina Journal Online shows that it is being considered. I had heard that Congress was considering taxing retirement accounts, but this proposal to seize them all and put them into a social security like program is unthinkable. But then lots of things unthinkable have been occurring. Banks collapsing, gas prices falling, the U.S. government taking over company after company (AIG bailout), GM and Ford talking merger, etc. So don't just blow this off!

As HR professionals how do you think your employees are going to react to all their retirement being taken? I know I am certainly not happy. I really doubt that anyone would be. Am I wrong? Would workers like universal retirement accounts, funded by existing accounts? Help me here.

This, along with all the other potential legislation coming next year needs to be watched closely.

I am all for change.... but...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Learning at a Conference: It Is More Than The Sessions

Over my career I have been to a decent number of conferences, both national and local. I have learned something every time. The conference sessions and keynote talks are sometimes informative, sometimes not. A known speaker will sometimes delight and sometimes disappoint. An unknown may reveal themselves as a "star" of the future.

I have found, however, that I do much of my learning about the future of HR in the marketplace. I always make sure I spend alot of time talking to the vendors (who have paid alot of money to be there.) They often have the latest technologies, methodologies and ideas and give you a glimpse of where the field is going. There have actually been a couple of times where I paid to go to the marketplace and totally skipped the learning sessions. You make contacts with potential suppliers and informative resources. Yes, you do have to hand out some business cards and you may get literature sent to you, and you may possibly get a sales call. But that is a small price to pay for the great learning opportunity you are presented with. Besides you get to register for some great prizes and you will never lack for pens and other goodies.

Despite this great opportunity however, many, dare I say most, HR people avoid the marketplace at a convention. They are afraid they may have to talk to someone or may be "sold to". Heaven forbid! If you are one of these people GET OVER IT! It is the best way to be progressive and future oriented. You may find something that will make you an HR hero back at the company.

And conventions that do not allow enough time for people to mix, mingle and shop in the marketplace are making a mistake. Make those breaks longer! People need time to return calls, go to the restroom, eat AND visit booths. Remember your vendors are footing much of the bill for the convention.

So if you are going to a convention anytime soon make sure you visit the vendors. You will be surprized at what you may learn.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bad News and Good News for Women in Human Resources

An article in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 23rd talked about wage disparities. (Link requires subscription.) This is not unusual. The wage disparity between men and women is well documented and much discussed. The potential reasons are many: discrimination, career interruption, and predominately "female" careers among them. What makes this article noteable, however, is that Cari Tuna is writing about the field of Human Resources, where you would expect wages to be more equitable. And here is the bad news.

First an important fact. The majority of human resources professional are women. "About 70% of the country's 238,000 HR managers and 731,000 HR specialists are women, according to 2007 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics." So, you would expect in a field that is predominately female that wages for women would be ahead of men or at least on par. But, "...37 of the 50 highest-paid HR executives at Russell 3000 companies were men, according to a survey of 2007 proxy statements by Equilar, Inc., a California-based executive compensation research firm." And "The median weekly pay for male HR managers in 2007 was $1,581 – about 47% more than female managers took home. Among rank-and-file employees, men earned $1,037 per week, about 28% more than their female counterparts."

This is puzzling and there could be any number of reasons. A couple of new ones were suggested in the article, including who is tapped to fill HR exective positions, and the fact that many top HR positions are "combination" positions. A combination position is one such as VPHR and General Counsel. These apparently are staffed more often by men and who are thus paid more.

But so much for the bad news. Now the good news. Next year this is going turn around! If you are in human resources and you are female you have reason to CELEBRATE! With a Democrat controlled congress women in HR are going to benefit from the passage of three compensation acts designed to eliminate "historic discrimination". With the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Equal Pay Act women in human resources (and other professions) will get increases to put them on par with all the men in the profession. Pay disparites, for whatever reason, will be outlawed. Isn't that great news??? Plan the changes in your budgets now! This means that regardless of location, education, years in the job, and performance everyone in a single job title will be paid the same. It will certainly make compensation systems easier. Of course it might eliminate any incentive to try to get ahead. And the value of a degree and certification will potentially disappear. But who cares? Equality is a good thing.

So celebrate the good news! More money for everyone! Assuming the jobs still exist that is. Guess we will see.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stories to Scare HR: Unfortunately They Are Real

The latest greatest blogs are available for reading in this issues of the Carnival of HR: The Halloween Version hosted by Great Leadership. A complete reading is guaranteed to scare any reasonable HR manager out of her or his wits. Take a read. It does include my look at the future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Little Drucker Wisdom: We Should Have Listened

I am currently reading a book entitled "A Brief History of the Future: How Visionary Thinkers Changed the World and Tomorrow's Trends are 'Made' and Marketed" . One of the visionary thinkers featured in the book is Peter Drucker. Drucker, in his 39 books and numerous articles, weighed in on many management subjects. One of the subjects he discussed in 1977 and 1984, and felt strongly about his entire career, was executive compensation. His premise was that executives should not be paid exorbitant salaries. In his opinion no more that 20 times what the lowest level worker made. He felt it did not foster teamwork and sent the wrong messages about class. Some companies listened, but very few. Given the problems we have today perhaps we ALL should have.

As I was investigating this subject I came across a Businessweek article discussing the subject. Take a look at "Put a Cap On CEO Pay" by Rick Wartzman for a more complete discussion.

It just points out that when you label someone as "The Greatest Management Thinker of our Times" perhaps we should heed his/her advice. Guess we never learn.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Being A Strategic and Informed HR Professional: The Election Impact

Michael Moore of the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog has produced an excellent analyis of pending legislation and the two presidential candidates postitions on that legislation. This is a MUST READ for all HR managers, regardless of how you may vote. You need to understand the impact of this legislation. See his Employer's Guide to the Election.

I posted on this a couple of days ago as well with a few other possibilities thrown in there as well. You need to read this stuff carefully. Like I said it does not make any difference for whom you vote. You need to understand this legislation and its impact on the workplace. Do not automatically pass on a piece of legislation just because it is passed by one party or another. Analyze each piece on its own merits. Then decide if you want your representative to vote for or against the legislation and let them know. You have to realize that once legislation is passed it almost NEVER GOES AWAY! We live with bad legislation and the impact on our workplace, our jobs and the jobs of our employees for a long time.

So, as part of your HR job, be an informed reader, advocate or opponent, and voter. Help your management team understand the potential impact on your business, whether or not you support it personally. Be strategic and a futurist. In fact you may want to forward Mr. Moore's blog to them (and mine as well.)

Stay tuned. I am sure this is not the last you will hear about this subject.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Independent Contractor: The Devil In Disguise

In the daily news briefings today was a small article with big news. FedEx succumbed to the same problem that has plagued many a business, both small and large. They classified drivers as independent contractors. Fed Ex was sued for this misclassification and lost a $14.4 million settlement for 200 drivers. $720,000 per driver! Pretty hefty fine.

I don't know the particulars of this case, but I see this happen frequently in smaller businesses. They think they can have someone come in as an independent contractor, thus avoiding taxes. Unfortunately this arrangement is not quite as cut and dry as that and businesses get in trouble. The "contractor" negotiates a deal that includes some benefits, for example health benefits. Well that starts messing the relationship up. And when that relationship gets messed up taxes and penalities have to be paid.

There are definite rules to who is and who is not an independent contractor. Here are the rules according to the IRS. And here is another set according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Lastly, here is another set from the perspective of the independent contractor from Nolo on Preserving your status as an Independent Contractor.

If you are an employer read these rules very carefully and make sure you comply if you are hiring someone as a contractor. A mistake can be very expensive. Remember $720,000 per person for Fed Ex, and that was on appeal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

National Bosses Day: The Carnival of HR

Here is the link to the Bosses Day verision of the Carnival of HR. Some interesting reads.. check it out. Click HERE to open the door to knowledge! This weeks Carnival is hosted by Totally Consumed HR.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What The Future of HR Looks Like in 2009

Ok, I told you I was going to take a stab at being a futurist. Well here goes.

First some background information. Unless you have been in a hole somewhere you are aware that there is a Presidential election going on in the US. In addition to President, voters will also be selecting members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although the Presidential selection is not yet clear it is relatively certain that Democrats will gain majority control of the Senate and will maintain, and probably increase, their hold on the majority of the House. Right now it is projected that Democrats will gain 8 seats in the Senate to give them 65 seats. This is just 2 shy of the 67 needed to override Presidential vetos. The House will gain 12 seats making it 260 Democrats and 175 Republicans. If all members are present to vote 291 votes are needed for a veto.

Why is this information important? Because my prognostications will deal with potential legislation. Whether it gets passed or not will depend on which candidate becomes President and whether "The Veto" becomes a factor.

Here we go. With two houses controlled by Democrats we can expect the following legislation to pass:
  1. Unions will call in their "marker" for helping Democrats get elected and the Employee Free Choice Act will pass making it easier for unions to form.

  2. A second 'marker' item will be the RESPECT Act. RESPECT stands for Re-empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Trade. This law will change the definition of "supervisor" and as a result, to the great benefit of union membership, will allow many supervisors to become unionized. You can find more about this at the Pennsylvania Employment and Labor Blog.

  3. In recognition of Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency the Paycheck Fairness Act will pass the Senate. The House of Representatives' version has already passed. This is an amendment to the Equal Pay Act. Opponents say the EPA handles these situation, proponents say that inequities still exist and need to be legislated.

  4. In conjunction with the Paycheck Fairness Act is the Equal Pay Act Amended. This introduces the concept of equal pay for "equivalent jobs." This harkens back to the concept of Comparable Worth. This may or may not pass, as this creates a major burden on the DOL of determining job equivalency from company to company and even internally in companies.

  5. A third compensation bill that will pass will be the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. This bill essentially eliminates the 180 day period during which discrimination must be reported. Currently if a complaint is not made to the EEOC on pay discrimination within 180 the EEOC does not recognize the complaint as valid. In essence the 180 days rolls because every day there is discrimiation in pay it resets the clock. This will not be retroactive but it will greatly increase the number of future lawsuits that will be filed.

  6. In deference to the very long service of Ted Kennedy in the Senate and in anticipation of his death I predict that two of his pet pieces of legislation will see some action. First, the Minimum Wage increases will be revisited and will be extended for another 3 years of increases culminating in $10 per hour. Secondly, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 will be amended to allow for much larger punitive fines for companies found guilty of discrimination. The current caps will at least be doubled, if not tripled for large companies. It will also make it easier to file class action law suits.

I predict that the Employee Free Choice Act and two of the compensation pieces will be passed and made effective July 1, 2009. Other passed legislation will be effective January 1, 2010 and the minimum wage law will be effective July 24, 2010 as the last increase of the current legislation is reached.

The above scenario assumes a Democrat as President. If Obama is elected there will be no veto of the above legislation since Senator Obama has already supported all this legislation. If Senator McCain is elected there will be vetos in most, if not all, cases. However, with the gains for Democrats mentioned above there is a much greater liklihood of a veto overturn.

Regardless of the outcome of the Presidency battle, 2009 promises to be a very busy one for HR professionals. Unions will certainly be a much great "threat" and the compensation legislation will be a virtual nightmare for HR job analysts and compensation professionals.

We will check back later in the year to see how "Swami" Haberman has done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back to the Future Part II

You got lucky! Yesterday I presented 5 trends from 2002 and commented on them in 2008. I said I would present another 5 today. Well I miss counted. There were only 8 to begin with so you will only have to look at 3 today. Here we go.

Trend #6 (from HRNext's 2002 trend projection)
Acquisitions and mergers. Many companies are merging as the sluggish economy lingers, and affected HR managers will need to figure out how to merge payroll, handbooks, policies and cultures. It's important to keep key talent during mergers, so affected HR managers will play a strategic role in the process.

This is as important today as it was in 2002. The key point to this is that HR needs to be involved in this FROM THE BEGINNING. These mergers and acquisitions are being made from a financial perspective and then HR is dragged in to help straighten out the mess of the people side. It would help if HR was involved from the get-go. Perhaps some of the issues could be avoided. Mergers to watch: Delta and Northwest, banks, and now GM and Chrysler.

Trend #7
The aging workforce. As the 'Boomers' get gray, more and more of the workforce will continue to go the same way. Furthermore, better health care is extending lives and many feel up to working well into their sixties and seventies. Still others have to keep working because they failed to save enough for retirement, or saw retirement assets shrink in the stock market. HR managers will need to be wary of issues related to recruiting, hiring and employing older workers without discriminating against them, or appearing to.

Well the 'Boomers' have not gotten any younger in the last 6 years, so all those issues of dealing with older workers still exist. Additionally, in the past six years, we have had an influx of Gen Y'ers. This age diversity in the workplace has presented HR and management a challenge and will continue to do so. Relationships, promotional tracks, reward systems and more will be challenged by this age diversity.

Trend #8
Technology. HR Departments will make better use of the Internet and intranets, to store, organize and disseminate information to employees as well as implement self-service technology to reduce HR costs. The Web will continue to become an important tool for HR Departments, but one that can be difficult to implement.

Use of the Internet and technology has increased tremendously. One of the major shifts has been in the importance of social networking sites. They are no longer just the domain of teenagers. Facebook, LinkedIn and others are now becoming sources and resources for HR departments in looking for and keeping track of employees. The use of these sites for recruitment and background checks has caused some issues of a legal natures. For example, does checking out a Facebook page or doing a Google search as a reference check violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It also causes some potential performance issues. Does your employee being connected to others on Twitter help productivity or hinder productivity? How does the manager control this? And lastly blogging has caused a number of problems in productivity and company secrecy. So Web 2.0 is a double edged sword that HR has to get a handle on before it gets out of control.

If you are in HR and these terms are unfamiliar to you then you need a lot of education. Even those of you familiar with them need to think of the ramifications of Web 2.0 in your workplace.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.

I was reviewing some old files and happened to come across an article on HR Trends for 2002, that appeared in a January 8, 2002 issue of HRNext. This got me focused on the "FUTURE" by looking at the past. I feel it is important for all HR professionals to keep up on trends. You need to be a "futurist" of sorts, and I would like to be one for real. So the next three blog posts will be focused on trends and the future. Today's post will discuss the first half of HRNext's 2002 article and how those trends are playing today. Tomorrow's post will discuss the second half of the article. Then Wednesday I will take my own stab what will be happening in HR after January 1, 2009.

So back to 2002. Here is trend #1 from HRNext.
"HR More Important, Strategic. In the midst of an ongoing recession, companies will need more than ever to pay close attention to the bottom line. As a large portion of any company's expenses is related to personnel, HR departments will be asked to play a more strategic and prominent role in company decisions. HR managers will be asked to closely align HR to company objectives. "

This is an "oh-so-familiar" refrain. I am not sure how successfully we have accomplished this in the past 7 years. We still preach this, we still write articles about this and we all hope that this has occurred but I am not sure we have progressed too much beyond this hope. It is however as important today as it was in a 2002 recession. Hopefully the years of teaching this in class has had an impact and HR is functioning on a strategic level. It certainly does point out the importance of paying attention to the economy as part of environmental scanning. I think I will put Paul Krugman's column on my reading list.

Trend #2
Staff reductions and other cost containment. As companies layoff employees, leave positions unfilled and make other cost reductions to try and stay afloat during the economic recession, it will be up to the HR department to implement the reductions, assist terminated employees and keep the retained workforce motivated and content. HR mangers will be asked to contribute ideas on how the company can continue to minimize expenses.

Well this has not changed! I don't really see this as a trend but as an ongoing duty of HR. I do believe that the recent meltdown will make this permanent part of all managment practices. Keeping staff trimmed yet motivated and retained regardless of how "fat" the times are.

Trend #3
Containing the cost of health care benefits. (I abbreviated this one.)

When will this not be a trend??? "Nuff said."

Trend #4
Workplace security and safety. Everyone is taking this issue very seriously since Sept. 11, as company leaders realize they will need more than a simple evacuation plan in place. HR managers will be developing thorough plans and policies designed to keep employees safe and the workplace secure. Workplace violence will also continue to be a concern.

In the days that followed Sept. 11, 2001 this was a major concern. Today the terrorism aspect of work safety has diminished, but workplace violence and domestic violence spilling into the workplace has increased. This is an area the HR needs to be continually vigilant to. Violence to female employees often comes from their home life and will often have an impact on other employees as well. It points out the importance of a good EAP.

Trend #5
Leave issues. FMLA continues to be a concern to HR managers, as companies try to make do with fewer employees. Also, military leave issues are top-of-mind in many companies, as the war on terrorism continues and more employees are called to serve.

This has not changed much since 2002 either. FMLA continues to be difficult to deal with as the law gets new definitions and amendments. With the loosening of the rules surrounding the ADA there will be an impact on FMLA leaves.

As you can see, 2008 looks alot like 2002. Tomorrow the remaining Trends of 2002.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Speak Your Way Into the "C" Suite

If there is any one lesson that can be learned from the current presidential elections in the U.S. it is the importance of oratory skills. Thoughts and ideas, good or bad, are given more attention and credence if delivered by a practiced speaker. We remember leaders of the past by their speeches and the 20th Century leaders by the sound of their speeches. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, M.L. King, Reagan, Churchill and Hitler are some of the ones that come to mind. These were all men practiced in the art of delivering a message. They used the "power of the podium."

At some point in your HR career you will be required to address a group. The more practiced you are in performing this skill the better you will be. You will stand a much better chance to make your point and to convince your audience, regardless of the size of your audience. How do you get practiced at this? Well doing it often will help, but just repitition will not be enough. All you have to do is listen to professional athletes, who get interviewed all the time, and after the 10th "uh" or "you know" you will know that practice does not do it all. You need to get trained and then practice. As someone once said "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice make perfect."

Where can you get this training? The best place I have ever found was Toastmasters. This is a group dedicated to helping you develop, hone and then perfect your speaking skills. I have attended in the past, too long ago, and what little I learned has helped me. I know I need to go back. There may be other opportunities as well. For women there is a program called Beyond the Barrier and of course there are always personal coaches.

The purpose of this is to plant the idea that if you really want to advance in your HR career you must learn how to be an effective public speaker. It will not get you into the executive suite all by itself, you still have to have some substance in your work, but it will put you leaps and bounds in front of the next qualified person who does not have that speaking abililty.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dress Codes and Tattoos

Well I am totally devoid of any originality this morning so I thought I would point out to you a great blog by Michael Moore on Dress Codes and Tattoos. I get asked about this occassionally and this post shows that there is not always a good answer. Follow the links out of his post for some good reading.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Qualities of an MBA in HR? Why Not??

The Tuesday, September 30th issue of the Wall Street Journal had a section ranking Executive MBA programs. One of the articles was entitled Are They Worth It? An inset listed the most important skills that an EMBA program should have, according to those surveyed. The list read:
  1. Strategic thinking/planning

  2. Ability to work across multiple functional areas

  3. Ability to drive results

  4. General leadership

  5. Core financial understanding.

My first thought in reading this was this is how the job description of the VP of HR should read.

Basically this is thinking ahead, understanding your business, measuring your work, providing leadership and talking the language of business. How many times have we heard that?

So if you want to make an impact in your organization THINK, WORK AND ACT like an MBA. Even better, convince your company to send you to an EMBA program. Of course before they will do that you already have to be thinking like an MBA. But being sent to that EMBA program would be the ultimate acknowledgment of your value in HR.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Management Middle Ground: The Mythical Unicorn of Business

I have seen, over my consulting career, a lot of managers, owners and supervisors. I have watched their decision making and I have watched them steer their "ships of commerce" both large and small. Many have had to make tough decisions and most make decisive, yet measured business decisions. EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO PEOPLE.

When it comes to people you get two camps. One camp makes quick decisions, regardless of the situation.
  • Hire immediately and on "gut."

  • Promote or give a raise at the drop of a hat.

  • Fire on the spot.

The second camp takes FOREVER to make a decision.

  • Can't decide to hire, because they are not sure what or whom they are looking for.

  • Don't ever discipline or they issue warning after warning with no consequences. Don't want to upset someone, don't want to face the employee, afraid of them, etc. You pick the reason.

  • Won't EVER fire anyone despite that the person drags down morale, lowers productivity, drives off the good employees.

Both camps of managers are bad for the company. The "hair trigger" types make decisions that result in turnover, incompetent management and run the risk of discrimination lawsuits. The "drag-on forever" types don't make decisions and this results in lower quality candidates, poor performing employees, lowered morale, turnover, and the threat of lawsuits. Both types result in dragging down the reputation of the company.

Why is there no middle ground? Probably lack of training. Bigger companies may train managers, but most small and middle size companies don't. Having a well trained HR person may help this situation, but only if they have credibility within their organizations, and many HR folks in small companies don't.

So what do we do? Well we can point out the financial consequences of their behavior. That means HR has to be on the ball. You have to be able to put the need for a change of behavior in financial terms. Hopefully that will catch their attention.

Anyone have another suggestion. Let us know. Leave a comment on this blog page and educate us in what we might be able to do. Your HR brethren will appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

HR Communication: More Important Than Ever

In the turbulent times that we are experiencing today our employees may be wondering about their future, your future, future of the company and who knows what else. Are you communicating with them? Are you letting them know the how the state of the economy affects the company? I guarantee they are wondering. So communicate. Here is some guidance on what you should be considering from Michael Moore of the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog. His blog on HR communication in a finanical crisis is required reading. So read it and pass it on. (You can do that by forwarding my blog email.)


Monday, September 22, 2008

Days Off Are NOT Vacation!

Maybe it is just Monday blahs but I don't feel rested. This was supposed to be a relaxing weekend but I don't feel relaxed. I have had days off this year, beyond just the weekends, but I have spent them moving ( a couple of times) and getting settled in a new house. These were days off, away from work, no mental stress, at least work related. But days off are not the same as a vacation. I need a vacation! And I am sure I am not the only one who feels that way. I am definately in the school that says people need to get away from work and have sufficient time to unwind. I personally need to get away entirely. Go to the beach or the mountains. How about you? I am certain you see employees showing stress from lack of vacation as well.

I like the approach of a company called Bluewolf. They allow their employees to take vacation anytime they want, as long as they are productive and get their work done. Check out this article on Businessweek online. Think this might work for you?

BTW, I realize this is a pretty weak post, I told you, I need a vacation!
(Photo credit: Its mine, took it in Utah.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Latest Carnival of HR

Here is the link to the latest Carnival of HR, the compilation of some great HR blog posts. This one is done in an interesting Q & A format. There are posts on leadership, jobs, thinking and using technology in HR. Give it a look.

What Is The Right Ratio? Is This The Right Question?

I was on a flight Wednesday evening. As we were preparing to take off I was chatting with the guy sitting in my aisle. Turns out he is an HR Manager. So before settling down to our individual work we talked "shop." I was floored when he told me that the company he works for has 8000 employees in 80 different locations and he was one of THREE HR managers they have in the company. That is a ratio of 1:2667. His comment to my amazement was "Well obviously we have decided we are not a strategic partner." For the most part they fly around the country putting out harassment and discrimination "fires." He had resigned himself to being the HR detective.

That got me to thinking were things stood on the WHAT IS THE RIGHT RATIO question. Common opinion has mostly been that the "correct" ratio is 1:100, that is 1 HR person for every 100 employees. And I run into this quite often. I have also run into situations of 1:250 and occassionally even larger ratios. The problem with this is that there is no single answer. The answer depends on many factors, such as the nature of the work, nature of the business, philosophy of service delivery, dispersion of employee base, upper management's view of the HR function and how much automation exists in the various HR areas. The nature of the economy also has some influence. As cutbacks occur we see HR departments having to do "more with less" and thus the HR ratio has expanded. I am sure there are other factors that play into this as well.

I am not even sure that the size of the HR department is the proper question. Since there are many ways to "skin the cat" of HR ratio perhaps a better measure(s) would be HR EFFECTIVENESS. What can HR contribute and what is the best way that can be done? Once that is determined then proper staffing can be determined. Here is an interesting discussion on this topic from last year on a blog post at breakpoint HR.

Tell me your story. What is your ratio and what is your contribution? Are you strategic?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jobs of the Future: And You Told Your Kid to Quit Doodling!

Kids that are in high school today and parents of kids in elementary school think every once in a while about what kind of job they may have in the future. Well here is some guidance on jobs of the future provided by The Futurist Magazine, the publication of the World Future Society. In an article entitled "Majoring in the Unusual" they discuss some of the jobs that high schoolers may be able to enter in the future. From a book titled They Teach That In College? these include:
  1. Sustainable or "green" business. Students need to major in biology, environmental sciences and conventional business practices.

  2. Nanotechnology/Nanoscience. Students need to major in science, biotechnology, agriculture, and areas such as energy. All of these areas will benefit from nanotechnology. (Click the word if you are unsure of what it is.)

  3. Computer Forensics. This is supposed to be a hot job and will create opportunities in a number of fields beyond law enforcement.

  4. Strategic Intelligence. Also known as "spying" this will be a big job for smart kids. So if you kid is smart and very computer literate they have a future, mostly in government, but private industry could use them as well.

  5. and my favorite, Comic Book Art. Yes, the job prospects for your doodler are excellent. Many experts consider comics and "graphic novels" to be the biggest area of growth for print publishers. So if your kid is a good cartoonist encourage them!

( A sad side note from an avid book reader. Is the "graphic novel" a result of our TV society? People are no longer capable of sitting and reading a book that doesn't have pictures? Of course I do remember doing a book report on Ivanhoe based upon reading the Classic Comic book. LOL, needless to say I did not do well. I missed some of the finer detail of the book.)

Anyway, getting back to jobs. Kids today will be doing many things their parents cannot even concieve of or think are ridiculous. So be open minded to that skill, talent or interest they may have. Who knows it may get them a good job someday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make September 11th Safety Day!

I am certain there are many blog posts today remembering the attacks on September 11, 2001. I think this one might have a different twist. In the days and weeks that followed that terrible day I listened to story after story of the personal stories of pain, uncertainty, terrible certainty, and heroism that followed.
One story really hit me and every year around this time it comes to mind. It was the story of one office in one of the towers. The company in that office made it a regular habit to practice fire drills. They had just practiced one the previous week. As a result of that experience, when the planes hit and the alarms went off, this group of people calmly got everyone in their office out of the building. Additionally, they were able to assist two or three disabled individuals out of the building as well. I remember the president of the company saying he was glad they had done the practice and he was grateful he did not have to call any families to tell them a family member had died.

This was a very powerful story to me. I am sorry I do not remember the name of the company. But I do think of it every September 11th. I have Incorporated this into my HR classes that I teach. I tell my students that I think one of the best ways they can remember that day is to make it SAFETY DAY.

So I give that same advice to you. On this day practice a fire drill. Make sure all your fire extinguishers are in working order. Make sure everyone knows where to meet after they evacuate the building. If you have a large facility have the fire department out to tour the building so they know it and have a plan for it. Commemorate this day by making your workplace safer.

You will be grateful that you do not have to call a family and tell them their love one had died in a disaster at your place of work.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pitching In When Times Are Tough: OOPS!

One of the things I love about the the good ol' US of A is that, as a whole, we are a generous people. Individually we give ALOT of money to charities that help people across the nation and across the world. And of course the government is very generous with our money, helping countless causes around the world, supplying disaster relief, providing money to governments and charities to make up for the shortfall. This is something the US should be proud of doing. So it goes to figure that when our own country starts to suffer some we pitch in. We send money to areas hit by hurricanes. The government, with our money, bails out the banks. Which is ok, it will be good in the long run. We conserve fuel and start taking public transportation. So everyone pitches in to help make keep the economy whole and get things turned around. Right?

Well wait a minute. Not everyone! How can this be you ask? Aren't we all patriots? Apparently not the 27,000 Boeing machinists, who have gone out on strike. This is a strike which will cost the company $100 million a day according to a Reuter's news story. Additionally it has already had a global impact, depressing some stocks and raising the value of Airbus. In Seattle the local economy will be hit hard, given that is where the machinists are located. The machinists are even angry at their own union for trying to delay the strike in order to reach agreement with Boeing. So they have gone on strike and the effect is being felt worldwide.

The issue is apparently not money (hmmm, really?), it is about subcontracting and outsourcing. It is that Global Economy thing. Well, we will see how this turns out. Here is an Associated Press story which has a more complete detailing of the issues and demands.

You will note that the major issue in this article is money. They wanted more than the 11% increase that was offered. (I think most of us would be pretty happy with an 11% increase.)Given that the average wage for machinists is $56,000 a year before overtime and benefits that raise would have been $6000+. If my calculator is correct that is $162,000,000 in additional wages. It is no wonder Boeing has to outsource or subcontract work.

Anyway, read the articles. You decide if the machinists are helping or hurting our tough economy. USA, USA, USA

(Photo credit: Robert Sorbo/Reuter)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ageism, Sexism, Racism: Alive and Well

If you have been watching any of the coverage of the U.S. presidential election you realize that people can get pretty passionate about their choices for candidates. That is one of the things that makes the process interesting. People have differences in how they think taxes, energy, war, employment, unemployment, immigration, natural disasters, the economy and a hundred other issues should be dealt with. And discussion/debate on those issues is healthy. Perhaps better solutions are discovered during that process.

But if you have been paying attention you have also seen an ugly side of the process. Rather than healthy debate we have seen biases bared, biases based on race, sex, age, lifestyle and even disability. Biases, for or against a candidate, are, in my opinion not a healthy way to choose a leader. We have seen these biases early on in the Democrat Party process. People wanting Obama exclusively because he is "black" or wanting Clinton because she is a woman. On the Republican side there has been sexism in the critique in the hairstyle of Palin and in her drive and ambition. Who really cares what a leaders hair looks like? Or in asking whether she could care for her family and be a VP. Asked of any male candidates? Not that I have heard. The personal criticism of McCain hits both disability bias and ageism. I have heard people say he looks funny because of the way he holds his arms. Well that happens when they have been broken and not healed correctly. I have heard others call him that "sad, little old white man" and question whether someone his "age" can lead.

Preferring, or not preferring, a candidate based on color of skin, gender, age, or disability is not the way to select your leader. The thing that distresses me the most about this is all those things I have heard or read have been expressed by people in Human Resources. That line about color of skin, gender, age or disability should sound damn familiar!

In my opinion, if you are in HR and have expressed these points of view then I think you should consider a change of profession. If you are going to let these things sway you in your choice of leadership, then in all likelihood they will sway you in your choice of employees, trainees, promotees and demotees. And that has no place in our profession.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Value of That College Degree: Despite Economy Grads Doing Better

Everyone knows that the economy is tough right now. The U.S. DOL put out the report on jobless claims today and it shows that jobless claims rose (as reported in Yahoo! Finance news) reversing previous declines. Despite that the NACE reported that companies are hiring more graduates that in 2007 and, as reported on they are finding higher starting wages. Take a look at these:
  • Civil engineering graduates: 6.4 % increase over 2007; average offer of $51,632
  • Mechanical engineering grads: 5.3% increase; offer of $57,009
  • Business administration/management: 5.1% increase; average offer of $45,915
  • Marketing: 4.7% increase; offer of $42, 053
  • Economics majors grads: 4.2% increase; offer of $50,507
  • Accounting graduates: 2.9%; average offer of $48,085
  • Electrical engineering grads: 2.9%; offer of $56,910
  • Finance grads: 2.8% increase; offer of $48,547

Leading the way:

  • Computer science graduates: 13.1%; offer of $60,416
  • Liberal Arts graduates: 2.6%; offer of $36,419

Now, all things being equal, I would just as soon have the salary offered the computer science types, but all of them are decent. It would be nice if HR folks got the higher levels, but many people come into HR from the liberal arts area. It is much better to come to HR from business admin.

If you have been laid off maybe going back to school might be the best option. There is some monetary value to having a college to degree. It would be interesting however to contrast this with trade positions such as HVAC, plumbers, etc. What are entry level wages for those positions after training in the trade? Anyone have those numbers.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The ADA and Recruiting Sites: Is Yours Up To Par?

I was searching for a topic for today and was reading news stories and other blogs. I opened up Michael Moore's Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog. His post on August 28th made me sit up and take notice. He wrote on that day about the ADA and company websites. He discusses a case with Target losing a class action suit based on blind shoppers not being able to access the Target website. Target argued that the ADA covered physical spaces and not virtual spaces. They lost!

Mr. Moore points out that this concept can easily be transfered to recruitment websites or a company's section on its website for recruitment. The ADA guarantees access to the recruitment and application process, and Moore feels the Target case can easily be expaneded to the virtual world of Internet applications.

So if you are a recruiter using your company website or a site like (which I looked at and could not see any section on what to do if I had not been a sighted visitor) you may wish to review this case.

I would like comments from anyone who has addressed this. How do you deal with sight disabled visitors to your recruitment website?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talent Management: Just What Does It Mean?

The other day I posed this question to a group of HR people: "Is there a consistent definition of the term TALENT MANAGEMENT?" The responses I got pretty much matched my thought. There is not a consistent definition. And I think this is confusing to HR folks and upper management. And thus things don't get done. "Talent" (whatever that means) does not get managed. Upper management gets frustrated with HR, HR gets frustrated with HR, and confusion reigns. As I was searching for a definition Cathy Martin, author of Find Your Metrics That Matter, sent me a link to the following article.

Mary Ann Downey, of IC4P, wrote an article entitled Talent Management by any Other Name... I don't think I could be anymore articulate than she was in this post. So I refer her to you and maybe she can clear it up.

Also along those lines, here is another article called Kill the 'HR Speak' by John Sullivan in Workforce. Click on the title to read that article. Talent Management is part of HR speak.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creating Problems In Order To Solve Them

If you have been in management or HR for any period of time you have probably encountered an employee who always seems to encounter more problems than others, but seems to always successfully solve them. Sometimes you are happy they have taken care of them, other times you wonder why that employee always encounters the problems. Sometimes people get rewarded or promoted for their problem solving skills. Sometimes people make their reputations on their ability to solve problems and become known as turn around specialists.

It is always good to have a problem-solver in the fold, but sometimes you are suspicious. Just a gut feeling that things are not quite the way they seem. You suspect that the person is creating as many problems as they solve and in fact seem to be making them up to look good. Maybe to get a promotion, a raise, or just to get the praise. Well it turns out that this may be a more widespread problem than thought. In an article in the Monday, August 25th issue of the Wall Street Journal writer Phred Dvorak discusses a phenomena called 'Munchausen at Work.' Georgia Tech business professor Nathan Bennett coined this term to describe work behavior that resembles a rare psychological disorder called Munchausen Syndrome.

Munchausen Syndrome (click for the Wiki) is a disorder in which people make up illnesses or diseases in order to get sympathy or to draw attention to themselves. It is named after a real person, Baron von Munchausen, who used to make up fanciful tales about himself. (His story was actually made into a movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.)

Some of the symptoms of 'Munchausen at Work', according to Dvorak, include withholding help or key information until the last moment and then stepping in to save the day. Other examples include things like creating rumors among employees and then dispelling the rumors after having "talked to the boss" or "saving your job." Another example was a manager undermining relationships in his work group and then holding group sessions to improve relations. Managers create the workplace "illnesses" in order to cure the illness and thus draw attention to themselves.

Part of the problem may be of our own creation. We usually get the type of behavior we reward. So if we consistently reward problem solving behavior we may have created an "attention junky" (my term) who now has to create problems to solve in order to get the attention for solving the problem.

So, HR Manager, take a look at your managers. Do you have one that is always the "hero"? The White Knight who comes dashing to the rescue? If so you may want to look a little closer and see if what they are saving you from is not of their own creation. Hopefully not, but it doesn't hurt to be a bit skeptical and investigate. You might cure some more headaches. Then of course we would have to worry about you craving that attention too!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is Your Head In the Cloud?: Education For The HR Department

Jim Stroud, of the Recruiters Lounge, pointed out in a Tweet today the 12 New Rules of Working You Should Embrace Today, from the blog site Zenhabits. It is pretty interesting and I would recommend it as a read. But directing you to two new blog sites is not my purpose.

My purpose this fine day is to educate you a bit since most of us HR people are not the most technologically savvy folks there are. In the 12 New Rules Leo Babauta uses the term "the cloud", a term I must admit I was not familiar with until just this past Thursday when I heard a story on NPR. This story was called Computing in the Cloud: Who Owns Your Files? It describes how people are keeping all their files on the Internet and not stored on computers. Calendars, shared files, records, email, etc. are stored out in "the cloud" of the Internet and not resident on your computer. The article describes the advantages and disadvantages of both methods of storage, but indicate that the wave of the future is the "cloud." Here is the definition of THE CLOUD on Wikipedia.

So that is your education for the day. You now know what "the cloud" is so when someone more technical than you, or younger than you, or more savvy than you, uses it you will not look like a doofus. You will understand and be able to converse intelligently on the subject. And people will be impressed.

Oh by the way, did I throw you with the word TWEET that I used earlier? A tweet is a communication on Twitter. Twitter is a social networking site that allows for quick communication with a wide variety of people. All the fashionable and up-to-date HR people are using it to expand their horizons and network with other professionals. Check it out.

To quote Sean Connery's charactor in The Untouchables, "Here endth the lesson."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Government Jobs: Protection for All A Free Ride For Some

There is a stereotypical image of a government worker as lazy and incompetent who has a job in government because they could not make it in the private sector. They receive protection from the Civil Service system. This stereotype holds for all governments throughout the world. It is especially potent in the US and American humor. Think of postal workers, fat bellied county sheriffs, "military intelligence", and the humor goes on. We all know that this is not true in 95% of cases. But humor is based on reality. And it is funny, in most cases, but not when it costs a life.

In Georgia (the state, not the country), the Fulton County 911 system employed someone who fit the stereotype of the failed employee and the system fit the stereotype of a failed system. As a result someone looking for help is now dead because the operator and the system failed. The operator did not respond correctly to the call for help and sent emergency workers to an incorrect address. She failed to notice that the call was coming from an entirely different part of town. As a result a woman calling for help did not receive it and she later died. You might be inclined to say "Well that is unfortunate, but people do make mistakes." However, in this case this 911 operator had a long history of mistakes and problems. In her 12+ years as an operator she had amassed a 2100 page personnel file detailing mistakes in routing calls, sleeping on the job, fights with co-workers and bosses, multiple tardiness and more. Two thousand one hundred pages of personnel file!!!!

The question becomes "Why was this woman still working as an operator with this kind of record?" The answer shows where the system failed. She had been suspended several times. Yet, the civil service system reinstated her each time. I have no idea of the reasoning, but they did. And as a result a woman is dead. To me this intolerable. This is a failed system protecting a failed employee. If this does not cause a "re-think" of the system it should. But I have no hope that it will. That is one of the hallmarks of the stereotypical government system.

By the way, they reassigned the Director of the 911 center (sounds like sports doesn't it. Players suck so we fire the coach.) They have also suspended the operator, AGAIN. However, she and her attorney have appealed her case to the county Personnel Board. Her case will be heard August 28th. We have another opportunity to see if the system will fail again by reinstating her.

All jokes aside, this time it is no laughing matter.

If you want to read the story click on AJC.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Age Discrimination: Even AARP Is Not Immune

AARP, the national association that advocates for older Americans, is being sued by an ex-employee, who claims she was discriminated against because of her age, so reports the New York Times. The woman, Bonita Brady, claims she lost her job in a reorganization and then was passed over 9 times for other positions, despite the fact that she had excellent performance reviews in the past. AARP has not responded to the claim.

There are several things that may be going in this case. But first, here is a primer on age discrimination. Age is covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and is administered by the EEOC. It has been amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act and the Equal Employment Act of 1991. Basically the law protects workers over the age of 40 from discrimination in all aspects of employment. Employers have to make decisions about employees or candidates based upon factors other than age. If an employee is being terminated or laid off they can be asked to sign a letter waiving their rights to sue if: 1) they are given something of value in return (read severance here), 2) they are given 21 days in which to make the decision (45 days if it is a group layoff), 3) they are informed they have the right to consult an attorney, and 4) they have 7 days in which to rescind the agreement.

There are a couple of Supreme court cases that have major impact on age discrimination. The first was General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline in 2004 said that the law was meant to protect workers over the age of 40 from discrimination in favor of workers under the age of 40, not from workers over the age of 40 but of a different age. The case dealt with benefit favoritism for workers over 50 but not for workers ages 40-49. A couple more recent Supreme Court decisions allowed older workers to file disparate impact cases. As an example, any skills test requiring computer skills might have a disparate impact on older workers.

So in the AARP case we started with a few things may be going on. First, Ms. Brady may have been passed over several times, but if she was denied because AARP hired someone who was also over the age of 40 she may not have a case. She may not have had the skills they need to fill the position, despite the good performance reviews. Secondly, perhaps the decision-making here was based upon "nice" performance reviews rather than "accurate" performance reviews. It may be in reality that her boss(es) may have been wishy-washy in their evaluation of her performance and she was not really as good as they put down on paper. And then when it came down to having to make a decision on her to fill a spot they really did not think she was capable of doing it. So they passed her over. She got upset and filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination. Whether this is the case or not, it is a good reminder to be accurate in performance evaluation, because if you tell people they are good, when indeed they are not, when you let them go they are going to attribute it to discrimination in some form. After all, you have been telling them for years they are good employees.

Whatever the reason, pay attention to this one to develop. They may settle with her. She is only asking for $25,000 and the bad publicity may cost AARP more than that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It Is Nice To Get Recognized

HR Observations is pleased to announce that it has made the top 25 best blog list hosted by Fistful of Talent. We made the list at #14.
Read the list by linking to the FOT site. You will find a wealth of great blogs that will educate, elucidate and titillate your HR senses.
BTW, there is an HR lesson in this. The title of this post is "It is nice to get recognized." And it is. We all feel that way. So remember that with your employees.

Monday, August 18, 2008

OOPS in the Outback: Why Managerial Training is Important

Here in the U.S. we often talk about the importance of training for managers and supervisors. Most of us in HR realize that most companies get in "trouble" due to the things said and done by managers and supervisors. Well here is a great example of that. From Australia we have the Mayor of Mount Isa, John Molony, making the public statement to the newspaper that read "May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa." He proceeded to compound his error by further stating "Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face,.....Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness."

Needless to say his comment, thus interpreted as RECRUIT UGLY WOMEN has not been received well by the women in the area. One even countered "We've got a saying up here that the odds are good, but the goods are odd."

I am not too sure if there is an HR person in Mount Isa, probably not, but if there was I am sure they had the same reaction any US based HR person would have. Basically "OMG what has he done." By the way, the mayor has not taken kindly to the fire-storm of controversy that has erupted and has essentially said he was misquoted.

How would you like to be the recruiter handling that assignment and running the ad stating "Only Ugly Women Need Apply."

This is just a lesson to all HR people... DO YOUR TRAINING AHEAD OF TIME! Not after a manager or supervisor has stuck his/her foot in the organization's mouth.

If you wish to read the article link here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bilingualism: HR Skill Of The Future

According to the Census Bureau by 2050 Hispanics will comprise 30% of the U.S. population and Asians will comprise 9%. Combine this with the rapidly expanding "global" economy this will put bilinguil skills at the top of the list of necessary skills for HR professionals of the future.

The Census Bureau further reports that non-Hispanic whites will make up 46% of the population and blacks will be 15% of the population. This is a reduction from current levels for whites of 55% and just a marginal increase for blacks of less than 1%.

Oh by the way, one of the other languages you will have to speak is "old person". People over the age of 85 will triple to over 19 million by that time.

And it is going to be crowded extra 134 milllion people by 2050. Currently we have 305 million residents.

Diversity will definately be on the table, but that time it may no longer be an issue because it will be the norm.

Of course the way things are going now, we may all be speaking Chinese or Russian by that time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Worried Workers: What Bothers Your Employees?

An article in, on new Social Contracts, indicates that workers born in the 1980's are very, very unsettled. According to's reading of a Time/Rockefeller poll:

  • 49% of them say America was a better place to live in the 1990s

  • 46% say America is a lot less financially secure now than a decade ago.

Additionally, "...35% of them think they will have to change jobs 2-3 times in the next 10 years." And as you are well aware, what people think is the reality you have to live with. So you may want to pay attention to your Gen Y workers and anticipate some turnover.

In a broader sampling of workers the poll also found:

  • 35% of Hispanics are very worried about losing their job in the next year

  • 54% of Americans say they have inadequate savings to handle a personal crisis like losing a job

  • 71% would rather have a job that guarantees health care and provides a pension than one that pays more

So, to quote a famous musical "There is trouble in River City." (Anyone know which one?) In these troubling times people are concerned about jobs and security, but many anticipate having to change jobs.

So how does this alter the "social contract" with employees that your company enters into with employment? Do you have the opportunity to trade salary for security? Or is the insecurity caused by the economy, such as increased commuting costs, still make a monetary "contract" primary to people. What does a company have to offer to get the best and then retain them without emptying the corporate pocketbook?

A challenge for HR for sure!