Friday, May 30, 2008

Carinval of HR #34: All the Best HR in One Place

The Carnival of HR #34 has been published on the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog. This is a collection of the BEST in HR blogs, so nose around and get in some good reading.

Mixing Beer Companies Brews Trouble

The Wall Street Journal did an analysis of the rumored purchase of Anheuser-Busch, by Brazilian/Belgian owned InBev. Some of the analysis dealt with the financial and marketing aspects of the deal, but much of it talked about the Human Resources issues that surround the deal. These include:
  • Anheuser is heavily unionized and InBev has been very tough with European unions, facing strikes and protests in Belgium and Newfoundland. In fact in Newfoundland InBev hired a hard-nosed security company to keep the union under control. (Harkens back to the days of the railroads and the Pinkertons.)

  • InBev is very harsh on non-performing employees, subjecting them to what as been described as isolated cases of moral harassment.

  • InBev has what is called a "high octane" culture, meaning very "rah, rah". Low costs, high incentives. This does not match the much more traditional culture at A-B.

  • InBev has a tendency to replace management with Brazlians.

A-B has responded coolly to the interest by InBev and naturally, the unions representing the workers are not happy with the idea at all.

It is well known that many mergers and aquisitions fail, not for financial reasons, but for people reasons. Does this one make financial sense? Absolutely, InBev has an operating margin of 27% while A-B's is 17%. But the people issues maybe difficult to overcome.

Another key to this may be the reaction of the American public. Messing with the clydesdales is downright UN-American. To me it would be like selling the White House. And with the political landscape poised to become the domain of union-friendly Democrats there might be some trouble in Congress and the White House with this one.

But if this occurs this will be one to watch. Will it succeed? Or will it become another Harvard Business School case study of one more M & A sunk do to people reasons?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

10 Things Learned in HR: Great post from Dan McCarthy

Dan McCarthy, who writes the blog Great Leadership posted 10 Things I Learned Working in HR. This is a must read for everyone in HR and especially for everyone who wants to be in HR. I particularly liked points 3, 5, 7, and 9. And students will really appreciate point 5.

I had one of my partners remark yesterday that he would wake up at night if he had to remember everything I have to remember. The remembering is not what keeps me awake it is the thought that I must know so much more than I do and there is no way I can possibly do it.

But Dan's post will make you feel more appreciated and proud, yet exhausted and depressed at the same time. Thanks Dan! (And yes, I have felt like Lucy at times. Or the hamster.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

GINA: Not Just About the Genetics

President Bush signed into law, on May 21st, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Beyond the expected healthcare provisions it also had two very HR related provisions:

  1. It prohibits discrimination in all areas of employment on the basis of genetic information of the employee or employee's close relatives. This includes hiring, firing, compensation, terms or priviledges of employment. An employer would also be prohibited from limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in any fashion that would deprive the employee of any employment opportunities or adversely affect the status of the employee because of the employee’s genetic information (or the genetic information of the family member of the individual).

  2. A change unrelated to genetic information is the amendment to the Child Labor section of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). GINA provided for fines of up to $100,000 for any child labor violation that leads to the death or serious injury of any employee under the age of 18.

To me preventing the death or injury of any employee is of paramount importance, but especially if you have children working for you. If you needed anything else there is also this significant financial "incentive." So make your workplaces safe, have rules that are enforced and watch those kids. They think they are "bullet-proof" and may be inclined to short cut the rules.

No Conventional Wisdom Here: Study Finds Wednesday is Most Unsafe Day

The conventional wisdom in most HR and Management circles is that employees are not at their best on Mondays and Fridays. Supposedly recovering from the weekend on Monday and looking forward to the weekend on Friday. Most executives think the middle of the week is the most productive. Productivity is one issue, but safety is another. A new study has shown that Wednesday is the most unsafe day of the week. This study took a look at government workers in Georgia and found that there are more accidents reported on Wednesday than on any other day of the week. Fridays had the fewest reports. So the "weekend distraction" did not seem to have any effect on working safely.

What are the possible reasons? Well the study suggests that the reason Friday appears to be the safest is that fewer workers may be on the job as a result of flextime. Fewer workers equals fewer accident reports. Perhaps that is the same reason Monday is not the highest day of the week. And it is likely that with flextime you will have the MOST employees on the job on Wednesday and hence have a higher likelihood of an accident report.

Beyond flextime, what might be some other reasons? Is there midweek fatigue? Is there too much work trying to be shoved into too little time and thus people get distracted? Possibly, but I think in this study it is tied to the flextime schedule.

How about all of you. Anyone notice an accident trend in your workplace?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Response to Anonymous Poster(s) on Update

The purpose of the article was not to demean the homeless. Many are in those circumstances due to things beyond their control. Nor was it meant to say that unions do not have a right to picket they do. A long history of labor law provides that right to workers and all though I am no fan of unions I accept they have that right. And many carpenters are out of work as a result of illegal laborers working in positions that should be filled by Americans or those who have the legal right to work in the US. Authorities should be tough on companies that use illegal labor. And the housing market has certainly been tough on carpenters or at least house framers.

However, in this case these picketers were not "professional" picketers, nor are they carpenters, and if you read the article, this local does make a habit of picking up people off the street corners and "employing" them for the day. If you had read the click through article you would have seen that.

The point of the post was that if a union is trying to make a point, and carpenters were truly unemployed they would have been on the picket line themselves, handing out fliers, informing the public of their plight. No fliers were handed out at this picket line, I know I was down there and saw. The come and they picket for two hours and then are bused somewhere else or back to where they were picked up.

If I were a carpenter and were paying union dues I would be unhappy with how I was being represented and the fact that my dues were going to paying non-union, non-member, hired picketers. I think the local does a disservice to their members by representing in them in that manner and that was my point.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Update on Crummy Tactics

After I wrote yesterday's post about the picketers outside my window I came across this article entitled Carpenters Union Hires Stand-Ins for Picket Lines. There was a good reason all these picketers look like homeless people, they are! They go by, pick them up, pay them $8 per hour then drop them off again.

Pretty low-life way of conducting a labor dispute. How do hardworking carpenters feel about being represented in that manner? I would not be too happy if I were one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crummy Union Tactics

I live in an apartment near an office building in the Atlanta area. For about the past three weeks there have been picketers everyday at the office building. They are protesting, as best I can figure out, an attempt to not pay carpenters an increasing wage and something about lowering area standards. All well and good you say, that is their right. The problem with this group of protesters however is that I don't believe there is a single carpenter among them. They arrive on a carpenter union bus, carrying signs that look many years old, they walk in circles, yelling, whistling, banging on buckets and raising their signs in the air. There is no indication who they are picketing (kinda hard to influence decisionmakers if you have no idea who they are.) Looking at the group closely it looks like the union has rounded up a bunch of homeless people and have given them jobs picketing. I would wager they are not even members of the union, let alone bonafide carpenters.

Further down the street at an actual construction site is another protest. Two guys standing by a banner that says "Labor Protest. Shame on So and So". No union identification, no company identification, just a person's name. And the material they used, the banner, the PVC holder and even the wording is identical to another I saw about 20 miles away. BUT, that sign had a different person's name on it. I don't get what they are protesting, who they are protesting against or what they want.

So are either of these protests being successful? I don't see how. There is not enough information to raise the general public's interest or knowledge. If I were sympathetic how would I know who to pressure or influence? Instead they are a nosy nuisance. Their appearance does not say much for them. I certainly would not want any of them working on my place. So I don't understand what these operations are trying to gain. And I think it is pretty underhanded to have stand-ins.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pumping Up Your Employees: No Rah-Rah, Just Help With Gas

When you live in a metropolitan area like Atlanta, being in your car is just a way of life. Atlanta has a notorius commute and terrible traffic jams (and it seems people can't stop running into each other slowing things down even more.) In the past not many people really took mass transit or found alternatives to driving themselves to work everyday. However, with the price of gas rising the way it has people are looking at alternatives. The heavy traffic didn't make a difference, but now combine that with a heavy cost and you see people change. So here in Atlanta there has been an increase in ridership on MARTA buses and trains. There has been an increase in the use of van pools, car pooling, and even riding bikes and walking to work has increased. (I saw a guy the other day riding a bike who was so large you know he would not normally ride. But there he was, riding on busy street. I am sure he is hoping for the weight loss benefits that will come with it. I just hope he does not get run over in the process.)

Sometime however, an employee lives in one area and works in another which provide no main arteries, no public transportation nor any opportunity for ride sharing, or they have a job that requires them to drive during the work day. What then? Well there is an article entitled "Companies Help Employees Deal With Fuel Costs" in the May 20th issue of The Wall Street Journal. It talks about how some companies are increasing mileage rates or they are providing some pay supplement to help cover the cost of gas. One company provides an extra $50 in the paycheck. We at Omega HR Solutions did something similar and gave $50 gas cards to our employees who do not have the opportunity to work from home. And we do allow some people to work from home several times a week ( I do.)

Companies are also looking at reconfiguring sales territories. Those of us in sales/customer service that have to visit customers have looked seriously at our territories or combining calls. Some companies have started van pools or take advantage of other commuter resources such as the Commuter Club in Cobb County which helps businesses and individuals find alternative transportation solutions. One company in Phoenix pays 100% of the employee's fuel cost if they wrap their car in company advertizing.
So are you helping employees? Have you gotten creative with it? Tell us by leaving a comment on the blog so we can all learn.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mentors and Meeting Face to Face: Writer's Block Leads to a Great Find

All morning I was struggling with a topic for a blog. I thought of a couple outlandish, like "Treat Your Employees Like Puerto Rican Races Horses: Perform or Die" and then I realized that had been done, it is called the GE Way. So I went looking for inspiration by reading other blogs. It did not take long. I read Penelope Trunk's post today, in The Brazen Careerist, about finding a mentor entitled "How I Found My Favorite Mentor". Some very sage advice. This includes a link to a previous post on a 7-Step Plan to Find a Mentor which I thought was excellent.

Much of the advice she gives in these posts also applies to the process of networking. And keeping in touch with clients and customers. And employees and bosses. It is all about people skills. One of her lines in particular points this out: "...meeting in person makes the relationship feel qualitatively deeper by virtue of the fact that you get that whole other layer of nonverbal communication." (BTW, reading the comments section is almost as instructive as reading the post itself.)

I have a few email "mentors" who I have never met in person. As a result of reading Penelope's blog post I am going to make an effort to meet some of these people.

Everyone in HR should have several mentors (learned that from reading above) and should make an effort to meet them in person. Give it a try. If you have mentors add to the discussion and tell us how you found them and how you keep them.

I also think that recruiters should make an effort to meet candidates in person. I know in my recruiting past this often changed my impression of people, for good and bad. And I know that getting a candidate in front of the hiring manager often worked to their benefit as well. So recruiters chime in, what has your experience been?

Friday, May 16, 2008

FREE Salary Data, No Strings Attached: What a Deal!

Ann Bares had a great post yesterday at her blog Compensation Force. She posted the U.S. DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on the May 2007 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.

As Anne states "This is essentially a free salary survey, and one which I have found it to be a good supplemental source of data. My experience is that it syncs up well with other sources that cost me a lot of money, and it has the additional benefit of covering metro areas and occupations that are not well covered by other professionally published compensation surveys."

So check out the report and bookmark it for future use. And, by the way, if you are involved in compensation and you are not reading Ann's blog on a daily basis (or whenever she posts) then shame on you because you are ignoring a wonderful resource.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cornucopia of HR Topics: The Carnival of HR

The Carnival of HR is a collection of recent posts in a wide range of HR related blogs. It is an excellent resource and a quick way to find a current read on current subjects. Check it out at the Career Encouragement Blog of Peggy Andrews. The subjects this go-around include Why HR Stinks, Talent discussions, the softer side of employment law, generational differences, unions, enthusiasm, leadership and much, much more. You are cheating yourself if you do not take advantage of these great reads.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So Much for Free Choice: Unions and Secret Pacts With Employers

I have written several times, as have other bloggers, about the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, an attempt at legislation that will take away the right for employees to select, by secret ballot, whether or not they wish to be represented by a union. Well here is another tactic by the unions to erode that right even further. On the front page of the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal the following headline "Unions Forge Secret Pacts With Major Employers". The first paragraph of the article reads "Two of the nation's largest labor unions have struck confidential agreements with large employers that give the companies the right to designate which of their locations, and how many workers, the unions can seek to organize."

The unions are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), (the AFL-CIO breakaway) and Unite Here. The employers are Sodexho, Inc. and Compass Group USA. The agreements go beyond neutrality agreements (organizing attempts that the employers do not dispute) and there is a selection process between the company and the union on which locations can organize and which cannot. Thus, the unions and the employers decide who has the right to belong to the union and not the employees themselves. These agreements have been criticized and the question has been asked what the trade-off is. Well the trade-off is that the unions get to increase their membership without dispute and the companies get the unions to agree to not strike. Sounds good? Maybe for the unions, maybe for the employer, but not for the employee! The employees do not get to decide if they want to organize, they do not get to have a say by secret ballot, and if they are organized they cannot strike if they so desire.

Makes you wonder whose side the union is on doesn't it? Well I have always said that a union today is just a business and they make their money off of dues. If they can increase their membership and hence their revenue by making secret deals they will do so even if it does not benefit the employees. The businesses who are entering into these agreements are probably trying to limit their damages, thinking they would probably have been organized at sometime anyway (which means they probably deserve a union). So they get to pick who gets oranized and who doesn't. But they are not thinking in the best interests of their employees either.

So the unions gain, the companies gain and the employees lose. What a great system.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Environmental Scanning: Some Great Reads on HR

As I was catching up on some reading, after having been on a trip to California, I wanted to point out to you some great reads and some new materials for you, especially if you are involved in recruiting.

Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist has started another blog on recruiting called Fistful of Talent. It is a multi-author blog that will feature many different takes on recruiting. Today's is about the appearance of applicants today. Oh, The HR Capitalist (see link above) is about whether HR can be trusted or not. So check it out.

Jim Stroud, of the Recruiters Lounge has a FREE BOOK entitled Resume Forensics that you can download for FREE. It talks about resources and tips for finding resumes and candidates using search engines. Valuable stuff.

Ann Bares, of Compensation Force has a post today about The Quiet Pink Pay Revolution, women gaining on men in the workforce. Very interesting.

Penelope Trunk, The Brazen Careerist, talks about what knowing what you should be doing by what you did as a kid. A thought provoker.

Tomorrow I will blog about the SECRET union conspiracies under way with some companies, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sign of the Times? Union Activity Rising?

As the U.S. economy slides employees feel the pressure on their pocketbook. So what do they do about it. They cut corners, they reduce the "extra" spending. But eventually they start looking for more money. One way of doing that is looking for a different job, though that may be problematic and a bit unsettling for many. A second way for getting more money is to try to get it from their current employer. They look for bigger raises or they look for "cost of living" increases. Ann Bares, in Compensation Force warns against this with the statement "Experts warn (and I would second this warning) of the pitfalls associated with simply increasing base pay (in the form of a "cost of living" increase) to address these rising costs. What happens if gas prices continue to increase indefinitely, and you've set a precedent for covering the cost? And why increase pay to address fuel costs but not rising healthcare expenses? Again, potentially dangerous and slippery territory to step into." She offers some alternatives to COLAs so read her article.

Another way employees may try to get more money is to seek third party representation. And unions are selling it. Rising prices, job cuts, fear and a union friendly Congress are all leading to what may be an uptick in union activity. Atlanta, Georgia (where I work) has not exactly been a hotbed of union activity in the past. But union radio ads have been on the rise, and just last week in one day I saw two union picket lines where wages seemed to be the issue.

So beware! Be on your guard. Pay attention to signs of union activity in your workplace. Unless of course you want a union. I believe that as the economy worsens this activity will increase. And if we end up with a Democrat administration we will likely see union friendly legislation passed (See my previous post on the Employee Free Choice Act and Kris Dunn's post When "The Sopranos" Force an Employee To Sign a Union Card...) which will facilitate union organization. Clean up your "house", train your supervisors, put them on guard about accepting any union cards, otherwise you will get something you don't want. There is a big cost associated with unions (look at the auto companies.. are they doing well right now?) and in tough economic times do you want any more costs to handle?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Enthusiasm: A Key Hiring Requirement

Enthusiasm! Do you hire for it? You should, at least according to Alan Weiss, of Summit Consulting. In his most recent newsletter he relates the story of an exceptional waiter named Mike, who as Alan says "...generally led us through dinner the way Toscanini led the orchestra through Beethoven's Fifth." In Alan's opinion "You can't teach what Mike has, which is sheer zeal and talent for the job." This experience, and others like it, have lead Alan to offer the following advice to his many clients "... hire enthusiasm and teach the content of their business, not to hire content experts who aren't naturally enthusiastic, thinking either they can be taught enthusiasm or the content expertise will suffice."

Alan's experience mirrors my own. Interactions with employees are enthusiastic about their jobs makes the experience all that much more pleasant, regardless of the business. I have met and interacted with employees who are enthusiastic about serving burgers, changing tires, helping me figure out a mobile phone problem, sell me furniture, help me select the lighting fixtures for my new house, and launder my shirts. It is a key attribute. Now I might like to hire a combination of enthusiasm and content expertise, but I would be inclined to take enthusiasm first.

I think enthusiasm comes from someone viewing their job as important and relevant. I used to have an employee in my plant who cleaned the floors and mowed the grass. He was always whistling and working hard. I asked him why one day and he told me he had the most important job in the company. I asked how he figured that and he told me "No one could work if the place was not clean and the neighbors would be unhappy if he did not mow." Is this what we are discussing when we talk about employee engagement. Perhaps so...

Alan concludes with this.."Enthusiasm is infectious. Are you the kind of person whom others want to be around because you generate excitement and interest, no matter what your job or your calling? After working with you, would I want to work with you again, let alone give the equivalent of a $300 tip?" I will echo that. Are you? Do you hire people that generate excitment? If not, why not.

BTW, if you want a great monthly read from a great writer, speaker and consultant then subscribe (for free) to Alan's monthly newsletter The Balancing Act, which shows up in your mailbox on the first of every month without fail.