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.