Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Gifts for Everyone: The Carnival of HR

Getting great gifts at Christmas time is always fun. Well here is your Christmas gift from HR bloggers. April Dowling at Pseudo HR, hosted this early Christmas version of HR Carnival – ‘Twas the night before.

Read about Twitter, laughter, company parties, eggnog, jobs, bonuses, hiring clowns and several Top 10 lists. So sit down and rip off the paper and take some pleasure in this gift of knowledge.

If you celebrate Christmas then MERRY CHRISTMAS! And even if you don't celebrate Christmas then Merry Christmas spirit to you anyway.

(BTW, the picture is me dressed as Santa.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Are Growing Waistlines a Sign of Diminishing Employee Attitudes?

Yesterday I heard a radio commentary by Clark Howard. He was talking about his post Recession enabling Americans to make unhealthy food choices. He was discussing a piece of research that said that Americans are saying that the recession is making it more difficult for people to buy healthy food. The premise was that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. Thus there is an increase in the size of waistlines of Americans.

Clark, however, rejects this premise, noting that there are many cheap, yet healthy, choices in the grocery store. He feels that the trend toward unhealthy foods is not one of cost but one of comfort. The recession is causing people to be stressed. And time after time research has found that when we are stressed we seek "comfort" food. These are things that taste good and that are generally not nutrionally good for you. I think of my own example. Several years ago, as my mother was declining in health and eventually dying I was at her bedside. Each night as I left the hospital to get something to eat I returned to a restaurant that I had found that served "home cooked" meals. I ate chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy each night. I was seeking comfort food during that very stressful time. Today I have a tendency to  grab a bag of peanut M&Ms (a big bag) when I get stressed. I think many of you are the same way.

So I agree with Clark. I think this tendency to growing waistlines is a signal of stress. So look at your employees. If they are getting heavier you may have some morale problems. People may be ill at ease with what is happening at work. It may be a signal that you have to do some damage control with employee attitudes.

A side note: This is my only post this week. I am heading on a short vacation to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Even though this our 38th, I still do not want to take any time or attention away from my beautiful wife, so I will not be posting until mid-week next week.

Friday, December 11, 2009

End of the Week Reading: Great Stuff from Great Blogs

I missed the Carnival of HR this time. (Need to do something about that darn calendar.) There are some very good posts there. Here is the link Carnival of HR. This is one is hosted by Rowan Manahan.

Additionally, here are several posts that I recommend you read.
  1. Fran Melmed wrote an excellent piece called "We Don't Need No Stinking Diversity Training." It is so good it got picked up by NPR. She prompted me to write my piece on Removing the Ethnicity from your name.
  2. Kris Dunn wrote some required reading for anyone considering committees called Are Committees in Your Company Ever a Good Idea? If this one does not make you think twice, then reread it.
  3. Becky Regan, compensation pro extrodinaire, offers her 2010 predictions in The Compensation Cafe. "Top 4" Total Rewards Predictions for 2010  See if you agree.
  4. Wally Bock, of Three Star Leadership, blasts Notre Dame and Brian Kelly for the very poor example of leadership they exhibited in Values, schmalues, there is money at stake.
  5. And Ann Bares of Compensation Force writes on Throwing in the Towel: Are Employers Resigned to Impending Departures?
That is probably enough reading for the end of the week. But believe me, you will be better off for it. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting a Job by Hiding Your Ethnic Name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." So says William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But many people today would disagree. In the New York Times Michael Lou writes about "Whitening the Resume" (Free registration required to read) In this article he talks about African American job candidates taking the "blackness" out of their names, schools, experience and references in order to get a foot in the door for an interview. Although regrettable, it is not a new phenomenon. A couple of decades ago women were taking the "femaleness" out of their names by using intials. Asians and Middle Easterners were "Americanizing" their names. Even earlier many Italians and Germans were doing the same thing. Hispanics were/are reducing the size of their names by dropping the several family names in their complete names. People will do what they perceive will give them an edge, especially in these "downturn days." In the 80's even young white men were changing their names by initializing their first name and going by their middle name because that "appeared more executive." People even do it regardless of age, sex, race, etc. just because they have a name they don't like. Agnes Susan Smith may is not going to feel her name says youthful and vibrant, so she drops the Agnes and becomes Susan. (Apologies to all Agnes out there.)

Is it right that they feel compelled to do this? Not really. Is it reality, perhaps, the research says so, anyway. Names are very powerful. What we hang on our children can boost or scar them. They can be trendy for the time but become dated with the passage of time. My contempories, many of whom were hippies, named their children Bridge, River, Summer, Spring, Flower, Dweezil, MoonChild, Chastity, etc. I am surprised I have never met "Oh Wow Man". So you parents out there think about what you are going to do to that little child who will someday be an 80 year old with that moniker.

Back to the potential discriminatory decision made on the basis of someone's name. I would hope that recruiters would look beyond that. Perhaps we should have a universal process for just calling someone "Candidate #_____". ( I do seem to recall something like this in the past.) But let's face it, discrimination, though somewhat diminished from three decades ago, does still exist. (See my post on The Big ISM: Racism.) But not all recruiters are lillywhite males. Many are female, many are "of color." So my question to them is "How do you react when you get a resume with an obvious ethnic name?" "Do you screen for 'whiteness'?" The same holds true for managers. Not all are white. Not all are males. Will a black female manager with a name like Mary Wilson have a negative reaction to a black female candidate named Eboni?

I don't know the answer to this. I would like some guidance. Someone tell me that ethnicity is totally ignored in their organization and people are only hired on the basis of their qualification. Make us feel good that progress is being made.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Who Is HR's Customer? The Correct Answer Will Improve Your Performance

In any HR class I have taught I have always asked this question. "Who is HR's customer?" The answers given vary, but usually include the CEO, the employees, the supervisors, the managers, or some combination of these. Occassionally, but not often enough, someone comes up with what I think is the right answer. To me the ultimate customer of HR is the customer who actually spends money to buy your company's product or service. And if you are not paying attention to them, and understand their needs, wants and desires then you cannot fully understand what kind of employee your organization needs to have. If you do not have this information you are guessing who will make a good employee or you are making the assumption that the hiring manager knows. And that is not a sure thing!

To my way of thinking you need to spend time with these customers to be a better HR professional. Work in a retail environment? Ever worked the floor? Work in a hospital? Ever spent time with a patient? Work in a plant that makes wrenches? Ever talked to a buyer or user of the wrench? If the answer is "NO" then you are not doing your best job. "But I don't have time to do that, I  have to do my job." My response is that is an excuse and not a reason. Spending time with those customers is part of your job. And one of the most important parts. So get it on your calendar. Get out from behind your desk and learn what customers want in a good employee that interacts with them, their process or their product.

I am not quite sure if where he learned it, but Dave Ulrich agrees with me. LOL So resolve to follow Dave and Mike's advice in 2010 and get out and meet your "real" customer. It may open your eyes and it will definately make you a better HR professional.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Have a VOICE in HR and Use It: Being a Credible Activist

I had the very good fortune to spend a day, yesterday, with professor, author, consultant, and HR thought guru, Dave Ulrich. (Of course there were another 200 people there as well). He had a long "conversation" with us about the field of HR and what it takes to be an HR professional today. He talked about how HR can transform organinzations and what competencies it takes to do so. Much of this is detailed in his book HR Competencies (shown at the right). If you are serious about your career in HR and you feel you need to take it to the next step then you need to read this book and internalize what you learn.

I could write a very long post on these competencies, but I won't. But I do want to mention the NUMBER ONE competency that Ulrich et al. have determined to be most important in the 21st century. That is the competency of CREDIBLE ACTIVIST. Credible is believable, credible is knowing what you are talking about, credible is knowing about business and your business in particular. Alot of HR people consider themselves credible. The jury is still out on whether their CEOs consider them credible. (Mostly because of the business knowledge requirement.) One of the reasons the CEO does not consider HR credible is HR has NO VOICE. Many HR people "speak when spoken to" and do not offer opinions on the business. 

This is where the second word in this competency comes into play. ACTIVIST. This does not mean that you have to be a rabble-rouser (click the link for the definition). It means that you have to stand up and offer opinions and points of view. And you don't  wait to be asked. Offer your points of view BEFORE anyone asks you what you think. And have opinions and points of view on more than just HR topics. If you know your business (another competency) then you should be able to talk about operations, marketing, branding, finance, etc. Being an activist means you are not afraid to be contrarian. Your management "partners" may not listen to what you have to say, particularly at first, but you need to use your voice regardless.

Some of the people sitting at my table indicated they were afraid to do that. They were afraid to speak up, even when they knew things being done were wrong. One person said she "picked her battles carefully." Another said she did not speak up because she did not really know the business because she had NEVER spent any field time with employees. She was "too busy" doing her work. (I probably rolled my eyes big time at this.) I know many HR people are not activists because they naturally are "conflict avoiders". And speaking up can lead to a confrontation. But if you know you are right you need to have that confrontation and you don't need to, and should not, back down. I used to work for an HR manager that had so little back bone I was surprised he was able to stand up. Well I don't need to get off on that rant.

Many of the credible activists I know are also bloggers. Two of my favorite (among many) are Laurie Ruettimann of PunkRockHR and Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist. I call Laurie a "beast sticker". She is not afraid to take a sharp stick and poke the "beast of HR". She can be profane, and I don't always agree with her, but she is fun to read because she riles people. She has been accused of not being "credible" because she does not currently hold a "real" HR position. HOGWASH, this lady knows her stuff. Kris is also a beast sticker. He is in my opinion as close to being the ultimate HR pro there is. He is what I want to be when I grow up, despite the fact that I am 20 years older than he is. In fact he beat me to this same topic. As I was driving home to Atlanta from Birmingham last night and thinking about this topic he had already beat me to the punch. You can read his very well written take on CREDIBLE ACTIVIST by clicking on his name above.

BTW, Dave Ulrich says that one of the first steps in being credible in the 21st century is certification. So think a second time about getting that PHR or SPHR.

Closing thought- Become a pro, find your voice and exercise it frequently. Learn from Laurie, Kris, and a myriad of other bloggers on what to say, how to say it, and in the words of Nike, "JUST DO IT."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HR Carnival of Giving

Mike VanDervort, of the Human Race Horses, put together a group of 86 blog posts on a wide variety of HR topics in the HR Carnival of Global Giving. He also combined each with the writer's favorite charity in the spirit of the season. He also personally donated to these charities and encourages everyone to think of someone less fortunate. So far $1765 has been collected for the charities. Good information and tugs at the heartstrings. What more can you ask for?

(He did make an error on mine, however. He listed the Atlanta Childrens' Shelter as my charity. It is a fine charity, but I had put a link in my post to the National MS Society. Either way someone benefits.)

So spend sometime, get educated and feel good at the same time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

GINA is Here: Complying With "HER" Regulations

Ok, I know that I took some liberties with "Geena" to match "GINA" in sound, but hey, it is Monday morning. GINA, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act went into effect on Saturday and as of that date employers must comply with Title II of the act. (Title I is a requirment for insurance companies to comply with the act.) I hope everyone was proactive and downloaded the poster to put up showing that you are complying with the new law.

The law firm, SeyfarthShaw, in one of their alerts listed the things that employers must do to be able to work within the confines of the law. Their advice includes:
  • Conducting self audits, adjusting policies and conducting training.
  • omitting genetic information from post-offer, pre-employment health history examinations and/or questionnaires;
  • updating policies to prohibit discrimination based on genetic information;
  • adding claims of “genetic discrimination” to waivers and releases where appropriate;
  • and segregating lawfully-acquired genetic information from personnel files.
For those of you that would like to read SeyfarthShaw's entire announcment can click on here. For additional information you may also read my August 4th post and my May 24, 2008 post where I give more information about complying with GINA, including the Child Labor provisions.

On a different note, as a holiday bonus the Carnival of HR, hosted by Mike VanDervort at The Human Race Horses blog  is asking all contributors to designate a charity to which they would like readers to donate at this time of year. There are so many that would could be on my list to ask you to make a donation to, but I have a personal connection that compels me to designate the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Clicking on the MS Society link will take you to the donation page.

Friday, November 20, 2009

End of the Week Observations and Other Stuff

Here are some end of the week observations, recommendations and other stuff.
  1. I hung out with some marketing and PR types at a book signing last night. I learned some interesting tidbits. One is the value of video in blogs. It probably will apply to employee messages as well. We have become a video culture. So use them to get your message across. 2010 is the year of the video. The Flip is a great little device. You can get 2 hours of HiDef video and then stick it into a USB port and download.
  2. HR should hang out with Marketing and PR types. You might learning something.
  3. I saw the LiveScribe pen demonstrated the other night. It is really cool. For you note takers that would like to have both paper, audio and electronic copies of your notes check it out. About $250  will get you all that.
  4. Technology is like magic. Slingbox allows you to watch your tv at home from your computer. Jeez
  5. Speaking of technology. A recommended book is Geeks, Geezers and Googlization, How to Manage the Unprecedented Convergence of the Wired, the Tired, and Technology in the Workplace. It is on my list to get.
  6. If you are doing presentations (and all HR people should) this book was recommended Brain Rules, 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. Also on my list to get.
For all of my readers that will be taking next week off for the U.S. holiday Thanksgiving have a great vacation and holiday. Drive safely and try not to eat too much. For the rest of you, I will be posting next week so watch for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

HR Carnival: The HREvolution Edition

I posted about the "unconference" that occurred in Louisville a couple of weeks ago. The conference was on changing the world of HR as we know it today. Well it has created ALOT of discussion, so much so that this week's edition of the HR Carnival focuses on it. So go to the HR Ringleader's blog and read the chatter. Very interesting stuff.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Putting the "SOCIAL" into Social Media

There is a great deal of material on social media being produced on a daily basis. There are millions of people tweeting, linking, posting, "booking" each day. Some are personal connections, some are business oriented. Generally in the personal connections there has at sometime in the past been some "in-person" connection, albeit some may be in the distant past, as in connecting with a high school classmate from 30 some odd years ago. Even some of your business connections through LinkedIn may have had an in-person connection at some point. But we get caught up in the connection mania and start adding people like crazy and as a result we often forget the SOCIAL part of social media. I am a light-wight tweeter following just over 670 people and an even lighter-weight LinkedIn user with about 180 connections. But even with these numbers the social aspects can get lost.

I had a fellow tweeter ask me if I would be interested in a phone conversation, as she had noticed I was in the Atlanta, Georgia area as was she. I suggested rather than a phone call I would like to meet in person. So we fit it into our schedules and I had the good fortune to meet Beth A. Miller of Executive Velocity (ExecVelocity on Twitter). Not only was it a very pleasant hour, but it now has the potential for being a relationship that may help both of us in our businesses.

Given that encounter I wanted to encourage people to take their social media relationships and put the in-person social contact in there as well. Here are some tips for doing this.
  1. Many people are skittish about meeting in person. Learn from the professional networkers. Harvey Mackay is the "old dog" of networking (no offense to Harvey, he is actually a personal role model for me). He has written numerous books including Swim With the Sharks Withour Being Eaten Alive . He gives excellent advice on establishing, maintaining and effectively using your network. The new generation of super networker is Keith Ferrazzi. He is incredible. He has written two book, Never Eat Alone and Who's Got Your Back.
  2. A second good way to meet face-to-face is to go to a Tweet-Up or a Blogger event. Meet those people you have been exchanging information with or have been following or will want to follow. Generally these are held in a pleasant social environment (I go to one held at Pizzaria Venti) and people get relaxed and put a person to the tweet.
  3. Meet other people at conferences. I have not had the luck to go to one yet, but I read that they are getting bigger and bigger. Recent ones have been held in NYC and Louisville. But you can also go to other association meetings and get to know the bloggers, tweeters and "facers" in the group.
  4. Lastly, if there is someone you truly want to meet then send a message, make a call and suggest a meeting. Takes some guts (what if they don't find you as interesting?) but it won't happen if you don't do it. Take the leap.
Well those are some of my suggestions. I hope readers who are better at this will suggest some other ways to put the SOCIAL into social media. Let's hear from you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Unions and Government: A Troublesome Combination

I received a newsletter this morning from The Heritage Foundation. It was entitled Morning Bell: Big Labor Is Bankrupting Our Country.  It was an eye opener in some areas. (In the spirit of openess, The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank. So if you want to discount this information it is up to you. But I would pay attention to the facts.) Here are some of the facts they listed in the newsletter (and some comments by me):
  1. Last month when the White House released its visitor log for the first six months of the Obama presidency, one name appeared far more often than any other: Service Employee International Union (SEIU) President Andrew Stern. (Wow, the MOST frequent visitor? Expecting something or trying to organize the White House housekeeping staff?)
  2. The SEIU spent $60.7 million to elect Barack Obama president. (Stern has made it clear that he expects reciprocity. I don't think he is getting to use the Lincoln bedroom in exchange for this $60 million.)
  3. Quoting a Hertiage scholar “The overall unionization rate between January and September 2009 stood at 12.4%, unchanged from last year. However, this difference masks a large difference between unions in the private and public sectors. Union membership has fallen to 7.3% of private sector workers ..... But it is a completely different story in the public sector: 37.6% of government employees belong to unions, up almost a percentage point since last year. Those 7.9 million unionized government employees are 51% of all union members nationwide.” (So the governments are such poor employers that almost 38% of workers feel they need a union to protect them. Yet they tell us in the private sector how to run our businesses. Yet only 7.3% of private sector workers have sought union protection. Hey lawmakers, "wake up and smell the coffee!"
The newsletter goes on to explain why unions target governments. Easier campaigns, more dues making it easier to influence or pressure politicians who need to get elected or re-elected. I will let you read this. The conclusion they reach is that all of this makes government more expensive and may push us to the brink of bankruptcy as a government. Is this a valid conclusion? Well took a look at how unions have helped the car industry, the steel industry, and the airline industry (anyone remember Eastern). You can draw your own conclusions.

With the changes in the NLRB, proposed legislation (EFCA and RESPECT) and executive changes removing union financing transparency unions stand a chance of regaining their "power" through political pressure and intimidation. The question is "At what cost?" to us as taxpayers, employers, employees and consumers. A truly troublesome combination.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

HR Carnival: Some of the Best in HR Reading

Crapola (click on the link for a def.)... I missed it again! I just need to get better organized. Ben Eubanks was the host this time around over at Upstart HR. He published 25 Pieces of HR Awesomeness. That is this months HR Carnival, which now has its own logo. --------->

I promise to have a post in the next one which will appear just after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, as a carny might say... " right here, right here. Get yer' HR edumacation right here. 25 great posts for only a dollar. In fact they are free!"

Monday, November 09, 2009

Revolution: Breaking Down the Wall of Old HR?

This past weekend an event occurred that probably most HR people did not know about. It was the HRevolution conference that was held in Louisville. I was unhappy I did not have a chance to attend. I wish I had. Some of the best of today's "young" HR thought leaders were there. These are people who carry sharp sticks and like to poke the "beast" of current HR thought. They ask the hard questions we should all be formulating answers for. Lance Haun (thelance on Twitter) talks about this at his blog Rehaul in his post "You say you want a revolution?" Although it has passed you can find out more about HRevolution by visiting here.

I love the name, it has so much meaning for me. First CHANGE. I think change is good and it is time to make the "beast" move. I like the word evolution in it. It also means CHANGE. But unlike most peoples conception of evolution as slow change there is the theory of PUNCTUATED EVOLUTION or Punctuated equilibrium. This theory means that not all change occurs gradually, that some evolutionary changes can occur rapidly. (That is the short version.) I think we can make HR change rapidly.

I come back to the word revolution in meaning turning. I think we need to keep this movement going. I appeal to Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks,  Crystal Peterson, Steve Boese, Laurie Ruettiman, Jessica Lee, Kris Dunn and other "beast stickers" to keep the momentum going. I think it may be fortunate happenstance that this occurred the weekend just before the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1987 Ronald Reagan, in a speech at the Berlin Wall, said "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Let me pharaphrase that famous speech. "If you seek prosperity for employer and employee alike, if you seek great people, great systems, effective teams, employee dignity then come here to this gate. Open this gate. Tear down this outdated and stale way of doing things." Make this past weekend a clarion call for action. Take up your hammers and chisels and begin chipping away at old ideas, stale ways of doing things. Question the "tried and true" and get away from "that is the way we have always done it." Make the old guard of HR take notice.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

HR Data and Decisions: Why HR Metrics May Fail

Marketing guru and all around smart guy, Seth Godin, wrote a blog post entitled When Data and Decisions Collide that made me write this post. He gives several examples of situations where data did not drive decisions, despite overwhelming evidence. As an example "The data shows that famous colleges underperform many cheaper, friendlier, smaller colleges. How much is your neighbor's envy worth?" The examples indicate that we make decisions as much based on emotions as we do data, even not more so.

Not really an earthshaking conclusion on my part, but it got me to thinking how often do we apply that type of decision-making to human resources issues, even the strategic ones? So will this make it slower for us to adopt some HR metrics? Will we be more or less likely to change a course of action based on data given that HR can be so driven by emotional decisions? Or are we doomed to emotion because we are "the people" people?

Provide me with some answers please?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Strategist or Steward?

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Robin Lissak of Deloitte Consulting present on Influencing Top Leaders. I even Tweeted on the presentation and got some good response to those tweets. So I thought a post was in order.

Lissak talked about the disconnect between CEOs and CHROs (Chief HR Officer) in what was seen as important for an orgainzation. One disconnect was that only 50% or so of organizations even have a CHRO. They all have a CEO. Second disconnect was that only 14% of the CHROs saw themselves as being strategic while 95% of CEOs want them to be. We always talk about that "seat at the table" and here we have an opportunity to get it and we are not. WHY ARE WE SO BEHIND THE CURVE???

Lissak made the point that HR mandates for the CHRO must involve revenue growth, talent strategies and operational excellence. CEOs see these as people issues. People issues are strategic. Most HR departments are still working on operational excellence. But HR issues are administrative. The message is that CEOs don't give a crap about HR issues. As Ulrich say in his books Human Resources Champions and HR Competencies the administrative stuff is a given. We have to do that well. However, a CEO does not care when we do it well. They only care when we do it poorly.

Dr. Lissak makes the point that people issues require a strategist while HR issues require a steward. And both of these are listed by Ulrich as HR competencies. However, my question is this, can you find those skill sets in the same person? Can the CHRO be both a strategist and a steward? The strategist needs to know the business of the business. They need to understand the customers and the value chain of the business. As Ulrich says they need to be the strategic architect, talent manager and the business ally. But the HR operations side needs someone who is that operational executor. Someone who pays attention to the detail of compliance, paperwork, proper reporting and the day-to-day employee relations. So it this the steward?

I personally believe that those are two different sets of skills. One of the things Lissak mentioned is the short tenure for many CHROs because they fail to connect with the CEO. Perhaps that is because two many CHROs have the STEWARD skill set and fail on the STRATEGIST end. Or perhaps they are too much STRATEGIST and miss the details needed on the STEWARD side and the company gets in trouble.

A solution? Hire a strategist as the CHRO, but make very sure they have a good steward as number 2!

What do you think? Tell me where I have miss read this dilemma and offer another solution.

Monday, October 26, 2009

NLRB Nominees: Loading the Dice in Favor of Labor Unions

How would you like to play a game where everytime you threw the dice you were unlikely to win because you had been given a pair of "loaded" dice? (click for the meaning of this idiom.) You probably would not want to play anymore. But what if you had no chance? What if it was the only game in town? And what if your previous wins with the non-loaded dice were going to be set aside because you were not playing under the new rules?

Well that is the scenario that is being set up with the new nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is made up of 5 members. Three of them generally are generally appointees of the party controlling the White House. So in this case that would be three Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees. Currently there are only two appointed members serving. One was a Bush nominee and one was a Clinton nominee. The Clinton nominee, Wilma Liebman was Obama's  for the position of Chair of the NLRB. The Bush appointee is Peter Schaumber. The remaining two Democrat nominees are Mark Pearce and Craig Becker. Craig Becker in particular has become a lighting rod for controversy. A Republican nominees has yet to be named.

To help understand why this controversy exists let us compare the backgrounds of the current members and nominees.
  • Peter Schaumber: Prior to his appointment as a member of the Board, Mr. Schaumber practiced as a labor arbitrator serving on a number of industry panels and through national arbitration rosters. Mr. Schaumber began his legal career as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia. Subsequently, he was appointed Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and served in that office's Criminal and Civil Divisions. Upon leaving the United States Attorney's Office, he became Senior Trial Attorney and Associate Director of a Law Department Division in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Upon leaving government service, Mr. Schaumber entered private law practice in Washington, D.C. and was director of his firm's Litigation Department. His practice included a wide range of trial and appellate civil litigation
  • Wilma Liebman: Prior to joining the NLRB, Ms. Liebman served for two years as Deputy Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). She acted as the chief operations officer of this federal agency, overseeing arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, international affairs and labor-management cooperation grants programs. In addition, Ms. Liebman advised the FMCS Director on issues involving major labor disputes and participated in significant negotiations as needed.
    From 1994-1996, Ms. Liebman served as Special Assistant to the Director of FMCS. In this role, she was a key member of the Mediator Task Force on the Future of FMCS, an 18-member employee group charged with articulating a vision and recommendations to lead the Agency into the 21st century. Prior to joining FMCS in January 1994, Ms. Liebman was Labor Counsel for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen from 1990 through 1993. She served as Legal Counsel to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for nine years and as staff attorney with the NLRB from 1974 to 1980.
  • Mark Pearce: Pearce has been a labor lawyer for his entire career. He is one of the founding partners of the Buffalo, New York law firm of Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux where he practices union side labor and employment law before state and federal courts and agencies including the N.Y.S. Public Employment Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board. In 2008 was appointed by the NYS Governor to serve as a Board Member on the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals, an independent quasi-judicial agency responsible for review of certain rulings and compliance orders of the NYS Department of Labor in matters including wage and hour law.
  • Craig Becker: Becker currently serves as Associate General Counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations. He has published numerous articles on labor and employment law in scholarly journals, including the Harvard Law Review and Chicago Law Review, and has argued labor and employment cases in virtually every federal court of appeals and before the United States Supreme Court.
The emphases in each bio are mine. The one current Republican nominee was an arbitrator. Arbitrators are known for carefully guarding their reputations for being unbiased so they can decide cases without bias. Pearce has practiced UNION side law his entire career. Liebman, did work for the Federal Mediation and Concilliation Service, which is a plus, but was an attorney for TWO different unions. And Becker is CURRENTLY on the payroll of arguably the most powerful union in the country, the SEIU, as well as acting as council for the AFL-CIO. Becker is well known for writing many papers indicating that UNION will always win if he has anything to do with it. (Follow these links to Shopfloor and the National Right To Work committee to see business' view of Becker.)
Republican Senators are adamently opposed to Becker's appointment, and Senator John McCain in particular has moved to oppose his appointment. Political wrangling may end up seeing Becker's nomination being used as a bargaining chip in the final determination of various labor friendly bills currently pending in Congress. The appointment of this board as it stands will potentially have as much an effect on the labor picture in the U.S. as the passage of any bill such as EFCA or RESPECT. The opportunity for this potential board to over turn 8 years of NLRB decisions will significantly alter the labor picture for companies of all shapes and sizes both union and non-union alike.
So stay tuned Bunky! The road may get rough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Companies Are Getting Sued Over!

Thanks to Jon Hyman over at the Ohio Employer's Law Blog who wrote the other day on Do you know? Employment Litigation Expected to increase in 2010. It was an eye opener. I clicked through from his blog to the Fulbright & Jaworski Fifth Annual Litigation Trends Survey and Highlights and read through the employment law section. Here is some of the information I gleaned from that report, but I would recommend you look at Hyman's analysis and also the actual report itself.

The report deals with multi-plantiff cases (aka class-action suits?) and here are some of the results (Note: I am only report results from the U.S., but there are results from the U.K. as well):
  • In the U.S. largest increase in multi-plantiff cases where in FLSA wage & hour (19%), discrimination (14%), and Americans With Disabilities Act (10%).
  • Increases in FLSA wage & hour cases were highest in California, the South and the Midwest.
  • Education and retail had the highest increase in wage & hour cases.
  • Discrimination increases where highest in education, financial services and retail.
  • ERISA cases were highest in the Midwest and retail and engineering/construction sectors.
  • Age discrimination cases rose the highest in education, financial services, retail, and technology/communication.
  • Privacy cases were most common in California, but were generally a smaller percent of the overall cases.
  • For small companies discrimination was the biggest issue followed by wage & hour. For big companies the reverse was true.
The costs associated with dealing with these cases, excluding settlements often exceed $50,000 per case and almost a quarter of the time exceed $100,000. For a small company that can be devestating. The areas that cost the most to deal with are race, sex and wage & hour cases.

What are we to conclude from these facts and figures? Well the overall conclusion of the report is that companies are going to be spending more on litigation in 2010. Other conclusions that I reached are:
  • Education is having some difficulty. That arena made it on just about every list. Anyone have a reason for this? Suggest some.
  • Small businesses probably need to do alot more training and education to both supervisors and employees, with race and sex discrimination still being the big expensive issues.
  • There is still alot of misunderstanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which has only been around since 1938. My experience has been that many companies unknowingly and knowingly violated the FLSA.
  • The recession is probably driving alot of this litigation. As people are let go and then have difficulty finding work they start grasping at straws to provide income. One way to do that is to sue your former employer. All the TV ad lawyers will tell you that.
How can you avoid some of this litigation increase? Three things pop to my mind.
  1. Understand the laws, train supervisors on the laws, train HR on the laws and abide by the laws. (I can hear all the bitching and moaning about compliance now.)
  2. Document that training, document your decisions, especially your compensation decisions (Ledbetter requires it) and document your actions with employees.
  3. Treat people with respect and dignity, even when you are firing them for gross misconduct. People are more likely to sue you when they feel like they have been mistreated.
So there you go. As Jon concluded in his blog post about this topic "What does all this data mean for your business? Your legal budgets will likely increase next year. The question you need to answer is whether you want those funds to pay to defend lawsuits, or to proactively audit your internal personnel and employment practices to limit your litigation costs?" I vote that you be proactive! And of course I know a good consultant that would be more than happy to help you. LOL. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting the Most Value from a Conference: The Marketplace is Where It Is AT!

I have returned to the office from having attended the SHRM-Atlanta Fall Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was pretty well done. As in all conferences there were a number of topic tracks you could choose from. I spent the majority of my seesion times on compliance issues ( I know that is so out of character for me, LOL). I knew most of it, but it doesn't hurt to hear what might be new. So there was some value there.

But the real value for me was derived by the time I spent in the marketplace. The value is found in three places in the marketplace. First was reconnecting with people I had not seen in awhile, both attendees and vendors. As much as you would like to stay in touch with people it is hard to do so in the course of the day-to-day routine. So meeting an old friend or acquaintence wandering around or staffing a booth is always a pleasant event. In doing so I catch up on what they are doing and where they are in the world. If I happen to see two at one time I try to be a "connector" for them and introduce them to someone they have not yet met. This follows along with the keynote address on Netweaving, presented by Bob Littel.

The second value derived is connecting with someone I had not previously met. I made several new aquaintences at this conference, either through an introduction or by walking up to a vendor and sticking my hand out and introducing myself. You never know where that introduction may lead.

The third value is learning what vendors are offering these days. As a consultant I try to be a resource for my clients, and not in just things that I can offer. So hearing what is being offered, what is cutting edge, what is new and exciting is invaluable to me. If you aspire to be strategic in your organization you have to have some foresight. Foresight is gained by doing research and the best way to do that research in the most convienent way possible is to walk around a conference marketplace. Yes you may have to listen to a sales pitch, that is ok. Knowledge comes at a price. It will not kill you. Plus, you have an opportunity to get some great "swag". Pens, cups, and other gizmos that always make a conference fun.

So the next time you attend a conference make an effort to spend time in the marketplace. Make an effort to meet the vendors and learn more about what is going on and available outside of your office. If nothing else reward these vendors who pay big bucks to be there, it helps keep your cost of attendance down.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stealth EFCA: New Warning On Union Friendly Legislation

A post I did back on June 23, 2009 on Why Unions are Bad for Companies, Employees and Customers has raised some hackles (click here for the meaning of this idiom) with some readers. So before I talk about stealth EFCA I wanted to respond to their comments. First, my complaint is with unions as an institution, not union workers. Yeah some are lazy jerks who game the system, but I can find those kind of people in most non-union firms too. But unions as an organization I don't like. Secondly, I have worked in a union environment. Not as a union worker but as the HR guy that had to deal with them and helped eventually decertify them. So I do know what it is like to have a union around. Thirdly, I am entitled to my opinion it is MY BLOG. It is not a newspaper. I express my opinion in addition to informing my readers. You also stated your opinion(s), not necessarily fact. One of you did it rather rudely. So we are in the same boat. Fouth, what the hell does a bad CEO in China have anything to do with anything? I didn't get that one.

Ok, enough of my response onto STEALTH EFCA, also known as the Patriot Corporations of America Act of 2009. Attorney Randy Coffey, writing for, in a commentary entitled Proposal Puts Too Much Power in Union's Hands  states that "...the Patriot Corporations of America Act of 2009, deserves particular focus because it would greatly increase the success of union-organizing drives. Further, if the legislation includes a card-check feature rather than allowing employees to vote for or against a union by secret ballot, it would achieve the Employee Free Choice Act’s key provision through the regulatory process."

This act has a number of provisions for companies to show their "loyalty to the United States", such as:
  • Produce at least 90 percent of its goods and services in the United States.
  • Pay its highest-paid manager no more than 10,000 percent more than lowest-paid full-time employee.
  • Conduct at least 50 percent of its research and development within the United States.
  • Contribute at least 5 percent of its payroll to a portable pension fund for employees.
  • Pay at least 70 percent of its employees’ health insurance costs.
  • Provide full differential salary and insurance benefits for all National Guard and Reserve employees who are called to active duty.
  • Violate no federal workplace regulations, including those relating to the environment, workplace safety, labor relations and consumer protection.
Some of these may sound reasonable, though not all, but the one BIG GOT YA is the provision that requires that a company Maintain a policy of neutrality in employee organizing drives. As Mr. Coffey points out "If management’s voice is silenced before and during a unionization attempt, unions will be able to campaign openly and employees will lose a vital information source that might have provided them with good reasons not to unionize. Without organized opposition, the union win rate approaches 90 percent, as compared with about 65 percent when management is able to present its views." Coffey goes on to warn "Patriot Corporation status may appear to be a compelling tool for growth-oriented corporations looking to gain a marketing advantage. But touting the designation also will make these companies easy targets for union organizers, who will be watching for those that have exchanged their freedom to oppose union organization for Patriot Corporation status. Even if companies are quiet about the designation, unions may be able to secure target lists directly from the Department of Labor if the certification process is public record."

So do not be wooed by the tax savings. What you may save in taxes may cost you in other areas, such as healthcare for employees (Stealth healthcare reform) and in the costs associated with dealing with unions. If you have any doubt what those costs are read the post I referenced above. You may opt to sign on, but at least make an informed decision. For one thing, signing on for this will broadcast to unions that you are an easy target.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Carnival of HR: Unbelievable Learning Opportunity

This months version of the Carnival of HR is hosted at Jon Ingham's Social Advantage in his post The HR in the Social Business Carnival. The learning opportunities are unprecedented. We are talking use of social media, strategic HR, recruitment, networking, bad HR, good HR, snooping on employees, answering job seeker questions, and an  the intrguing title of  What keeps American HR Managers awake at night: the thought of bare legs. (The picture is an attention-getter.)

So, make some time and plan on alot of click-throughs. You will feel like you just completed your Master's degree in HR when you get done.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good Advice: Dealing With H1N1 in the Workplace

The folks over at Benefit Buzz published some good advice and raised alot of questions on dealing with the Swine Flu in your employee population. So I direct you to Flu Prevention: Mostly Common Sense but do your benefit policies support it. Make sure you read the comments as well. Some very good information in there. I raised the issue that this will most likely be a FMLA event for many of you. Are you handling paperwork on a timely basis? Busy time.

Another issue may be your "continuity" plan. Who is in place to do the work? Are people crosstrained? If not how are you going to fill the gaps? All very good things to prepare for.

Stay healthy!

Friday, October 09, 2009

EEOC Is Making a List and Checking It Twice and It Isn't Even Christmas Time Yet

Here we are in the middle of October. The end of the year is rushing toward us, probably faster than we want it to. The Halloween decorations will be down in the retail stores and they will be putting the "ThanksChristmasGivingDay" decorations up and Santa will appear in the malls. The song that features the words "..he's making a list and checking it twice" will be blaring on the radio and over the store speakers. (Did that reminder of how close Christmas is make you wince?)

Well there is already one group that is making a list and checking it twice and it is NOT Santa. It is the EEOC. A One Minute Memo from the law firm SeyfarthShaw, LLP arrived in my email this morning entitled EEOC Takes Aim at Companies Policies Limiting The Duration of Medical Leaves. (click on the title to see the pdf) The opening line for this document is "Recent actions by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have signaled its intent take a more aggressive approach in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One employment practice that the EEOC is specifically targeting involves company medical leave of absence policies that place limits on the amount of medical leave."

When the ADAAA (The Americans with Disabilties Act Amendments Act of 2008) became effective on January 1, 2009 it was evident that, with the broadened definitions of disability and the requirement for an active accommodation discussion, more lawsuits would be filed against employers. And this is becoming true. The SeyfarthShaw memo goes on to say "Over the past two months, the EEOC has also filed a number of pattern and practice lawsuits on behalf of employees of large employers alleging that the employers violated the ADA by rejecting extensions of medical leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. The EEOC asserts that any employer that maintains an inflexible maximum leave policy, which it will not extend or otherwise modify in order to accommodate individuals with disabilities, is unlawful." And along with this statement a warning from the EEOC was issued "Acting Chairman of the EEOC, Stuart J. Ishimaru, highlighted the administration’s increased focus on ADA enforcement, noting that these cases 'should send a wake-up call to corporate America that violating the American with Disabilities Act will result in vigorous enforcement by the EEOC.' EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson confirmed the EEOC’s position that policies that 'set arbitrary deadlines for returning to work after medical treatment unfairly keep disabled employees from working.'"

So what does this mean for HR? It means you need to review your policy and make sure it it up to date. You need to make sure that if someone asks for an accommodation you engage in a vigourous interactive process that is documented. And you need to realize that an extension of a medical leave will probably be seen as a reasonable accommodation.

The big question yet unanswered is: When will an extension be considered unreasonable? This will probably only be decided by a court case. Which one of you out there wants to be the test case?

Monday, October 05, 2009

ISM Number Seven: Ugly-ISM

Discrimination against the physcially unattractive has a long history. It has been written about for ages, as far back as Aristophanes’ play, The Assemblywoman, a Greek play about Athens being taken over by women and their attempts to even society out by making ugly people mate with beautiful people. The carnivals that roamed the country used to have sideshows that featured the bearded lady, or Siamese (conjoined) Twins, or some other "freak of nature" that was sure to facsinate and repulse people at the same time. The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, was one of the more famous ones, even having a movie of his life made starring John Hurt.

More recently we have had the popular movie Revenge of the Nerds and the series of knockoffs it spawned. And currently running on prime time TV we have Ugly Betty. All of these shows have as there theme the disadvantages of being physically unattractive. Real research has shown that less attractive people make less money and have fewer job opportunities than attractive people. The research was unsure if this was discrimination or if the fact that the more attractive people developed better social skills and more confidence that less attractive people. Body image, as mentioned in my FATISM post, plays a big role in how people feel about themselves.

The movies and TV shows people overcoming these difficulties. But I am not sure to what extent that actually happens. If you start off in life with less opportunity due to your physical appearance do you ever really have a chance to overcome that disadvantage? We would like to think so.

From an HR standpoint there is no law that forbids discrimination based upon ugly. At least none of which I am aware. There may at sometime be such an attempt, but Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, first published in 1961 showed the darkside of trying to be too politically correct. As the plot summary states "In the story, social equality has been achieved by handicapping the more intelligent, athletic or beautiful members of society. For example, strength is handicapped by the requirement to carry weight, beauty by the requirement to wear a mask, etc. This is due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the United States Constitution. This process is central to the society, designed so that no one will feel inferior to anyone else. Handicapping is overseen by the United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers."

The best HR solution is to have a culture of civility and to focus on job performance. Forget about artficially trying to make things "equal".

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should Recruiting Get the Boot?

There is alot of discussion about how to change HR ranging from "trash it completely" to "I am ok with the way it is." I am in the middle. I am not ready to dismantle the HR department. I don't think you can. But it can and should change in a number of arenas. HR people need more cross training in business and in their company's business in particular. For that matter business people, the other managers, need more cross training in HR. It would be an eye opener.

Thinking along those lines I thought a good place to start would be in recruiting. Alot of people complain about HR and the recruiting function. Contingency and contract recruiters always avoid HR and try to get to the functional manager. The functional managers are always complaining about slow the in-house recruiters are in finding people. And in-house recruiters actually see themselves as the "non-HR" side of HR, more the sales and marketing wing of HR.

So lets give recruiting the boot from HR. Make recruiting the responsibility of the functional departments. HR can train them on interviewing, the laws they have to abide by (as if they would) and give them the proper format for an offer letter. Make each department have a recruiting specialist reporting to the functional manager. Eveyone will be happy then. The outside recruiters will have someone to deal with that "actually knows the job." Managers will have control on the speed of the search and the cost of the search.

HR can then do that administrative and compliance stuff, because after all that is what we are supposed to do best. We will sign up those new employees and then hand them back to the hiring department. Everyone is happy. (Edited comment... I was being very sarcastic here.)

BTW, those functional departments will also be responsible for handling the EEOC suits and contractual violation lawsuits that are filed. After all HR had nothing to do with it, so don't come crying to us.

What do you think? Do I have a winner here?

Monday, September 28, 2009

ISM Number Six: GayISM

According to a group of historians, who filed an amici curiae brief in a Texas lawsuit, discrimination against the Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT in Wikipedia) community is a 20th century phenomenon, particualary of the 1930 to 1960 era. During that time workplace discrimination, and discrimination in general, was widespread. In the Eisenhower administration companies with contracts with the federal government were encouraged to ferret out and fire all their gay employees. Starting in the 1960s as civil rights became a bigger issue attitudes about LGB orientation started to free up.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13087 prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the U.S. government, excluding the military (Don't Ask Don't Tell), but including all businesses that have contracts with the federal government. Attitudes however, have not been changed as much as some people would hope. A study conducted by the Williams Institute of the University of California in 2007 showed that gays and lesbians still report a high percentage of discrimination in the workplace. Gay men make 10% to 32% less in salary. Transgender individuals are dealt a bigger blow with high rates of unemployment. (For further information see the study.)

For private sector employers there is no current federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, there are 17 states, the District of Columbia, and 180 municipalities that have legislated protection against sexual orientation discrimination. There is proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress called the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) which would make discrimination based on sexual orientation AND gender identity part of Title VII protection. Proponents feel they have the votes to pass the bill and there may be action on this bill later in 2009. If  you wish to follow the debate there is a blog called Transgender Workplace Diversity that is following ENDA. Right now Healthcare may be  the bigger issue.

Many companies all ready include sexual orientation protection in their company discrimination policy. I have never worked for a company that openly discriminated against gay and lesbian applicants and employees. But I am fully aware that many companies may have those issues. But without personal experience I would like to bow to those that have and solicit some advice.

Given that ENDA has a decent chance of passing within the next two years how should companies prepare? If a company does not have a policy in place what would your recommend? And a BIGGER issue to ask about is how do you deal with a transgender employee? I know restrooms are always an issue for employees that may be in transition. Anyone have advice to others?

(Picture of the promotional poster of the move Brokeback Mountain borrowed from Wikipedia.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

So You Think Compliance Knowledge is not Important in HR... Well

In the ongoing debates in the HR blogsphere on the Death of HR ( Laurie Ruettimann, Mike Van Dervort and mine) there were a number of comments about necessary changes in the field to make it viable or more up-to-date. One of the areas mentioned with some regularity was that HR needed to get out of the compliance arena. Leave that to the lawyers the critics say.

My reaction?   BULLS**T!

To me, where the "rubber meets the road" * in HR is in Employee Relations. The interactions between employees and management. That is where great things get done and where major mistakes get made. And these mistakes center on violations of the laws, accidental or meant, it makes no difference. And because of this, in my opinion, HR people in ER need to know the laws. They have to be compliance people. This is different than attorneys knowing the law. No chapter and verse, court case quoting here. Just what is the law and how does it apply to my company. The practical application of the law. And there is alot of it.

And there is more coming. The Obama administration is trying to make its mark in labor and employment law. They have already passed the Lily Ledbetter Act and four presidential Executive Orders have been passed. AND there are THIRTEEN pieces of legislation pending mid-term. The one with the most press coverage is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) but there are a dozen more. Here is the list of 2009 Mid-Term Federal Legislation pending. Thanks to the folks at World at Work and blog buddy Eric B. Meyer for the heads up.

* To my non-American readers click the link for a definition of this idiom.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

HR is Dead: Some Mourn, Some Celebrate and Others Say "WHAT??"

There has been a very lively discussion about the death of HR being argued on several blogs, most notably at Laurie Ruettiman's Punk Rock HR where she posted HR is Dying: Yes or No? and at Mike VanDervort's the Human Race Horse where he posted HR-Not Dead Yet. These two posts brought a lot of reaction that was wide and varied. Some celebrated that HR was dying. Some said a vehement NO. Many said the field needs to be revamped. Many identified what is wrong with HR and others offered some solutions.

These two posts are very thought provoking and MUST be read by anyone in HR. Read the comments and add your own. But most importantly learn from these posts. Reflect on your situation. If you are in the "dying" camp what do you suggest will take HR's place?

If you are in the "needs improvement" category how would you restructure things to get the improvement?

If you are in the "HR is just fine" category, well I suggest you reread these two posts and the long comment strings.

I personally don't think HR is dead or dying. I do think it needs to morph, just not quite sure how, but I am working on a plan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

ISM Number Five: ShortISM Nobody Likes to Be Looked Down on

Short people got no reason

Short people got no
Short people got no reason
To live

They got little hands
Little eyes
They walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

In 1977 song writer Randy Newman penned and recorded "Short People". It was a song about prejudice. It was a hit that caused alot of controversy. Some people found it funny, some found it offensive. People today still are arguing over it. (See the comments below the lyrics printed here.) It was supposed to be a statement about prejudice in general but the fact that height was selected telling.
In the U.S. we do "worship" height, up to a certain height anyway. Studies have shown that taller people, particularly men, generally earn more and are more successful than shorter people. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that "...someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches--even when controlling for gender, age and weight." There were a number of possible reasons for this, including,
  • More confidence on the part of the individual
  • Higher (pun not intended, but accepted) levels of self-esteem
  • Perceptions that taller people are more leader-like
  • Perceptions that taller people are more authoritative
The differences seemed to be greater in jobs that required social interaction, such as management, sales, and service positions.

An additional finding was that shorter men were the objects of bias more often than shorter women. However, in my observations there are obvious careers that are closed to shorter women. You will find no runway models that are 5'2", regardless of their beauty.

There are certainly no laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of height, unless of course selecting on the bases of height without a bona fide occupational need leads to adverse impact on a protected class. Requiring someone to be 6' tall just for the heck of it will screen women and hispanic and asian candidates out. So it is always best to understand job requirements.

I personally always wanted to be 6 feet tall. I thought I was 5'11" until one day my doctor measured me at 6 feet. I did not question the accuracy of the measuring tool, I just adopted the measurement. LOL I married a woman who is 5'2 3/4". She is careful to put in the 3/4". She too wanted to be taller. That desire for both of us to be taller must have its roots in how society reacts to short.

So what about it all you "shorties"? Have you felt the bias? Has it had any effect on your career? Have you found it harder to reach the rungs of the ladder?

Next ISM up will be GayISM followed by UglyISM. Any others you want to suggest I explore?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Required Reading for the Week

There are several blog posts this week that are essential reading for anyone who calls themselves an HR Pro. These include:
  1. Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist writing on What's That Smell? Self Assessments & Performance Management. This is about performance management and the use of self assessment. In addition to his post you MUST READ ALL THE COMMENTS. There is true value in this feedback.
  2. Margaret O'Hanlon at Compensation Cafe, writing on 10 Tools for Communicating a Teeny, Tiny Merit Increase Budget. She talks about clear communication and management training.
  3. Ann Bares at Compensation Force writing on Think Twice Before Calling It a Cost of Living Increase. Read this to keep from making a major mistake.
  4. Jon Hyman at the Ohio Employment Law Blog writing on Is “fat” the new protected class? Jon provides some important information to go along with my post on Fatism.
  5. Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership, writing on MBA 2.0: Trading in Textbooks for Blogs? This post explains how blog posts have become a vital source for keeping yourself educated. 
So read away. Be educated. Be a pro!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Carnival of HR: Back to School

This months version of the Carnival of HR is up at the HR Maven. So go take a look to learn about some HR social media use, how to spend HR dollars wisely, how to energize your team inexpensively, owning your career, the best day to fire someone, and more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ISM Number Four: FATISM

I know that is not really a word, but it could be, and is abrupt enough to make my point. Despite the fact that 65% of adult Americans are overweight or obese, (See A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States), we have a culture that celebrates thin. In fact I would go beyond celebrate to say worship. Overweight people are often labeled as lazy, having no self-control, no will power, no drive. And to an extent, for some people this is true. I know it is in my case. I weigh more than I should. I wax and wane on exercise and on eating properly. I have been up and down in weight. I know I can weigh less and be healthier, because I have been. I am back on that road right now with regular exercise and watching what I eat. But it is not always an issue of just self-contol for some people. It is not always that easy.

Fatism or weight discrimination has been around for quite awhile. When I was growing up no one picked the fat kid to be on their team and no one wanted to dance with the "fat girl." That discrimination has persisted into this day and age and manifests itself in the workplace. According to Weight Discrimination: A Socially Acceptable Injustice by Rebecca Puhl and published by the Obesity Action Coalition, "In a recent study, we examined the prevalence of multiple forms of discrimination in a nationally representative sample of 2,290 American adults and found that weight discrimination is common among Americans, with rates relatively close to the prevalence of race and age discrimination. Among women, weight discrimination was even more common than racial discrimination. Among all adults in the study, weight discrimination was more prevalent than discrimination due to ethnicity, sexual orientation and physical disability. Almost 60 percent of participants in our study who reported weight discrimination experienced at least one occurrence of employment-based discrimination, such as not being hired for a job." Additionallythey found "On average, a person’s chances of being discriminated against because of weight become higher as their body weight increases. In our study, 10 percent of overweight women reported weight discrimination, 20 percent of obese women reported weight discrimination and 45 percent of very obese women reported weight discrimination. Rates for men were lower, with 3 percent of overweight, 6 percent of obese and 28 percent of very obese men reporting weight discrimination. This finding also tells us that women begin experiencing weight discrimination at lower levels of body weight than men."

Unlike racism, sexism and ageism however, there are very few laws that protect people from weight discrimination in the workplace. No explicit federal law exists and only a few local or state laws exist. However, the area of weight discrimination is beginning to present some challenges to human resources departments. With the changes in the ADA late last year, where disability has been redefined, overweight individuals who feel they have been the victims now have the potential for claiming protection under ADA. Up to this time only morbid obesity could be claimed to be disabiling, but now people may be able to claim protection because of the physical problems that arise from too much weight, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Additionally, numbers have shown that some minorities have higher incidence of obesity, thus claims may be made under Title VII and disparte impact. Sex may also play a factor, since overweight women suffer a higher rate of discrimination than do men, allowing a claim of sex discrimination based upon decisions made on weight. And lastly, age and weight may be a factor, since older workers also have a higher incidence of "overweightness."

So making decisions based upon weight is becoming much more problematic for companies and I predict there will be an increasing number of law suits that will provide some defintion to this arena.

Your best protection to keep from becoming a landmark case? Make your decisions based upon qualifications and productivity. If you keep it work related you will stay out of trouble far more often than not. And all good HR people already know this. Don't you??

BTW, if your reaction to the picture was disgust, well then read this article again and then look in the mirror.