Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The First 100 Days of Obama: Fistful of Talent Saved Me An Update

The folks over at Fistful of Talent saved me a legislative update. Follow this link to Tough Love: The First 100 Days of the Obama Administration. It is getting very hard to be an employer these days and it is not going to get any easier. So read and learn and prepare. Or be active and contact legislators to express your opinion on the pending legislation.

Change you can believe in.... well you can believe there will be change and more change. Hang on to your hat the rollercoaster is leaving the platform!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Vroom Expectancy Theory: Should I Chuck My Career?

I was watching a show last night based upon a book I am reading. Germs, Guns and Steel by Jared Diamond. The book was published in 1997 and a PBS series was done in 2005, and that is what I was watching. I have found the book to be very interesting and the series was very good. As I watching it I made the comment "That is what I should have done, I should have been a historian." Both my daughter and wife almost simultanteously said "Well it is not too late." My wife then asked "What is stopping you?" My response was "This house, my paycheck, eating and the other things that could not stand me taking several years off work to pursue a degree." Her response was "Surely there is a program that you could do online." I said "I doubt it, not on the Ph.D. level." Of course I had not checked that statement for truthfulness, at least not recently.

But the nagging thought in the back of my head was "Do I really want to do that much work at 58 years old?" (well almost 58, my birthday is July 7th.) "Will the opportunity to do anything with that degree be there?" "Will it pay off for me beyond personal gratification to finally have the Ph.D. I have always wanted?"

This reminded me of Vroom's Expectancy Theory, which states that "... behavior results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain."

Vroom's Expectancy Theory is based upon the following three beliefs (from Wikipedia):

  1. Valence (Valence refers to the emotional orientations people hold with respect to outcomes [rewards]. The depth of the want of an employee for extrinsic [money, promotion, time-off, benefits] or intrinsic [satisfaction] rewards). Management must discover what employees value.

  2. Expectancy (Employees have different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing). Management must discover what resources, training, or supervision employees need.

  3. Instrumentality (The perception of employees whether they will actually get what they desire even if it has been promised by a manager). Management must ensure that promises of rewards are fulfilled and that employees are aware of that.

Vroom suggests that an employee's beliefs about Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence interact psychologically to create a motivational force such that the employee acts in ways that bring pleasure and avoid pain. This force can be 'calculated' via the following formula: Motivation = Valance × Expectancy(Instrumentality). This formula can be used to indicate and predict such things as job satisfaction, one's occupational choice, the likelihood of staying in a job, and the effort one might expend at work.

In terms of this my situation is the following:
  1. Do I expect that I can do a good job at getting a doctorate in history? (I have always been good in academics, I enjoy reading history, so I would probably to a good job.)

  2. Instrumenaltiy : What's the probability that, if I do a good job, that there will be some kind of outcome in it for me? In other words would I, could I, get a job using that degree? (Given my knowledge of hiring practices, my guess would be probably not. Without alot of university teaching experience and my age I feel I would be a disadvantaged candidate. By the time I get the doctorate I would be 60 or so. I do have teaching experience but at the Instructor level in a Continuing Ed program.)

  3. Valence: Is the Outcome I get of any value to me? (If I were to get the Ph.D. but no teaching job would the degree help my consulting practice? Would personal satisfaction at attaining a long held, but abandoned goal, be enough to overcome the effort required to get the degree?)
Given the formula form above:


I would conclude that I am not motivated enough to pursue the Ph.D. in History because of the low expecation of a successful outcome of doing something with it. Do I want to shut down a career of almost 30 years in HR to do this? Or could I do this and perhaps do a Ph.D. in the History of HR? Is there such a thing? Can I do it online? Lots of unanswered questions.

Or maybe I have just gotten lazy? What do you think?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Carnival of HR: Great HR Reading

The Carnival of HR, June version, is up at Inflexion Point. Some great reading here. Posts include the topics of employee engagement, hiring freezes, use of social media, selling HR, trademarks, executive pay, using your employees as guinea pigs and of course the ever popular putting lipstick on a pig. So for these interesting topics and more head on over to the Carnival by clicking the link in the first line.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Unions Are Bad For Companies, Employees and Customers

If you have ever read my blog you know that I am no fan of unions. They may have had their place in the past but not in today's world. I have mentioned in my blogs on EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) that unions cost a company. Not just in direct costs, but in indirect costs as well. Slowed work process, lessened productivity, poorer employee relations, and more have been cited as the costs associated with unionism. A study by the Heritage Foundation puts a bit more concreteness to this argument. What Unions Do: How Labor Unions Affect Jobs and the Economy can be read by clicking the title.

This study finds:

  • "Unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers' wages..... Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.

  • The average union member earns more than the average non-union worker. However, that does not mean that expanding union membership will raise wages: Few workers who join a union today get a pay raise. ....The economy has become more competitive over the past generation. Companies have less power to pass price increases on to consumers without going out of business. Consequently, unions do not negotiate higher wages for many newly organized workers. These days, unions win higher wages for employees only at companies with competitive advantages that allow them to pay higher wages, such as successful research and development (R&D) projects or capital investments.

  • Unions effectively tax these investments by negotiating higher wages for their members, thus lowering profits. Unionized companies respond to this union tax by reducing investment. Less investment makes unionized companies less competitive.

  • Economists consistently find that unions decrease the number of jobs available in the economy. The vast majority of manufacturing jobs lost over the past three decades have been among union members--non-union manufacturing employment has risen. Research also shows that widespread unionization delays recovery from economic downturns.

  • Some unions win higher wages for their members, though many do not. But with these higher wages, unions bring less investment, fewer jobs, higher prices, and smaller 401(k) plans for everyone else.

  • Economic theory consequently suggests that unions raise the wages of their members at the cost of lower profits and fewer jobs, that lower profits cause businesses to invest less, and that unions have a smaller effect in competitive markets (where a union cannot obtain a monopoly).

  • .....union contracts compress wages: They suppress the wages of more productive workers and raise the wages of the less competent. Unions redistribute wealth between workers. Everyone gets the same seniority-based raise regardless of how much or little he contributes, and this reduces wage inequality in unionized companies... But this increased equality comes at a cost to employers. Often, the best workers will not work under union contracts that put a cap on their wages, so union firms have difficulty attracting and retaining top employees.

  • Studies typically find that unionized companies earn profits between 10 percent and 15 percent lower than those of comparable non-union firms."

Much more can be read in this study. If you truly want to know the costs, ALL THE COSTS, that are associated with unions read the article. It talks about how unions have cost GM and the US.

Probably the item I find the most disagreeable is this following statement on individualism. It is why I have never belonged to a union, it goes against how I was raised.

"Final union contracts typically give workers group identities instead of treating them as individuals. Unions do not have the resources to monitor each worker's performance and tailor the contract accordingly. Even if they could, they would not want to do so. Unions want employees to view the union--not their individual achievements--as the source of their economic gains. As a result, union contracts typically base pay and promotions on seniority or detailed union job classifications. Unions rarely allow employers to base pay on individual performance or promote workers on the basis of individual ability."

Just does not suit me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Want to Learn How to Sell HR to Your CEO?

If you want to learn how to sell HR to your CEO all you have to do is listen to the radio. Administaff, with spokesman Arnold Palmer, does a great job of selling the value of human resources to company CEOs. A visit to their website supplies even more information. Their advice or message is pretty sound. They have data to back up their statements of "Think of HR as a top-performing investment" and "Good people practices pay off." They report on a couple of studies that show that companies with top performing HR practices perform better than companies that have poor HR practices. And they make these points. They also have Arnie and the CEO, Paul Sarvadi, talking about the Top 9 HR Strategies to beat the odds in '09. These include :

  1. Focusing on profit generating activities- by outsourcing HR

  2. Capitalizing on new opportunities by attracting and retaining good workers

  3. Upgrading your workforce

  4. Providing peace of mind by a strong message of caring and professional compassion

  5. Making use of incentive compensation plans

  6. Heading of rising employment risk by assessing and managing risks

  7. Reducing operating costs, through a workforce cost analysis

  8. Making the most of training resources

  9. Improving employee communication.

Is there anything magical about this list? I think I have heard it all before and most of you have too. But how well have we communicated this to the CEO? The lesson here is that we can take a clue from Administaff and make our own compeling commercial. I am going to work on one and I suggest you do as well.

Otherwise your CEO may listen to Arnie and decide that it all sounds good and he/she can get that from Administaff.... WHO WANTS YOUR JOB!

So toot your own horn and keep from getting outsourced.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Carnival of HR up at Fortify Your Oasis

Some how I missed this one, but many of the best HR bloggers did not. Catch Cathy Martin, Wally Bock, Dan McCarthy, Ann Bares, Lisa Rosendahl and 18 other great contributors over at Fortify Your Oasis for the June 10th edition of the Carnival of HR.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Working Women: US, Russia and Iran and a Side Note on Unemployment

The title of this piece is long and the thought for it comes from my radio listening. In the U.S. we are lucky to have a system of law, and for the most part a social acceptance, that allows women to do most any work they wish to do. Certainly there are some sticking points and we always are aware of this issue of compensation. (See my blog post from May 7th on Women's Issues) But I heard a radio show that made me think that most U.S. women should be glad they don't live in Russia. From the radio show PRI's The World reporter Jessica Golloher did a report on Jobs Women Can't Do in Russia. She reports "... the code lists 460 jobs off limits to women. Jobs like chimney sweep, fire fighter, blacksmith, steel worker, and metro train operator." Such a list in the U.S. would cause a major outrage and has in the past caused many a lawsuit followed by legislative action. However, in Russia the courts are not helpful. "One Russian woman recently tried to challenge the list. She filed a discrimination claim after being denied a job as a metro train operator. But this month Russian’s Supreme Court ruled against her."

And imagine the outrage over this quote from Evgenny Nasonov who is with the Kremlin-aligned Young Russian Foundation which promotes Russian family values. "I think there are several jobs and professions that women shouldn’t do for instance defend their country. Men should protect the homeland not women. Women should stay at home and take care of the children and the family." (This totally ignores the role women served in WWII in defending Russia, but who remembers that.) And then this quote from a young Russian woman "Russian women often want to appear weak. They like that men think that they are weak. Russian women don’t think about discrimination."

A second radio show talked about the current election in Iran and how some of the candidates are seeking more freedom for women. Women there just hope that at some point they can show their faces and hold jobs they have been trained for. One young woman hope that after the election she might get the engineering job she was hoping for.

All I can say is I am glad my wife and daughter have had, and will continue to have, the opportunity to pursue their career choices in the U.S.

Off the subject of women's issues, Clark Howard, of consumer advocacy fame, stated on his radio news report that a study just out shows that the unemployment figure of 9.4% does not truly reflect unemployment in the U.S. The study says that if you take into account the people who have quit looking and no longer report then the percentage of unemployed jumps to 16%. Times are tougher than they appear. A recovery will not come soon enough.

BTW, a side note. Setting off the company burgler alarm is a lousy way to start the day.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Leadership Carnival for June 7th

Dan McCarthy over at the blog Great Leadership has posted this month's issue of the Leadership Carnival. This is a great collection of blog posts dealing with leadership issues. They cover talent managment, defending against unions by having a happy workforce, leadership development, inspiration and more. My favorite is Wally Bock's analysis of Warren Bennis' leadership vs. management distinction. He doesn't like it and I can see why.

So trip on over to Dan's site and spend sometime learning more about leadership.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Be a Bit Better at HR by the end of the day: Blog Posts You Should Read

Here are links to six blogs I think you should read. Aren't I nice for saving you the time of finding the good ones? LOL
  1. Seth Godin, When Smart People Are Hard to Understand. Great advice on making yourself smarter when you don't understand something said. Clue: Acting like you know is not it!

  2. Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist, If you think HR owns turnover, you are already dead. Great story of what should be said to a manager who want HR to take ownership of the manager's problem.

  3. Ann Bares at Compensation Cafe, The Excuses you may NOT use to defend gender pay disparities. With equitable compensation so prominent in the news these days this is an important tidbit of information.

  4. Michael Moore at The Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog, Employment Law Implications of obesity and BMI after the ADA Amendments Act. Michael discusses some of the technical implications of being considered "overweight" and makes a prediction on whether or not obesity becomes a protected catagory or not. Wanna make a prediction on his prediction???

  5. KJK, The Ohio Employer's Law Blog. 3 Lessons in handling workplace harassment. Harassment, especially sexual harassment, is still alive and well in the workplace. Here is a case and the lessons that can be learned from it.

  6. Cathy Martin, Profitability Through Human Capital. Hey HR, please no more TABLE talk. If you have been in HR for any period of time you will get this one and agree. Time for action not talk.

Well that is enough for one Friday. There are about another 25 I could (and probably should) include on this list. But if you read these today you will be a better HR person at the end of the day.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

OSHA Gears Up! Jobs, Enforcement and Guidance

In a press release from April 28th, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said "...
through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve America's infrastructure and put Americans to work, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will receive economic recovery funds it will direct toward enhanced and targeted enforcement; technical assistance, guidance, training and outreach; and construction data collection."

Well based on the DOL job openings announcement I received by email today it appears the money is already being spent. The vast majority of jobs listed (click on the link for the listing) are for positions in OSHA. Specialists, investigators, lead inspectors, program assistants, engineers and more.

This is a double-edged sword. On the good side this means good jobs for people interested in the safety field. Some of these pay over $85,000. And it means longevity. And benefits. So if you are interested in a career with the government check it out.

The other edge means that the enhanced enforcement becomes a big possibility. So if safety is a concern for your organization you had better prepare. But OSHA does help. Here is the Field Operations Manual that provides guidance to all investigators. You can wade through all 329 pages to see what you need to do.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Big Bad Business" is Such An Easy Target

It is easy to vilify employers for the way they treat employees. Everyone does it. The press. Unions. Comedians. Comic strips, such as Dilbert. Just the other day the headline blares out "Teacher Battling Leukemia Gets Fired." The reaction is "outrageous, how can they be so heartless! They even called her in the hospital!" Of course when you read the story you find that this is a general reduction in force, with many others being let go as well. And she knew about it and was expecting it. She had hoped it would not happen, but she was not surprised when it did. And they did call her in the hospital because that is where she happened to be. How else where they supposed to inform her? We would like to think they could have made a special case for her, but how do you distinguish her special need from someone elses? You can't. So businesses and other organizations have to make their decisions based upon what is best for the greater good.

I know lots of companies that do alot of good for their employees. Some that even go overboard in trying to help people. So it rankles me when employers are made out to be the "devil in disguise." There are far more examples of good works than of the bad things that are done.

A closing statement about Dilbert, a favorite of mine. I enjoy the strip and I chuckle but occasionally I get pissed at Dilbert. If the company he works for, and his boss, are so bad why doesn't he quit and find another job! He does help people dwell on their "victim mentality" and may even enable them to continue to be miserable. To my way of thinking Dilbert's dilemma is of his own making. (But that doesn't make the strip any less funny.)