Friday, May 28, 2010

Six Supertrends: What Does the Future Hold?

Are you really strategic? What to do some "think-tank" type of thinking? Well here is your chance. Edward Cornish, in his book Futuring: The Exploration of the Future talks about Six Supertrends. I find this kind of reading facsinating and certainly deserving of some thought for the future of HR. So lets take a look. These SUPER TRENDS include:
  1. Technological Progress. Yeah I know what you are thinking "Ho-hum, we have had that forever." But have you ever really sat down and thought about the implications for your job, your company and you personally? Obviously the Industrial Revolution and the ongoing Cybernetic Revolution have had significant impacts on business and personal lives. What will the world look like in a Biotechnology Revolution and then again in Nanotechnology Revolution? These are not far off. In fact here is a list of companies involved in Nanotechnology. How is this going to change the face of HR?
  2. Economic Growth. Well this one seems a bit thin at the moment, but that is just part of the long-term cycle of growth. In the long-term people will be richer, the standard of living across the world will be higher and the desire to accumulate will grown. What impact will this have on you, your employees and the goods and services your company offers?
  3. Improving Health. Face it, we are going to live longer and healthier. This means that they may want to work longer. And stay on healthcare (whatever form it takes) longer. How will  you have to change things to accommodate people being around another 10 years?
  4. Increasing Mobility. Increased health, increased wealth, increased transportation all translate into people moving around more. And people are not the only thing that will have increased mobility. Goods and information (although I have a hard time imaging info moving faster) will move at a much accelerated pace. This all means a SMALLER GLOBE. But it may also mean social and cultural changes with a resulting impact on families and communities.
  5. Environmental Decline. Let's face it. People are SLOBS! There are more messy bedrooms than there are clean ones and this has become a global phenomenon. If there is not some reversal (clean your "room" or there will be no dinner) all our beach vacations will come ready made with a coating of oil. (Perhaps not a bad thing. Built in sunscreen for the depleted ozone layer?)
  6. Increasing Deculturation. This means a loss of traditional culture. This deculturation may mean changes in languages, adapation of behaviors and much more. A much bigger mixture than we have experienced to date. How can you adapted to the good and bad of this?
So there you have it. How are these going to change you? If you wish to read the book you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

E-Verify: Imperfect But Improving

According to an independent evaluation done in 2008, and reported in the April 2010 issue of HR Magazine, E-Verify, the background checking system of the Department of Homeland Security, " much more effective than the Form I-9 verfications process used by employers not using E-Verify." This is actually good news. First reports of the system reported that it was badly marred.

The research group Westat, Inc. detailed the results of their study in this 338 page report. The study found that 94% of the workers whose employment verifications were run through the system were identified correctly as eligible for employment in the United States. The remaining 6% did not have proper paperwork, however, 3% of them were still given authorization. Much of these errors were due to those workers having fraudulant or stolen identities. The effort in the future will be to cut down on this fraud.

Employers using the E-Verify system do need to realize that there are flaws in the system and need to document their efforts to use and verify a worker's legal right to work in the US. Have your documentation to prove that you did your best just in case a worker gets busted and fails a closer look.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Make a Knowledge Worker Productive: A Drucker Lesson

Peter Drucker, writing in Management Challenges for the 21st Century, pointed out that knowledge workers need to be thought of as different from more traditional workers. To him KWs needed to be seen and treated as an asset rather than a cost. I am not sure how much the modern company has embraced this yet, especially given some of the ways workers were treated in the recent recession. To Drucker there were five ways to determine a knowledge workers productivity. These include:
  1. "KW productivity demands that we ask the question "What is the task?" To me this should always entail the input from the worker and not just a managers determination.
  2. "It requires that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy." Isn't this buy in? Isn't this getting them to own the job?
  3. "Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task, and the responibility of the knowledge workers." If the KW is not bringing improvement what continued value do they deliver. Continual resume improvement as performance evaluation has always seemed a good idea to me.
  4. "Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the worker." The best way to learn something is to teach it. This method allows transfer of knowledge and knowledge retention. Two major issues for companies.
  5. "Productivity of the knowledge worker is not- at least not primarily- a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least important." Obviously there is a need to get work done, but the best work is high quality. A bunch of crap serves no one.
Following Drucker's advice may give you a different perspective on your knowledge workers. How have you treated yours this past year?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Work and Education in The Year 2040

2040... only 30 years away. Some of you reading this will still be in your HR jobs. I hope to be retired by then.. but you never know... But I digress. Author/Futurist Edward Cornish, in his book Futuring: The Exploration of the Future surmises about what the year 2040 MAY look like. He covers several areas, but the one that I thought had more relevance to HR was his statement on Work and Education. He said "Due to rapid technological change, globalization, and other factors workers will need to change jobs with increasing frequence to stay employed in 2040. There may  be few jobs that assure lifetime employment. Most workers will have to reinvent their careers to keep up with the fast-changing workplace. To cope with the complexities of the job market and find positions suited to their talents and interests, workers will be more dependent than ever on career counselors, coaches, and mentors."

He goes on further to say "To meet changing job requirements, workers will be forced to constantlly update their education and skills.  Education will no longer be viewed as an activity for young people but as a continuing necessity throughout life."

Cornish even projects that the world of 2040 may have LEGAL requirements for adults to continue their education so they can remain economically productive.

In this post of mine from last year on the importance of continuing education there was a call for life long learning. A short video points this out. So start now!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Concerted Activity": Why NonUnion HR Needs to Know About It.

Today I am the guest on DriveThruHR, the Blog Talk Radio show hosted by Bryan Wempen.  His theme this week is union activity. My topic is "Concerted Activity" and why everyone in HR, especially non-union HR should know about it. The website US Legal Definitions defines concerted activity as activity "...undertaken jointly by employees for the purpose of union or organization, collective bargaining, or other mutual aid or protection. Such activities frequently are "protected" under federal and state labor laws."  Activites undertaken by employees, EVEN non-union employees, is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This means that employees banding together to complain about working conditions or wages are most likely engaging in a protected activity. Action taken against these employees may violate Section 7 of the NLRA.

This is why companies that have "salary secrecy" policies may be treading on thin ice. What I mean by this is that if you have a policy that forbids employees from discussing their wages may be violating the NLRA. You can forbid an employee from revealing to or discussing wages with someone outside the company, but it is shakey at best to forbid employees from discussing it internally. Terminating such an employee may result in a charge of an "unfair labor practice" (ULP) which will be rectified by reinstatement of the employee and payment of back wages.

Concerted activity is not just restricted to wages, however. According to the website Law Memo, "Protected concerted activity is that activity engaged in for employees’ “mutual aid or protection.” Such activity includes employee efforts to improve working conditions and terms of employment. If an employee is engaged in protected concerted activity, an employer may violate the NLRA if, in addition:
  • The employer knew of the concerted nature of the employee’s activity;
  • The concerted activity was protected by the Act; and
  • The adverse employment action at issue (e.g., discharge) was motivated by the employee’s protected concerted activity.

 For a nonunion employer to be unaware of the concept of "concerted activity" and to violate employee rights as a result may invite the employees to seek the aid and "comfort" of union representation. So be careful and prudent.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being a US Government Contractor: Many Hoops Many Mistakes

On May 19th I am giving a presentation to a group of small company business owners and managers. I will be talking about the top 5 HR mistakes that small businesses make. (Which I posted on Feb. 5, 2010) In particular this group is interested in potentially being Federal Contractors. The people that asked me to speak deal with helping small businesses become contractors and they mentioned that often it is the HR stuff that fouls up a small company. Often times it is having the FLSA requirements messed up or they improperly classify employees as independent contractors. So I will be covering that.

However, I ran across an article in the April 2010 issue of HR Magazine, written by Alissa Horvitz and Joshua Roffman, called A High Bar in which they detail several other compliance areas that may cause problems and cost money for businesses which desire to be contractors. As most of you know Federal Contracts are controlled by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) (almost looks Soviet doesn't it?) and there are several requirements that include:
  • Understanding prevailing wage issues and doing proper trainning
  • Having your computer and accounting systems set up to track required OFCCP fields
  • Making sure applicant data is being recorded
  • Instituting the Drug-Free Workplace Act requirements
  • Having a statement of non-discrimination or a full Affirmative Action Plan if needed. An AAP is necessary if you have 50 employees and a contract greater than $50,000.
  • Tracking subcontracts awarded to enterprises owned by women, minorities, veterans and people with disabilities
  • Making sure that all jobs filled externally are posted with the appropriate state and local unemployment offices
  • Necessary use of the E-verify system for background checks
  • Posting required notices about rights under the National Labor Relations Act (due out later in 2010.)
As the authors mention, there are alot of up front costs associated with having federal contracts. However, there are costs associated with blowing the compliance as well. Companies that are awarded contracts and then get audited and are found to be out of compliance may get fined, with remedies often exceeding $100,000 or loss of contract. Many compliance issues deal with proper applicant tracking or improper employment ratios as well as improper pay structures.

Because of the size of contracts, and the way the law is written, often the requirements for compliance are either not clearly articulated or are buried deep in contract language. Either way ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Contracts with the Federal government can be lucrative, however, there are many obligations that go with being a Federal contractor and they should not be pursued or entered into lightly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WOW! Proposed Legislation That Actually Sounds Good

I am somewhat surprised at myself for saying this but a piece of legislation got proposed on May 17th that actually makes sense. The US Department of Labor delivered the  Unemployment Compensation Integrity Act draft legislation to Congress on Monday May 17th. The draft legislation, if enacted, will help states fight employer fraud and reduce improper benefit payments.

According to Secretary Solis "The Unemployment Compensation Integrity Act would give states the additional resources and tools they need to guarantee that only those who are eligible for benefits receive them and employers who defraud the system pay their fair share of taxes."

These resources and tools include:
  • Among several provisions, the act would permit states to use up to five percent of recovered unemployment compensation overpayments to deter and detect benefit overpayments.
  • It also would allow states to use up to five percent of contributions collected due to employer fraud or tax evasion — including misclassification of employees — to combat these problems.
  • Mandates would include requiring states to assess a penalty of not less than 15 percent of the amount overpaid on any overpayments that result from claimant fraud.
  • The act also would give employers an incentive to provide timely, accurate and complete information about why their former employees no longer work for them — information that is critical for states to make proper benefit payment decisions.
  • Additionally, the act would require employers to report the first day of earnings for new hires to the National Directory of New Hires. This step would help to reduce overpayments due to individuals who return to work but continue to collect unemployment compensation.

So, this legislation can clean up Unemployment Fraud. Now if we can just get Workers' Comp fraud cleaned up that will be helpful too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Managing Nontraditional Workers: A Lesson From Drucker

From my edition of The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done comes this lesson on managing nontraditional workers. With the increasing use of nontraditional workers, such as part-timers, temporaries, early retirees, freelancers, outsourced workers, and independent contractors the major challenge to management in today's corporations is to make sure they are productive. They may not be managed in traditional ways or by traditional methods. In fact they may not be managed at all. What management needs to focus on is NOT the activity of management but the outcomes produced by these workers.

To me this means a focus on measurement and results. For many managers this requires an adjustment in their "normal" means of management. Counting heads does not cut it anymore. Measuring results, agreed upon by both parties, is what counts.

So if you are using non-traditional workers what accountabiltiy do you have built into the management of their efforts? This is especially critical if you are using INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. With the USDOL and IRS watching these relationships with an eagle eye you need to make sure you follow the rules.

It never ceases to amaze me how good Drucker was in his insights. This thought about nontraditional workers was published in 2002 in Managing in the Next Society, which was a collection from previously published articles, yet it remains as relevant today as it was when first published.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Backdoor Cardcheck: Is This A Precursor to NLRB Actions?

In what is being called "backdoor cardcheck" by opponents and "fairness" by proponents the National Mediation Board instituted a change in the union representation election process that will make it easier for unions to organize airlines under the Railway Labor Act. Currently in a representation election under the RLA people in the proposed bargaining unit who do not vote in the election are counted as a "NO" vote. That 75 year precedent has now been reversed and the now Democratic party controlled NMB says that only votes cast will be counted thus making it easier to win representation if the union is more effective in mobilizing voters. (Under the National Labor Relations Act, which governs non-railroad/airline union activity, that is the way elections are held.)

The controversy comes from two actions of the NMB. First, this method of election has stood for 75 years, surviving two Supreme Court tests. Yet as soon as the NMB has a majority of Democrat Party members, the method is changed. The chair, Elizabeth Dougherty, a Republican, cast a dissenting vote, saying the actions where not reasonably explained. Many Republican Senators and anit-union employers and employee organizations protest that the NMB does not have the legal authority to make this change and they have filed legal challenges.

The other area of controversy comes from the fact that the same change was not made for the decertification election process. So the actions seem very biased in favor of those that want unions and against those that would like to get rid of a union. This difference of action has smacked of political pay back for the unions that gave so much money to the Democrat Party and the Obama administration.

The reason this is important to pay attention to is that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which controls labor decisions in the private sector, is also now controled by the Democrat Party. Might we also expect political payback "tainted" decisions from them? Many surmise that we will see a slew of such decisions with the reversal of previous decisions, an announcement that has already been made. So if you are in the private sector, being aware of NLRB decisions and actions will be very important for you to pay attention to. You may see decisions the will:
  • May the Employee Free Choice Act unnecessary, thus taking a controversial bill out of the limelight.
  • May make employers provide "union type" rights to non-union employees, such as the right to have a representative in a disciplinary process.
  • May shorten the time companies will be allowed to campaign against union representation.
The vote in the Senate on the legality of the changes made in the Railway Labor Act by the National Mediation Board will be a telling one. If it is made on strict party lines the changes will be upheld. If Senators vote on the merits of overturning a 75 year rule then the vote may be different. Pary line votes will then empower the NLRB to make similar decisions and dealing with union activity in the private sector will become much more problematic.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HR Carnival: 20 Great Reads for May 12th

Today I have the good fortune to be the host of the HR Carnival. And what a good one it is! A couple of themes popped out in the submissions. One of these dealt with "conversation".

First we have Wally Bock's Conversation: A Key Supervisory Tool. And it is. I have always been amazed to find supervisor who don't know how to talk to their employees. So heed Wally's advice at Three Star Leadership.

How about a "lack of conversation"? Well that is always frustrating, especially when you are an applicant waiting to hear back from a recruiter. Read the advice that Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady, provides to an applicant in I Interviewed and the Recruiter Won't Get Back To Me.

Exit interviews are usually conversations. Or are they? Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender, reveals The Real Reason for Exit Interviews.

You cannot get more conversational than an actual interview and that is what we have in Drew Tarvin from Humor That Works talks to Zohar Adner about the Gift of Stress.

How about a conversation with you the reader. In her vlog Barbara Hughes of Intellectual Capital Consulting actually talks to us in Making Customers Matter: Eight Things You can do Right Now.

Another theme running in the submissions dealt with performance appraisal. The first of these is from Cathy Martin at Intellectual Capital Consulting.  She asks the question Managers and Appraisals: Why Don't They Get Along? 

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership tells us How To Be Accountable and Hold Others Accountable. This is a story all of us can identify with.

Part of being a good manager and doing good performance appraisal is being a good listener. Kevin Eikenberry of Leadership & Learning tells us how to listen better in Want to Be a Better Listener?

The final blog in this catagory deals with facilitation, a key skill for any manager in making a group perform better. Mark Stelzner of Inflexion Advisors offers us 5 Tips For Great Facilitation.

The next set of submissions dealt with improving or discussing the field of HR. Always a popular topic. A few of these posts offered interesting perspectives. Such as:
Ben Eubanks of Upstart HR offer us 30+ Ideas for SHRM Chapter Leaders. A great read that all HR leaders need to pay attention to.

Jason Seiden tells us to be wary about When Employees Have Personal Brands: A Cautionary Tale. And given that everything written is telling employees to have personal brands this needs to be read.

A couple of submitters talked about training. These include:

Lastly in this set of submissions two writers express pride in their employees. Being proud of your workers speaks well of the company and these two folks sing the praises of their people.
And of course I would be remiss if I did not include myself in this fine mix. I would like you to think about the future in a Strategic Planning Alert: The Changing Face of America at HR Observations.

HREvolution was held May 7th & 8th. The next Carnival of HR will be hosted by Ben Eubanks at Upstart HR and will deal with posts from that UNCONFERENCE. So stay tuned for that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Strategic Planning Alert: The Changing Face of America

One of the tasks all strategic HR pros are assigned is paying attention to demographics. This is a major part of the "environmental scanning" that needs to be done if you wish to be proactive in your HR. Well here is a major tool that everyone should download The Brookings Institution Report. The report on the population figures from 2000-2008 and the changing demographics. Some of their findings include:

  • About 83 percent of the U.S. population growth since 2000 was minority, part of a trend that will see minorities become the majority by midcentury. Across all large metro areas, the majority of the child population is now nonwhite.  
  • The suburban poor grew by 25 percent between 1999 and 2008 — five times the growth rate of the poor in cities. City residents are more likely to live in "deep" poverty, while a higher share of suburban residents have incomes just below the poverty line.  
  • For the first time in several decades, the population is growing at a faster rate than households, due to delays in marriage, divorce and births as well as longer life spans. People living alone and nonmarried couple families are among the fastest-growing in suburbs.
  • What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into 'bright flight' to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation and a new city ambiance as an attraction.
  • Ten states, led by Arizona, surpass the nation in a "cultural generation gap" in which the senior populations are disproportionately white and children are mostly minority.
Depending on where your company is will determine how you react to this data. But react you should. Pay attention to this data and think about the following;

  1. How will this affect our future recruitment?
  2. Does our employee population reflect the general population from which we draw our applicants? If the answer is NO, can we at some time be accuesed of discrimination?
  3. What will the dynamics of our employee group be when the "majority" becomes a minority?
Those are just some starting questions. I will be discussing my views on some of their findings in the coming weeks. So stay tuned.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Status is in KNOWING: Are You Aware of This Trend?

The other day on DriveThruHR I talked about the importance of paying attention to the "future" for HR. Listen Here One to the trend newsletters I read, recently talked about what they called the "Statusphere". They defined that as:
"STATUSPHERE: As consumers are starting to recognize and respect fellow consumers who stray off the beaten consuming-more-than-thou-path, 'new' status can be about acquired skills, about eco-credentials, about generosity, about connectivity... All of this makes for a far more diversified 'STATUSPHERE' than most brands and organizations have traditionally catered to. Time to really figure out how and where your customers are now finding their status fix."

They defined five areas that they thought today's consumers would be seeking status. One of these I thought was particularly relevant to human resources. That is the trend toward seeking status in:
"... find(ing)  pleasure (and STATUS STORIES) in mastering skills and acquiring knowledge. They attain status from finding an appreciative audience that's impressed with what they know, and can create, instead of what they consume."

In HR we are always looking for ways to reward and motivate employees. Perhaps, knowing this trend, you can identify employees (consumers) who like the status of knowing and learning. You can direct their work experiences around being the acknowledged expert in the department.

Think about it. Do you have knowledge status seekers working for you? Are you paying attention to that need and interest? Money doesn't always have to be the reward.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

An Aggressive USDOL Means Jobs: Interested?

The "New Sheriff in Town" is hiring. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, in her aggressive campaign against employers is in need of "deputies." You cannot conduct all those enforcement activities without people. So the USDOL is in a big hiring mode. If you have ever considered working for the government and want to apply your HR background this may be an opportunity. The Feds, just like any other employer needs talent, especially management talent (that is an understatement, but we won't go there).

If you are in need of work, can swallow your pride (just kidding) and go over to the "enemy" (your HR friends may never talk to you again) here is the link to DOORS (DOL Online Opportunities Recruitment System) where you can view jobs that are available.

I am not sure what the long term prospects may be, but if you stick around, the Federal Government may be the only organization that will be able to afford to pay pensions.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Do You Celebrate Minor Victories? The Lesson of Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo which is Spanish for the Fifth of May. (If you ever want to test how dumb your friends are ask them what day Cinco de Mayo is on.) Many Americans (US brand) think this is Mexican Independence Day. But it is not. According to Wikipedia "Cinco de Mayo is a voluntarily observed holiday that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza SeguĂ­n. It is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla and in the United States. While Cinco de Mayo has limited significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico." Mexico did eventually gain its independence, but the battle at Puebla was just one stop along the way. Of course Mexican restaurants in the US are very happy to celebrate this day. It is always a victory for their bottom line.

I bring this up because in the larger scheme of the world this was a minor victory. But it has been celebrated and still is. This raised the question for me, DO YOU CELEBRATE MINOR VICTORIES? Rewards specialists recommend that you do. Skinnerian reinforcement theory would require you that you do. Employee engagement specialists I would imagine would recommend that you do. But that begs the question DO YOU?

So my questions for you are:
  • Do you celebrate minor victories in your organization?
  • How do celebrate them?
  • What has qualified as a minor victory you celebrate?
Please educate your fellow readers by leaving a comment.

And in the words of the "most interesting man in the world" ... Stay thirsty my friends!

(I strive daily to be the most interesting man in the world. So far... well not so much. LOL)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Four Blog Posts You Need To Read Immediately if You Are In HR

Here are four great blog posts with some terrific information that all HR pros need to read. The posts will speak for themselves. Good reading by some great bloggers.

Do you know? DOL to require “compliance plans” by Jon Hyman

On the Upsides & Downsides of Proactive Pay Audits by Ann Bares

The Real Reason for Exit Interviews by Sharlyn Lauby

How to lose a good employee in under five steps by April Dowling

Monday, May 03, 2010

Performance Evaluations: "The GREAT EVIL"?: A Follow Up

My post on Performance Evaluations: "The Great Evil"? generated a fair amount of interest. I had asked in that post for people to participate in a small poll where I asked if performance appraisal needed to be eliminated, changed substantially, left alone or needed more training. Here are the results.
  • To Be Eliminated 4 (19%)
  • To Be Changed substantially 9 (42%)
  • No Change, it Is fine the way it is 0 (0%)
  • To include more training 8 (38%)

 As you can see, no one is happy with way it is. But not everyone is ready to get rid of it either. So what is the answer? Better yet, what are better questions? I am including one of the comments, from Andy Spence of Glassbead Consulting, where he asked a lot of questions. Read these. How would you respond to Andy's questions? BTW, Glassbead Consulting named this post one of the TOP 10 HR Transformation Articles of April.
Andy asks:
Good post and debate which raises some questions for me. Isn't the goal here to improve individual and team performance in line with organisation goals? Shouldn't line managers be monitoring and managing performance on a frequent basis anyway? Does the performance management process actually help organisations achieve this? Would the time, effort and cost better be spent on other 'performance improvement' activities such as manager training or online feedback tools like Rypple? I think we should assess each type of performance improvement activity on its own merits given the business context, capabilities (which are mentioned as a barrier) and goals etc.

 Answer Andy's questions by leaving comments down below. Thanks I am sure we will ALL be interested in your answers.