It’s Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Today marks the 18th annual celebration of Take Your Dog To Work Day and, fittingly enough, a new survey sheds (pun clearly intended) some light on the topic to show the benefits reaped by organizations that allow their workers to bring their four-footed friends into the workplace.

Of course, it may seem like a shaggy-dog story to some skeptics (I’m looking at you, cat owners) that bringing your dog to work actually does produce positive workplace effects. But according to this research from Randolph Barker (no joke!), a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University:

“Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference,” he said. “The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present [at an office participating in a study] and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”

From the looks of a recent poll, organizations are (slowly) warming to the idea of pet-friendly workplaces: A 2015 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 percent of American workplaces allow employees to bring their furry friends to work, up from 5 percent in 2013.

(And while it may be too late this year, here’s a link to obtain a toolkit to help you set up the event for next year.)

 

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3M Displaces Google Among Millennials

220px-3M_wordmark.svgThe maker of the Post-it Note has displaced the world’s best-known technology company atop the list of organizations that millennials most want to work for. 3M, which in addition to the aforementioned product makes Scotch tape, packaging products, laminating systems and a whole host of other things you can actually touch or hold in your hand, has displaced Google for the No. 1 place in this year’s 2016 Millennial Career Survey, conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars. Google was the top choice in the 2015 survey.

3M CEO Inge Thulin was so delighted when he heard the news that he walked over to CHRO Marlene McGrath’s office and gave her a hug, he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a big, big statement,” Thulin told the paper. “This is incredible. It’s fantastic. When you look at Google and Apple and the others, we left them in the dust.”

Google didn’t do so shabbily, actually: It ranks No. 2 on this year’s list, followed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at No. 3, Walt Disney Co. at No. 4 and “local hospitals” at fifth place. The FBI, Buzzfeed, Apple, Amazon and the Central Intelligence Agency also made the top 10.

The NSHSS defines “millennial” rather generously as people ages 15 to 32; other definitions of millennials identify them as people who were ages 18 to 34 in 2015 while those born after are called Generation Z.

3M appeals to young people because of its sustainability projects and its three-to-12-month leadership development program, Thulin told the Star Tribune. Its commitment to diversity is another big attractor for millennials, he said. Indeed, research has confirmed that young people are very interested in leadership development, as well as diversity, and that they’ll look for the exit signs if they find the development opportunities at their current employer lacking.

The NHSS survey results are based on responses from a big and diverse group: 13,000 high schoolers, college students and young professionals ages 15 to 32, 48 percent of whom are African-American, Hispanic or Asian, 23 percent first-generation college students and 39 percent multilingual.

“Currently, the top career interests of this group are STEM, business and arts, and entertainment and media,” says NHSS president James W. Lewis. “Millennials hope to find in the workplace fair treatment, corporate social responsibility and strong company benefits, which include flexible work schedules.”

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Battle Over Certifications Rages On

As might be expected, the Society for Human Resource Management made sure its HR-certification effort, announced roughly two years ago, received a healthy dose of air time this week at its SHRM 2016 conference in Washington.

ThinkstockPhotos-522859146At a press briefing on the opening day of the event, for example, Alexander Alonso, senior vice president for knowledge development and head of examination development and operations for SHRM’s professional certifications, reported that the society’s CP and SCP certifications are being well-adopted across key industries.

“Key metrics,” he said, “now include the 92,000 SHRM certificates that exist today [as well as] tremendous growth in the [number of] SHRM exam applications from spring 2015 all the way through to spring 2016, with roughly 9,800 people sitting for the exam in this window.” (Some of these figures were previously reported in a story we posted in April.)

In addition, he said that roughly 84,000 took part in the pathway certifications in 2015. (The pathway enables HR generalists who already have certain HR certifications to obtain SHRM’s certification by completing a brief online tutorial focusing on HR competencies.)

Alonso also reported that about 5,000 HR job postings per month refer to SHRM’s CP or SCP certifications and said that SHRM will be piloting a Spanish-language version of the exam in the winter.

What impact these numbers will have on the HR Certification Institute and its Professional in Human Resources and Senior Professional in Human Resources certifications isn’t entirely clear, but one thing is certain: HRCI isn’t sitting still.

In addition to holding a 40th Anniversary Celebration at Smithsonian American Art Museum (between hors-d’oeuvres and cocktails, participants were able to stroll the gallery and take in some great works of art), HRCI announced that, beginning on Nov. 1, it would offer year-round testing—essentially throwing testing windows “out the window” (HRCI’s words, not mine). Prior to this change, exams were available to practitioners twice a year.

As HRCI Chief Marketing Officer Kerry Morgan explained, HRCI is putting HR on the short list of professions that make certification exams available to their practitioners whenever they are ready and wherever it’s most convenient.

(SHRM currently has testing windows in the spring and winter.)

HRCI CEO Amy Schabacker Dufrane noted that HRCI partner organizations were especially excited about the move because it allows them to support the process year-round.

Asked about the impact of SHRM’s entrance in the field, Dufrane admitted that exam applications were down. But she pointed out that, during the group’s 40-year history, it wasn’t unusual for these numbers to decline during periods of low unemployment (currently at 4.7 percent), being that people may be less motivated to invest in their careers when the job market is more stable.

What’s more, she said, the number of recertifications was very encouraging, climbing from percentages in the mid-80s to around 91 percent.

Of course, as we’ve noted in the past, time will tell as to how this battle over HR certifications plays out. But for now, anyway, HRCI, as moves like this suggest, seems intent on keeping SHRM at bay and remaining a major force in the HR-certification world.

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A Lesson on Politics in the Office

ThinkstockPhotos-153920586Some of the biggest events at this week’s SHRM 2016 Annual Convention and Exposition had little to do with HR. One was a concert Tuesday night by the band Train. The other was a highly entertaining discussion about politics between pundits Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

I don’t know about Train — I didn’t go, but it’s hard to imagine that the performance had much instructive value. On reflection, though, I think Begala and Carlson had a lesson for HR practitioners.

They didn’t make their point explicitly, but rather by modeling a healthy way for colleagues to disagree. The takeaway: Political discussions — including those playing out every day in company lunchrooms — don’t have to be divisive.

It’s a natural concern, particularly this year. An unusually heated and dramatic presidential race has passions running high, and employers naturally don’t want workers distracted by conflict in the workplace.

A SHRM study released as the conference began Sunday in Washington, D.C., found 26 percent of HR professionals responding said employees are more vocal about their political opinions this year. The survey found 72 percent of employers discourage political activity in the workplace, but only 24 percent have a written policy.

Companies can ban bullying or active campaigning in the office. But a SHRM news release quotes Edward Yost, an employee-relations expert with the organization, saying they generally “cannot have policies that prohibit all political discussions,” without running into issues with the National Labor Relations Board.

Here’s where your company culture gets tested. If workers are going to disagree on political issues, you want them to do it the way Begala and Carlson do — with empathy, humor and respect for other views.

Begala is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and longtime Democratic political consultant. Carlson is a commentator on Fox News and founder of the conservative news site The Daily Caller. The two co-hosted CNN’s political talk show “Crossfire” more than a decade ago and often appear together on stage as they did Tuesday morning at the SHRM conference.

In some ways their presentation was a comedy show, with the men gently poking fun at each other — and themselves. But they had serious and substantive disagreements.

Carlson’s main point was that the nation’s elites on both sides of the aisle have missed the rise of middle-class economic anxiety that fueled the rise of presumptive GOP nominee Donald J. Trump. And he freely included people like himself in that blame.

“Where I live, there is literally no downside to mass immigration,” because high-income jobs are not threatened, he said. “Immigration is a no-cost way to feel good in my neighborhood.”

Begala agreed that both parties have “failed a whole lot of people in Youngstown,” using that city as a proxy for white middle-class families whose livelihoods are threatened by a changing economy. But the answer is not to demonize immigrants, as he contends Trump is doing. Instead, “we have got to find a way to lift up the poor and middle class.”

Both men acknowledged each other’s perspective and recognized that neither Democrats nor Republicans had all the answers — basic elements of any healthy political discussion.

The nation’s polarized political environment has led many to feel “a contempt for people who disagree with them,” Carlson said. “There should be a space for sincere, honorable disagreement.”

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Splitting H-P: A Global-Sized HR Challenge

ThinkstockPhotos-82633540Imagine you arrive at the office one day and get this assignment: Take charge of everything HR-related in splitting up a company with 260,000 employees spread over 160 countries. Oh, and you have eight months to do it.

That happened to Cheryl Mohr. And she survived.

“This is probably one of the most challenging opportunities I’ve ever had” in more than 30 years in HR with the global tech firm, Mohr told a rapt audience of practitioners on Tuesday at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Despite her long experience, “you find out a lot of things you never knew” about HR in the process, Mohr said.

The challenge began in October 2014 with an announcement that Hewlett-Packard Co. would divide into two new companies. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with about 220,000 workers, would keep all the service-related business. HP Inc., with about 50,000 employees, would keep the printer and PC business. “Day One” of the split was to be Nov. 1, 2015.

But the company — and Deloitte, which had the contract to manage the project — didn’t have a full year to plan. CEO Meg Whitman wanted the separation in place on Aug. 1 to make sure all the bugs were worked out before the formal division, Mohr said. That meant eight months to create two global companies out of one — and her job was to manage the people part.

In the end, “We did have a seamless Day One,” she said. But it wasn’t easy.

For starters, the business had to keep running — and hitting its goals — while the split occurred. That meant elevating or hiring leaders to replace about 1,000 people who were dedicated full-time to separation planning, Mohr said.

Among key strategies the company employed was a process dubbed “clone and go.” That meant replicating the current arrangement in both new companies with a minimum of tinkering, Mohr said. The philosophy was “speed over elegance,” she said. “In some cases we just had to get it done.”

“We didn’t have a lot of time to think ‘Do we really want this policy?’ “ she said.

That included sticking with technology that the company was using at the time. In HR, that meant keeping Workday for information systems and Taleo for recruitment in both new companies. And it meant keeping largely the same benefits packages.

Another strategy was adopting transition service agreements between the two future companies to dictate how they would help each other after Day One for up to two years. These agreements were especially important in functions that are especially complex to separate, such as IT, real estate and finance.

For HR, among the most important first steps was allocating employees to their new companies and roles — and doing it quickly, for the sake of other departments that needed that information to do their own planning. Mohr wanted a deadline of September 2015. With the accelerated schedule, IT said it needed those assignments by May.

“At the end of the day, I lost,” Mohr said. And by this point, that was just four months away.

That process started by defining 12 employee layers in the two new organizations, from CEO on down. At the management levels, that sometimes required recruiting from outside to fill a duplicated role. More often the company did it by promoting a top lieutenant, Mohr said.

Luckily, “we had a lot of good succession planning” that helped, she said. In the end, the company hired just 2,700 people to fill new roles — not bad, Mohr said, considering the size of the workforce.

Another task was spreading new people around, so that one company didn’t keep all the experience. One example from within HR: Hewlett-Packard had 59 people working on HR systems. The two new companies each would need a similar-sized HR systems staff. That mean hiring another set of people and distributing them equally between the two new companies.

Once decisions were made, all 260,000 employees needed offer letters spelling out their new employers and roles. Multiply the complexity of this by specific laws around the globe, including some governing how the letters were delivered and how people could sign them — electronically or on paper. In 22 countries, government approvals were involved.

The company used many approaches to get this work done in a hurry, Mohr said. In Russia, for example, where local laws required signatures on paper,, it held “signing parties” in company cafeterias.

HR also had to organize monthly training sessions for managers on separation issues. It also implemented an personalized interactive guides on the company intranet to help employees manage the transition. These electronic timelines told workers what they should do and when, allowing them to catch up on missed deadlines and see decisions they would need to make down the line.

It all got done by Aug. 1, Mohr said. But there were some issues, which led to some lessons learned.

Principal among them was that some data got lost when HR data in a planning database was transferred into Workday, Mohr said. It overwrote some 75,000 day-to-day entries that managers had been making in the course of normal business. That work had to be done over.

Now, seven months after the split, the two companies are in a “transformational phase,” said Mohr, who became a senior vice president for global HR with HP Inc. The two companies now have time to reexamine the processes they cloned from Hewlett-Packard and retool them as needed for their narrower missions.

“Separation does not end on Day One,” she said.

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Setting a Strategy for Transgender Employees

Transitioning transgender employees. It’s a conundrum. And there’s a whole lot to consider. Such was the message Tuesday at the annual ThinkstockPhotos-531246420SHRM conference, in a workshop titled “Intel’s Strategy to Support Transgender Employees.”

Speaking were Eva Breslin, HR legal representative for Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho, N.M., and Keith Epstein, HR legal representative in the company’s Hillsboro, Ore., office.

In careful, thorough detail, they laid out all the impacts and ramifications Intel faced, which led to a comprehensive transgender strategy the company set in stone a couple years ago. After one male employee came running to Intel’s HR department complaining that a (transgendered) female was using the men’s room … it had to be done, they said.

Presenting three of their own Intel case studies — a female-identifying male who wanted to send out his transition story in a detailed email, a devout Christian who came to HR deeply hurt and offended by one employee’s change, and a transitioning male-to-female who was ready to leave work Friday and show up Monday as a woman — they discussed what went into Intel’s response to each in hopes it might help other employers (and audience members) facing similar challenges.

In those three cases, considerations included, respectively, the potential dissemination of personal medical information in the email that had to be thwarted and reworked, the need to fully explain and perhaps  enforce the new policy to the religious employee, and the need to step back and develop a cogent transition plan that would last far more than one weekend.

“How you deal with this is extremely important, and can save considerable time and expense,” said Epstein. Before the Intel strategy was adopted, for instance, “every time people were coming to us with a problem or concern, we had to start anew” with discussions and a plan, he said.

So the company established a team that included business HR, HR legal, members of the transgender community and others to put everything in writing, and on the company website.

From that point forward, all employees have been free to use whichever bathroom they prefer, in keeping with the gender they identify with. The company’s values and guidelines in the handling of benefits, name changes, back-office document changes and every other change that must be made are all laid out in black and white for all to see.

Steps for notifying managers and HR ahead of time, so every transitioning employee gets the support and respect he or she needs and deserves, are also detailed now.

“In one early case of ours,” said Breslin, “a manager was completely shocked and speechless for the entire day when an employee came in as a female after leaving the night before as a male. Clearly, everyone involved would have benefited from prior notification.”

Setting up an organization’s communication plan for transitioning transgenders is a complicated and sensitive process, and the ultimate goal should always be to avoid surprises, she said. Does a particular manager need guidance before meeting with employees to announce the change? Who will communicate it, the transitioning employee or the manager? Would the employee like to write a letter to his or her team instead? And should he or she read it and be there for the reaction, or should the manager go it alone, with that employee absent?

How all these issues are handled should be up to the discretion of each and every organization, said Breslin, but it’s imperative that all are addressed to “set the stage for how everyone will feel and might react.”

“It can also help avoid devastating outcomes,” she said.

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A Three-Prong Approach for Transforming HR

If there ever was any doubt that HR is now at a pivotal moment in its evolution, Ryan Estis tried his best to put them to rest in his Monday Master Session titled “Rethinking HR: The Future of Work” at SHRM 2016.

Changes Ahead

Changes Ahead

Estis, chief experience officer for Ryan Estis & Associates in Minneapolis and a regular presenter at SHRM, told a packed room of attendees that the HR profession is at an important “inflexion point.” As the world of work continues to change, he said, HR professionals are going to need to transform the way they go about performing their jobs.

Specifically, Estis served up three key principles HR practitioners need to keep top of mind.

No. 1: The profession needs to undergo continuous reinvention. “It’s our opportunity to play offense and be a disruptor,” he said. To successfully contribute to their organizations, he explained, HR leaders have to step out of their comfort zone and try new approaches.

“I personally try to force myself to stay in my learning lane,” he said, noting that every day he asks himself if “I’ve done something today that made me uncomfortable?” and whether or not “I’m making progress and improving?”

People resist change because they’re afraid to fail, he said, adding that “the antidote for curing that problem is to take action,” he said.

Estis specifically cited Adobe’s decision a few years back to eliminate its performance-appraisal system as an excellent example of how HR was able step out of its comfort zone to fix a process that everyone agreed was broken. “Leaders hated it and employees hated it,” he said. “So they got rid of it and replaced it with what they call Check-ins, where employees have conversations with their managers.”

(Estis referred attendees to HRE’s July 2013 cover story titled “Rethinking the Review,” featuring Adobe Senior Vice President of People Resources Donna Morris on the cover.)

No. 2: HR needs to deliver from a position of influence. “You have to inspire other people to champion initiatives,” he said. “You can’t do it alone.”

The best leaders are the best listeners, he added.

Estis told those in the audience they need to be able to have the courage to attack old ways of doing things and be willing to challenge leadership.

Further, he said, HR must develop a digital mind-set if it expects to be relevant.

No. 3: Be a culture champion and a catalyst of change, he said. Employers with breakthroughs have great cultures, he said, referencing Mayo Clinic (another client of his) as an example of an organization that has built a culture that has resulted in a highly engaged and loyal workforce.

At the Mayo Clinic, he explained, every employee, even those who don’t have jobs in which they interact directly with patients, embrace the organization’s core value of “putting the needs of the patient first.”

In employee focus groups, he said, each and every employee who took part fully understood the role they play in actualizing that value.

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Effective Leaders Know their Leadership Stories

“What’s your leadership story?”

PeopleThat was the question posed to a roomful of attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Washington Monday. Speaking was Timothy J. Tobin, vice president of human resources for Marriott International, with headquarters in Washington as well.

And he had a host of things to think about that few probably had, based on the murmurs during and after his session, “Five Steps to Effectively Communicate Your leadership Story.”

Like what it really means to know your message and have a solid leadership point of view. And what it means to know yourself as a leader, why you are one and where you want to make a difference and have an impact. Equally important is understanding your core values and your personal mission.

“What contribution do you want to make? What do you want to accomplish? For whom?” he asked the crowd. “As Aristotle taught us many years ago, ‘knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’ ”

But even more crucial for those leading others in business, said Tobin, is to maximize those “moments of truth” with other leaders in order to better understand specific pieces of the business and interact with those who can actually help you — all the while, carrying yourself with credibility and consistency.

“Who you know,” Tobin said, “can be as powerful as what you know. But the most powerful of all is who knows you and what they would say on your behalf. Who are those people who can act as credibility substitutes and speak up for you when you’re not there? You gotta find these people.”

And how do you find, support and sustain such a network? By engaging others in the organization at every opportunity and in every decision that needs to be made.

“The four most important words in leadership,” said Tobin, are ‘What do you think?’ ”

Two more seemed to be equally important as session takeaways: perceptions matter.

“You are only as good of a leader as people around you believe,” he told his listeners. “Communicate your story. Make it epic. And when it comes to telling it, remember, you all have a voice.”

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Telecommuting Up, Wellness Down

ThinkstockPhotos-491705703SHRM’s latest benefits survey suggests that the range of offerings has exploded over the last 20 years — yet many of the core health and retirement offerings remain the most popular.

The Society for Human Resource Management has surveyed its members annually since 1996 to gauge how their organizations spend resources on benefits ranging from health plans to child care referral services.

The share of companies offering core benefits like health coverage has changed little over those 20 years, the survey suggests. About 98 percent offered health plans in 2016 and 94 percent offered some kind of retirement plan.

But a 20-year comparison shows the rise and fall of specific benefits as employee needs, company resources, technology and fashions changed. Overall, this year’s survey asked about 344 different benefits, up from 60 in 1996, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of survey programs. She briefed reporters on the results Monday at the organization’s 2016 annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Among newly included benefits: coverage of genetic testing, student-loan assistance and freezing of women’s eggs for nonmedical reasons as a recruitment tool, Esen said. “That wasn’t even on the radar screen” in 1996, she said. “We couldn’t have imagined that.”

Perhaps the most dramatic rise is in the share of employers offering telecommuting — 60 percent in 2016, up from from 20 percent in 1996.

Also seeing significant gains were legal assistance services, up 12 points to 25 percent in 2016; and help with professional dues, up 23 points to 88 percent. In the shorter term, since 2012, fast-rising benefits include health savings accounts, up 7 points in four years to 50 percent, and standing desks, up 20 points to 33 percent.

The list of benefits losing steam over those 20 years is longer. Among the most dramatic drop was credit union services, declining by 47 percentage points to 23 percent of employers in 2016. Employee stock-ownership plans also have declined sharply, the survey suggests. In 1996, 28 percent of employers offered the benefit; the share in 2016 was just 9 percent.

And the share of organizations offering help with parking also dropped significantly, to 10 percent from 25 percent 20 years earlier.

Some benefits showed evidence of losing popularity after years of gains. Wellness benefits were offered in 2016 by 72 percent, up 18 points from 1996. But that share was down from 80 percent in 2015.

While weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs “have stood the test of time,” some other wellness programs may not, Esen said.

“I think wellness is here to stay,” she said. “However, it may be that organizations are taking a step back, to see what’s working.”

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Political Landscape Uncertain, SHRM Lobbyist Says

With presidential politics entering uncharted waters, the legislative and regulatory road ahead is hard to map, SHRM’s chief lobbyist told human resources professionals gathered this week in Washington, D.C. But one thing is virtually sure: The federal government is likely to tighten restrictions on employment visas.

“I do think this is going to be an area of focus … regardless of who wins in November,” said Michael J. Aitken, vice president for government affairs of the Society for Human Resource Management. He spoke Monday at the group’s annual conference and exposition.

ThinkstockPhotos-504283950In a presentation on legislative and regulatory issues facing employers, Aitken pointed to public-opinion surveys to show why neither a Democratic nor Republican administration would be likely to loosen limits on immigration through H-1B visas and other programs.

Voters across the usual party and ideological lines feel “the economy isn’t benefitting them,” Aitken said. “There’s a lot of anger out there.” That has powered the insurgent candidacies of Donald J. Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders and driven increasing dissatisfaction with government.

Immigration, closely tied to feelings about the economy, is a key issue for Trump. Aitken noted the likely Republican nominee has promised not only to step up enforcement against illegal immigration, but also has been critical of legal immigration under the H-1B program and others. Clinton also has expressed little support for helping employers fill critical slots by recruiting workers abroad, Aitken said.

On most other subjects, much depends on the outcome of the general election, Aitken said. Control of Congress will help determine the fate of a rash of Obama administration regulatory initiatives in employment law. Democrats could take control of the Senate, which would stifle such efforts to roll them back — especially if Clinton wins the White House, he said.

Some issues are likely to be front-burner topics no matter what, he noted. These include pay equity, an issue where SHRM is actively working with legislators, Aitken said. “It will be a big issue with the next Congress and next administration,” regardless of the election result, he said.

Also likely to continue are efforts to modify the so-called Cadillac tax on rich employer health plans, Aitken said. Complicating that campaign is the fact that the concept has some bipartisan support.

Legislative efforts also will continue to roll back or amend the increased threshold for overtime due to take effect in December. SHRM “supported increasing the salary threshold … we felt the final rule, however, went too far, too fast,” Aitken said.

“You need to proceed as if it’s taking effect Dec. 1,” he said.

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