The Biggest Lie Employers Tell Employees

That’s quite the headline, no?

But it’s also one of the most interesting nuggets to be unearthed in LinkedIn Co-founder and Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman’s new book, The Alliance, according to Erza Klein’s post on Vox Technology this morning.

So just what is that untruth companies tell employees? Klein quotes Hoffman directly from the book:

“The biggest lie is that the employment relationship is like family,” Hoffman says.

Klein’s piece (which is well worth a read on its own) then goes on to quote Hoffman’s description of the two versions of the lie employers tell:

“One is where the employer is actually deluding themselves.” Employers may want to believe their workplace really is like a family, and, in that moment, they may convince themselves it actually is like a family.

The other version of the lie comes because the employer wants the employee to believe it. “They really want the employee to be loyal to the company,” Hoffman writes. “That’s when it gets deceptive.”

Indeed, the misplaced concept of family is central to the book, according to an interview the author Daniel Pink held on Amazon with the Hoffman and the co-authors of the book (Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh).

When prompted by Pink to talk about the “notion” that successful companies are “families,” the authors responded:

Some CEOs like to refer to their companies as families. The concept of family is a powerful one, and describes how the best companies treat their people: with compassion and respect.

Yet we believe that using family language is a big mistake. The problem is that families are permanent–you can’t fire your kids, no matter how many times they may forget to take out the trash.

Companies are not permanent. The instant you lay off an underperforming employee, or someone leaves to pursue a better opportunity, the illusion of family is shattered. The only way to maintain the fiction is for people to lie to themselves and each other. This underlying dishonesty is corrosive, and prevents the kind of trust that is necessary for a close, high-performance relationship.

Both sides need to be honest with each other about the fact that the employment might not be permanent.

The authors definitely have an interesting take on the fallacy of the “company=family” dynamic.

It’s one that may be even worth pondering as you spend some real “family” time during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. (Just be prepared for an encounter with a family member you may wish to “fire.”)

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Osama bin Laden: HR Leader?

When you’re running an operation whose business is creating mass casualties of innocent bystanders at various locations throughout the world, you need a strategic plan. You need a sophisticated recruiting program. You need a training program. You need a development program. These subjects weighed heavily on the mind of Osama bin Laden, recently declassified documents from the Central Intelligence Agency show.

The documents, which were seized by U.S. commandos after they stormed the terrorist leader’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan during the May 2, 2011 operation that culminated in bin Laden’s death, include a series of planning memos that Agence France-Presse disconcertingly suggests “paint a picture of the jihadist leader operating almost as the director of human resources at a struggling multinational.”

This particular multinational (let’s call it Al-Qaeda Corp.) had a rather unique business model, but all the same its leaders struggled with finding and deploying the right mix of talent to accomplish its core objective (killing lots of civilians).

“Please enter the requested information accurately and truthfully. Write clearly and legibly. Name, age, marital status. Do you wish to execute a suicide mission?” So reads Al Qaeda’s application form, which included this gem as well: “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?”

bin Laden clearly was concerned about operational efficiencies, as revealed by a document he wrote calling for a professional training program: “One of the specialties we need that we should not overlook is the science of administration.” The organization needed motivated young volunteers with qualifications in science, engineering and office management as well as deep religious convictions, according to the document.

AQ Corp. was bedeviled with talent-deployment issues, as another document reveals: “The other brothers are new and we rushed to send them very quickly, before their security was exposed or their residency documents expired.”

Retention and turnover may also have been an issue: the same document cites a volunteer who was able to stay a couple months because he had to return home: “We have him an academic explosives course and he travelled back before his residency expired and we have not heard from him since he left. … We hope that we hear from him very soon.”

bin Laden was concerned that young recruits who were capable of infiltrating the West lacked adequate patience and training to accomplish their missions. “We need a development and planning department,” he wrote. He wanted to create a center of excellence, of sorts, compiling jihadist best practices and research to create a more effective breed of jihadist.

Outreach activities were also part of the mix: bin Laden was apparently planning a PR campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But thanks to Seal Team 6, he wasn’t able to make it  to the celebration.

 

 

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Still in Search of Skilled Workers

searching for talentAnd the talent shortage continues.

That’s the simple message found in survey results released by Manpower Group this week.

In its 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, the Milwaukee-based Manpower surveyed 41,748 employers in 42 countries and territories, “to explore the extent of talent shortages within the global labor market, which job categories are particularly hard to fill and why, the impact of talent shortages on businesses, and how employers are responding to the challenges raised by the lack of available talent in specific job categories,” according to a press release announcing the survey findings.

Globally, the percentage of employers reporting trouble in filling job vacancies continued to rise, climbing from 36 percent last year to 38 percent in 2015. The shortage is most severe for organizations in Japan, where 83 percent of hiring managers said they encounter difficulty in finding the necessary talent, while 68 percent of employers in Peru and 65 percent of respondents in Hong Kong said the same.

The prognosis here in the States, however, seems somewhat better, with 32 percent of U.S. employers saying they struggle to fill positions due to talent shortages, compared to 40 percent who reported as much in 2014.

That’s not to say that closing the talent gap isn’t still a concern here at home, of course.

Indeed, 43 percent of respondents said talent shortages are taking a toll on their organizations’ ability to meet client needs, with 32 percent saying they’ve experienced increased employee turnover, and the same percentage reporting higher compensation costs and lower employee engagement. Forty-eight percent of the U.S. employers surveyed acknowledged that talent shortages have a “medium to high impact” on business in a broader sense.

More interesting, though, is the percentage of employers seemingly taking no action to blunt that impact. That number remains relatively small, but is going up.

According to the Manpower survey, 20 percent of U.S. employers are still not pursuing strategies to overcome talent shortages in 2015—a 7 percent increase from 2014.

What remains consistent this year is the trouble American companies face in filling skilled trade vacancies. For the sixth consecutive year, “skilled trade workers” topped the list of U.S. jobs most in demand, with drivers, teachers, sales representatives and administrative professionals rounding out the top five.

“Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president of Manpower North America, in the aforementioned press release. “Despite impacts to competitiveness and productivity, our research shows fewer employers are trying to solve the problem through better talent strategies.”

These companies fail to address the issue at their own risk, added Wright.

“As the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand, employers will be under pressure to position themselves as ‘talent destinations’ to attract the best workers that will drive their business forward.”

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Looking to the Future for Total Rewards

It’s been 15 years since the American Compensation Association changed its name to WorldatWork, reflecting the group’s decision to increase its footprint beyond the world of compensation and embrace a broader total-rewards approach.

ThinkstockPhotos-175679126This year, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HR association celebrates its 60th anniversary. And with that milestone comes a revamped total-rewards model.

Announced during the opening session of this week’s WorldatWork’s Total Rewards 2015 Conference and Exposition in Minneapolis, the new model now includes the verb “engage” (which joins attract, motivate and retain in describing total rewards’ contribution to the organization) and the addition of “talent development” as a sixth element of the total-rewards strategy.

WorldatWork’s previous model, introduced in 2006, featured the following five elements: compensation, benefits, work/life, performance and recognition, and development and career opportunities.

Anne Ruddy, president and CEO of WorldatWork, noted that the time was right for the association to re-examine its total-rewards model and make it more relevant to the kinds of issues members are facing today.

Models aside, it would seem many of those attending this year’s conference have their sights set on the future. On Monday afternoon, I attended a packed session presented by Steven Gross, a senior partner at Mercer, entitled “Total Rewards 2020: What to Expect in the Next Five Years Based Upon a Lifetime of Experience.”

Five minutes before the session began, attendees were being turned away at the door because the room was already filled to capacity. (Fortunately, for those unable to attend, the session was scheduled to be repeated the following day.)

Gross, who is based in Mercer’s Philadelphia office, gave attendees a quick rundown of the external factors influencing total rewards today, a glimpse of what the future might look like five years from  now and what steps employers ought to take to prepare for that world.

As might be expected, Gross led off his presentation by acknowledging the crucial role changing workforce demographics is playing in shaping the future of total rewards.

“It’s not only about people living longer, but people working longer,” Gross said. “Think about the implications of one quarter of folks over age 65 and 15 percent of folks over age 70 in the workforce”—and the kinds of challenges these changes are going to present to employers.

Generational differences, he said, are also likely to have an impact, as employers face the formidable challenge of addressing “the different sensitivities” of traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials.

Other external factors Gross cited included income disparities, diversity, globalization and technology.

Gross predicted that, five years from now, companies will be much more focused on “core employees” who are viewed as being crucial to their organization’s success, will continue to put more weight on individual accountability, and will pay greater attention to personalizing rewards to reflect greater workplace diversity.

Going forward, he said, companies will also be much more focused on “best fit rather than just best practice.” (In other words, he explained, does your total-rewards strategy fit the culture of your organization?)

What’s more, he added, do-it-yourself benefits programs will be far more common five years from now, with self-service becoming an even greater fixture of tomorrow’s workplace. (Gross also joined the chorus of those predicting employers will increasingly be getting  out of the “healthcare business.”)

I suppose we’ll know in five years which of Gross’ predictions were on target—and which ones missed the mark.  But of this we can be fairly certain: Tomorrow’s total-rewards landscape isn’t likely to look anything like the one that exists today. As Gross reminded those attending his session, there are simply too many significant forces at work to ensure that that’s the case.

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Are Job Seekers Saying No to Entrepreneurship?

Despite all you’ve heard about the rise of the entrepreneur and the growing number of young job seekers striking out on their own 451846939 -- younger workersrather than adhere to today’s workplace status quo, Challenger Gray & Christmas says not so fast.

The Chicago-based outplacement and career consultancy posted on its site recently a somewhat surprising report indicating job seekers today are actually risk-averse and are shunning entrepreneurship, even in this much-improved economy.

“Now that the economy is finally hitting its stride, one might expect a surge in start-ups,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the company. “While the percentage of unemployed managers and executives starting businesses has, in fact, increased, the survey results suggest that the severity of the recession [albeit over] had an adverse impact on would-be entrepreneurs, who appear to be far more sensitive to risk.”

Given the bulk of job seekers and newly-hired workers are younger — and given the results of a recent EY survey that Senior Editor Andrew McIlvaine posted about on May 7, finding millennials are getting fed up with the lack of flexibility in the current workforce — you’d think more of them would be setting out on their own.

Granted, the gradations in the Challenger report are fairly small, and it does indicate the numbers of entrepreneurs have, in fact, gone up since 2011:

“On average, just 5.1 percent of unemployed managers and executives started their own business in 2014, according to [the] quarterly survey of job seekers who found a position, pursued self-employment or retired.

“The 2014 start-up rate was down slightly from 2013, when it averaged 5.5 percent per quarter. However, both 2013 and 2014 rates were significantly better than the two previous years, when start-up activity averaged 4.2 percent in 2012 and 3.2 percent in 2011.”

But numbers are numbers, and 5.1 percent of unemployed Americans starting a business, in this economy, is surprising.

Especially considering all we’ve heard about the new age of self-employed self-starters … like this fairly recent account on the CNBC website. From the writer’s vantage point, there’s a whole lot of movement away from traditional employer-employee relationships. As the piece puts it:

“Watching the enormous success of companies like Facebook and Google — started by founders who were barely out of college — has dramatically altered the under-25’s sense of when it’s ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ to pursue a good idea.”

It includes examples of some recent start-ups, some outside the United States, but not the numbers Challenger Gray & Christmas gives us.

Perhaps, as this HRE cover story from a year ago, “Leap of Faith,” suggests, maybe we’re not seeing as many entrepreneurs taking their dreams on the road because more employers are recognizing the power of innovation within their workforces and workplaces.

And maybe, for those millennials who want more flexibility but are staying put anyway, “intrapreneurship” is trumping work/life … at least for now.

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Doing Your Homework in the APAC Region

If there’s an underlying message in First Advantage’s latest study on background checks in the Asia Pacific region, it’s to tread carefully.

ThinkstockPhotos-122576156I received a copy of the firm’s 2014 Background Screening Trends Report for Asia Pacific the other day, analyzing 2 million of its background checks it conducted in the region. Among the findings: a 6.5 percent increase in candidates misrepresenting their curriculum vitae. Digging deeper into the data, Australia and New Zealand (27 percent) consistently recorded a higher discrepancy rate across Asia Pacific, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong (19 percent and 16 percent, respectively).

As has been the case in prior years, the discrepancy rate in China continued to be lowest among the lot, at around 9 percent in Q4.

So where are the discrepancies occurring?  In terms of employment discrepancies, 54 percent concerned employment history. The three most common education-related gaps in the region were graduation dates with a variance of more than six months (6 percent), graduation dates with a variance of less than six months (5 percent) and unconfirmed degree (3 percent).

The research also revealed that employers are beefing up their screening efforts and increasing their number of background checks, with 67 percent of all cases subjected to at least five checks in 2014, compared to 42 percent in 2013.

Mathew Glasner, South Asia managing director for First Advantage, found the lower discrepancies in the less mature and higher risk markets like Malaysia, China and the Philippines particularly interesting. “This is driven by fewer checks per screen than we typically find in the more mature markets,” he said. “In the Philippines, for example, our customers conducted, on average, only 3.5 checks per screen and uncovered only 12.8 percent discrepancies compared to Australia, where they conduct, on average, 5.2 checks per screen and uncover 26.94 percent discrepancies. This behavior is counterintuitive when you consider the risk associated with hiring into these emerging and higher risk markets.”

Among the other trends Glasner is spotting: increasing usage in the region of infinity screening—or the rechecking of existing employees’ backgrounds. “The ongoing screening of staff represents a real opportunity to mitigate fraud, financial crime and reputational risk,” he said.

It goes without saying, of course: These findings should bode well for First Advantage and other background checkers with operations in the region.

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Doing Good Through Better HR

doing goodChristine Bader, a former corporate social responsibility executive at BP, has an interesting piece up today at The Atlantic on the importance of a good HR department for companies that want to be better corporate citizens.

Bader, author of the 2014 book The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil (judging from the title, I assume it touches at least partly on her BP experience), cites companies such as auto-parts manufacturer Lear, Google and clothing company Eileen Fisher that take innovative approaches to HR to unleash their employees’ resourcefulness and creativity.

At Lear, Bader writes, CHRO Tom DiDonato did away with basing compensation on performance reviews, “realizing that the emphasis on pay created stress and stifled the candor that people need to improve and innovate.” Instead, the company now bases compensation on market conditions and awards equity and promotions for good performance.

Bader describes Google’s efforts to do away with unconscious bias through training that not only helps its employees recognize their own biases, but encourages them to step in and intervene when they see biased behavior toward others, Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock told her. The training isn’t being done entirely out of altruism, he said: People perform better when they feel more safe at work. However, Bader writes, if people are treating others more fairly at work, one hopes that will spill over into their lives outside the office.

At Eileen Fisher, the company’s long-term plan to improve the environmental and social sustainability of its supply chain depends on an intense spirit of collaboration within the organization — one that is carefully nurtured by HR, Bader writes. Eileen Fisher’s sustainability efforts are overseen by a team of leaders from different departments within the company who meet weekly by phone and monthly in person. “Traditionally, work evolves into buckets or silos; we help connect people so they can break down the silos,” Director of Leadership, Learning and Development Yvette Jarreau told Bader.

HR still has a reputation among too many people as a bureaucratic rut — a dark hole of stifling paperwork and mindless processes, writes Bader. But for companies that are trying to change for the better, she writes, a smart and flexible HR department is crucial.

 

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Watching Unconscious Bias at Work

watching workThere’s a theory that says men who assert themselves on the job gain respect for their take-charge attitudes, while women who do the same gain a reputation for being surly, difficult … or worse.

There’s also data supporting the existence of this phenomenon in the workplace, commonly referred to as unconscious bias.

A team of researchers expected to find more evidence of this type of bias in a recent study, working on the hypothesis that male employees who speak up regularly with suggestions or solutions would be viewed more positively by their managers than women who frequently offer input.

In evaluating 693 employees from 89 different credit union units, the study authors certainly found unconscious bias at work, in more ways than one.

For example, they determined that supervisors were “more likely to credit those reporting the same amount of voice if the employees have higher ascribed or assigned (by the organization) status-cued by demographic variables such as majority ethnicity and full-time work hours,” according to the study, recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The authors also found that, when certain groups of lower-status employees speak up more, “they cannot compensate for the negative effect of their demographic membership on voice recognition by their boss.”

This is all a very academic way of saying that input from full-time, non-minority employees with higher ranks and longer tenures seemed to carry more weight with supervisors in this particular study.

Gender was a factor as well, just not in the way the researchers anticipated.

In fact, the authors found that female employees’ contributions were valued as much as those of their male counterparts, if not more so.

They were careful to point out, however, that demographics may be at least partly responsible for this result. In a recent Washington Post article, the researchers note that women made up 80 percent of the employee base and more than 70 percent of the managerial ranks at the credit unions they evaluated.

“It was very dominantly female,” Taeya Howell, research scholar at New York University and study co-author, told the paper.

“It was just what we were able to get access to,” added Howell. “In a perfect world, we would hope gender would have no effect, but women were heard more than men [in this case], and it was because they were in the majority.”

But, putting the aforementioned percentages aside, this research seems to offer evidence that a greater number of women in leadership positions could help eliminate the idea that assertiveness and outspokenness are only positive traits when found in male employees.

“What this finding sort of says is, look, when you’re in an environment where the people above you are more like you, suddenly all those problems disappear,” James Detert, co-author of the study and a professor at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, told the Post.

“It’s not causal proof,” continued Detert. “But isn’t that suggestive that, in fact, all this focus on how women are behaving is nonsense? When you put them in a situation where they’re in the majority, suddenly the focus on their behavior—Is it too meek? Is it inappropriate, too assertive?—seems unnecessary.”

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HR, Big Brother and the Nanny State

There’s an interesting new thought piece by author and data expert Bernard Marr on Forbes‘ site today that explores the elusive intersection of HR, worker behavior and the new ways employers can — and likely will — use the health information they collect via wearable technology (such as FitBit or the AppleWatch) in the future.

While the term nanny state has been used ad nauseum in countless other situations, Marr uses the term to open a conversation on the purpose of all this data collection that companies around the world appear to be doing these days.

He cites companies including Bank of America and European grocer Tesco as organizations that are already using such technology to improve bottom-line results:

In Ireland, grocery chain Tesco has its warehouse employees wear armbands that track the goods they take from the shelves, distributes tasks, and even forecasts completion time for a job. In other sectors, including healthcare and the military, wearables can detect fatigue that could be dangerous to the employee and the job they perform.

But, Marr wonders, should companies use treat workers the same way they treat office appliances?

Is it even ethical to treat us like copiers and routers? One vendor, Cornerstone onDemand, believes it can help companies predict and improve employee performance. Its analytics software is able to take over half a billion employee data points from across the world to identify patterns and make predictions about hiring decisions and employee performance.

This kind of analysis, he says, can be used to identify the most successful recruitment channels or key employees that might be at risk of leaving. But, he adds:

[M]y fear is that many companies will spend too much time crunching all the things they can so easily collect data on, including how much time we sat on our office chair or how many people we have interacted with, rather than the more meaningful qualitative measures of what we did when we sat on the chair and the quality of our interactions with others.

It’s certainly an interesting debate point, and one that HR leaders will have to confront (if they haven’t already), as the coming years will only bring more and more data to aggregate, analyze and decide whether to act upon — or not.

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Intel’s Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

dv1080001Intel Corp.’s Diversity in Technology Initiative that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced in January — and Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged about at the time — appears to be chugging along quite nicely.

In a speech delivered Wednesday at the Rainbow PUSH Silicon Valley Tech 2020 Summit, Krzanich announced some impressive progress, confirming he was dead serious four months ago when he presented plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort.

For one, he told summit-goers, 41 percent of hires at Intel this year have been diverse, versus 32 percent last year. For another, 17 percent of senior hires in the first quarter of 2015 are underrepresented minorities and 33 percent are women, up from 6 percent and 19 percent in 2014, respectively.

He also announced that Intel has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Oakland Unified School District to commit $5 million over the next five years to implement a comprehensive, “education-transformation solution” that will create a computer-science and engineering pathway for more than 2,400 students, with a graduating cohort of 600 students over the next five years.

“We knew we wanted to do something in K-12 education that targeted underrepresented minorities and we thought we should start in our own backyard,” Krzanich says in this USA Today piece about that initiative.

Lastly, he said Wednesday, his company has committed to spending $1 billion with diverse-owned businesses by the year 2020.

In her May 6 blog post about Krzanich’s update, Rosalind L. Hudnell, Intel’s vice president of human resources and director of diversity and inclusion, addressed some of the underlying philosophies behind this push:

“Improving the diversity of our workforce and the pipeline of students going into this field is not just the right thing to do.  It’s the critical thing to do.  The people who purchase and use technology come from all walks of life.

“Without employees with diverse backgrounds, opinions and problem-solving skills, Intel can’t properly address the needs of a diverse market. Diverse teams and companies lead to greater creativity, strategic thinking and innovation. Greater diversity also results in better products and smarter business decisions. So how do we get there? This is the hard part, because diversity is a complex issue.”

In many stories we’ve written over the years about meaningful workforce initiatives, diversity included, a repeating theme has been the need for top-down buy-in and commitment to occur if any of them are to succeed and if promised goals are to be met.

Nice to see that working so well in the Intel corner of Silicon Valley.

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