The Fast-Changing State of Recruiting

When Ron Mester opened the 2014 Spring ERE Recruiting and Conference & Expo at the San Diego Convention Center this morning with a keynote address on  the “remarkably fast-changing” field of recruiting, he wasn’t kidding about just how fast things are changing.

Indeed, just moments into his presentation titled “The State of Recruiting” — in which the CEO and president of ERE Media shared the results of a survey encompassing 1,353 respondents, including HR leaders, hiring managers and recruiters – he changed the name of  his address to “The State of Talent Acquisition” in a nod to the survey’s results.

(In the survey, 58 percent of recruiting leaders prefer the term “talent acquisition” over “recruiting,” while 53 percent of HR respondents expressed the same preference.)

No matter what you call it, though, the field is poised for growth, Mester said, noting that 53 percent of respondents said they think their recruiting team will grow in size in 2015, while 40 percent said they think it will remain static and 7 percent said their team will shrink.

“The growth of in-house recruting will rise between 3 percent and 5 percent by December 2015, according to ERE estimates,” Mester added. “It’s a growing profession.”

And the field of recruiting isn’t getting any easier, he said. More than 54 percent of recruiting leaders said in the survey they think the next year will be harder for recruiting, and that’s something 44 percent of HR leaders surveyed agreed with.

“The good news is that your key stakeholders get it,” he said.

But in order to deal with the increasingly difficult and ever-changing landscape, recruiting teams need to first align themselves around the main challenges they face in their respective roles.

To wit, the survey revealed that one of the most pressing issues for recruiters is handling their workload, but “workload” didn’t appear anywhere on recruiting leaders’ radar screens.

“So maybe ask your recruiters about their workload sometime,” he said. “That can be a good start. … But don’t just keep doing what you’re doing. Challenge everything you’re doing.”

Considering Criminal Convictions

mug shotDelving into job applicants’ criminal records during the hiring process can get dicey.

Many employers are legally permitted to pose questions concerning criminal history on job applications. But an increasing number of cities and states are moving to prohibit such queries, enacting “Ban the Box” laws that eliminate questions about criminal convictions and, theoretically, help level the playing field for job seekers with criminal backgrounds.

The EEOC has recommended that all organizations take similar steps, and has encouraged employers to avoid relying on bright-line background screens to weed out those with criminal infractions in their past.

A recent survey conducted by Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ finds that, while many companies still seek information about criminal histories, they may be starting to put a bit less emphasis on what these inquiries uncover.

In its poll of nearly 600 HR professionals, EmployeeScreenIQ found a majority of respondents (66 percent) indicating they continue to ask candidates to self-disclose criminal convictions on job applications, while 78 percent said they ask them to do so at some point in the hiring process.

Just 8 percent, however, said they automatically disqualify an applicant who admits to having a criminal record before a background check. Less than half of the survey respondents (45 percent) said job candidates with criminal records are not hired due to their past imprudence less than 5 percent of the time.

What sort of indiscretions worry employers the most? When asked what type of convictions would disqualify a candidate from consideration for a job, survey respondents most commonly replied:

• Violent crimes (felony convictions) – 88 percent

• Crimes of theft and dishonesty (felony convictions) – 82 percent

• Drug offenses (felony convictions) – 68 percent

Misdemeanors matter as well, with 52 percent citing misdemeanor convictions for crimes involving theft or dishonesty as dealbreakers. Fifty-two percent said the same about misdemeanor convictions for violent crimes. In addition, 35 percent indicated misdemeanor drug offenses would take an applicant out of the running, and 13 percent said minor infractions and/or driving offenses would exclude a candidate. For that matter, 8 percent of respondents said charges that didn’t result in a conviction may eliminate a job applicant from contention.

(A full, complimentary survey report is available for download here)

Naturally, felonies “have always been of greater concern,” says Nick Fishman, co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, and the organization’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president.

“I do think [employers] are justified in their concern over felony offenses,” he says, “especially relating to violence and theft or dishonesty. These types of offenses really speak to a person’s character, and could foreshadow future problems.”

Misdemeanors can be “a bit trickier,” adds Fishman, noting that patterns of behavior should be the key indicator in weighing criminal convictions.

“Regardless of the criminal activity, employers need to look at things such as the type of crime, severity, age [at the time] of conviction, whether the person is a repeat offender and relevance to the job before making a hiring decision.”

Service-Dog ‘Fakers’: Could It Happen at Work?

464734925 -- guide dogsThis was certainly intriguing: a release from KCRA in Sacramento, Calif., about a hearing before the California State Senate examining what appears to be a real problem out there: people masquerading their dogs as guide dogs for the disabled so they can bring them along to wherever they’re going.

I guess they would miss them that much, which says something about the kind of person who would conjure up such a scheme. Worse yet, what kind of person would actually then “play act” a disability, namely blindness?

“This is a big issue in California,” Phyllis Cheng, the executive director of the Fair Employment and Housing department, says in testimony. In fact, here is the entire senate-hearing report:

Here, too, is the Fox 45 news report on the problem:

So I’m wondering, could this become a problem in the workplace? I asked two employment attorneys — Keisha-Ann Gray at Proskauer (HREOnline‘s “Legal Clinic” columnist) and James McDonald, managing partner of the Irvine, Calif., office of Fisher & Phillips — for their takes on this.

They tell me that, although there is no hard-and-fast rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring employers to allow guide dogs to accompany disabled employees, every employer with 15 or more employees is required to try and make a reasonable accommodation if the request is made, unless that accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the business or present a direct threat to health and safety.

Could this kind of cheating actually lead to workplace “dog parks” though? Well, maybe not dog parks, but both say yes, they could see this kind of problem occurring at work. Such widespread scheming is definitely humanely possible, they say. ”I know of people personally who claim their pets are service animals and they put a little vest on the animal so they can go in restaurants, etc.,” McDonald says.

Neither attorney gave much credence to this getting out of hand, necessarily, in corporate America. Thinking realistically, if you consider the fact that employees bringing dogs to work would then have to care for them for the entire day (and we’re talking food, exercise and potty breaks), “that might mitigate this a little bit,” McDonald says.

The bottom line to keep in mind, says Gray, is that this is the very type of situation that could get you in legal trouble if not handled properly. Faking questions aside, “once the employer is aware they have someone who can perform essential functions of the job, but would need help to perform the job based on a disability,” that employer must engage in a reasonable-accommodation dialogue.

And although “reasonable” does mean it does not create undue hardship or safety hazards, proving that a particular dog might bite or “seems irritable” could get dicey.

I’m thinking trying to nail someone for faking a disability or service-dog credentials could get dicey, too.

Best advice, from Gray: “If you’re thinking of denying a person a request for a reasonable accommodation, for whatever reason, get counsel involved.”

Looking to Employers for Pay-Gap Solutions

Plenty has been written about the pay gap between men and women in recent months.

188094090Indeed, as most of our readers know, the issue recently made news again when President Obama directed the Department of Labor to issue new rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data that includes a breakdown by race and gender.

In light of its ability to get much of anything through Congress these days, the Obama administration has lately been doing whatever it can through executive orders. But as a study released by Glassdoor earlier today suggests, it’s hardly the only interested party with a role to play.

Indeed, when Glassdoor recently surveyed 1,000 employees and job seekers, it found nearly six out of every 10 employees (57 percent) believe employers are in the best position to address pay gaps. This was followed by Congress (30 percent) and President Obama (14 percent).

Asked to specify how employers could make a difference, the respondents said:

  • New company policies around pay and comp (52 percent)
  • Clearer communication from senior leaders/HR about how raises are determined (45 percent)
  • Greater pay transparency (38 percent)
  • Government legislation (21 percent)
  • Employees threatening to leave and/or protests (17 percent)
  • New senior leaders (16 percent)

In many cases, the employees and job seekers indicated they’re looking to HR for clarification, with a fairly healthy portion of the respondents (43 percent) saying they believe the function is responsible for helping them understand how pay raises or cost-of-living increases are determined at their current employer

Glassdoor’s career and workplace expert, Rusty Rueff, sees the findings as a wake-up call for employers …

Now is the time employers need to take a close look at their salary structure[s] and determine where pay gaps exist, then fix [them] so employees know exactly where they stand in terms of compensation within their organization.  When employees have a clearer understanding of how they’re being compensated without secrecy around salaries, not only can they feel empowered in their current jobs, they’re also often motivated to work toward the next level, which can improve productivity.”

Tied to that notion is the additional stat that more than one in three (36 percent) of the respondents do not believe they understand the process their employer uses to determine pay raises or cost-of-living increases.

As for how men versus women view their pay, more than 42 percent of women do not believe they received fair pay in their current jobs, compared to 34 percent of men. These numbers seem fairly consistent with other studies that have come before.

Glassdoor also asked respondents to check off workplace perks that would keep them satisfied, in those instances when employers might not be in a position to provide pay raises or cost-of-living increases. Here’s what it found they wanted:

  • 61 percent – more paid vacation days
  • 52 percent – more career opportunities
  • 50 percent – flexible work hours
  • 46 percent – option to work from home/remotely
  • 44 percent – company stock/shares
  • 34 percent – healthcare subsidy
  • 23 percent – gym membership
  • 21 percent – opportunities to work on new projects

I’m sure many of you won’t be too surprised to see what some of the top choices were.  I would imagine there are some similarities to what you’re seeing and hearing on your engagement and satisfaction surveys, assuming you’re regularly doing them. But that said, I figure it never hurts to see what the broader universe of employees and job seekers are saying matter most to them these days.

Another EEOC Setback in the Courts

I can’t help but think this latest slap on the wrist of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (as documented by HR Morning) will only embolden the agency.

121266265-soc media and hiringThat has been the sentiment after past EEOC court defeats, including this one I blogged about several months back.

In this latest case, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Kaplan Higher Education Corp., claiming the company improperly used credit histories to screen job applicants.

The agency claimed Kaplan discriminated against black candidates applying to senior-executive, accounting and other financially sensitive positions. The EEOC, meanwhile, hired a third party to prove the credit checks had a disparate impact on black applicants, but the court found the third party’s research process — which included examining driver’s licenses to determine race, a technique it calls “race rating” — was flawed and unreliable.

What’s more, the court found, the EEOC was making charges about a background-check technique it employs. And that’s not all the problems found by the court.

As quoted from the ruling, care of HR Morning:

In this case the EEOC sued the defendants for using the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses.

… We need not belabor the issue further. The EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself.”

This piece from Forbes offers additional details and perspective about the case.

From my limited perspective, I’m starting to see enough of these failed EEOC prosecutions to think the agency might have better luck returning to the old days of helping employers comply rather than looking for ways — even paying third parties to find ways — to nail them.

Another Drowsy Day at the Office

sleepy employeeFor the average employee, a truly good night’s sleep may seem like a distant memory from the days before adulthood arrived with all sorts of grown-up problems in tow.

So, employees adjust and learn to function at high levels, even with less quality rest. But the effects of losing sleep to financial, familial and other worries can still be seen at work.

The Virgin Pulse Institute—the new research arm of Framingham, Mass.-based Virgin Pulse—recently surveyed 1,139 workers at three companies, in an effort to better understand sleep disturbances and offer insight on how to help employees sleep more soundly.

The study found nearly 30 percent of employees reporting they were “unhappy” or “very unhappy” with the quality or quantity of their sleep. More than 75 percent said they feel tired “many days of the week,” with 15 percent saying they doze off at work during the day at least once weekly.

What keeps employees tossing and turning at night, and, in turn, leaves them sluggish at their desks the next day? Environmental factors identified in the study as sleep disruptors included room temperature (85.2 percent), partners (71.9 percent), noise (68.6 percent), bright lights (52.8 percent), mattresses (40 percent) and young children (35.9 percent).

These findings only make sense, and it’s natural that poor sleep can lead to poor performance at work. But what can employers do about it? How can you help encourage employee behaviors that result in better-rested and, therefore, more alert and productive workers?

Jennifer Turgiss, vice president of health solutions at Virgin Pulse, director of the Virgin Pulse Institute and lead author of the study, offers a few suggestions.

“Employers have lots of opportunities to encourage employees to improve their sleep habits,” says Turgiss. “First, they can focus on creating awareness. Provide employees with tips and information about how to improve sleep. Host a brown-bag lunch with a sleep expert. Encourage employees to share tips on what works for them.”

She also urges HR professionals to review internal policies, to ensure the organization has procedures in place to help support improved sleeping habits among the workforce.

“For example,” says Turgiss, “a company could put in place a policy that makes it clear that managers don’t expect employees to respond to emails after certain hours or on weekends. This can help alleviate the worry and concerns that keep people up at night.”

Finally, she recommends that companies provide programs focused on improving sleep habits; an especially important offering at firms employing workers at risk of sleep deprivation—shift workers or frequent overtime workers, for instance.

Physical appearance and behavior are “great indicators” of an individual suffering from poor sleep, and HR and other leaders in the organization should also be asking themselves a variety of questions to help identify the signals of sleep-starved employees, says Turgiss.

Do [employees] look tired or sleepy? Do they fall asleep in meetings? Do they seem more irritable? Have they missed more days of work or has their output decreased significantly? Are they forgetful? Do they have trouble recalling details of projects? Have they made more mistakes than usual?”

Some workers may function better than others with little sleep, she says, ”but the telltale signs are usually there.”

HR Shakeup at GM

General Motors announced in a statement yesterday that it is replacing the executive in charge of human resources effective immediately, ”as it struggles with a string of embarrassing recalls that have led to congressional hearings and federal investigations,” according to the Associated Press.

John J. Quattrone takes over as senior vice president of global human resources for the car maker. Quattrone, formerly the executive director of human resources for global product development, purchasing and supply chain organizations, succeeds Melissa A. Howell who is leaving GM to pursue other interests.

“John brings to the job a deep and rich breadth of experience across all levels of the enterprise,” said GM CEO Mary Barra. ”This background is invaluable as we create lasting change that puts the customer at the center of how we work and how we measure ourselves going forward.”

Quattrone received his Bachelor of Science degree from Le Moyne College and earned a Master of Science degree from West Virginia University. Quattrone serves on the board of directors of American Society of Employers and previously served on the board of directors of Health Grades, Inc.

Barra praised Howell’s contribution at a key time for the company. “Through Melissa’s passion, the values that make up today’s GM are now becoming a central part of how we develop and guide our employees around the world,” said Barra. ”We are deeply grateful for her dedication to GM and all that she did to help build a stronger HR function to support our people and business.”

Howell joined GM in 1990. She was named senior vice president of global human resources in February 2013.

GM is in the midst of a crisis over safety of some of its older-model vehicles, the AP reports, including 2.6 million small cars worldwide that have been recalled to replace faulty ignition switches. GM says at least 13 deaths have been linked to the switch problem. Family members of those killed say the death toll is much higher.

GM spokesman Greg Martin told the AP the move is not linked to the recalls. He attributed them to CEO Mary Barra, who took over in January, making her own hires in key positions. “The changes are part of what any company expects during periods of transition, and Mary is building her own team,” Martin said.

But in response to the recall debacle, Barra also promised employees on a company blog that the company’s senior leadership will react quickly to tips from employees about safety problems; GM announced last Thursday a program to recognize and reward employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety.

“This program is an important step toward embedding the customer- and safety-centered culture in every aspect of our business,” Barra said in the blog post.

The Cost of Cancer in the Workplace

I came across some pretty alarming statistics the other day regarding cancer’s impact on the workplace.

78770849-- cancer at workThe report, from the Integrated Benefits Institute, shows cancer typically costs employers about $19,000 annually per 100 employees in lost work time and medical treatments.

Broken down, lost work time and underperformance at work, the latter also known as presenteeism, due to cancer costs employers $10,000 per 100 workers, and medical and pharmacy treatments cost about $9,100. Employees with cancer, the report says, are absent 3.8 more days per year than workers without cancer, and also lose the equivalent of 1.8 more days per year to presenteeism.

In the words of Tom Parry, IBI president:

Cancers present complex challenges for the workplace. At a basic, human level, a cancer diagnosis is a frightening, sometimes emotionally devastating, event. It is natural that co-workers and supervisors will want to provide support to a friend and colleague when told he or she has cancer. At the same time, balancing privacy and workplace accommodation is a critical, but sensitive, issue. Many employees with cancer will frequently feel too sick to work, while others report that remaining on the job keeps them ‘connected’ and provides a sense of routine as they undergo treatment.”

Considering there are very few of us who have not been touched by cancer, myself included (my father is undergoing chemo as we speak), I’m thinking the disease must touch just about every workplace as well. So, given the prevalence and inherent challenges in addressing it, what are employers to do?

The IBI report suggests upping your commitment to workplace-based cancer screening and job accommodations. Here are some of those advantages, according to the study:

  • Compliance rates with cancer-screening guidelines are highest when there is access through insurance-plan coverage.
  • Workplace educational programs have been shown to raise awareness of and screening for colorectal cancer.
  • Workplace screening for breast cancer reduces lost productivity.
  • Employees whose breast cancer was detected early through on-site mammography experienced half as many lost workdays for treatment as employees whose cancer was detected later.
  • Providing job accommodations or other workplace stay-at-work or return-to-work opportunities has been shown to help employees with cancer remain on the job.

Also worth looking into, if you haven’t already, is the National Business Group on Health’s cancer guide, An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment and Prevention, which I blogged about back in November.

In that post, I suggest we’re only going to see cancer cases at work grow as baby boomers age and stay in the workplace. It’s … well … increasingly part of life. And getting older. Ask my dad.

As Helen Darling, retiring NBGH president and CEO, puts it in the November post:

Today, more than ever, employers are facing the growing impact of cancer … . With significant gains in cancer survival rates and most cancer survivors staying at work during their treatment or returning to work after their treatment, employers need a comprehensive benefits plan to ensure that their current strategies to address cancer in the workplace complement the needs of their employees. Cancer casts a wide net, affecting not only those diagnosed with the disease, but also family members, friends, managers and co-workers. The impact on a company’s culture can be profound.”

 

Giving Workers a Reason to Quit at Amazon

Years ago, we reported on Zappos’ decision to offer employees a $1,500 bonus to quit during its intensive, four-week training period. The thinking being, if they’re not happy in their jobs 480491805at that point, why prolong the inevitable and suffer the consequences in the process.

Well, in case  you haven’t already heard, earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reported in his letter to shareholders that the online retailing behemoth has established a program called “Pay to Quit” that pays warehouse employees up to $5,000 to leave.

Bezos spells out “Pay to Quit” this way in his letter to shareholders

It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer.’  We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

In a story in The Tennessean, an Amazon spokeswoman says only workers in the fulfillment centers, where customer orders are packed and shipped, are eligible for the program and that only a small percentage of employees take the company up on the offer. (Back in 2008, when we first wrote about the Zappos program, we were told only 2 percent of the trainees took the online shoe-and-clothing retailer up on its offer.)

Hearing about Amazon’s decision to follow in Zappos’ footsteps (excuse the pun), I tried to find other attempts at this, at decent-size organizations anyway, but came up empty handed. (If you’re aware of any, let us know.)

But with Amazon’s program getting the press attention it has, could that change?

I asked that question this afternoon to Joel Garfinkle, founder of Garfinkle Executive Coaching in Oakland, Calif., and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.

That’s certainly possible, Garfinkle told me. “ We live in a copycat world” and “a lot of people look to Jeff [Bezos] as the new Steve Jobs — someone who leads from the front and is willing to take risks,” he said.

Garfinkle believes the approach might have some merit. “If you’re neutral or positive about your job, you’re not going to take [the offer to leave],” he says. “But if you’re really on the fence or negative, it might be enough that you just might take it.”

Much still needs to be measured, he adds, but at the end of the day it could very well lead to higher overall productivity.

Your Words Matter

leadership wordsIt’s not news that men still outnumber women in leadership roles.

New research, however, suggests fewer women even apply for management positions. Why? Part of the reason may be found in the way companies word their job postings.

A team of scientists from the Technische Universitat Munchen in Munchen, Germany recently found women feel less inclined to respond to employment ads containing words such as “determined” and “assertive,” because such words are “linked with male stereotypes,” according to the researchers.

In their study, the TUM team showed fictional employment advertisements to approximately 260 test subjects, in an effort to study how leaders are selected and assessed. If an ad described a large number of traits—assertive, independent, aggressive and analytical, for example—commonly associated with men, female participants found the ad less appealing and were less likely to apply, according to researchers, who note that women responded more positively to words such as “dedicated,” “responsible,” “conscientious” and “sociable.” Male test subjects, however, found a job advertisement’s phrasing to be of no consequence.

In addition, investigators found that women may be selling their on-the-job abilities short. In conjunction with researchers at New York University, TUM conducted a separate poll of approximately 600 Americans of both genders, in which respondents considered women and men to be equally competent, productive and efficient on a fundamental level. Both genders, however, rated men’s leadership skills more highly. Women also reported believing themselves and other women to be, on average, less capable in terms of leadership abilities than male respondents perceived themselves and other men.

Such findings seem to echo an all-too familiar refrain in our workplaces, with regard to gender equality: We’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go.

Claudia Peus, chair of research and science management at TUM, and lead author of the study, suggests that employers can help close this gap by choosing their words carefully when crafting employment ads.

“A carefully formulated job posting is essential to get the best choice of personnel,” said Claudia Peus, in a statement. “In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to simply leave out all of the male-sounding phrases. But without a profile featuring at least balanced wording, organizations are robbing themselves of the chance of attracting good female applicants. And that’s because the stereotypes endure almost unchanged, in spite of all the societal transformation we have experienced.”