Get Your Wellness Kicks on Route 66

Hey, yet another wellness initiative — this one from a company called Health Enhancement Systems; and this time, on a highway I traveled as a Southern California kid and miss to this day. Have long been yearning a return for a road trip; never really considered walking it. Wonder, though, as these wellness programs take employees further and further away from their work for longer and longer periods, if some HR leaders aren’t getting just a little more apprehensive about looking into them. Just wondering.

Remembering the Fallen

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis honored today — Workers Memorial Day — with a reference to Mother Jones (the woman and labor organizer, not the magazine) by quoting her: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

While government data shows that fatal workplace injuries (PDF) have decreased each year since 1992 and other workplace nonfatal injuries and illnesses (PDF) have done the same since 2003, even one injury is too many.

Solis notes that this has been a “tragic month for the nation’s working families,” citing the oil rig workers in Louisiana, the branch Mine workers in West Virginia and victims of the refinery fire in Washington.

“More than 4.6 million workers suffer serious injuries each year,” according to her statement. “And, every day across America, more than 14 men and women lose their lives in preventable workplace incidents. That’s nearly 100 preventable deaths per week!”

HR leaders should already be aware that OSHA has hired — and plans to hire even more — enforcement agents, but besides preparing for stepped up enforcement, companies need to review their own safety programs. A recent story on HREOnline looks at some of the inadvertent reasons workplace safety programs don’t play out in reality as they do on the drawing board. 

There may be some heartless and ruthless employers out there, but I would guess that number is pretty small.
While the overwhelming majority of employers may look askance at some of the rules, regulations and opinions coming from the DOL, I would guess nearly all agree with Solis’ statement today: “No one — regardless of his or her occupation — should have to be injured or killed to earn a paycheck.”

Helping Employers Improve Kids’ Mental Health

It’s nice to see the National Business Group on Health continuing to take on workplace challenges that matter with solutions that can make a difference.

Its latest release announcing a new publication designed to help employers improve their child and adolescent behavioral services really caught my eye.

Personally, I know of several families touched by a child in need of help. I also know of several tragedies involving young people who didn’t get the help they needed fast enough. And I also know how a parent’s concern over such a child or adolescent can be so distracting at work it becomes debilitating — so of course, this new guide can only help employers.

 I’d venture to guess that child and adolescent mental-health issues touch most all of us in some way. Kudos to NBGH!!

The Essential Nature of HR

HR may not be essential in some small companies as its transactional work can be done by other managers, but it is esential in the way it can add “considerable value” to an enterprise, suggests an essay, “Combatting Skepticism Towards HR,” in the Cornell HR Review.

The author, a student pursuing a master’s in industrial and labor relations and a founding member of the Review, compares HR to marketing — each function is “indisputably essential for the firm to stay afloat amid the competition over time.”

And sometimes, the value of HR can be seen, writes Joshua D. Rosenberg-Daneri, in what is not occuring within the business, instead of what is.

Think: unions.

Impact of Healthcare Reform Continuing to be Revealed

 There’s more disconcerting news about the historic healthcare reform bill — all being released today.

Along with a study by the Congressional Budget Office that about four million middle-class Americans will pay higher healthcare costs because of the reform and another study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluding that the legislation will increase healthcare costs — not reduce them — comes a poll of healthcare executives by AMN Healthcare finding that nearly three-quarters of them (72 percent) were either somewhat concerned or very concerned the new law would have a negative impact on their facilities.

In addition, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say the reform will have a somewhat or very detrimental effect on the quality of care their facilities are able to provide.

Only about one in five of those surveyed (22 percent) were greatly or moderately pleased by the passage of healthcare reform, while about the same number (23 percent) said reform will have a somewhat beneficial or very beneficial effect on the quality of care their facilities are able to provide patients.

But it may impact staffing — which could be both good for the economy in general, while bad for the executives, who already have problems finding some healthcare professionals, especially nurses.

Six in 10 (62 percent) executives said healthcare reform will cause them to add more physicians, 56 percent said reform will cause them to add more nurses, and 56 percent said healthcare reform will drive them to add more allied healthcare professionals.

Labor Professor Cletus Daniel Dies

Back in the day, labor relations was a crucial competency in organizations, with HR often subordinate. But, while organizations remain wary of unions, the movement’s influence today is mostly centered in public government.

One of those who chronicled the movement was Cletus E. Daniel, professor of American labor history at the Cornell University ILR School, who died on April 18.

Among his books were Bitter Harvest: A History of California Farmworkers, 1870-1941, The ACLU and the Wagner Act: An Inquiry into the Depression-Era Crisis of American Liberalism, and Culture of Misfortune: An Interpretive History of Textile Unionism in the United States.

Daniel, 66,  joined the ILR School faculty in 1973. He received the ILR Excellence in Teaching Award in 1979 and 1982 and the University Paramount Professor for Teaching Excellence in 1992. Since 1989, Daniel had served as director of the school’s Off-Campus Credit Programs.

Kathleen Asser Weslock, a Cornell graduate and chief human resource officer for SunGard Data Systems, noted that “Clete had been a professor of mine over 20 years ago; we renewed our friendship recently through the Cornell intern program.”

With even public-sector unions under growing pressure from unhappy taxpayers, it will be interesting to see whether labor relations will remain on the curriculum 20 years from now.

HRD on the Hudson

In its April 25 edition, BusinessWeek published an interesting article on CEO Jeff Immelt and General Electric: “Can GE Still Manage.”

The story devotes a decent amount of ink to Crotonville, which continues to be at the center of GE’s leadership development efforts. “Crotonville remains the company Mecca,” writes Senior Editor Diane Brady. That was certainly clear during a media day event last November, attended by HRE‘s Senior Editor Andrew McIlvaine.  His report noted that despite the economic downturn, more employees than ever are cycling through Crotonville — so many that the dormitory is routinely overbooked and GE is forced to accommodate the overflow at a nearby Marriott.

Some critics quoted in the story wonder if the campus is more of a distraction than a “virtue.” But as the latest BW story reminds us, GE continues to be more committed than ever to Crotonville. Time will tell if that continued commitment is justified. But until GE proves it has successfully regained its mojo, Immelt and his team can be certain of one thing: Critics of Crotonville aren’t going to go away.

Trains and Automobiles — but no Planes

As for the High Cost of Travel post, I actually sat in on an HREOnline Webinar on Tuesday with Jackson Lewis’ Michael Lotito as co-presenter and he could only join us by phone because he was stranded in London.

Definitely felt the impact of the ash when he was telling us, before the Webinar began, that Englanders are getting very frustrated over Gordon Brown’s unkept promise of extra ships and trains to get people where they need to go. I guess that wouldn’t have helped Lotito though.