Articles from August 2010



The Eternal Vacation

Better get ready for an end-of-Labor-Day-vacation ”purging” of your workforce. According to a survey published in the Memphis Business Journal, 40 percent of U.S. professionals are thinking about quitting their jobs after their summer vacations.

The survey, provided by workplace supplier Regus, finds workers are tired of not being promoted, bosses that don’t share company goals and being overworked. “As workers pack up their swimsuits this summer, they are more likely to dwell on the pros and cons of the job that is waiting for them at home,” Sande Golgart, Regus’ regional vice president, is quoted as saying in the Business Journal story.

The piece also includes another recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing productivity dropped at an annual rate of 0.9 percent during the second quarter of 2010.

Drs. Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan Nielson, co-founders of The Work Itself Group based in Salt Lake City, say these stats point to the immense drain on the economy due to large numbers of employees doing 50 percent “fake work,” defined as having no alignment with business strategy.

In a study they did in conjunction with Franklin/Covey, they cite a recent Gallup poll showing the cost of disengaged workers is estimated at $300 billion per year. They also list findings that 70 percent of employees are unable to name a single department/company goal or strategy and 50 percent of work done at the workplace does not align with a company’s vision or goals.

Not the greatest fodder for a Labor Day pep rally.

Don’t Be Late

According to the good folks at the Associated Press, at least one African nation’s government (Nigeria) is taking a stand against an internationally known productivity thief: tardiness.

As part of a push to end tardiness, a number of federal offices in the nation’s capital Abuja locked out hundreds of tardy workers Tuesday. The move is part of an ongoing government effort to end chronic late arrivals among employees in Africa’s most populous nation.

The offices opened their doors an hour later to let the late employees in.

While it makes sense to discourage tardiness at the workplace, we’re not so sure that locking employees out for an hour will do anything to boost productivity rates.

Everybody’s an Intern!

Came across an interesting legal alert from the folks at Jackson Lewis today reminding employers to pay attention to the rules and regulations governing the use of interns.

Mind you, we’ve heard, read and written about this fairly regularly through the years, but what caught my attention was just how prevalent interns may be in American businesses this fall. Seems the recession’s layoff victims who’ve given up trying to get traditional full-time work anytime soon will be trolling for internships right alongside college students.

Many of you have probably heard that as well, too. I had. I just didn’t know how many there might be, and what a range there would be in years of experience and age.

A survey by CareerBuilder,  included in the alert and released earlier this month, shows more than half of the employers polled saying they’ll probably hire interns as full-time, permanent employees. It also shows nearly a fourth of them saying they’re seeing workers with more than 10 years of experience and those ages 50 and older applying for internships at their companies.

Better check out the criteria from Jackson Lewis on how these “unorthodox” interns should be treated, and paid or not paid. It may be great to have the pick of the litter for positions you’re opening in the coming months, but make sure you don’t crash this handy system by breaking the law.

The New ORC

A few weeks after Mercer finalized a deal (on July 31) to acquire ORC, Tom Jacob, senior partner and global product lead at Mercer, says the ORC brand name will remain, as well as ORC’s popular surveys and research—like its cost of living studies.

The ORC acquisition gives Mercer a foothold in international mobility within companies in the United States, something Mercer “lacked,” says Jacob.

“Our client base was predominantly in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Asia and Latin America. Their client base, combined with ours, gives us a presence in all those markets,” says Jacob. “They bring the Mercer clients a perspective and understanding of what kind of issues a U.S. company faces when they send someone abroad.”

He also hopes that the combined partnership can increase Mercer’s capability to handle tax issues, which is increasingly becoming a hot topic in the relocation industry. Jacob also marked ROI on relocation assignments as a place where the combined staff will put its effort.

Bringing together ORC and Mercer representatives to brainstorm on increasingly important issues like taxes for international assignees and ROI “creates new thinking on how we think about these issues.”

News on the M&A Front

Two items of note for HR leaders on the M&A front today: ADP completes its acquisition of Workscape, while one of the legal restrictions possibly hampering the merger of Aon and Hewitt disappears. [Duh: I wrote Workday earlier by mistake.]

 As for ADP/Workscape: Carlos Rodriguez, president of ADP National Account Services and Employer Services International, says the “strategic and cultural fit between ADP and Workscape is compelling, and will be extremely complementary in terms of services.”

 He notes that “an integral part of ADP’s growth strategy is expanding our benefits and talent-management portfolio and the strategic acquisition of a well-established player such as Workscape represents a significant step in that effort.”

 In the Hewitt/Aon merger, the organizations announced that the anti-trust waiting period had expired. The deal is still pending approval by stockholders and foreign regulatory officials. We previously wrote about the merger here.

 UPDATE: Make that three items of note … as Monster completes its acquisition of Yahoo! HotJobs and enters into a three-year agreement to provide career and job content to the Yahoo! home page. 

 

As Jobs Decline, So Do Workplace Fatalities

Some encouraging news from the Department of Labor yesterday: Preliminary data by the agency revealed a double-digit decline in workplace fatalities in 2009.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “fatal work injuries” in the U.S. fell 17 percent in 2009—or 3.3 per 100,000 workers, down from a final rate of 3.7 in 2008 (though the agency adds that the counts are likely to increase with the release of final numbers in April 2011). 

The 2009 preliminary data follows two years of more modest single-digit declines.

The improvement was visible in most sectors and categories. Even workplace suicides, which had been on the rise, showed some improvement, down 10 percent in 2009 from its high of 263 in 2008. (Look for a story on this topic in HRE in the fall.) Workplace homicides, meanwhile, declined just 1 percent.

While the preliminary data is heartening, however, it’s still premature to say workplaces are becoming significantly safer places. As the BLS approporiately points out in its press release, the economy—and the loss of 4.7 million jobs in 2009—clearly played a “major role” in the betters numbers.

 So how big a role is a “major role?” I’ll leave it to others to speculate?

Reforms Stalled by Inadequate HR?

As we wrote on HREOnline™  a few months ago, an ambitious federal hiring-reform initiative wouldn’t be an easy task, requiring both training and buy-in from staff.

When Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced the initiative, he said that, “for far too long, our HR systems have been a hindrance. We have great workers in government now in spite of the hiring process, not because of it.”

But it seems as if HR is still a problem — and that has been acknowledged by OPM’s chief human capital officers, according to this story in the Washington Post about a Partnership for Public Service survey.

“The ‘competency of HR workers’ is one of seven ‘major obstacles’ to building a first-class federal workforce,” according to the 68 CHCOs, who “expressed strong doubts that the human resources community, the very people who will be on the frontlines seeking to implement the hiring reform plan, are up to the task.”

The problem seems to be a lack of training and adequate technology, according to the article.

In the Federal Eye blog on the Post site, OPM responded that CHCOs are generally positive and supportive of the reform, and that criticisms of the initiative “have been taken seriously and have been responded to promptly, leading to a more cooperative, productive and collegial environment for members.”

Well, as long as they are all getting along …

Training, the New Engagement/Retention Tool

Interesting and kind of surprising release here from Office Team citing a much larger number of HR professionals concerned about training and developing employees than those concerned about losing the top-performing ones.

Goes against much of what we’ve been hearing, that HR leaders’ top worries heading out of the recession and into the recovery are centered around keeping disgruntled employees engaged and retaining the top talent that’s already poised to leave.

But the release also includes a link to a recent Robert Half study confirming what the Office Team respondents seem to be “getting” — that post-recession employees are looking to employers more for their help in making them more marketable than as havens of job security. Makes sense that a shaky economy would have instilled in them this new sentiment.

In a survey we just conducted at HRE, which is at the heart of our upcoming Sept. 2 cover story on what’s keeping HR executives up at night, 45 percent of the 802 HR executives who responded said their most significant challenge today is the need to keep employees engaged and productive, followed by retaining key talent as the economy recovers (34 percent) and the importance of developing leaders (33 percent). In that survey, and in our story, development initiatives were cited as key tools for boosting engagement.

I think what these findings all underscore is that training and development — often relegated to the bottom rung of corporate expenditures during weak economies – now appear to be employers’ top engagement tools, topping any other morale-booster, or employee survey, or communication initiative.

Indeed, training and developing recession-weary workers — not just for your sake, but for theirs – appears to speak volumes.

A Glass Half Empty

Not much good news in the Business Barometer survey released today by The Corporate Executive Board. It reflects a drop in the optimism of HR executives — and other senior corporate leaders as well.

According to the survey, HR executives have dropped their expectations — from Q2 – of employee engagement (32 percent think employees will be less engaged) and anticipate higher turnover (54 percent compared to 39 percent in Q2). 

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of  HR leaders expect a moderate increase of one-to-four percent in average labor costs this year, while four in 10 (42 percent) expect average health benefits to increase by one-to-nine percent, with 18 percent expecting a higher than 10 percent increase.

The survey polls more than 440 senior executives in six functional business roles in North America and Europe across 33 industries.

It found that the executives expect higher revenues for their companies this year (68 percent), but fewer are optimistic about their respective industries’ growth prospects (only 50 percent say they expect their industries to grow). A majority are anxious about rising cost pressures (68 percent).

Wellne$$

Remember C. Everett Koop, the distinguished-looking gentleman with the Amish-style beard who served as the U.S. Surgeon General during the Reagan administration? Well, there’s an award named after him—the C. Everett Koop National Health Award, administered by The Health Project, a Washington-based nonprofit that works to bring about “critical attitudinal and behavioral changes in the American health care system.”

Three employers have been selected to receive this year’s Koop Award, it was announced today: Medical Mutual of Ohio, Pfizer Corp and the Volvo Group of North America, for their efforts to improve employee health and reduce costs.

 Medical Mutual of Ohio was cited for its comprehensive health promotion program that includes health assessments, biometric screenings and “building a healthy company culture.” Pfizer was lauded for health promotion programs that include full coverage for preventative services and “multi-channel marketing and communication.” Finally, Volvo’s union-endorsed “Health for Life” program was praised its use of incentives and leadership support to encourage employee participation.

 All three companies were able to demonstrate that their programs cut costs and improved the health of participating employees (Volvo says its program cut its annual medical cost trend in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent). Something to consider, given that there’s a fair amount of head scratching going on in the business community today about how (and whether to) measure the ROI of wellness programs. It’s a topic we’ll be addressing in an upcoming issue of the magazine, and in other forums as well.