Articles from December 2010



Good News for Recruiters

In what may portend a happier 2011 for recruiters, a story in today’s Wall Street Journal profiles three companies that are adding to their recruiting staffs in anticipation of greater hiring needs for the coming year.

 Sodexo USA has added three recruiters to its staff of 55 and currently has two additional openings for recruiters, according to the story,  while BASF Corp. plans to add at least four full-time recruiters in Q1 of 2011. McGladrey, a Minnesota-based accounting and consulting firm, has added the equivalent of 9 recruiters to its recruiting staff of 30 or so.

 The story cites a survey released this summer from CLC Recruiting, a unit of the Corporate Executive Board, which found that half the  companies plan to increase their recruiting staffs while 19 percent planned to shrink them through May 2011. That compares to last year’s survey, which found only 6 percent planned to increase their recruiting ranks while a quarter planned to shrink them.

 This is certainly good news compared to earlier this year, when many companies were still shrinking their learning and development staffs as well as their recruiting functions. Here’s hoping 2011 is a robust year for everyone—recruiters, employees and chief HR officers alike.

Boomers, Benefits and Bias

As baby boomers begin to turn 65 on Jan. 1, seven in 10 (71 percent) Americans say they should be encouraged to keep working past normal retirement age, according to a national multi-generational survey (PDF) conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which was commissioned by Home Instead Senior Care. 

Broken down by generation, 75 percent of baby boomers, 79 percent of the Greatest Generation, 65 percent of Gen X and 62 percent of millennias believe baby boomers should stay in the workforce past retirement age.

The boomers, born between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1964, number 77 million. Their biggest concerns about life after 65 are finances (48 percent) and health (34 percent).

Almost assuredly, the two are intertwined.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 65-year-old men will need anywhere from $65,000 to $109,000 in savings to cover health-insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement — that’s if they want a 50-50 chance  of having enough money.

To have a 90 percent chance of having enough money for such expenses, they will need to save between $124,000 and $211,000.

And women, because they tend to live longer, will need even more.

For many of those older workers, this recession has thrown them a curveball. Some many have lost their jobs and found it extremely difficult to find new ones.

Lengthy stays on unemployment seem to be the norm for older workers, possibly because of intentional or unintentional age discrimination, but also because such workers are generally at higher levels and are higher paid.

As HREOnlineTM columnist and Wharton professor Peter Cappelli writes in a recent column, hiring managers and HR leaders would be more willing to hire older workers if only they thought of them as ”experienced” instead of “old.” Cappelli’s latest book, with Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, is Managing the Older Worker.

Another aspect of boomers working longer is the subject of an upcoming story in Human Resource Executive® magazine — dealing with conflicts between older employees and younger supervisors. Having the right programs and policies in place can help stem that tide. But you’ll have to wait until late January to read it on HREOnline.

Turnover Troubles

Everyone wants the economy to pick up, but can there be too much of a good thing?

Job hopping is so extreme in India that technology firms are now requiring employees to provide three-months’ notice, except for some very senior positions, according to the Times of India. 

It had been one month. Mandatory! So no matter how much the job market improves in the U.S., I can’t see HR ever attempting to copy that policy.

And they likely won’t have to worry — for a while anyway.

According to Manpower’s latest global Employment Outlook Survey, recovery is inching forward here in the United States while it’s leaping ahead in India, where the net employment outlook for the first quarter of 2011 is at 41 percent.  

The outlook in the United States is 4 percent — which, on the bright side, is 4 percent higher than the 1Q outlook this year!

In China, another fast-growing economy, the 1Q 2011 net employment outlook is 38 percent.

High positive expectations are also found in Taiwan (32 percent), Singapore and Turkey (both 27 percent), Peru (25 percent), Costa Rica (22 percent), Australia (21 percent) and Hong Kong and Argentina (20 percent).

On Workaholics and the New Year

I thought it a bit ironic that I chose to take a moment to work from home while on vacation today only to come across this Career Builder survey on signs of being a workaholic. Although the findings appear alarming at first, the only truly significant number I can see is the 51 percent of 3,100 employees polled who’ve had more work piled on them this year. Significant, but not surprising.

Still, 24 percent of people at home or out socially are still thinking about work. That means about one in every four people I’ve seen in the mall, post office, traffic (with trees tied to their roofs), on ladders hanging lights from windows and gutters, etc., etc., isn’t really connected to the holiday he or she appears to be enjoying. That’s kind of sad. Then again, that leaves 76 percent who must have perfected the art of leaving everything at the office. So, there’s a hopeful sign that our society is that maladjusted.

The release isn’t directed at HR professionals, but it might offer some insight into the dangers of letting workers obsess over work without stepping in and addressing it. It also lists some tips for establishing and maintaining a better balance between life and work that you might share with them when the new year begins.

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, puts it: “While a strong work ethic is valued, a lack of balance with … personal life can ultimately work against [employees] in the long run.” She recommends that, as the year wraps up, workers take inventory of their personal time and figure out where they “need to make adjustments in 2011.”

Maybe employers can lend a bigger hand with that going forward.

Yet Another Acquisition: Lawson Acquires Enwisen

Lawson Software, the St. Paul-based HRMS vendor, has just announced it’s acquiring employee self-service vendor Enwisen for $70 million in an all-cash transaction. Lawson says it expects the transaction to close by Dec. 31.

It’s been quite a year for mergers and acquisitions in the world of HR. The coming year will undoubtedly see many more, especially considering that analysts such as Jason Averbook of Knowledge Infusion expect 2011 will see a big shakeout of HR technology vendors.

 Here are some of the other noteworthy M&As (mostly “A”s, as in acquisitions) among HR vendors this past year:

Peopleclick and Authoria

Aon and Hewitt Associates

Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt (announced last year but it closed this January)

ADP and Workscape

Taleo and Learn.com

SumTotal and Softscape

SuccessFactors and Inform and CubeTree

Engagement Still Low

Just 31 percent of the workforce described themselves as ”engaged,” according to a new study of 11,000 employees, HR executives and line managers.

Employee Engagement Report 2011 by BlessingWhite also found that 17 percent are ”disengaged.”

No suprise here: More employees are looking for new opportunities outside their organization than in 2008. (Probably due to the easing of the recession and improving job market.)

Top drivers of job satisfaction: Opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training.

“High engagement drives the discretionary effort and innovation required for organizations to thrive in any economy. Our research shows, however, that executives struggle with leadership behaviors that fuel engagement,” says BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice. “Managers, too, are not necessarily doing the things that matter most.”

Dial L for Layoffs

Sanofi-Aventis appears to have joined the list of companies that have taken layoffs to a new level. (Think Radio Shack and its mass e-mail a few years back informing workers that they need to pack their bags.)

A colleague of mine recently shared a report (“Drugmaker Lays Off 1,700 Via Conference Call Ahead of Holidays”) posted Friday on The Huffington Post detailing an unarguably novel way to downsize your workforce.

“A.R., a Sanofi-Aventis sales representative in California who wished to remain anonymous, as her contract forbids publicly disparaging the company, said she and her coworkers each received one of the two mass e-mails the company sent out that Tuesday morning,” the story said. “Both e-mails contained a code, an 800-number and a call time, either 8:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. The employees who were instructed to call in at the earlier time were told they could keep their jobs, but the 1,700 employees who called in at 8:30 a.m. weren’t so lucky: They were laid off by a voice on the other line that told them to stop working immediately, and had no opportunity for question or comment.”

Unfortunately, A.R. found herself in the second group, the story said.

“We acknowledged in the call that delivering this news on a teleconference wasn’t ideal, but given the scope and scale of the reductions, there was no other way to share this news quickly and consistently,” a company spokesman told the website.

Not “ideal” seems to be an understatement.

Catching Up on Compensation Trends

A few bits of news crossed my desk today that I thought I’d share just in case you hadn’t seen them. Both offer glimpses into where the nation’s businesses stand on compensation practices that might be handy comparative tools for you and your organization.

The first is this good-news-bad-news release from Challenger, Gray & Christmas (scroll down past that first top item to get to it). It shows that, while companies aren’t increasing their holiday bonuses by much, they’re at least not decreasing them by much either. In the survey of about 100 HR professionals, 63 percent said their companies were giving year-end bonuses this year, compared to 64 percent last year.

Underscoring just how precarious this on-again-off-again recovery still is, 16 percent of respondents said their companies were planning to give smaller bonuses this year, compared to only 4 percent in 2009.

“According to economists, the recovery began in July 2009,” says John A. Challenger, the firm’s CEO. “but, for many companies, the recovery simply means they are no longer hemorrhaging money.”

The second window into where things stand is a new guide for HR professionals that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will soon be releasing called “Zooming in on Compensation Data.” The release about it calls it “a convenient, hands-on reference document that provides brief explanations of various BLS surveys, with charts … [plus] separate sections for wage and salary administrators, benefits administrators, wage and contract administrators, as well as information on the 21st-century workforce.” Also included is contact information for all eight regional BLS offices.

Lastly, here’s some latest research from Sibson Consulting showing moderation in salary-increase and other compensation planning will be the name of the game for 2011.

In this still-volatile but ever-improving economy, it has to be extremely difficult to know what compensation and total-reward moves are best to keep your company competitive and strategically positioned for the recovery. It also must be nearly impossible to time the moves perfectly. Figured these bits of information couldn’t hurt.

DOL Gets Taste of Its Own Medicine

As part of its strategic plan issued in late September, the Department of Labor listed the misclassification of workers as a major agenda item. But as the agency picks up its pace in pursuing wage-and-hour violators, a short but interesting piece recently posted on the HR Policy Association website, entitled “DOL Embroiled in Its Own FLSA Overtime Dispute,” suggests that it hasn’t always set the best of examples.

In 2006, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12 filed a grievance against the Department of Labor, accusing it of misclassifying certain federal workers. It took years of legal briefs and delays, but the parties eventually were able to come to an agreement as to what positions were incorrectly classified. Still remaining to be decided, though, are the amount of damages.

“This case shows the difficulty that any employer has when it comes to classifying workers as either exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” says D. Mark Wilson, principal of Applied Economic Strategies in Washington and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Employment Standards Administration during the Bush administration. “It really does illustrate that even the agency charged with enforcing the law has a very difficult time making these determinations.”

It’s just one more reminder of the need to update the FLSA, Wilson asserts.

Michael Snider, managing member of Snider & Associates, a Baltimore, Md.-based law firm that specializes in pursuing alleged FLSA violations in the federal sector, hopes a dollar figure can be arrived at by next summer. (He told me about 3,000 workers are affected.)

But whatever the final outcome of the case, as it approaches a fifth year, one has to also wonder if the DOL would be showing as much patience were it not the subject of this dispute?

Buzzword Overkill

The good folks at LinkedIn recently combed through their 85 million profiles and found the top 10 most overused buzzwords of the year, including such gems as  ”extensive experience” and “innovative.”

“We wanted to reveal insights that help professionals make better choices about how to position themselves online,” DJ Patil, LinkedIn’s lead data analyst, said in a statement on cnn.com.

Now, onto the list:

1. Extensive experience

2. Innovative

3. Motivated

4. Results-oriented

5. Dynamic

6. Proven track record

7. Team player

8. Fast-paced

9. Problem solver

10. Entrepreneurial

But with a national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, here’s one phrase that sadly hasn’t been overused in 2010: You’re hired.