Free Guidance for Grabs on Social Media, Labor Law and the NLRB

This caught my eye today: A software company based in Ottawa, Canada, called i-Sight Software — appropriately named for catching an editor’s eye I suppose — has just released a new guide for employers on the use of social media in the workplace.

The company’s touting this as a tool to help employers navigate the new labor laws related to social media, social-media policies, employee training and the latest guidance from the National Labor Relations Board.

It claims you can use it to create a social-media policy, educate employees about acceptable social-media use, understand what “protected concerted activity” is and why you can’t fire an employee for engaging in it, and gain even deeper knowledge from actual cases handled by the NLRB.

I love the name i-Sight gave it: “Can I Fire This Twit Over That Tweet? Social Media, Labor Law and the NLRB.”

Mind you, this is not the first such guidance, nor will it be the last. As so noted, the NLRB issued earlier this year its own social-media guidance. (Here’s a news analysis I wrote in September laying out that guide and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s analysis of it.)

Considering the complexities of managing global workforces in an age when everyone’s thoughts and opinions about every little thing are only a tweet or blog post away, I figure something claiming to break it all down in bite-size pieces for free might be worth checking out. (Here’s the site for doing that, a small registration required, if you’re so inclined.)

Can You Detect ‘Flight Cognition’?

Workers continue to feel trapped in their jobs and want to find new employment elsewhere, according to a new poll of 1,077 employees in the United States and Canada by Philadelphia-based Right Management.

According to the poll, eighty-four percent of the employees polled say they plan to look for a new position in 2012, reflecting the very same level of discontent in the workplace as the 84 percent reported a year ago in Right Management’s survey.

And, like last year, only 5 percent say they intend to remain in their current position.

Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities in 2012? 





Yes, I intend to actively seek a new position.




Maybe, so I’m networking.




Not likely, but I’ve updated my resume.




No, I intend to stay in current position.





 “The survey findings reflect a lot of employee dissatisfaction across North America,” says Right Management Executive Vice President Bram Lowsky. “Employees are restless and feel they are lacking in options. The prolonged period of economic uncertainty has meant much less job mobility than usual, and employees understandably believe they have fewer career opportunities, either internally or via a new position.”

According to Lowsky, the findings serve as a barometer of worker distrust in management as well as job commitment, adding that it’s a workplace equivalent to whether or not ‘the country is moving in the right direction.’   

“Sometimes called ‘flight cognition’ by behavioral psychologists, intent to leave is far from an unusual phenomenon,” he says, “but when it applies to four-out-of-five employees for two years running, it has to be of top concern to senior management.”

So, is flight cognition a top concern at your organization?

If not, it certainly should be.

‘Trans-parency’ Boosts Job Satisfaction, Commitment

Intriguing research out of Rice and Pennsylvania State universities: It appears transsexuals who self-identify are more likely to be happier in, and more committed to, their jobs.

The study, “Trans-parency in the Workplace: How the Experiences of Transsexual Employees Can Be Improved,” is one of the first forms of empirical research — if not the first — on transsexuals’ experiences at work, says Michelle Hebl, the study’s co-author and a professor of psychology at Rice.

“Our research sheds light on this severely understudied population’s common workplace experiences and how such experiences can be improved,” she says.

For the study, 88 transsexual employees in the United States were surveyed about their workplace experiences to determine what factors impact their job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The more open they were about their gender identity, it found, the happier and more productive they were.

The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, also found transsexuals who were more open with their family and friends about their lifestyle and who identified strongly as transsexuals were more likely to disclose their gender identity in the workplace than those who were less open and strongly identified.

“It’s important for individuals to have a consistent identity in the workplace and at home,” says Larry Martinez, a co-author of the study and Rice graduate student. “Having a strong support system at home can give transsexual employees the courage to disclose to their colleagues in the workplace.”

The finding of greater satisfaction at, and commitment to, work does come with one caveat: If work environments arent supportive and if co-workers or supervisors react negatively to their news, those engagement factors decline.

“Often, what’s good for the worker is good for the workplace — in this case, an open and accepting culture is really a win-win situation for all involved,” says Enrica Ruggs, also a co-author and Rice graduate student.

“The employees feel accepted, are more productive and have better experiences with co-workers,” she says. “This creates a positive working environment that may lead to decreased turnover and greater profits.”

The research, Ruggs adds, could be generalized to other groups of people who face workplace discrimination and struggle trying to decide whether to disclose their concealable stigmas, such as sexual orientation, chronic illness or a learning disability.


Job Board Blues

Bersin & Associates released a new study that shows U.S. spending on talent acquisition rose 6 percent to about $124 billion in 2011 compared with 2010, with more of that spending focused on professional networks, social media and CRM technology at the expense of job boards and agencies.

The study, Talent Acquisition Factbook® 2011: Benchmarks and Trends of Spending, Staffing and Key Talent Metrics, contains responses from more than 400 organizations, and was conducted via qualitative interviews and online surveys of the Bersin & Associates database and the LinkedIn network.

It shows that while the volume of applicants for jobs is high, companies are still struggling to find quality candidates. The research also found that due in part to the costs and the difficulty of finding qualified candidates, companies with more advanced talent acquisition practices are fostering internal mobility programs to fill positions with existing employees.

“We estimate that U.S. companies are spending an average of $3,500 for every new hire brought into the organization – about three times the amount spent on training per employee,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer and president, Bersin & Associates.

“This large expense is primarily going to agencies and job boards today, but companies increasingly are turning to professional and social networks for their recruiting needs. Our research shows that talent markets are out of balance: even with the high unemployment rates in the U.S., companies must invest heavily in recruiting to find the ‘right candidate,’ leading to a greater-than-ever focus on social networks as a major new tool.”

Among the other findings in the report:

*   Half of all U.S. companies decreased their agency spending this year. One reason for the shift is that agencies, while useful in recruiting for hard-to-fill positions, remain an expensive option. Companies spend more than a third of their recruiting budgets on agencies to fill just 8 percent of their positions. 

*   Recruiters are overloaded with resumes, but companies struggle to find quality candidates. Firms receive an average of 144 applications for every entry level/ hourly opening, and an average of 89 applications for each professional position.

*   Nearly half of U.S. firms are spending more on contract recruiters in 2011 compared with 2010. The recession prompted most companies to reduce their full-time recruiting staffs. However, as the pace of hiring picked up earlier this year, companies brought in contractors to fill the void. 

*   Job boards are not dead, but dying. While job boards remain the leading source for external hires, accounting for 19 percent of all hires, Bersin said, “with dramatic changes in the talent acquisition market, job boards risk becoming obsolete.”

As we all head off toward our Thanksgiving holidays, it’s worth considering the question: Is your organization’s recruiting process ready for these “dramatic changes” that lay ahead?

A New Talent at JCP

There’s a new HR leader at J.C. Penney. But don’t expect to find the phrase “human resources” in his title.

On Wednesday, Daniel Walker officially joined JCP as its chief talent officer. That should give him a little time to settle in before Black Friday and the Christmas rush.

In his new role, Walker is now responsible for the retailer’s entire HR function; legal will handle labor. Most recently, he ran his own consulting business. But before that, from 2000 to 2004, he served as, yes, “chief talent officer” for Apple. Incidentally, Walker was responsible for recruiting J.C. Penney’s new CEO, Ron Johnson, to head Apple’s retail operation during his tenure there.

(Walker replaces former CEO Mike Ullman, who took over the HR duties in June when Mike Theilmann moved over to group executive vice president, overseeing JCP’s stores operation and property management and supply chain functions.)

To be sure, we’re seeing the word “talent” crop up in more and more titles lately, though typically not in the senior most role. Early next year, HRE will once again publish its ranking of the nation’s 100 largest employers. On that list, Walker will be the first to don just the CTO title. One other executive on the list has both HR and CTO in his title, while one other has the word talent buried in it, along with a number of other functions including HR.

That said, I suppose JCP’s decision to go with CTO shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, when you consider that talent is top of mind for many, if not most, CEOs these days.

That’s certainly reflected in Ron Johnson’s glowing remarks about Walker, featured in JCP’s press release …

“Dan is a dynamic executive with a remarkable track record of transforming the talent profiles of companies that have gone on to redefine their industries. No one is more creative in this field than Dan. Having worked with him during five years of enormous growth at Apple, I know that he has the vision and energy to help us redefine the department store shopping experience at J. C. Penney.”

Hal Johnson, chairman of the human resources global center of expertise for Korn/Ferry International, correctly pointed out to me the other day that the “HR executive’s job is increasingly becoming a talent job” and is a primary “reason many companies are making a change” these days. But he also added that there is a lot more on the CHRO’s plate than just talent.

True, it’s just semantics. But I have to agree with Hal. While chief talent officer kind of has a nice ring to it, it still seems a bit too limiting. But then again, it’s just a title, though one, justified or not, we’ll probably continue to see a bit more of.


Giving Veterans a Chance

Got a yellow ribbon or “Support Our Troops” sticker on the back of your vehicle? Good for you. But are those sentiments reflected in the actions you undertake once you’ve parked your car and entered your office? Specifically: What is your organization doing to help disabled veterans enter the workforce?

Injured and disabled vets have it tough. Sure, many get a disability check from the Veterans Administration and access to rehabilitation services and counseling. But, in addition to having to cope with the circumstances of their particular disability (which can include traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially for those returning from service in Iraq or Afghanistan), they’ve also got to find a way to carve out a meaningful existence for themselves in a civilian world that may–especially after years or even decades spent in the military–feel dauntingly unfamiliar.

Helping disabled vets find employment was the focus of a summit at the EEOC yesterday. In attendance were representatives from the VA, the Dept. of Labor, Defense Dept., the Office of Personnel Mgt. and the Chamber of Commerce. One of the big topics was the important role that employment plays in helping vets recover from their injuries and avoiding homelessness and drug addiction, a fate that befalls way too many vets.

Many employers are concerned that vets who may suffer from TBI or PTSD could be difficult to accommodate, panelists said. However, the DOL’s Job Accomodation Network provides special resources for employers who need to learn more about accommodating vets with these conditions, said Anne Hirsh, co-director of the JAN.

EEOC Senior Attorney-Advisor Joyce Walker-Jones noted that the EEOC issued two guides in 2008–one for veterans, the other for employers–explaining how the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act protect disabled vets. “We issued the guides because we wanted … employers to know that many veterans with disabilities are able to–and want to–work,”  she said.

I’m pretty sure that the last thing vets want to be thought of is as “victims.”  But they deserve a fighting chance to prove they’re more than capable of being an asset to any organization, regardless of their disability.

Women Choosing More Time Over More Money

Came across this recent piece in USA Today that hit a nerve. Written by Anita Bruzzese, it cites a nationwide survey from More magazine in which 43 percent of 500 women, ages 35 to 60, say they are less ambitious now than they were a decade ago.

And only a quarter say they’re working toward their next promotion.

Some even more eyebrow-raising gems: Two of three women polled say they would prefer to have more free time than a bigger paycheck and two of five say they’d be willing to accept less money for more flexibility.

Seventy-three percent say they would not apply for their boss’ job and 38 percent say they don’t want to put up with the stress, office politics and responsibility that often go hand-in-hand with such positions.

And my favorite: 92 percent say they value workplace flexibility, but a third consider it career suicide to ask for more flexibility in their jobs.

“We’re bemoaning the lack of women in top Fortune 500 companies or women in political office,” More Editor-in-Chief Lesley Jane Seymour tells Bruzzese. “We’re sliding backwards, and here’s your answer [as to why]. It’s because we have thrown ice water all over ambition.”

As the economy struggles, she says, “if we back off from promoting women, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The real focus of the piece — a single mom from Dallas named Tiffany Willis, who left a middle-management position to, as she says, “own my life” — calls many of the meaningful, ladder-climbing, career-enhancing positions now filled by women “heart-attack jobs.”

“… I strongly believe they took years off my life,” she tells Bruzzese. “I have been referred by people for other [management] positions, and I tell them no amount of money is worth it. I don’t care if they offered me a million dollars.”

She describes herself as “that mom sitting at the top of the bleachers at my kid’s Saturday-morning football game on my cell phone for a conference call with my laptop.” Hey, that stuff’s been going on for years. I remember watching many a varsity soccer or baseball game with reporter pad in hand trying to craft a lead for an article due later that night.

It’s amazing how long we’ve been at this working woman/working mother thing, yet how far we still seem to be from a universal ideal situation. The women I talk to, from HR leaders at conferences to relatives and friends, seem to agree corporate America is still in social-experiment mode when it comes to workplace flexibility, telecommuting and trust.

And, by all means, this inadequate corporate culture wreaks havoc on young men and working dads, too. They’re just not finding themselves forced to make as many dramatic, life-changing decisions — I don’t think — as women.

“Women will continue to be powerful,” as Willis puts it, “but it’s not going to be with a two-hour commute and a corner office.”


Poor Relationships Top Cause for Leader Failure

You might call the latest release (yesterday) from Right Management — showing the top reason for a leader’s failure is the inability or unwillingness to build relationships — a bit of ironic timing.

It so happens that’s the premise and focus of our November cover story by Maura Ciccarelli as well.

The study by Right Management, the talent and career-management consulting arm of ManpowerGroup, surveyed more than 1,400 CEOs and human resource professionals from more than 700 companies throughout the world to explore leadership effectiveness and development across regions and cultures. It drew mostly qualitative input from respondents.

“What emerges from the survey … is that leadership success is increasingly dependent on getting along with others in the organization as well as with one’s own team,” says Bram Lowsky, executive vice president of Right Management. “A leader must be able to connect, build relationships and be flexible enough to adapt to the corporate culture.”

According to Lowsky, the findings tend to be consistent across the countries where the survey was conducted: “What we’re learning from research over the past decade is that today’s organizations are increasingly similar, whether Asian, American or European.”

HRE‘s November cover story focuses more specifically on the growing need for chief human resource officers to be able to build trust and respect among executive-team and C-suite members, including the CEO, as they solidify their positions in a whole new strategic domain at the tops of organizations. In the story, HR experts and senior practitioners share views on how best to do that as they grapple with their increasing presence alongside fellow senior leaders.

“When you can have the magic of a team trusting each other and enjoying working well with each other, there is no better professional or personal experience,” Pam Kimmet, senior vice president of human resources for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., tells Ciccarelli. “I know that sounds really hokey, but it’s really true.”

Opening a Women-Only Workplace

Workplace diversity may not be a high priority for many employers in the United Arab Emirates. But apparently that hasn’t stopped one employer from coming up with an innovative way to tap women for one of its operations.

In cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, a story posted yesterday on the New York Times website said, it’s difficult to find local women working, mostly because it’s considered inappropriate “for women to mingle with men who are not related.” But in response, the story said, Etihad Airways (UAE’s national airline) earlier this year found a way around that barrier, opening an all-female customer call center about two hours away from Abu Dhabi International Airport in the city of Al Ain.

“They’re more comfortable, and their families are more comfortable,” Samia Barj, manager of the center said, after showing a visitor around the building one recent morning. “Their husbands, their fathers, their families, they are all happy with that.”

In the Emirates, the story continued, more women than men attend college. “But once they have their diplomas, few occupations outside of teaching are considered acceptable.”

So can we now expect other employers in the UAE—or in other nations where similar barriers to building a “co-ed” workforce exist—to follow in Etihad Airways’ footsteps? Your guess is as good as mine. But whether that occurs or not, you have to credit the airline for finding a somewhat creative way around a well-entrenched cultural barrier that stands in the way of full employment.

Repairing the ‘On Ramp’

As businesses in Japan brace for an inevitable labor shortage, employers there might look to a major segment of the Japanese population for at least part of the answer—highly qualified Japanese women who voluntarily “off-ramped” from their careers for a couple of years but now want to work again.

Today, the Center for Work-Life Policy officially released a report entitled Off-Ramps and On-Ramps Japan: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success during an event held at Goldman Sachs’Tokyo offices.

In it, the authors revealed that three out of every four (74 percent) highly qualified Japanese women who work voluntarily leave their jobs. In comparison, that number is 41 percent in the U.S. and 35 percent in Germany. That’s pretty huge difference!

But the findings also dispelled the commonly held view that these women who left their jobs do so for the long haul. Instead, the study found, their desired break from work is pretty short, just 2.4 years, and that about 77 percent of those who left actually want to return to the workforce. Sadly, because of a range of re-entry barriers, only 43 percent succeed (with many who do accepting lower paying jobs).

The story line here is that there’s “a tremendous waste of talent,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president of the Center for Work-Life Policy and one of the report’s authors.

“Here’s a country heading into a demographic crisis, with lower birth rates and people living a lot longer,” points out Hewlett, who spoke to me earlier today from Tokyo. “[In such an environment], companies can’t simply throw away two-thirds of their female talent and get away with it.”

The findings also suggest a huge opportunity for European and U.S.-headquartered multinationals with operations in Japan. Many of the women indicted they’d prefer to work for these foreign concerns, with nearly seven out of 10 respondents (68 percent) viewing these companies as being much more women-friendly than their Japanese counterparts.

In light of this, you might think European and U.S. multinationals would be poised to take full advantage of this opportunity. But apparently not.

At the event, Hewlett says, a number of U.S. multinationals indicated that they weren’t doing nearly enough when it comes to positioning their companies as potential employers for the workforce segment. Which, in Hewlett’s opinion, is unfortunate. “It could be a real differentiator,” she says.

But perhaps that may soon change, as more studies like this one come to light.