Sharing Thanksgiving with Co-workers

As office buildings around the nation empty out in advance of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, today seems like an appropriate time to pause and think about the millions of workers who will spend Thanksgiving with their co-workers and not with their family, whether at home or at work.

According to a newly released annual Thanksgiving survey of 3,602 U.S. workers by CareerBuilder, one in five workers (20 percent) say they plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with co-workers either in or out of the office this year, on par with last year (19 percent).

More information from the survey follows below.

Workers Who Celebrate Thanksgiving with Co-workers By:

U.S. Markets with the Largest Economies

  • Houston: 41 percent
  • Dallas: 31 percent
  • Miami: 29 percent
  • Atlanta: 27 percent
  • Los Angeles: 20 percent
  • New York: 15 percent
  • Boston: 14 percent
  • Chicago: 13 percent
  • Philadelphia: 12 percent
  • Washington D.C.: 11 percent

By Region

  • South: 27 percent
  • West: 19 percent
  • Midwest: 15 percent
  • Northeast: 16 percent

By Industry

  • Health care: 28 percent
  • Sales: 22 percent
  • Manufacturing: 21 percent
  • Retail: 20 percent
  • Transportation: 20 percent

By Diverse Groups

  • African American workers: 26 percent
  • Hispanic workers: 26 percent
  • LGBT workers: 21 percent
  • Disabled workers: 20 percent
  • Asian workers: 16 percent

This compares to 19 percent of non-diverse workers (defined as white, straight, non-disabled male under 50).

By Age

  • 18-24: 18 percent
  • 25-34: 28 percent
  • 35-44: 20 percent
  • 45-54: 20 percent
  • 55+: 13 percent

But not everyone is home for the holidays, as only 14 percent of workers say they plan to take off Thanksgiving week for vacation; and 22 percent of workers said they have to work on Thanksgiving (up from 16 percent last year), with leisure and hospitality workers leading the way.

  • Leisure and hospitality: 46 percent
  • Retail: 39 percent
  • Health care: 34 percent
  • Transportation: 27 percent
  • Sales: 11 percent

Interestingly enough, when asked if they’d rather spend Thanksgiving Day with co-workers or family, 91 percent chose their family and 1 percent chose co-workers, but 8 percent would rather spend it with neither.

But regardless of whom you choose to spend the holiday with, please enjoy it with well wishes from your friends at HRE Daily!

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The Hiring Games: Recruiters vs. Computers

When sizing up job candidates, should hiring managers go with their guts, or put their trust in technology?

A team of researchers sought to answer that question in a recent study, in which they proposed a test for assessing whether companies should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions.

For fans of the human element in hiring, the outcome was not good.

“[The study] definitely suggests that more decision-making powers should be given to the machine relative to the humans,” University of Toronto professor and report co-author Mitchell Hoffman told the Washington Post.

Hoffman and colleagues obtained a dataset consisting of 300,000 hires at 15 companies that use job tests for low-skilled positions such as call-center workers and standardized test graders, according to the Post. The authors measured how hires were initially assessed, whether a hiring manager overruled a low test score in order to bring someone aboard, and how workers performed later in their jobs. Testing not only improved job tenure by 15 percent, but introducing human intervention to the hiring process was also associated with “significantly worse results,” the Post noted.

And, while workers chosen for their performance on the computer test didn’t wind up being much more productive than those brought in by a hiring manager, they weren’t less productive either. This finding suggests that “recruiters weren’t even making a worthwhile trade-off between a worker’s effectiveness and longevity in the job,” the Post’s Lydia DePillis writes.

Computer-based tests that help foretell a would-be employee’s performance are certainly not a new phenomenon, and, as DePillis points out, such assessments are “getting better and better at being able to predict someone’s suitability for a given job.”

Given this reality, she asks, “Why do HR people still think they know better?”

DePillis asked that question of Julie Moreland, senior vice president of strategy and people science at PeopleMatter, a Charleston, S.C.-based workforce management software provider.

In Moreland’s estimation, “about a third” of hiring managers don’t put enough emphasis on the results of this type of assessment.

Part of what PeopleMatter does, of course, is develop job tests and offer software designed to “make it easy to see who your best-fit hires are,” according to the company’s website. So you could argue that Moreland is supposed to say that HR departments should be leaning more on technology to make good hires.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s off-base. And she also offered up an explanation for what may be happening when hiring managers’ instincts steer them wrong.

“From a human perspective, we like people who are like us,” Moreland told the Post. “They’re not thinking about the job, they’re thinking ‘I can work with this person, I relate to them.’ It skews their logic. Anybody that says they do not have bias in their interview is not being real.”

There’s some truth in that statement. And, while there’s still plenty of room in the hiring process for old-fashioned intuition, it’s certainly fair to say that fancy algorithms and sophisticated computer machines can help make the job easier.

“What true [HR professionals] realize is they’ve taken something and made [hiring] more efficient,” said Moreland, “and therefore they can spend more of their time on strategy rather than interviewing.”




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Poll: Mindfulness Training Really Works

OK, full disclosure here. A company that provides online mindfulness programs for employers, insurers, wellness companies 166198718 -- meditation2and employee-assistance programs recently announced results of a survey showing mindfulness training improves sleep quality and workplace productivity, and reduces worker stress.

So consider the source, of course. But much like other vendor polls we occasionally report on, this one seems worth sharing. The provider — eMindful, headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla. — analyzed data from 1,200 employees across multiple countries and found a 29-percent reduction in perceived stress among companies offering mindfulness training.

Also, before taking the courses, employees at the responding companies reported losing an estimated 117 minutes of productive time per week. After taking them, that number was reduced to 70 minutes.

Again and mind you, this is one provider’s claim of success, but it does add to the collective wisdom growing rapidly out there that a commitment to workforce-wide mindfulness reaps benefits worth noting, and considering. (This post by me earlier this year features one company’s discoveries along these lines, along with a link to a column by our benefits columnist, Carol Harnett, underscoring the value of workplace mindfulness and the importance of a commitment to it coming from the top and being ingrained into the culture.)

Ruth Q. Wolever, eMindful’s chief scientific officer and associate professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says scientific studies on mindfulness “have burgeoned recently, with demonstrated benefits ranging from decreased stress and anxiety to increased immune-system functioning and pain tolerance.”

“The costs of stress for employers include not only absenteeism and losses in productivity,” she says, “but also include medical costs related to unhealthy behavior patterns [such as alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, smoking and sedentary lifestyles as well as] stressful lifestyles that create and/or exacerbate chronic illness [including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke].”

Harnett, in her column, corroborates Wolever’s benefits and adds a few more:

“When all is said and done, mind-body programs seem to be at least as effective as lifestyle-management programs and bring benefits such as decreased stress and sleep challenges, and improved cardiac responses to stressful situations.

“Researchers such as RAND Corp.’s Soeren Mattke indicate lifestyle-management programs do not decrease healthcare costs to nearly the same levels as disease-management programs. However, Mattke related on the CoHealth radio show I co-host that employees with chronic health conditions achieve even better results when they participate in both disease- and lifestyle-management initiatives.

“Finally, as Mattke said and I agree, there are other reasons to offer lifestyle-management programs, including mind-body therapies, to your worksite. Mind-body curriculums will most likely please a growing portion of your employee population and improve your workers’ perceptions of the workplace culture. And that may be an employer’s greatest consideration of all.”

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Why ‘Scrappers’ Deserve a Closer Look

Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.

Such is the case with a recent presentation delivered by UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery Regina Hartley, who gave a talk at the firm’s first-ever TED@UPS Talks event (titled Longitudes) on why job candidates who often don’t look good on paper may be precisely the kinds of folks you might want to be hiring. Or at the very least, people you  might want to take a closer look at . (TED@UPS Talks took place on Sept. 2 at UPS’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta.)

Hartley’s talk, titled “Why I Hire People Others Ignore,” explored the merits of hiring “scrappers” over “silver spoons”—people who had to “fight tremendous odds” to get to where they are versus those who “clearly had advantages” and were “destined for success.”

Hartley, who has worked for UPS for about 25 years, pointed out she doesn’t hold anything against the silver-spoon candidates. “Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes hard work and sacrifice,” she said. “But if your whole life has been engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough times?”

In contrast, she said, scrappers succeed, despite the fact that their lives seem “engineered toward failures.”

“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress—and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction,” Hartley said. “But during many studies of dysfunction, data began to reveal an unexpected insight: that even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation … .”

In non-scientific terms, she explained, “we just say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Whatever you call it, its discovery has opened the door to entirely new areas of psychological study.”

Hartley also noted that “scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves. They adopt a ‘what’s the worse-thing-that-can-happen-to-me’ attitude.”

They also understand that “humor gets you through the tough times” and that “people who overcome adversity don’t do it alone.”

For these and other reasons, Hartley said, employers would be well served to “bet on scrappers.”

I spoke to Hartley earlier today and asked what led her to develop this talk for the UPS event. “For years,” she said, “it’s been brewing inside me.

“As an HR professional and an observer of leadership in general, I noticed that so many people [who] I read about and met, especially at UPS, seemed to come from these disadvantaged backgrounds—and it always intrigued me. I wondered, what was it about the mix of adversity … determination … opportunity that led to success?”

(If you view the video of the talk, you’ll also notice Hartley has some personal stories to share.)

Often, she said, hiring managers are seeking that perfect resume—“that flawless, no-gaps-in-employment [history with] no known failures. Because of that, they’re overlooking some very talented people, be they an external hire or someone internal.”

Hartley, who wanted to make sure no one interpreted her message to mean that UPS only hired scrappers, said her talk definitely resonated with those attending, including members of UPS’ leadership team, some of whom approached her afterward and identified themselves as scrappers.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out Hartley’s talk (embedded above). It’s only 13 minutes—and well worth watching.

But even if you don’t take the time to watch, as you begin to rev up your hiring engines in the first quarter of next year, you still may want to put aside some time to reconsider what constitutes an ideal candidate these days—and what doesn’t. As Hartley suggests, it may not be as cut-and-dried as some folks think.

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The Cadillac Tax and Large Employers

Employers have held the line on healthcare cost increases for the third year in a row, reports Mercer in its just-released 2015 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. Nonetheless, 23 percent of large employers are at risk of hitting the Affordable Care Act’s widely despised 40 percent excise tax cost threshold in 2018 — and 45 percent are at risk of hitting it in 2022, according to the report.

Per-employee health benefits costs grew by only 3.8 percent this year, marking the third year in a row of a growth trend of below 4 percent, says Mercer. As in previous years, however, large companies fared better than smaller ones in holding the line: Costs rose by 5.9 percent for organizations with 10 to 499 employees, compared to just 2. 9 percent for those with 500 or more.

Large employers were helped by a jump in enrollment for high-deductible consumer-driven plans, says Mercer, while use of these plans among small employers has grown more slowly. At large companies, enrollment has grown from 15 percent to 28 percent of covered employees within the last three years. At small companies, however, it’s risen from 17 percent to just 19 percent.

Total health benefit costs averaged $11,635 per employee this year, Mercer finds, including employer and employee contributions for medical, dental and other health coverage for employees and their dependents. Employers predict their costs will rise by 4.3 percent on average next year, taking into account changes they expect to make to their health plans to reduce costs. They predict costs will rise by 6.3 percent if they make no changes to their plans.

Mercer credits these cost-containment (some would say “cost-shifting”) strategies with lowering the number of plans expected to be hit by the Cadillac tax in 2018. However, the report notes that a plan’s actuarial value is not the only factor that can drive up costs above the excise tax threshold. Health plan costs can vary significantly by geographic region, the degree of competition among providers in a particular market and workforce demographics, it says. Furthermore, it cautions, due to the way the excise tax threshold is indexed, the number of employers vulnerable to the tax will grow every year that medical inflation exceeds the general CPI — thus, by 2022 45 percent of large employers are estimated to be liable for the tax unless they make changes.

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Adjusting as Gen Y Takes Charge

Just last week, I finished writing a feature focusing on what a handful of 2015’s “Most Admired for HR” organizations are doing to prime today’s young employees for tomorrow’s leadership roles.

(By the way, this piece is slated to run in the upcoming December edition of HRE, and, naturally, I think you should check it and the rest of the issue out.)

In “Millennials Take Up the Mantle,” HR leaders from companies such as Wells Fargo and Comcast Corp. share some of the programs and initiatives they’ve put in place to groom employees of the millennial generation—a cohort that most projections say will make up roughly 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025—for the leadership and management positions they’ll soon take over in large numbers.

Many millennials—generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s—are already transitioning into leadership roles, of course. Some new data, however, suggests they aren’t the only ones who could use some help adjusting to Gen Y being in charge.

A recent study conducted by Future Workplace and Beyond surveyed 5,771 employees of all ages. Overall, 83 percent of respondents said that millennials are currently managing Gen X and baby boomer employees at their organizations. Among Gen X and boomer respondents, however, 45 percent said they feel that millennials’ lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on a company’s culture.

And, while 44 percent of millennial respondents regard themselves as being the most capable generation to lead in the workplace, just 14 percent of participants overall agree that Gen Y workers are the best for the job.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see that some (OK, many) older employees aren’t completely comfortable with taking orders from younger, less experienced colleagues, at least not initially. And that uneasiness may help explain the more than one-third of millennials who reported difficulty in managing older employees.

All the concerned parties here certainly have some work to do if they and their organizations are to succeed. In the aforementioned HRE feature, Vanessa Walsh, who heads up leadership and professional development at Wells Fargo, explained what the San Francisco-based banking and financial services firm is doing to help its people bridge the generation gap.

Wells Fargo, which holds the No. 11 spot on this year’s “Most Admired for HR” list, currently oversees 10 affinity groups. The latest addition is “My Generation,” which consists of employees from different age cohorts “who are interested in what it means to be of a certain generation in the workforce,” says Walsh. “We don’t have one group focused on boomers or Gen Xers or millennials. These groups just get people together to learn about these different age groups.”

The idea, she says, is to discuss—and in some cases, debunk—stereotypes associated with various generations in the workplace.

What the group is not, says Walsh, is an effort to force young workers to adapt to old and “established” ways of working. Such an endeavor would be fruitless anyhow, she says.

“I don’t know that we’re going to ‘rewire’ 75 percent of the workforce. Nor should we. So, for me, the question becomes, ‘How do we shift to where they are?’ ”

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LRP Acquires Recruiting Trends Conference

LRP Conferences, LLC and Human Resource Executive® Magazine, affiliates of LRP Publications, announced today the acquisition of the Recruiting Trends Conference. A business unit of Diversified Communications, Recruiting Trends provides recruiters, sourcers, talent acquisition managers, and other HR and recruiting professionals the opportunity to expand their knowledge, discover solutions to their most pressing challenges, learn cutting-edge best practices, and gain tactical recruiting tips.

(As you may recall, Editor David Shadovitz’s posted last week on the changing priorities of recruiters from the Recruiting Trends conference in Orlando, Fla.)

“Attracting and retaining key talent has been an issue that has remained at the top of the – what keeps our readers up at night – list for as many years,” said Rebecca McKenna, vice president of global events and Human Resource Executive®  magazine’s publisher. “It makes perfect sense for Human Resource Executive® to put its stamp on products and events that explore customer concerns.”

The Recruiting Trends Conference offers a fast-paced mix of engaging presentations, focused workshops, peer-to-peer discussion, and great networking events all in a highly interactive, dynamic learning environment. Sessions are presented by recruiting executive’s at large organizations, as well as leading strategists, plus consultants in the fields of talent management and recruiting compliance. Held annually, the event gathers talent acquisition leaders for networking, exchanging ideas and sharing best practices and bold strategies for the hiring process.

The announcement was made by Ken Kahn, President of LRP. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are continuously seeking innovative products to help our customers find solutions to their challenges,” said Kahn. “With the addition of Recruiting Trends to the suite of LRP and Human Resource Executive® events and products, we are intensifying our commitment to support our customers’ development,” said Kahn.

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All Eyes on Volkswagen’s Amnesty for Answers

465782341 -- volkswagen2It’ll be interesting to see what comes of Volkswagen’s move to offer amnesty to all its bargaining-unit employees in hopes of uncovering just who was/is behind its emissions-cheating scandal.

According to a letter that went out Thursday from Herbert Diess, chief executive of the division that produces Volkswagen brand cars, employees have until Nov. 30 to come forward with information about who was responsible for installing software in 11 million diesel vehicles that disguised nitrogen-oxide output.

The letter, reviewed and reported on by the New York Times, says “people who provided information would not be fired or face damage claims [but] the company could not shield employees from criminal charges.”

In other words, the amnesty isn’t really designed for the really bad guys, “but rather, for the midlevel people who may have, without even knowing it, some relevant information,” Mike Koehler, a law professor at Southern Illinois University, told the Times.

It’s also, according to another legal source for that story — Alexandra Wrange, president of Trace International in Annapolis, Md. — “a tacit admission … that the usual reporting channels have been ineffective.”

You might call it a kind of pulling-out-all-the-stops kind of move, above and beyond the more commonplace no-retaliation policies contained in most whistleblowing programs, says Allan Weitzman, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based partner with Proskauer, whose list of specialties includes whistleblowing.

(At Volkswagen, it was an internal whistleblower who uncovered the false carbon-dioxide claims that the company made public last week. “German news media reports have said that internal investigators looking into the emissions-cheating software, which came to light in September, have been hampered by a reluctance among employees to come forward,” the Times story states.)

Weitzman joins in the general chorus of employment attorneys who consider Diess’ move new and different, to say the least.

“I know I’ve never heard of [this kind of corporate amnesty],” he says. “But these are unusual circumstances, and [as pointed out in the Times article as well], Volkswagen wants to show to governmental agencies that it has done everything it can to solve this problem; well, amnesty is pretty broad … I’d say ‘Yes, they have gone about as far as possible’ ” in this endeavor.

Is it the right move? Weitzman thinks so.

“I think it’ll work, too, if it has the support of the union, meaning [very simply] that the people who look to unions as their source of job security will participate in the amnesty program if their union supports it,” he says.

“And the union should support this,” he adds, “because the future of the union is tied to the future of Volkswagen, and if Volkswagen cannot solve this problem, it’s going to result in the unemployment of many, many union members.”

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Wal-Mart Workers Demand Food Discount

After successfully lobbying Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to raise wages, workers have a new and costly demand, according to Give employees a discount on food, a move which could cost the giant retailer more than $400 million.

Wal-Mart currently offers workers a 10-percent discount on all merchandise except the vast majority of food. Fruits, vegetables and some snacks are the only food items included in the promotion, unless they’re on sale. Employees want more groceries to be included in the discount, noting that competitors such as Target Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. already offer that perk.

The site reports a group of Wal-Mart workers started an online petition last week calling on the company to expand the discount, and it’s received 12,600 signatures from employees. The group, which isn’t affiliated with a separate organization financially backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International union, plans to take the petition to store managers and executives this month.

The 10-percent discount would be spread out over 1.4 million U.S. employees, more than the population of San Diego, according to the piece.

Wal-Mart, which had more than $16 billion in profit last year, declined to say how much the additional discount would cost or whether it’s considering such a move. Spokesman Kory Lundberg said the retail giant is always reviewing employee benefits, noting that it offered $500 million in discounts last year on general merchandise, fruits and vegetables.

The company has surveyed employees on what benefits they would like the company to offer, Lundberg said. While a food discount was mentioned, higher wages, better scheduling and more regular hours were a higher priority, he said.

“It is probably going to be hard for Wal-Mart to say, ‘We can’t do that,’” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co. “They are probably going to feel some heat” from employees, he said.

 It will be interesting to see how Wal-Mart ultimately handles this latest labor pain point. Now that they’ve committed to putting more money in workers’ pockets, will they be willing to put more food on their tables too?

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The HR Leader as Anthropologist

When two of an organization’s highest-ranking individuals resign within hours of each other, it’s usually not because things are going exceptionally well.

As you’ve no doubt heard, both the president and chancellor at the University of Missouri stepped down from their respective posts this past Monday. Their resignations came in the midst of a student-led outcry over a lack of action taken by the U of M administration in response to several racially-driven incidents on the predominately white campus in recent years.

Leadership at the Columbia, Mo.-based institution—the flagship of the University of Missouri System—had been feeling the heat from all sides. Now-former university president Tim Wolfe, in particular, came under intense scrutiny for what a tweet from Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians described as his “negligence toward marginalized students’ experience” at the school.

For example, African-American players from the Mizzou football team—with the full support of their white teammates—declared on Nov. 8 that they would neither play nor practice until Wolfe was removed from his position as the university’s president.

Just five days earlier, grad student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike that he said would last until Wolfe was ousted. On Nov. 9, the Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet called for Wolfe to resign.

That same day, Wolfe obliged them, with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announcing just hours later that he would be leaving his job effective Jan. 1, transitioning to a role coordinating research at the university.

The question of how to eliminate or even curb racism on a college campus or anywhere else is one that’s entirely too large for us to attempt to take on in this space. But we can’t help but ask—from our admittedly very safe and very distant vantage point—could the HR function at the university have done anything to help prevent the tensions simmering on the U of M campus from reaching a boil?

That’s a tough question to answer from an outsider’s perspective, of course. But what’s unfolding at the school illustrates the importance of one of the HR leader’s many roles, says Dave Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“Good HR folks have a sense of what’s happening,” says Ulrich. “Sometimes HR analytics look only at spreadsheet, empirical data. [But], there is another field of analytics called anthropology.”

Acting as an anthropologist of sorts, as Ulrich explains, an HR professional should observe, listen and anticipate patterns to get a handle on how people within the organization—students and faculty members, in this case—are feeling, and how they’re relating to each other.

At the University of Missouri, he says, “it should not [have] come as a surprise that racial tension existed and persists. HR should have looked for this [tension] and then created forums for dialogue so that very emotionally charged issues could be discussed.”

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