Facebook Ranked Last in 401(k) Contributions

It’s not very often that the 21st century’s titans of business, Facebook and Amazon, find themselves at the bottom of a list, but according to the Bloomberg News rankings of the largest public companies’ 401(k) plans, those two companies rank among the least generous:

A first-of-its-kind ranking of 401(k) plans at the 250 biggest companies in the U.S. found that ConocoPhillips and Abbott Laboratories are among those that provide the most lucrative retirement benefits. Among the least generous are Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. The natural-foods grocer offers a maximum contribution of $152 annually.

Facebook finished last in the Bloomberg rankings, which were based on 2012 data, the latest available for all companies. The Menlo Park, California-based social media company didn’t offer any match at the time. It started making contributions in April to its 401(k) plan.

The big winner, according to Bloomberg, is ConocoPhillips, a Houston oil and natural gas producer, largely due to a matching formula that contributes 9 percent of annual salaries for employees who save as little as 1 percent of their pay.

And these new rankings are designed to allow employees, for the first time, to see how their own 401(k) compares to others on such criteria as company match, investment options, and time to vest, according to the story:

For example, more than 40 percent of companies allow workers to vest immediately, enabling them to take company contributions with them if they leave. Retailers Home Depot Inc. and Amazon.com make employees wait three years, and software maker Oracle Corp., four.

It will be interesting to see how these rankings change over the coming years, as this research provides a great measuring stick to see just how well an employer stacks up when it comes to planning for workers’ retirement.

One Firm’s Bathroom Policy: Hold It

It seems the more versions of this story I read, the more ludicrous it becomes. A company in Chicago, WaterSaver Faucet, is facing a lawsuit filed with the National Labor Relations Board by the 455616613 -- toilet deskTeamsters Local 743 on behalf of its employees. Why? Because, according to the suit, they are only allowed to use the bathroom for six minutes a day. Anything more and they’ll face disciplinary measures.

Which is precisely what happened to 19 of the company’s 140 employees who were issued written or oral warnings for spending more than their allotted 30 minutes per week in the washroom, according to this story posted on the Opposing Views site.

The union says monitoring bathroom time is an invasion of privacy. As Nick Kreitman, the Teamsters’ WaterSaver representative, says in this CNN Money piece:

The company has spreadsheets on every union employee on how long they were in the bathroom. There have been meetings with workers and human resources where the workers had to explain what they were doing in the bathroom.”

Excuse me?? They really wanted that information?

That story goes into some detail about where this six-minute concept originated and why.

The company’s human resource department described ‘excessive use of the bathroom as … 60 minutes or more over the last 10 working days,’ according to the affidavit. Do the math and it works out to 6 minutes a day.

The controversy goes back to last winter when WaterSaver installed swipe-card systems on bathrooms located off the factory floor. The company said it had little choice because some employees were spending way too much time in there, and not enough time on the manufacturing line.

WaterSaver’s CEO, Steve Kersten, said 120 hours of production were lost in May because of bathroom visits outside of allotted break times.”

And then there’s this story in the New York Daily News detailing how WaterSaver even adopted a rewards system that allows workers to earn a gift card worth up to $20 each month if they don’t use the bathroom at all during their shift.

Kreitman’s quoted in that piece saying the company “offered $1 per day for anyone who doesn’t go to the bathroom at all.”

Uhm … excuse me?? Again??

Clearly, WaterSaver sees this as a real problem. Perhaps the picture above offers one way around that. But all joking aside, this appears to me to be a sad commentary on the level of trust — or lack thereof — that still exists at some companies today.

In addition to wondering how the company will respond to the union’s suit and the NLRB, I can’t help but wonder how its HR and benefits leaders plan to respond to questions from their insurance carrier about the inordinate number of doctor’s visits its covering for bladder and kidney ailments resulting from holding it all day long.

 

Promising News for Gen Yers

Millennials are apparently in a lot better shape when it comes to tucking money away for retirement than many of us might have thought. In fact, if we’re to believe the latest data from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a strong case could be made that this workforce demographic definitely has its act together.

475319371(1)According to TCRS’ 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, 70 percent of millennials are already saving for retirement either through employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k)s, or through plans outside the workplace. What’s more, the median age at which these workers begin to save for retirement is 22. Pretty impressive, no?

The study also revealed that millennials who are participating in employer-sponsored 401(k)s and the like are contributing a median of 8 percent of their annual salary into those plans. (At companies offering a match, the salary deferral rate hits 10 percent!)

In actual dollars, the annual retirement savings for millennial households jumped from $9,000 in 2007 to $32,000 in 2014, an increase that obviously is connected to the timing of their entry into the workforce (many on the heels of the Great Recession).

Others have studied this issue before, but I don’t recall seeing anything nearly as upbeat as these TCRS figures. In June, Wells Fargo released the results of its 2014 Wells Fargo Millennials Study. That survey found 55 percent of millennials reporting they were saving for retirement, compared to 45 percent who were not. (Unlike the TCRS study, that study included those currently not in the workforce, perhaps explaining the discrepancy.)

No doubt, more than a few factors are behind TCRS’ extremely encouraging numbers, including the fact that many millennials are fully aware Social Security won’t be there for them (at least in a meaningful way) when they retire. (Indeed, more than eight in 10 respondents said they believe that will be the case). But I have to imagine at the top of the list of the various drivers here is the widespread adoption of automatic enrollment, a relatively newer development.

I spoke to TCRS President Catherine Collinson the other day to get her take on the findings. As you might imagine, she said she was “enormously pleased” with the high savings rate among millennials. “It’s encouraging to see they’re getting such a head start, compared to older generations,” she pointed out.

Looking at the results, Collinson said, there’s little question millennials take retirement benefits very seriously and consider these offerings much more than just a nice-to-have. Indeed, one statistic in TCRS’ study found that three out of four millennials said they consider it a major reason for accepting a job offer. So if employers don’t have competitive offerings today, they would be well served to close that gap soon.

The other thing in the report worth noting is the importance these workers place on information and advice, an area that continues to be something of a weak spot for many organizations. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the respondents in the TCRS study said they would like to receive more education and advice on how to achieve their retirement goals, compared to 65 percent for Gen X workers and 57 percent for baby boomers.

On this front, Collinson pointed out, employers need to take greater advantage of the innovations that are out there in the provider community. “Providers are always innovating,” she said, “but there appears to be a disconnect between those innovations and what plan sponsors are actually doing.”

Certainly, that’s a point plan sponsors might want to consider as they formulate their strategies for 2015.

Part-Timers’ Woes Spur New Legislation

Members of Congress, states, municipalities and unions are reacting forcefully to complaints from many part-time workers that their work schedules have become too unpredictable and erratic to allow for time to take care of other important matters, such as child care or attending college classes, according to a front-page story in yesterday’s New York Times by reporter Steven Greenhouse.

As Greenhouse documents in his story, employers that make heavy use of part-time workers — such as retail and restaurant chains — are increasingly relying on “on-call” scheduling of their part-timers, with the aim of ensuring that hours worked are more closely tailored to peak customer traffic, which is not always predictable. This can result, as the story documents, in situations like that experienced by Mary Coleman, an employee of the Popeyes fast-food chain in Milwaukee, who — after taking an hour long bus commute — arrived at her job one day only to be told by her boss to go home without clocking in, even though she was scheduled to work that day.

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D.-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation this summer that would require organizations to pay their employees for an extra hour if they were notified they had to work with less than 24 hours’ notice. He also wants to guarantee that workers receive four hours’ worth of pay if they’re sent home after only a few hours on shift because of low customer traffic at the establishment at which they’re employed.

Here’s what Miller (who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) told Greenhouse:

It’s becoming more and more common to put employees in a very uncertain and tenuous position with respect to their schedules, and that ricochets if workers have families or other commitments. The employer community always says it abhors uncertainty and unpredictability, but they are creating an employment situation that has huge uncertainty and unpredictability for millions of Americans.”

The story notes that Vermont and San Francisco have laws that give workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules to make it easier to take care of children or aging parents and that New York City is considering similar legislation. Unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers and other organizations are promoting the “Fair Workweek Initiative,” which is encouraging the passage of legislation in cities across the nation that would discourage employers from using “just-in-time” scheduling.

Don’t expect this issue to disappear anytime soon. As Susan J. Lambert, a University of Chicago professor, told Greenhouse: “The issue of scheduling is going to be the next big effort on improving labor standards. To reduce unpredictability is important to keep women engaged in the labor force.”

Branding, Schmanding

brandingHR hears a lot of talk about the importance of building a solid employer brand in order to lure top talent, and to make the company known as much for its cool, unique culture as the products and services it provides.

There’s no doubt that establishing and maintaining a reputation as a great place to work is extremely important. And, working for an organization with a fashionable employer brand may indeed be important to some job seekers. But not nearly as important as the work they do and the people they work with, apparently.

In a Monster.com survey of more than 2,400 visitors to the site, job seekers were asked the question, “Aside from salary, benefits and location, which of the following would most likely attract you to a new job?”

The most common response, by a wide margin, was “the opportunity to work in an industry I’m passionate about,” at 61 percent, followed by “the opportunity to work with people I professionally admire,” at 17 percent. Thirteen percent cited “a lively and energetic office environment” as the biggest selling point for a potential new gig, with 6 percent and 3 percent saying the same about “the opportunity to work for an aspirational/cool brand” and “an innovative office design,” respectively.

“Job seekers are naturally most concerned about salary, benefits and convenience to their home,” said Mary Ellen Slayter, career advice expert at Monster, in a statement. “But once that’s settled, the intangibles come into play. People are craving ways to bring meaning to their work, and they want to work in an industry they feel passionate about. Employers can take an active role in supporting these positive feelings by helping people see the connection between the work they do and how it benefits others. No fancy office can replace that sense of satisfaction.”

From touting their freewheeling work environments to overhauling their “conventional” office spaces, some organizations are forever looking for new ways to present themselves as cool and progressive employers. And while there should always be room for innovation, it seems that coolness quotient still doesn’t quite trump passion for their work and respect for their peers in the eyes of most prospective employees.

Cynicism’s Impact on Business, Take Two

Here it is again. Another report on the harm cynicism can have on the workplace. This time, it’s from George Banks, a professor at Farmville, Va.-based Longwood University specializing in human resources and organizational behavior.

78459275 -- smug businessmanHis study, conducted in 2013 when he was a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and reported on by Longwood earlier this year (here’s the release about it and here is the study itself that can be downloaded for free), found the harm caused by cynical employees is greater than the good created by positive employees.

Banks and his co-authors — In-Sue Oh of Temple University, Dan Chiaburu and Laura Lomeli of Texas A&M, and Ann Chunyan Peng of Michigan State — analyzed 9,186 people from 34 organizations, examining how their individual differences, including attitudes, were related to organizational cynicism, as well as how organizational cynicism was related to job performance.

“We found that bad is stronger than good in terms of job performance and job satisfaction,” says Banks. “Cynical employees tend to be less motivated, grumpy with customers, maybe rude to their boss[es]. They’re bitter employees who don’t want to be there.”

He adds: “If I’m a cynical person, it will hurt my job performance, but if I’m a trusting person, it won’t help my job performance as much.”

So what does it mean and what can you do about it? Some say building a culture of corporate trust is one good approach.

In fact, my blog post from May 27 highlights Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard’s 10 strategic steps toward reconfiguring employee cynicism around a whole new form of corporate trust. As he puts it in that post:

Cynicism is the defense mechanism of people who feel unsafe and powerless. It’s an expression of the uncertainty that comes from working in an environment where ethics are lax, employees don’t feel valued and information is withheld. When it thrives in an organization, it signals a lack of employee trust — a problem that’s gotten significantly worse over the last generation.”

 

 

Same-Sex Harassment Claim at Yahoo

Things may not be so sunny in Sunnyvale, Calif. these days…

Late last Friday afternoon the news broke from Silicon Valley that a female tech executive at Yahoo is being sued for sexual harassment by a former female software engineer at the company, and the complainant lays some of the blame on the company’s HR department, according to a CNNMoney report:

The software engineer, Nan Shi, filed a complaint Friday, alleging sexual harassment, emotional distress and wrongful termination.

The executive is Maria Zhang, a senior director of engineering. Her previous company, Propeld, was acquired by Yahoo in 2013. She also held positions at Microsoft and Zillow in the past.

The complaint says that Shi had worked at Yahoo since February 2013, and that Zhang was her direct supervisor.

According to lawyers representing Shi, the two women had worked together at Propeld.

The complaint says that Zhang “coerced” Shi to have “oral and digital sex” with her on multiple occasions against her will.

The incidents took place at Shi’s temporary Yahoo housing unit in Sunnyvale, Calif., the complaint says.

Zhang promised a “bright future” at Yahoo, the complaint says, and also threatened that she could “take everything away from her.”

Shi’s lawyers told CNNMoney that the women never had an intimate relationship prior to the harassment.

A Yahoo spokesperson told CNNMoney in a statement on Friday that “there is absolutely no basis or truth” to the allegations against the executive. “Maria is an exemplary Yahoo executive and we intend to fight vigorously to clear her name,” the spokesperson said.

While Silicon Valley-based harassment claims may not be anyhing new, the fact that this suit involves two women may keep it in the headlines longer than a “typical” harassment suit might.

And it will be interesting to see just how exposed Yahoo’s HR protocols become during the course of this suit’s life. The complaint states that after Shi rejected Zhang’s advances, she received poor performance reviews and less important assignments, and when she reported the harassment to Yahoo’s human resources, the company allegedly did not perform a proper investigation and ultimately fired her.

Streamlining the Workforce Development System

You can mark July 9 down in your books: Lawmakers from both parties in Washington found something they could agree on!

496666235In case you missed it, Congress passed on Wednesday the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, which revamps the nation’s workplace development program. The bill passed in the House by an overwhelming margin, 415 to 6, and is now on its way to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. (It passed in the Senate on June 25 by a 95 to 3 vote.)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement regarding the passage …

Democrats and Republicans have come together on a bill that is good for workers, employers and the economy as a whole. It will help more people succeed in 21st century jobs and punch their ticket to the middle class. And it will help businesses hire the world-class, highly-skilled workforce required to compete successfully in the global economy.

“WIOA improves the workforce system, aligning it with regional economies and strengthening the network of about 2,500 American Job Centers, to deliver more comprehensive services to workers, job seekers and employers. The bill will build closer ties among key workforce partners—business leaders, workforce boards, labor unions, community colleges and non-profits, and state and local officials—as we strive for a more job-driven approach to training and skills development.”

As we reported in a June 30 story posted on HREOnline.com, the law aims to streamline the workforce development system by:

  •  Eliminating 15 existing programs.
  •  Applying a single set of outcome metrics to every federal workforce program under the Act.
  •  Creating smaller, nimbler and more strategic state and local workforce development boards.
  •  Integrating intake, case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations.
  •  Eliminating the “sequence of services” and allowing local areas to better meet the unique needs of individuals.

The legislation—a compromise between the SKILLS Act (which passed in the House last year) and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013—was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which cited as positives the bill’s focus on “the continued leadership role of business, the clear language that promotes alignment of investments in education and training, and the increasing focus on outcomes.”

Of course, now the hard part begins. As James J. Parks, an attorney with Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss, noted in our June 30 piece, “The problem you always have when you change anything in the government is the bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a self-sustaining animal.”

But that said, there’s no denying that any effort to streamline the nation’s workforce programs and remove some of the much-dreaded inherent red tape should be viewed by the HR community as a good thing.

Survey: Weak Leadership Pipelines a Big Concern

leaky pipesWho will be the business leaders of tomorrow? This is clearly on the minds of HR leaders around the world, judging from a new survey from Right Management titled Talent Management: Accelerating Business Performance. The survey of approximately 2,200 HR execs from 13 countries finds that 46 percent identified leadership development as the top priority for this year and that only 13 percent have confidence in the strength of their leadership pipelines to fill critical openings.

This lack of confidence stems from the de-prioritization of talent development in the wake of cost cuts, according to Ruediger Schaefer, Right Management’s global talent management chief:

Today’s optimism for growth is limited by a lack of organizational agility, and employers are seeing the impact of the financial cuts and cost reductions that placed talent development on the back burner. As a result, too man companies are facing talent shortages, skills mismatches and weak leadership pipelines that threaten business growth. Future success is dependent on a sustained strategic commitment to assessing, developing and activating talent.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • The top three global talent management challenges are lack of skilled talent for key positions, shortage of talent at all levels and less-than-optimal employee engagement.
  • Forty-eight percent of global employers plan to broaden their employee engagement programs to keep top talent on staff.
  • Management succession planning ranks as a higher priority in the Americas (36 percent) than in Europe (17 percent) and Asia Pacific (31 percent).

 

HR Tech’s ‘Glorious Time’

In a just-posted contributed piece on the Forbes website, Gene Marks notes that industry experts have been tracking a recent rise in the popularity of HR tech software:

There has been a quiet explosion of cloud based HR applications during the past few years. And venture capital firms are literally throwing money at the companies that make them. For example:

  • Work4, a social and mobile recruiting service, raised $7 million from investors in April, bringing its total funds invested to $18 million.
  • A cloud-based service called Lever that assists human resource departments and outsourced hiring companies with their recruitment processes received its first venture funding in 2012 and now various investors from companies including Yahoo YHOO +1.1%!, Yelp YELP -0.34%, LinkedIn LNKD +0.34% and Pinterest have jumped into the fray.
  • In February, cloud-based payroll provider ZenPayroll raised a $20 million Series A round of financing from General Catalyst Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, after previously raising a $6.1 million seed funding round from the chief executives of Yelp, Box, Dropbox, Yammer and others, as well as Google GOOGL +0.84% Ventures and Salesforce.
  • Zenefits, a start-up whose cloud-based software helps small businesses manage compliance and human resources-related tasks, has raised $84 million funding to date.  A recent deal, according to Lars Dalgaard a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, was unusually competitive.  “I’ve never seen a deal like this,” he said in an interview. “The top five firms all asked me personally whether they could get a chance to get in.”

But why the sudden popularity? It’s not just the number of jobs the economy has been adding over the past few months. According to Marks, it’s a triangulation of three trends that are particularly impacting this type of application: acceptance of the cloud; pent-up demand and more affordable answers.

The piece is a fascinating one and should be on all HR techies reading list, regardless of whether they are in the market for new HR tech solutions.

After all, as Marks quotes Dalgaard, “It’s a glorious time to be in HR.”