All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

Want Happy Workers?

A new report by Adecco USA uncovers how employers are experimenting with ways to attract and keep skilled workers happy, with the C-suite considering pay the most important factor.

According to the report, Best in Class Workforce Management Insights,  77 percent of 500 U.S. executives surveyed for the report consider pay to be the top concern when it comes to attracting and retaining workers.

“In this candidate-driven market, the burden is on employers to offer compelling reasons for candidates to join and remain with their organizations. Right now, part of the conversation is centering around wages,” said Joyce Russell, president, Adecco USA.

“While fair pay is a key driver in securing today’s workforce, employers must also make predictions and be nimble in adopting new solutions as the meaning of ‘Best-in-Class’ continues to evolve,” Russell added.

Among the other findings in the report:

  • 77 percent of executives believe pay is the most important factor to employees.
  • More than half of respondents offer health insurance and 401(k) packages to salaried employees, and 40 percent say they now also offer “softer” benefits, like flexible schedules.
  • 47 percent of employers do not prioritize hard or soft skills over the other when vetting a job candidate, and they weigh a candidate’s happiness as early as the interviewing phase.
  • Less than half of employers are offering education courses to their employees, but 61 percent believe mentorships are of importance in determining employee happiness.

You can download the full report here.

A Bill to Limit Microchipping

Just when you thought it was safe to go to work…

Pennsylvania State Rep. Tina Davis (D., Bucks) recently introduced a bill that would prohibit private employers and government entities in Pennsylvania from requiring employees to have microchips implanted in their bodies as a condition of their employment, according to this piece on Philly.com.

Davis floated her bill in response to news stories of a Wisconsin vending machine company asking its employees to voluntarily have an encrypted microchip inserted in their hands to log in to computers, use copiers, open office doors, and operate snack machines while at work. (We wrote about the topic here and here.)

According to Philly.com, Davis’ proposed Employee Subdermal-Microchip Protection Act would allow surgically implanted microchips only if workers made their own decision. It would require the state Department of Labor and Industry to investigate workers’ claims that they were victims of retaliation for refusing to get a chip. It also would impose fines for companies that violate the would-be law.

“My legislation will require that any employer that offers a microchip, or any kind of subdermal device to be implanted for use during the employee’s work, must make it a voluntary decision,” Davis wrote in a July 28 memo to the House of Representatives.

“An employee’s body is their own and they should have the final say as to what will be added to it. My bill will protect employees from being punished or retaliated against for choosing not to have the subdermal microchip or other technological device implanted. As technology advances, we need to make sure we provide employee protections that keep up with these advances and do not allow employers to have control over their employees’ bodies.”

A Warning to Employers

The Third Circuit’s recent decision that a single use of a racial slur, rather than pervasive conduct, can sustain a workplace harassment claim sends a clear warning to employers to preempt potential liability by providing training to prevent even single-serve incidents from happening in the first place, according to a recent post on Law360.

The Third Circuit’s ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by Atron Castleberry and John Brown against staffing agency STI Group over their experiences after being assigned to work as general laborers for Chesapeake Energy Corp. The new ruling clarified that the standard to be met for asserting a valid harassment claim was whether the treatment they faced, which included a supervisor’s use of the N-word, was either severe or pervasive.

The court clarified the standard after a trial court had thrown out the case after concluding the workers had to show their treatment had been pervasive and regular.

“I think what a case like this, at least from my perspective, really sets forth for employers is the importance of training on harassment prevention in the workplace and making sure your employees — certainly managers, but ideally everyone — know that even a single comment may now be enough to create liability for the organization,” said Duane Morris LLP partner Michael Cohen.

For more details on the case and the ruling, click here (subscription required).

Comment Period Begins for OT Rule

The Department of Labor is expected to publish today in the Federal Register its anticipated Request for Information on its overtime rule.

As you may recall, the rule was blocked last November by a Texas federal judge before it would have expanded overtime protections to over 4 million workers, by more than doubling the annual salary level at which workers must be compensated for overtime pay, from $23,660 to $47,476. There will be a 60-day public comment period following tomorrow’s Request for Information.

Seyfarth Shaw attorney Alexander Passantino, former acting administrator of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, and current partner in the D.C. office of the firm, writes in a blog post that the issues the DOL seeks comment on include whether the 2004 salary test should be updated based on inflation, and if so, which measure of inflation; whether duties test changes would be necessary if the increase was based on inflation; and other questions.

The issues on which the Department seeks comment, according to Passantino’s post, are:

  • Should the 2004 salary test be updated based on inflation? If so, which measure of inflation?
  • Would duties test changes be necessary if the increase was based on inflation?
  • Should there be multiple salary levels in the regulations? Would differences in salary level based on employer size or locality be useful and/or viable?
  • Should the Department return to its pre-2004 standard of having different salary levels based on whether the exemption asserted was the executive/administrative vs. the professional?
  • Is the appropriate salary level based on the pre-2004 short test, the pre-2004 long test, or something different? Regardless of answer, would changes to the duties test be necessary to properly “line up” the exemption with the salary level?
  • Was the salary level set in 2016 so high as to effectively supplant the duties test? At what level does that happen?
  • What was the impact of the 2016 rule? Did employers make changes in anticipation of the rule? Were there salary increases, hourly rate changes, reductions in schedule, changes in policy?  Did the injunction change that? Did employers revert back when the injunction was issued?
  • Would a duties-only test be preferable to the current model?
  • Were there specific industries/positions impacted? Which ones?
  • What about the 2016 provision that would permit up to 10% of the salary level to be satisfied with bonuses? Should the Department keep that? Is 10% the right amount?
  • Should the highly compensated employee exemption salary level be indexed/how? Should it differ based on locality/employer size?
  • Should the salary levels be automatically updated? If so, how?

“Of course, the value of these responses ultimately is dependent on the Fifth Circuit’s decision on whether the salary test is permissible to begin with,” Passantino writes. “Should the Fifth Circuit rule in the Department’s favor on that issue, the RFI responses will provide the Department with the information it needs to proceed on a new rulemaking adjusting the salary level . . .  assuming the employer community responds.”

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Professionals surveyed by staffing firm OfficeTeam said they squander an average of 56 minutes per day, or the equivalent of nearly five hours a week, using their mobile device for non-work activities in the office. In contrast, senior managers estimate their staff members spend 39 minutes each day on their cell phones during business hours.

Workers also admitted to clocking 42 minutes a day on personal tasks. All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than 8 hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job, according to OfficeTeam.

“It’s understandable that employees may occasionally use their mobile devices or attend to personal tasks during business hours. But these activities can easily become big distractions,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “To best manage their time, staff can take advantage of breaks during lunch and throughout the day to catch up on non-work email or errands.”

(View an infographic of the research and data tables with breakdowns of the results by gender and age.)

Additional findings:

  • Employees ages 18 to 34 rack up 70 minutes on mobile devices and 48 minutes on personal tasks each work day, the most of all age groups.
  • While 62 percent of managers think staff spend the most time on social networks when using their own mobile devices during business hours, workers said they’re most occupied by personal email (30 percent).
  • Male employees most frequently check non-work email on their cell phones (32 percent), while females browse social networks more (33 percent).
  • Workers reported social media (39 percent) and entertainment websites (30 percent) are most commonly blocked at their companies. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) indicated their organization doesn’t restrict access to online content.
  • More than half of professionals (58 percent) often use their personal devices at work to visit pages that are banned by their company, a 36-point jump from a 2012 survey. Only 39 percent of managers think it happens that commonly.
  • Sixty-eight percent of male workers frequently use their cell phones to access blocked websites in the office, compared to 43 percent of females.

 

Improving the Candidate Experience

A new CareerBuilder study outlines the complex perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of both candidates and hiring managers to better help employers identify and address where they fall short in their current candidate process.

CareerBuilder’s 2017 Candidate Experience study included 4,512 workers ages 18 and over, and 1,500 hiring decision makers. (You can view full results and the executive summary here.) The study’s results show what peers and competitors have identified as shortcomings in their process, illustrate the role for technology to help improve the process and provide tips to make things easier for employers and prospective employees.

According to CareerBuilder, here are some aspects employers are struggling with:

  1. Not having a quick apply process for every device: The application process itself can contribute to a negative experience for modern candidates as “applications taking too long” (28 percent), “having to customize documents for every job” (34 percent) and “uploading a resume into a system but still having to manually fill out fields” (29 percent) are reiterated as frustrating aspects of the process by a considerable amount of candidates.
  2. Not preparing hiring managers: On average, only 2 out of 5 hiring managers are prepped by recruiters or talent acquisition specialists. Of those who do, only 2 out of 5 prep hiring managers specifically on the topic of candidate experience. This means only 16 percent of hiring managers overall are prepped by specialists to help manage the candidate’s experience.
  3. Not having an effective career site: An employer’s career site is important for getting key information, according to 89 percent of job seekers. But a quarter of employers (24 percent) say their company career site doesn’t accurately portray what it’s like to work for their organization, and only 45 percent of candidates say they can typically tell what it would be like to work for a company based on their career site.
  4. Not tailoring communications methods to specific segments: The ever-emerging multigenerational workforce demands a shift in the way we communicate. Millennials significantly prefer email communications (57 percent) over phone calls (31 percent), whereas boomers significantly prefer phone calls (58 percent) over emails (37 percent). Gen Xers have equal preferences towards email and phone calls (47 percent for both). Further, millennials are 2-3 times more likely to prefer alternative communication methods (text messaging, social media messaging and video calling) compared to Gen X and baby boomer generations.
  5. Not recognizing when the employee experience really begins: The lines between the candidate and employee experience are blending – at least in the eyes of candidates, as 3 in 4 say their candidate and onboarding experience with a company is the first part of their broader employee experience with that company.
  6. Not building relationships with candidates for future opportunities: The most valuable resource an employer has is their talent pool. While it is important to attract the top candidates, it is equally as important to frequently and effectively communicate with your talent pool, but more than a third of employers (35 percent) say they don’t put time into doing this.
  7. Not having an efficient background check process: Employers that want to keep top talent from talking to other companies while they want to receive employment screening results should improve their screening process. Sixty percent of candidates continue communicating and interviewing with other companies while waiting on background results.
  8. Not having the right ATS or an ATS at all: Organizations currently utilizing an ATS (applicant tracking system) reported placing more emphasis on the candidate, employee and hiring manager experiences. For example, those who currently use an ATS are 25 percent more likely to have a standardized process to help deliver a consistent candidate experience.
  9. Not informing the candidate where they stand: More than half of job seekers say employers don’t do a good job of setting expectations in terms of communication at the beginning of a potential hiring interaction. Eighty-one percent of job seekers said continuously communicating status updates to candidates would greatly improve the overall experience.
  10. Not staying connected with candidates once they have accepted the position: Once the hiring process is in the post-acceptance and onboarding stage, the expectation is for the process to be seamless and frustration-free for new hires – yet a noticeable number of candidates say this stage has not been ideal. Two in 5 candidates (40 percent) say they’ve experienced a lack of communication in the past between when they accepted the job and their first day of work. This is not surprising, since less than half of employers (47 percent) have a formal process in place for communicating and interacting candidates between the time the day they accepted the job and the day they start work.
  11. Not paying attention to how their employer presence/brand is portrayed on social media: Employers are trying to reach an audience, and they can’t afford to let their brand’s social media pages fall by the wayside. Yet, 60 percent of employers don’t monitor their employer presence/brand on social media. Of those who do, 68 percent take steps to encourage positive reviews while 16 percent just react to negative information.
  12. Not treating candidates with the same respect as employees: While the majority of employers (51 percent) say the line is blurring between the company experience and employee experience, less than half of job seekers (49 percent) say employers treat candidates with the same level of respect and accountability as current employees. This is an issue since the vast majority of job seekers (nearly 4 in 5) say the overall candidate experience is an indicator of how a company values its people.

“A positive candidate experience is a competitive advantage in a job market where candidates have flexibility in their job selection,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “To remain competitive and create a candidate experience that attracts, secures and retains today’s top talent, you need to determine how your current hiring methods measure up to what candidates are looking for.”

 

Making Analytics More User-Friendly

John Boudreau, a noted HR thought leader, author and professor and research director at USC’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, has some advice for HR leaders in a recent Harvard Business Review article: make analytics more user-friendly.

Boudreau writes that while “progress in HR analytics has been glacially slow,” a recent HBR survey finds “a stunning rate of anticipated progress: 15% [of respondents] said they use ‘predictive analytics based on HR data and data from other sources within or outside the organization,’ while 48% predicted they would be doing so in two years.”

So what can HR leaders do to help organizations use analytics more effectively?

Boudreau says HR and other organizational leaders should consider “the necessary conditions for HR metrics and analytics information to get through to the pivotal audience of decision makers and influencers,” who must:

  • receive the analytics at the right time and in the right context,
  • attend to the analytics and believe that the analytics have value and that they are capable of using them,
  • believe the analytics results are credible and likely to represent their “real world”,
  • perceive that the impact of the analytics will be large and compelling enough to justify their time and attention, and
  • understand that the analytics have specific implications for improving their own decisions and actions.

“To put HR data, measures, and analytics to work more effectively requires a more “user-focused” perspective,” Boudreau writes. “HR needs to pay more attention to the product features that successfully push the analytics messages forward and to the pull factors that cause pivotal users to demand, understand, and use those analytics. Just as virtually every website, application and online product is constantly tweaked in response to data about user attention and actions, HR metrics and analytics should be improved by applying analytics tools to the user experience itself. Otherwise, all the HR data in the world won’t help you attract and retain the right talent to move your business forward.”

Solve a Puzzle, Get a Tech Job

British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover announced yesterday that it would be recruiting 5,000 people this year, including 1,000 electronics and software engineers.

While that announcement alone may not seem worthy of inclusion in the esteemed pages of the New York Times, how the upscale carmaker is conducting this recruitment process certainly is: The paper reports the carmaker “wants potential employees to download an app with a series of puzzles that it says will test for the engineering skills it hopes to bring in.”

While traditional applicants will still be considered, people who successfully complete the app’s puzzles will “fast-track their way into employment,” said Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors of India. Applicants are invited to explore a garage belonging to the band Gorillaz and assemble a Jaguar sports car. Once they complete that stage, they are confronted with a series of code-breaking puzzles.

The Times notes that the carmaker’s recruitment effort is “unusual but far from unique,” adding that increasing numbers of employers are using alternative methods to hire workers. The story goes on to cite Marriott hotel and a British communications agency as other examples of organizations changing their recruitment techniques to keep up with the pace of change in today’s marketplace.

“The nature of jobs is changing, and what we should be looking for is changing,” Barbara Marder, senior partner at Mercer, a consultancy that specializes in human resources and has a stake in Pymetrics, a company that makes games for recruitment purposes, told the Times. She added that such games had not been in use long enough to provide ample data on their effectiveness. Still, she said, they could be more useful than traditional tests and interviews.

Games offer additional benefits, she said, explaining: “They’re very attractive in attracting candidates and keeping the short attention span of millennials. That’s not an insignificant challenge.”

 

A Nation of Apprentices

According to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, only 3 percent of the American workforce are apprenticeship graduates. But if President Trump’s new apprenticeship program delivers as promised, that number will soon be a lot higher.

Indeed, the Trump administration is now focused on getting universities and private companies to pair up and pay the cost of such learn-to-earn arrangements., according to the Washington Post, which noted that the president has accepted a challenge from Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff to create 5 million apprenticeships over five years.

“Our program will be geared toward all industries and all jobs,” Acosta said during a White House press briefing Monday. “The point here is to foster private-private partnerships between industry and educational institutions … so that when [students leave the program] they have the skills necessary to enter the workforce,”

President Trump also spoke about the need for a more robust apprenticeship program during his first full Cabinet meeting on Monday: “Apprenticeships are going to be a big, big factor in our country. There are millions of good jobs that lead to great careers, jobs that do not require a four-year degree or the massive debt that often comes with those four-year degrees and even two-year degrees.”

Many employers and economists on both sides of the aisle welcome the idea of apprenticeships as a way to train people with specific skills for particular jobs that employers say they can’t fill at time of historically low unemployment, according to the Post piece, which notes the most recent budget for the federal government passed with about $90 million for apprenticeships, and Trump so far isn’t proposing adding more.

More from the Post:

But the Trump administration, like President Barack Obama’s, says there’s a need that can be met with a change in the American attitude toward vocational education and apprenticeships. A November 2016 report by Obama’s Commerce Department found that “apprenticeships are not fully understood in the United States, especially” by employers, who tend to use apprentices for a few, hard-to -fill positions” but not as widely as they could.

The shortages for specifically-trained workers cut across multiple job sectors beyond Trump’s beloved construction trades. There are shortages in agriculture, manufacturing, information technology and health care.

George Brooks, leader of People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young, applauds the decision to focus on apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeship programs look like a win-win solution for employers, employees and society,” he says, before adding that companies must play their part.

“What resonates beyond the announced apprenticeship program is the need for companies we work with to fill many new types of jobs that will be in heavy demand, such as cyber, drone management, robotics management, etc., that are growing too quickly to wait for four-year STEM students to graduate or for older workers to go back to school,” Brooks says. “By the time these people have the traditional degree, technology will have evolved even further. That workforce challenge is why we see leading organizations starting their own training-apprenticeship-mentoring programs, thus building their own future workforce.”

 

 

Report Targets Walmart Policies

Walmart’s absence control program “punishes workers who need to be there for their own families,” according to a new report released late last week.

The report, “Pointing Out: How Walmart Unlawfully Punishes Workers for Medical Absences,” was produced by A Better Balance, an advocacy group that supports legislators across the nation in “researching, drafting and testifying on behalf of bills to help workers care for themselves and their families without risking their paychecks,” according to its website.

“Walmart disciplines workers for occasional absences due to caring for sick or disabled family members and for needing to take time off for their own illnesses or disabilities,” the report states.

“Although this system is supposed to be ‘neutral,’ and punish all absences equally, along the lines of a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy,” the report continues, “in reality such a system is brutally unfair. It punishes workers for things they cannot control and disproportionately harms the most vulnerable workers.”

The group based its findings of alleged illegal behavior at the superstore chain on conversations with Walmart employees as well as survey results of over 1,000 current and former Walmart workers who have struggled due to Walmart’s absence control program.

“Walmart may regularly be violating the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by failing to give adequate notice to its employees about when absences might be protected by the FMLA and by giving its employees disciplinary points for taking time to care for themselves, their children, their spouses or their parents even though that time is covered by the FMLA,” the report states.

In response, Walmart told the New York Times that it had not reviewed the report but disputed the group’s conclusions, and said that the company’s attendance policies helped make sure that there were enough employees to help customers while protecting workers from regularly covering others’ duties.

“We understand that associates may have to miss work on occasion, and we have processes in place to assist them,” Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, said. The company reviews each employee’s circumstances individually, he said, “in compliance with company policy and the law.”