All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

The State of Year-End Bonuses

For many workers, 2017 will end on an extra jolly note, according to new research from global staffing firm Robert Half.

More than half of  300 senior managers surveyed (51 percent) said they expect year-end bonus levels to be at least somewhat higher than 2016. Just 10 percent of respondents reported bonus amounts will decrease, and 39 percent anticipate no change in bonuses.

When those senior managers were asked, “Do you expect year-end bonus levels to be higher or lower than last year?” they responded:

Much higher

9%

Somewhat higher

42%

No change from last year

39%

Somewhat lower

7%

Much lower

3%

100%

 

Separate Robert Half research found workers’ performance only partly determines their bonus. In the survey, just 16 percent of HR professionals reported bonuses are based solely on individual work, compared to 27 percent who said amounts are influenced by employee and company results. Another 22 percent said they factor individual, team and company success into bonus decisions.

“Bonuses are a key recruiting and retention tool, especially with the intense competition for top performers,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “If budgets are tight, other ways to recognize exceptional work at the end of the year include gift cards, a department celebration or additional time off for the holidays.”

McDonald added, “To enhance their chances of securing in-demand candidates near year-end, particularly in today’s hiring market, savvy companies are offering job seekers a sign-on bonus to offset a performance bonus they would have received from their existing employer.”

 

Emotional Intelligence in Recruiting

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, emotional intelligence will need to be a Top 10 skill for all workers.

So what does that mean for recruiters?

More than you might think, according to Caroline Stokes, who presented the session “How Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Recruiter” during the Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech conference in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Considering the fact that the U.S. Air Force recently switched to emotionally intelligent recruiters and saved $3 million in operating costs, Stokes says that shows there is a definite bottom-line impact on the organization when choosing emotionally intelligent recruiters over typically trained recruiters.

Stokes is founder and CEO of both her recruiting agency FORWARD  and The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter, and she has nearly ten years as an executive headhunter and coach, with clients such as Autodesk, Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Disney and other innovation leaders.

She began by sharing what Facebook’s head of workforce, Ross Sparkman, identified as some attributes of a good recruiter, including:

* The ability to learn from mistakes;

* Continually self-improving;

* Opportunistic and able to move fast; and

* Data/metric driven.

Stokes said that while curiosity is among the most-valuable qualities recruiters can exhibit when interacting with candidates, recruiters may sometimes hold back their questions when meeting a candidate.

“One of the reasons why curiosity isn’t part of our normal makeup is because [recruiters] are supposed to know everything. But we don’t,” she said in a mock whisper, “so don’t worry about it and just be curious.”

Recruiters will continue to be the lynchpin for organizational success even as bots, artificial intelligence and automation increase in usage, she said.

“We need to work in harmony with artificial intelligence,” she said. “Tech cannot replace the human experience. In fact, it’s never been more important to be human.”

Regardless of where technology takes recruiters in the future, one thing won’t ever change, Stokes said.

“The actual skills recruiters need,” she said, ” are to be a good listener and communicator.”

Employers and Salary-History Bans

When it comes to achieving pay equity in the workplace, employers apparently aren’t sold on the idea that banning salary-history questions from the interview process will be effective in achieving that goal.

A new survey by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry shows that 65 percent of executives at 108 companies believe their organizations will be affected by new legislation aimed at closing pay gaps for women and other underserved populations. However, the majority of executives polled (65 percent) believe that the law will not, or only to a small extent, actually improve the gender pay equity situation in their organization.

What is clear is that hundreds of thousands of employers will need to modify their talent screening and hiring processes, Korn Ferry said in a statement announcing the survey’s results.

“Organizations have a great deal to gain by implementing a strategy and process aimed at improving the overall fairness and transparency of their reward and talent management programs,” said Bob Wesselkamper, Global Head of Rewards and Benefits Solutions, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “This can help organizations create an employee value proposition that positions the company as a place where everyone can build careers and thrive.”

In addition, hiring situations must be handled carefully as companies that violate the new rules can face substantial fines, the consultancy notes:

“As a result of this legislation, many employers will need to seek out better market data and conduct more rigorous analyses to determine what a job should pay versus relying on the crutch of a candidate’s compensation history,” said Tom McMullen, Senior Client Partner in Korn Ferry Hay Group’s Reward and Benefits group. “Organizations need to ensure they have an effective job evaluation process that provides the right criteria and credibility for assessing the size of jobs.”

Jonathan Segal, an employment lawyer based in Philadelphia, told the Los Angeles Times the bans could be particularly relevant for older workers. Someone who has been working for more years and may be looking to scale back to a less demanding job — or workers eager to get back into the workforce after being out of a job and willing to work for less — could be subject to implicit bias when asked about their past pay, he said.

“Eliminating the question may help not only eliminate the pay gap for women,” he said, “but may help older employees who are being excluded because employers think they won’t be happy working for less.”

Meanwhile, Korn Ferry says further action on pay equity is likely ahead, but few say they are ready. Only 19 percent of organizations say they are well prepared to handle the new laws once they go into effect. Many large organizations are indicating that they are likely to get ahead of the issue by changing their national policies instead of waiting for individual cities and states to pass measures. Nearly half of the executives polled (46 percent) said choosing to comply with the most stringent legislation is the likely mode of adapting to the new legislation, as opposed to complying to each local legislation.

“It’s a new game out there,” said McMullen. “Few large organizations will be exempt. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught by surprise on this.”

 

H1-B Challenges Causing Headaches

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump often talked about making drastic changes to the nation’s immigration system if he won, but is this really what he had in mind?

Recently, employers have been noticing an uptick in the number of challenges they are receiving regarding  H1-B visa applications, according to a new report on Bloomberg.

According to Joshua Brustein’s piece, employers began noticing this summer that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging a large number of H-1B applications:

Cases that would have sailed through the approval process in earlier years ground to a halt under requests for new paperwork. The number of challenges — officially known as “requests for evidence” or RFEs — are up 44 percent compared to last year, according to statistics from USCIS. The percentage of H-1B applications that have resulted in RFEs this year are at the highest level they’ve been since 2009, and by absolute number are considerably higher than any year for which the agency provided statistics.

Brustein says the H-1B program is controversial largely because IT firms based in India have used it to hire for rote computer programming jobs: “These firms, like Infosys Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., have been working to reduce their reliance on the program, in anticipation of a less receptive political landscape. The overall number of H-1B applications dropped this year for the first time in five years. The skeptical eye the government is taking to applications has extended to all types of employers, according to immigration lawyers. Many are rethinking their own use of H-1B as a result.”

 It’s unclear how many applications are actually being rejected, Brustein acknowledges. But even though Silicon Valley sees the H-1B program as one of its top political priorities, this campaign of reform by red tape has avoided the frantic political fights surrounding other aspects of immigration, like the proposed travel ban or the cancellation of DACA, a program for those who came to the country as undocumented children, Brustein says:

After the recent terrorist attack in New York, Trump called for the elimination of another visa lottery program – the Diversity Visa Lottery – saying immigration should be merit-based. This mirrors past calls his administration has made to eliminate the H-1B lottery as a way to punish those who use it improperly.

Instead, says Peter Roberts, an immigration lawyer whose clients include large multinationals and startups, the administration is punishing everyone. He said many of this year’s challenges were “beyond ridiculous, trumped-up requests — no pun intended — issued either without legal basis or making no sense from a common sense standpoint,” and questioned whether they’d stand up. “How do you change the way we live? You can change the laws, or you can change the way we interpret them,” he said. “This is the latter.”

“We’re entering a new era,” adds Emily Neumann, an immigration lawyer in Houston who has been practicing for 12 years. “There’s a lot more questioning, it’s very burdensome.” She told Brustein that in past years she’s counted on 90 percent of her petitions being approved by Oct. 1 in years past. This year, only 20 percent of the applications have been processed. Neumann predicts she’ll still have many unresolved cases by the time next year’s lottery happens in April 2018.

According to Brustein’s piece, USCIS declined an interview request, sending a written statement instead. “USCIS officers use currently existing policy that interprets existing statutory and regulatory requirements to evaluate petitions and make an eligibility determination,” it said. “As done in the past, officers evaluate each petition on a case-by-case basis to determine if a petition qualifies for the benefit being requested.”

Is your  organization experiencing similar delays and challenges to its H1-B visa applications? If so, you can take some small solace in knowing that you’re not alone.

When Retention Requires Attention

Keeping retention rates high is a priority for any organization, but what happens when it starts to slip?

In a new piece on Fast Company, contributor Lydia Dishman delves into the question of how to stop an exodus of workers that the Bureau of National Affairs has estimated costs employers $11 billion annually.

The reasons for workers to seek greener pastures are often manifold, Dishman notes:

Overall, the latest Gallup report found that a record 47% of the workforce says now is a good time to find a quality job, and more than half of employees (51%) are searching for new jobs or watching for openings. Gallup found that this is due in part to a national employee engagement rate currently hovering at just 30%.

Workers also switch employers to get a salary bump that can go above the traditional annual cost of living raise that hovers around 3%, barely outpacing inflation. Right Management, ManpowerGroup’s global career and talent development expert, polled 4,600 workers globally, and found 1 in 5 people are simply in the wrong role.

A new report from Ceridian, based on a survey of 1,602 U.S. and Canadian employees, revealed that even generational differences are influencing the urge to jump ship. Over a third (33%) of gen-Xers were actively looking for work versus just 22% of millennials and gen-Z. Those between the ages of 18-29 did say that they wouldn’t stick with one employer for more than five years.

Despite these survey results, Dishman quotes an expert who says other factors are also influencing younger workers’ desire to change employers, including a company’s culture.

“Ziprecruiter’s CEO Ian Seigel, agrees that workplace culture is the biggest and most direct driver in turnover. But Seigel says they’re looking beyond feedback and clear communication of opportunities to advance.

Seventy-five percent of millennials want flexibility that also keeps them on promotion tracks,” Seigel notes. That’s why he recommends that managers take a closer look at what motivates their teams, and how to diverge from traditional best practices in order to retain them.

In order for companies to figure out whether employees are leaving because of the culture, Dishman quotes Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s chief people officer, who suggests that managers listen and engage with their team regularly.

“If you understand your team dynamics, the individuals on your team, and their strengths,” she explains, “you will have a much better lens on what is going well or where there are challenges.” She encourages leaders to show their vulnerability and take ownership of what is not working, which is key to getting to the root causes of people retreating.

Another way to do this, Katsoudas tells Dishman, is “to use data and analytics. Cisco has a weekly check-in tool, quarterly surveys, and regular feedback from every monthly and quarterly event.

“When employees know that their manager is regularly listening to them, the impact is significant,” she says.

Executives Honored at Awards Dinner

Lisa Buckingham of Lincoln Financial Group and a trio of HR leaders were honored at the 29th annual HR Executive of the Year awards dinner held at Boston University.

The HR Executive of the Year and Honor Roll awards are presented each year to the individuals in the HR profession who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary vision, strategy, direction and leadership in their organizations. A prestigious panel of judges, including previous award winners, thought leaders and HRE‘s editor, select the winners from a field of worthy candidates.

Buckingham, the Radnor, Pa.-based insurance and investment management provider’s executive vice president, and chief human resources, brand and enterprise communications officer, was honored for her leadership which has helped Lincoln advance its diversity and inclusion efforts, improve talent management and succession-planning processes, and develop a fully revamped career framework.

Lincoln Financial Group President and CEO Dennis Glass called Buckingham a “sophisticated ball of energy,” and said that when Buckingham first found out she had won the award, the first thing she did was thank her HR team.

“That’s just the kind of person she is,” he said. “She’s never going to take credit for something that was a group effort.”

In her speech accepting the award, Buckingham shared three principles that have guided her career: the power of networking and mentoring, thanking people who have helped you and simply being present at all times.

“Whether it’s a crisis situation or a calm situation, people really need to know that you’re being fully present.  That means that sometimes I may miss things at [my son’s] school or work, but you have to make those choices. You always know where you need to be,” she said.

Also honored at the awards dinner were Honor Roll inductees Vivian Maza, chief people officer at Ultimate Software, David A. Thaeler, executive vice president and CHRO at Haskell and Karen May, executive vice president and CHRO at Mondelez International.

HRE presented the first HR Executive of the Year award in 1989. Since that time, 28 other HR professionals have been honored with this top award and 94 Honor Roll recipients have been recognized, including this year’s winners.

For a full list of previous HR Executive of the Year award winners, click here.

‘Compensation Is Not Appreciation’

According to “Mind the Workplace,” a new joint report by the Faas Foundation and Mental Health America, 71 percent of employees are thinking about—or actively looking— for new jobs.

That’s according to the report’s Workplace Health Survey of 17,000 employees across 19 industries in the U.S. The survey also found that the healthiest workplace industries are healthcare, financial Services and nonprofits, while the most unhealthy industries are manufacturing, retail and food and beverage.

The Workplace Health Survey findings also show that “only 21 percent of respondents felt that they were paid what they deserved, while 44 percent of respondents felt that skilled employees were not given recognition. Additionally, only 36 percent and 34 percent of respondents felt that they could rely on supervisor and colleague support, respectively.”

This perceived lack of support and recognition in the workplace, the report’s executive summary notes, contribute to higher levels of workplace stress and isolation, and are strongly correlated with job dissatisfaction. Survey respondents also reported high rates of absenteeism (33 percent) and work-family (81 percent), as well as increased mental health and behavioral problems (63 percent).”

The good news from the report, says Carmine Gallo, a contributor at Forbes who posted on the study’s results, is that “if leaders want to keep employees happy and loyal, there is a ‘low-cost’ option that ‘makes a significant impact.’ The ‘option’ is called praise. You’ve heard of it, but are you implementing it?”

According to the study, Gallo says, “Staff recognition and praise matters more than compensation, indicating that improving managements’ skills and ability to provide verbal and written support is more meaningful than increasing salaries . . . employees want to feel valued.”

Gallo goes on to cite behavioral economist Dan Ariely’s book, Payoff, in which the author “reveals the results of experiments which find that money matters far less to employees than either they or their bosses think.”

“When we are acknowledged for our work, we are willing to work harder for less pay, and when we are not acknowledged, we lose much of our motivation,” writes Ariely. “Acknowledgement is a kind of human magic—a small human connection, a gift from one person to another that translates into a much larger, more meaningful outcome.”

Compensation is not the same as appreciation, Gallo concludes.

“Appreciation is an emotion, a feeling that your boss values your contribution. Those leaders who actively engage people’s positive emotions have companies that score better on almost all metrics: financial performance, employee engagement, retention and recruiting.”

Should HR Merge with RE?

Google and Facebook are both known for their innovative workplace policies on everything from hiring to parental leave.

A new post on JLL, however, offers those two organizations as a model for something else entirely: blending an organization’s HR and corporate real estate functions.

Google is already known for turning established thinking on its head when it comes to workplace design and policies, says Marie Puybaraud, global head of workplace research at JLL. “Its new £1 billion London campus features sports facilities some gyms can only dream of with a rooftop running track and a half Olympic sized swimming pool which act as a prime attraction for recruiting new talent, not to mention retaining existing employees.”

“Google’s high-end facilities are a physical demonstration that the organization is focused on looking after its staff,” continues Puybaraud. “Job-seekers will start to see such facilities as a benchmark —and all employers will put greater thought into how they use the quality of life at work as a way or recruiting and motivating staff.”

Meanwhile, the piece notes, Facebook’s new corporate village will include 1,500 apartments as well as a grocery store and offices. “The company is using its physical facilities to provide for its staff in ways which clearly go far deeper than the normal working relationship,” explains Puybaraud. “It is only when Real Estate and HR work seamlessly together that they can deliver such projects.”

Indeed, real estate teams suggesting such recreational facilities may well struggle to get them past the board without the backing of their HR colleagues. Equally, HR teams may be looking for new ways to increase engagement among staff yet may struggle with the practicalities of developing ambitious plans that require a rethink of current office space while working in a silo.

According to Puybaraud, if an organization’s workers are more engaged and fulfilled at work, they’re more likely to develop better relationships with colleagues and put more into their work. For companies, it equates to better productivity and lower turnover of staff., which is a key reason why more companies will merge their HR and Real Estate teams in the coming years.

“More businesses will realize how closely productivity follows on from deep level employee satisfaction,” Puybaraud says. “We predict that joint HR / Real Estate teams will be commonplace within a decade.”

Is your organization planning on merging HR with its real-estate functions? If so, we’d love to hear from you about the challenges and benefits of such a move.

New Guidance on Pay-Ratio Rule

In case you missed it, last week the Securities and Exchange Commission approved interpretive guidance to assist companies in their efforts to comply with the pay ratio disclosure requirement mandated by Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Under the Commission’s rule implementing the pay ratio requirement, companies are required to begin making pay ratio disclosures in early 2018.

“It’s our priority to make sure that we implement disclosure rules mandated by Congress in a way that is true to the mandate and, to the extent practicable, allows companies to use operational data and otherwise readily available information to produce the disclosures,” said Chairman Jay Clayton.  “Today’s guidance on pay ratio reflects the feedback the SEC has received and encourages companies to use the flexibility incorporated in our prior rulemaking to reduce costs of compliance.”

In particular, the guidance:

  • States the Commission’s views on the use of reasonable estimates, assumptions and methodologies, and statistical sampling permitted by the rule;
  • Clarifies that a company may use appropriate existing internal records, such as tax or payroll records, in determinations about the inclusion of non-U.S. employees and in identifying the median employee; and
  • Provides guidance as to when a company may use widely recognized tests to determine whether its workers are employees for purposes of the rule.

The Commission’s staff is also providing guidance separately about the pay ratio rule.

“This additional staff guidance, which includes examples illustrating how reasonable estimates and statistical methodologies may be used, is intended to assist companies with their compliance efforts and reduce the costs associated with preparing disclosures,” said Bill Hinman, director of the division of corporation finance. “We encourage companies to contact the division staff if additional interpretive questions arise as the compliance date approaches.”

Another Coffin Nail for EEOC Merger?

After taking office in January, one of President Trump’s first orders of business was to act on a recommendation from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which recommended eliminating redundancies in the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Indeed, in the president’s budget, the OFCCP saw its budget reduced from $105 million to approximately $88 million while EEOC funding in Trump’s budget proposal essentially stayed the same at roughly $364 million, according to Federal News Radio.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta even testified at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing in support of the Trump proposal, where he called the merger a “commonsense change” that “combines two civil rights agencies that already work together closely.”

But opposition to the plan has been widespread ever since it was announced, according to that report. It notes that 73 civil rights groups condemned the measure, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has lined up against it:

Camille Olson, chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s equal employment opportunity policy subcommittee, told lawmakers recently that numerous companies have contacted the Chamber with concerns about merging the agencies. “Both the EEOC and the OFCCP need reforms,” she said, but not in the form of a merger.

Signs of resistance to the merger idea are also becoming more evident in Congress, where last week the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment that would prohibit funds from being used to merge the EEOC and the Labor Department’s contractor compliance office, according to a Bloomberg BNA report.

The proposal to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is “a total mess,” said Rep. Donny Scott (D-Va.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce who offered the amendment.

“Both have important missions, but combining them would be total confusion,” Scott told Bloomberg BNA. “The Chamber of Commerce opposed the merger, civil rights groups opposed the merger, and the Senate already had language in their bill taking away the merger, so I think it was appropriate in the House bill to also make a statement.”

The Bloomberg report notes that “the House amendment follows the Senate Appropriations Committee’s rejection last week of the proposed merger, which can’t occur without lawmaker support. A number of legislative and regulatory actions would be required to consolidate the agencies and to reconcile their different enforcement structures and approaches.”