All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

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.”

A Paid Sick Days Law Dies (Again)

In case you missed it last week, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld a 2015 trial court ruling that the City of Pittsburgh did not have the authority under state law to enact the Paid Sick Days Ordinance.

After the City of Pittsburgh passed the Paid Sick Days Ordinance, which would require employers to provide employees with a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works in the city limits, a group that included the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and several local restaurants and businesses challenged the city’s authority to enact such legislation, according to a press release from Littler.

The challenge was based on the fact that under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is a home rule charter municipality.

Under state law, “a municipality which adopts a home rule charter shall not determine duties, responsibilities or requirements placed upon businesses, occupations and employers      . . .  except as expressly provided by the statutes which are applicable in every part of this Commonwealth or which are applicable to all municipalities or to a class or classes of municipalities.”

Citing an earlier Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling and its own precedent, the Commonwealth Court found that the Paid Sick Days Ordinance imposed “numerous affirmative duties” on employers and therefore was invalid and unenforceable.

The City of Pittsburgh had argued that state law permits cities to pass ordinances relating to disease prevention and control, but the Commonwealth Court noted that the provision of state law that the city relied upon applies only to municipalities that have boards of health or a department of health.  Pittsburgh has neither.

It is unclear whether the City will appeal.  While Pittsburgh’s ordinance has been invalidated, employers should remember that Philadelphia’s paid sick leave ordinance remains in effect, Littler notes.

‘HR May Not Be Looking Out For You’

“Is human resources really the right place to go?”

That’s the rhetorical question Gretchen Carlson asked an audience last night while talking about the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a report on Fortune‘s website.

Carlson — the former Fox News host who sued her network’s chairman, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment last July — was addressing the 2017 class of the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership,  when she made her HR-averse remarks.

After posing the rhetorical question, Carlson  continued: “Because what I always equate it to is: Who’s giving them the paycheck?”

From the Fortune post:

“In the end,” Carlson pointed out, “if the culture’s being set from the top and it’s trickling down to the lower levels, human resources may not be looking out for you.”

Carlson’s hot take on HR may have something to do with her upcoming book, which Fortune quoted Carlson as saying contains “some new ways in which we might look” at sexual harassment, including different kinds of reporting mechanisms. The book, called Be Fierce, was inspired by the “thousands” of women who reached out to her in the wake of her suit, sharing their own stories of harassment and other abuse.

Personally speaking, I have no idea how well her book will sell, but I can well imagine a fierce — and negative — response by HR leaders at Carlson’s remarks last night.

FTC Background-Check Primer

In case you missed it, the Federal Trade Commission issued a blog article on Apr. 28 titled “Background checks on prospective employees: Keep required disclosures simple.”

According to the FTC’s blog post:

Background screening reports are “consumer reports” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act when they serve as a factor in determining a person’s eligibility for employment, housing, credit, insurance or other purposes and they include information “bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.”

If your company uses background screening reports to make hiring decisions, here are some steps the FCRA requires you to take:

  1. Before you get a background screening report about a prospective employee, disclose to the person that you intend to get the report and then get their written authorization allowing you to do that.

  2. If the background screening report reveals something that may cause you to decide not to hire the person, you must notify them of the results of the report and provide them with a copy. Next, you have to give them sufficient time to review the report so they can challenge any elements that might be incorrect.

  3. If you ultimately decide not to hire someone based in whole or in part on the contents of a background screening report, you must provide a notice to that person that states they weren’t hired due at least in part to the result of the background screening report.

The FTC blog post says one issue employers struggle with making the required initial disclosure before they obtain the background screening report and get the prospective employee’s authorization.

But it’s easier than you might imagine:

Under the FCRA, you must provide the prospective employee with a clear and conspicuous written disclosure that you plan to get a background screening report about them and you must get the person’s written authorization that gives you their permission to compile the report. It’s OK to put the required disclosure and your request for their authorization in one document. Just be sure to use clear wording that the prospective employee will understand.

Some companies trip themselves up by using complicated legal jargon or adding extra acknowledgements or waivers, the FTC notes. Here are some examples of the kind of things that shouldn’t be in this simple document:

  • Don’t include language that claims to release you from liability for conducting, obtaining, or using the background screening report.
  • Don’t include a certification by the prospective employee that all information in his or her job application is accurate.
  • Delete any wording that purports to require the prospective employee to acknowledge that your hiring decisions are based on legitimate non-discriminatory reasons.
  • Get rid of overly broad authorizations that permit the release of information that the FCRA doesn’t allow to be included in a background screening report – for example, bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.

That extra stuff not only makes it harder for the prospective employee to understand the main purpose of the document, but it also may violate the FCRA. Adding other acknowledgements or releases of liability is beyond the scope of what the FCRA permits in this document. If you have additional waivers, authorizations, or disclosures you want to give to prospective employees, do it in a separate document. Don’t include them in the FCRA disclosure and authorization document.

The FTC says the matter is as simple as this: “Complying with the FCRA’s disclosure requirement for the use of background screening reports is easy. You can do it in a few sentences. Just include a simple, easy-to-understand notification that you will obtain a background screening report, perhaps with a simple explanation of what information will be included in the report. The request for the prospective employee’s authorization should be in plain language, too.”

A National Ban on Salary History?

U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced the Pay Equity for All Act of 2017 with original cosponsors Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) to prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history before making a job or salary offer, according to a press release.

The bill — which was first introduced last Sept. — seeks to reduce the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter.  The bill is particularly vital after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that determined that pay disparity based exclusively on past salaries was discriminatory under the Equal Pay Act.

As you may recall from our coverage on the topic, Massachusetts, New York City, the District of Columbia and Philadelphia have passed similar legislation banning employers from seeking past salary history.  Because many employers set wages based on an applicant’s previous salary, workers from historically disadvantaged groups often start out behind their white male counterparts in salary negotiations and never catch up.

“After last week’s disappointing 9th Circuit ruling, it is critical that Congress take legislative action to ban the practice of asking for an employee’s salary history, which disadvantages women and minorities, who disproportionately carry lower salaries through their entire careers simply because of wages at previous jobs that were set unfairly,” said Congresswoman Norton.  “Our bill will help reduce the wage gap by requiring employers to offer salaries to prospective employees based on merit, not gender, race, or ethnicity.”

“The 9th Circuit’s ruling represents a step backward in the fight for equal pay and only serves to reinforce the salary gap that has persisted for generations,” said Congressman Nadler (D-NY).  “To end this cycle of gender and racial pay inequality, states and localities—including New York City—have recently passed laws banning employers from asking about salary history. Congress should follow New York’s lead and ensure that people all around the country are afforded the same opportunity to break the cycle of pay inequity.”

“Forcing employees and potential employees to disclose their salary history sabotages our efforts to combat the wage gap for women and minorities,” said Congresswoman Speier. “The Pay Equity for All Act protects applicants from being frozen in pay scales unrelated to their experience, skills, and merit.”