Category Archives: career development

Recruiting for the Cloud

Millions of people around the world use Amazon to find everything from light bulbs to rare works of art. Now, thanks to a new service offered by the Seattle-based behemoth, companies will soon be going to Amazon to find and recruit cloud engineers.  The Seattle-based company’s AWS Educate division will be offering free, self-paced  online courses and learning modules through its new Cloud Career Pathways program. Students who successfully complete the offerings will be matched with relevant internships and job openings via the AWS Educate Job Board, which in addition to Amazon itself features employers such as Cloudnexa, Splunk, Instructure and Udacity.

“We built AWS Educate with a vision of helping to cultivate a cloud-enabled workforce,” said Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president for worldwide public sector, in a statement. “We’ve designed Cloud Career Pathways that will help students get targeted experience and skills, and placed those side by side with relevant jobs from some of the most in-demand technology employers today.”

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden notes in a post that Amazon’s move could make it a potential competitor to LinkedIn, which is using its acquisition to offer training in areas such as coding to professionals looking to acquire more skills. Amazon’s decision to offer the courses for free fits with its overall business model, Lunden writes, in which it “prices competitively — or not at all — to bring in more users, who either represent a sizeable revenue opportunity in aggregate, or (in free cases) lead to the potential of paying for other goods and services down the line.”

The Cloud Career Pathways are aligned with four over-arching “job families”: cloud architect, software developer, operations-support engineer, and analytics and big-data specialist, says Amazon. Each pathway includes a minimum of 30 hours of content designed to build core skill sets across the four job families. Once they’ve successfully completed the coursework (delivered via instructional videos, lab exercises, online courses, whitepapers and podcasts), the students will receive badges and certificates that appear on their AWS Educate profile, which they can use in their job applications. They can also apply directly to jobs and internships posted on the AWS Educate Job Board, says Amazon.

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Just How Bad Are We at Engagement?

dv2171020Engagement was certainly on the minds of speakers and attendees at the recent HR Tech Conference in Chicago. (Here’s a link to the conference site, FYI, which already has information about next year’s event.)

From this session covered by Mark McGraw, Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow, to this one covered by David Shadovitz, What’s Driving Engagement, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about what’s working at some companies (especially in McGraw’s post), what needs to be happening in terms of technology, training and the treatment of employees (particularly in Shadovitz’s post), and a whole lot more.

One study released at the conference but not mentioned yet came from Saba, showing just how bad companies still are at simply carrying out the basics — not only in terms of engagement, but overall management tactics too. That survey, completed in August, shows most businesses are “not in tune with their employees’ perceptions of engagement, training and career development,” according to Saba’s release.

With so much attention being paid to the need for keeping employees engaged, retained and productive, you’d think most companies are at least asking for more feedback, or figuring out better ways to ask for more feedback. Saba says no, that is not happening much at all.

For the most part, the report says, companies do not have continuous channels for engagement and feedback because the majority of employees are rarely asked for their feedback — less than a few times a year. Other highlights of the August survey of 1,200 U.S. HR managers and employees include these two points, suggesting some troubling gender issues wrapped up in all this:

  • Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 61 percent of female employees indicated they were rarely asked for feedback, versus 56 percent of male employees.
  • At the same time, women were also less comfortable giving their input. The survey showed only 56 percent of women are comfortable giving feedback, compared to 63 percent of men. “This implies a statistical disconnect that needs to be immediately addressed by HR and learning teams,” the report says.

Another gem from the release:

“Based on these statistics and anomalies in engagement, it’s understandable why more than half of HR leaders (51 percent) and employees (52 percent) believe their organizations do not have a good employee-feedback process.”

In terms of initiating better training programs to keep employees producing and staying put, companies aren’t doing so good there, either. Only 22 percent of employees believe their organizations are very effective in providing easy access to training and development.

What’s more, 86 percent of millennials, often the highest flight risk in the organization, indicated they would be more inclined to stay at their current company if they were given access to quality training and development. So what’s the holdup here? As Theresa Damato, vice president of global marketing at Saba, sees it:

“While most organizations will agree that talent is their most important asset, [this] survey highlights the struggle many have in effectively engaging, assessing and developing their people.

“Organizations need to focus on the critical role continuous development plays in employee engagement and retention. They also need to find new ways to improve effectiveness of talent programs through more frequent and consistent feedback channels.”

And for the most part, she and others at Saba indicate, that is hardly happening at all.

Except, it would seem, in the handful of success stories — or at least stories of successful starting points and strategic approaches — shared at HR Tech.

My guess is, if we’re doing this bad at the feedback basics, then this engagement conundrum/roadblock is  going to be on the minds of attendees and the agendas of many conferences to come.

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Gender Parity: Lead the Way, HR

For a study to find that women are underrepresented at the chief-executive level is not at all surprising. That much we already knew.

New research from Korn Ferry provides more evidence of the disparity between men and women in the executive ranks. The same study, however, finds one segment of the C-suite where something resembling gender parity may actually exist: HR.

Overall, the Los Angeles-based people and organizational advisory firm’s analysis found just 5 percent of the CEOs at the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue were women; a percentage that remains flat from 2015.

By industry, the highest percentage of female CEOs can be found in the consumer sector (9 percent), followed by energy (6 percent), financial and technology (both 5 percent), industrial (4 percent) and life sciences (less than 1 percent).

The numbers aren’t much higher throughout the C-suite. For instance, just 12 percent of CFOs across industries are women, while 19 percent of women occupy the chief information officer’s seat, and 29 percent of chief marketing officers at the top 1,000 revenue-generating companies are female.

You get the idea. There aren’t a lot of women holding the top spots within the top organizations. Except in HR, where 55 percent of CHROs are women, according to the Korn Ferry study.

“In our research, we find that women rank higher on key competencies needed in the CHRO role, such as collaboration and negotiation skills, the ability to balance multiple constituencies and an appreciation for the dynamics of the overall business,” says Joseph McCabe, vice chairman in Korn Ferry’s Global Human Resources Center of Expertise, in a press release highlighting the firm’s recent C-suite analysis.

“Interestingly, other Korn Ferry research shows a distinct correlation between CEO and CHRO competencies, but women are still not making it to the very top spot at the rate they should.”

In the same statement, Peggy Hazard laments the glacial pace of progress on this front.

“Study after study shows that diverse senior teams provide better corporate results,” says Hazard, managing principal at Korn Ferry. “Having more women at the top is a priority for our clients. However, the needle is not moving as quickly as any of us would like to see.”

A collaborative effort will be required to get things moving more briskly in the right direction, in HR and elsewhere, she says.

“In every industry we analyzed, there’s a tremendous need for improvement to bring more women to the C-suite. This is a joint responsibility of the women to seek out experiences and development that can help them lead and succeed, and for organizations to create an environment where women feel empowered to progress in their careers at all levels.”

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Hope Reigns Supreme in the HR Suite

As a good HR leader, you probably have a handle on hiring trends within your organization’s industry.

But what about your profession? What’s the employment forecast for HR?

At the moment, the prognosis is pretty good. And the younger the HR practitioner, the brighter the outlook, according to the 2016 HR Jobs Pulse Survey, recently released by the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM poll asked 365 U.S.-based HR professionals to gauge their faith in their own job security and ability to find work if they were to leave their current employer.

Overall, 75 percent of all respondents reported confidence in their job security, with that number climbing to 85 percent among early-career HR professionals.

Those at the earliest stages of their careers were found to be “particularly confident” in the stability of the profession, “which suggests that new entrants to the profession are feeling optimistic about their future as HR practitioners,” says Alex Alonso, SHRM senior vice president of knowledge development, in a statement.

Some of these younger professionals, however, are a bit unsure about their chances outside their current organization, at least in comparison to their more experienced colleagues. Sixty-three percent of early-career respondents said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident that they could find a new job. Overall, 88 percent of respondents described their prospects the same way.

Regardless of age, most of these HR practitioners intend to stay put anyway, as just 19 percent of those polled said they were looking for a new job.

The roughly one-fifth of those pursuing other opportunities have their reasons for doing so, of course. Not surprisingly, money tops the list, with 42 percent citing “more compensation/pay” as their primary motivation for seeking new employment. Thirty-seven percent said they were in search of “better career advancement opportunities.”

Just 27 percent of those surveyed said their companies were hiring for HR positions, however. That percentage remains unchanged from 2015, according to SHRM.

What kind of talented HR practitioners are organizations looking to find? According to the SHRM survey, HR generalists continue to be in the highest demand (49 percent), followed by HR professionals with employment and recruitment skills (31 percent).

Ultimately, while hiring remains fairly flat for HR positions relative to last year, the findings suggest an air of optimism in the HR suite, says Alonso.

“Confidence in the stability of the profession has increased slightly,” he says. “The vast majority of HR professionals … had some level of confidence that they could land a new job if necessary.”



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Farewell to Performance Ratings at GE

While performance rating systems are still the norm at many organizations, it’s not really that surprising to hear that a company has abandoned the concept.

But it’s a little more noteworthy when that company is General Electric, an organization that helped pioneer the practice.

Yesterday, GE informed its workforce that 200,000 salaried employees will no longer be given one of five labels—ranging from “role model” to “unsatisfactory”—as part of their annual performance reviews, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This farewell to performance ratings has been in the making for at least the past decade, during which time the Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate has eliminated the famous (infamous?) forced-ranking system championed by former CEO Jack Welch.

Still, the new rating-free approach—which GE previously piloted with roughly 30,000 employees—marks a departure from a practice the “longtime standard-bearer for corporate management” has relied on “in some form or another for the last 40 years,” the Journal notes.

In its place will be a performance-management system that asks employees and managers to exchange feedback via a mobile app known as PD@GE, which compiles messages and forms a performance summary that’s delivered at the end of the year.

According to the Journal, the company is hopeful that the new approach fosters more nuanced pay and bonus decisions. High performers, for example, can still receive annual raises and bonuses, while managers are able to make “finer distinctions” with respect to middling employees, for whom more detailed feedback may serve as inspiration to improve.

The organization is also training managers to improve regular feedback conversations, the Journal reports.

At least one of those managers, Brian Finken, is confident that doing away with employee ratings will enable employees to focus more on review discussions—what they’re doing well and where they can improve—and less on scores that don’t really paint a complete picture of their performance.

Finken, a Florence, Italy-based operations leader in GE’s oil and gas business, also looks forward to implementing the new dialogue-driven approach to performance reviews, telling the Journal that he’s “glad I don’t have to spend time codifying feedback into one score. I can focus on the conversation instead.”

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3M Displaces Google Among Millennials

220px-3M_wordmark.svgThe maker of the Post-it Note has displaced the world’s best-known technology company atop the list of organizations that millennials most want to work for. 3M, which in addition to the aforementioned product makes Scotch tape, packaging products, laminating systems and a whole host of other things you can actually touch or hold in your hand, has displaced Google for the No. 1 place in this year’s 2016 Millennial Career Survey, conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars. Google was the top choice in the 2015 survey.

3M CEO Inge Thulin was so delighted when he heard the news that he walked over to CHRO Marlene McGrath’s office and gave her a hug, he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a big, big statement,” Thulin told the paper. “This is incredible. It’s fantastic. When you look at Google and Apple and the others, we left them in the dust.”

Google didn’t do so shabbily, actually: It ranks No. 2 on this year’s list, followed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at No. 3, Walt Disney Co. at No. 4 and “local hospitals” at fifth place. The FBI, Buzzfeed, Apple, Amazon and the Central Intelligence Agency also made the top 10.

The NSHSS defines “millennial” rather generously as people ages 15 to 32; other definitions of millennials identify them as people who were ages 18 to 34 in 2015 while those born after are called Generation Z.

3M appeals to young people because of its sustainability projects and its three-to-12-month leadership development program, Thulin told the Star Tribune. Its commitment to diversity is another big attractor for millennials, he said. Indeed, research has confirmed that young people are very interested in leadership development, as well as diversity, and that they’ll look for the exit signs if they find the development opportunities at their current employer lacking.

The NHSS survey results are based on responses from a big and diverse group: 13,000 high schoolers, college students and young professionals ages 15 to 32, 48 percent of whom are African-American, Hispanic or Asian, 23 percent first-generation college students and 39 percent multilingual.

“Currently, the top career interests of this group are STEM, business and arts, and entertainment and media,” says NHSS president James W. Lewis. “Millennials hope to find in the workplace fair treatment, corporate social responsibility and strong company benefits, which include flexible work schedules.”

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Battle Over Certifications Rages On

As might be expected, the Society for Human Resource Management made sure its HR-certification effort, announced roughly two years ago, received a healthy dose of air time this week at its SHRM 2016 conference in Washington.

ThinkstockPhotos-522859146At a press briefing on the opening day of the event, for example, Alexander Alonso, senior vice president for knowledge development and head of examination development and operations for SHRM’s professional certifications, reported that the society’s CP and SCP certifications are being well-adopted across key industries.

“Key metrics,” he said, “now include the 92,000 SHRM certificates that exist today [as well as] tremendous growth in the [number of] SHRM exam applications from spring 2015 all the way through to spring 2016, with roughly 9,800 people sitting for the exam in this window.” (Some of these figures were previously reported in a story we posted in April.)

In addition, he said that roughly 84,000 took part in the pathway certifications in 2015. (The pathway enables HR generalists who already have certain HR certifications to obtain SHRM’s certification by completing a brief online tutorial focusing on HR competencies.)

Alonso also reported that about 5,000 HR job postings per month refer to SHRM’s CP or SCP certifications and said that SHRM will be piloting a Spanish-language version of the exam in the winter.

What impact these numbers will have on the HR Certification Institute and its Professional in Human Resources and Senior Professional in Human Resources certifications isn’t entirely clear, but one thing is certain: HRCI isn’t sitting still.

In addition to holding a 40th Anniversary Celebration at Smithsonian American Art Museum (between hors-d’oeuvres and cocktails, participants were able to stroll the gallery and take in some great works of art), HRCI announced that, beginning on Nov. 1, it would offer year-round testing—essentially throwing testing windows “out the window” (HRCI’s words, not mine). Prior to this change, exams were available to practitioners twice a year.

As HRCI Chief Marketing Officer Kerry Morgan explained, HRCI is putting HR on the short list of professions that make certification exams available to their practitioners whenever they are ready and wherever it’s most convenient.

(SHRM currently has testing windows in the spring and winter.)

HRCI CEO Amy Schabacker Dufrane noted that HRCI partner organizations were especially excited about the move because it allows them to support the process year-round.

Asked about the impact of SHRM’s entrance in the field, Dufrane admitted that exam applications were down. But she pointed out that, during the group’s 40-year history, it wasn’t unusual for these numbers to decline during periods of low unemployment (currently at 4.7 percent), being that people may be less motivated to invest in their careers when the job market is more stable.

What’s more, she said, the number of recertifications was very encouraging, climbing from percentages in the mid-80s to around 91 percent.

Of course, as we’ve noted in the past, time will tell as to how this battle over HR certifications plays out. But for now, anyway, HRCI, as moves like this suggest, seems intent on keeping SHRM at bay and remaining a major force in the HR-certification world.

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It’s the Eve of Digital Disruption

As its name suggested, HireVue’s Digital Disruption 2016 in Park City, Utah was, for the most part, all about distrupting HR through technology. More precisely, the vast majority of the content surrounded hiring, HireVue’s roots. But as CEO Mark Newman made quite clear during an opening general session titled “New Wave of Disruption,” the South Jordan, Utah-based firm is no longer just about talent acquisition. It’s now about coaching and developing talent, too.

Rusty Rueff
Rusty Rueff

Though still a small portion of its business, with around 30 clients, Newman noted that HireVue Coach, a recent addition to the firm’s Team Acceleration Software Platform, is already growing at a fairly fast clip. He predicted that it soon will become a substantial piece of HireVue’s overall business. To date, he noted, training has been ineffective; it doesn’t stick. But by leveraging the power of video, he said, employers can now change employee behavior (primarily for those in customer-facing positions) in a fundamental way.

Of course, as you might expect, Digital Disruption (now in its third year), like most user events, was chock full of client success stories. Hilton. United Airlines. Vodafone. Netflix. But it also featured a number of speakers who looked at bigger-picture issues impacting HR.

One who personally stood out for me was Rusty Rueff, a former recruiting executive at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts who now sits on a number of boards and is an investor in several Silicon Valley start-ups. (I personally had an opportunity to meet Rusty a number of years ago at a much smaller gathering of CHROs.)

Rueff, in a general session titled “Craft(ing) of the Future,” suggested that those in recruiting need to stop thinking of recruitment as a profession and begin to think of it as a craft.

“A profession is defined as an occupation requiring prolonged training and a formal qualification,” he said. “Doctors and lawyers are a profession. But a crafts person [exercises a skill] in making something. We make something of people. We make something of organizations. We make something of cultures.”

To illustrate his point, Rueff recounted his days running recruiting at Frito Lay, where he was charged with interviewing candidates all day long, week in and week out.

“One day, I said to myself, ‘I’m the most powerful guy in the company?’ he recalled. “My other voice said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m the most powerful guy in the company! because if I wanted everyone to have green eyes, I could do that. I could screen out everyone who didn’t have green eyes.’ That’s pretty scary, because I’m out there deciding what the organization’s culture is going to be by who I let in and who I screen out.”

Rueff recalled that he believed at the time that the HR function at Frito Lay needed change leaders—so that’s who he brought into the organization.

“I was a lowly little guy [at Frito Lay],” he said, “but I got to change the culture.”

Rueff told those attending that a crafts person needs to be, among other things, agile—someone who is able to adopt new ways of thinking. He added that such a person is like “an actor who can play many different kinds of roles on many different kinds of stages.”

To be successful, Rueff said, those in HR and recruiting are going to need to begin thinking like data scientists. “You don’t have to have a degree [as] a data scientist,” he said. “If you’re good with numbers, you can be one.” In other words, it’s a skill people can learn.

In addition, he said, they have to “think like the software-design architects of today, not yesterday. [People] who are fast and nimble.”

And they need to think like personal trainers, he said. “One size fits one when it comes to talent in the future.”

Speaking to this notion of one size fits one, another presenter, Molly Weaver, offered up a great example during a session titled “Stop Screening Out Great Talent.”

As director of talent acquisition at Children’s Mercy, Weaver said she was saddled by a hiring process that was way “too long” and “cumbersome” for applicants. So about a year ago, Weaver and her team unveiled a unique program called “Interview First.”

Instead of encouraging job candidates to apply for a specific job, “Interview First” enables them to submit a video via the company’s website in which they share something about their background and what they would like to do at Children’s Mercy. (Yes, you guessed it: Children’s Mercy, headquartered in Kansas City, uses the HireVue platform.)

Each day, two recruiters are assigned to review the videos that come in and parse them out to the appropriate recruiters (Children’s Mercy currently has 10 recruiters and jobs are divided into clinical and nonclinical). The idea behind the initiative, Weaver said, was to just give people a chance to tell their stories. By putting these videos at the front end of the process, she said, Children’s Mercy is able to quickly capture a lot of great talent, people who otherwise might have left the process.

Just because they aren’t the right candidate for one particular job, she said, doesn’t mean they aren’t right for something else at the company or an opening down the road.

Once the videos are evaluated, potential candidates are told they should consider applying for a particular position right away, there may be something for them down the pike or they’re not really a good fit.

Weaver pointed out that affirmative-action laws aren’t a concern for Children’s Mercy (a government contractor) here, since these individuals aren’t applying for a specific job.

So how is it working out for Children’s Mercy? To date, 120 positions have filled through “Interview First,” including nine individuals who were rehires. Interestingly, the new hires, on average, had applied seven times before.

Certainly, a pretty good start in disrupting a process that is clearly in need of some serious disruption, I think.

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A ‘Love Letter to [all the Bad-Rapped] Managers’

Who hasn’t heard and read the reports in the last few years on the real reason employees leave their employers? Bad managers, right? 522472388 -- managerNo doubt anyone visiting this site has seen and heard them.

We’ve certainly written our fair share, from criticizing managers’ reluctance or inability to truly promote career development to pinpointing the need for managers to grow their big-data skills to lamenting the unhappiness and decimation of the middle-management ranks in general, which of course supports the theory that unhappy managers make for bad bosses.

Which might be precisely why this recent post by Maren Hogan on the HR Examiner site, My Love Letter to Managerscaught my eye, an eye that’s always on the lookout for something counterintuitive (warning, she doesn’t hold back on some of her descriptors). That or the fact that I am a manager, so a love letter to me … well … what’s not to like?

Counterintuitive does seem to be the operative word here, when you consider all that’s been said about retention and turnover, and the especially egregious part managers play. As Hogan puts it,

“Retention issues? It’s the manager’s fault.
Productivity problems? Blame the manager.
Engagement dipping? Someone get management in here!

Can this really be true? After all, many of these problems have roots in giant, macro issues. The economy, changing workforce dynamics, an always-on mentality spurred on by technology advances. It’s sort of simplistic to blame the manager, isn’t it?”

I especially like what she says about this mega-trend, if you will, of citing management as the reason people leave work, hate work, aren’t engaged and aren’t productive. She thinks this trend “could be part of a blame culture that has slowly seeped into our workforce over the past couple of decades.” In her words,

“Whether we’re blaming millennials for the faster pace and fancy [results-only-work-environment] perks, or blaming executives for the glaring inequality between them and us, or blaming managers for every issue in the workforce, very few seem to be stepping up to take personal accountability.”

She’s got some helpful suggestions for employees who might be prone to disparaging their managers, such as considering how they, themselves, might change the situation before blaming their direct supervisor; doing better and faster work if they don’t like what’s been assigned to them so they can prove they’re capable of taking on something more interesting; taking self-assessments of their most-productive times during the workday and building their reputations as team players; and even getting better at confronting difficult and destructive employees themselves, so managers aren’t blamed for failing to take action.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, first, I kind of agree with Hogan that managers have taken a bad rap for far too long for the ills of corporate culture.  More importantly, though, I believe employers and their HR leaders could go a long way toward curing some of those ills by paying more attention to the workloads and expectations placed on their managers.

They might also consider committing serious capital to training all employees in personal accountability, starting with Hogan’s list above.

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How Do You Help Executives Thrive?

As a good HR leader, you no doubt spend a lot of time creating opportunities for everyday employees to gain the skills and experience they need to continue their professional growth.

But what are you doing to help those at the highest levels reach their career goals?

The answer, according to many senior executives taking part in a recent Egon Zehnder survey, seems to be “not quite enough.”

As part of its Leadership Identity—What Makes You Thrive study, global executive search and talent advisory firm Egon Zehnder recently polled 1,275 senior execs from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America.

When asked if they felt their organization helps them unlock their professional potential, 40 percent replied in the affirmative, while 31 percent said “no” and another 27 percent reported feeling neutral. In addition, 72 percent said they would welcome more help from their company to “pinpoint and pursue [their] personal motivations and goals.”

These figures “suggest that a great many executives see an opportunity for a closer alignment of their job and their essential identity and priorities,” according to an Egon Zehnder summary of the findings. “Some might even feel a clear disconnect.”

Egon Zehnder study authors Andrew Roscoe and Wolfhart Pentz also note observing what they call “an interesting paradox,” saying that few executives who feel that disconnect take steps to address the situation by working to articulate their personal goals in a way that aligns with company objectives or “by fully exploring the potential of their current role,” for example.

“Instead,” the summary adds, “they often feel that their only option is to search for an opportunity elsewhere.”

It doesn’t have to come to that, of course, and Roscoe and Pentz offer ways in which employers and executives can close this communication gap.

For instance, the authors urge executives to do their part by taking more ownership of their own growth and trajectory, and being more forthright in discussing their goals with the organization.

Executives could also stand to improve their awareness and understanding of their own personal priorities—and how they intersect with those of the company, say the authors.

Organizations, meanwhile, must find additional means of developing executives who decline traditional promotion tracks and establish metrics of success that look beyond the “traditional quantitative measures,” the authors note, adding that companies’ rationale behind proposed moves could be better communicated in some cases.

“Too often, professional development is a monologue given by the organization to the executive. It needs to evolve to a true dialogue,” says Roscoe, who leads Egon Zehnder’s executive assessment and development practice.

“But that isn’t only the responsibility of the organization. Executives need to take ownership of their own growth trajectory and be active partners in that dialogue, rather than assume the only options are ‘take it or leave it.’ ”

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