Category Archives: demographics

Concern Over U.K.’s Older Workers Hits a U.S. Chord

474168522 -- older workerThis article from the United Kingdom caught my eye. Called “Missing Million,” it was put out by Business in the Community, one of the Prince of Wales’ charities.

It talks about older workers (50 year of age and up) and how more than a million of them have been “pushed out of work involuntarily,” thereby wreaking havoc on an impending skills gap that’s already pressing down on the U.K. economy. As the article puts it, “these missing million older workers could potentially boost the U.K. economy by £88 billion, if they were able to stay in work for longer.”

The three-part report “highlights the value of older workers,” it says, “making recommendations to government and responsible employers at a time when there is much discussion and growing business engagement in how we can all collectively support longer working lives.”

It brought to mind a feature I wrote several years ago, When Junior’s in Charge, highlighting the challenges older workers face in corporate America as they find themselves answering to much-younger managers who don’t value their worth.

In that story, I cite a book written by Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, titled Managing the Older Worker. It highlights just how much U.S. employers are missing out by not recognizing this worth and making better use of this level of skill, knowledge and dedication. (Here’s an excerpt, as published on, from the book.)

Here, too, is yet more — and much more recent — fuel to add to the fire of the worthy senior worker. This study by, released Aug. 29, reveals that those in what we’re calling the Greatest Generation — now 70 years of age and older — outscore all their younger counterparts in the top five most-productive work traits: emotional stability, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. In essence, the PsychTests release says, “this 70-plus generation is more pleasant, tolerant, even-keeled and diligent than all the generations to follow.

All this also made me hearken back to Cappelli’s August column on HREOnline  about the United Kingdom taking the lead on engagement and the importance of HR.

I shared this latest U.K. report with him to see if, indeed, he thinks the United Kingdom might be leading the way again, setting yet another example for employers across the pond when it comes to workforce and talent management.

Interestingly, he told me, it’s “the Asian countries [that] are taking the lead in trying to make better use of older workers, especially Singapore, where they have tight labor markets.”

“In the United States,” he said, “we still have a great deal of prejudice against older workers that probably won’t change until more baby boomers retire and start kicking up a fuss.”

Hats off to the Prince of Wales, at least, for trying to kick up a fuss over this missing and maligned segment of the United Kingdom before it’s too late.

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Not So Fast on the Netflix Good News, Says Group

Invariably, any large company — especially one that’s in the news — attracts its detractors as well as its fans. Just try “Googling” “anti-494368457 -- mother and infantWalmart websites” and see what comes up on the nation’s largest employer.

So no surprise, really, that Netflix’s recent announcement — that it would offer unlimited leave to new moms and dads, allowing them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption — has yielded an “anti-stir.”

A women’s group calling itself UltraViolet just rolled out an ad campaign last week against what it claims are Netflix’s discriminatory practices in not opening its new leave program to the poorest among its ranks instead of just the wealthiest. (Here’s the actual petition for those who want to join the fight.)

According to an emailed announcement about this new uprising, “more than 47,700 UV members have demanded Netflix give its hourly workers the same ‘unlimited’ parental-leave benefits that workers who make $300,000 receive.” As Nita Chaudhary, UV’s co-founder, puts it:

“People are taking notice that Netflix is expecting praise for extending parental leave to its higher-paid employees, yet it doesn’t extend those benefits to the hourly employees who need it most.

“It’s important that Netflix set an example for the rest of employers and companies nationwide: With one in four moms going back to work less than two weeks after giving birth, Netflix can turn the tide by giving ALL employees equal benefits — not just reserve those benefits [for the wealthiest ones].”

The women’s group contends this exemption was somehow left out of the company’s announcement, the latter of which has certainly been reverberating positively throughout the business community, as this feature about the move in Fortune indicates. And this, from BuzzFeed News, indicating other big Silicon Valley companies have been following suit — including Microsoft and Adobe — in announcing similar unlimited paternity leave programs since Netflix’s announcement.

Indeed, I saw no mention of any exemption in the announcement. Nor was it mentioned in Andrew R. McIlvanie’s blog post that included news of the announcement. (Though that post does examine the problem of unlimited leave policies being launched in corporate cultures that don’t support them … which may or may not be the case at Netflix.)

I did reach out to the company about all this, and got the following back from a company spokesperson:

“Across Netflix, we compare salary and benefits to those of employees at businesses performing similar work. Those comparisons show we provide all of our employees with comparable or better pay and benefits than at other companies. For example, medical and life insurance for DVD workers exceeds market standards. All DVD employees including hourly are also eligible for a minimum of 12 weeks off for maternity or paternity leave. We are regularly reviewing policies across our business to ensure they are competitive and help us attract and keep the best employees.”

Nothing on the UV ad campaign. Nothing on any exemption in its new policy. Like so many other big-splash initiatives and subsequent fallout, I guess we’ll just have to let this one play out.


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Intel’s Diversity Progress is Now ‘In the Book’

Considering all the steps Intel’s leaders have been taking to improve diversity at the giant Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, it should 79084610 --diversity in techcome as no surprise that the company’s first mid-year Diversity in Technology Report released last week shows considerable progress.

Details of that progress — mentioned in a blog post by Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell and a public letter to employees from Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich —  include the fact that Intel is now “tracking to 43 percent of its diverse hires in 2015,” exceeding its U.S. goal for 2015 of 40 percent, according to the report.

Also, it says, more blacks and women are now working at Intel than were at the beginning of the year. Of new employees this year, 35 percent were women and 5 percent were black, well above Intel’s current workforce representation. In addition, according to the report, more women and minorities are in leadership today at Intel than at the beginning of the year, with an 11-percent increase for senior women employees and a 19-percent increase in senior leadership for blacks. In her blog post, Hudnell touts her organization’s commitment, from the top down, to improving these numbers:

“Our team has used the same laser focus that has brought innovation to the world [around] the issue of diversity and inclusion.  And while we have strengthened our focus in our programs, systems and measurements, the game changer has been the level of accountability driven from the top.”

Indeed, in January, Krzanich announced plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort. Four months later, he unveiled some impressive movement in that direction that I blogged about at the time.

More recently, on July 29, the company announced it would double its referral bonus for employees who help the organization diversify its workforce. Specifically, as Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged the next day, employees who refer a woman, underrepresented minority or veteran who is ultimately hired will receive $4,000.

Mind you, Intel is not alone among Silicon Valley’s tech companies to address this, or to open its books for the public to see exactly where it stands when it comes to women and minority hiring. Way back in May of 2014, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google, came clean with the public on his company’s numbers in an effort to move the needle, according to this blog post by Editor David Shadovitz.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a call to action to the tech industry, asking companies to step up their game on workforce diversity. Seven of the 14 companies responding to his challenge — including Intel — have agreed to try out something called the Rooney Rule, which was implemented in 2003 in the National Football League by Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

Basically, according to the rule (which Rooney was applying to head-coach hiring), at least one woman and one minority must be considered for every open position. This story goes into far more detail about the rule, and its pros and cons.

I think what impresses me the most about what’s happening in the Silicon Valley around diversity in technology is the transparency serving as a kind of foundation to it all. Bock’s unveiling was a breath of fresh air. And now, at least according to Krzanich, Intel is sharing “more data than any company in our industry,” specifically “more information that [what’s] available on the EEO-1 form or [what’s] been reported in the past for our U.S. workforce.”

That has to be the best road to the kind of sweeping, mammoth demographic change being called for here — to openly admit reality in order to create a new one. Hudnell’s post certainly speaks to this. As she puts it, Intel’s intention “is to do all we can to collaborate and share openly so that what we all desire becomes the reality.”

Not a bad rule to live by, whatever business change you’re trying to effect.





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Are Job Seekers Saying No to Entrepreneurship?

Despite all you’ve heard about the rise of the entrepreneur and the growing number of young job seekers striking out on their own 451846939 -- younger workersrather than adhere to today’s workplace status quo, Challenger Gray & Christmas says not so fast.

The Chicago-based outplacement and career consultancy posted on its site recently a somewhat surprising report indicating job seekers today are actually risk-averse and are shunning entrepreneurship, even in this much-improved economy.

“Now that the economy is finally hitting its stride, one might expect a surge in start-ups,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the company. “While the percentage of unemployed managers and executives starting businesses has, in fact, increased, the survey results suggest that the severity of the recession [albeit over] had an adverse impact on would-be entrepreneurs, who appear to be far more sensitive to risk.”

Given the bulk of job seekers and newly-hired workers are younger — and given the results of a recent EY survey that Senior Editor Andrew McIlvaine posted about on May 7, finding millennials are getting fed up with the lack of flexibility in the current workforce — you’d think more of them would be setting out on their own.

Granted, the gradations in the Challenger report are fairly small, and it does indicate the numbers of entrepreneurs have, in fact, gone up since 2011:

“On average, just 5.1 percent of unemployed managers and executives started their own business in 2014, according to [the] quarterly survey of job seekers who found a position, pursued self-employment or retired.

“The 2014 start-up rate was down slightly from 2013, when it averaged 5.5 percent per quarter. However, both 2013 and 2014 rates were significantly better than the two previous years, when start-up activity averaged 4.2 percent in 2012 and 3.2 percent in 2011.”

But numbers are numbers, and 5.1 percent of unemployed Americans starting a business, in this economy, is surprising.

Especially considering all we’ve heard about the new age of self-employed self-starters … like this fairly recent account on the CNBC website. From the writer’s vantage point, there’s a whole lot of movement away from traditional employer-employee relationships. As the piece puts it:

“Watching the enormous success of companies like Facebook and Google — started by founders who were barely out of college — has dramatically altered the under-25’s sense of when it’s ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ to pursue a good idea.”

It includes examples of some recent start-ups, some outside the United States, but not the numbers Challenger Gray & Christmas gives us.

Perhaps, as this HRE cover story from a year ago, “Leap of Faith,” suggests, maybe we’re not seeing as many entrepreneurs taking their dreams on the road because more employers are recognizing the power of innovation within their workforces and workplaces.

And maybe, for those millennials who want more flexibility but are staying put anyway, “intrapreneurship” is trumping work/life … at least for now.

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Intel’s Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

dv1080001Intel Corp.’s Diversity in Technology Initiative that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced in January — and Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged about at the time — appears to be chugging along quite nicely.

In a speech delivered Wednesday at the Rainbow PUSH Silicon Valley Tech 2020 Summit, Krzanich announced some impressive progress, confirming he was dead serious four months ago when he presented plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort.

For one, he told summit-goers, 41 percent of hires at Intel this year have been diverse, versus 32 percent last year. For another, 17 percent of senior hires in the first quarter of 2015 are underrepresented minorities and 33 percent are women, up from 6 percent and 19 percent in 2014, respectively.

He also announced that Intel has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Oakland Unified School District to commit $5 million over the next five years to implement a comprehensive, “education-transformation solution” that will create a computer-science and engineering pathway for more than 2,400 students, with a graduating cohort of 600 students over the next five years.

“We knew we wanted to do something in K-12 education that targeted underrepresented minorities and we thought we should start in our own backyard,” Krzanich says in this USA Today piece about that initiative.

Lastly, he said Wednesday, his company has committed to spending $1 billion with diverse-owned businesses by the year 2020.

In her May 6 blog post about Krzanich’s update, Rosalind L. Hudnell, Intel’s vice president of human resources and director of diversity and inclusion, addressed some of the underlying philosophies behind this push:

“Improving the diversity of our workforce and the pipeline of students going into this field is not just the right thing to do.  It’s the critical thing to do.  The people who purchase and use technology come from all walks of life.

“Without employees with diverse backgrounds, opinions and problem-solving skills, Intel can’t properly address the needs of a diverse market. Diverse teams and companies lead to greater creativity, strategic thinking and innovation. Greater diversity also results in better products and smarter business decisions. So how do we get there? This is the hard part, because diversity is a complex issue.”

In many stories we’ve written over the years about meaningful workforce initiatives, diversity included, a repeating theme has been the need for top-down buy-in and commitment to occur if any of them are to succeed and if promised goals are to be met.

Nice to see that working so well in the Intel corner of Silicon Valley.

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Will Those Millennial Enigmas Stay, or Not?

Forgive me, first off, for focusing yet again on millennials in the workplace. We’ve admittedly done more than our fair share of 84464529 -- millennial workersstories and blog posts on this demographic and what they need, and  apparently aren’t getting from many employers.

But it seems no matter how much we write, or how much we study them, we simply cannot get our heads around these younger workers, generally born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Do they come to work with far too many expectations and little regard for established protocol? Are they one of the sharpest generations, or not so? Do they communicate well on paper and face-to-face, or only through their mobile devices? Then there’s the million-dollar question: Are they loyal or are they going to leave their jobs as soon as something else looks more interesting?

We’ve all certainly heard and read about the latter, haven’t we? It appears to be a worry that’s been plaguing employers for some time now and hasn’t been letting up much either. Indeed, both our January-February cover story, “Millennials in Charge,” and our soon-to-be-published April cover story, “Engaging Gen Y,” mention this age group’s propensity for job-hopping. So does a recent Aon Hewitt study that finds nearly half of all working millennials intend to find new jobs this year.

But then come all the counter findings: the most recent from the U.S News & World Report’s Money site suggesting “the reality doesn’t back that up at all.” In fact, writes columnist Alison Green March on that site, “a report from Oxford Economics [written about on the Forbes site] found that millennials are no more likely than non-millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months.”

Just last month, HRE Editor Dave Shadovitz blogged about another study, this one from IBM, suggesting “millennials change jobs for the same reasons other generations do and are no more likely than older colleagues to leave a job to follow their passions.”

So who are these guys? And should we be worried or not? Better yet, are we simply overthinking all these demographics and putting way too much stock in the latest survey or study?

I put all this to my 30-year-old son who will have been working as a mechanical engineer at a firm in Philadelphia for eight years this April. Count ’em: eight. First job out of college and he’s still there. That’s way more loyal than most studies indicate.

He’s a good texter, but he also communicates extremely well face-to-face. In his words: “I don’t really waste time thinking about those studies, but I do hear that about my generation from time to time.” Yea, the way I figure it, he’s way too busy flying to site visits and drafting up building, systems and circuitry designs to spend much time reading about how likely he is to job-hop.

“The generational-studies thing, I don’t really get it,” he says. “Seems like they do that with every new generation, right?”

Well, yes, but his generation seems to have gotten the lion’s share of attention, I tell him.

Then again, haven’t millennials always gotten the lion’s share of our attention? I’ve read that about us baby boomer parents in a number of studies as well.

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Considering the Stigma of Affirmative Action

Two recent studies out of the University of Michigan raise some troubling questions about just how far we’ve come as a diverse 468250323 -- diversity hiringnation, with equal access to all in life, school and work.

The most recent, published on the Phys.Org site just this past Monday, contains the unsettling finding that, although a credential from an elite university results in more employer responses for all applicants, black candidates from these prestigious universities do only as well in getting the job as white candidates from less-selective universities.

When our editorial team discussed this study at its Tuesday news meeting, “unsettling” wasn’t the word most used. “Sad” was the term of choice.

“These racial differences,” says the study’s author, S. Michael Gaddis, “suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market. Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality.”

One can’t help but wonder if some of those hiring managers and recruiters studied by Gaddis weren’t jaded by assumptions that such a collegiate star — at least on paper — was the recipient of favorable treatment and maybe easier hurdles to jump, thanks to affirmative action.

Which brings me to the other, earlier U-M research that essentially confirms — by carefully examining — the stereotypes many do, indeed, have about co-workers who advance through affirmative action and diversity initiatives.

Researchers David Mayer of the U-M’s Ross School of Business, Lisa Leslie of New York University’s Stern School of Business and David Kravitz of George Mason University’s School of Business examined research showing affirmative-action recipients being viewed as less competent and competing for company resources. Based on that, they say, they’re seen as less likeable by their colleagues, which can lead to negative assessments of their performance.

“People have all kinds of assumptions about what affirmative action means,” says Mayer. “A lot of people assume it’s about hiring people less qualified [than leading candidates] because they are a member of a protected group … .”

In Leslie’s words:

“Diversity initiatives are effective, but also produce unintended consequences that can limit the career success of the very groups of employees they are intended to benefit. Implementing an affirmative-action plan without taking steps to avoid unintended consequence is unlikely to be an effective solution.”

So what should employers do with all this? Researchers from the earlier study say none of the drawbacks mean companies should get rid of affirmative-action programs. Instead, they say, such programs should be implemented more effectively and positive outcomes, such as having high-level minority role models in business organizations, should be studied.

But how do we alter those silent, destructive mind-sets that very well could be impacting resume assessments where ethnicities are known? Those mind-sets that whisper “easier ride”?

Hard to say.

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Watching a Big Move to Help Women in Tech

A recent announcement by Facebook and LinkedIn that the two entities are joining forces to boost the dwindling numbers of women 462444481 -- women in techstudying technology and working in the field is certainly worth watching.

Short on a lot of details about the collaboration, the announcement still got an amazing amount of press because of the two parties involved — led, in part, by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Sandberg has been a prominent advocate for women in the workplace, ever since her 2011 book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead came out. (Here is one of many pieces we’ve posted about her book and her premise that women need help fighting the barriers — some within themselves — that keep them from achieving leadership positions. Here is one other, primarily about her book and the “Lean In” support circles it aimed to spark in workplaces nationwide.)

As the first post quotes her from her book:

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. [The result is that] men still run the world.”

Whether Sandberg and the people she’s working with think this inability to effect their own progress is a primary reason behind women’s dwindling numbers in technology studies and jobs isn’t real clear. Nor is it clear how much money each company is committing to this effort, or just how it will function. (The announcement simply says Sandberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner will be “launching mentoring and support programs at colleges to get more women involved in studying technology in general, but also as future employees for their companies.”)

What is clear, though, is the fact that the talent pool is shrinking. According to the announcement, the percentage of people enrolled in undergraduate computer-science programs who are women peaked at 35 percent in 1985 and is now down to about 17 percent.

Clearly, something needs to be done. Will be interesting to see just what this initiative is and what it can do.

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Workplace Romance Seems to Be Alive and Well

187334194 (3)I’m sure no one needs a reminder that tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Ads on TV. Messages rotating on electronic billboards on your commute to work. Product displays at your neighborhood pharmacy. Valentine’s Day spam in your email. And, oh yes, at least for me, the barrage of press releases that arrive in my Outlook sharing the findings of this or that study on workplace romance.

Normally, I might give those press releases a quick read and hit the delete key. But a couple did catch my eye this time around. Take the following office-romance poll issued by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder. According to the poll, which was based on a representative sample of 3,056 full-time, private-sector workers, 37 percent of the respondents said they have dated a co-worker; and 30 percent of those office romances have led to marriage.

To me, those numbers are higher than I would have thought, but what do I know?

Harris and CareerBuilder then went on explore what work-related traits would make someone “undateable.”  Here’s what they found:

  • Doesn’t work on a consistent basis: 39 percent

  • Has already dated someone else at work: 25 percent

  • Travels extensively for work: 21 percent

  • Has to work nights: 8 percent

  • Earns less money than me: 6 percent

  • Has to work weekends: 6 percent

In case you’re wondering, women were much less likely than men to date someone who doesn’t work on a consistent basis (52 percent versus 28 percent of men), has previously dated a co-worker (29 percent versus 21 percent) and earns less than them (10 percent versus 2 percent).

Next up: Vault’s 2015 Office Romance Survey found 51 percent of business professionals said they participated in some type of “workplace relationship.”  (Again, higher than I would have thought.) Of those respondents, 21 percent reported they had an ongoing, yet casual relationship; 18 percent were involved in a random office hookup; 16 percent said they enjoyed a long-term serious relationship with a co-worker; and 10 percent said they met a spouse or partner at work. (Three percent selected other.)

“Regardless of success or failure, 63 percent said they would do it again,” the press release said.

The Vault findings also suggest that office romance is becoming more acceptable, with just 5 percent of the respondents saying no office romances are appropriate, down from 11 percent in 2011. (More respondents than ever—29 percent—are of the opinion that all romantic connections in the workplace are appropriate, including those between managers and their direct reports.)

It’s also worth noting—the Vault press release describes it as “the most surprising finding” of all—that HR professionals are among the most likely to have had some kind of fling with a colleague: 57 percent of respondents in the field admitted to having participated in a workplace romance at some point in their career.

At the other end of the spectrum, believe it or not, are marketing professionals (43 percent).

Not what I would have expected.

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Facing ‘Double Jeopardy’ in STEM

One hundred percent is normally associated with a perfect score in something, but a new academic study on race and gender in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is now casting that figure in a very imperfect light.

University of California Hastings School of Law Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law just released the report titled Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science, which demonstrates how subtle—and not-so-subtle—bias shapes the daily work lives of women in STEM, and how women’s experience of gender bias is shaped by race.

“This is the first time someone has asked women whether they have encountered in actual workplaces the specific types of gender bias documented in social psychologists’ labs,” said Williams.

Given the amount of attention recently paid to the lack of gender diversity in the tech space,  it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that women working in STEM fields have experienced some form of bias or discrimination in the workplace.

But perhaps the most startling result of the research was this: 100 percent of the women interviewed reported some sort of gender bias.

“But studies of gender bias generally focus on the experiences of white women, leaving unanswered the major question of whether the same patterns of bias extend to women of color,” Williams said. “This report finds that women of color experience pervasive gender bias—but in ways that often differ from the ways white women experience it.”

In essence, women of color working in the STEM fields find themselves in “double jeopardy” when it comes to dealing with bias in the workplace.

Significant findings of the report include:

  1. 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias.
  2. Black women are more likely (77%) than other women (66%) to report having to prove themselves over and over again.
  3. The stereotype that Asians are good at science appears to help Asian-American women with students—but not with colleagues.
  4. Asian-Americans reported both more pressure than other groups of women to adhere to traditionally feminine roles and more pushback if they don’t.
  5. Latinas who behave assertively risk being seen as “angry” or “too emotional,” even when they report they weren’t angry; they just weren’t deferential.
  6. Latinas report being pressured by colleagues to do admin support work for their male colleagues, such as organizing meetings and filling out forms.
  7. Both Latinas and Black women report regularly being mistaken as janitors.

From the looks of the findings, there’s definitely a great deal of work to be done before the STEM playing field evens out. But the report introduces a new approach to organizational change to interrupt gender bias, called Metrics-Based Bias Interrupters, developed by Professor Williams last year.

Bias Interrupters uses a four-step iterative process: 1) survey women to find out whether they think gender bias is playing out in basic business systems (recruiting, assignments, evaluations, etc.); 2) develop objective metrics to test whether women’s perceptions are accurate; 3) implement “Bias Interrupters” to interrupt bias in real time; 4) see whether the relevant metric improves and, if it doesn’t, strengthen or modify the intervention.

Here’s hoping these “bias interrupters” can put a dent in that imperfect 100-percent score the next time research is done on the topic.

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