Posts belonging to Category employee policies

Another Sign Your Talent May Be Bolting: Hooky

160611067-- sick employeeA month ago, almost to the day, Editor David Shadovitz posted this about a Utah State University professor’s study laying out specific behaviors to look for in top talent about to head out the door.

I thought the signs themselves, as revealed by researcher Tim Gardner, were interesting and deserve repeating. Employees about to leave, he found:

  • Offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings;
  • Were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects;
  • Became more reserved and quiet;
  • Became less interested in advancing in the organization;
  • Were less interested in pleasing their boss than before;
  • Avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management; and
  • Began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.

Now, thanks to this from Monster Worldwide, we have another dimension to offer up in this flight-detection protocol: playing hooky. Or at least playing “I have a doctor’s appointment.”

According to Monster’s global poll, based on votes cast by Monster visitors from Dec. 2 through 6 of last year, 44 percent of respondents consider telling their boss they have a medical appointment to be the best excuse to leave work for a job interview.

The second-most-popular choice for getting out of work to interview for other work is also health-related: saying they’re sick, weighing in at 15 percent. Of course, the way I see it, both excuses — especially the latter — requires some play-acting as well, so perhaps there are some additional behavior traits we can read between the lines.

There were other non-health-related excuses — childcare, at 12 percent, and delivery/repairman at 8 percent — but faking personal health challenges topped the chart.

Especially interesting, I thought, were the differences in faking forte by country. As the Monster release states:

French respondents are the most likely to create faux doctor’s appointments when sneaking out for interviews, with 54 percent answering that they believe it is the best excuse;      conversely, French respondents are the least likely to fake an illness to excuse an interview-related absence, with only 7 percent selecting it as the best option. Respondents in the United States were the biggest proponents of the call-in-sick method, with 16 percent choosing illness as their preferred excuse. Canadian respondents were the least likely to use a delivery/repairman excuse, with under 7 percent selecting this option and were the most inclined to use a childcare-related excuse, with 16 percent picking this answer.”

Mary Ellen Slayter, a career-advice expert for Monster, says all employers ought to look at this as a reminder that “they have no choice but to be on both sides of this coin.”

“Making it easy for people to be honest is a good approach,” she says. “That means when you’re recruiting, make an effort to schedule interviews before or after work hours — or perhaps at lunch. With your own workers, don’t press them about how they’re spending their requested time off.”

As for what you’re supposed to do when you notice your top talent scheduling an inordinate number of doctor’s appointments, that’s anyone’s guess. I would think that might be a good time to start examining their engagement levels.

Gap Bets on a Higher Hourly Wage

Everyone’s talking about the recent Congressional Budget Office report that estimated raising the nation’s minimum hourly wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 could potentially eliminate 500,000 jobs, or about 0.3 percent of total employment. Opponents cite the 500,000 number, while supporters note that the report also estimated the higher wage would increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers in an average week.

San Francisco-based Gap Inc. isn’t waiting around — yesterday, CEO Glenn K. Murphy announced in a letter to the company’s employees that it would set the minimum hourly rate for its U.S. workforce at $9.00 per hour this year and establish a minimum of $10 per hour next year. “Our decision to invest in front-line employees will directly support our business, and is one we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

Murphy ended his letter with this:

The people in our company who engage directly with our customers carry an incredible responsibility. Our success is a result of their hard work, love of fashion and commitment. We hope this decision provides them with some additional support as they grow their careers with Gap Inc.”

According to a story in today’s New York Times, at Murphy’s previous position — CEO of Canadian pharmacy retailer Shoppers Drug Mart — he discovered that paying the chain’s hourly employees a higher wage than its competitors resulted in greater productivity per worker.

Gap employs 65,000 people in the United States at its Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores. The company has not taken a public position on whether the federal minimum wage should be raised.

Boomers and the Four-Day Work Week

Great post on by Richard Eisenberg in which he outlines the benefits — and some of the drawbacks — of offering employees four-day work weeks, especially one group in particular:

Giving staffers one weekday off would be especially appealing to the biggest chunk of the American labor force – boomers.

Many of them could use the free day to take their parents to doctor’s appointments or handle other eldercare duties, spend time with their grandkids, learn new skills and transition into retirement. Four-day workweeks can also let them cut their commutes.

After a parade of positive comments from experts on why four-day work weeks can be beneficial to employees (both young and not-so-young) and employers, Eisenberg then flips the coin to ask Jessica DeGroot – founder of the Third Path Institute, a Philadelphia-based group that aims to help employees lead “integrated” lives – why employers may not be more embracing such schedules more often:

1. Strong organizational norms on who gets ahead at work. DeGroot says managers tend to promote staffers who “put work first,” which typically means showing up every weekday.

2. Four-day workweeks add complexity to managers’ jobs. “It’s much easier to say to everyone, ‘Come in at the same time every day and work long hours,’” she says.

“Often, it isn’t that employers don’t want to offer four-day workweeks, it’s that they’re not sure what’s in it for them,” says [SHRM's co-leader of the Society for Human Resource Management Workplace Flexibility Initiative and partnership with the Families and Work Institute] Lisa Horn.

But one reason boomers may NOT appreciate a 4/10 schedule (four days a week, 10 hours per day) is simple, according to Groot:

“I’m 52 and I don’t have the energy I had when I was 22,” DeGroot says. “With a 4/10 schedule, I’d need the other day to recover and that defeats the whole purpose of a four-day workweek.”

NLRB Constitutionality Issue Raised in Hearing

Had an interesting chat recently with Ron Chapman — Dallas-based labor and employment attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, and outside counsel for D.R. Horton Inc.

Gavel and JudgeHorton, a Fort Worth, Texas-based homebuilder, is appealing the National Labor Relations Board’s January 2012 ruling that its individual-arbitration mandate every employee was required to sign, waiving their rights to class action, violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protecting employees’ rights to take such action to improve their working conditions.

Chapman had argued before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Horton’s behalf on Feb. 5 and said the hearing “went well.” (Here is a link to recordings of all the oral arguments presented in that case that day. Scroll down; you’ll find it. Here, too, is a piece that ran recently in the Dallas Business Journal offering some additional background.) Chapman expects the court to rule within 60 to 90 days.

What was especially interesting, Chapman told me, was the follow-up he received from the court three days after the argument. The court, he said, was directing both sides’ attorneys to draft additional briefs arguing whether they think the constitutionality of the NLRB board make-up at the time of its decision needs to be addressed before a ruling can be made. (As you’ll recall, in its recent decision in Noel Canning v. the National Labor Relations Board, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated the recess appointments of three members of the NLRB because, the court found, the U.S. Senate was not in recess at the time President Barack Obama made the appointments.)

For reference, here is an HREOnline blog post by Web Editor Mike O’Brien about that appeals-court ruling declaring Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill the NLRB vacancies. Here, too, is a Q&A O’Brien conducted with Joel S. Barras of Reed Smith on the ramifications and implications of that ruling.

Interestingly, this is the first case I’ve come across in which attorneys for both sides are being asked for their opinions as to whether a ruling can go forward or not without first addressing the constitutionality of the NLRB make-up in question.

Obviously, if Chapman and his counterpart both rule the appeals court’s decision should proceed without any bearing from the Canning case, then it will proceed. But, as Chapman told me, “if we both were to say it should not proceed until the constitutionality issue is addressed, then the board would not decide this case at this time.”

If you consider Barras’ description of such scenarios and multiply them out to all the cases decided by the NLRB with the Obama appointees, it could get messy:

It is important to note that, even if [regional] cases are invalid and the NLRB members lack the authority to take direct action, many of the board’s processes will continue. The various NLRB regions will continue to investigate unfair labor practice charges, issue complaints and try cases. Administrative law judges will continue to issue decisions and find violations of the Act.

The losing party, however, will likely appeal the decision to the board, which will effectively stay the [administrative law judge's] decision. That case will then be left in limbo until a quorum is properly appointed and rules on the decision, which would likely be delayed given the tremendous backlog of cases. In some limited instances, the board’s general counsel may seek injunctive relief in federal court to force a losing party who has appealed the decision to comply with the [administrative law judge’s] order, pending the NLRB’s eventual decision.




Social Media Strikes Again

Calling himself @theoldcfo on Twitter, Gene Morphis got done in by his use of new media — Twitter and Facebook, in particular.

Morphis, who was CFO of Francesca’s Holding Corp., made the mistake of posting inappropriate information about company doings, according to the Wall Street Journal:

On March 6, for instance, he tweeted: “Dinner w/Board tonite. Used to be fun. Now one must be on guard every second.” The following day, he posted “Board meeting. Good numbers=Happy Board.”

On March 13 Mr. Morphis posted on Facebook about a company earnings call: “Earnings released. Conference call completed. How do you like me now Mr. Shorty?”

Months earlier, on Dec. 5, he posted about another investor call. “Cramming for earnings call like a final. I thought I had outgrown that…”

Mr. Morphis also posted about an investor road show on Jan. 27: “Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week.” (The retailer held an initial public offering last July.)

The company said it launched an internal investigation with the assistance of outside counsel after discovering the activity on Friday afternoon. The company said Mr. Morphis was “terminated for cause.”

Francesca’s did have a social-media policy, according to the article, but creating a workable policy is no easy task in this ever-changing social-media world.

We recently ran an article on HREOnline™ that addresses the “Legal Ambiguities of Social Media,” by Seyfarth Shaw attorneys Jeffrey Berman and Erin Dougherty Foley. It’s definitely worth a read.

Force Feeding

In the highly watched case of Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, the Supreme Court of California handed down its decision (PDF) this afternoon, ruling — bottom line — that employers must provide meal breaks, but don’t have to force their workers to take them:

On the most contentious of these, the nature of an employer’s duty to provide meal periods, we conclude an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.

Steven Katz, an employment attorney with Reed Smith, says the opinion is “a clear victory for common sense.”

In deciding that California law requires employers to give employees the opportunity to take a meal break, but does not force employees to take a meal break that they do not want to take, the Court declared the law to be precisely what employees and employers have always thought: it is the employee’s choice to take a meal break, not something forced on employees by the government. Employers no longer have to say “no” to employees who prefer, for example, to work through lunch and leave early to attend their child’s school play.

He says it frees employers from “the specter of frivolous lawsuits,” and is “truly a win-win for employees and employers. The only clear losers today are the lawyers who make money off of waging class-action lawsuits.”

Sarah Goldstein, an employment partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo, notes there are other issues reviewed by the court and that there “will very likely still be some growing pains as the courts deal with various scenarios, implementation strategies and hiccups in the aftermath of Brinker. ”

Employers should plan how they will train managers, employees and payroll staff, so that policies are ready to roll out when the decision is ultimately rendered. Also, as employers begin to conduct year-end policy and practice reviews for 2012 updates, they should review existing meal and rest period policies and practices and begin to consider what changes, if any, will need to be made pending the possible outcomes of this decision.


And the Winners Are …

Gallup has just announced the winners of its 2012 Great Workplace Awards.  Twenty-seven companies were named to this year’s list, including three companies that have made the list for a record six consecutive times. The award is based on multiple criteria, according to Gallup, including overall engagement levels and evidence of the impact of high engagement levels on important business metrics. Gallup says it compares the applicants’ results against its database of millions of work teams in approximately 170 countries. A panel of experts chosen by Gallup reviews each organization’s portfolio, which consist of “quantitative and qualitative components.”

Rather than list all 27 winners, I thought I’d just highlight the organizations that have won the award multiple times, beginning with the six-time winners:

ABC Supply Co., Inc. (six-time winner)

Hendrick Health System (six-time winner)

Winegardner & Hammons, Inc. (six-time winner)

Stryker (five-time winner)

Adventist Health System (two-time winner)

Atlantica Hotels International (four-time winner)

Central Retail Corporation Ltd. (two-time winner)

Indian Hotels Company Limited (three-time winner)

Intermountain Healthcare (two-time winner)

Mars, Incorporated (three-time winner)

MemorialCare Health System (two-time winner)

Self Regional Healthcare (five-time winner)

Siam Commercial Bank (four-time winner)

Standard Chartered Bank (two-time winner)

The PNC Financial Services Group (four-time winner)

Transitions Optical, Inc. (three-time winner)

The EEOC’s “Worrisome” Four-Year Plan

Correction added:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released its 2012-2016 Strategic Plan and many management attorneys say it’s cause for some real concern. Of course, these folks are paid big bucks to, in part, be concerned about anything coming out of the EEOC. Nevertheless, considering that this particular document offers a roadmap as to where the EEOC plans to focus its resources during the next four years, HR leaders should definitely be paying attention.

Christopher DeGroff, cochair of Seyfarth Shaw’s complex discrimination litigation practice group, says the latest Plan would, among other things, combine the EEOC’s investigation and litigation arms, a move he says would result in an “integrated, holistic approach to enforcement from beginning to end, without separating the investigation and conciliation stage of the EEOC’s work from its litigation stage.” CORRECTION: The original post suggested this quote was from the EEOC’s actual Plan. The quote is actually from DeGroff himself. The EEOC’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan does not explicitly say anything about removing any boundaries between the investigation/conciliation and litigation stages. By doing this, the agency will essentially be erasing whatever line once existed between the two, with the result that investigations will now most likely serve as “launching pads for future litigation,” DeGroff told me in a recent interview. This flies in the face of what the EEOC was originally intended to do, he said, which was to “allow employers to look at policies and issues [that may be discriminatory] and informally resolve them before litigation.”

Another element of the Plan that concerns DeGroff is its emphasis on combatting systemic discrimination. In particular, the plan notes that the EEOC will “establish target percentages that will increase year over year to ensure that a [to-be-determined percentage] of the agency’s litigation docket are systemic cases” by the end of 2016. This is essentially establishing a quota for litigating systemic discrimination cases, according to DeGroff, and the results could be profound. “Cases of alleged systemic discrimination are very high stakes, they can sometimes be nationwide, they’re very expensive for employers, and I would not want to see the EEOC bringing these types of cases to meet some sort of internal metric,” he said. (You can read more from DeGroff and his colleagues about the EEOC and other legal matters here.)

I’m waiting to get the EEOC’s response to these and other concerns raised by DeGroff and other attorneys for a story I’m writing that will appear on our website shortly.


Discussion, But No Consensus from Summit Panelists

Panelists at the 3rd Annual Cornell University Executive Summit took up the issues of “changing demographics” and “social media and HR” — the two topics selected from a list of 12 by attendees at the HR in Hospitality™ Conference for a wide-ranging discussion.

There were lots of opinions by the group of 11 HR leaders and attorneys on the panel about the use of social media for recruiting, engagement, training, screening, to reconnect with alumni, you name it.

There was little controversy about its use for recruiting; using it for screening candidates was another story.

A.J. Kamra, corporate director of HR at Dow Hotel Co., said he questioned the judgment of candidates who posted inappropriate information that was visible to him – and he wouldn’t want to hire them.

Some others, including Alan Momeyer, VP of HR at Loews Corp., said they had better things to do than “trolling the Internet” looking for such information. “What is extremely offensive about someone in their 20s having a drink?” he asked.

Even when you’re not looking for information, however, you can sometimes find it — such as discovering from a Facebook status that a supervisor is dating a subordinate — but many of the panelists said HR professionals should forget about the medium. Just treat the matter the same as if they had learned the information otherwise, they said.

“Technology is just the means that exposes and creates that conversation. … It could easily happen over email or any other form,” said Robert Mellwig, senior vice president of human resources at Destination Hotels & Resorts.

As for social media policies, two attorney panelists — Paul Wagner, a shareholder at Shea Stokes Roberts & Wagner, and Gregg Gilman, a partner at Davis & Gilbert – disagreed on whether such policies should include any reference to the right of employees to criticize the company via the Internet, per recent National Labor Relations Board rulings.

Wagner thought HR should include a provision that requires such criticism to be “done respectfully.” Gilman disagreed, saying “respectfully” was too “ambiguous” a term, and that “at the end of the day … [the issue will devolve to] ‘did the employee go over the line?’ ”

Patricia Smith, senior VP of organizational design and HR at The Leading Hotels of the World, said HR should not take an “unempowered approach,” which results in being reactive instead of proactive in regard to social media.

“It’s here. It’s going to happen. It’s happening. Why not take an empowered approach?” she said.

Greg Smith, executive vice president of HR at Denihan Hospitality Group, agreed: “If you don’t embrace it, you risk losing your competitive edge.”

When talking about the changing demographics of the workforce, the discussion focused on the diverse needs of all ages, from Gen Yers beginning their work careers and those pre-retirement workers who can’t afford to retire, to mid-career employees who don’t want to uproot their families and relocate to continue their career progressions.

Mellwig said his organization has explored a “teacher pay model,” in one area that needs seasonal managers, so they are paid for nine months of work instead of 12 months. The flexibility suits the managers as well as the organization, he said.

Debbie Brown, VP of HR for the Americas at Four Seasons, said there are 11 moves generally required before an individual is made a general manager, but her organization has been looking at a “compressed career path,” which would require only four, providing for some of the progressions to take place without a relocation.

Several of the HR leaders spoke about the need to customize jobs, as well as the need to forget generational stereotypes — and focus on the individual and his or her career aspirations and abilities.

“We sometimes typecast our team members” said Momeyer, “… and we don’t look at them as individual talents … .”

Beware Conflicting Signals and Open-Ended Edicts

How many of you are parents, or know parents, who leave way too much up in the air when it comes to disciplining or setting boundaries for children?

You know the routine: “Absolutely no candy. And no means no.” “OK, just one but that’s it.” “OK, two, but no more. That’s final.” “Oh all right, three but you can’t eat the third one now. You have to wait till after dinner.” “OK, you can have it after lunch, but that’s the absolute last of this conversation.”

Nothing absolute about it, right? And haven’t we all been there at least once – either watching this scenario or, God forbid, participating in it – and either witnessed or experienced the crecsendo of bad behavior and ever-louder protests from the darling angels as more options are added to these nebulous commands?

Well, two behavioral scientists and professors at Duke University have just come out with new research that they say not only explains this crescendo of protests when the removal of rights or privileges leaves room for second-guessing, but can be translated to the workplace as well. (Oh, it also correlates to the current political unrest in the Middle East, but I’ll stick to the workplace.)

“Reactance Versus Rationalization: Divergent Responses to Policies That Constrain Freedom,” to be published in the February edition of Psychological Science, looks at how people react differently to restrictions on rights when those restrictions are communicated either as absolutes or as issues with even a sliver of “wiggle room.”

(One scenario in the study invloves a lowering of speed limits in which some study participants were told the limits were definitely coming and the other group was told they would take effect only if government officials voted to enact them.) In essence, those getting absolutes rationalized and accepted them more, whereas those in the non-absolute group reacted vehemently against them.

The methodology and metrics are in the study itself, which is available here, but does require a subscription to Psychological Science. Here is the full release from Duke that explains a good bit more than I can in a blog post.

I spoke to Gavan Fitzsimons, co-author of the study and a professor of marketing and psychology at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, and asked him to put this in workplace terms. “Say a manager wants to impose a restriction on personal-computer use in the office,” he says. “You could say you’ve consulted with folks and you’ve come to a decision and there will be a monitoring device that will ensure absolute follow-through. Or you could say, ‘We’re going to put this policy in place and we’ll revisit it in a month to get your perspective or response.’

“If you go with the former,” he says, “people will actually generate rationalizations and explanations for why this is necessary and important, but when there’s a peak of a window of a chance it could be reversed, people will react in a totally different way: ‘That’s the stupidest thing in the world!’ ”

What’s it all mean for employers? At a time when there’s much discussion about engaging employees and making sure they know they have an integral role in the business and sometimes even a voice in the decision-making process, “be real careful how you communicate it,” Fitzsimons says.

“If your goal is to have a happy workforce,” he says, “what we would argue based on these findings is that, in many ways, it’s more productive to use these absolute restrictions. Employees will actually generate reasons why the limit or restriction is good. They’ll actually generate justifications and be happier.

“If you manage this poorly and don’t provide the absolute,” he adds, “they’ll be unhappy, with high anxiety, high arousal and aggression [might I add high decibels], and you won’t have a productive workforce. It’s like disciplining children. They need that wall, that absolute ‘No’ in order to thrive.”

Go figure.