Category Archives: HR leadership

Maersk Goes Global with New Maternity Benefits

You might say the parental-benefits bandwagon has just charged into the world arena. Copenhagen, Denmark-based Maersk Group 505017852--pregnancyannounced recently that, starting April 4, it will be implementing a new global guaranteed 18-weeks-minimum, fully paid maternity leave  for all its female employees.

Worldwide, the maternity policy would affect more than 23,000 employees. Once implemented in the United States, it will boost the current six-weeks leave to 18 for more than 1,200 women. It will also improve terms for women working for Maersk in at least 51 countries.

In addition, it will include a return-to-work program, giving onshore employees the opportunity to work 20 percent fewer hours at full contractual pay within the first year of birth or adoption.

“This new policy supports our aim to retain our talents and attract even more in the future — this way, strengthening our business results,” says Michael White, president and CEO of Maersk Line North America.

Maersk Line’s Asia Pacific Chief Robbert Van Trooijen, in a recent story on Seanews.com, says the new policy “supports our aim to retain the talented women working in the group and attract even more to gain access to future and wider talent pools … .”

The move was predicated on research conducted for Maersk by New York-based KPMG suggesting maternity-leave policies have an influence on the labor-market participation by contributing to higher employement rates of women.

The move doesn’t mark a first in the recent march by large, big-name companies to enhance parental-leave benefits in an effort to boost retention, reputation and employer brand. A search of this HRE Daily site yields numerous posts about this march, some might say race, to board the parental-leave bandwagon. So too does a search of HRE‘s website, HREOnline.com.

So will there be more bandwagon jumpers globally, what with Maersk leading the charge? I put this question to Kenneth Matos, senior director of research for the New York-based Families and Work Institute. What he had to say is worth sharing, particularly as it applies to HR leaders:

“I do believe that more multinationals will be pursuing improved maternity-leave and other benefits policies. One, because centralized and standardized benefits programs are easier to manage than a grab bag of varied policies impacted by an array of international legal frameworks. Offering everyone a high-end multinational program is easier to manage, avoids lawsuits from accidentally violating a country’s laws with a policy legal in another country, and avoids organizational culture clashes as employees around the world compare their benefits.”

He goes on:

“I believe that a single, affordable, multinational benefits program is the holy grail of the benefits industry. Second, there has been a recent wave of organizations attempting to outdo each other on employee benefits. The battle for talent is reigniting as the predicted retirement boom begins to pick up steam — reducing the size of the workforce –and more jobs require uncommon skills that take years of education or experience to cultivate — a major problem for a shrinking labor force.

“Organizations will want to be seen as leaders and many HR executives and benefits teams should prepare for calls from senior executives to benchmark their benefits programs against their competitors.  It is essential for HR executives to keep cool heads and examine their benefits in terms of what their people want and need rather than offering extensive benefits just to make a social or political statement. Especially if the organizational or local  cultures will suppress the usage of these elaborate offerings or interest will wane over time and leaders might call for a reversal if the benefits structure doesn’t work for their organization and staff.”

Sounds like advice worth heeding, or at least considering.

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Pay for Performance is Given a Poor Grade

Money on hand.

Money on hand.

Employers have long embraced the notion of paying for performance. But are these programs really making a difference? Are they really leading to better employee performance?

If we’re to believe the latest survey of 150 companies coming out of Willis Towers Watson, the impact these efforts are having on organizations leaves something to be desired.

According to the Arlington, Va.-based consultancy, the vast majority of North American employers say their pay-for-performance programs are falling short when it comes to driving individual performance.

Moreover, the survey finds that only one in five companies (20 percent) find merit pay to be effective at driving higher levels of individual performance at their organizations. Further, just under one-third (32 percent) report their merit-pay programs are effective at differentiating pay based on individual performance.

Nor are employers the only ones giving these programs low marks. Only about half of employees say these programs are effective at boosting individual performance levels; and even fewer (47 percent) believe annual incentives effectively differentiate pay based on how well employees perform.

Why the low marks?

Part of the reason is employers are either trapped in a business-as-usual approach or suffering from a me-too mentality when it comes to their programs, according to Laura Sejen, global practice leader for rewards at Willis Towers Watson.

Sejen elaborates …

“Pay-for-performance programs, when designed and implemented effectively, are great tools to drive performance, and recognize and reward employees. However, conventional thinking on pay for performance is no longer appropriate. Companies need to define what performance means for their organization[s] and how managers can ensure they are driving the right performance, and re-evaluate the objectives of their reward programs to ensure they are aligned with that definition.”

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed say managers at their organization consider the knowledge and skills required in an employee’s current role when making merit-increase decisions, according to the study. That compares to fewer than half (46 percent) who say their programs are designed to take these performance indicators into consideration.

The Willis Towers Watson findings probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to those in HR, since they echo the findings of other studies we’ve reported on in the past.

Roughly a year ago, for instance, we reported on research by Organizational Capital Partners and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute that found 80 percent of S&P 1500 companies are not measuring the right metrics, over the right period of time, for performance-based executive compensation.

So what’s the key takeaway here? Well, if we’re to believe the research, it’s the fact that employers clearly have a lot more work to do when it comes to pay for performance—and no one knows this better than the companies themselves.

But, of course, knowing and doing something about it are two entirely different things.

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Xerox’s Move to Split Into Two

The spin-offs keep spinning.

Friday’s announcement by Xerox that it will separate into two entities caps a lot of spin-off activity of late. This latest, as announced here on USA Today‘s website, will 504855042--splitseparate the office-equipment giant into two companies, an $11-billion document-technology company and a $7 billion business-services company.

The company says the transaction into two independent publicly-traded companies is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

These “significant actions … define the next chapter of our company,” Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns told the paper in a conference call Friday morning.

This certainly underscores the spin-off mania that Will Bunch’s September cover story in HRE, “Split Decision,” alluded to. His focus, of course, was on the impact these mega-transactions are having on human resource departments and their leaders. As his piece puts it:

“Most of the headlines over the big, high-profile spin-offs — the Hewlett-Packard split, eBay and PayPal, General Electric and its credit-card unit Synchrony Financial, Time-Warner and its publishing unit Time, Sears and Land’s End — have focused on what the moves could mean for investors. But when they say — as in the words of the old Neil Sedaka song — that “breaking up is hard to do,” in the business world they’re probably talking about the HR department.

“Indeed, much of the heavy lifting for these spin-offs — deciding who stays with the old company and who goes, filling vacancies and new positions, making critical decisions about pay and benefits, and fostering employee enthusiasm and answering anxious questions while developing a new, unique culture at the spin-off — falls upon HR executives.”

Although early reports don’t include specifics about the impact this division will have on Xerox’s HR function — now functions, no doubt — Burns did tell the paper that the two post-split companies will be “more flexible, more responsive and essentially more fit and focused for the market that we are attacking.”

The report also notes Xerox’s 140,000 employees worldwide will be divided up thusly: About 104,000 will be part of the business-services outsourcing company and the other 40,000 will make up the document-technology company.

It will be interesting to see how this latest in the spin-off string plays out, especially as it relates to HR. As Bunch notes in his story:

“HR executives who’ve worked through the spin-off process say the biggest personnel changes don’t usually affect the operating infrastructure of two companies — manufacturing and sales, for example — because those functions tend to stay largely intact. It’s a different story, they say, with shared services and in the corporate offices.”

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CEO Turnover vs. CEO Tenure: Two Takes

Interesting, somewhat divergent reports on CEO longevity appeared recently from some big-name research consultancies. 178083845--CEOsuccessionOne, a study from Equilar compiled for CNNMoney, shows tenure for S&P 500 CEOs has increased nearly a full year since 2005. As the CNN report states,

A decade ago, CEOs typically spent five years at the helm of one of America’s top 500 publicly traded companies. It might seem like a small increase, but it’s a notable shift from the Great Recession and financial crisis when a lot of executives got fired. Those who survived — or came on board in the new wave — are keeping their posts.

In fact, more specifically, according to Equilar’s report on the study it performed, “in 2014, the average S&P 500 CEO had served an average of 7.4 years, and 6.0 at the median. Ten years ago, those figures were 6.6 and 5.2, respectively.”

Equilar claims there’s “one simple explanation” for the rising average: a collection of long-standing CEOs at the top of the list, people like Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, who’s held his post for 45 years, and L Brands’ Leslie Wexner, who sits at the top of the list with 52 years at his company. As soon as these top guns start to retire, you’ll see the average tenures start to fall, says Equilar.

But for now, they’re a full year higher than they were a decade ago.

Juxtapose that with the latest report from Challenger Gray & Christmas, as reported in the Center Valley Business Times — showing a jump in CEO departures toward the end of 2015. Specifically, December CEO exits were 33 percent higher than the 86 changes in November and 7 percent higher than the 107 CEO departures in December 2014.

(Despite the December surge, though, the yearly total of 1,221 CEO departures in 2015 was 9 percent lower than the 1,341 departures in 2014, according to the Challenger report.)

So are CEOs staying or going? Hard to say.

But whatever the numbers tell us, this post can also serve as a reminder that it’s never too early to put your best foot forward in devising the best CEO-succession plan for your organization. This post by me almost two years ago suggested then there was still much improvement needed in this area. (That March 2014 post also shows a decline in CEO turnover at the start of that year.)

At least we can say, with CEO turnover holding fairly steady and tenure on the rise, there’s some time, at least, to get succession at the top post right.

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How Favoritism-Free Do You Really Want to Be?

Here’s an interesting question for you to ponder on Martin Luther King Day, posed in this piece by Simma Lieberman on the Workforce 478884006 -- hiring biasDiversity Network: “Before you spend your next dollar on unconscious-bias training, ask yourselves if you just want people to have a good day, [and] forget or not apply what they learn, or if you want ongoing change that will make you a benchmark organization and the employer of choice.”

Though she doesn’t exactly say the former is generally what happens in companies that espouse diversity transformations, it’s implied in her piece, How Can Unconscious Bias Training Go Wrong?

Basically, she says, if you really want to establish a meaningful and effective diversity and inclusion culture without favoritism, one that results in “breakthrough innovation, [you need to instill] transformation at every level, risk-taking and the willingness to be uncomfortable.”

And that starts at the top, she says: “The CEO and other people on the executive team need to be the first ones to learn about unconscious bias and how it impacts their leadership behavior. We have our clients take the Implicit Association Test from Harvard, to be aware of their own biases. Transformation begins at the top and doesn’t stop!”

In her helpful numbered list of ways to add value to unconscious-bias training, Lieberman also stresses the need to “involve and seek input from people who manage all levels of the recruiting process. They need to be aware of their unconscious bias in the whole hiring process from where and how they recruit, how they write the job description, how they conduct the interview, and ways in which they develop rapport,” she writes.

Which reminds me of a piece I posted last Martin Luther King Day,  “Favoritism is No Friend of Diversity.” In it, Kansas City Star writer Michelle T. Johnson gets at the heart of just how insidious and nebulous favoritism is among managers and HR leaders when they’re making personnel decisions:

“What does favoritism even look like? Favoritism is usually about choice. In some workplaces, the work and the people who do it don’t have much variance in how the work is done and who does it. However, in other workplaces, work decisions are made frequently — assignments, shifts, territories, days off. With most decisions come subjective judgments. Every industry and workplace is so different, yet everyone can probably relate to some area of the job that bosses influence [subjectively] at least weekly.

“People are quick to defend their decisions, saying they base them on the best person to do the job. But over time, what conditions have you created to allow, for example, one person to inevitably do the job better than another? And if that has happened, what is the reason? Is it that the person reminds you of yourself or has similar interests, or because the person has a personality you find easier to get along with?”

Dave Kipe, chief operating officer for New York-based ABCO HVACR Supply + Solutions, who describes himself as “passionate about leadership behavior and the impact it can have in our workplace and our lives,” got back to me after that favoritism post, underscoring the need for business leaders to be more “self-aware and conscious of their implicit behavior [and bias-tinged] body language.” He calls their failures in this regard a “pitfall many leaders fall into, but don’t even acknowledge exists.”

I reached out to him about Lieberman’s post as well, considering how closely intertwined unconscious bias and favoritism are. He had a lot to say:

“I think most of us have this inflated self-perception that we are unconditionally ethical and perfectly unbiased. We are confident in our decision-making abilities and proud that we are ‘great judges of people.’ However, research has shown that’s simply not true.

“In Lieberman’s case in point, the employees embraced the ‘unconscious bias’ training, but the company didn’t sustain that focus; therefore, nothing changed. Her point that ‘there is an unconscious — and sometimes conscious — bias that people at the lower levels don’t need to be involved or won’t understand the new culture’ really resonated with me. Company leaders must engage the entire organization and drop the narcissistic attitude that employees are just too dumb or too ignorant to understand.

“Unconscious bias in the workplace is seldom discussed, but it’s impact is deep and, if uncontrolled, it can be destructive. Training is a critical component of creating a culture of inclusion, but it’s money and time wasted if not supported by the organization.”

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Capturing the Gen Z Zeitgeist

By the time any new generation enters the workforce, employers and experts have already twisted themselves into knots trying to figure out what makes these young workers tick, and what makes them happy.

Perhaps no cohort has been dissected more thoroughly than millennials, a group that many estimates predict will comprise as much as 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025.

For example, we’ve heard (ad nauseam) about Gen Y workers’ nomadic tendencies, their preference to converse via email, IM, text message or just about any means other than face-to-face communication, and the underdeveloped people skills they possess as a result of this reliance on technology.

Naturally, such broad characterizations can’t be applied to every employee in a given generation, but, for better or worse, these are some of the common perceptions surrounding millennial-age workers.

And it’s those perceptions that make some of the data found in a new Institute for Corporate Productivity white paper focusing on Generation Z—defined by i4cp as those born between 1995 and 2012—all the more interesting.

(Click here for more background on the white paper, which is available for download to i4cp members.)

It’s easy—especially for a cynical, closing-in-fast-on-middle-age Gen Xer like me—to assume that each successive generation of workers will have a lesser sense of loyalty to their employers, or will become that much more dependent on technology at the expense of actual, personal interaction, for example.

But, judging from the input i4cp gathered from a focus group of 600 high school seniors, making such assumptions about Gen Z would be way off the mark.

For instance, 60 percent of the aforementioned students said they would like to stay with one company for more than 10 years, with another 31 percent saying they’d like to stick with the same organization for 20-plus years.

Or, consider that eight in 10 of these youngsters indicated that they prefer in-person communication (!), and 37 percent said they believe technology has a negative impact on people skills.

These same respondents seem to suggest an independent streak runs through Gen Z as well, with half saying they would prefer to have their own private work area as opposed to an “open concept” office or shared workspace. In fact—and I’m not sure how or why this very specific scenario was presented to participants—35 percent of the high school seniors surveyed said they would sooner share socks than an office space.

Organizational leaders such as those in HR are “at a critical crossroads” with respect to the multiple generations that make up their workforces, including Generation Z, the white paper notes.

Indeed, employers are already faced with trying to capture the knowledge of the millions of baby boomers creeping up on retirement age, and grooming Gen X- and Gen Y-age workers to fill the leadership void that will be created when those boomers leave, as the paper points out.

In addition, “employers are still grappling with millennials’ perceived sense of entitlement and knowing that they still always have one foot out the door,” according to the white paper authors. “Reacting to these gaps will be paramount to the success of businesses large and small.”

Organizations cannot shift into “reactive mode,” the authors continue, “lest a whole new set of gaps will develop and perhaps push them to the breaking point. But the reality is that Gen Z is already showing up, and leaders need to decide if they want to be prepared to welcome them (and [whether] they want to be ahead of the curve or not).”

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Leadership Development Needs Sponsorship at Top

There has certainly been no dearth of studies and stories, both here at HRE and beyond, on the challenges and failings of leadership-82821233 -- business leaderdevelopment programs. Here, for instance, is our last look at this problem that Staff Writer Mark McGraw wrote about on Nov. 30.

In that piece, sources told McGraw a major stumbling block keeping most leadership-development initiatives from succeeding is the tendency for line leaders to hand the LD reins over to human resources without taking responsibility for the huge role they, themselves, play in steering those initiatives.

As Debbie Lovich, head of the Boston Consulting Group’s  Leadership and Talent Enablement Center in Boston, says in that story:

“As soon as [those reins are handed over, talent issues are] disconnected from the business. You see it happen when line leaders are developing plans for their businesses, and ownership for anything to do with talent goes to HR. … [T]he best-in-class companies don’t just throw it over the fence to HR.”

Now, the latest global study on this issue by Los Angeles-based Korn Ferry suggests the inherent problems with leadership development have less to do with who’s taking responsibility and more to do with who’s sponsoring the effort.

The study, Real World Leadership, which polled more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries, found a “lack of executive sponsorship” to be the chief barrier. Survey respondents not only indicated there was a general lack of active sponsorship, buy-in and support from the top, but they expressed disappointment in the programs altogether, with 55 percent of respondents ranking their return on such efforts as only “fair” to “very poor.”

“Executives have identified the crux of the problem,” says Noah Rabinowitz, a Korn Ferry senior partner and global head of leadership development. “The next step is to identify practical steps to create a solution.

“Given the central role leadership plays in the success of any organization,” he adds, “the view of leadership development has to shift from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’ business process, as integral as the supply chain, marketing or IT.”

Dési Kimmins, Korn Ferry’s principal consultant, had some very specific and practical advice for HR leaders seeking executive buy-in for leadership development:

“The first step … is to start with strategic business needs. Executives must examine what challenges the organization currently faces, where the business is going and the leadership profile that will help the company get where it needs to go. This process starts with the C-suite, and must sustain that level of endorsement and sponsorship to be successful. The most senior leaders need to engage in the development strategy and insist the impact is regularly measured and reported.

“People assume that development happens naturally, but that’s not necessarily the case. A CEO, for example, not only has to run a business but also [has to] deal with a large number of external stakeholders, such as shareholders, the board of directors, business partners and even the media …  . That’s why stepping into the CEO role is sometimes described as a career change, not just another step on the career ladder. Development and feedback even at this level are essential when so much is at stake.”

Even more specifically, the report lists tips for increasing the effectiveness of leadership development and creating a robust and sustainable leadership pipeline:

  • Embed leadership development in the culture and strategy, ensuring it is consistently sponsored by top executives.

  • Embrace the idea that leadership development is a continuous process and not just made up of one-time classes or one-off events.

  • Make leadership development more relevant and engaging by focusing programs on the organization’s current strategies and business issues.

  • Roll out relevant and appropriate development for all levels in the organization, including senior-most executives and the C-suite.

  • Don’t cut back on investing in leadership development when times get tough. That is the time to double down on efforts.

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A Few Lessons from a Few HR-Related Fiascos

I thought this might be a good post the day before New Year’s Eve. Consider these Key Lessons from Recent HR Fiascos that O.C. Tanner’s 499235312 -- fiascosDavid Sturt and Todd Nordstrom posted on their company blog a while back some good reminders heading into the new year that what you think might work in the world of management and HR can easily backfire. So tread and think carefully before implementing your wonderful 2016 workforce-management ideas.

In all fairness and full disclosure, Sturt’s and Nordstrom’s first lesson isn’t really a fiasco unleashed by human resource professionals, but it does speak to HR’s compensation oversight and what can go very wrong with a good idea.

Remember Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, who announced his plan to raise the company’s minimum wage to $70,000 in order to do his part to lessen the pay gap between CEOs and the average worker? I spoke with Sturt about this. It seems Price had gotten hold of a Princeton University study back in 2010 indicating that, “when people were trying to meet their needs and they made generally less than $75,000, there was less contentment, happiness and a sense of well-being,” Sturt says.

But when you go over that amount, “the happiness quotient doesn’t rise in accordance and in step with raised increments,” he says. So Price brought top salaries — including his own — down while raising the minimum to a happy $70,000. Problem was, he didn’t run it by the other principles, including his own co-founder brother, who filed a lawsuit against Price that is now pending.

Sturt and Nordstrom write:

“As one disgruntled ex-employee of the company told the New York Times, it isn’t exactly fair for top performers to be compensated the same as slackers. That undermines motivation for people to go above and beyond. Whether you agree with this assessment or not is neither here nor there. At the end of the day, Dan’s good intentions brought him negative publicity, and he had to suffer the consequences.”

Then there’s the Amazon fiasco. We’ve all probably read the criticisms published in the New York Times of its hard/harsh-driving culture. What was behind it were all the metrics and measurements that were simply established to raise performance and productivity. Problem was, as the two write, “numbers don’t reveal the whole picture: not for employee engagement, not for performance, and not for [the] ability to lead and execute.”

The other culprit at Amazon, Sturt tells me, was HR itself. In his words, “Seems like HR got overrun there.” Amazon’s HR leaders did not have the self-confidence and guts, he says, to march into the offices of the CEO and other top leaders and voice their concerns — and they had to have had some, given their skills in people perceptions. “If HR isn’t stepping up,” he says, “then who is? Of course they’re taking their cues from the top, but it’s an important role for HR to be a company-culture fiduciary, if you will.”

Granted, he does see boldness growing among top HR leaders in general: “I do see it in personally strong chief human resource officers. You bump into them and you know their CEOs look at them as partners. You know they’re co-creating a culture that is both human and performance-driven.” Problem is, there still aren’t enough of them out there.

Sturt says he is seeing a fundamental shift among all top leaders, many of whom are now questioning, ” ‘What kind of place are we promoting as a place to work?’ ” And that, he says, “is creating an opportunity for HR leaders to really speak to that, and talk about principles and purpose; things that weren’t necessarily on the discussion board” a short while ago.

And No. 3 on this list of HR fiascos to mull? The fact that unlimited paid vacation and unlimited parental leave — and who hasn’t heard about this lately? (think Netflix, GE and, once again, Amazon) — come with strings attached. As Sturt and Nordstrom write,

“Offering all the paid-time-off in the world won’t fix your overworked employee problem unless the rest of your culture supports employees who take time off instead of punishing them.”

Sturt actually came back from a worldwide business tour and “saw the same kinds of things being played out in Bangalore, for instance,” he tells me. “They have the same problem we have in the states: If you really take that time, offered though it may be, you really aren’t a team player. [Those left holding the new parent’s bag, for example], are also left questioning why ‘I have to do your work.’ ”

His recommendation to HR?

“Just be mindful of the broader cultural norm you’re trying to set and weigh the initiative against it. You might make lots of changes without fitting them into the ultimate corporate goal.

“You may end up ‘Frankensteining’ it, with a bolt here and a stitch there, and you end up with a monster.

“Think before you say, ‘We gotta do this or we won’t compete’ [with all the bandwagon-hoppers].”

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The HR Leader as Anthropologist

When two of an organization’s highest-ranking individuals resign within hours of each other, it’s usually not because things are going exceptionally well.

As you’ve no doubt heard, both the president and chancellor at the University of Missouri stepped down from their respective posts this past Monday. Their resignations came in the midst of a student-led outcry over a lack of action taken by the U of M administration in response to several racially-driven incidents on the predominately white campus in recent years.

Leadership at the Columbia, Mo.-based institution—the flagship of the University of Missouri System—had been feeling the heat from all sides. Now-former university president Tim Wolfe, in particular, came under intense scrutiny for what a tweet from Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians described as his “negligence toward marginalized students’ experience” at the school.

For example, African-American players from the Mizzou football team—with the full support of their white teammates—declared on Nov. 8 that they would neither play nor practice until Wolfe was removed from his position as the university’s president.

Just five days earlier, grad student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike that he said would last until Wolfe was ousted. On Nov. 9, the Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet called for Wolfe to resign.

That same day, Wolfe obliged them, with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announcing just hours later that he would be leaving his job effective Jan. 1, transitioning to a role coordinating research at the university.

The question of how to eliminate or even curb racism on a college campus or anywhere else is one that’s entirely too large for us to attempt to take on in this space. But we can’t help but ask—from our admittedly very safe and very distant vantage point—could the HR function at the university have done anything to help prevent the tensions simmering on the U of M campus from reaching a boil?

That’s a tough question to answer from an outsider’s perspective, of course. But what’s unfolding at the school illustrates the importance of one of the HR leader’s many roles, says Dave Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“Good HR folks have a sense of what’s happening,” says Ulrich. “Sometimes HR analytics look only at spreadsheet, empirical data. [But], there is another field of analytics called anthropology.”

Acting as an anthropologist of sorts, as Ulrich explains, an HR professional should observe, listen and anticipate patterns to get a handle on how people within the organization—students and faculty members, in this case—are feeling, and how they’re relating to each other.

At the University of Missouri, he says, “it should not [have] come as a surprise that racial tension existed and persists. HR should have looked for this [tension] and then created forums for dialogue so that very emotionally charged issues could be discussed.”

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Parental Leave Enters Political Storm, Too

Paid parental leave has certainly taken over the media waves of big businesses trying to one-up each other in just how accommodating 510042321-- parents & newbornto new parents they can be. (See our most recent HRE Daily posts on large companies announcing such leave accommodations, including Michael J. O’Brien’s post just Wednesday on Amazon’s plan to up its allotted leave for new parents and allow them to share their paid time with partners not employed there.)

In addition to this race toward better policies, however, paid parental leave has entered a political-football frenzy of late as well. Just as Amazon was making its announcement Monday via a memo to all employees, newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was in the news for resisting calls to back a federal paid-family-leave law.

And this despite his outspoken desire to spend more time with his own family, according to this Huffington Post piece and this — far-more critical — piece on dailykos.com, as well as the fact that he provides his own staff with paid family leave.

“Because I love my children and I want to be home on Sundays and Saturdays like most people doesn’t mean I’m for taking money from hardworking taxpayers to create a brand new entitlement program,” Ryan told Meet the Press in a recent taping. He thinks offering such leave is up to employers; it’s their role, not the government’s.

Yes, that’s the common Republican stance — less federal control in favor of more individual control — but personally, says Terri L. Rhodes, CEO of the San Diego-based Disability Management Employer Coalition, the Paul Ryans of the world, as well as most all businesses and politicians from both sides of the aisle, “are all probably thinking mandated paid family leave is a good thing.”

Small and mid-sized businesses, especially, tend to be in favor of a federal mandate, she says, because they can’t necessarily afford the sweeping changes and allowances big businesses can in their attempts to stay one step ahead of their competition.

This mad race is further compounded by the fact that some states — including New Jersey,  California and Rhode Island — already offer some kind of paid family leave, and some states, and many companies, are backing paid sick leave as well.

“For big multi-state or global companies,” says Rhodes, “they can afford to figure how all this fits in with their policies and costs.” They can find a way to make it all work. But for smaller and mid-sized businesses, it’s much more complex “when it comes to considering provisions and accruals” and such.

“If we had a mandated paid leave,” she says, the playing field would be leveled more in terms of “what is expected; it would be more cut-and-dried.”

What’s more, she adds, many large corporations may espouse more liberal parental-leave policies, but don’t actually “support the policy that’s just been announced” when it comes to the corporate culture. The actual taking of the leave may still be frowned upon internally, but the external employer brand comes out smelling like a rose.

The sad reality — in the United States, anyway — is that “having a family still isn’t looked on as a great career path,” Rhodes says. “That’s a problem for everyone” — big business, small business … and Paul Ryan.

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