Category Archives: HR profession

The State of Year-End Bonuses

For many workers, 2017 will end on an extra jolly note, according to new research from global staffing firm Robert Half.

More than half of  300 senior managers surveyed (51 percent) said they expect year-end bonus levels to be at least somewhat higher than 2016. Just 10 percent of respondents reported bonus amounts will decrease, and 39 percent anticipate no change in bonuses.

When those senior managers were asked, “Do you expect year-end bonus levels to be higher or lower than last year?” they responded:

Much higher


Somewhat higher


No change from last year


Somewhat lower


Much lower




Separate Robert Half research found workers’ performance only partly determines their bonus. In the survey, just 16 percent of HR professionals reported bonuses are based solely on individual work, compared to 27 percent who said amounts are influenced by employee and company results. Another 22 percent said they factor individual, team and company success into bonus decisions.

“Bonuses are a key recruiting and retention tool, especially with the intense competition for top performers,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “If budgets are tight, other ways to recognize exceptional work at the end of the year include gift cards, a department celebration or additional time off for the holidays.”

McDonald added, “To enhance their chances of securing in-demand candidates near year-end, particularly in today’s hiring market, savvy companies are offering job seekers a sign-on bonus to offset a performance bonus they would have received from their existing employer.”


Healthcare’s Looming Talent Troubles

If you are an HR leader in the healthcare sector, there’s good news and bad news on the jobs front. The good news is the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that healthcare jobs will be among the fastest-growing in the nation by 2026. BLS projects health care will account for about 2.3 million new jobs over the next nine years.  Growth is good.

The bad news? Pinpointing exactly how to fill those jobs won’t be easy, depending on location.

A recent U.S. healthcare labor market analysis from Mercer compares future supply and demand of workers to project workforce availability across 50 healthcare occupations through 2025. According to the report, the projected supply of healthcare workers in several states will fall short of demand.

In terms of category, more than half of the new jobs the BLS forecast – around 1.6 million combined – will come from employment of personal care aides, home health aides and registered nurses, driven by an American population that’s trending older, sicker and more sedentary.

“These high-growth jobs will likely have gaps in demand and supply of workers,” said Jason Narlock, senior consultant, Workforce Strategy and Analytics at Mercer, in a company statement.  “While BLS figures show employment for Home Health Aides is expected to grow forty-seven percent in 2026, our analysis shows that providers might find it tough to fill all these roles – with each state facing a likely gap of 2,000 workers on average by 2025.”

Potential gaps in key worker availability will greatly impact healthcare employers as they consider the future-ready workforce they need to deliver quality patient care, Narlock explains. Mercer recommends employers should:

  • Understand full exposure to potential workforce risks – both external and internal. In addition to considering external labor market risks, employers must also understand the flow of employees in, through and out of its organization for the full picture.
  • Be proactive to mitigate the impact – While employers can’t control what is happening in the external labor market, effectively managing internal labor markets can help mitigate exposure to these risks.
  • Figure out how proposed workforce changes will impact patient health and satisfaction. Before making large investments, employers can use data and analytics to better understand the likely impact of changes on patient metrics.

“The good news is that much of this work relies on data that healthcare systems already collect,” Narlock said. “It’s not a matter of getting new data, but better leveraging data to develop empirical insights that will drive strategic workforce planning and build a future-ready workforce.”

HR’s Top Challenges for 2018

It’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

Mass shootings in Las Vegas, Sullivan Springs, Texas and elsewhere; a botched repeal of the Affordable Care Act and ongoing gridlock in the nation’s capital and, within the last two months, an almost daily drumbeat of sexual harassment allegations against leading figures in the entertainment, media and political realms — hardly any facet of American life was left undisturbed in an unusually eventful year in which it seemed abnormality in all things was “the new normal.”

A new survey from XpertHR  on the top 15 most challenging HR compliance issues for next year reveals that, unsurprisingly, current events are weighing heavily on the minds of HR leaders these days as they look ahead to 2018. Among their most pressing concerns is workplace violence: 45 percent of the 1,000 HR professionals surveyed identified preparing for, or responding to, an active shooter or workplace violence as very or extremely challenging. (In fact, concerns over deadly  workplace violence have given rise to new businesses dedicated to training and preparing employees for how to deal with an active shooter situation).

An emerging, patchwork crazy quilt of state and local regulations on marijuana legalization is also giving employers fits, with 35 percent of survey respondents feeling very or extremely challenged by managing employees who use marijuana medically or recreationally. Meanwhile, 32 percent cited addressing the impact of illicit substance abuse (such as heroin or opioids) in the workplace as very or extremely challenging.

“Just as with alcohol, it is lawful to prohibit an employee from bringing both lawful and unlawful drugs to work and use such substances on the job because of the risks drug use may have on the safety and productivity in the workplace,” says Beth Zoller, XpertHR’s legal editor. “Employers need to stay on top of federal, state and local developments as this is a rapidly evolving and changing issue.”

One of the headline-grabbing developments from earlier this year — the massive data breach that took place at Equifax — is illustrative of another top concern for HR going into 2018: protecting their organizations from cyber theft. Sixty four percent of respondents cited data security and the threat of a cyber breach as very or extremely challenging.

The legislative chaos in Washington is also extending into the workplace, particularly the uncertainty over healthcare reform, with 46 percent of respondents viewing the ACA as very or extremely challenging and 40 percent viewing ACA reporting as very or extremely challenging.

However, there’s an upside for employers now that a politically conservative presidential administration is in place, says Zoller.

“The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is sure to have an impact on labor and employment law cases and ensure a conservative majority in favor of employers and management-side issues,” she says. “The rollback of agency authority and more restrictive policies of the National Labor Relations Board and the EEOC will potentially have a positive impact on employers, who may be subject to less regulations.”

Emotional Intelligence in Recruiting

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, emotional intelligence will need to be a Top 10 skill for all workers.

So what does that mean for recruiters?

More than you might think, according to Caroline Stokes, who presented the session “How Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Recruiter” during the Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech conference in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Considering the fact that the U.S. Air Force recently switched to emotionally intelligent recruiters and saved $3 million in operating costs, Stokes says that shows there is a definite bottom-line impact on the organization when choosing emotionally intelligent recruiters over typically trained recruiters.

Stokes is founder and CEO of both her recruiting agency FORWARD  and The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter, and she has nearly ten years as an executive headhunter and coach, with clients such as Autodesk, Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Disney and other innovation leaders.

She began by sharing what Facebook’s head of workforce, Ross Sparkman, identified as some attributes of a good recruiter, including:

* The ability to learn from mistakes;

* Continually self-improving;

* Opportunistic and able to move fast; and

* Data/metric driven.

Stokes said that while curiosity is among the most-valuable qualities recruiters can exhibit when interacting with candidates, recruiters may sometimes hold back their questions when meeting a candidate.

“One of the reasons why curiosity isn’t part of our normal makeup is because [recruiters] are supposed to know everything. But we don’t,” she said in a mock whisper, “so don’t worry about it and just be curious.”

Recruiters will continue to be the lynchpin for organizational success even as bots, artificial intelligence and automation increase in usage, she said.

“We need to work in harmony with artificial intelligence,” she said. “Tech cannot replace the human experience. In fact, it’s never been more important to be human.”

Regardless of where technology takes recruiters in the future, one thing won’t ever change, Stokes said.

“The actual skills recruiters need,” she said, ” are to be a good listener and communicator.”

Curing Healthcare’s Hiring Woes

Few sectors exemplify the scope of the challenges facing today’s recruiters better than healthcare.

As iCIMS Chief Economist Josh Wright pointed out during a breakout session titled “Approaching Intensified Competition for Talent in Changing Times” at this week’s Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech event, employers in healthcare continue to struggle in their quest to find and attract the talent that’s needed.

Healthcare, he said, continued to grow even during the most recent economic downturn. “The reason is pretty intuitive,” he explained. “People don’t stop getting sick just because the economy slows down.”

Wright noted that healthcare is becoming a much larger part of the economy and predicted that that trend most likely will continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, he said, projects average growth will be 6.5 percent between 2014 and 2024 for all [healthcare] occupations. Technical and support jobs, he added, are positioned to grow the fastest because of today’s aging population (16.4 percent and 23 percent, respectively).

He said that wages are rising, though only modestly. “Most economists are scratching their heads as to why, with unemployment is so low, wages aren’t moving up more aggressively,” he said.

These economic and labor realities, Wright said, are forcing healthcare institutions to revisit and rethink their hiring priorities and practices.

During the breakout session, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Director of Talent Acquisition Kyla Nemitz shared her institution’s story, which includes a major expansion.

Nemitz said that each of new MSK site requires hiring 250 to 300 people. In 2019, she said, the organization plans to open a new center financed by the Koch Brothers that will require the hiring of up to 1,500 people.

Market data shows that patients are at risk if the patient-to-nurse ratio is 4:1 or less, she said. “We have to hire those nurses,” she explained. “They have to be there … .”

To address its staffing challenges, MSK’s talent-acquisition group realized in 2011 that it needed to develop a formal workforce plan. “We knew that we were going to open all these sites and needed a strategic roadmap,” she said.

Nemitz said TA worked closely with finance and strategy planning to make that happen.

MSK has also been able to successfully use market data to drive recruiting efforts, she said, noting that the company uses LinkedIn data to identify what’s happening the market.

In addition, the center has begun to use employee-survey data to help drive its TA strategy, reviewing the data to determine what motivated workers.

In the case of service workers, Nemitz said, respect was a key driver. Based on that insight, she said, MSK began to incorporate that insight into the messaging aimed at those workers, who include security guards and janitors.

Nemitz said that sometimes the best solution can be found internally.

“We were looking at our internal data, as well as the market data, and realized that lab technologists are an aging field,” she said. “The market data showed us that people were not going into these programs and we had a ton of openings.”

So what MSK did, Nemitz said, was spearhead a program of its own called the Lab Scholars Program. “We partnered with a school in the area, sending five to eight of our employees to an 18-month lab technology program,” she said. (The program is now in its third year.)

Roughly 20 lab technologists either have graduated from the program or will be graduating, she said. In order to participate, workers were required to sign a “commitment letter” that requires them to stay with MSK for three to five years.

Through that program, she said, MSK is finally “making a dent” in filling those positions.


Financial Issues Worrying Workers

Despite a surging stock market and low unemployment, several years of apparent financial good times for American workers may be heading in the opposite direction, according to a new survey from Willis Towers Watson.

The consulting firm’s biennial 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found that only 35 percent of nearly 5,000 U.S. employees polled felt satisfied with their financial situation this year. Two years ago, that number clocked in at 48 percent. Also, employees feeling satisfied with their financial situation had been improving steadily since the recession year of 2009, when it bottomed out at just 25 percent reporting being satisfied.

Another survey finding revealed that 34 percent of workers believe their current financial concerns are negatively affecting their lives. Two years ago, only 21 percent felt that way. Finally, 59 percent worry about their future financial state, according to Willis Towers Watson. In the last survey, that number stood at 49 percent.

So what’s going on?

Vincent Antonelli, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said in a release that the “ongoing financial worries that are plaguing so many employees are taking a toll on their financial confidence.” He added that WTW knows from its research that more than half of all workers have experienced a major financial event in the past two years, such as divorce; a significant medical experience; or borrowing money from a friend, family member or payday loan.

“These factors, combined with growing debt and low wage growth, are leading to heightened worker angst,” he said.

As a result, productivity is, in part, bearing the brunt of this emerging trend, according to the research. For example, among “struggling” employees (identified as those worried about their short- and long-term finances; about 30 percent of the employees surveyed identified as “struggling”), about one-third report that “money concerns” were keeping them from doing their best at work. That translates into more absenteeism for those struggling employees.

Stress levels also are rising, as seven in 10 struggling employees reported high (37percent) or above average (33 percent) stress levels.

“Employers understand that financial worries, which are linked to stress, can have a negative impact on their employees’ personal and work lives,” said Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, in the release.

What can employers do? One thing is to offer and promote service providers and technology solutions to employees suffering from personal financial issues, though there is some pushback as to how deep employers can delve into that situation.

While employees are eager for their employers to provide support and technology that deliver valuable guidance and suggestions on retirement and financial decisions, employees are very wary of personalized outreach.

“What’s the nuance? Workers are saying there is a distinct line between personalized tools where the interaction is controlled by the employee and personalized messages that can be unsettling,” he said.



Holiday Parties: Proceed with Caution

The almost daily revelations of workplace sexual harassment should be enough to drive home the idea that if your company is tossing a holiday party this year, be extra careful. And reconsider offering alcohol to party-goers, according to experts.

One related recent survey, from Global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., found that HR leaders nationwide may be a bit more cautious regarding the annual company year-end bash.

Reaching out to 150 HR representatives, the survey found 80 percent of employers plan to host holiday parties this year, approximately the same as last year. On the flip side, 11 percent of employers will not hold a holiday party, up from 4 percent in 2016. It’s also the highest percentage since post-recession 2009, when 25 percent did not have parties.

On the booze front, fewer of these parties will serve alcohol (47 percent, compared to 62 percent last year). Using caterers and/or allowing employees to bring guests are also down from previous years.

“Employers are currently very wary of creating an environment where inappropriate contact between employees could occur,” Challenger said. “One way to create a safer environment is to limit the guest list, hold the party during the workday, and avoid serving alcohol.”

Beth Zoller, legal editor at XpertHR, an online HR compliance resource, said in a company release that thanking employees for a job well done via holiday parties is a good thing, but certainly there are risks, ranging from claims of religious discrimination and sexual harassment to drunk driving.

Zoller said employers should be especially careful if serving alcohol because it can result in some very bad outcomes, including car accidents, injuries, discrimination, harassment and inappropriate and offensive conduct. Management should make sure that all employees are completely sober before driving home. In fact, she said, a luncheon may be safer as employees may be likely to drink less during daytime hours.

Employers should also avoid hanging mistletoe as a decoration, as this not only could lead to religious discrimination claims, but also to potential claims for sexual harassment.

“If an employer is not extra careful, things can turn sour in a hurry,” Zoller said.

Employers and Salary-History Bans

When it comes to achieving pay equity in the workplace, employers apparently aren’t sold on the idea that banning salary-history questions from the interview process will be effective in achieving that goal.

A new survey by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry shows that 65 percent of executives at 108 companies believe their organizations will be affected by new legislation aimed at closing pay gaps for women and other underserved populations. However, the majority of executives polled (65 percent) believe that the law will not, or only to a small extent, actually improve the gender pay equity situation in their organization.

What is clear is that hundreds of thousands of employers will need to modify their talent screening and hiring processes, Korn Ferry said in a statement announcing the survey’s results.

“Organizations have a great deal to gain by implementing a strategy and process aimed at improving the overall fairness and transparency of their reward and talent management programs,” said Bob Wesselkamper, Global Head of Rewards and Benefits Solutions, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “This can help organizations create an employee value proposition that positions the company as a place where everyone can build careers and thrive.”

In addition, hiring situations must be handled carefully as companies that violate the new rules can face substantial fines, the consultancy notes:

“As a result of this legislation, many employers will need to seek out better market data and conduct more rigorous analyses to determine what a job should pay versus relying on the crutch of a candidate’s compensation history,” said Tom McMullen, Senior Client Partner in Korn Ferry Hay Group’s Reward and Benefits group. “Organizations need to ensure they have an effective job evaluation process that provides the right criteria and credibility for assessing the size of jobs.”

Jonathan Segal, an employment lawyer based in Philadelphia, told the Los Angeles Times the bans could be particularly relevant for older workers. Someone who has been working for more years and may be looking to scale back to a less demanding job — or workers eager to get back into the workforce after being out of a job and willing to work for less — could be subject to implicit bias when asked about their past pay, he said.

“Eliminating the question may help not only eliminate the pay gap for women,” he said, “but may help older employees who are being excluded because employers think they won’t be happy working for less.”

Meanwhile, Korn Ferry says further action on pay equity is likely ahead, but few say they are ready. Only 19 percent of organizations say they are well prepared to handle the new laws once they go into effect. Many large organizations are indicating that they are likely to get ahead of the issue by changing their national policies instead of waiting for individual cities and states to pass measures. Nearly half of the executives polled (46 percent) said choosing to comply with the most stringent legislation is the likely mode of adapting to the new legislation, as opposed to complying to each local legislation.

“It’s a new game out there,” said McMullen. “Few large organizations will be exempt. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught by surprise on this.”


Survey: It Pays To Be Fair

Employers are keenly aware that employee engagement and satisfaction have fast become two of those seemingly elusive culture goals. Surveys from a variety of sources over the past few years peg engagement levels in the low-to-mid thirties.

Gallup, for example, which follows employee engagement closely, reports that in 2016 employee engagement remained stagnant from the previous years, barely budging from 31.4 in 2014 and 32 percent in 2015. Of course, there are many factors that go into high levels of employee satisfaction.

Now, a study out this week reveals that the pay process at an organization, in terms of fairness and transparency, is 5.4 times more impactful on how satisfied employees are than how they are paid relative to their market value.

PayScale, Inc., a cloud-based compensation data and software provider, designed the survey to identify the drivers of employee engagement. It queried more than 500,000 employees for its employee engagement research on various aspects of their job that could potentially contribute to both employee satisfaction and potential attrition.

“This research aims to shed new light on employee satisfaction and intent to leave in an era where engagement is at an all-time low,” Lydia Frank, vice president of Content Strategy at PayScale, said in a news release. “Our study shows that just by having an open dialogue about the pay process and employees’ contributions at the company, employers can ultimately drive better outcomes for their businesses.”

Another interesting finding is that when employees feel appreciated by their employer – and believe their company has a bright future – they are far more likely to be satisfied at work and remain at the company.

Other findings include: employees don’t know whether they’re paid fairly. Of the respondents who felt they were paid below market rate, nearly 90 percent were actually paid at or above market rate. That means only 11 percent of people who felt they were underpaid were correct; also, paying fairly really matters. The research shows 75 percent of respondents who think they are paid at or above the market rate said they were satisfied with their job, compared to only 59 percent of workers who felt they are paid below the market rate.

“This is provocative research that comes at a time when more and more companies are looking for ways to increase satisfaction with employees so they can get the biggest return from their talent investments,” said Pete DeBellis, research leader at the analyst firm Bersin by Deloitte. “The results are surprising and show us just how crucial it is for employers to make the leap and start talking more openly about pay in order to build more trusting relationships with their employees.”

The ‘Next Concept’ for HR

Starting January 1 of next year, the Northern California HR Association — one of the largest HR associations in the U.S. — will have a brand-new name: Next Concept Human Resources Association.

NCHRA CEO Greg Morton

There are multiple reasons for the name change, says NCHRA CEO Greg Morton. One of the most important, he says, is that the organization’s purview is moving far beyond its traditional base in Northern California/San Francisco Bay Area.

“We’ve got members in 23 states and three or four different countries, including Poland,” he says. “The HR profession is becoming borderless, and we want to support that and clarify that to the world.”

Formed as an independent organization in 1960, NCHRA became an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management in the later part of that decade. Last year, however, the organization decided to part ways with SHRM.

“I don’t want to bad-mouth SHRM, but we were finding that their focus on certain things was limiting to our relationship,” says Morton, citing SHRM’s controversial decision to stop supporting PHR and SPHR certifications in favor of its own brand-new competency-based certifications several years ago as one of the sticking points. Morton also says SHRM is heavily concerned with serving as a lobbying organization for the HR profession in the nation’s capital, while NCHRA’s focus is on continuing education for its members (which includes resources for those pursuing PHR and SPHR certificates from the Human Resource Certification Institute as well as the SHRM CP and SCP certificates).

With its new name, NCHRA wants to be seen as a source of learning amidst the big changes taking place within the HR profession, he says. Chief among those changes is, of course, the rise of artificial intelligence.

“We’re all going to be working alongside AI, and we’re going to need to know how to evaluate tech and use it for prescriptive means within our organizations,” says Morton. “The world of work is undergoing a ‘hyper state’ of change.”

With the name change, Morton also hopes to engage non-HR professionals, many of whom will need to be well-versed in HR concepts. “Our attitude is, anyone who’s looking to hire and develop talent — as a manager or an individual — is going to need those underlying skill sets,” he says.

These are challenging times for the association model, says Morton. Information that was once disseminated only to dues-paying members is now widely available via the internet, which means that associations need to come up with a new value proposition in order to stay relevant.

“The mid-1900’s association model is just not going to cut it going forward,” he says. “We’re looking to set a new trajectory here and we’re looking for like-minded associations to band together in figuring out how to better create a community for this era rather than 1960.”