Category Archives: HR profession

Retaliation for ‘Playing by the Rules’

There’s a troubling new HR-centric theme spinning out of the Wells Fargo illicit-accounts mess, according to today’s New York Times: A group of aggrieved Wells Fargo workers who say they faced retaliation in some form from their employer — by being either fired or demoted — for staying honest and falling short of sales goals they say were unrealistic.

These workers who claim that they played by the rules and were punished for it, the NYT reports, are starting to coalesce around two lawsuits that were just filed and that seek class-action status:

The first was filed in Los Angeles last week by former Wells Fargo workers who say that while their colleagues created unauthorized accounts to meet cross-selling quotas, they were penalized or terminated for refusing to do the same. The bank’s chief executive, John Stumpf, has often stated his goal that each Wells customer should have at least eight accounts with the company. That aggressive target has made the bank’s stock a darling on Wall Street, the lawsuit notes.

The story notes that a federal lawsuit with analogous claims was filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, seeking to create a class of current and former Wells employees across the country who had similar experiences.

“These are the people who have been left holding the bag,” said Jonathan Delshad, the lawyer representing the workers in both suits. “It was a revolving door. If you weren’t willing to engage in these types of illegal practices, they just booted you out the door and replaced you.”

One of those people, Yesenia Guitron, told the paper that she did everything the company had taught employees to do to report such misconduct internally. She told her manager about her concerns. She called Wells Fargo’s ethics hotline. When those steps yielded no results, she went up the chain, contacting a human resources representative and the bank’s regional manager:

In a statement on Monday, Wells Fargo said: “We disagree with the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend against the misrepresentations it contains about Wells Fargo and all of the Wells Fargo team members whose careers have been built on doing the right thing by our customers every day.”

No matter the ultimate resolution to this dark chapter of the venerable bank’s history, this latest twist to the story should serve as a reminder to HR leaders to ensure that the processes they have put in place to catch illicit activity in the workplace are actually doing their jobs.

 

 

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Tattoos at Work Can Be Positive?

Tattoos in the workplace — certainly not a new phenomenon. Almost a decade ago, HRE was airing the pros and cons of allowing this type 184877376-tattooof self-expression at work, and what employers could and couldn’t control, according to this story by then-Staff-Writer-now-Web-Editor Michael J. O’Brien.

The predictions then were spot on: As one expert — David Barron, a labor and employment attorney — said in that story: “Tattoos are clearly on the rise … I think there’s going to be increasing pressure from younger folks, as they move up into management [to change or relax body art regulations at work]. I’ve already seen the perception [of tattoos] change. Views have become more liberal.”

The cautions then also hold true today. Whatever dress-code restrictions you decide to assign to your employees regarding tattoos (and even piercings and any other outlying dress expressions), you’d better be applying to all employees or you could find yourself in a heap of legal trouble.

Seven years after that story ran, we featured this, proof positive that tattoos were becoming more commonplace and accepted. Here, two featured companies are actually encouraging their employees to tattoo their company logos on limbs or head locations of choice. In that piece, written a couple years ago, both companies claim that, aside from helping them literally stamp an identity and broadcast a brand, the corporate logo helps improve worker pride, loyalty, commitment and camaraderie.

Now, speed dial to this, a piece that ran on the Phys.Org site just 10 days ago, and you’ll have to agree the tattoo trend just got new wings (dare I say inked over the old?). That story — based on a study out of the University of St. Andrews — proclaims that tattoos can actually help job candidates land certain positions and can help certain employers look really cool to the types of employees they’re trying to attract.

Like bartenders — the hypothetical position researcher Dr. Andrew Timming used in his study of hiring managers, who weighed in more heavily in favor of the tattooed bartender-wanna-be than the non-tattooed one. According to Timming, they believed having a bartender with a tattoo would attract younger customers who thought body art was trendy. As he puts it:

“Visibly tattooed job applicants can present as attractive candidates in the labor market because they can help to positively convey an organization’s image or brand, particularly in firms that seek to target a younger, edgier demographic of customer. Tattoos, especially in pop-culture industries such as fashion retail, are an effective marketing and branding tool.”

So we’re not even talking negatives anymore — as in, the things you need to know and be wary of in the case of body art in the workplace. We’re talking positives.

Now mind you, this study does hail from St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, where attire in general can be very different from the United States, and where dress codes might already be more relaxed. (Why is there an image of the movie Braveheart coming to mind, pitting the well-coifed Brits against Mel Gibson’s rebellious and revolutionary William Wallace, and his cohort of skirt-clad warriors? I have no clue really. Please forgive me, I digress.)

Back to reality, Timming’s reality anyway, and I might have to agree with him that “there has been, in recent decades, what might be called a ‘tattoo renaissance’ in which body art has figured more positively in mainstream society and popular culture.”

And work.

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Successful C-Suite Psychopaths

Higher-than-expected levels of psychopathic traits exist among people found in the upper echelons of the corporate business sector, and companies should undertake psychological screening to help identify ‘successful psychopaths.’

That’s according to new research presented at the Australian Psychological Society’s Congress, which was recently held in Melbourne.

Forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks says emerging studies show that, while one in 100 people in the general community and one in five people in the prison system are considered psychopathic, these traits are common in the upper echelons of the corporate world, with a prevalence of between 3 percent and 21 percent.

Brooks says the term “successful psychopath,” which describes high-flyers with psychopathic traits such as insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, egocentric, charming and superficial, has emerged in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, prompting a range of new studies.

To arrive at their conclusions, Brooks and colleagues first examined psychopathic traits in the business sector. One study of 261 corporate professionals in the supply chain management industry showed extremely high prevalence rates of psychopathy, with 21 percent of participants found to have clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits — a figure comparable to prison populations.

The current issue of HRE also features a story by Julie Cook Ramirez about how HR can weed out psychopaths in the workplace:

What sets a psychopathic leader apart is the way in which he or she manages or interact with people, says William Spangler, associate professor of management and organizational behavior at the School of Management, State University of New York at Binghamton.

“Psychopathic leaders are toxic individuals who manage subordinates [with] a combination of fear, threats, punishment and public humiliation,” says Spangler. “They present a positive persona to their superiors and are often promoted for what is perceived to be their effectiveness, but they can [cause] great harm to the organization by destroying relationships, damaging work units and putting the entire company at risk for legal action.”

Ramirez also quotes A.J. Marsden, assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla. who says that, by hiring a person who demonstrates these types of tendencies, “you are putting your other employees at risk for bullying and other abuse.”

“The organization may end up losing many good employees [and] facing harassment suits against the psychopath,” says Marsden. “At higher levels of employment, psychopaths may engage in unethical and illegal behaviors, such as embezzlement, just to look successful.”

 

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Ratedly Review-Tracking App Rates

I guess my biggest surprise after speaking recently with Joel Cheesman — creator of the new Ratedly anonymous employee-review monitoring service for employers that launched in May — is that competitors don’t seem to be furiously chasing or even nipping at his heels since the launch.

Joel Cheeseman and his Ratedly app.

Joel Cheesman and his Ratedly app.

Equally surprising is Cheesman isn’t that concerned about competition or heel-nipping at all. He’s doing just fine with the 10 primary review sites he spiders to — including Glassdoor and Indeed — and Ratedly’s slow-but-steady clientele growth.

But the app — which he was good enough to demo for me — is so simple and straightforward, and the most logical next step for helping employers through the employee-review revolution, you’d think other vendors would be clamoring to partner with him or give him a run for his money. If either of those things happens, he tells me, “we’ll welcome it.”

Bottom line, he adds, “we want to be the best at what we do, so we’re not against people looking into what we’re doing and trying to take us on.”

At the same time, says Cheesman, without giving away too many numerical specifics, “there’s no pressure to make a ton of money real fast here. We’re building customers at a rate that I’m comfortable with. It’s all going well, and self-funded, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

It didn’t take long for Cheesman, a 20-year veteran of the recruiting and employment industry, to walk me through his brainstorm several days ago. It’s really that basic. Resembling a Twitter feed, if you will, Ratedly is, in essence, a mobile-enabled real-time index for iPhones, iPads and iPods that constantly checks for subscribers’ company pages and or company mentions on anonymous employee-review sites.

“Employers waste so much time these days hitting the refresh button to track reviews about them online,” he says. “We saw a real need out there to take that task off the plate of HR professionals across every industry category. No one is immune to anonymous reviews.” He adds:

“The days of putting your head in the sand are over. Companies NEED to know what’s being said out there. If you have someone flaming your company and you don’t know about it, you’re at a real disadvantage. People you’re interviewing are going to these sites. That’s your brand … not what you’re spending on your website. If the community at large says you ‘suck,’ all that [other] branding stuff [you’re doing and paying for] doesn’t do any good or make any sense at all.” 

Anyone who signs up for the $150-a-month service gets automatic access to the data Ratedly’s bot scrapes every day from the 10 main review sites in its arsenal. Clients can also ask that custom feeds be added if their company happens to be showing up regularly on an additional site as well. They can bookmark whatever comments they choose and/or share them with whomever they want.

They also get push notifications whenever their company is mentioned so they can get on with the work they’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to constantly watching and waiting for what employees and job candidates think of them. Or worrying about missing another anonymous review. In addition, Ratedly will warn them if their reputation appears to be trending up or down on any given week.

Next on Cheesman’s to-do list is enhancing the analytics and metrics with word-search capabilities, being able to tie an organization’s trending reputation to stock fluctuations and company news, and getting more consultancies and agencies involved with the product.

“A lot of agencies are being sought right now to help employers with their reputations and employer brands,” Cheesman says, “so working more with and in that space will be our next big thing. That will be huge.”

He also plans to work harder with clients’ CEOs and other top leaders such as CHROs to get them more personally and regularly involved with social media, especially as it pertains to employee-review sites. In his eyes, this will speak volumes to younger workers and job candidates. Think about it, he says:

“You’re a CEO. You go out and find a positive comment posted by one of your younger employees on Glassdoor. Instead of moving on, you take the time to post [to Twitter, Facebook, etc.] something like, ‘Hey, another happy employee!’ with a link to Glassdoor. That shows that young person [and all his or her friends] that you’re a CEO who’s on top of social media and took the time to notice someone’s post; that looks really, really good in the public eye.”

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What Drives Retention Rates?

Around the world, pay matters most to workers. But other factors that keep them loyal vary quite a lot, a new study finds. And they’re changing as the nature of work evolves.

The results are part of the 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey by Willis Towers Watson. Every other year the company surveys workers around the globe to see what rewards and conditions keep them happy or attract them to new jobs.

This year’s survey, conducted in April and May, included 31,000 employees in 29 markets. In studying retention factors, the London-based consulting firm ranked eight countries, including the United States. (See the full results at the bottom of this post.)

Pay was the top priority in each, says Laura Sejen, managing director for talent and rewards at Willis Towers Watson.  After that, the No. 2 retention driver in most countries, including the U.S., was career advancement opportunities.

For multinational companies, those two factors are fundamental to attracting and retaining workers, Sejen says. Workers want clear expectations not only for their current job, but also for what they need to move up.

For a global employer, “If I could only do two things right, I would focus on those,” Sejen says.

Career advancement opportunities wasn’t the No. 2 retention driver everywhere, however. In China it was the physical work environment. In Brazil it was the length of the commute. In India it was job security.

Sejen notes that work environment has been moving up in the list of priorities globally. She thinks longer hours and a trend toward open offices and shared workspaces may have increased employee awareness of the physical environment as a factor in their job satisfaction.

“That, I think, is just a reflection of how the work environment has changed,” Sejen says. “It’s important. We spend a lot of time at work.”

Among the eight countries studied, job security was No. 2 only in India. But it’s slowly rising in importance around the world, Sejen says.

How workers define job security varies, however. Few workers expect a job for life. But many worry about losing financial security, and others worry about their jobs changing.

Sometimes mundane local conditions like traffic congestion influence the rankings. It makes sense that commute times would be important in Brazil, because cities there tend to be dense, sprawling and challenging to navigate, Sejen notes. “If you’ve ever been to Sao Paulo, you can appreciate that.”

Retention drivers Globally Brazil Canada China Germany India Mexico U.K. U.S.
Base pay/salary 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Career advancement opportunities 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 2 2
Physical work environment 3 4 2 5 3
Job security 4 7 3 3 2 6 3 3
Work-related stress 5 6 4 5 6 7
Trust in senior leadership 6 5 4 4
Relationship with supervisor 7 5 7 7 6 7
Length of commute 2 4 4 4 5 6
Retirement benefits 6 6 4 5
Flexible work environments 5
Challenging work 6
Opportunity to learn new skills 7 7 7 5
Source: 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey by Willis Towers Watson
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Don’t Forget About Boomers

It’s easy to get caught up in how to attract and retain the millennials and members of Generation Z who will comprise the overwhelming majority of the workforce before too long.

Then there are the Gen Xers to consider—so crucial to your success today, as they settle into vital management roles within the organization.

But what about baby boomers?

We all know that boomers are hitting retirement age, but many are staying on the job. Much has been made of how companies will replace the knowledge and experience that boomers will take with them when they do leave the workforce, but a new survey from the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry looks at what this generation is bringing to the business now, and what motivates these employees most.

The poll asked more than 1,300 global executives to evaluate the role of baby boomers in their organizations. More than half (55 percent) of respondents said that boomers were willing to work longer hours than other generations, and were considered the second-most productive cohort, after Generation X.

Naturally, these seasoned employees require little hand-holding on the job, with 31 percent of executives saying boomers need less feedback than their younger colleagues, “demonstrating how boomers are also seen as reliable, in addition to hardworking,” according to a Korn Ferry Futurestep statement.

How do these dedicated workers find fulfillment on the job? Fifty-four percent of executives said that offering boomers the opportunity to make an impact on the business was the best way to retain boomer talent.

“This far outstrips the ambition of other generations, with just over a quarter (28 percent) of executives surveyed indicating that making an impact at work was the key motivator for millennials,” according to Korn Ferry Futurestep, “highlighting just how integral baby boomers are to businesses today.”

Most companies recognize as much, of course, and are eager to take advantage of boomers’ wealth of knowledge, with 50 percent considering “experience and expertise” as the main reason for bringing them into the business.

Once boomers are on board, how do you retain them?

It’s not necessarily money. Just 6 percent of respondents cited regular pay raises and promotions as the best way to retain boomers in their organizations. No, as previously noted, 54 percent of respondents said boomers most value the opportunity to make an impact, followed by “creating a culture that aligns with their values,” at 22 percent, management responsibilities (10 percent) and work/life balance (8 percent).

“While many in the baby boomer generation are working longer to provide more financial security after seeing their retirement account balances tumble during the Great Recession, their desire to extend their careers is not entirely financially motivated,” says Jeanne MacDonald, president of global talent acquisition solutions at Korn Ferry Futurestep.

“What is often overlooked is the fact that the majority of the people in this generation are highly motivated, enjoy what they do, and they provide great experience and value within the global workforce.”

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Analyzing the PM Revolution

Wharton professor of management and HREonline.com columnist Peter Cappelli just coauthored (along with Anna Tavis) a new piece in the upcoming October issue of the Harvard Business Review that takes a look at the ongoing “performance management revolution”:

In 2002, the idea of abandoning the traditional appraisal process—and all that followed from it—seemed heretical. But now, by some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies are doing just that. From Silicon Valley to New York, and in offices across the world, firms are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees.

Cappelli and Tavis argue that the biggest limitation of annual reviews is that, “With their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, they hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future, both of which are critical for organizations’ long-term survival.”

“In contrast,” they say, “regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now. Business researcher Josh Bersin estimates that about 70% of multinational companies are moving toward this model, even if they haven’t arrived quite yet.”

The article does a great job of tracing the performance review’s trajectory throughout the last century and into this one, and also offers three reasons why companies should drop appraisals.

Read the full story here.

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GE’s Commitment to Hiring Veterans

On the day after our 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks (considering all the soldier deployments and returns that followed), I 177236858-veteran-hiringthought it might be a good time to share this tidbit I’ve been keeping my eyes on. It seems General Electric is going above and beyond in its effort to put military veterans to work. In a recent email, it describes taking skills development and leadership training “to a whole other level” with its Junior Officer Leadership Program.

Those selected to enter the program are able to navigate three different job rotations across various functions within a business while choosing their rotations in order to build networks and do some self-exploration.

This dedication to putting veterans to work and keeping them there wasn’t born yesterday, mind you. In 2012, GE announced its pledge to hire 5,000 vets in five years, a goal it says it has just met. It has also since committed to ensuring 10 percent of all new hires are veterans. In the words of GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, quoted by CNBC at the time of the pledge:

“Too often for veterans, risking their lives has meant risking their livelihoods when they return home. They deserve better, and a good job is a start. But at GE, we also view veterans as great assets for our company’s growth.”

He goes on:

“Veterans have led in the field; they can lead in a factory or research facility. [They] believe in getting the job done and doing it in the right way. For [them], globalization is not an abstract concept, or even something to be feared; instead, they’ve experienced it first-hand. They are proud to work together to reach a common goal, bigger than any one individual.”

Mind you, GE is not alone in its commitment to bring more vets on board. This fact sheet from the White House back in May lists all kinds of similar commitments from large companies, including Amazon, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, the list goes on.

Then there’s this good news, issued late June from Hire Heroes USA, extolling its having reached its goal to hire 10,000 veterans since its founding in 2007.

But as Kyle Kensing, online editor for CareerCast Veterans in Carlsbad, Calif., points out in my June 6 post on the wisdom and virtue of hiring veterans, we still have a long way to go. As he puts it, “there’s still work to be done; the numbers aren’t really where we want them and there are specific things employers could be doing that many still are not.”

Back in June, he cited employers’ needs to reach out more to veterans in hiring and HR practices to defuse the isolation they feel when they enter corporate America. He also cited a need for employers to be more aggressive in increasing their veteran-hiring head counts and ensuring some veterans are working within the HR department, not only because of the skills they bring to HR (responsibility for others, opening up lines of communication, being able to understand what skills people have and what skills people need, and where they need help and where they can shine), but so veterans have a liaison and advocate in HR. Speaking with him more recently, he confirmed improvements are still in need of a boost.

Perhaps this site from GE sums up best the need for — and the bottom-line benefits of — establishing more of a commitment to returning soldiers:

“Your service made you a leader and a disciplined, strategic thinker with a level of loyalty that is unmatched.”

Sounds like a good hire to me.

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Some Bad News on Retirement Plans

Want to increase 401(k) participation rates? Higher salaries would help. But that’s not enough, new research suggests.

Workers with only a high school diploma are less likely than college graduates to participate in a defined-contribution plan, even after taking income out of the equation, two researchers concluded. Christopher Tamborini, a researcher at the U.S. Social Security Administration, and ChangHwan Kim, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Kansas, presented the results late last month at the American Sociological Association meeting in Seattle.

Employers, of course, want workers to save – not only for their own sake, but to help them retire on time and make room for younger workers moving up. HR departments try hard to get workers to opt in early in their careers and stick to a disciplined contribution strategy .

But these study results suggest the participation problem may be more complicated than we thought. Having enough money to save is the most important factor, the study confirms. But other less tangible variables – education and related factors — affect whether workers embrace saving as a long-term life strategy.

Analyzing restricted data that links income-tax and Census records, the study authors found that less-educated workers are disadvantaged at three levels. They are less likely to have access to a retirement plan. They are less likely to opt in if they do have access. And those who do opt in contribute at “systematically lower” levels than other workers.

Controlling for earnings, occupation, industry, firm size, and tenure, a college graduate is 22 percent more likely to participate in a defined-contribution plan, the study found. Among participants, again with all things being equal, college graduates contribute 26 percent more.

Why? Lower levels of education may translate to reduced financial literacy and less interest in planning for the far future, the researchers note. A host of other influences, including socio-economic and cultural factors that correlate with education, also could be at work.

Tamborini and Kim also make the case that the move away from defined-benefit plans – which require no action or sacrifice by the employee — has contributed to economic inequality. “The findings show that lower educated workers face multiple disadvantages under the current workplace pension landscape in which voluntary, contributory plans are the most common type,” they write.

The findings are likely to provide more ammunition for those favoring automatic enrollment and similar strategies to make saving as hands-off as possible. Some employers have even begun “back-sweeping” all non-participating employees into periodic automatic enrollments, requiring them to take the affirmative step of opting out if they don’t want to save for retirement.

The research also suggests that employers may have to start thinking about tailored approaches that recognize all the factors that influence worker retirement savings decisions. Gentle email reminders and occasional presentations in the lunchroom may no longer be enough.

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So Long, Salary History Questions?

It’s a topic that has made many an interviewee squirm. When asked to discuss compensation history, it’s only natural for job candidates to worry about either pricing themselves out of the market or setting the salary bar too low.

Depending on what happens when Congress returns from summer recess, job candidates may never have to answer uncomfortable salary history-related questions again.

Late last week, a trio of lawmakers announced that they planned to introduce a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history before making a job or salary offer.

These legislators, however, have loftier aspirations than just making the interview process a little less awkward for job seekers.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), will introduce the bill, which “seeks to eliminate the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter,” according to a statement announcing the bill.

“Because many employers set wages based on an applicant’s previous salary, workers from historically disadvantaged groups often start out behind their white male counterparts in salary negotiations and never catch up.”

Ultimately, “the only way to make sure women and minorities will be treated equally is to remove the early biases that exist, both in hiring practices and salary negotiations, and our bill works to eliminate those obstacles by requiring employers to offer salaries based on the value of the work,” said Congressman Nadler, in the aforementioned statement. “Employers can and should hire good employees without taking into account prior pay history or condemning someone to depressed wages due to gender and racial inequity.”

The Washington Post calls the bill “the latest sign that efforts to dump the dreaded [salary history] question could be gaining momentum.”

In August, for example, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an equal pay bill—passed unanimously by both of the state’s legislative branches—forbidding employers from asking about salary history until a job offer was extended.

Meanwhile, an amendment to California’s Fair Pay Act went into effect at the beginning of 2016 that would bar companies from basing compensation decisions on prior salaries alone, according to the Post.

Such recent examples aside, the new bill’s prospects for passage aren’t great, the paper notes, pointing out that bills attempting to legislate equal pay have been introduced in every Congress since 1997, to no avail.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the legislation is dead on arrival, as Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, told the Post.

“People can see the connection of the deep unfairness of carrying past discrimination with you to job after job,” Graves told the paper, noting that the support the Massachusetts business community has shown since the state banned salary-related questions could have a mobilizing effect.

“When states show that something is possible,” says Graves, “that’s extremely reinforcing.”

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