Category Archives: HR profession

The Changing Nature of Work

Gary Kushner offered lots of data about the future nature of work so that HR leaders could begin questioning the way their organizations are designed, the composition of their total rewards and the purpose underlying their HR strategies — but he didn’t provide any answers during his session at SHRM on Monday afternoon.

Kushner, president and CEO of Kushner & Co., a consultancy focusing on employee benefits and strategic HR, outlined five global trends affecting strategic HR: technological advancement, outsourcing, changes in demographics and diversity, changing worker attitudes and values, and globalization.

He also noted that, while business success was based on manufacturing processes 40 years ago and on technology 20 years ago — that it is people who “are our competitive advantage” today.

Kushner talked about the adjustments that would have to be made with four generations — and soon, five — in the workplace, especially the way it would impact upward advancement. And that the ever-growing segment of older workers would impact total rewards and benefits.

He talked about the challenges that the combination of employees, temps, independent contractors and outsourcing have on creating a shared vision and facilitating teamwork. And he talked about how individuals have changed their attitude from living to work to working to live.

“How do we leverage the way we think about all of these trends?” he asked. “The way work has been done is not the way it is going to continue to be done.”

But it will be up to individual CHROs to take it to the next step — and figure out what the answers are.

What Your CEO Won’t Tell You

Sue Meisinger is in a prime position to tell HR professionals what HR should know about CEOs — she was CEO and president of SHRM for six years and worked for the organization for more than 20 years.

In a packed session on Monday morning, she talked about the 10 things CEOs will never tell their HR leaders — and what the implications were for HR. And the overall message was one of honesty and transparency, of being knowledgeable and speaking the language of business, of taking the risk of offering opinions and making decisions, and of creating a workplace that is conducive to innovation and productivity.

CEOs are often isolated, she said, and it’s up to HR to be an “honest broker,” and keep them advised of what is going on in the business and among the executive team — within reason: No one likes a tattletale and HR should not break confidences in filling that role, she said. “This is risky business.”

HR leaders should also realize that CEOs really don’t understand HR — they don’t know what it does and they view it as a cost center or a bringer of problems. To counter that, HR executives must articulate how HR practices impact the bottom line — don’t tell them how happy the employees are.

And when seeking funding for HR technology or other purposes, discuss the return on investment or the impact to productivity or revenue — CEOs really don’t care if the latest HRIS will make HR’s life easier.

The tenure of CEOs has dropped to 6.3 years in the past decade, she said, and often, when the new CEO comes in, he or she will bring an HR executive along. That may not be a great thing for the incumbent HR leader, but overall it speaks to the “tight bond” and good working relationship that is often present — and should always be present — between the CEO and CHRO.

Sue also writes a monthly column for HREOnline on HR leadership.

Recruiting on Facebook

In the never-ending quest to leverage Facebook for recruiting, Rick Marini thinks he has created the Holy Grail.

As “Founder, CEO and Chief Connector” of BranchOut, Marini has grown from nothing to “millions of users” since Jan. 1 — although he declines to offer an exact number.

What those millions of users are doing is using Facebook for career networking. BranchOut also has created what Marini says is the “largest job board on Facebook,” boasting more than 3 million job listings. He’s also gotten millions in funding, he says, raising $24 million in the past nine months — and using some of that funding to make his company’s big splash at the SHRM convention.

 BranchOut offers individuals and organizations access to the work history, education and endorsements (no personal pictures!) of other individual users on Facebook — of which there are 700 million in total.

“I would say 25 percent of the HR community is not sure about mixing professional and personal; the other 75 percent are saying, ‘Thank God, somebody built this.’ ”

Starting Aug. 1, the company will offer a service similar to LinkedIn Recruiter Pro, but he says, BranchOut is in a complementary, not a competitive, position with them.

The Search for Meaning in Life

When the country’s founders set forth the need for the “pursuit of happiness,” they weren’t talking about happy hours and shopping malls, said Arianna Huffington in the morning keynote address of the SHRM conference on Tuesday.

They meant individuals should feel good by doing good, she said; that individuals need to “make something of our lives beyond ourselves.”

In a speech that was billed as one dealing with social media, Huffington’s message was more philosophical — although she managed to put in a few promotional messages about the Huffington Post and its blog content. She also briefly spoke about her organization’s merger with AOL and the way it imparted to her the “incredible value of HR.”

But it was her message of the importance of trust and authenticity and giving back — and how HR can facilitate  that to create what she called a “tribal feeling,” in which the organization pulls together in a single direction. That’s what will offer the most value to HR, especially as society changes from one of survival and competition to one of meaning and collaboration (quoting from polio vaccine inventor Jonas Salk — one of the many quotes peppered throughout her speech).

Hampering trust, however, she said is the “obnoxious roommate in my head,” that voice of doubt that everyone has, the voice that focuses on the down side or potential for failure. Too many people focus on what is not working instead of what is, she said.

And, in her wide ranging speech, she proselytized the importance of sleep, calling herself a “sleep crusader,” and noting that one her first actions in the newly merged Huffington Post/AOL organization was to create two nap rooms. For some reason, she said, men think it’s good business practice to have only a few hours a sleep a night, she said, but more sleep means more creative and less reactive leadership.

Wal-Mart Scores Big SC Win

Thanks to the good folks at CNN for the biggest news of the work week, so far:

The Supreme Court put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., saying sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.

The ruling Monday was a big victory for the nation’s largest private employer, and the business community at large.

The high-profile case — perhaps the most closely watched of the high court’s term — is among the most important dealing with corporate versus worker rights that the justices have ever heard, and could eventually impact nearly every private employer, large and small.

We shall see how this all plays out, but I’ve got a sense that there are plenty of smiles to be seen around the company’s headquarters today, especially in the HR and Legal departments.

Manpower Makes Mandarin Market Moves

Thanks to our friends at the Business Journal for this update on ManpowerGroup’s latest acquisitions in the Asian sector:

ManpowerGroup has expanded its business offerings in China’s booming inland region through the acquisition of a majority stake in Reach HR, a human resources provider in Guangdong province and employer of more than 100,000 temporary employees.

The Journal also notes that this is the temporary-worker provider’s second foray into the China market in the past week, having announced it acquired Xi’an Fesco, a human resources provider in China’s Shaanxi province, on June 7:

“By expanding ManpowerGroup’s presence across China’s new and traditional manufacturing hubs, we will be able to provide critical development and recruitment solutions that address a range of issues affecting China’s overall growth prospects in the manufacturing sector,” said Darryl Green, president of the Asia Pacific and Middle East operations for Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup (NYSE:MAN), a global staffing and employment services firm.” 

It will certainly be interesting to track how the Milwaukee-based Manpower handles the myriad differences in how workforces are treated in China, as compared to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

And one wonders: Are temporary employees allowed to use the suicide-prevention nets which are so prevalent on buildings in China’s manufacturing campuses, or are they a perk reserved only for full-time workers?

What Is An Internship?

Heather Huhman won’t soon forget the abusive director at the nonprofit organization where she worked as a paid intern while in college.

“He’d come over and yell at you, slowly backing you against a wall, and then he’d pound his fists against the wall next to your head,” she says. Not only was she forced to deal with this jerk, but she also had to put up with abusive colleagues and a supervisor who never showed up. “It was a horrible experience,” she says.  

When she complained to the organization’s home office, rather than remedying the situation they simply offered her the remainder of the salary she would have earned for completing the internship in return for her leaving immediately.

Huhman, a veteran of five internships, writes about this and other experiences in  Lies, Damned Lies and Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle, a new e-book aimed at college students and HR leaders alike.

The book was inspired by what Huhman says is “lots of misinformation about internships being spread around the media,” particularly the recently published book Intern Nation by Ross Perlin. “He’s perpetuating myths about internships but he’s no expert—he’s only done one internship himself,” she says.

She was also spurred to write the book by the widespread misuse of interns that she says is taking place in corporate America every day.

“An internship needs to have two things: a mentorship and an educational component,” she says. “If those two things aren’t there, then it’s not an internship.”

Much of the attention on internships these days focuses on paid vs. unpaid positions, says Huhman. But the focus should really be on paid internships, she says, because too many organizations are relying on paid interns to do work that would ordinarily be done by entry-level employees.

“They’re seen as replacements for full-time employees, and that’s a bad thing,” she says. “An intern is there to learn from you, not provide cheap labor. In many cases, these companies are just looking to save a buck.”

Huhman encourages HR leaders to ensure supervisors understand what an internship is supposed to be about, and create mentorships throughout the organization, not just for interns. “It’s good for the employees and it’s good for interns, because they’ll be coming into an environment where mentorship is a commonly understood and practiced concept. The intern will come away with a much more valuable experience.”

GM’s Looming Culture War?

With the hiring of Cynthia Brinkley as General Motors’ new head of human resources, a curious streak continues, one that may have serious ramifications for the car company’s future.

On July 1, Brinkley — who currently serves as chief diversity officer and senior vice president of talent development for AT&T — will join GM’s ranks with fellow auto-industry outsider and current GM CEO and Chairman Dan Akerson, who previously served in the telecom industry as CEO of Nextel and CFO for MCI before that, among other professional stops.

But the telecom connection does not end there, according to the Detroit News article:

 … [GM’s] former chairman and CEO, Edward Whitacre Jr., was an AT&T CEO.

GM’s communications chief, Selim Bingol, as well as OnStar President Linda Marshall, also came to GM from the telecom industry.

With all these telecom executives coming over to the automotive industry, one wonders if they will approach the  problems and challenges of the automotive industry  in the same way they approached similar challenges in the telecom industry. Will reports of failing brakes be handled the same way as dropped calls were?

And with so many executives migrating from AT&T in particular, there is also an HR concern that these migrating executives will be operating as if they were still operating in AT&T’s company culture, and that could conflict with the GM culture in place before the recent telecom influx.

Could a culture war be looming at GM? Stay tuned…

Nurturers or Business Partners?

I must say I found this article, Nurturing Skills Help Women Dominate HR, from the Times of India to be a bit off-putting.

Maybe it wasn’t the intention, but I wouldn’t have said that it’s HR’s job to be the “mommy” of the office. Isn’t that just a bit outdated?

The article noted that women now account for more than 60 percent of the HR jobs across industry sectors.

“The reasons have to do with certain aptitudes that women have-that men have less of — and which are becoming increasingly relevant in an environment where people are becoming a company’s biggest asset. Women are seen to be more people-focused, with a special knack of recognizing performers and working on their career advancements. They are good at objectively collecting feedback and offering career counselling.

“The kind of competency HR demands includes understanding people requirements and ensuring employee recognition. Women are better equipped to gauge these as they are more team-oriented and people-oriented,” said Indira Bharadwaj, executive director at Ernst & Young.”

I know there are some cultural differences between the US and India, but patting employees on the back should not be the primary responsibility of HR leaders — here or there.

This is an issue that HRE has been writing about for a long time — the need for HR executives to become full business partners — and we always try to feature those special individuals who have served in that role to the bottom-line benefit of their organizations.

Naomi Bloom recently addressed the issue as well on her blog, InFullBloom, when she asked Is HR Really a Pink-Collared Ghetto?

“A lot has changed since [her first professional job in 1967], but not enough.  HR is still dominated as to numbers by women, admittedly with many to most having degrees and even advanced degrees.  Compensation is better, and there are a lot of important areas of specialization.

” But something that was true then is still true now, to the detriment of the profession and, if you believe that HRM matters, to the success of our organizations.  All too many HR pros still haven’t a clue what drives success in their businesses. 

One result of that lack of business acumen is the frequency with which organizations pull someone from another part of the business, from another discipline, to be the chief HR executive.  …  And why is that?  Perhaps because it’s believed — and may in fact be true — that HR pros really aren’t business people.”

Obviously, some HR professionals want to take that step up the ladder. They want to understand the business and have an impact on their organizations; they don’t want to just plan corporate outings or send around benefits notices.

For those along that road, here are some thoughts from Sue Meisinger in her most recent HREOnlineTM  HR Leadership column, “Thinking Strategically.”

Nap time, anyone?

The idea of napping at work is certainly not a new one — one quickly thinks of Seinfeld‘s George Costanza and the napping space he had built under his desk at Yankee Stadium, including a shelf for an alarm clock.

But Greg Kratz, a journalist with Deseret News, recently wrote a column advocating the legalization of napping at work, which included a nonscientific poll of 200 workers, with 84 percent advocating napping at work.

And now, in a follow-up column on the topic, Kratz shares some of the feedback he received from the piece. Below are excerpts from both sides of the argument.

Pro: “Why be embarrassed by napping at work? People who take time to smoke at work aren’t embarrassed. People who have non-work-related conversations at work aren’t embarrassed,” wrote one person in an online comment. “If napping isn’t allowed, the quality and speed of the work suffers because the person is tired.”

Con: “If you feel the need to nap at work, then consider this: What if you are depending on someone to help you and he decided that rather than really do his job, he’s tired, so he’s napping. Maybe he’s a flight controller. Yeah, napping at work — what a great idea. It could also be considered stealing from your employer if he’s paying you for that time that you nap.”