Category Archives: HR profession

Survey: Fewer Corporate Holiday Parties This Year

The economy may be improving (slowly), but the workplace holiday party scene is not, at least according to the annual holiday-party survey from New York-based exec-search firm Amrop Battalia Winston: 79 percent of companies plan on holding some type of holiday celebration this year, compared to 81 percent last year and in 2008. This represents the lowest number since ABW started doing the survey 22 years ago.  

For those that will be holding celebrations, just over a quarter (28 percent) say their parties will be more modest than in years past; this is on top of 49 percent who cut back on the lavishness last year.

There is a silver lining, for a very few lucky souls: 11 percent of respondents plan to hold more lavish parties, which is up from 1 percent last year and 2 percent in 2008. The survey did not specify what “lavish” means, so it could refer to a dinner of prime rib and shrimp cocktail accompanied by a live orchestra to serving crackers with cheese this time. The number planning to serve alcohol this year is also up, to 79 percent, compared with 73 percent last year. Sixty-one percent say their parties will be “at the same level” as in years past.

Most workers should not plan on bringing a spouse to this year’s celebrations: 69 percent said their parties will be “employee only,” while a quarter (26 percent) intend to invite employees and their families to gatherings.

On a sadder note, fewer than half of the surveyed companies (47 percent) are planning to get involved with charity events (donating money, food, clothing, gifts and/or volunteering), compared to 66 percent in 2009 and 74 percent in 2008. Here’s hoping they at least encourage employees to donate what they can to a charitable cause. As we all know, the need has hardly subsided.

Testing HR’s Knowledge

WorldatWork released an interesting study today on the ability of HR professionals to determine the truth about various pay and incentive information. 

The HR professionals were asked to identify whether 10 statements were true or false — and a majority of the 641 respondents did well on eight of them. All of the statements were taken from academic research findings.

Wanna try? Here are four of the statements. True or false:

T or F * Some raises are too small to cause employees to put forth additional effort.

T or F * When pay must be reduced or frozen, there is little a company can do or say to reduce employee dissatisfaction and dysfunctional behaviors.

T or F * When workers understand how their pay is determined, organizational commitment and job involvement increase, but pay satisfaction does not.

T or F * When pay rates are based on political factors (liking, favors, etc.) rather than objective performance, employee performance and company performance suffers.

The answers? True. False. False. True.

Some of the answers seem obvious, of course, especially that final question, but it’s an interesting exercise.

See all of the questions in the full study (PDF): The Connection Between Academic Research Findings and Total Rewards Professionals.

The study’s author and research director, Brian Moore, says organizations and HR leaders should understand that “the combination of case studies, common practices and controlled scientific studies can come together to create something more powerful than any of them can deliver alone.”

HR Manager Killed by Workers in India

Sad — and scary –news from India, where a group of workers attacked and killed a 45-year-old HR manager at Allied Nippon, a joint Indo-Japanese venture that manufactures brakes and brake shoes for cars, according to the Times of India.

Joginder Singh died of multiple head and chest injuries about a day after workers suddenly attacked him and other managers with iron bars in protest of staff firings, according to AFP.

Nine of the factory workers in  Ghaziabad have been arrested and charged with murder. Another 27 workers were identified as being part of the brawl and 300 are so far unidentified.

Two company officials remain in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.

As HRE wrote earlier this year, HR seems to be a more frequent target of violence by workers — and not just overseas. That’s because HR leaders are often the messengers of bad news.

William J. Daly, senior vice president of London-based risk consultant Control Risks, was quoted in the story as saying that HR leaders can be hurt by the tendency of senior leaders bringing them up on stage to announce bad news and then leaving them on-site to deal with the repercussions.

“Traditionally, HR [leaders] have thought they were part of the solution and trying to help people but are now realizing that sometimes, during a difficult situation, there is no positive spin on the fact that jobs are being lost or some action should be taken against employees.”


 Daly says [scaling back the HR presence is] not the answer because communication from HR is too vital during those critical times and remains just as important to many laid-off workers after the fact.

 The best they can do, he says, is to handle it like any other security risk — with preparation. Identify workers who may pose a security threat and figure out how to handle violence if it happens.

 “You need to be aware of your surroundings,” Daly says. “This is your job, you need to go and do it, but you need to go in there with eyes open. If there are any threats or issues that come up, know how you’re going to deal with them. Have a plan.”

In this case, police said the company had no warning violence was about to explode.

The factory’s HR vice president Mahendra Chowdhary told the media the attack by workers “was premediated and unprovoked. Workers attacked and chased the human resources staff and those on the board of directors.”

HR Secrets Revealed!

In a new post entitled 10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You on the Yahoo! front page this morning, Woman’s Day scribe Kimberly Fusaro attempts to drop the veil on the tightly held secrets of the human resource profession.

But before reading it, be forewarned — especially if you live under a rock or haven’t read a newspaper in years — because this information may just shock you.  

Fusaro begins by saying it’s HR’s “responsibility to make sure you’re doing your job well. Which means they know a lot more than you might think.”

Sounds ominous. But informative? Not really.

Among the many gems of wisdom Fusaro and her gathering of experts offer are the following diamonds in the obvious:

“Smelling like cigarette smoke can work against you, as can having body odor.”

“If there’s something on the Internet you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s probably in your best interest to take it down.”

“If you’re applying for a work-from-home position, you need to present yourself as a ‘home professional’ from the get-go. This means that when HR first calls to express interest, there better not be crying babies or barking dogs in the background.”

“You need to continually impress your employer in order to stand out as an exceptional employee. Bad behavior and negative experiences, on the other hand, can linger in an employer’s mind for years.”

After reading the list, it strikes me that the reason HR probably wouldn’t tell you most of these things is because, if you need to be told, then you probably shouldn’t be hired in the first place.

A Night of HR Excellence: Some Connections and Impressions

It was nice to see so many familiar faces — HR leaders we’ve highlighted in our magazine in recent years — taking the stage Thursday night at the annual dinner of the National Academy of Human Resources to become well-deserved inductees into the prestigious group’s Class of 2010 Fellows.

Included among the seven inductees were: Bonnie C. Hathcock, senior vice president and CHRO of Humana Inc., Human Resource Executive(R)’s 2007 HR Executive of the Year (featured in our Oct. 16, 2007 cover story); John T. (Jack) Mollen, executive vice president of human resources for EMC Corp., HRE‘s 2006 HR Executive of the Year (featured in our Oct. 16, 2006 cover story); and Sharon C. Taylor, senior vice president of human resources for Prudential Financial, an HRE 2007 HR Honor Roll inductee (featured Oct. 16, 2007).

Also inducted was Anthony J. Vegliante, executive vice president and CHRO of the United States Postal Service, who we just featured in this November’s cover story for his approaches to some very unique challenges at the U.S.P.S., and for his achievements in helping HR lead the organization through a very necessary transformation.

Completing the list of remarkable HR leaders and 2010 NAHR inductees were Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at the London Business School; Gary P. Latham, secretary of state professor of organizational effectiveness and professor of organizational behaviour at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto; and Charles G. Tharp, executive vice president for policy at the Center on Executive Compensation and a university lecturer.

Tharp, a 1998 NAHR Fellow and former NAHR president, received the last and ultimate honor as the group’s 2010 Distinguished Fellow, a title given to only 11 others since the group’s founding in 1992. Not only was he recognized for his many years of service in human resource and executive compensation positions, including long stints at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Saks Fifth Avenue, but also for his ongoing commitment to learning, teaching and HR thought leadership. (He’s held faculty positions at Rutgers University, Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and the University of Massachusetts-Boston.)

In introducing him, Bill Conaty, former CHRO for General Electric and former NAHR president, even joked that “this guy has more degrees than a thermostat.” (Oh, and while we’re mentioning — admittedly unabashedly — the evening’s ties to HRE, Conaty not only was an HR Executive of the Year, in 2004, with his cover story appearing Oct. 16, 2004, but will also be a keynote speaker at the magazine’s upcoming Human Resource Executive Forum(R), running March 14 through 16 at the Grand Hyatt New York. He’ll be focusing on the subject matter of his new book, The Talent Masters, out this month.)

Tharp, in his characteristically unassuming and humble fashion, took the podium and said to the group that, “As a teacher, I’m going to give you a homework assignment: Look at your calendars and carve out more time to help people in their careers, to give back to people in this profession and help them through the rough spots … because there are rough spots.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity to help less-experienced but promising HR professionals, he said, “is what this academy is all about.”

“My challenge to the fellows in this room, and all the other HR leaders,” he said, “is if we don’t do that, give back, then we’re not doing the most we can with this profession.”

From Tharp’s quiet but impassioned plea to the caliber and accomplishments of his six fellow Fellow inductees, Thursday’s dinner certainly underscored the fact that — at least in this circle — HR excellence is alive and well.

HR Marketing Trends Report Bodes Well

If the latest survey from HRmarketer is any indication — and I think it is — brighter days lie ahead for HR.

HRmarketer’s Trends in HR Marketing report, issued a few days ago, shows HR and benefits vendors plan to increase their marketing budgets in 2011; what’s more, the report reflects an overall increase in supplier optimism in talent management, employee recognition, consulting, training, assessments and other HR industries, as well as a general acceptance of social media as a marketing tool.

In the report, most vendors surveyed said they planned to increase or maintain their marketing budgets in 2011, a pretty noticeable turnaround from last year, when 30 percent of respondents said they would reduce their budgets.

“As another year of sluggish recovery draws to a close, we’re heartened to discover a great deal of optimism from HR suppliers about 2011,” says Mark Willaman, founder and CEO of “The challenge for vendors will be to transform the knowledge and insights revealed in our report into action.”

In the report, nearly 95 percent of HR vendors said their participation in social-networking and social-media marketing increased this year and will continue to increase in 2011. Also rising in popularity is the self-publishing of original content, such as white papers, eBooks and research reports — which bodes well for writers and editors here at HRE, always on the hunt for industry trends and sentiments.

I guess I’m not surprised by this uptick. We caught wind of the same optimism at the HR Technology(R) Conference last month in Chicago — not just in terms of its largest-ever attendance, but also in the sense of optimism that permeated the exhibit hall, sessions and conversations.

You think it’s safe to uncross our fingers now?

Phishing Attackers Focusing on HR

HR, beware: Hackers are using “legitimate-looking e-mails from HR and IT staff of the targeted organization[s]” to send “malicious attachments,” according to the October 2010 Symantech MessageLabs Intelligence Report.

“Of the 516 attacks, only six organizations were the intended targets,” said MessageLabs Inteligence Senior Analyst Paul Wood, who said that two organizations were the main targets — and one of them “was the target of 63 percent” of the attacks.

“The spear phishing attacks [were] launched in three waves each one week apart,” he said.

According to Symantec, each wave was comprised of one or two different e-mail messages using different themes. The first wave of e-mails targeted 50 recipients and spoofed an e-mail address from the firm’s senior HR executive with subjects referring to confidential salary information. The attachment contained a malicious PDF.

The second wave also spoofed an HR executive and targeted 20 recipients with a subject line pertaining to new employment opportunities. The attachment there was an XLS file.

The third wave spoofed one of the organization’s senior IT security executives, targeted 70 employees and requested action with a critical security update. The malicious attachment was a password-protected zip file.

When any of the attachments were clicked on, a backdoor Trojan virus would be installed on the computer, providing access to any sensitive personal or corporate data.

Wood notes that when such e-mails are sent in low volumes, “they are one of the most damaging types of malicious attacks.”

In October, 1 in 1.26 million e-mails comprised a targeted attack, according to Symantec, which reported that the retail sector was hardest hit this month.

It probably wouldn’t hurt to send a message around to staff advising caution — no matter what industry you’re in.


Halloween will soon be here, and you know what that means: Employees showing up this Friday wearing potentially offensive costumes! Oh the horror … . Now I’ve written my share of news stories about this trend, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are a whole bunch of legal experts eager to talk about the potential perils of letting employees show up at work dressed as movie stars, pop icons, politicians etc.  The latest is ELT, an ethics and compliance training firm, which has sent out its list of what it predicts will be the “Most Controversial Workplace Halloween Costumes for 2010.”

What’s on this year’s list? Topping it is “Terrorist/Muslim”–perhaps not a big surprise. ELT illustrates this with a picture of a vest comprised of dynamite sticks and a timer. I gotta concur with ELT on this one: Showing up anywhere, let alone the workplace, with a costume like this represents astoundingly bad judgment. Not funny.

Next is “Illegal Aliens.” Again, not a surprise. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion on this issue, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the workplace is hardly the appropriate venue for hashing out disagreements over what to do about illegal immigration. Throw in the racial overtones, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect companies to be on guard against costumes with this theme.

Number three is Tiger Woods. Now on the one hand, I see ELT’s point: Anytime you have the potential for employees of one race to don a costume depicting someone of a different race,  things can get touchy. On the other hand, it’s well known that Woods is controversial because of his philandering and the resultant marital difficulties. So if an employee shows up in blackface purporting to be Tiger Woods, that’s clearly a no-no. But, if an employee shows up wearing a latex Tiger Woods mask that sports bandages and bleeding (in reference to his wife allegedly attacking him with a golf club), can that really be considered racist?

Number four is Lady Gaga. I’m having some trouble with this one. Yes, some may find Lady Gaga’s music and/or outfits offensively bad. But ELT’s reasoning is that because she wore a dress “made of raw meat” to MTV’s music video awards this year, it may be the wrong time to depict Her Ladyship in the workplace. Personally, I would think an employee who goes to the trouble of re-creating a dress made from raw meat deserves points for hard work and ingenuity. But then again, I’m not a PETA member.

Last on the list is “Chilean Miners.” Obviously, there’s the peril of having non-Latino employees depicting Latino miners. But ELT says such costumes may also “poke fun at workplace safety and blue collar workers.” It seems to me that the story of the Chilean miners showcases courage, ingenuity and persistence in the face of extreme adversity. The entire world was captivated by their rescue. So doesn’t the good far outweigh the potential for bad in this case? I guess I’m  glad I don’t have to make these decisions.

Disabled Workers Lose Advocate

The New York Times is reporting on the death of Paul S. Miller, a long-time advocate for disabled workers who was also born with achondroplasia, or dwarfism.

The paper reported the cause of death was cancer.

Miller was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, but was rejected by law firms more than 40 times, according to the piece, because of his physical stature:

One time, he said, he was told the firm feared that clients would see his hiring as a “circus freak show.”

Despite those setbacks, Miller was hired by a law firm, and eventually became a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was director of the university’s disabilities studies program. According to the NYT:

For 10 years before joining the faculty in 2004, he was a commissioner of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the same time, he was the Clinton administration’s liaison to disability organizations, a role he reprised in the first nine months of the Obama presidency.

We here at the Leader Board salute Miller and his efforts to lead more disabled workers to their rightful places in the working world.

A Sign of Things to Come?

According to People Management, the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK:

“The BBC’s HR director Lucy Adams is to step down from her executive board position as part of a radical restructure, the corporation has confirmed. … The people division will also cease to be a “stand-alone” department and will join the expanded operations group led by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson.”

Critics — and supporters — of HR have been warning for some time that if HR leaders don’t actually get in front and lead, they will open the function up to more back-office outsourcing  and a second-rate future — if there is a future.

For all of the talk about how HR outsourcing will allow HR executives more time to strategize about how they can positively affect business operations and the bottom line, there has also always been talk about the ongoing and seemingly unchanging inability of many HR leaders to escape the administrivia mind-set.

(Of course, here at HRE, we find and celebrate the best and brightest with our HR Executive of the Year award — with Google’s Laszlo Bock most recently being honored.)

There are still too many HR leaders paying attention to seasonal-event planning, as Sue Meisinger writes in her latest HREOnline™ column, or blindly following orders without prioritizing HR initiatives.

As that latter story notes, a report by the Boston Consulting Group in conjunction with the World Federation of People Management Association states: “High-performing companies focus their efforts on fewer, more carefully chosen HR-related projects in areas such as recruiting and leadership development.”

Or, as Sue puts it in her column: Do Less. And Do it Better.

Or face the possibility that the HR function will be devalued and devoured.