Category Archives: HR profession

Spare a Dime for a Co-Worker?

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, about corporate social responsibility, I thought I’d give a nod to Northwestern University’s new employee-to-employee assistance fund, called NU Cares, which is intended to help out Northwestern staff and faculty who find themselves in a financial bind due to an unexpected illness or emergency.

Launched in December, the fund had received more than 85 donations in the past month, according to Lori Anne Henderson, the Evanston, Ill.-based university’s director of work/life resources. She told a reporter from The Daily Northwestern, the university’s student newspaper, that a committee made up of faculty and staff members will review applications and award grants based on need. The money does not have to be repaid.

Northwestern is hardly alone. A number of other companies have employee-assistance funds, including Alaska Airlines, which launched its fund back in 1992. The airline encourages its employees to donate $1 per paycheck to the fund; last year, 30 percent donated and the fund raised a total of $286,000, according to the company. Donations to the fund, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity, are tax deductible. Other organizations with similar funds in place include US Bank, Regency Healthcare, Wellesley College and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For companies that don’t have such funds in place: Yes, there are many worthy charities that benefit society, but it’d also be nice to give folks the opportunity to help out, anonymously, a co-worker a few cubicles down whom they know is really struggling. Wouldn’t that be a boost to employee morale and engagement?

File Under: Too Much Information

And a happy Monday morning to you all!

Thanks to the good folks over at The Associated Press, which brings us news this morning that Swiss bank UBS is changing its way-too-specific dress-code guidelines after it was recently mocked in business circles.

From the AP:

The bank said Monday it is whittling down its 44-page style guide to a more modest booklet that will concentrate on how to impress customers with a polished presence and sense of Swiss precision and decorum.

“We’re reviewing what is important to us,” UBS spokesman Andreas Kern told The Associated Press.

The existing code tells female employees how to apply makeup, what kind of perfume to wear and what color stockings and lingerie are acceptable. It advises them not to show roots if they color their hair and to avoid black nail polish.

“You can extend the life of your knee socks and stockings by keeping your toenails trimmed and filed,” UBS tells its female staff. “Always have a spare pair: stockings can be provisionally repaired with transparent nail polish and a bit of luck.”

While the old version of the dress code may be excessively granular about how its employees should present themselves, The Leader Board found at least one UBS rule that it hopes is retained for the new edition:

Both sexes were advised to avoid garlic or onion breath.

EEOC: Retaliation, Not Race, Was Most Frequent Charge Last Year

The EEOC says private-sector workplace discrimination charges hit a new record last year, with 99,922 charges filed with the agency, compared to 93,277 in fiscal 2009. The EEOC also got a record amount of money from employers last year—$404 million, compared to $376 million in ‘09—to settle worker complaints via its enforcement, mediation and litigation programs.

As we’ve noted before, charges filed with the EEOC tend to trend up when the economy trends down.

According to the agency’s Fiscal 2010 data, all major categories of filings in the private sector were up, including charges of discrimination related to age, gender, disabilities and race. Speaking of race, the number of charges alleging retaliation under all the statutes (36,258) eclipsed the number alleging racial discrimination (35,890) for the first time in the agency’s 45-year history. Allegations based on religion (3,790), disability (25,165) and age (23,264) all increased from the previous year, while 201 charges were filed under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in its first year of enforcement.

A full summary of the data can be viewed at

CareerXroads: “Big demand” for International Recruiters

International recruiting is hot, hot, hot, says Mark Mehler, who—with Gerry Crispin—heads, the Kendall Park, N.J.-based recruitment consulting firm.

CareerXroads has a job board for recruiters (“We don’t charge for it,” says Mehler) and, according to him, the volume of open positions for senior-level recruiters for U.S.-based companies is the greatest he’s seen since three years ago. “This, more than anything, tells us that hiring is about to pick up steam,” he says.

But what’s really sizzling, he says, is the job market for international recruiters. “It’s aflame,” says Mehler. “The demand is big for all over the world—Europe, Asia, India.” In fact, demand has grown so much that he and Crispin have been inspired to start planning a colloquium on international recruiting that will take place “very shortly.”  “We haven’t settled on a date yet, but stay tuned,” he says.

“International is coming on so strong that Gerry and I predict you’ll see more than a few heads of staffing at U.S. firms ending up overseas,” he says.

Paper Says HR Should Learn Engagement Lessons from Marketing

I hope this recent executive briefing from the Madison Performance Group isn’t some kind of foreshadowing — a sign that HR might soon be shedding its viability and function, piece by piece, because of its inability to “keep up.”

According to the briefing, when it comes to building a more engaged workforce — and we all know how important that has become to HR leaders in an emerging recovery — some executives have suggested that the marketing department may be better qualified than HR. Yikes.

In a release about the paper, Mike Ryan, senior vice president of Madison, a recognition and consulting firm based in New York, says the C-suite “wants HR to do more than communicate processes and procedures.” On the contrary, “top executives want HR to own the internal employee customers,” he says.

“Marketing has evolved particularly fast in using digital media to deliver messages that are more efficient and impactful,” says Ryan, who wrote the briefing. “Precision marketing practices — that build personalized relationships with the brand — have helped marketing gain new respect and status within the organization for its ability to attract, retain and leverage profitable customers.”

And here’s the kicker: “Some business leaders wonder if marketing shouldn’t also be charged with building and maintaining the corporate connection with employees,” he writes in the briefing. This one is of special concern since much of the talk I’m hearing in HR circles today is of the need for the profession to evolve into more of a strategic catalyst — through communication and talent-management strategies — for the business conversation and translation between top managers and employees to be effectively executed. Hey, if marketing’s supposed to evolve into that space, where does that leave HR?

“So back to our question,” the paper reads: “Which discipline is best prepared to manage employee engagement? The answer is simple. No discipline within any organization is more committed to the development and optimization of its workforce than the HR team. But to be truly the best at generating emotional connections that drive long-term value and loyalty, HR will need to start acting, and executing, like marketing.”

I’m not sure the HR professionals I’ve met are really ready for this.

On Workaholics and the New Year

I thought it a bit ironic that I chose to take a moment to work from home while on vacation today only to come across this Career Builder survey on signs of being a workaholic. Although the findings appear alarming at first, the only truly significant number I can see is the 51 percent of 3,100 employees polled who’ve had more work piled on them this year. Significant, but not surprising.

Still, 24 percent of people at home or out socially are still thinking about work. That means about one in every four people I’ve seen in the mall, post office, traffic (with trees tied to their roofs), on ladders hanging lights from windows and gutters, etc., etc., isn’t really connected to the holiday he or she appears to be enjoying. That’s kind of sad. Then again, that leaves 76 percent who must have perfected the art of leaving everything at the office. So, there’s a hopeful sign that our society is that maladjusted.

The release isn’t directed at HR professionals, but it might offer some insight into the dangers of letting workers obsess over work without stepping in and addressing it. It also lists some tips for establishing and maintaining a better balance between life and work that you might share with them when the new year begins.

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, puts it: “While a strong work ethic is valued, a lack of balance with … personal life can ultimately work against [employees] in the long run.” She recommends that, as the year wraps up, workers take inventory of their personal time and figure out where they “need to make adjustments in 2011.”

Maybe employers can lend a bigger hand with that going forward.

Yet Another Acquisition: Lawson Acquires Enwisen

Lawson Software, the St. Paul-based HRMS vendor, has just announced it’s acquiring employee self-service vendor Enwisen for $70 million in an all-cash transaction. Lawson says it expects the transaction to close by Dec. 31.

It’s been quite a year for mergers and acquisitions in the world of HR. The coming year will undoubtedly see many more, especially considering that analysts such as Jason Averbook of Knowledge Infusion expect 2011 will see a big shakeout of HR technology vendors.

 Here are some of the other noteworthy M&As (mostly “A”s, as in acquisitions) among HR vendors this past year:

Peopleclick and Authoria

Aon and Hewitt Associates

Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt (announced last year but it closed this January)

ADP and Workscape

Taleo and

SumTotal and Softscape

SuccessFactors and Inform and CubeTree

Catching Up on Compensation Trends

A few bits of news crossed my desk today that I thought I’d share just in case you hadn’t seen them. Both offer glimpses into where the nation’s businesses stand on compensation practices that might be handy comparative tools for you and your organization.

The first is this good-news-bad-news release from Challenger, Gray & Christmas (scroll down past that first top item to get to it). It shows that, while companies aren’t increasing their holiday bonuses by much, they’re at least not decreasing them by much either. In the survey of about 100 HR professionals, 63 percent said their companies were giving year-end bonuses this year, compared to 64 percent last year.

Underscoring just how precarious this on-again-off-again recovery still is, 16 percent of respondents said their companies were planning to give smaller bonuses this year, compared to only 4 percent in 2009.

“According to economists, the recovery began in July 2009,” says John A. Challenger, the firm’s CEO. “but, for many companies, the recovery simply means they are no longer hemorrhaging money.”

The second window into where things stand is a new guide for HR professionals that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will soon be releasing called “Zooming in on Compensation Data.” The release about it calls it “a convenient, hands-on reference document that provides brief explanations of various BLS surveys, with charts … [plus] separate sections for wage and salary administrators, benefits administrators, wage and contract administrators, as well as information on the 21st-century workforce.” Also included is contact information for all eight regional BLS offices.

Lastly, here’s some latest research from Sibson Consulting showing moderation in salary-increase and other compensation planning will be the name of the game for 2011.

In this still-volatile but ever-improving economy, it has to be extremely difficult to know what compensation and total-reward moves are best to keep your company competitive and strategically positioned for the recovery. It also must be nearly impossible to time the moves perfectly. Figured these bits of information couldn’t hurt.

Buzzword Overkill

The good folks at LinkedIn recently combed through their 85 million profiles and found the top 10 most overused buzzwords of the year, including such gems as  “extensive experience” and “innovative.”

“We wanted to reveal insights that help professionals make better choices about how to position themselves online,” DJ Patil, LinkedIn’s lead data analyst, said in a statement on

Now, onto the list:

1. Extensive experience

2. Innovative

3. Motivated

4. Results-oriented

5. Dynamic

6. Proven track record

7. Team player

8. Fast-paced

9. Problem solver

10. Entrepreneurial

But with a national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, here’s one phrase that sadly hasn’t been overused in 2010: You’re hired.

Research on Work and Family Issues

Interested in work/family issues? Seems like most people are — from both a personal and professional standpoint.

I recently attended a Focus on Workplace Flexibility conference that offered some studies pinpointing various issues affecting the integration of work and life.

I highlight some of those new academic studies in my write-up of the conference (here). These studies ranged from barriers that prevent women from remining in the science pipeline to the way blue-collar workers will find ways to create their own flexibility when their employers are inflexible. From the way working mothers give up leisure time and sleep to meet the demands of children and jobs to the extreme work/family issues affecting military families. (See all of the papers from the conference here.)

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which funded these studies, has for years also funded the Work and Family Researchers Network, which has been at Boston College since 1997. That funding of the Network, however, is ending, and it is now both moving to the University of Pennsylvania and is becoming a membership organization.

Anyone interested in work/family research can become a dues-paying general member for $100 a year. Seems like a membership many HR leaders should consider. See here for more information.