Category Archives: retention

Will Those Millennial Enigmas Stay, or Not?

Forgive me, first off, for focusing yet again on millennials in the workplace. We’ve admittedly done more than our fair share of 84464529 -- millennial workersstories and blog posts on this demographic and what they need, and  apparently aren’t getting from many employers.

But it seems no matter how much we write, or how much we study them, we simply cannot get our heads around these younger workers, generally born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Do they come to work with far too many expectations and little regard for established protocol? Are they one of the sharpest generations, or not so? Do they communicate well on paper and face-to-face, or only through their mobile devices? Then there’s the million-dollar question: Are they loyal or are they going to leave their jobs as soon as something else looks more interesting?

We’ve all certainly heard and read about the latter, haven’t we? It appears to be a worry that’s been plaguing employers for some time now and hasn’t been letting up much either. Indeed, both our January-February cover story, “Millennials in Charge,” and our soon-to-be-published April cover story, “Engaging Gen Y,” mention this age group’s propensity for job-hopping. So does a recent Aon Hewitt study that finds nearly half of all working millennials intend to find new jobs this year.

But then come all the counter findings: the most recent from the U.S News & World Report’s Money site suggesting “the reality doesn’t back that up at all.” In fact, writes columnist Alison Green March on that site, “a report from Oxford Economics [written about on the Forbes site] found that millennials are no more likely than non-millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months.”

Just last month, HRE Editor Dave Shadovitz blogged about another study, this one from IBM, suggesting “millennials change jobs for the same reasons other generations do and are no more likely than older colleagues to leave a job to follow their passions.”

So who are these guys? And should we be worried or not? Better yet, are we simply overthinking all these demographics and putting way too much stock in the latest survey or study?

I put all this to my 30-year-old son who will have been working as a mechanical engineer at a firm in Philadelphia for eight years this April. Count ‘em: eight. First job out of college and he’s still there. That’s way more loyal than most studies indicate.

He’s a good texter, but he also communicates extremely well face-to-face. In his words: “I don’t really waste time thinking about those studies, but I do hear that about my generation from time to time.” Yea, the way I figure it, he’s way too busy flying to site visits and drafting up building, systems and circuitry designs to spend much time reading about how likely he is to job-hop.

“The generational-studies thing, I don’t really get it,” he says. “Seems like they do that with every new generation, right?”

Well, yes, but his generation seems to have gotten the lion’s share of attention, I tell him.

Then again, haven’t millennials always gotten the lion’s share of our attention? I’ve read that about us baby boomer parents in a number of studies as well.

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In Search of Quality Job Seekers

successionIt’s not 2010 anymore.

Alan Momeyer, vice president of human resources at Loews Corp., delivered that helpful message to attendees who came to check out yesterday’s “HR Tips and Trends” session at the HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Momeyer, who was accompanied on stage by HR peers from Four Season Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Destination Hotels and Resorts/Lowe Enterprises, and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, was referring to how quality job candidates seek jobs now versus five years ago.

In the past year or so, Loews saw approximately 300,000 job applicants come just from a partnership with indeed.com, the popular employment-related meta-search job engine, according to Momeyer.

“That didn’t just happen. It happened because we paid to be visible,” he said, urging the HR leaders in attendance to get more aggressive in seeking out quality candidates via sites such as Indeed as well as ever-more popular social networking sites.

Momeyer and his colleagues on the panel also stressed the importance of taking a more active role in managing your employment brand online.

For example, panelist Robert Mellwig, senior vice president of really cool people (that’s right) at Destination Hotels and Resorts/Lowe Enterprises, says the organization views employer-review sites such as Glassdoor.com similar to the way its customers look at tripadvisor.com.

According to Momeyer, his introduction to Glassdoor came via his millenial-age daughters.

“When they graduated college and started talking to companies about interviews and job openings, they went straight to Glassdoor to find out more about these companies.”

HR can help the organization have a bigger say in what candidates find when they (inevitably) visit such sites, said Momeyer.

“A lot of times, it’s unhappy employees complaining on these sites,” he said. “You should think about approaching your employees who would have something good to say, to share their reviews.”

Panelist Carolyn Clark, senior vice president of HR at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, “knows how important our external brand is for our guests, and what differentiates our guest experience.”

But, equally as vital, she said, is determining what makes the Fairmont employment experience a positive one for its 45,000 global associates.

To “differentiate our colleague experience, increase our job applicant flow and increase employee engagement, we really want to tell our colleague experience, and [show candidates] what it’s like to work here.”

Doing so requires “fishing where the fish are,” she said, noting that Fairmont has recently undertaken an initiative to “identify [the most used] channels and best candidates, and seek them out and ask them what’s most important to them in their jobs and careers.”

Clark and her HR team have asked the same of current Fairmont employees, surveying associates to find out what attracted them to the company, what has kept them there and what about their jobs makes them happy, she said.

What Clark and company have gleaned from this process is that, above all else, employees (and potential employees) value a connection with their co-workers as well as the organization.

“What we’ve learned from hearing our employees describe their work experience is that they look at their jobs as if they were working with their families.”

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Promotions on the Rise

If this isn’t a sure sign of an ascendant economy, then I’m not sure what one is: The percentage of employees receiving a promotion on an annual basis has increased from 7 percent to 9 percent since 2010.

This is according to a new survey titled “Promotional Guidelines” conducted by WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association and leading compensation authority based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The association conducted the 2014 survey — its fourth such survey — of its membership to better understand the trends in promotional guidelines.

The survey focuses on a variety of practices and policies including what employers consider to be a promotion as well as the standard pay increases that often accompany promotions. WorldatWork conducted similar compensation practices surveys in 2012, 2010 and 2006.

“The steady upward trend of employee promotions mirroring the economic recovery is further evidence that organizations are relaxing their budget purse strings,” says Kerry Chou, WorldatWork senior practice leader. “While the gradual trend is good news, the data also suggests that employee vacancies are helping employers foot the bill for these promotions.”

Additional highlights from the 2014 survey include:

  • Less than half (42 percent) of responding organizations budget separately for promotional activity.
  • In order to define employee movement as a “promotion,” 77 percent of responding organizations require higher-level responsibilities and 75% require an increase in pay grade, band or level.
  • 63 percent of respondents said their organization does not feature or market promotional opportunities or activities as a key employee benefit when attempting to attract new employees.
  • More than 60 percent of workforces consider their organization’s promotional opportunities to have a positive effect on employee engagement and employee motivation.
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Bigger Raises on the Way?

465463337The numbers have been awfully similar, and awfully stagnant, for some time now.

Employees in the U.S.—those lucky enough to get a raise—have been receiving, on average, something in the neighborhood of a 3 percent bump in pay each year. And there have been no shortage of experts forecasting comparable increases in the months ahead.

Still, there’s reason to be optimistic that things will start looking up in 2015, according to New York Times senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin. In an online piece appearing this week, Irwin asks whether pay raises will become more commonplace this year, and sees at least three recent signs that may point to “yes.” Specifically:

  • The number of available jobs in the U.S. rose to 4.97 million in November—the highest that figure has been since 2001—as seen in the Labor Department’s latest monthly job openings report.
  • The recently-released National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Optimism Survey finds overall optimism among small businesses at its highest point since 2006, with the proportion of small businesses planning to increase compensation in the next three months 17 percent higher than those that planned decreases.
  • Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer Aetna has announced that, beginning in April, it would set a minimum hourly pay rate of $16 for its workers, which Irwin described as “the most interesting piece of evidence for rising wage pressure.” This increase equates to a roughly 11 percent jump in pay for 5,700 claims administrators and various low-level workers at Aetna.

The company is “counting on the raise to make it easier to retain good employees and recruit for vacant positions,” says Irwin, who posits that continuing job growth could find organizations that fail to raise wages “at a competitive disadvantage, losing their best workers to companies like Aetna that try to get ahead of the curve a bit with pre-emptive raises.”

Whether that scenario plays out remains to be seen, of course. Irwin acknowledges as much, allowing for the possibility of the job growth rate flattening as the U.S. inches closer to full employment, and/or the millions of people no longer in the workforce re-entering in large numbers and subsequently holding down wages.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned developments present “a coherent, consistent story,” says Irwin, with employers looking to fill more openings, small businesses expecting to raise pay and “one giant employer … doing exactly that.”

“Add it up,” he says, “and Aetna workers may not be the only ones seeing raises this year.”

Indeed. Aetna employees will certainly not be the only ones receiving raises in 2015. But it will be interesting to see if more large organizations follow Aetna’s lead and begin to break the 3-percent threshold that’s been the norm for so long.

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What Happens When Executives Leave

executive exitThat’s what a pair of University of Kansas School of Business professors wanted to find out when they undertook a recent study on turnover at the highest levels of management.

James Guthrie and Jay Lee, professors of human resource management at the school, sought to see how companies perform following the exit of top executives, using data from 367 firms representing 134 industries. According to a UK statement, the researchers’ analyses “examined the relationship between top management team turnover and firm performance, taking into account a number of industry and firm characteristics, including a company’s own performance history.”

Guthrie and Lee found that, “as rates of top management turnover increase, firm performance tends to suffer.”

This may seem intuitive enough, but the researchers maintain that companies can sometimes be too “trigger-happy” in removing corporate leaders, and actually overestimate the positive effects of turnover at the top.

“There is this idea out there that top management teams get too complacent, too committed to the status quo, and therefore shaking things up will improve performance,” according to Guthrie. “And there is a certain extent to which that is true.”

But what firms don’t always count on losing in the process, he adds, is the departing executive’s tacit knowledge—social connections, industry relationships or organizational knowledge, for example.

The implication, says Guthrie, “is that turnover not only erodes performance by depleting organizational skill banks but, perhaps more dramatically, by altering the social structure and fabric of an organization.”

While acknowledging that change at the top is necessary when an executive isn’t performing well enough, “I think a lot of firms take this too far,” he continues, noting that companies can tend to overlook executives’ firm-specific experience and fall into a mindset that change is always a good thing.

Ultimately, Guthrie and Lee concluded that the effects of turnover at the highest levels of management are comparable to those found in studies of turnover at the lower levels of the organization—increased turnover equates to decreased productivity and insecurity in other parts of the firm.

“It’s basically a cautionary tale,” says Guthrie. “Don’t necessarily think that if you’re in a volatile industry, changing people at the top will improve things.”

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Increasing Pay, Increasing Challenges

Not sure how you’ll read this, whether you’re the full-glass or half-glass sort, but this latest survey from Mercer shows pay raises are growing steadily … albeit in .1-percent increments.

180274674 -- pay raiseAccording to the New York-based global consulting firm’s 2014/2015 U.S. Compensation Planning Survey, the average raise in base pay is expected to be 3 percent in 2015, up slightly from 2.9 percent in 2014, 2.8 percent in 2013 and 2.7 percent in 2012.

No leaps and bounds, certainly, but indicative — we’d all have to agree — of a steadily improving economy and job market, no?

Granted, .1-percent increments may not give your employees the wow factors they’re looking for as they mull whether to stick around or try out greener-looking pastures. And this can be especially worrisome when you consider what it will take to keep your highest-performing workers on board and happy.

Which leads me to another survey finding: that the range between increases to high-performing employees and those given to lower-performing employees continues to widen. Specifically, the survey shows, the former received average base-pay increases of 4.8 percent in 2014, compared to 2.6 percent for average performers and 0.1 percent for the lower performers.

“Differentiating salary increases based on performance has become the norm,” says Rebecca Adractas, principal in Mercer’s rewards consulting business. “Investing in those employees [who] are driving organizational performance has become a necessity.”

So has making sure the good ones have more than one reason — pay — to stay.

Mary Ann Sardone, partner in the firm’s talent practice and regional leader of its rewards segment, says employers are also “continuing to provide rewards beyond compensation, in the form of training and career development.”

“Employee engagement and retention continue to be a top priority,” she says.

So, on the glass-half-empty end, if you’re not doing everything you can to figure out who your top performers are, what they want and how you can provide it, you will inevitably be caught with your proverbial pants down.

On the glass-half-full side, at least things are looking up … ever-so slowly but surely.

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‘The 27 Challenges Managers Face’

Bruce Tulgan

Bruce Tulgan

I just came across an advance copy of a book due on shelves Sept. 15 that takes a pretty interesting stab at itemizing and enumerating every key challenge a manager will face in his or her profession. I’m sharing it here — “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” — because I’ve found the author, Bruce Tulgan, CEO and founder of New Haven, Conn.-based management consultancy RainmakerThinking Inc., to be pretty authoritative and sound over the years when it comes to manager-employee relationships.

HRE clearly concurs, as it will be featuring Tulgan in a webinar on Aug. 13, titled “Building a Better Boss: Engaging Managers to Inspire and Engage Workers.” In the webinar, he’ll discuss his latest research that finds “The Under-Management Epidemic,” first revealed in his company’s 2004 study, rages on 10 years later. According to the study, nine out of 10 leaders and managers are not providing their direct reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching today. 

In his latest book, already listed on Amazon, Tulgan reiterates and underscores that fact, bringing together what he says are the 27 — not 26 or 28, mind you — challenges he’s heard repeatedly from managers over his 20 years of research. During that time, he says, he’s asked “hundreds of thousands of managers in organizations of all shapes and sizes, ‘What are the most difficult challenges you face when it comes to managing people?’ ” His finding:

Regardless of industry or job title, managers cite the same core issues — more than 90 percent of responses over the years refer to the same 27 challenges. The same cases come up over and over again — maybe it’s the superstar [who] the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker [who] the manager cannot figure out how to motivate or the two employees who cannot get along.”

As Tulgan says in a Q&A at the end of this link about the book, including excerpts:

It turns out that when things are going wrong in a management relationship, almost always, the common denominator is unstructured, low-substance, hit-or-miss communication. … Almost always, the ad-hoc manner in which most managers talk to their direct reports every day actually makes inevitable the most difficult employee situations that tend to vex managers. What is the key to avoiding most of these problems and the key to solving them quickly and with relative ease as soon as they appear? High-structure high-substance one-on-one dialogues with every direct report.”

For what it’s worth, I have talked to numerous experts over the years who have corroborated this need for more effective and authentic one-on-one business leadership, including folks at Bridgeville, Pa.-based Development Dimensions International, whose recent study finds a sorry lack of interactive-conversational skills among business leaders and managers worldwide. (I wrote about that study in this recent news analysis.)

As it is, and as Tulgan’s book lays them out — grouped in chapters according to stages of one’s management career and types of problems — here they are, all 27 of them:

1, when going from peer to leader; 2, when coming from the outside to take over leadership of an existing team; 3, when bringing together an entirely new team; 4, when you are welcoming a new member to your existing team; 5, when employees have a hard time managing time; 6, when an employee needs help with interpersonal communication; 7, when an employee needs to get organized; 8, when an employee needs to get better at problem-solving; 9, when you have an employee who needs to increase productivity; 10, when you have an employee who needs to improve quality; 11, when you need an employee to start “going the extra mile”; 12, when your employees are doing “creative” work; 13, when the employee you are managing knows more about the work than you do (I, Kris Frasch, suspect that might be something managers are experiencing more frequently these days, given our demographic shifts in the workplace); 14, when an employee needs an attitude adjustment; 15, when there is conflict between and among individuals on your team …

Breath …

16, when an employee has personal issues at home; 17, when there is a superstar you need to keep engaged; 18, when you have a superstar you really want to retain; 19, when you have a superstar you are going to lose for sure: how to lose that superstar very well; 20, when you need to move a superstar to the next level to develop as a new leader; 21, when managing in an environment of constant change and uncertainty; 22, when managing under resource constraints; 23, when managing through interdependency management challenges; 24, when managing around logistical hurdles; 25, when managing across differences in language and culture; 26, when you need to renew your management relationship with a disengaged employee; and 27, when you need to renew your own commitment to being a strong, highly engaged manager.

As Rainmaker puts it in one promotional, “The 27 Challenges are enumerated not in order of frequency or difficulty, but rather according to the bigger-picture human capital issues in which [they] fall. Like a guidebook through the real life of a manager — from the ‘new-manager’ challenges, through performance management, retention, and all the way to the latter career stage when so many managers face the challenges of ‘renewal.’ ”

Tulgan says he hopes readers will use this book like reference material, referring to the specific challenge one is encountering and his solution for overcoming it, maybe reading others to prepare a little, but then shelving it until it’s needed again.

Personally, I can’t imagine many other challenges than the ones listed above, but Tulgan assures me there are hundreds more. Solve these ones, he says, and you’ll have a pretty good handle on how to apply “the fundamentals of management to gain control of any situation.” People managing managers, he adds, should keep it on hand, too.

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Millennial Meltdown

stressed womanBy definition, employee burnout occurs when someone begins to feel emotionally and physically spent after doing a difficult and demanding job for a long time.

With that in mind, it seems to make sense that older employees—baby boomers bearing down on retirement age, Gen Xers now hitting their 40s and 50s—would be the most likely to feel worn down from work.

Doesn’t it?

Not necessarily, according to a recent Monster.com survey, which actually finds millennial-age workers to be the most burned out of the bunch.

In a Monster poll of nearly 1,100 employed or unemployed job seekers, 81 percent of workers said they feel some sense of burnout in their jobs. Eighty-six percent of millennials report experiencing some level of burnout, compared to 76 percent of more experienced workers saying the same.

Of course, with some of their more seasoned colleagues moving into different positions or getting ready to settle into retirement, many Gen Y workers may find themselves bearing a larger load than ever before in their relatively young careers.

Looking through that lens, maybe it’s not so surprising that more members of Gen Y are feeling fried, according to Jeffrey Quinn, vice president of Monster’s global insights.

“It’s probable that millennials are expected to take on larger roles than their more experienced predecessors, and thus are feeling the pressure,” said Quinn, in a statement.

“That said, millennials are proving to be more open-minded than the more experienced workers when it comes to job locations and roles,” he said. “This flexibility will be advantageous to the millennial generation, allowing them to cast a wider net and find better success and satisfaction in their careers.”

HR and managers can play a part in helping Gen Y get a handle on their increased responsibilities, but should bear in mind that “millennials have a very different mindset from the older generations in the workforce,” says Jay Meschke, president of Leawood, Kan.-based CBIZ Human Capital Services.

“For example, millennials are eager to please, but they tend to require more feedback than other generations,” says Meschke. “Executives should communicate and provide [frequent] feedback that is timely and specific, and addresses performance issues, not intergenerational differences.

“It’s also important to create an emotional connection,” he adds, “through simple acts like highlighting internal promotions.”

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Prayer Rooms as a Perk?

prayerTech companies have long set the standard for unique on-site amenities, from free haircuts and laundry service to regular massage days and rock-climbing walls.

Could prayer rooms be the next perquisite that employers in Silicon Valley and beyond put in place to help recruit and keep top-notch talent?

They just might be, if a recent article appearing in Crain’s Chicago Business is any indication.

Earlier this week, Crain’s highlighted a few tech firms adding spaces dedicated to prayer and meditation, meaning that “religious employees no longer have to use conference rooms or other shared spaces—sometimes uncomfortably—for daily prayers.”

The rooms, the article notes, “can be a tool for attracting and retaining talent, proof that the boss welcomes Muslims and other people of faith,” not to mention “another way that tech companies disrupt the traditional office, like informal dress and flexible hours.”

Gogo Inc., for example, will provide employees at the in-flight Internet service provider’s new Chicago headquarters with two rooms set aside specifically for prayer and meditation. At its current Itasca, Ill.-based office, employees have typically reserved conference rooms for such purposes, but “it wasn’t a great solution,” Debbie Fangman, Gogo facilities manager, told Crain’s.

Online travel company Orbitz Worldwide Inc. had a similar room built when it moved into its new Chicago digs last year, after managers had noticed employees slipping into stairwells to pray at the company’s old offices.

“[The prayer room] is No. 1 for me, ahead of the soft drinks, the coffee machines or the game room,” Zaki Sharabash, senior director in business intelligence at Orbitz, told the paper.

“When you’re a minority, you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask for something like [a prayer room],” added Sana Mohammed, an Orbitz project manager who uses the room daily. “It’s welcoming. As an employee, you feel respected, that there’s a place for you.”

Those few minutes spent praying also provide an energy and productivity boost, according to Mohammed.

“I come back refreshed and focused. I’m able to put more toward my work.”

A growing number of tech companies seem to be realizing as much, with more of them asking to build prayer rooms into their floor plans, according to Theresa Williams, a design director with interior design and architecture firm Nelson & Associates.

“It started in the past year or two,” Williams told Crain’s. “It’s something you ask about now.”

While tech firms may be on the leading edge of the trend—as they often are—making space for prayer at work “is a fantastically good thing” regardless of industry, said Jeff Carlson, professor of theology at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., in the Crain’s piece.

“It honors the fact that religion or spirituality is real, and is to be honored and respected,” said Carlson. “Diversity is a fact. It’s how [employers] react to it that matters.”

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Giving Workers a Reason to Quit at Amazon

Years ago, we reported on Zappos’ decision to offer employees a $1,500 bonus to quit during its intensive, four-week training period. The thinking being, if they’re not happy in their jobs 480491805at that point, why prolong the inevitable and suffer the consequences in the process.

Well, in case  you haven’t already heard, earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reported in his letter to shareholders that the online retailing behemoth has established a program called “Pay to Quit” that pays warehouse employees up to $5,000 to leave.

Bezos spells out “Pay to Quit” this way in his letter to shareholders

It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer.’  We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

In a story in The Tennessean, an Amazon spokeswoman says only workers in the fulfillment centers, where customer orders are packed and shipped, are eligible for the program and that only a small percentage of employees take the company up on the offer. (Back in 2008, when we first wrote about the Zappos program, we were told only 2 percent of the trainees took the online shoe-and-clothing retailer up on its offer.)

Hearing about Amazon’s decision to follow in Zappos’ footsteps (excuse the pun), I tried to find other attempts at this, at decent-size organizations anyway, but came up empty handed. (If you’re aware of any, let us know.)

But with Amazon’s program getting the press attention it has, could that change?

I asked that question this afternoon to Joel Garfinkle, founder of Garfinkle Executive Coaching in Oakland, Calif., and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.

That’s certainly possible, Garfinkle told me. “ We live in a copycat world” and “a lot of people look to Jeff [Bezos] as the new Steve Jobs — someone who leads from the front and is willing to take risks,” he said.

Garfinkle believes the approach might have some merit. “If you’re neutral or positive about your job, you’re not going to take [the offer to leave],” he says. “But if you’re really on the fence or negative, it might be enough that you just might take it.”

Much still needs to be measured, he adds, but at the end of the day it could very well lead to higher overall productivity.

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