Category Archives: talent management

Turnover and the Hourly Workforce

A new  survey of service-industry workforces and operations to determine how organizations are managing their hourly employees finds that turnover continues to be one of the business sector’s biggest challenges, with respondents reporting year-over-year turnover increases of 39 percent for hourly workers and a staggering 314 percent increase in turnover for managers.

That’s according  to the 2014-2015 How Hourly Workforces Work survey — conducted by Charleston, S.C.-based The PeopleMatter Institute — which also reports annual turnover rates for hourly employees to be 49 percent, with an average cost of $4,969 per employee.

Now in its fourth year, the survey was completed by 974 individuals, representing all sectors, business sizes and roles in the service industry.

“With a still-uncertain economy, rising turnover and increased competition, the survey reveals a number of challenges impacting the industry, said Nate DaPore, CEO and President of PeopleMatter.

DaPore also said it also “shows that the companies adopting advanced workforce management technology are best suited to address these challenges head on and to ensure a more effective approach to managing their hourly workforces.”

While triple-digit turnover rates for hourly workers may not be very surprising, the 314-percent increase in turnover for managers should be a clear signal to HR leaders who manage hourly workforces that more attention needs to be paid to both training and retention efforts at the manager level.

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A Case for Sleeping on the Job

Workplace nap rooms continue to be extremely rare. Indeed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s just released 2015 Employee Benefits study, about 2 percent of employers report having nap rooms. (And that seems high to me.) But that doesn’t necessarily mean the idea doesn’t have merit, right?

ThinkstockPhotos-483838351Admittedly, nap rooms are never going to gain significant traction in the workplace. Probably not in my lifetime, anyway. Most companies simply aren’t going to buy into the concept. But recent research coming out of the University of Michigan and posted on the online version of the journal Personality and Individual Differences—titled “Napping to Modulate Frustration and Impulsivity: A Pilot Study”could, at the very least, open the eyes of a handful of HR professionals.

Researchers at U-M recently found that napping can be a “cost-effective and easy strategy” that can boost employee productivity and workplace safety.

To arrive at its findings, the study’s authorsJennifer Goldschmied (lead author), Philip Cheng, Kathryn Kemp, Lauren Caccamo, Julia Roberts and Patricia Deldinrecruited 40 individuals, ages 18 to 50, to take part in the research. In a laboratory, the participantswho maintained a consistent sleep schedule for three days leading up to the testcompleted tasks on computers and answered questions about sleepiness, mood and impulsivity.

All were randomly assigned to a 60-minute nap opportunity or no-nap period that involved watching a nature video. Research assistants monitored the participants, who later completed the questionnaires and tasks again.

The researchers found …

“Those who napped spent more time trying to solve a task than the non-nappers who were less willing to endure frustration in order to complete it. In addition, nappers reported feeling less impulsive.

Combined with previous research demonstrating the negative effects of sleep deprivation, results from this latest study indicate that staying awake for an extended period of time hinders people from controlling negative emotional responses … .”

Commenting on the findings, Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology, said …

“Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks.”

None of this, of course, comes as a huge surprise. I’m sure we all feel a whole lot more functional after a nice nap. Right? But despite this fact, the U-M study and other research that has arrived at similar conclusionsI’ll stick with my earlier prediction that nap rooms and nap times, as a practice, aren’t going to see the light of day anytime soon.

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Do HR Leaders Have What It Takes?

This past Tuesday, I had a chance to hear Bill Conaty, HRE’s 2004 HR Executive of the Year, share his insights on how chief HR officers can be more effective leaders during the National Academy of Human Resources’ 13th CHRO Academy, held at the Yale Club in New York.

Bill Conaty, speaking in New York on Tuesday. (Photo by Robert Knowles)

Bill Conaty, speaking in New York on Tuesday. (Photo by Robert Knowles)

Conaty addressed his remarks to about 30 CHROs attending a dinner at the two-day, invitation-only event, which is held annually and specifically focuses on the needs of CHROs who are new to the job, have moved to a new employer or have a new CEO. As far as I know, there’s nothing comparable in the field today. (The faculty for CHRO Academy primarily consists of NAHR Fellows.)

A Distinguished Fellow in the NAHR, Conaty retired as senior vice president of HR at General Electric in 2007, but still remains quite active in the field and advises business leaders on a wide range of HR issues through his firm Conaty Consulting LLC.

In his talk, he touched on a number of important topics—but for purposes of this post, I’d like to specifically focus on his comments about what it takes to be a strong HR leader today. His list was based on the specs he had for his own job while at GE and reflected many of the qualities he was looking for in his own successor, though he was quick to point out that he didn’t necessarily fulfill each and every one of the items himself. Whether you’re new to the CHRO role or not, perhaps they might prove helpful in elevating your own game.

First on Conaty’s list: Ensuring that there’s a good fit between the CHRO, CEO and CFO posts. Conaty shared how CEO Jeff Immelt, one year, did something at GE that hadn’t been done before: He asked to take a close look at the CEO, CFO and HR leader in each GE business. “What he was looking for was styles and fits,” he said, “If you had a CEO who was a hammer, a CFO who was a hammer and an HR leader who was a hammer, employees had no chance.”

Stressing the importance of having the “right balance,” Conaty said the exercise resulted in “changing a couple people out.”

Also on Conaty’s list is being able to earn the trust and confidence of the entire senior leadership team. “I’ve heard a lot HR folks say ‘I have a phenomenal relationship with my CEO—I’m in,’ ” he said. “I’ll tell you how long you’re in for: about 18 months. And then you’re going to get sucker punched and you’ll never know where it came from. The CEO is going to say, ‘Bill, I love you but no one else does—so we’re going to need to wrap this game up.’”

As the CHRO, Conaty said, “you have to work the whole 360.”

Other qualities Conaty cited included being a “talent magnet,” a great assessor of talent, someone who is able to operate in a global marketplace, a clear thinker and a change leader.

CHROs, he said, also need to have the ability to think through business issues and a capacity for complex problem solving. “You’ll still get some of the easy treadmill ones,” he said, “but you’re probably also going to confront things you haven’t confronted before … .”

His list also includes attributes such as operational savvy, decisiveness and the courage to make the tough calls, along with the need to be a continuous learner. You don’t want a person in the role who says he or she’s “ ‘been there, done that. I’ve seen it all,’ ” he said. “I never saw it all in my 40 years at GE. It was always a new day.”

At the end of the day, Conaty said, your job is to take [issues] off the CEO’s desk, not add to the pile. Conaty said he made it a point to never add to CEO Jack Welch’s pile. (I’m assuming the same was true when Immelt took the reigns.) If an issue arose that he felt Welch needed to be aware of, he said, he would bring it to his attention, but then tell him that he would take care of it and, if he couldn’t, would then get back to him. If you follow this approach, Conaty said, you’ll be “a welcomed face when you stick your head through that door.”

And who wouldn’t want to be a welcomed face when he or she entered the CEO’s office, right?

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Overcoming the Barriers Disabled Americans Face

On July 26, it will be 25 years since George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodation and a number of other areas.

ThinkstockPhotos-457783527At the time of the signing, the president said …

“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred … . Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Whether or not that “shameful wall of exclusion” has actually fallen is debatable. But with the release on Wednesday of a study titled the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, there’s now further evidence that people with disabilities are striving to work and are having some success in overcoming many of the barriers that have stood in the way. (Kessler unveiled the results to policymakers on Capitol Hill.)

Take the following finding in this study of 3,013 Americans with disabilities that was commissioned by the West Orange, N.J.-based Kessler Foundation and conducted by the University of New Hampshire: Nearly 69 percent of those surveyed are either working, looking for work or have worked since the onset of the disability.

“This clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities are ready and able to contribute their talents in the workforce,” says Kessler Foundation President and CEO Rodger DeRose.

Diving a little deeper into the data, the researchers found that Americans with disabilities who are employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, with just over 60 percent of those working more than 40 hours per week.

The research did confirm, as might be expected, that many Americans with disabilities continue to encounter formidable barriers as they look for work, with the top three being the lack of sufficient education or training, employers that assume they can’t do the job and the lack of transportation. Then, once in the workplace, they face hurdles such as getting less pay than others in a similar job, negative attitudes of supervisors and negative attitudes of co-workers.

But, as mentioned earlier, the report does go on to make the point that a substantial percentage of the respondents are successfully overcoming many of these challenges. Of the 36 percent who reported employers assumed they couldn’t do a job, for instance, around 33 percent said they were able to overcome that barrier. Similarly, of the nearly 17 percent who said they were getting less pay than others in similar positions, nearly 39 indicated they were able to surmount that hurdle.

Earlier today, I asked John O’Neill, director  of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation, which of the findings surprised him most.

O’Neill specifically cited the finding that transportation may not be as significant a barrier as some have previously contended.

“When people think of barriers to job search, transportation is one of the first things to come to mind,” he says. “Yet of those looking for jobs, only 25 percent said they faced that barrier. Add, on top of that, that 42 percent of those facing that barrier had overcome it, and it would seem to be not as looming an issue as many people might have thought in the past.”

As for a takeaway for HR leaders, O’Neill points to the attitudes of supervisors and co-workers.

Roughly 16 percent of those with disabilities cited they had experienced barriers resulting from supervisors’ attitudes and about the same proportion experienced barriers resulting from co-workers’ attitudes, he says. But when you ask them about their ability to overcome those barriers, he adds, about 41 percent reported they were able to do so and 54 percent reported the same, respectively.

“Those figures,” he says, “are higher than I would have thought—and says that, while they’re [still] issues, people are finding ways to negotiate and work with their supervisors in terms of how they are being perceived.”

There no question a lot more work needs to be done when it comes to ridding the workplace of the many and varying barriers facing those with disabilities. But it’s also nice to see new research suggesting they aren’t insurmountable.

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Choosing Between Faith and Work

By now, most everyone has heard of or read about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in favor of Samantha Elauf, the woman who brought suit against clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, claiming the company did not offer her a job because her religious identity violates Abercrombie’s “look policy.”

In the opinion for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

“An applicant need show only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, not that the employer had knowledge of his need.”

While the Court’s decision may introduce changes in the way employers screen and hire applicants in future, Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a PhD candidate at Columbia University, writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that the ruling also serves as an opportunity to “improve existing legislation on workplace discrimination and religious freedom.”

Singh says Elauf also demonstrated that she recognizes her case would have bearing for a number of different communities. “I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work,” she said, following the oral arguments. “Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.”

Indeed, according to Singh:

Americans are one step closer to not having to choose between their faith and their work.

On the employer side, however, the decision “dramatically” changes the standards that apply to employers, says Michael Droke, a Seattle-based partner at the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney’s labor and employment division, because it removes the requirement that an employee or applicant request a religious accommodation, if the employer’s motive is later deemed a violation of Title VII.

“The Abercrombie decision calls into question common provisions in many employee handbooks. Employers should immediately review their handbooks and policy manuals to determine those issues which could cause discrimination,” Droke says.

He also says the decision “reinforces the importance of involving the human resources function any time a protected class is, or could be, involved in making an employment decision.”

Droke notes the Abercrombie decision also reinforces the importance of manager training, all the way down to the lowest level in-store supervisor.

“Manager training is particularly important for companies with employees in a large number of locations,” he says. “Geographically dispersed companies, like Abercrombie & Fitch, often require location or regional management to make key employee decisions.  This case reemphasizes the need to give management the employee relations tools and knowledge they need to make lawful employment decisions.”

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Training Tutorial: ‘Please Steal Our Idea’

While many of us were off work and enjoying the Memorial Day holiday yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece on the ongoing efforts of Jon Stewart — the soon-to-be-departing host of The Daily Show — to get more veterans working in the entertainment industry.

According to the piece, Stewart and his show’s production team have been running a “five-week industry boot camp designed to bring young veterans into the television business,” regardless of whether they share Stewart’s political viewpoints.

The boot camp actually got its kick start (excuse the pun) in 2013, when American Corporate Partners, a mentoring nonprofit group, “asked Mr. Stewart to take a veteran under his wing and help find that person a job in television, which involved making a few calls,” according to the piece, but “Jon said he wanted to help, but wanted to do more than just drop his name,” said Sid Goodfriend, who runs the program.

Instead, the staff of “The Daily Show” developed an intense five-week immersion program to give veterans a crash course in their business, with behind-the-scenes looks at areas including talent booking and editing. And while they put the out word to veterans’ groups, they didn’t mention that the camp was at “The Daily Show” in an attempt to weed out fans and focus instead on veterans who really wanted to work in the industry.

Stewart and his show developed the program over the last three years without publicizing it, according to the NYT piece, but now, “because Mr. Stewart is preparing to leave the show, he has taken it into the open, urging other shows to develop their own programs to bring more veterans into the industry.”

“This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea,” Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his Manhattan studio recently. “It isn’t charity. To be good in this business you have to bring in different voices from different places, and we have this wealth of experience that just wasn’t being tapped.”

While the entertainment industry may be much different than other industries we often cover, it’s always encouraging to see efforts being made to get more veterans not only back into the workforce, but into positions they are actually interested in as well.

The only question now is: Is your organization brave enough to steal Stewart’s idea and make it your own?

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Still in Search of Skilled Workers

searching for talentAnd the talent shortage continues.

That’s the simple message found in survey results released by Manpower Group this week.

In its 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, the Milwaukee-based Manpower surveyed 41,748 employers in 42 countries and territories, “to explore the extent of talent shortages within the global labor market, which job categories are particularly hard to fill and why, the impact of talent shortages on businesses, and how employers are responding to the challenges raised by the lack of available talent in specific job categories,” according to a press release announcing the survey findings.

Globally, the percentage of employers reporting trouble in filling job vacancies continued to rise, climbing from 36 percent last year to 38 percent in 2015. The shortage is most severe for organizations in Japan, where 83 percent of hiring managers said they encounter difficulty in finding the necessary talent, while 68 percent of employers in Peru and 65 percent of respondents in Hong Kong said the same.

The prognosis here in the States, however, seems somewhat better, with 32 percent of U.S. employers saying they struggle to fill positions due to talent shortages, compared to 40 percent who reported as much in 2014.

That’s not to say that closing the talent gap isn’t still a concern here at home, of course.

Indeed, 43 percent of respondents said talent shortages are taking a toll on their organizations’ ability to meet client needs, with 32 percent saying they’ve experienced increased employee turnover, and the same percentage reporting higher compensation costs and lower employee engagement. Forty-eight percent of the U.S. employers surveyed acknowledged that talent shortages have a “medium to high impact” on business in a broader sense.

More interesting, though, is the percentage of employers seemingly taking no action to blunt that impact. That number remains relatively small, but is going up.

According to the Manpower survey, 20 percent of U.S. employers are still not pursuing strategies to overcome talent shortages in 2015—a 7 percent increase from 2014.

What remains consistent this year is the trouble American companies face in filling skilled trade vacancies. For the sixth consecutive year, “skilled trade workers” topped the list of U.S. jobs most in demand, with drivers, teachers, sales representatives and administrative professionals rounding out the top five.

“Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president of Manpower North America, in the aforementioned press release. “Despite impacts to competitiveness and productivity, our research shows fewer employers are trying to solve the problem through better talent strategies.”

These companies fail to address the issue at their own risk, added Wright.

“As the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand, employers will be under pressure to position themselves as ‘talent destinations’ to attract the best workers that will drive their business forward.”

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Message to GE Capital Bidders: Hands Off!

It’s no secret General Electric is in the process of getting out of banking.

ThinkstockPhotos-180797634As the Washington Post reported on April 10, General Electric announced that day “it will sell most of its GE Capital assets over the next two years, shedding businesses in a sector where it has had a tough time generating acceptable returns.”

Investors immediately applauded the move, as well as GE’s announcement of a share buyback, by bidding up GE shares to their highest level in roughly two years. (They’ve since retreated slightly.)

It’s anyone’s guess, of course, who ultimately will acquire these businesses, but, apparently, according a story featured in today’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal (and posted online yesterday; subscription required), GE officials aren’t taking any chances as far as losing key talent in advance of any deal.

“General Electric Co. may be getting out of finance but, until then, it is trying to keep its bankers,” the WSJ piece leads off.

According to the report, GE has offered retention bonuses to select executives, as most companies commonly do, but is also requiring bidders interested in purchasing its $16 billion leveraged-finance operation to agree not to hire GE’s employees for 12 months.

The story continues …

“GE is in the difficult position of trying to keep people in the finance businesses it has said could take as long as two years to sell. Losing its top deal makers would erode the value of the operations that once contributed half of GE’s annual profits, and could result in lower offers. Unlike GE’s industrial businesses that sell sophisticated machinery like jet engines, locomotives and gas power turbines, much of the strength of the finance operation rests on its bankers.

Those terms, considered restrictive for a deal of this type, have caused some suitors to balk, according to people familiar with the matter.”  [The Journal article quotes one source saying bids for GE Capital’s private-equity arm, known as Antares, were due Thursday.]

The WSJ article goes on to note that the “restriction that GE asked prospective buyers of the Antares unit to sign is unusual because it is a ‘nonhire agreement,’ meaning bidders would be prevented from hiring a GE employee, even if they didn’t initiate the approach. That prohibition applies to any ‘officer or key employee’ of the leveraged finance business.”

A GE spokeswoman told the Journal that the terms are appropriate and that the company continues to have a large pool of potential suitors. But experts point out that a formalized agreement like this is somewhat unorthodox.

“While this is not an uncommon practice, especially in private-equity deals and bidding, it is more typically in the form of a gentleman’s agreement and rarely pursued for enforcement,” Jason Hanold, CEO of Hanold Associates, a Chicago-based search firm, told me yesterday. “It is questionable whether the courts would enforce this, and it’s reasonable for employees to consider a departure from a company that is offering itself up for bid.”

Hanold suggested that GE needs to be cautious of the negative impact on engagement for their existing employees, including those who have no intention of considering another employer. “Employment at will means something and implies departure at will. A company that sends the message about employee growth and development is bringing more specificity to that message with this stand: ‘We care about your growth, development, future financial success and hope you thrive … as long as it is within the confines of our organization [and] unless we sell the business in which you are employed.’ ”

That creates an emotional detachment that’s difficult to heal, he added.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see if GE suffers any repercussions. But in the meantime, on an entirely unrelated and non-HR topic, to each and every mother out there reading this, a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day! (My apologies for not coming up with a better segue.)

 

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Tapping the Power of a Good Story

When you think of great recruiters, Ernest Shackleton probably isn’t going to be the first person to pop into your head. But if you ask Mike Pierce, who kicked off the ERE Recruiting Conference yesterday in San Diego with a keynote address titled “Tell Powerful Stories to Answer, ‘Why Should I Join Your Team,’ ” talent-acquisition leaders could learn a thing ThinkstockPhotos-151575842or two about the art of hiring (and, of course, leadership) from this early-20th-century adventurer.

As a refresher for those of you who might be a little rusty on your history, Shackleton was an Irish-born British explorer who was a principal figure during the period known as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.” His third attempt to reach the South Pole, aboard the Endurance, was unarguably the most famous of his endeavors.

Shackleton, along with his 27-person team, set out from London in 1914 with the goal of crossing the Antarctic by foot. Before reaching the continent, however, the Endurance became entrapped in ice, forcing Shackleton and his crew to abandon the ship and set up camp on floating ice. More than a year would pass before they would see land again. (Remarkably, the entire team survived this terrible ordeal.)

In his talk, Pierce, a San Diego-based consultant, speaker and author who goes by the nickname “Antarctic Mike,” shared with attendees how Shackleton’s story personally inspired him back in 2006 to become one of nine people to run a full 26.2-mile marathon on an ice shelf 600 miles from the South Pole, something that “never had been done before.” 

Pierce’s PowerPoint deck included a copy of a classified newspaper ad (remember those?) that Shackleton used to “recruit” his team …

“Help Wanted

For hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

Could he have been any more direct?

So how many people responded? 10? 50? 100? Remarkably, Pierce said, 5,000 people replied to the ad. Why? Because, he explained, Shackleton was able to write his story in a way that captured people’s attention.

Job candidates, Pierce explained said, “are looking for evidence of credibility—and a story is the most effective way to [give them that evidence].”

“Stories are the most magical vehicle on the planet to move people,” he said. “People love stories, especially those that are credible and true. They can show that you are … authentic … accessible … and for real … .”

To make his point, Pierce shared several examples of how employers have used videos to connect with job candidates, including a pretty entertaining one from Sutton Group, a Chilliwack, Canada-based realtor. (Chilliwack, in case you’re wondering, isn’t far from Vancouver.)

Referring to the Sutton Group video, Pierce said “people love it when the leaders of a company are accessible.” Well, say what you may about the Sutton video, but it’s hard to argue CEO Kelly Johnson isn’t making himself “accessible.”

The 2013 video reportedly continues to deliver results for Sutton Group today.

Pierce said he had every reason to believe everyone in the room worked at organizations with their own stories to tell. But, he asked, “are those stories out [in the market today] producing results for you? Are they out in places where people will see them and be moved by them?”

Thanks to the tools available to employers today, he said, capturing those stories and putting them out there isn’t all that hard to do.

And that, of course, begs the question: Why aren’t more organizations doing it?

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How Managers ‘Game’ Performance Reviews

I just came across an interesting piece by Alfredo Behrens on Harvard Business Review’s site that takes a troubling look at how managers can (and apparently do) misuse employees’ performance reviews. Many times, he says, such trickery — albeit unintentional — can come back to hurt a company’s bottom line.

In his piece, the author, a professor of global leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administração e Negócios in São Paulo, Brazil, recounts how he joined a large U.S. organization and was assigned an employee who provided “the worst secretarial assistance I have had in my entire life.”

After realizing his predicament, he spoke with a colleague about how to best handle the situation.

The advice he received? “Her performance review is coming up. Give her the highest possible rating.”

Why? Because, the colleague told him, “It’s the fastest way to get her invited to work in another division.”

I am ashamed to admit it, but I followed her advice and, sure enough, the secretary was snatched up by a manager in another division. Evidently this kind of dysfunctional behavior is not uncommon; in Brazil there is even a term for it, “people trafficking.”

Behrens says managers also use similar techniques when trying to hold onto the talent they wish to keep for their own little domains, by giving talented employees low-to-middling reviews with the hopes that such workers’  talents will not be discovered and taken away from their department for use elsewhere internally.

“This kind of behavior can badly hurt the company,” he says. “All those low-ranked but highly valued employees were at risk of jumping to a competitor, of course, just as my incompetent secretary was moved around the company instead of being removed completely, as she should have been.”

And while there is a growing  chorus calling for the end of annual performance reviews entirely (see HRE Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine’s recent take on the topic, for example), Behrens offers a question for companies that “aren’t quite ready to throw out” their performance-review processes:

If performance-management systems are so often reviled, ignored, or gamed, do we really know how well we’re managing talent? How many good people are being held back by bad managers?

Those are certainly two interesting questions to ponder the next time  you’re filling out a direct report’s performance review. Are YOU the bad manager who is holding talent back?

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