Category Archives: talent management

Engaged, Happy … And Looking to Leave

Sometimes love just isn’t enough to make it work.

A certain amount of employee turnover is an expected and accepted part of doing business, and there will always be a certain (hopefully small) number of disengaged, disgruntled workers angling to leave your organization.

New data from Mercer, however, suggests that even some of your happiest, most satisfied people may have one eye on the exits.

The New York-based consultancy’s recent poll of 3,010 employees—“a complete cross-section of the U.S. workforce,” according to Mercer—finds 45 percent of employees who report being “very satisfied” with their organizations are still looking to leave, with 42 percent of employees who consider themselves very satisfied in their jobs saying the same.

Overall, the survey found that 37 percent of all workers, regardless of satisfaction level, are giving serious thought to leaving their organizations. According to Mercer, that number stood at 33 percent when it conducted a similar survey in 2011.

How much thought employees are giving to the notion seems to vary based on age and seniority.

Older workers, for instance, say they are less likely to be seeking out new opportunities. Just 29 percent of employees between the ages of 50 and 64 said they are seriously pondering a job change at the moment. Thirty-nine percent of those aged 35 to 49 said as much. Millennials, on the other hand, seem a bit itchier, with 44 percent of these workers (ranging in age from 18 to 34) thinking about moving on from their current employers.

Those figures seem intuitive enough, when you consider that employees tend to be bound by more familial and financial obligations as they get older. What’s more interesting is the number of senior managers—63 percent—who say they’re seriously thinking about leaving their current role, compared to the number of management-level (39 percent) and non-management employees (32 workers) who are contemplating a change.

Taken together, all of these figures reflect a workforce in transition that’s increasingly on the move, according to Patrick Tomlinson, North American business leader for Talent at Mercer.

Employers have been seeing this shift firsthand, said Tomlinson, in a statement from Mercer announcing the findings. The new wrinkle, he says, “is that the inclination to leave is increasingly detached from employees’ satisfaction with jobs, pay and even growth opportunities.”

To remain competitive in a talent market that’s quickly changing, companies must create a “strategic workforce plan” that considers engaged workers as well as the disengaged employees that are planning to stick around for now, says Tomlinson.

The latter group in particular—which comprises about one-fifth of the overall workforce, according to Mercer—has the potential to damage morale and productivity even more than those who leave, says Tomlinson.

“If your employees stay, you want them engaged and productive.”

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New Hires Face Higher Expectations

If you’re new to an organization, you’d better be prepared to hit the ground running — especially if you’re a college grad. That’s certainly the way it’s been for Ham Serunjogi, who tells Fast Company he was “shocked” at how much was expected of him during his first few days at work.

Serunjogi, a graduate of Grinnell College, started work as an intern at an environmental technology firm in 2013. In his first meeting with the executive director, he was asked whether he’d taken a database class in college. When Serunjogi replied in the affirmative, he recounts, he was told that he would now be overseeing the design and implementation of a new communication database for the organization.

“That was the first time I was ever brought into a project I had little or no knowledge about, and was expected to deliver results,” he said.

This past summer, Serunjogi began an internship at Facebook, where he encountered similar expectations. “Facebook is a very fast-moving culture,” he tells Fast Company. “There’s an expectation that you come in and you learn how to catch up with everyone else, otherwise you’re slowing down the entire organization.”

Technology companies are far from the only ones with such a mindset these days. HRE‘s Talent Management Columnist, Wharton prof Peter Cappelli, has written extensively about the trend in Corporate America to do away with the extensive training programs companies once provided to help new employees develop and acquire skills. Now, he writes, firms expect employees to come “ready made” with the necessary skills via school, college and internships — and if they have trouble finding such people, then it’s evidence of a “talent shortage.”

Yet more evidence of these higher expectations comes via a recent Harris Poll, which finds 27 percent of the 319 executives surveyed said they form an opinion of entry-level employees in less than two weeks and 78 percent decide in less than three months whether or not that person will succeed at the company.

Considering that everyone is now expected to be “an A player” right out of the box, job candidates need to prepare accordingly by interviewing their potential employers as much as they’re interviewing them, Decisions Toolbox chief recruitment officer Nicole Cox tells Fast Company.

Use that time to clarify what will be expected of them, she says. And, “after they’re hired, ask if they’re meeting those expectations.”

One would also hope that employers do their part to clarify expectations — and give new hires the time and support necessary for proving their capability.

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Concern Over U.K.’s Older Workers Hits a U.S. Chord

474168522 -- older workerThis article from the United Kingdom caught my eye. Called “Missing Million,” it was put out by Business in the Community, one of the Prince of Wales’ charities.

It talks about older workers (50 year of age and up) and how more than a million of them have been “pushed out of work involuntarily,” thereby wreaking havoc on an impending skills gap that’s already pressing down on the U.K. economy. As the article puts it, “these missing million older workers could potentially boost the U.K. economy by £88 billion, if they were able to stay in work for longer.”

The three-part report “highlights the value of older workers,” it says, “making recommendations to government and responsible employers at a time when there is much discussion and growing business engagement in how we can all collectively support longer working lives.”

It brought to mind a feature I wrote several years ago, When Junior’s in Charge, highlighting the challenges older workers face in corporate America as they find themselves answering to much-younger managers who don’t value their worth.

In that story, I cite a book written by Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, titled Managing the Older Worker. It highlights just how much U.S. employers are missing out by not recognizing this worth and making better use of this level of skill, knowledge and dedication. (Here’s an excerpt, as published on, from the book.)

Here, too, is yet more — and much more recent — fuel to add to the fire of the worthy senior worker. This study by, released Aug. 29, reveals that those in what we’re calling the Greatest Generation — now 70 years of age and older — outscore all their younger counterparts in the top five most-productive work traits: emotional stability, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. In essence, the PsychTests release says, “this 70-plus generation is more pleasant, tolerant, even-keeled and diligent than all the generations to follow.

All this also made me hearken back to Cappelli’s August column on HREOnline  about the United Kingdom taking the lead on engagement and the importance of HR.

I shared this latest U.K. report with him to see if, indeed, he thinks the United Kingdom might be leading the way again, setting yet another example for employers across the pond when it comes to workforce and talent management.

Interestingly, he told me, it’s “the Asian countries [that] are taking the lead in trying to make better use of older workers, especially Singapore, where they have tight labor markets.”

“In the United States,” he said, “we still have a great deal of prejudice against older workers that probably won’t change until more baby boomers retire and start kicking up a fuss.”

Hats off to the Prince of Wales, at least, for trying to kick up a fuss over this missing and maligned segment of the United Kingdom before it’s too late.

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Making a First (and Fast) Impression

In baseball, there are can’t-miss talents with potential that’s abundantly and immediately clear.

Take Mike Trout, for instance. At age 24, the Anaheim Angels centerfielder/four-time American League All-Star/freakish baseball prodigy’s trophy case already includes the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year, 2014 AL Most Valuable Player and two All-Star Game MVP awards. And, as one of a handful of names on the short list for this year’s AL MVP, he may soon be taking home more hardware.

Then there are late bloomers like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. The right fielder and occasional third baseman showed flashes in his first five years at the big-league level, but not enough to keep him from being jettisoned by four teams between 2004 and 2008. Bautista finally broke out in 2010—his third season with the Jays and first in a full-time role with the club—when he earned his first of six All-Star Game selections. Since then, he’s led baseball in home runs twice, picked up two Hank Aaron awards and bashed his way to three Silver Slugger awards as well.

The point of all this is that some don’t start as strong as others, and being patient with a prospect just might pay off in a big way sometime down the road.

Those in the corporate world, however, apparently don’t have that kind of time.

Consider a recent online survey, in which 319 executives at companies with revenues of at least $1 billion shared their thoughts on entry-level employees. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said they think employers take less than three months to make a judgment as to whether an entry-level employee is likely to succeed with the organization. Twenty-seven percent said they form an opinion within the first two weeks.

Now, this particular Harris poll was commissioned by Fullbridge Inc., an education technology company with a learning platform that offers “everything students and young professionals need to rise to the next level,” according to Fullbridge.

It’s natural—and not unfair, I think—to be a bit skeptical of this sort of poll, given the company that commissioned it just happens to offer the type of technology designed to make sure these fresh-faced young employees thrive in your organization.

But that’s not really here or there, at least as far as my purposes here are concerned. Misgivings about survey methodology aside, the aforementioned findings—especially the percentage of companies saying new employees essentially have 10 business days to prove themselves—still seem to beg the question: How long should it take to get a good read on a young, new employee’s likelihood for success? For that matter, what sort of variables should factor into making that judgment?

I put those questions to Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan, partner at The RBL Group and frequent contributor to HRE.

Not surprisingly, there’s no specific timeframe for predicting—at least not with any real accuracy—how an entry-level worker’s going to fare over the long haul, says Ulrich. And he cautions against rushing to judge new employees in their first few weeks on the job.

“First impressions limit future impressions,” says Ulrich. “This is sad, because many first impressions are based on visible look and feel, and real impact often comes from insight and ability to manage relationships.”

Still, 90 days or so should be long enough to gain a sense of how an employee’s going to perform, he says, adding that “it’s important to give new employees autonomous responsibility for a task or project to determine their technical skills and cultural fit.”

It’s even more critical, he says, “to know if they have ‘learning agility’ and an ability to adapt and change [when] given new information.”

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Bonuses for Low Performers

“So, Mr. Employee, your performance this year has failed to meet expectations. And … here’s your bonus.”

bonus failThat’s right — about three in 10 (30 percent) of U.S. employers plan to give bonuses to employees who fail to meet expectations (the lowest performance ranking possible) this year, according to Towers Watson’s just-released Talent Management and Rewards Pulse Survey.  Meanwhile, these companies are once again failing to fully fund their employee bonus pools and say they continue to struggle to attract and retain “critical skill” employees.

“The fact that some companies continue to deliver substantial bonuses to weak performers raises questions as to whether they are investing their bonus dollars as effectively as possible or truly holding workers accountable for performance,” says Laura Sejen, managing director at TW.

It should be noted, however, that the poor performers don’t necessarily get the same bonuses as the  high performers. While some of the companies give payouts to all employees regardless of performance, others give their lowest-ranking employees only 65 percent of their target payout, while the high performers tend to receive bonuses of about 19 percent above target, according to the survey, which queried 170 large and mid-sized companies from various industries.

The companies’ average projected bonus funding for the current year is only 89 percent of target — this marks the fifth year in a row that U.S. employers have not fully funded their bonus pools, according to TW.

More than half the companies (52 percent) say they’re having trouble holding on to critical-skill employees, compared to 41 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 66 percent report problems attracting critical-skill employees.

“With hiring activity on the increase and employees more receptive to changing jobs, there is greater competition for talent, making it more difficult for companies to keep their most-valued employees,” says Sejen.

Employers also appear to be daunted by President Obama’s recent proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules, with 50 percent saying the changes will have a significant impact on their organizations and only 47 percent prepared to make the changes.

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Making Your Career Site More Accommodating

Earlier this week a press release arrived in my email that served as a reminder of the work that still remains to be done as far as career sites are concerned.

ThinkstockPhotos-464672063In this case, the question at hand is, How accommodating is our career site for candidates who are deaf or have a hearing impairment?

The bottom line: Most organizations’ career sites are severely lacking on this front.

The findings come from a study conducted by CareerXroads and Middlesex County College in New Jersey.

As the press release explains …

“The study, which took place over four months and used the fictional job seeker Jack ‘Jacque’ Coostow to probe some of the world’s most admired companies, found that companies are missing fundamental pieces in ensuring the deaf and hearing impaired have what they need to learn about and apply for jobs.

Middlesex students submitted Coostow’s résumé for positions at the 100 companies on Fortune’s 2014 Best Companies To Work For list. The companies on this list are widely admired for their recruiting and human resources practices. They are considered models for organizations worldwide. Many of them have repeatedly touted their commitments to diversity hiring, including individuals with physical disabilities.”

Among the findings …

  • Three in 10 companies provided a phone number or email address that would allow deaf or hearing-impaired job seekers to access resources for their special communication needs.
  • Roughly one in 10 companies had a TTY line, also called a text telephone or Teletypewriter, that enables deaf and hearing impaired individuals to communicate by phone.
  • One in five companies asked applicants if they had preferences in communication.

You’d think we’d be further along by now than that. No?

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A Cup of Reality for Starbucks?

In the world of coffee retailing, there’s little question Starbucks has been an innovator, experimenting (often successfully) with new product offerings and fine-tuning the customer experience on a regular basis. But it’s also no secret that Starbucks hasn’t limited its innovation to just these areas. It’s also been a pioneer where employee practices are concerned, launching cutting-edge initiatives in areas such as health benefits, tuition support and career development.

Starbucks_West_CoastBecause of these programs and others, Starbucks leaves many of its competitors in the dust when it comes to Glassdoor ratings, earning 3.8 stars out of 5 and supposedly beating the industry average by a wide margin. In comparison, Dunkin Donuts earned 2.8 and Peet’s Coffee earned 3.2 on Glassdoor.

But if we’re to believe a recent analysis conducted by San Francisco-based Monitor 360 that takes a closer look at the Starbucks narratives smattered throughout the Glassdoor reviews, the Seattle-headquartered employers isn’t without some noticeable blemishes.

Monitor 360, a former unit of Monitor Group that was spun off a few years back, recently applied its Narrative Analytics methodology to Starbucks’ Glassdoor reviews in order to identify sentiments and themes contained in the comments. (Earlier this week, Kevin Rockmael, chief marketing officer at Monitor 360, shared a report detailing the findings with me.) As you might expect, the report contained a lot of positive feelings. But it also revealed some definite “needs improvement” areas.

On the positive side, the report found that more than 60 percent of employee comments expressed confidence in Starbucks’ senior leadership and company vision. “The three narratives that comprised this coverage—’Starbucks the Star,’ ‘Grueling with a Shot of Great,’ and ‘ “Ground” by Middle Management’—focused more on employees’ pride in Starbucks’ vision and values than on benefits,” the report said, “suggesting that consistently delivering an inspiring narrative about the value of employees to the company can motivate as much as offering free lattes.”

Additionally, the first two narratives suggest that Starbucks can be an exciting place to build a career.

As for the negative, narratives such as “Part Time Pariah” and “Baristas are the Backbone” emerged that bemoan the difficulties of building a career at Starbucks — revealing one critical driver of employee turnover. The report points out that these were less prominent than the positive narratives about the company’s vision and values, but still comprised a disturbing 31 percent of total employee comments.

Meanwhile, the report continued, “The ‘Ground’ by Middle Management” narrative suggests that “many employees who have a positive view of Starbucks as a corporation simultaneously hold major concerns about middle management. Many view middle managers as out of touch — visiting stores infrequently and promoting those who are undeserving. This suggests that leadership’s efforts to brand Starbucks as a place for opportunity resonate deeply with employees on an emotional level, but that same vision is not regularly communicated by local company leadership, nor does the inspiring vision always match the day-to-day reality.”

A fourth narrative, something the report’s authors labeled “Glorified Fast Food,” suggests some internal and external brand-facing challenges. As far as the internal implications are concerned, the report contends that this narrative reflects employees’ beliefs that “Starbucks is losing its identity as a specialty brewer, suggesting that replacing the art of brewing with increased mechanization can damage retention.”

I asked Rockmael for his thoughts on the report’s biggest surprises. He said the narratives having to do with middle management and glorified fast food were at the top of his list. In the case of the latter, he added, the analysis suggests that employees and former employees are connecting Starbucks more to the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King than management would like.

Rockmael told me this is the first time Monitor 360 has used Glassdoor to uncover these types of narratives, but it may not be the last. (Glassdoor, he said, gave his firm permission to conduct this analysis.)

He also noted that Monitor 360 hasn’t shared the findings directly with Starbucks, at least not yet. But were it to do so, I’d have to think Starbucks might consider some of the more bitter ones worthy of further reflection.


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CEO Generously Delivers to Workers

Why not end the week with a brief but upbeat story about a CEO who isn’t reluctant to share …

ThinkstockPhotos-480903116Stories appearing on CNN Money and Entrepreneur websites this week reported that Nevzat Aydin, co-founder and CEO of Yemeksepeti, a Turkish food delivery company he helped launch 15 years ago, recently decided to share a huge chunk of the proceeds generated from his company’s $589 million sale to Germany’s Delivery Hero with 114 of his employees. (The firm employs a total 370 employees.)

CNN Money reported the employees received an impressive $237 million from the sale. According to the story, “Aydin’s employees are paid between $1,000 and $2,000 a month. That means the average payout is worth roughly 150 times their monthly wage, and tops the average Wall Street bonus for 2014 by $65,000.”

Aydin told CNN Money that “Yemeksepeti’s success story did not happen overnight and many people participated in this journey with their hard work and talent. I believe in teamwork and I believe success is much more enjoyable and glorious when shared with the rest of the team.”

In deciding how to allocate the bonuses,” the Entreprenuer website reported, “Aydin factored in how long they’d worked for the company (requiring two years, minimum) along with the individual’s job performance and their ‘future potential in the company.’ ”

The story was first reported by Turkish newspaper Hurriet.

CNN Money noted that the bonus plan was decided upon prior to the sale, but that the acquirer, Delivery Hero, supported the move.


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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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