Category Archives: training

A ‘Love Letter to [all the Bad-Rapped] Managers’

Who hasn’t heard and read the reports in the last few years on the real reason employees leave their employers? Bad managers, right? 522472388 -- managerNo doubt anyone visiting this site has seen and heard them.

We’ve certainly written our fair share, from criticizing managers’ reluctance or inability to truly promote career development to pinpointing the need for managers to grow their big-data skills to lamenting the unhappiness and decimation of the middle-management ranks in general, which of course supports the theory that unhappy managers make for bad bosses.

Which might be precisely why this recent post by Maren Hogan on the HR Examiner site, My Love Letter to Managerscaught my eye, an eye that’s always on the lookout for something counterintuitive (warning, she doesn’t hold back on some of her descriptors). That or the fact that I am a manager, so a love letter to me … well … what’s not to like?

Counterintuitive does seem to be the operative word here, when you consider all that’s been said about retention and turnover, and the especially egregious part managers play. As Hogan puts it,

“Retention issues? It’s the manager’s fault.
Productivity problems? Blame the manager.
Engagement dipping? Someone get management in here!

Can this really be true? After all, many of these problems have roots in giant, macro issues. The economy, changing workforce dynamics, an always-on mentality spurred on by technology advances. It’s sort of simplistic to blame the manager, isn’t it?”

I especially like what she says about this mega-trend, if you will, of citing management as the reason people leave work, hate work, aren’t engaged and aren’t productive. She thinks this trend “could be part of a blame culture that has slowly seeped into our workforce over the past couple of decades.” In her words,

“Whether we’re blaming millennials for the faster pace and fancy [results-only-work-environment] perks, or blaming executives for the glaring inequality between them and us, or blaming managers for every issue in the workforce, very few seem to be stepping up to take personal accountability.”

She’s got some helpful suggestions for employees who might be prone to disparaging their managers, such as considering how they, themselves, might change the situation before blaming their direct supervisor; doing better and faster work if they don’t like what’s been assigned to them so they can prove they’re capable of taking on something more interesting; taking self-assessments of their most-productive times during the workday and building their reputations as team players; and even getting better at confronting difficult and destructive employees themselves, so managers aren’t blamed for failing to take action.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, first, I kind of agree with Hogan that managers have taken a bad rap for far too long for the ills of corporate culture.  More importantly, though, I believe employers and their HR leaders could go a long way toward curing some of those ills by paying more attention to the workloads and expectations placed on their managers.

They might also consider committing serious capital to training all employees in personal accountability, starting with Hogan’s list above.

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Can Sexual-Harassment Training Backfire?

An article in the British newspaper The Guardian has sparked new debate in HR circles over whether sexual-harassment training can cause more harm than good.

The article recounts research suggesting that training may make some men less sensitive, not more, to appropriate boundaries in the workplace. Among others quoted in the piece is Lauren Edelman, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley :

“Sexual harassment training may, in fact, make it less likely that males will recognize situations that are harassing … Sexual harassment training may provoke backlash in males.”

Some of the research pointing in this direction is more than a decade old. One often-cited study from 2001 concluded that men who had training were less likely than those who didn’t to recognize or report sexual harassment.

But some research is more recent, suggesting the problem is not going away. In one 2012 study, a sociologist interviewed workers and sat in on training sessions. Justine E. Tinkler, now at the University of Georgia, concluded that they often resisted the message:

“Gender stereotypes are used to buttress perceptions that sexual-harassment laws threaten norms of interaction and status positions that men and women have an interest in maintaining.”

sexual harassment

Related research has found that sexual-harassment training can mostly inspire fear among workers.

This is a hot topic with many in the HR field. Many who weighed in online acknowledged the problem, but argued it’s less of an issue if the training is of high quality.

Writing in Slate, Nora Caplan-Bricker cites a 2013 study that, she says, “suggests that it is possible to teach people how to identify sexual harassment — and to convey how company policies treat it — without inciting a backlash effect.”

Studies suggest that training that lasts at least four hours, that is interactive and led by an expert or direct supervisor, rather than an HR specialist, are most effective, Caplan-Bricker writes.

Many employment lawyers seem to agree. One is Richard Cohen, a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles. He writes:

“After conducting my fair share of harassment trainings, and studying, critiquing and/or sitting in on numerous others, I come down on the side of those academics who believe that harassment training is helpful and productive when done right.”

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Safe and Secure, or Not So Sure?

The good news coming out of a recent CareerBuilder survey is that the overwhelming majority of employees (93 percent) feel their office is a safe, secure place to work.

A few other findings from the Chicago-headquartered employment website and HR software provider’s poll of 3,031 full-time, United States-based workers are less encouraging.

Some of these same employees, it seems, are less confident that their employers are adequately equipped to address specific threats in the workplace.

For example, 17 percent of those surveyed by CareerBuilder said they do not feel their workplaces are well-protected in case of a fire, flood or other disaster, and 26 percent don’t think their companies have an emergency plan in place should such events occur. Nineteen percent indicated their workplaces are poorly safeguarded from weather-related threats, and 26 percent don’t believe their organization has an emergency plan for responding to extremely severe weather.

In addition, 31 percent of respondents said they don’t feel their workplaces are well-protected from a physical threat posed by another person, and 41 percent said their company has made no provisions for handling such an attack.

This past February, I spoke with Michelle Colosimo, director of Black Swan Solutions, a Waukesha, Wis.-based provider of crisis management technology and services, about what employers can do to prepare workers for threats to their physical safety while on the job. More specifically, we talked about the importance of putting plans in place for an active shooter event in the workplace.

I sought Colosimo’s insight for an hreonline.com piece focusing on some of the tools and resources available to help employers equip employees to react should such an unthinkable scenario ever unfold in their office. (Incidentally, an expanded, more in-depth feature on this topic is set to run in our May print issue.)

HR leaders are faced with “a huge undertaking” in the event an active shooter descends on the workplace, said Colosimo at the time.

“Accounting for everyone is a big challenge. So, [HR] has to coordinate all of these things beforehand—What do you need to prepare for? And, what will you need to do when and if this does happen?”

Earlier this week, I reached out to Michelle for her take on the results of this CareerBuilder survey. She reiterated the need to have processes in place to potentially prevent an active shooter incident, and to provide employees with ways to anonymously report concerning behaviors or comments from another individual.

“If a report is made, the organization needs to have a threat assessment team in place to review each threat, and determine appropriate action needed to address the potential concern,” she says.

But, even the best, most comprehensive plan may not thwart an attacker, unfortunately.

“So, it’s critical that the organization train employees ahead of time on steps they need to take, as an individual, to protect themselves if an incident were to [take place],” she says.

Conducting realistic drills and active-shooter simulations and providing workers with practical tools and steps to follow also helps create “better muscle memory” in employees, she says, “so they take proper action when a crisis occurs.”

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DOL Gives a Holiday Gift to Parents

I’m not usually one for repeating content here one week to the next, but I simply had to share news of this pretty sizable gift while we’re all in the midst 510042321-- parents & newbornof the gift-giving season.

In an announcement last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor put significant money — up to $25 million in grants — where President Obama’s mouth has been in his support of working families struggling with today’s workforce realities.

Essentially, the grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce-development and child-care systems. Funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized support services needed for jobs primarily in information technology, healthcare and advanced manufacturing, though not necessarily confined to just those three.

The money, according to the DOL, will become available to these partnerships beginning in the spring and will be aimed at helping parents obtain affordable, quality child care so they can “pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries.”

As U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez puts it in his announcement of the initiative:

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path. Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

This move by the government certainly underscores the attention employers and work/life experts have been paying to the needs of working parents lately. A search of this HRE Daily site, starting with my post last week lamenting the slow motion paternity leave seems to be in, along with this search of our parental-leave news analyses on our magazine’s HREOnline site, shows this push — some might even call it competition — by organizations to prove they’re family-friendly will be a hot agenda item heading into 2016.

Hopefully, employers and government agencies can come together and really start engaging in a national dialogue as opposed to each entity trying to outdo the other.

This move by the DOL seems to be a step toward that coming-together idea. It stipulates that grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities and local child-care or human-service providers; more importantly, the release states, “all partnerships must include at least three employers.”

Personally, if this truly does lead to my kids, and my kids’ kids, having more at their fingertips than I did to survive the chaos of young parenthood coupled with work and the constant struggle to get ahead, then the gift is for me too.

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HR, Training and the ‘Gig’ Economy

New survey data finds few organizations are investing in their employees’ training and development these days, and I’m beginning to think the “gig economy” may have something to do with it.

Saba, a global provider of talent management solutions, just released additional findings from its spring Global Leadership Survey, in which it found that a mere 13 percent of companies worldwide invest in talent-management programs to further employees’ growth and career path.

For those companies that are providing training, only 35 percent are offering career development opportunities online. And, according Saba, the majority of employees (57 percent) are simply getting their training from “on the job” experience.

“Understandably, companies are focused on bottom line growth and results,” said Emily He, Chief Marketing Officer at Saba. “Unfortunately, many organizations don’t consider the career development of their employees a part of that growth equation — but they should. ”

However, a piece in today’s New York Times titled “Rising Economic Insecurity Tied to Decades-Long Trend in Employment Practices,” shows how the rise of the “gig economy”  (think Uber or Lyft, for examples) is changing all sorts of expectations — including compensation and training — on both the employers’ and workers’ sides.

According to the NYT piece, tens of millions of Americans are now involved in some form of freelancing, contracting, temping or outsourcing work:

The number for the category of jobs mostly performed by part-time freelancers or part-time independent contractors, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a labor market analytics firm, grew to 32 million from just over 20 million between 2001 and 2014, rising to almost 18 percent of all jobs. Surveys, including one by the advisory firm Staffing Industry Analysts of nearly 200 large companies, point to similar changes.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that companies are devoting less time to training programs when they only expect to use such workers for short-term projects:

Since the early 1990s, as technology has made it far easier for companies to outsource work, that trend has evolved beyond what anyone imagined: Companies began to see themselves as thin, Uber-like slivers standing between customers on one side and their work forces on the other.

The piece also includes David Weil’s — who runs the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Labor Department — description from his recent book, The Fissured Workplace, of how investors and management gurus began insisting that companies pare down and focus on what came to be known as their “core competencies,” such as developing new goods and services and marketing them.

Far-flung business units were sold off. Many other activities — beginning with human resources and then spreading to customer service and information technology — could be outsourced. The corporate headquarters would coordinate among the outsourced workers and monitor their performance.

“In the past, firms overstaffed and offered workers stable hours,” said Susan N. Houseman, a labor economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. “All of these new staffing models mean shifting risk onto workers, making work less secure.”

The NYT piece notes that, while only representing a limited corner of the nation’s approximately $17.5 trillion economy, other types of workers are watching with trepidation how organizations are moving toward the “gig economy” model.

Indeed:

…[E]ven many full-time employees share an underlying anxiety that is a result, according to the sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg, author of Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, of the severing of the “psychological contract between employers and employees in which stability and security were exchanged for loyalty and hard work.”

While outsourcing and “gigging” jobs may cut organizations’ short-term costs in some areas (such as training and development efforts)  Saba’s He nonetheless emphasizes the need for companies to invest in training their workforce if they expect to succeed in the long run:

“Not only is talent management and training an integral part of workforce development, it’s proven to be a driving factor in the long-term growth and success of an organization.”

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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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Here’s an Overnight Cure for Bias?

Here’s a question you might want to ponder … or maybe even sleep on. Can we snooze our gender and racial biases away?

ThinkstockPhotos-163819282Well, apparently researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University thought enough about that question to conduct a study. And guess what? They found that biases can indeed be counteracted while people sleep.

In the study, posted this week on the Science magazine website, researchers found that information recently stored in the brain can be integrated with other information during sleep and transformed into stable representations through a process known as systems-level consolidation.

“Taking into consideration the role of sleep in memory consolidation, we adapted procedures for reducing implicit social biases and reactivating this training during sleep,” the researchers said.

You can read more about how the study was conducted at Science. But cutting to the chase, the researchers “reactivated counterbias information during sleep using subtle auditory cues that had been associated with counterbias training.”

In the study, electrodes recorded the brain activity of participants as they napped. Then, during periods of deep sleep, one of the sound cues from the association test was repeatedly played.

As Xiaoqing Hu — postdoctoral fellow at University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s researchers — writes in a piece appearing on The Conversation: “Prior research on prejudice and stereotyping shows that extensive counter-bias training can lessen automatic stereotyping. Building on this bias reduction and sleep-based memory consolidation research, we aimed to test whether people can further process such counter-bias memories during sleep. Can such learning reduce long-lasting stereotypes and social biases?

The researchers found that pre-existing stereotypes associated with the sound cue replayed during sleep were significantly reduced when the participant woke up …

 “We were surprised that this sleep-based intervention was so powerful when participants woke up: the biases were reduced by at least 50 percent relative to the pre-sleep bias level. But we were also surprised at how long the effect lasted. At the one-week follow-up test, the sleep-based intervention was still effective: bias reduction was stabilized and was significantly smaller (approximately 20 percent) than its baseline level established at the beginning of the experiment.”

As you might expect, those involved in the research acknowledge more work is needed. So, at least for the time being, you might want to hold off retrofitting your nap room—for the few of you who  have one—to include this kind of intervention or adding a sleep component to next year’s bias-training program.

Let’s hope your bias-training efforts don’t already induce said sleep.

 

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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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Osama bin Laden: HR Leader?

When you’re running an operation whose business is creating mass casualties of innocent bystanders at various locations throughout the world, you need a strategic plan. You need a sophisticated recruiting program. You need a training program. You need a development program. These subjects weighed heavily on the mind of Osama bin Laden, recently declassified documents from the Central Intelligence Agency show.

The documents, which were seized by U.S. commandos after they stormed the terrorist leader’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan during the May 2, 2011 operation that culminated in bin Laden’s death, include a series of planning memos that Agence France-Presse disconcertingly suggests “paint a picture of the jihadist leader operating almost as the director of human resources at a struggling multinational.”

This particular multinational (let’s call it Al-Qaeda Corp.) had a rather unique business model, but all the same its leaders struggled with finding and deploying the right mix of talent to accomplish its core objective (killing lots of civilians).

“Please enter the requested information accurately and truthfully. Write clearly and legibly. Name, age, marital status. Do you wish to execute a suicide mission?” So reads Al Qaeda’s application form, which included this gem as well: “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?”

bin Laden clearly was concerned about operational efficiencies, as revealed by a document he wrote calling for a professional training program: “One of the specialties we need that we should not overlook is the science of administration.” The organization needed motivated young volunteers with qualifications in science, engineering and office management as well as deep religious convictions, according to the document.

AQ Corp. was bedeviled with talent-deployment issues, as another document reveals: “The other brothers are new and we rushed to send them very quickly, before their security was exposed or their residency documents expired.”

Retention and turnover may also have been an issue: the same document cites a volunteer who was able to stay a couple months because he had to return home: “We have him an academic explosives course and he travelled back before his residency expired and we have not heard from him since he left. … We hope that we hear from him very soon.”

bin Laden was concerned that young recruits who were capable of infiltrating the West lacked adequate patience and training to accomplish their missions. “We need a development and planning department,” he wrote. He wanted to create a center of excellence, of sorts, compiling jihadist best practices and research to create a more effective breed of jihadist.

Outreach activities were also part of the mix: bin Laden was apparently planning a PR campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But thanks to Seal Team 6, he wasn’t able to make it  to the celebration.

 

 

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Obama’s New TechHire Initiative

President Obama has announced the Department of Labor’s  TechHire initiative as part a new campaign to work with communities to get more Americans rapidly trained for well-paying technology jobs.

According to the White House, TechHire is “a multi-sector initiative and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need, through universities and community colleges” but also nontraditional approaches such as “coding boot camps,” and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job, often in just a few months.

According to the White House memo:

Employers across the United States are in critical need of talent with these skills. Many of these roles do not require a four-year computer science degree. To give Americans the opportunity they deserve, and the skills they need to be competitive in a global economy, we are highlighting TechHire partnerships.

The initiative includes:

  • A $100 million H-1B grant competition by the Department of Labor to support innovative approaches to training and successfully employing low-skill individuals with barriers to training and employment including those with child care responsibilities, people with disabilities, disconnected youth, and limited English proficient workers, among others. This grant competition will support the scaling up of evidence-based strategies such as accelerated learning, work-based learning, and Registered Apprenticeships.
  • Expanded regional employer hiring and paid internships for IT jobs (e.g., coding, web development, project management, cybersecurity) sourced from accelerated training programs based on demonstrated competencies instead of only selecting candidate using standard HR ‘markers’;
  • Expand slots, upgrade quality, and diversify participants in accelerated training pipeline – expand local programs like coding boot camps, the best of which have 90 percent job placement rates – to enable more Americans to master the skills required to fill technology jobs and create a strong pipeline of technology talent that local employers demand and will hire that can be ready in months not years; and
  • Support from locally intermediaries – municipal leadership, workforce development programs and other local resources – that help connect people to jobs based on their skills and job readiness and help employers engage local talent trained in both alternative and traditional programs.

To kick off TechHire, 21 regions, with more than 120,000 open technology jobs and more than 300 employer partners in need of this workforce, are announcing plans to work together to new ways to recruit and place applicants based on their actual skills and to create more fast track tech training opportunities.

Examples of TechHire Community commitments include:

  • St. Louis, MO. A network of over 150 employers in St. Louis’ rapidly expanding innovation ecosystem will build on a successful Mastercard pilot to partner with local non-profit Launchcode, to build the skills of women and underrepresented minorities for tech jobs, and will also place 250 apprentices in jobs in 2015 at employers like Monsanto, CitiBank, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and Anheuser Busch.
  • New York City, NY. With employers including Microsoft, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Google, and Facebook, the Tech Talent Pipeline is announcing new commitments to prepare college students in the City University of New York (CUNY) system for and connect them to paid internship opportunities at local tech companies. NYC will also expand successful models like the NYC Web Development Fellowship serving 18-26 year olds without a college degree in partnership with the Flatiron School.
  • State of Delaware. The new Delaware TechHire initiative is committing to training entry-level developers in a new accelerated coding bootcamp and Java and .Net accelerated community college programs giving financial institutions and healthcare employers, throughout the state, access to a new cohort of skilled software talent in a matter of months. Capital One, Bank of America, Christiana Care and others are committing to placing people trained in these programs this year.
  • Louisville, KY. Louisville has convened over 20 IT employers as part of the Code Louisville initiative to train and place new software developers, including Glowtouch, Appriss, Humana, ZirMed, and Indatus. Louisville will build on this work in support of the TechHire Initiative: the city will recruit a high-quality coding bootcamp to Louisville and establish a new partnership between Code Louisville and local degree granting institutions to further standardize employer recognition of software development skillsets.

With more than half a million unfilled jobs in information technology across all sectors of the economy, the initiative could be poised to help employers fill their high-tech talent gaps.

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