Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Trend Down

Some positive news coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning: Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses have continued their decline. (The BLS report comes on the heels of a September 163118519report revealing preliminary data that shows a statistically significant decline in fatal work-related injuries. )

According to the BLS, slightly more than 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private-industry employers in 2013, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. This compares to 3.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2012.

Of course, it would be better if these numbers were even lower, but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see them heading in the right direction.

The rate reported by the BLS for 2013 continues a pattern of declines that, with the exception of 2012, occurred annually for the last 11 years.

So where are these decreases occurring? Compared to 2012, the BLS reports lower numbers in manufacturing, retail and utilities. It’s also worth noting that injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers remain significantly higher than the private-industry rates, with 5.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2013. For 2012, the BLS reported 5.6 cases per 100 full-time workers.

In case you missed it, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued final rules in September that revised the reporting to OSHA of workplace incidents. Currently, the regulations require employers to report work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees within eight hours of the event. The final rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015, retains that requirement, but amends the regulation to require employers to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, as well as amputations and losses of an eye, to OSHA within 24 hours of the event.

OSHA also modified the list of industries partially exempt from requirements to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses due to relatively low occupational injury and illness rates.

As might be expected, the new OSHA rule generated some pushback from business groups when it was announced in September.

In a story appearing on The Hill, Joe Trauger, vice president of human resources at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, took issue with the reporting of this information online and “called the rule ‘very, very troubling’ and ‘alarming.’  ” He noted that the “information could be taken out of context and used to ‘mischaracterize’ a company.”

Trauger told The Hill

“When OSHA publicizes this information online, it doesn’t provide the full picture of what occurred in the workplace. It could have occurred in the workplace but doesn’t have anything to do with the workplace.”

Twitter It!

A Finger on the Employee Pulse

employee pollWe all know that employee surveys provide very usable and valuable data. But how much employee input do you need, and how often should you be asking for it?

If a recent Wall Street Journal article is any indication, some companies are searching for the sweet spot by taking a “more (and more often) is better” approach to employee surveys.

In the piece, the paper’s Rachel Emma Silverman examines the rise of “so-called ‘pulse surveys,’ ” highlighting a few employers relying on short monthly, weekly or daily polls to “provide data on how their teams actually feel and catch problems before they fester.” (Short and frequent surveys are even replacing annual employee surveys at some organizations, says Silverman, although she notes that others—Google Inc., for instance—use a combination of both.)

For example, Limeade Inc., a Seattle-based corporate wellness firm with 115 employees, sends it people quick, one-question surveys each week, seeking feedback on issues ranging from customer service improvements to holiday party ideas.

Workers answer anonymously, and the results are discussed at bi-weekly company meetings. Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht told the Journal these polls revealed that the firm’s remote workers were generally less happy than those working from headquarters, and the company has since invested in more teleconferencing tools to “reconnect [remote workers] with the mother ship,” according to the article.

As many as three times a week, Boston-based public relations and marketing firm Metis Communications asks employees what they are most proud of and whether they feel their managers listen to them. Rebecca Joyner, director of content services at the company, told the Journal that a pair of standing desks appeared at Metis HQ within two weeks of one such survey, which asked employees if they were happy with their office chairs.

It’s worth noting that these organizations—as well as most of the other firms included in the Journal article—are on the small side, in terms of number of employees, and pay about $50 a month or anywhere from $15 to $100 per employee for pulse-survey tools delivered by companies such as knowyourcompany.com, TinyPulse, BlackbookHR and Gallup.

We’ll see if more large companies go this route, but it seems at least some are already taking similar steps to get a handle on how employees are feeling.

Sears Holding Corp., the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based owner of Sears and Kmart, has launched Project MoodRing, an initiative designed to “record store employees’ moods at the end of their shifts,” according to WSJ.

Workers choose a color-coded emoticon on a screen, to describe how they’re feeling when they clock out, be it “unstoppable,” “so-so,” “exhausted” or “frustrated,” for instance. The article notes that Sears anticipates it will receive about 28 million daily mood responses a year, and has already found “a correlation between slightly higher sales and customer satisfaction at stores where employees are in positive moods rather than neutral or negative moods.”

While conducting surveys—even short ones—with such frequency can get repetitive and eventually begin grating on employees’ nerves, keeping the questions fresh may be one of the keys to successful employee polls.

Quirky Inc., for example, asks its approximately 150 employees about the challenges they’re facing at the moment, and who at the New York-based invention company has demonstrated great leadership in the past week, according to the Journal. Rochelle DiRe, chief people officer at Quirky Inc., told WSJ that the company has begun rotating questions more frequently, as a way to maintain employee participation and interest.

“Without some kind of variation,” says DiRe, “it can get a little bit like homework for some people.”

Twitter It!

HR: Stewards of Compensation?

Forbes contributor Robin Ferracone just posted this morning an interesting Q&A she conducted last month with Jerry McGrath, DHR International’s global HR practices leader, on the topic of HR’s role in determining executive compensation.

In the piece, Ferracone — an executive compensation consultant for more than 30 years — tells McGrath that “the expediency and overall success” of an organization’s compensation program depends on great collaborations with the HR community:

 We believe the role of HR is very important, and we like working closely with the HR team as well as the compensation committee of the board. If we don’t work closely together, surprises inevitably arise, and no one likes surprises – at least in this context.

With that said, Ferracone then highlights a few pitfall areas for HR executives to avoid in the comp arena.

“I have to admit, it was easier to come up with the roles HR should avoid,” she says, which include:

  • CEO advocate: This approach does not play well with the compensation committee and sets up an issue of trust;

  • Peacekeeper: Some eggs may need to be broken to make an omelet; and

  • Copycat or scared-y cat: HR shouldn’t be afraid to proffer opinions. HR deserves to have its own point of view heard.

She then offers five areas HR executives can focus on “to become the stewards of compensation” at their organizations:

1.  Regulation: When it comes to the CEO Median Pay Ratio disclosure, keep it simple. Interpret and clearly communicate the numbers for shareholders. Keep it low-key.

2.  Shareholder Engagement: Engage with shareholders and proxy advisers, but at the right time. Listen carefully to their thinking, ideas and concerns, but don’t feel you’re wedded to them in your design. Instead, wed yourself to your company’s strategy.

3.  Linking Talent to Strategy: Compensation has largely been a backward-looking exercise.  We need to look forward in order to protect our talent franchise. As you think about retention and  workforce planning, you need to think about how to link talent planning to compensation.

4.  Managing Dilution and Talent Retention: For a struggling company, you must recognize when equity isn’t doing its job. You need to think differently about how to compensate in this environment.

5.  Build Trust and Collaborate: The best approach is to work collaboratively with both compensation committees and consultants. Be engaged in the process and refrain from advocating for the CEO.

“In short,” she says, “HR needs to work with management and the compensation committee to ensure that executive interests are aligned with shareholder interests.”

Twitter It!

Stop Buying Into Boring HR-Tech Hype; Focus More on Trust

I was so struck by the simplicity of a recent post on the Horses for Sources website, run by IT and outsourcing expert Phil Fersht and his 477607425 -- boredteam of global-sourcing analysts, that I was compelled to share it here.

The title of the post, “Why we need to stop boring ourselves to death and focus on what really matters: building TRUST,” kind of says it all.

The gist of it is that buyers of technology services want little more than to turn a whole lot more control over to their service providers; this, it points out, is their No. 1 choice for a course of action to “reset these stale services relationships to drive more value beyond labor arbitrage and standard operational delivery.”

And this is what’s top-of-mind for services buyers, the post says, despite what you and I keep hearing about all the other hyped-up tech trends it cites: “how robotic automation, digital technology … big data and outcome-based pricing are going to be the biggest game changers to disrupt the business world since the invention of the desk.”

I love what follows, I guess to depict where all this excitable tech thinking is going to take us:

“Suddenly, there’s going to be minimal need for human labor … so we’ll just sit at home all day running our lives from our mobile devices sequencing our own genomes using some cool analytics app that we only need to pay for once we’ve added 10 years to our life expectancy. Somebody please shoot me now … let’s dial this dialog back to reality for a few minutes.”

Indeed, as reality would have it, when Horses for Sources asked attendees of its recent gathering of enterprise buy-side operations leaders in Chicago to choose among six actions that would best “improve the quality and outcome of your current sourcing initiative,” the winner, by far, was “the buyer letting go and giving more responsibility and value processes to [the] provider.”

Here’s the HfS response to that:

“Oh my god.  After all the whining about things like, ‘All they do is sell to us,’ and ‘All that cool stuff they promised us during the sales process and never delivered’ … the real reason behind this stagnation is the simple fact that most buyers are just struggling to let go!”

In order to do that, though, they need to — you got it — trust that their providers can take on higher-value work from them. And to earn that trust, providers need to prove they can do that. In the words of HfS:

“This means many need to change behavior … the [oh-so-boring] overselling needs to stop and the demonstration of real value needs to start. … Service buyers do not ‘let go’ until they know they have a safe pair of hands to trust with their beloved processes …  .”

Twitter It!

Working Hard for the Holidays

ThanksgivingLast week, HRE reported on the Heartland Monitor Poll, in which 45 percent of 1,000 employed Americans said there was “some chance” they will be working on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Now, with Thanksgiving less than 24 hours away, we see more data suggesting a fair number of employees will spend at least the first leg of this holiday trifecta watching the clock at work instead of watching football on the couch.

Bloomberg BNA’s annual Thanksgiving Holiday Work Practices survey—conducted since 1980—found that 33 percent of 364 responding organizations are requiring at least some employees to work on Thanksgiving this year.

That number actually represents a 4 percent drop from Bloomberg’s 2013 Thanksgiving poll, but that’s cold comfort for those stuck at work tomorrow. (Incidentally, the Bloomberg survey finds employees responsible for public safety, security or maintenance are most likely to be among this group.)

On the bright side, however, 74 percent of the companies requiring Thanksgiving work will provide extra pay and/or leave. (That number stood at 55 percent last year.) Thirty-nine percent of these organizations will offer time-and-a-half pay, with 25 percent providing double-time pay. Ten percent will give those working on Thanksgiving both extra pay and compensatory time, while 8 percent of these employees will receive regular pay, and 7 percent will only be granted comp time for their efforts on Thanksgiving day.

Meanwhile, a recent CareerBuilder survey found 16 percent of 3,719 U.S. workers indicating they have to work on Thanksgiving (up from 14 percent in 2013).

More specifically, workers in leisure and hospitality (46 percent), retail (39 percent), healthcare (31 percent) and transportation and utilities (22 percent) will be leading the way among those most commonly reporting for duty on Thanksgiving, according to the study.

Interestingly, the same CareerBuilder poll found that nearly one in five employees will be giving thanks with colleagues tomorrow—even if they’re not working.

That’s right, 19 percent of respondents said they plan to celebrate the holiday with co-workers either in or out of the office.

I chuckled at that figure at first, as it struck me as odd that co-workers would be getting together on Thanksgiving, a day so associated with spending time with family and close friends. But I guess it’s not so strange that “family and close friends” would extend to include colleagues, given the bond that often forms among groups of people spending 40-plus hours a week together. And from an employer’s perspective, maybe it’s a sign that employees—or at least 19 percent of them—enjoy their co-workers and their work environment so much that they want to bring some of that atmosphere home for the holidays.

Twitter It!

CHRO = CEO?

Based on the results of a new study, you CHROs out there might want to start measuring the drapes in the CEO’s corner suite. The CHRO CEOUniversity of Michigan’s Dave Ulrich (whom we often feature as a source in our news and features) and Ellie Filler, a senior client partner in the Swiss office of executive-recruiter Korn Ferry, examined several sets of data pertaining to the C-suite and concluded that the executive whose traits were most similar to those of the CEO was the CHRO.

“This finding is very counter-intuitive — nobody would have predicted it,” Ulrich told the Harvard Business Review.

Based on their findings, Ulrich and Filler recommend that companies consider the CHRO when looking to fill the CEO position.

Of course, it shouldn’t be news to HRE readers that today’s CHROs are a far cry from the HR honchos of yore. Many report directly to the CEO, as Ulrich and Filler note. They often serve as the CEO’s key adviser and make frequent presentations to the board.

The data they examined to arrive at their conclusion included the salaries for CEO, COO, CFO, CMO and CIO. They wanted to determine the importance of the CHRO relative to other C-suite positions. They found that CHROs are the third-highest paid executives, second only to the CEO and COO, with an average base pay of $574,000. That’s 33-percent more than CMOs, the lowest-paid executives on the list.

Ulrich and Filler also studied proprietary assessments administered by Korn Ferry to C-suite candidates to uncover leadership traits. They examined scores on 14 aspects of leadership, grouped into three categories: leadership style, thinking style and emotional competency. They then assessed the prevalence of these traits among the different types of executives and compared the results.

Of course, not all CHROs would be good candidates for CEO, say Ulrich and Filler. Those who’ve spent their entire careers in HR, for example, probably won’t make it to the top. Instead, CHROs with well-rounded business experience, such as running a business division, have a much better chance of assuming the CEO mantle. They cite CEOs such as GM’s Mary Barra and Xerox’s Anne Mulcahy, who served from 2001 to 2009, as leaders who served stints overseeing HR.

In their white paper, Ulrich and Filler include testimony from CEOs who agree the CHRO could be a contender for their role.

“It’s almost impossible to achieve sustainable success without an outstanding CHRO,” Thomas Ebeling, former CEO of Novartis, told them. “[The CEO] should be a key sparring partner for a CEO on topics like talent development, team composition [and] managing culture.”

Twitter It!

Unemployment Discrimination Rears Head Again

76806723 -- unemployedHaven’t seen one of these for awhile.

With the economy slowly, but surely making its way back (at least for now), cases involving unemployment discrimination have taken a back seat to recruiting and talent management, as stories go.

But as this New York Post piece from earlier this month suggests, the issue appears alive and well in a Manhattan-based staffing agency. In her recent lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court State of New York, County of New York, Valerie White claims she was turned down for an HR-coordinator position with Solomon Page Group in late July of this year because she’d been out of work for more than a year.

Here is the actual lawsuit filed, alleging that the company’s director of accounting operations, who joined White and Solomon’s recruiting director for the interview, told White, ” ‘I don’t think you can do this because you have been out of work for a year.’ ”

White claims in the lawsuit she was “extremely humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and emotionally distressed” by what happened — sentiments echoed in other stories about this issue that we’ve written and come across.

I wrote a news analysis earlier this year about the push from the White House against long-term-unemployment discrimination, including President Obama’s vow during his Jan. 2014 State of the Union address to give more long-term-unemployed Americans a “fair shot” at a job.

At the time of that story, New York was one of 10 states mulling a state law banning such discrimination. New York City, meanwhile, had already enacted, in June of 2013, one of the nation’s most aggressive bans, creating “the first law in the United States that defines a job applicant’s unemployed status as a protected class along with age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation and alienage/citizenship status,” according to this report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM piece says the NYC law is broader in scope than other laws (and bills being considered in some states) by providing plaintiffs with the right to pursue private civil claims and by treating unemployed applicants in the same way members of other protected classes are treated under nondiscrimination laws.

I was hoping to get something from Solomon about all this — about its view of the case and about doing business in New York with this law on the books — but Paul Coller, vice president of human resources at Solomon and the company’s chief human resource officer, could only say he and his colleagues “are confident the facts will show that these allegations lack any merit and, due to pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

I guess it remains to be seen just how aggressive this anti-unemployment-discrimination push will be in the months and years to come. I guess it will be economy-driven. For now, my story and this subsequent column from our legal columnist, Paul Salvatore, spell out some things HR should be thinking about and doing around the push .

Salvatore’s reminder:

“HR leaders should consider the best practices released by the White House [during that State of the Union] and signed on to by many large employers. They include:

* Making sure advertising does not discourage or discriminate against the unemployed,

* Reviewing screens or procedures used in recruiting and hiring processes so individuals are not disadvantaged based solely on their unemployment status,

* Reviewing current recruiting practices to ensure a broad net is cast and to encourage all qualified candidates to consider applying, and

* Sharing best practices.”

Granted, the rate of unemployment is lower now than earlier this year, and much lower now than in the five previous years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s also well above the years just preceding the Great Recession and there’s really no telling how many people out there have been out of work for so long they’ve essentially given up hope.

Best to remain vigilant, not to mention compassionate and fair, whichever way the legislative and administrative winds are blowing.

Twitter It!

Americans: Overworked Yet Positive

The latest Heartland Monitor Poll from Allstate and the National Journal is out and it contains some very good news for the nation’s employers. The poll of 1,000 employed Americans finds that the overwhelming majority think very highly of their employers, with 82 percent saying they believe their employer has a positive impact on their community and 87 percent saying they’d recommend their place of employment to others. Americans are also highly satisfied with their jobs: 93 percent said they’re satisfied and 54 percent said they’re very satisfied.

So here’s the less-positive news: Only 31 percent say they’re very satisfied with their pay. Just 43 percent are very satisfied with their job benefits, 45 percent with the amount of paid vacation and sick time offered and 38 percent with opportunities for advancement.

Finally, many Americans will be putting in time on the job that they’d rather be spending with their families this holiday season: Just under half (45 percent) say there’s “at least some chance” they will be working on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. More than half (55 percent) say it won’t be by their own choice. At least 25 percent of American workers will be required to work during at least one of these major holidays.

Working Americans’ personal time is increasingly impacting their personal time: 81 percent say they are required to be in contact outside of working hours, with 41 percent saying they’re required to be in contact frequently. More than half (56 percent) say they checked email or otherwise checked in with work during their last vacation.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Americans are looking for more flexibility and more personal time. If given the choice between jobs based on the balance between work and personal time, two in three (67 percent would choose “more flexibility and shorter hours … but less pay” while only one in four (26 percent) would choose “more pay … but less flexibility and longer hours.”

Twitter It!

Eliminating Silos in Health and Safety

Few of us need to be sold on the merits of greater collaboration. But if there were any doubts about what it’s able to bring to the areas of health and safety, Dr. Casey Chosewood put them to rest yesterday morning during his opening keynote speech at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® in Las Vegas.

DSC_0102daveblog

Dr. Casey Chosewood, speaking at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference on Wednesday.

“Too many organizations today still have silos [that] are unconnected,” said Chosewood, chief medical officer and director of the Office for Total Worker Health Coordination and Research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (part of the Centers for Disease Control). “But that has to change. We have to put everything under one umbrella and take a more integrated approach.”

Remarkable things can happen when each of the components talk to one another, align their goals, understand the financial challenges of others and work on finding solutions, Chosewood told the packed room of attendees.

Of course, in the world of business, the elimination of silos, as a concept, comes up a lot. But it seems to be an especially powerful idea when it’s applied to safety and health.

Early in his talk, Chosewood took a few minutes to touch on the Ebola outbreak, which is also the subject of Carol Harnett’s Benefits Column posted earlier this week.

“I’m frequently asked if the CDC has a handle on the problem,” Chosewood said, “and that’s a fair question.”

As of today, he explained, there have been eight cases of Ebola in the United States, compared to 14,000 known cases in West Africa (a figure he believes is probably closer to between 20,000 and 28,000).

Chosewood said the CDC believes the risk of Ebola here in the United States remains very low, though he added that doesn’t negate the seriousness of the disease and the need to put “more resources on the ground in West Africa” to address it.

Returning to the focus of his talk, Chosewood said people would be mistaken were they to think they could separate work and home as far as health and well-being are concerned. “You can’t leave what happens at home on the kitchen table [just as] you can’t leave what happens at work on your desk. You shuttle them back and forth.”

Chosewood cited the example of a person who works in a factory who is exposed to lead and then brings it home to an unsuspecting child on the surface of his or her clothing. “Risks don’t just stay in one place,” he said.

During his talk, Chosewood also touched on the importance of changing the culture of the organization. Quoting Sir Michael Marmot (a professor at the University College London), he said it’s “unreasonable to expect people to change their behavior when the social, cultural and physical environments around them fully conspire against them.”

Chosewood shared a close-to-home illustration of the kinds of steps that can be taken.

When the CDC ran out of places to park and needed to build a new parking garage, Chosewood (then in charge of safety and health there) said he intentionally proposed picking a site that required workers to walk 15 minutes. While the move initially made him quite unpopular and existing employees complained about the distance, he said, new hires haven’t complained at all.

In addressing health and safety issues, he said, employers need to be willing to take “short-term heat” for “long-term gain.”

Chosewood said next on the Center’s to-do list will be to slow down the elevators so impatient workers will take the stairs. (I wasn’t sure if he was serious or kidding.)

According to Chosewood, there are three kinds of companies: bad, good and the best. Bad companies, he said, don’t do anything to keep their workers healthy and safe; good companies keep them protected from injury and illness; and the best do what’s needed to ensure their workers go home more healthy at the end of the day.

Employers that fall in this “best” category, he said, will enjoy more engagement, greater productivity and lower injury risk.

Twitter It!

TMBC Welcomes Averbook, Secures Funding

Jason AverbookJason Averbook has designs on reinventing workplace performance and employee engagement.

Earlier today, Averbook—recognized HR technology expert and former CEO of Knowledge Infusion—was announced as the new chief executive officer of The Marcus Buckingham Co. In the new role, Averbook plans to help the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based provider of leadership development training and tools “create an organization uniquely positioned to turn the world of talent and leadership inside out,” according to a statement announcing Averbook’s arrival at the company.

Averbook, who officially took over as CEO at TMBC on Oct. 31, won’t be alone in this task, of course. The same press release highlighted TMBC’s completion of a $5 million Series A fundraising round led by SurveyMonkey, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based online survey development company.

With Averbook at the helm and this funding secured, TMBC has lofty goals, according to founder Marcus Buckingham, a best-selling author, researcher, motivational speaker and business consultant.

The firm aims to “fix what is broken in the process of talent performance assessment and management,” says Buckingham. “TMBC’s vision is to deliver companywide and individual team leader visibility into employee strengths, engagement and performance; and its content aims to help the team leader build on the strengths of each employee.”

At the moment, “no such tools—designed explicitly for team leaders—exist,” according to Buckingham, who says the funds provided by SurveyMonkey will go toward “serving this pivotal but unserved market segment of true talent engagement, performance and real-time progress tracking.

On the eve of the announcement of his arrival at TMBC, Averbook echoed those sentiments in a chat with Human Resource Executive, during which he discussed the role of the company’s StandOut integrated performance and engagement platform in rethinking how workplace performance is measured and improved. The first round of funding from SurveyMonkey, he says, is tied to enhancements to StandOut, a strengths-based performance management system that includes a strengths profile for employees, pulse surveys designed to gauge employee-engagement levels and trends in real time, and talent reviews geared toward workforce planning using local talent data.

“The challenge has always been getting [the right] technology into the hands of team leaders,” says Averbook. “We want to [enable] real-time team building and measure engagement at a team level. We want to look at employee performance and engagement in a new way.”

Twitter It!