College grads rule the workforce

ThinkstockPhotos-187066632A new report offers a startling insight into economic change that has driven a summer of political discontent: Among U.S. workers, those with bachelor’s degrees now outnumber those who didn’t get past high school.

Just eight years ago, people with no college experience held 39 percent of jobs. By January 2016, that share had shrunk to 34 percent. And college graduates rose to 36 percent of the workforce, from 32 percent in December 2007.

The reason: Virtually all the 11.6 million jobs created from 2010 through 2015, as the nation slowly crawled out of recession, went to workers with at least some college experience. Workers with no college experience recovered just 80,000 of the 5.6 million jobs they lost in 2008 and 2009.

The analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data comes in a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. It underscores a tectonic shift in the U.S. economy that laid the groundwork for political discontent that has roiled the nation this year.

“Workers with a high school diploma or less essentially have experienced no job recovery,” write study authors Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Artem Gulish.

If a college degree is essential to success today, a master’s degree may be necessary tomorrow. The study finds that workers with only a bachelor’s degree lost 66,000 jobs in the recession and gained 4.7 million in the recovery. But those with a graduate degree saw no net loss at all during the recession. Instead, they gained 253,000 jobs during the recession and another 3.8 million in the recovery.

Whether from the advance of technology in all industries or the phenomenon of “education inflation,” the economic shift has been building for decades, the study notes.

Growing demand for workers in “high-skill” occupations — including management, health care and technical jobs — across industries is critical to explaining the shift, study authors say. “Low-skill” occupations, such as construction jobs, saw net declines even after six years of recovery.

The study authors note that a fundamental shift in the composition of the U.S. workforce has rewarded those with advanced education in growing occupations. But in an echo of stories that have shaped much of the political debate in a presidential election year, they also acknowledge that some are being left behind.

“Men without a college degree were traditionally able to make their way into the middle class through manufacturing and construction jobs, and women without a college degree could get middle class jobs in office and administrative support occupations,” the study authors conclude. “These pathways are increasingly closing down, leaving few opportunities to access the middle class without postsecondary education.”

Tweet This!

‘Professional Plaintiff’ Targets Firms via FCRA

Meet Cory Groshek. He’s an aspiring rapper who calls himself “Cory Crush.” He’s also a fitness guru who produces YouTube videos featuring himself as “Low Carb Cory.” He also writes scary stories under his own name and has worked as a customer-service representative.

Groshek also has found a pretty lucrative gig targeting companies that unwittingly violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act when they fail to properly disclose their intention to obtain his credit history as part of the hiring process. According to court documents, Groshek has used this tactic to obtain at least $230,000 in legal settlements from companies across the country.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Groshek applied to 562 jobs within an 18-month period of time and has admitted to threatening 40 companies with class-action lawsuits on behalf of all their recent hires for technical violations of the federal law unless they pay him a personal settlement to go away. In most cases, the companies decided to simply pay Groshek — about 20 paid him relatively small settlements of between $5,000 and $35,000.

Under the law, the plaintiffs involved in a FCRA class action could be entitled to up to $1,000 per employee should the case succeed. And, Groshek had good reason to believe he’d succeed: According to WebRecon, the number of FCRA class-action suits filed against companies last year doubled to 400 from the number filed in 2014. Companies such as Domino’s, Home Depot, Uber and the parent company of the Food Lion supermarket chain are among those that have agreed to pay millions of dollars each to settle FCRA class-action suits.

A small number of companies opted not to settle with Groshek, however, and Time Warner Cable was among them. He’d applied for, and was offered, an $11-an hour job with the cable giant. Instead of accepting the job, Groshek sent TWC a 2,300-word letter threatening to sue the company over FCRA violations on behalf of all recent hires unless they paid him a settlement of between $5 million to $10 million. TWC refused to settle and Groshek filed suit, which is how his activities came to light.

TWC’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Groshek (whom they referred to as a “professional plaintiff”) shouldn’t be allowed to sue because he intentionally initiated any alleged violations and that he violated state extortion laws. Groshek has also filed suit against three other companies that refused to settle; those cases are also pending.

Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, told the Journal Sentinel that previous settlements of FCRA claims have emboldened more people to file FCRA class-action lawsuits in recent years.

“It’s opened up an entire area of practice,” she told the paper.

Due to the many technical requirements of the FCRA statute, “there are lots of technical ways to violate the statute, and there are a lot of plaintiffs’ attorneys who recognize that,” Veena Iyer, a labor and employment attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis told my colleague Mark McGraw for a story on FCRA lawsuits last year.

Many employers unintentionally commit FCRA violations in handling adverse-action notices, sources told McGraw. In particular, employers must ensure that applicants are given a meaningful opportunity to challenge any incorrect information that’s uncovered in a background report. Some of the most common FCRA claims are that employers’ background-check disclosure forms contained language not limited to the disclosure required by the statute, the employer failed to provide a pre-adverse action notice, and the employer did not wait the right amount of time before taking final adverse action against an individual.

“Do not assume that no one will challenge the information in the consumer report,” Doug Kauffman, a partner in Balch & Bingham’s labor and employment group, told McGraw. “Employers who become too mechanical in the application of providing the notice of a potential adverse action, wait seven days, and then automatically send the final adverse action, may effectively skip a key requirement under FCRA to provide a meaningful opportunity to the applicant to correct any misinformation.”

Tweet This!

Is Diversity Training a Waste of Time?

Diversity programs haven’t done much to actually increase diversity in the workplace.

This is the conclusion recently reached by sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, who drove this idea home throughout an article appearing in the July/August 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review.

The authors point to volumes of past research that they say reinforce the notion that diversity efforts—mandatory diversity training sessions in particular—may be well-intentioned, but often miss the mark.

“Firms have long relied on diversity training to reduce bias on the job, hiring tests and performance ratings to limit it in recruitment and promotions, and grievance systems to give employees a way to challenge managers,” wrote Dobbin and Kalev.

“Those tools are designed to preempt lawsuits by policing managers’ thoughts and actions,” according to Dobbin, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, and Kalev, an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University.

Laboratory studies, however, “show that this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out. As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy. Try to coerce me to do X, Y or Z, and I’ll do the opposite just to prove that I’m my own person.”

Dobbin and Kalev’s HBR piece is based on their own examination of three decades’ worth of data, culled from more than 820 United States-based businesses as well as interviews with hundreds of line managers and executives.

In conducting their analysis, the authors found that companies saw representation of some demographic groups actually drop in the five years after they made diversity training programs obligatory for managers.

For instance, the share of black women in management roles decreased by 9 percent on average in that time, while the ranks of Asian-American men and women declined by 4 percent to 5 percent.

“Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance,” added Dobbin and Kalev, noting that many participants reported feeling more animosity toward other groups after taking part in such programs.

The authors outlined other ways in which diversity training efforts are typically derailed.

Threatening undertones, for example, help to upend many diversity training programs.

“ … Three-quarters use negative messages in their training. By headlining the legal case for diversity and trotting out stories of huge settlements, they issue an implied threat: ‘Discriminate, and the company will pay the price.’ We understand the temptation … but threats, or ‘negative incentives,’ don’t win converts.”

Dobbin and Kalev contend that companies achieve better results “when they ease up on the control tactics” in delivering diversity programs.

“It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded.

“That’s why interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams and task forces have boosted diversity in businesses. Some of the most effective solutions aren’t even designed with diversity in mind.”

Tweet This!

5 New Upcoming Roles for HR

I just came across this interesting piece on Forbes site in which contributor/digital nomad Kavi Guppta shares what he thinks will be the five most interesting new roles HR will play in the coming years.

While some of the titles, (manager of employee engagement, director of learning and diversity officer) seem pretty safe, the last two titles are worth a deeper look here:

Mindset coach:

An overworked workforce is an unhappy workforce. Wellness programs or policies inside companies are a powerful resource to keep employees happy, healthy, and focused. A Mindset Coach will institute important programs that ensure individuals create good habits in their day-to-day work experience. These good habits go beyond the realm of regular exercise and healthy eating.

A proper wellness program will include work-life balance processes, stress management and therapy programs, and facilitating an open dialogue around mental health and illness to remove much of the stigma that plagues the conversation and ailments. Again, the Mindset Coach will work closely with an Employee Engagement Manager and devise interactive ways to encourage participation and openness across the workforce. He or she will also collaborate with the Director of Learning on educational programs.

Talent & repertoire manager:

Sports franchises and the entertainment industry have long benefitted from internal scouts with an eye for great people. Companies should enjoy the same. The corporate world is full of recruitment firms that can pass along talented individuals, but who is looking out for the organization from the inside?

While talent recruitment may fall on a hiring manager or executive, a fully dedicated Talent & Repertoire Manager can be the eyes and ears on the ground for specific industries. He or she will have great relationships with top recruitment firms, and should also be known for having a good relationship with incubators, ecosystems or industry communities. He or she will also be responsible for navigating transformative trends in the talent marketplace–salary expectations, hot skillsets, and prospect track records–that will be crucial to the competitive offers an organization may submit to potential prospects.

According to Guppta, companies that utilize a specialized approach to HR will remove much of the “nanny-like” perception the department has famously faced inside organizations:

HR will no longer be known as the stuffy and stiff department that keeps everyone in line. Instead, it’ll be a vehicle for progress that will facilitate positive corporate culture transformation where employees and leadership have a stake in that change.

While there’s no guarantee these five job titles will prove to be the difference between success and failure in the future, it is nice to look ahead at the novel ways HR might bring more value to an organization.

 

Tweet This!

Are Long Hours Making Workers Sick?

ThinkstockPhotos-179039030In some parts of the world, workaholism is beginning to look uncool. Some companies in South Korea are literally turning off the lights to get people out of the office at a reasonable hour. Desks in a Dutch design studio automatically retract into the ceiling at 6 p.m. Researchers in Sweden report increased worker productivity with an experimental six-hour day.

What’s happening in the U.S.? Long workdays remain as popular — or necessary — as ever. And now some new research suggests there are long-term consequences that employers, as well as workers, need to understand.

A study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University and the Mayo Clinic finds people who routinely work long hours have sharply higher risks of chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease later in life. And the risks are especially severe for women.

Workers at the beginning of their careers may be happy to invest in long work-weeks, and employers benefit, notes lead author Allard Dembe, a professor of public health at Ohio State. But “you may be setting the stage for a physical breakdown later in life,” he says.

Other studies have found long hours at work can lead to stress, fatigue, reduced work performance and safety issues. But until now few researchers had looked at long-term health effects. Dembe and Xiaoxi Yao, now a research associate at the Mayo Clinic, found a way by analyzing a database that tracked both the work hours and self-reported health information of more than 12,000 people nationally from 1979 to 2011. Only full-time work was counted.

The results, published online last month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, were particularly stunning for women: Those who averaged 60-plus-hour weeks over those 32 years were at least three times as likely to report heart disease, cancer, arthritis or diabetes. That’s compared to those who had average workweeks of 30 to 40 hours.

Men in the study showed smaller increased risk. The largest effect in men was with arthritis, which was more than twice as likely for those working 60 hours or more, compared to standard full-time hours.

Earlier research had suggested that women might see more long-term health effects, but the size of the disparity was surprising, Dembe says: “I didn’t expect the gender effect to be so, so striking … it was just day and night.”

Researchers can only speculate as to why, but Dembe thinks the most plausible explanation is that most women have greater responsibilities at home than men. “A lot of things are going on here,” he says. But one is the “multiple roles that women play in society, compared to men,” he says. “Women don’t have the time.”

What can employers do? Working long hours is “part of American culture,” Dembe says, and curbing workaholism isn’t easy. But companies can make employees aware of the consequences of long hours — and start health screening programs early, he says. Existing wellness and chronic-disease-management programs can be part of the effort .

“Talk about the issue when people are younger,” Dembe says. For employers, “this study suggests you really should think about it.”

Tweet This!

Brexit: The Human Resource Implications

Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union DividedFew people seemed as surprised by the results of last week’s vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union than the British themselves. Meanwhile, other countries in Europe are witnessing similar “exit” movements of their own — in Spain (“Spexit”), France (“Frexit”) and even Germany (“Gexit”), although the consensus seems to be that those campaigns are unlikely to result in more countries leaving the 28-nation bloc. The reverberations are even echoing here in the U.S., where some Texas secessionists are calling for the Lone Star State to have a “Texit” referendum.

The process of formally unwinding the U.K. from the E.U. will be long and complex, and won’t begin until the country’s leadership formally invokes “Article 50,” perhaps in the fall. As such, experts say most multinational companies with operations in the U.K. are taking a “wait and see” approach in terms of how the changes in employment law, benefits and immigration may affect them.

“There’s still a significant amount of uncertainty as to how companies are going to proceed,” says William Sheridan, vice president for international human resources services at the National Foreign Trade Council in New York. “Brexit is going to have a range of implications — it’s a real mess.”

One of the biggest uncertainties is whether companies with U.K. operations will continue to enjoy unfettered access to the E.U. market once the separation is complete. Another big worry is over the “free movement” of people throughout E.U. member countries that is one of the pillars of E.U. membership — once that’s gone, it may be much harder for U.K. companies to hire and transfer foreign nationals. Indeed, some U.S.-based companies — most notably JP Morgan Chase — have indicated they may shift major portions of their employee base out of the U.K. This means the U.K. may become a less-attractive destination post-Brexit because it will no longer offer easy access to talented people from throughout the E.U.

“Many companies have established in the U.K. because … they access a large pool of qualified employees from other E.U. countries,” writes Ashley Craig, a partner at international law firm Venable. “If the U.K. leaves the E.U., that will likely no longer be the case.” Further complicating matters, Craig writes, many E.U. professionals — such as lawyers — may no longer  have their credentials recognized in the U.K., as they currently are under E.U. rules.

The E.U. has indicated that it will not be inclined to let the British retain the trade advantages that come with E.U. membership, probably as a way to discourage other countries from exiting. Manufacturers with a heavy presence in the U.K., such as Ford and Caterpillar, may end up having to move some plants, offices and staff to countries that remain in the E.U. in order to maintain their ready access to that crucial market, says Terry Gallagher, president of international executive-search firm Battalia Winston.

“The biggest challenge will be to engage and retain talent in this environment of more global uncertainty and more possible exits from the E.U. … ” he says. “Those companies that are nimble and proactive will do better than those waiting to see the impact and putting everything on hold.

HR leaders at multinational companies will want to pay especially close attention to developments once the U.K. invokes Article 50, which will begin the two-year separation process from the E.U., says Sheridan.  “Major law firms have been cranking out webinars and presentations on how Brexit may affect all sorts of regulations … it’s important for HR to stay attuned to what’s going on.”

Tweet This!

Americans Much in Favor of Background Checks

Granted, the company announcing this research has some “skin in the game,” as we sometimes say around here, but this study — which 502005532 -- criminal backgroundwas explained to me in some detail at the recent SHRM16 conference in Washington — bears sharing.

It’s so counterintuitive to so much of what we’ve been hearing when it comes to the popularity, or lack thereof, of background screening, I thought it might pique some interest.

The study (registration required) was commissioned by Sterling Talent Solutions, the entity created from the recent acquisition by SterlingBackcheck of EmployeeScreenIQ. (Kelton Global conducted the research.)

And here’s the statistic that compels me to share: It finds 95 percent of the 1,077 Americans over the age of 18 polled think background checks should be mandatory to determine whether a person has a criminal past before he or she takes on the responsibilities of a job.

As Nick Fishman, the company’s communications vice president, explained to me, “we’ve all heard a lot about background checks, and how they are negatively perceived, and negatively affect job candidates [indeed, here’s just a sampling of such content we’ve posted on HREOnline and HRE Daily, along with guidelines and regulations employers now need to be aware of], but no one’s gone out and asked the general public what they actually think about them. Well, we did.”

For so long, it’s been assumed employers take the safety of their workplaces more seriously than employees, Fishman said. “Now we see employees care as much, if not more.”

The poll also found 81 percent of Americans believe feeling safe at all times is their right and the workplace is one of the top two locations where they expect to feel safe. What’s more, 68 percent indicated they are willing to undergo background checks themselves; in other words, it’s not just something they believe should be in place for others.

“For too long, the debate about background checks has failed to take into account how everyday Americans actually feel about the role background checks play in their daily lives — namely to keep them safe — and has instead focused on issues promoted by [governmental agencies and advocacy groups],” says Clare Hart, chief executive officer of Sterling. (Think ban-the-box legislation currently spreading through the country at city, county and state levels.) Hart continues:

“[This explains] why Americans depend on employers to look into the backgrounds and criminal histories of job candidates. Importantly, contrary to much of what’s been reported in the media, only 14 percent of Americans consider background checks to be an invasion of privacy.”

So what are you/we to do with this?

Obviously, background-check providers would love the door to open ever-wider to the need for their services. But there’s more to this, I think, yet another reminder that we don’t always know what’s in the hearts and minds of the people working for us, and we should not pretend to know without asking them.

(Employee-satisfaction-survey providers would no doubt have some thoughts on this as well.)

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet This!

DOL Reacts to Ruling on Home Care Rule

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court announced yesterday its decision not to hear a challenge to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Home Care Final Rule.

The case, Home Care Association of America v. Weil, sought to challenge the DOL’s right to define the Fair Labor Standards Act “companionship exemption,” a category of worker that had been exempt from federal minimum wage requirements prior to the law change in late 2015.

The DOL’s Home Care final rule, in effect since January 2016, brought home care workers into the FLSA arena for the first time, granting them the right to minimum wage and overtime pay.

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said the decision ensures that the rule can fulfill President Obama’s vision of an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

In turn, Perez added, “that will mean greater economic stability for so many hard-working people. For everything they do for our families, they deserve – and now they will get – a fair shot at being able to take care of their own. The final rule will also mean a more stable and professional home care workforce, benefitting consumers of these services and better meeting the needs of an aging population.”

Perez also said the DOJ worked closely with “a wide range of stakeholders, including state officials, providers of home care services, advocates representing people with disabilities and worker advocates,”  to encourage thoughtful implementation of the rule:

We have two goals: extending basic labor protections to home care workers; and ensuring that Medicaid participants and their families enjoy continued access to the home and community-based services they need, particularly services delivered through innovative models of care.

Lilian Doan Davis, of Polsinelli PC, wrote in the National Law Review that employers with home health workers should take steps to comply with the Final Rule because:

The DOL has increased its efforts to address wage and hour violations, including the development of a smartphone app to help employees track hours worked.

“Accordingly,” Davis writes, “if an employee is considered ‘non-exempt’ in the wake of the Final Rule, it is critical that employers accurately record their time worked to ensure that they are paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.”

Tweet This!

Retirement Planning: The Gender Gap Persists

A quick search of our website, using the terms “women” and “retirement,” brings back an article from August 2008 that describes retirement planning as “a nightmare for many women.”

In said piece, former HRE freelancer Marlene Prost shed light on female employees’ well-founded worries about outliving their retirement savings, and urged HR leaders to “step in with help” for women workers, who live longer than men on average while typically earning less.

As I sat this morning reading a press release summarizing new Aon Hewitt research, it felt like Prost’s article could have just as easily been written in 2016.

In other words, the story remains largely the same.

In examining the retirement saving and investing behaviors of roughly 3.5 million defined contribution participants from more than 125 employers, the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Aon Hewitt found that 83 percent of women aren’t saving enough to meet their needs in retirement, compared to 74 percent of men who feel they aren’t putting enough away to live comfortably after leaving the workforce.

Aon Hewitt projects that women will need 11.5 times their final pay to meet their financial needs in retirement, but finds “a gap of 3.3 times pay between what women need and what they’re actually on track to have saved in order to retire at age 65.” Meanwhile, the disparity between needs and resources is just 2.0 times pay for men.

This shortfall, according to Aon Hewitt, means women, on average, will need to work until age 69—one year longer than men—in order to meet 100 percent of their needs in retirement.

“Women face significant stumbling blocks when it comes to saving enough for retirement, including longer lifespans, lower salaries and a greater likelihood of taking hardship withdrawals from their 401(k)s,” says Virginia Maguire, director of retirement products and solutions at Aon Hewitt, in the aforementioned press release. “Making retirement and financial well-being a priority is paramount for overcoming those challenges.”

The study also finds women and men participating in employer 401(k) plans at the same rate (79 percent), but lower savings rates pair with salary incongruities to further broaden the savings gap. For example, women are, on average, contributing 7.5 percent of their salaries to 401(k)s, which lags more than a full percentage point behind male employees (8.7 percent). In 2015, women had an average plan balance of $71,060, while the average amount for men was $119,150 last year, according to the report.

Naturally, Aon Hewitt suggests ways in which employers can help chip away at the difference, including offering tools such as healthcare and financial market education to improve overall financial well-being, providing professional investment help and adding plan features designed to increase savings rates.

And, even minor tweaks can have a major impact.

“When employers take an active role in helping all workers improve their financial well-being and save more for retirement, women will benefit,” according to Maguire. “Small changes to plan design and an improved focus on day-to-day finances can go a long way to closing the savings gap.”

Tweet This!

It’s Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Today marks the 18th annual celebration of Take Your Dog To Work Day and, fittingly enough, a new survey sheds (pun clearly intended) some light on the topic to show the benefits reaped by organizations that allow their workers to bring their four-footed friends into the workplace.

Of course, it may seem like a shaggy-dog story to some skeptics (I’m looking at you, cat owners) that bringing your dog to work actually does produce positive workplace effects. But according to this research from Randolph Barker (no joke!), a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University:

“Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference,” he said. “The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present [at an office participating in a study] and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”

From the looks of a recent poll, organizations are (slowly) warming to the idea of pet-friendly workplaces: A 2015 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 percent of American workplaces allow employees to bring their furry friends to work, up from 5 percent in 2013.

(And while it may be too late this year, here’s a link to obtain a toolkit to help you set up the event for next year.)

 

Tweet This!