GE’s Commitment to Hiring Veterans

On the day after our 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks (considering all the soldier deployments and returns that followed), I 177236858-veteran-hiringthought it might be a good time to share this tidbit I’ve been keeping my eyes on. It seems General Electric is going above and beyond in its effort to put military veterans to work. In a recent email, it describes taking skills development and leadership training “to a whole other level” with its Junior Officer Leadership Program.

Those selected to enter the program are able to navigate three different job rotations across various functions within a business while choosing their rotations in order to build networks and do some self-exploration.

This dedication to putting veterans to work and keeping them there wasn’t born yesterday, mind you. In 2012, GE announced its pledge to hire 5,000 vets in five years, a goal it says it has just met. It has also since committed to ensuring 10 percent of all new hires are veterans. In the words of GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, quoted by CNBC at the time of the pledge:

“Too often for veterans, risking their lives has meant risking their livelihoods when they return home. They deserve better, and a good job is a start. But at GE, we also view veterans as great assets for our company’s growth.”

He goes on:

“Veterans have led in the field; they can lead in a factory or research facility. [They] believe in getting the job done and doing it in the right way. For [them], globalization is not an abstract concept, or even something to be feared; instead, they’ve experienced it first-hand. They are proud to work together to reach a common goal, bigger than any one individual.”

Mind you, GE is not alone in its commitment to bring more vets on board. This fact sheet from the White House back in May lists all kinds of similar commitments from large companies, including Amazon, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, the list goes on.

Then there’s this good news, issued late June from Hire Heroes USA, extolling its having reached its goal to hire 10,000 veterans since its founding in 2007.

But as Kyle Kensing, online editor for CareerCast Veterans in Carlsbad, Calif., points out in my June 6 post on the wisdom and virtue of hiring veterans, we still have a long way to go. As he puts it, “there’s still work to be done; the numbers aren’t really where we want them and there are specific things employers could be doing that many still are not.”

Back in June, he cited employers’ needs to reach out more to veterans in hiring and HR practices to defuse the isolation they feel when they enter corporate America. He also cited a need for employers to be more aggressive in increasing their veteran-hiring head counts and ensuring some veterans are working within the HR department, not only because of the skills they bring to HR (responsibility for others, opening up lines of communication, being able to understand what skills people have and what skills people need, and where they need help and where they can shine), but so veterans have a liaison and advocate in HR. Speaking with him more recently, he confirmed improvements are still in need of a boost.

Perhaps this site from GE sums up best the need for — and the bottom-line benefits of — establishing more of a commitment to returning soldiers:

“Your service made you a leader and a disciplined, strategic thinker with a level of loyalty that is unmatched.”

Sounds like a good hire to me.

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Some Bad News on Retirement Plans

Want to increase 401(k) participation rates? Higher salaries would help. But that’s not enough, new research suggests.

Workers with only a high school diploma are less likely than college graduates to participate in a defined-contribution plan, even after taking income out of the equation, two researchers concluded. Christopher Tamborini, a researcher at the U.S. Social Security Administration, and ChangHwan Kim, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Kansas, presented the results late last month at the American Sociological Association meeting in Seattle.

Employers, of course, want workers to save – not only for their own sake, but to help them retire on time and make room for younger workers moving up. HR departments try hard to get workers to opt in early in their careers and stick to a disciplined contribution strategy .

But these study results suggest the participation problem may be more complicated than we thought. Having enough money to save is the most important factor, the study confirms. But other less tangible variables – education and related factors — affect whether workers embrace saving as a long-term life strategy.

Analyzing restricted data that links income-tax and Census records, the study authors found that less-educated workers are disadvantaged at three levels. They are less likely to have access to a retirement plan. They are less likely to opt in if they do have access. And those who do opt in contribute at “systematically lower” levels than other workers.

Controlling for earnings, occupation, industry, firm size, and tenure, a college graduate is 22 percent more likely to participate in a defined-contribution plan, the study found. Among participants, again with all things being equal, college graduates contribute 26 percent more.

Why? Lower levels of education may translate to reduced financial literacy and less interest in planning for the far future, the researchers note. A host of other influences, including socio-economic and cultural factors that correlate with education, also could be at work.

Tamborini and Kim also make the case that the move away from defined-benefit plans – which require no action or sacrifice by the employee — has contributed to economic inequality. “The findings show that lower educated workers face multiple disadvantages under the current workplace pension landscape in which voluntary, contributory plans are the most common type,” they write.

The findings are likely to provide more ammunition for those favoring automatic enrollment and similar strategies to make saving as hands-off as possible. Some employers have even begun “back-sweeping” all non-participating employees into periodic automatic enrollments, requiring them to take the affirmative step of opting out if they don’t want to save for retirement.

The research also suggests that employers may have to start thinking about tailored approaches that recognize all the factors that influence worker retirement savings decisions. Gentle email reminders and occasional presentations in the lunchroom may no longer be enough.

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A Badge for a Brave New World

This morning’s Washington Post profiles a Boston-based company called Humanyze that has developed a high-tech employee badge that records the employee’s every conversation, monitors their movement in the workplace and delivers this information to management to help them evaluate performance. Some people may see this as a brilliant innovation, while many others will probably view it as a terrifyingly Orwellian invasion of privacy (although it should be noted that the badge will not record activities in bathroom locations, so there’s that).

Actually, the badges don’t record the actual conversations of employees, just “how they say it.” They deliver the information to bosses in aggregate form, so they don’t get to look at individuals’ personal data, according to Humanyze. And, employees can choose whether or not to wear the badges, Humanyze CEO Ben Waber told the Post. “If you don’t give people choice, if you don’t aggregate instead of showing individual data, any benefit would be dwarfed by the negative reaction people will have of you coming in with this very sophisticated sensor,” he said.

Each badge (the latest versions of which are slightly larger than a credit card) hangs around the wearer’s neck like a lanyard and is equipped with two microphones for real-time voice analysis and sensors that track where you are in the office. The information collected by the devices can be invaluable in helping companies determine which of their locations are the most and least-productive, and why, said Waber.

The process is based on research that shows that the success, or failure, of a certain location is often based on the amount and quality of interaction between employees at the location and the facility’s physical layout.

He provided the Post with the following example:

A bank has hundreds of retail locations. Some perform really well. Some don’t perform as well. The executives want to understand what the high-performing branches do differently. It turns out that in one company, the high-performing branches were very cohesive. The people who work in that branch talk a lot to each other. The people in the lowest-performing branches almost never talk to each other. The company used Humanyze technology to identify that issue and also change how they pay people and how they organize the branches’ management process. Top line sales grew 11 percent.”

Humanyze has sold thousands of the badges to Fortune 2000 companies around the world, Waber said. The company doesn’t make money on the badges themselves; instead, it makes money on the data it produces, he said.

“Within three or four years, every single ID badge is going to have these sensors,” he said. “We are only scratching the surface right now.”


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So Long, Salary History Questions?

It’s a topic that has made many an interviewee squirm. When asked to discuss compensation history, it’s only natural for job candidates to worry about either pricing themselves out of the market or setting the salary bar too low.

Depending on what happens when Congress returns from summer recess, job candidates may never have to answer uncomfortable salary history-related questions again.

Late last week, a trio of lawmakers announced that they planned to introduce a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history before making a job or salary offer.

These legislators, however, have loftier aspirations than just making the interview process a little less awkward for job seekers.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), will introduce the bill, which “seeks to eliminate the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter,” according to a statement announcing the bill.

“Because many employers set wages based on an applicant’s previous salary, workers from historically disadvantaged groups often start out behind their white male counterparts in salary negotiations and never catch up.”

Ultimately, “the only way to make sure women and minorities will be treated equally is to remove the early biases that exist, both in hiring practices and salary negotiations, and our bill works to eliminate those obstacles by requiring employers to offer salaries based on the value of the work,” said Congressman Nadler, in the aforementioned statement. “Employers can and should hire good employees without taking into account prior pay history or condemning someone to depressed wages due to gender and racial inequity.”

The Washington Post calls the bill “the latest sign that efforts to dump the dreaded [salary history] question could be gaining momentum.”

In August, for example, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an equal pay bill—passed unanimously by both of the state’s legislative branches—forbidding employers from asking about salary history until a job offer was extended.

Meanwhile, an amendment to California’s Fair Pay Act went into effect at the beginning of 2016 that would bar companies from basing compensation decisions on prior salaries alone, according to the Post.

Such recent examples aside, the new bill’s prospects for passage aren’t great, the paper notes, pointing out that bills attempting to legislate equal pay have been introduced in every Congress since 1997, to no avail.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the legislation is dead on arrival, as Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, told the Post.

“People can see the connection of the deep unfairness of carrying past discrimination with you to job after job,” Graves told the paper, noting that the support the Massachusetts business community has shown since the state banned salary-related questions could have a mobilizing effect.

“When states show that something is possible,” says Graves, “that’s extremely reinforcing.”

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Mourning the Loss of an HR Icon

The HR world lost one of its guiding lights late last week with the death of J. Randall (Randy) MacDonald, who retired from his post as senior vice president of human resources for IBM in 2013.

MacDonald — a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, member of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resources Study and past chairman of the HR Policy Association’s board of directors — was featured on the cover of Human Resource Executive ® when he was named HRE‘s 2008 HR Executive of the Year. In that story, he described himself as being “uncomfortable with the status quo,” a man who is “always looking for how to do something better.”

Upon his retirement in 2013, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty called MacDonald “a treasured asset for three IBM CEOs [and] an innovator [who] has continuously pushed us to anticipate major shifts — in the process, stepping up to some of the most important workforce challenges of our time.”

“Randy’s innovative approaches have become a model,” she wrote, “not just for businesses, but for entire societies. In all cases, he helped us maintain our essential values.”

Fred Foulkes, the founder and director of the Human Resources Policy Institute at Boston University, called MacDonald “an icon” of the HR world:

Randy was a star for 3 CEOs of IBM. He was a recognized leader not only at IBM also but to the many other organizations that he generously gave his time and talent to, including: NAHR, HRPA, Cornell, Boston University, PRT and Bucknell University, among others.

MacDonald’s passion for sharing his HR wisdom had not waned during retirement, either, Foulkes says.

“Just last month,” he says, “I had a question that I thought Randy would have good perspectives on, and, as I predicted, he gave me some very good advice.”

And despite his long career of working in the C-suite, Foulkes says MacDonald never lost his connection with line workers.

“His father was a union man,” Foulkes recalls, “and he never forgot where he came from. He was equally comfortable talking to a second-shift janitor as he was a board member or CEO. He was truly a remarkable person.”

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3 Drivers of Employment Changes

As the country gets ready to celebrate the contributions of American workers on Labor Day, CareerBuilder released new research that sheds light on the marketplace in which they operate. CareerBuilder’s 2016 Labor Day Study explores three key drivers of employment changes in the United States, trends associated with each driver and occupations that are among those benefitting the most.

“There are multiple factors that will influence job growth or deceleration, but most of the major shifts in employment today are tied to lifestyle changes, technology advancement and globalization,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. “Whether we’re talking about the rise of the sharing economy, the power of smart technology or companies communicating in multiple languages and time zones, these trends are moving the needle on job growth for a wide variety of fields.”

CareerBuilder’s labor market analysis arm Emsi collects and interprets data from more than 100 national and local employment resources. While there are numerous variables that will influence employment shifts, for the purposes of this study, CareerBuilder and Emsi looked at a short list of trends that have played some part in the growth of specific occupations. The following tables highlight trends that fit within the main categories of lifestyle changes, technology advancement and globalization and show how specific occupations have been positively impacted.

Findings include:

o   Because people are choosing to eat out more, jobs in the restaurant/culinary business rose 16 percent between 2012 and 2016.

o   Because technology is engrained in everyday life, there’s been an 11-percent rise in tech support specialists since 2012.

o   As location-based services are brought to mobile devices, demand for cartographers and photogrammetrists has grown 16 percent since 2012.

o   Wind turbine service technicians have leapt 37 percent in 4 years.

o   Families are more careful with finances after the last recession, resulting in a 13-percent rise in personal financial advisers.

The three charts are below:

 Lifestyle Changes   Occupation Impacted Current Number of Jobs Number of Jobs Added 2012 to 2016 Percentage of Job Growth2012 to 2016 
People are choosing to eat out more, giving rise to the “foodie” generation. Cooks, Restaurant 1,219,433 164,804 16%
More people are embracing the sharing economy. (example: Uber) Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs 283,175 37,023 15%
America is becoming more health-conscious. Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors 309,519 33,303 12%
Families are more careful with finances after the last recession. Personal Financial Advisors 257,493 29,913 13%
More people are choosing to bank and shop online. Information Security Analysts 86,563 9,342 12%
Couples are postponing having children until later in life. Obstetricians and Gynecologists 25,219 1,082 4%


 Technology Advancement  Occupation Impacted Current Number of Jobs Number of Jobs Added 2012 to 2016 Percentage of Job Growth2012 to 2016 
There’s an “app” for everything and “smart” technology is moving beyond phones to clothes, homes and more. Software Developers, Applications 772,195 112,045 17%
Technology has made advertising become more intuitive and effective based on ability to track and interpret online behavior. Marketing Managers 208,611 19,024 10%
Technology has become ingrained in everyday life and is how people stay connected. Computer User Support Specialists 665,646 63,849 11%
Technology is catching health disorders sooner and extending lives. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians 198,831 14,451 8%
Technology is enabling companies to corral and interpret big data to make better business decisions. Database Administrators 120,476 9,794 9%
Technology is integrated into countless consumer and business products with new offerings and iterations released all the time. Technical Writers 55,129 5,381 11%


 Globalization  Occupation Impacted Current Number of Jobs Number of Jobs Added 2012 to 2016 Percentage of Job Growth2012 to 2016 
Companies are serving customers in different time zones, meaning workers are needed at all hours. Customer Service Representatives 2,674,925 225,910 9%
Companies are looking to gain a greater understanding of international markets they’re targeting. Market Research Analysts 532,336 67,551 15%
Expanding beyond borders is requiring communication in different languages. Interpreters and Translators 78,455 9,845 14%
There is greater emphasis on preserving the global environment. Wind Turbine Service Technicians 7,061 1,889 37%
Maps for mobile phones and navigation systems are in demand as people explore new terrain. Cartographers and Photogrammetrists 13,193 1,802 16%
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Coursera Bets on Corporate Learning

The online learning company Coursera is making a push into the world of corporate training. Its new service, called “Coursera for Business,” repackages existing  courses and adds new tools for employer learning-and-development programs.

Coursera is a venture-backed company launched in 2012 with partners that include big-name universities like Duke, Stanford and University of Pennsylvania. Like other so-called massive-open-online-course providers, it has attracted much attention but struggled to find a sustainable business model. Most consumers are resistant to paying for online coursework and attrition rates in free classes are high.

For Coursera, corporate training may be an answer. Employers signing up for Coursera for Business pay to design custom programs drawing from the site’s 1,400 online classes, including titles such as “Business Analytics,” “Python for Everybody” and “Data Science.” The program offers certifications for employees and tracking tools for HR. Companies already signed up include BNY Mellon and L’Oréal.

Amanda Molaro, a publicist representing Coursera, declined to say what the service will cost. Charges are “dependent on the number of employees that they wish to enroll and the number of courses they sign up for,” she said in an email.

The idea is not a new one. Coursera already had a deal with Yahoo to train engineers, and other MOOCs — which include Udacity, edX, Udemy and others — also have explored the corporate training realm. Udacity’s Open Education Alliance, for example, offers “nanodegrees” in subjects such as web design and data analysis. And in 2014 Microsoft worked with the French business school INSEAD to develop online sales training.

Experts have been forecasting for years that MOOCs would take root in the world of corporate training. After all the hype and disappointments that have marked online learning, Coursera’s big push offers hope to those who think that moment has arrived.

“This will be the sustainable revenue stream” for MOOCs, says Curtis J. Bonk, a professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University. “The corporate training world is a significant place for their business model.”

Bonk also thinks the trend is good for companies that need ways to help employees develop at a reasonable cost. Online platforms can be far cheaper than building classrooms and hiring instructors for in-house training.

As evidence that MOOCs are gaining ground, Bonk points out that Coursera offers a huge number of certificates that are gaining real value in the employment market. “That’s what the business world wants,” he says. “It’s more self-directed, employee-driven … it makes a lot of sense for the corporate world.”


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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The first meeting was magical. Sparks flew. The chemistry seemed just right. It feels like a perfect fit, and you can’t wait to see them again.

So, now what? Do you make the next move? Do you call? If so, how long do you wait before picking up the phone? Do you come off as desperate if you get in touch too soon? Or seem disinterested if you wait too long?

Such questions have twisted countless lovestruck stomachs into knots since the dawn of dating. And there’s still no real right answer to any of them, unfortunately.

Luckily for employers, hiring is a less funny thing (if only slightly so), and new Robert Half research should at least offer some guidance to those looking to land the employee of their dreams.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm’s recent Time to Hire survey gathered sentiments about the job-search process from more than 1,000 U.S. workers currently employed in office environments.

Overall, nearly six in 10 (57 percent) of these employees found the “long wait after an interview to hear if they got the job” to be the most frustrating part of the job search. Thirty-nine percent said a hiring process lasting seven to 14 days from initial interview to formal offer is too long, with 23 percent feeling a timeframe of 15 to 21 days was too lengthy.

Moreover, 23 percent of respondents said they lose interest in an organization if they don’t hear back within one week of the initial interview. Another 46 percent said they give up on an employer if a span of one to two weeks has passed with no post-interview status update.

“Professionals in fields such as compliance, cybersecurity, big data and finance can receive four to six offers within a week,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, in a statement. “Candidates with several options often choose the organization that shows the most interest and has an organized recruiting process.”

In other words, hiring managers who play it too cool are likely to wind up jilted.

For example, 39 percent of job seekers said they move on and pursue other roles when faced with a lengthy hiring process, while another 18 percent said they decide to stay put in their current jobs in that scenario.

The key takeaway from such findings is “for firms to tighten their [hiring] timelines without skipping steps,” says McDonald, who offers tips for making new hires effectively as well as efficiently.

For example, he advises consolidating on-site, in-person interviews to one day if possible, informing candidates of your timeline for making a decision, and calling them with updates in the event something happens to gum up the works.

“The hiring process provides a window into the overall corporate culture,” says McDonald. “If people feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organization, they will take themselves out of the running.”

It only makes sense that a suitor’s indecision would lead some candidates—a majority, in this survey—to opt out. But what about the rest of the respondents (who were allowed to provide multiple responses when asked to describe their feelings in the face of a drawn-out hiring process)?

Well, 23 percent of them said they wouldn’t mind playing the waiting game if it ultimately meant working for a great organization. Another 21 percent suggested they would “completely understand” and respect a company’s need to be thorough.

Fair enough. But a larger number—32 percent—said they would “question the company’s ability to make other decisions if [it] can’t seem to make a timely hiring decision.”

That also seems like a reasonable enough perception for one to develop. Still, many of these same job seekers wouldn’t necessarily rule out coming to work for a company they feel drags its feet in filling vacancies. So, taking your sweet time may not cause you to miss out on every good candidate.

But would you want those that you do hire to enter the organization harboring doubts about its ability to make decisions? If, as McDonald says, how you handle hiring provides a window into your corporate culture, then uncertainty is hardly the first thing you’d want them to see.

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What the Internet Thinks of HR

ThinkstockPhotos-494940180Google’s autocomplete feature is the closest thing we have to a mind-reading machine. The search engine is so widely used, and so good at collecting data about what we look up on the web, that it can tell us what people think about nearly anything.

Like, for example, HR.

I discovered this one day while doing a search and losing my train of thought (alas, this happens often). My fingers poised above the keyboard after typing “How HR should …”, Google helpfully offered options to complete the phrase:

  • handle complaints
  • handle a bad supervisor
  • do an employee HIPAA audit
  • handle the death of an employee
  • address flatulence
  • prepare for a merger
  • handle workplace bullies

That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? From bureaucratic issues to personal hygiene, now we have an idea what workers really want to know about HR.

Try it. Your mileage may vary — and I’ve discovered that results also change with time. Regardless, they offer fascinating insight into what the world at large wonders about HR. Surely many of the searches that went into these results were performed by human resource professionals, of course, but I’m betting most were not.

Likewise, Google and other web tools can give us a sense how well important industry trends are catching on. For example, though “chief human resource officer” is the industry-favored term for the top person in HR, the title still seems to lag the old-fashioned “personnel director” in much of the English-speaking world.

We find evidence for this in two places. One is Google Trends, a tool the search-engine provides for tracking search terms over time and geography. This search, for example, shows that “personnel director” and “human resource director” have lost steam over the last dozen years. But they are still favored over the newer term by a big margin. Ditto for “chief people officer.”

A second piece of evidence is the employment-ad aggregator Indeed, which offers analytics about job listings. This search also indicates that the older terms for top HR officers remain the most popular.

This kind of evidence is useful for anyone in the business world who hopes to shift public perceptions about a company, an industry or a profession. The Internet tells us what people are really thinking.

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Workers Open to Working Elsewhere

dissatisfied employeeAs you walk through the cubicle farm/office maze/factory floor of your organization, know this: More than half the people you’re passing are open to finding a new job elsewhere, and of those employees, 44 percent are actively looking for new jobs.

That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s latest Workforce Mindset study, which surveyed 2,000 employees. What are the factors most likely to lure employees away from their current jobs? The following are the five key differentiators, according to the survey:

1. Above average pay (62 percent)

2. Above average benefits (61 percent)

3. A fun place to work (58 percent)

4. Flexible work environment (57 percent)

5. “Strong fit with my values” (56 percent)

Of course, the common prescription for avoiding turnover has been keeping employee engagement levels high. But that’s hardly a cure-all either, according to “The Dark Side of Employee Engagement,” a new Harvard Business Review piece by Lewis Garrad and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. They cite a number of studies showing that highly engaged employees can be too satisfied with the status quo, more prone to burnout and its attendant ill effects and “too positive” — in other words, highly engaged people can crowd out the more introspective, less-extroverted types who nonetheless are often key to a company’s overall success.

So what to do? Try “training employees to leave their jobs,” writes Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes, particularly if you want to retain your star employees. Many workers, particularly younger ones, leave companies not necessarily because they’re dissatisfied with their compensation or their manager but because they want to try something new, acquire new skills and push themselves in new directions, he writes. Holmes found that giving employees stretch roles at Hootsuite to try out new positions and acquire new skills without having to leave the company has yielded positive results.

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