Candidates Want the Personal Touch

Does your candidate experience resemble this?

A new study from Randstad US bolsters this point, with 82 percent of survey respondents agreeing that they are often frustrated with “an overly automated job search experience.” Ninety five percent of the 1,200 respondents to the survey agree tech should supplement, not replace, the recruitment experience and 87 percent agree that it’s made the search process more impersonal.

The top two aspects cited by respondents as contributing the most to a positive impression of an employer (aside from an actual job offer) were “the degree of personal, human interaction during the process” and “the recruiter/hiring manager I worked with.” Factors contributing to a negative impression of an employer included the length of the hiring process and “the communication level throughout the selection process.” One-third of the respondents who said they’d had a negative experience reported that they’d never apply to the organization again and would not refer a friend or family member there.

We’ve certainly touched before on how lengthy hiring processes and lack of communication can alienate candidates and undermine employers in their search for talented candidates. But now more than ever, jobseekers want a candidate experience that’s similar to or even surpasses the one that consumer-focused companies provide to their customers.

As Randstad North America CEO Linda Galipeau says, “Employers today, and in the future, will be judged by the experience they create for prospective hires. In a technology-driven world of talent, it’s not only about how a company markets itself, but what others say about the company that has a positive impact on employer branding.”

Speaking Up in the C-Suite

A recent series of experiments, which we wrote about here at HRE, sought to get a sense of employees’ feelings about corporate leaders who base business decisions on their moral beliefs.

In that study, researchers found that workers saw executives who staked out positions on moral grounds and later changed their minds as being hypocritical, and “less effective and worthy of their support than leaders whose initial stance was pragmatic.”

So, CEOs take a chance when they choose to travel the moral high road, especially if they flip-flop on an issue in the future.

A newer survey, however, finds that, yes, there are hazards that come along with speaking out on controversial subjects. But there are also reasons to remind your CEO that saying something might be better than staying quiet, at least in the eyes of some (mostly younger) employees.

In partnership with KRC Research, New York-based public relations firm Weber Shandwick polled 1,021 U.S. adults, gauging respondents’ attitudes toward “the trend of chief executive officers speaking out on hot-button societal topics,” according to a Weber Shandwick statement.

They ultimately found that one generation of employees in particular—millennials—feel that CEOs actually have a responsibility to make their voices heard on matters that are important to society. Nearly half of millennials polled (47 percent) said they feel this way, while just 28 percent of Generation Xers and baby boomers agree. And, given the current cultural climate, it’s not exactly surprising that a larger portion of Generation Y (56 percent) feels that CEOs and other business leaders have a greater duty to take a stand on societal concerns now than they did in the past.

In addition, the report sees 51 percent of millennials saying they would be more apt to buy from a company whose chief executive spoke out on an issue they agreed with; an 11 percent increase from a 2016 Weber Shandwick survey. From an employee perspective, 44 percent of full-time Gen Y workers said they would be more loyal to their organization if the CEO took a public position on a “hotly debated current issue,” in comparison to the 16 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of boomers saying the same.

What exactly is the cost of a CEO’s silence? Overall, 47 percent of respondents said that some form of criticism—from the media, customers, employees or the government—would be the biggest downside to a CEO’s decision to sit out a social debate. Another 20 percent suggest that the organization could be hurt financially, while 14 percent reckon that potential job candidates would instead shy away from applying with the company. Twelve percent foresee current employees quitting.

The risk of incurring such damage apparently depends on the issue at hand. When asked which topics—all of which relate to the workplace in some way—that CEOs and other business leaders should express an opinion on, job and skills training was the most common response among all respondents, closely followed by equal pay in the workplace, healthcare coverage, maternity and paternity leave, and gender equality.

That said, there seem to be instances when executives should think carefully before entering the fray. Less than 35 percent of all respondents said business leaders should weigh in on immigration, for example, with roughly 25 percent saying the same about LGBT rights, gun control and refugees, respectively.

As a PR firm, Weber Shandwick is happy to offer tips on how to approach activism in the C-suite, of course. And this report does just that. But, however they decide to broach thorny subjects like those mentioned above, CEOs and other executives should be aware that the call for them to take at least an occasional social stand is only going to get louder.

“CEOs are expected to make a strong business case for any environmental or social issues they speak up about or which they commit time and resources to,” says Paul Massey, global lead of social impact at Weber Shandwick, in a statement. “This research tells us that millennials, more so than older generations, will also be vigilant when it comes to CEOs being held accountable for defending corporate values and conduct.”

 

A Warning to Employers

The Third Circuit’s recent decision that a single use of a racial slur, rather than pervasive conduct, can sustain a workplace harassment claim sends a clear warning to employers to preempt potential liability by providing training to prevent even single-serve incidents from happening in the first place, according to a recent post on Law360.

The Third Circuit’s ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by Atron Castleberry and John Brown against staffing agency STI Group over their experiences after being assigned to work as general laborers for Chesapeake Energy Corp. The new ruling clarified that the standard to be met for asserting a valid harassment claim was whether the treatment they faced, which included a supervisor’s use of the N-word, was either severe or pervasive.

The court clarified the standard after a trial court had thrown out the case after concluding the workers had to show their treatment had been pervasive and regular.

“I think what a case like this, at least from my perspective, really sets forth for employers is the importance of training on harassment prevention in the workplace and making sure your employees — certainly managers, but ideally everyone — know that even a single comment may now be enough to create liability for the organization,” said Duane Morris LLP partner Michael Cohen.

For more details on the case and the ruling, click here (subscription required).

H-1B Visa Limits Ease — Just a Bit

Hold on, employers! The immigration roller coaster just took another turn. And it may — or, more likely, will not — help you.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced last week that on July 24 it resumed expedited processing of H-1-B visas – but only in certain cases.

The so-called premium service is effectively a fast lane that, for a $1,225 fee, speeds the hiring of foreign skilled workers in certain “specialty occupations” such as software engineer. The service ended in March, soon before President Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. The Trump administration signaled at the time that it would be scrutinizing H-1-B applications more carefully prevent fraud. The apparent targets include offshore staffing services that have been accused of scooping up technical workers in India, China and elsewhere, then placing them in American jobs using visas obtained in bulk.

The new policy applies only to employers not subject to a cap on H-1B visas — that is, universities or related nonprofits, such as institutes and medical centers. Government research organizations also qualify.

The immigration agency said that in June it already had resumed premium processing for physicians. Hospitals, particularly those in rural areas that struggle to find highly experienced doctors without recruiting abroad, had complained about the limit on expedited visa processing.

Comment Period Begins for OT Rule

The Department of Labor is expected to publish today in the Federal Register its anticipated Request for Information on its overtime rule.

As you may recall, the rule was blocked last November by a Texas federal judge before it would have expanded overtime protections to over 4 million workers, by more than doubling the annual salary level at which workers must be compensated for overtime pay, from $23,660 to $47,476. There will be a 60-day public comment period following tomorrow’s Request for Information.

Seyfarth Shaw attorney Alexander Passantino, former acting administrator of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, and current partner in the D.C. office of the firm, writes in a blog post that the issues the DOL seeks comment on include whether the 2004 salary test should be updated based on inflation, and if so, which measure of inflation; whether duties test changes would be necessary if the increase was based on inflation; and other questions.

The issues on which the Department seeks comment, according to Passantino’s post, are:

  • Should the 2004 salary test be updated based on inflation? If so, which measure of inflation?
  • Would duties test changes be necessary if the increase was based on inflation?
  • Should there be multiple salary levels in the regulations? Would differences in salary level based on employer size or locality be useful and/or viable?
  • Should the Department return to its pre-2004 standard of having different salary levels based on whether the exemption asserted was the executive/administrative vs. the professional?
  • Is the appropriate salary level based on the pre-2004 short test, the pre-2004 long test, or something different? Regardless of answer, would changes to the duties test be necessary to properly “line up” the exemption with the salary level?
  • Was the salary level set in 2016 so high as to effectively supplant the duties test? At what level does that happen?
  • What was the impact of the 2016 rule? Did employers make changes in anticipation of the rule? Were there salary increases, hourly rate changes, reductions in schedule, changes in policy?  Did the injunction change that? Did employers revert back when the injunction was issued?
  • Would a duties-only test be preferable to the current model?
  • Were there specific industries/positions impacted? Which ones?
  • What about the 2016 provision that would permit up to 10% of the salary level to be satisfied with bonuses? Should the Department keep that? Is 10% the right amount?
  • Should the highly compensated employee exemption salary level be indexed/how? Should it differ based on locality/employer size?
  • Should the salary levels be automatically updated? If so, how?

“Of course, the value of these responses ultimately is dependent on the Fifth Circuit’s decision on whether the salary test is permissible to begin with,” Passantino writes. “Should the Fifth Circuit rule in the Department’s favor on that issue, the RFI responses will provide the Department with the information it needs to proceed on a new rulemaking adjusting the salary level . . .  assuming the employer community responds.”

The Telltale Text

Erika Nardini says she learns a lot about job candidates by how quickly they respond to text messages. And if you want to work for her, you better not leave her hanging when she sends you one.

Last week, I started seeing article after article focusing on Nardini—CEO of Barstool Sports—and a unique exercise she uses to get a sense of how devoted an applicant would be if hired by the New York-based sports and men’s lifestyle blog.

Earlier this month, Nardini told the New York Times about the random text messages she sends to prospective hires at odd times—9 p.m. on a weeknight or 11 a.m. Sunday morning, for example—just to see how long it takes them to get back to her.

The idea, of course, is that those who respond promptly would be more apt to show around-the-clock commitment once on the job, according to Nardini, who told the Times that she typically likes to see a reply within three hours.

(A quick sidebar … Considering the time that passed between me first reading about this unconventional hiring test and sitting down to write about it, it’s dawning on me that I should probably never apply at Barstool Sports. I’m guessing that I would screen out of the hiring process in pretty short order.)

Now, you can question whether Nardini—who admits to thinking about her job “all the time”—gives a rip about her employees ever achieving anything resembling work/life balance. But the former AOL chief marketing officer with a self-described “punishing” leadership style claims she’s just looking for others who share a similar preoccupation with their work.

“It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive,” Nardini says in the Times interview. “Other people don’t have to be working all the time. But I want people who are always thinking.”

I’d be interested to hear how applicants who have been on the receiving end of a text from Nardini feel about being assessed in this way. I’m sure many are more than willing to go above and beyond to land a job. And you could argue that one quick text from a would-be boss isn’t that much of an imposition anyway. Still, could some qualified and talented candidates be scared off by the possibility of sacrificing even a little bit of their precious personal time should they get the position?

In fact, countless surveys have in recent years found that many employees would like to think less about work when they’re away from the office, but feel increasingly obligated—pressured, even—to stay connected in some way.

All that said, how many potentially valuable performers wind up leaving a job in the early-going because they feel they weren’t given a true picture of what life would be like at the company?

Ultimately, employers have to find ways to provide interviewees with an honest, accurate preview of the organization’s employee experience before they come on board. And, however you feel about the approach she’s taking, you have to at least give Nardini points for doing just that.

Reconsidering Your Office Layout

Gallup survey results  reinforce a key point of my recent story about the distracting acoustical problems of open offices: In the workplace, privacy matters.

Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace (full report is  here) finds that while an estimated 70 percent of U.S. offices use open floor plans to encourage collaboration, “people still want a personal space at work,” according to Annamarie Mann, who is Gallup’s employee engagement and well-being practice manager.

Her  sensible recommendations are summarized on Gallup’s site in an article titled “How to Make an Open Office Floor Plan Work.”

Mann’s suggestions include:

  • “Allow every employee to have a home base, even in a flexible, collaborative office.”
  • “Provide a variety of types of spaces—big group tables, booths, comfy chairs, soundproof areas, large and small meeting rooms— that allow employees the freedom to choose how they work best.”
  •  “Start a conversation about how your organization understands collaboration in relation to productivity.”

Analyzing the responses to Gallup’s surveys, Mann finds a link between office environment and employee engagement. The research found “employees who have a personal work space are 1.4 times more likely to be engaged at work” than other workers, Mann notes. (Gallup found only 52 percent of responding workers have a work space with a door they can close.)

And “employees who have the ability to move to different areas at work are 1.3 times more likely to be engaged than other employees,” she writes. (Gallup found 74 percent of respondents said they have that freedom.)

The High Cost of Caregiving

You may or may not be familiar with the story of Kristian Rex, a New Jersey man who cares for his elderly father, a former boat captain who once had “arms like Popeye” and who now — thanks to a debilitating stroke — is unable to perform basic, daily routines such as shaving himself. As shown in a recent award-winning commercial (for Gillette, no less), Rex Jr. must perform these and other tasks for his dad, and he does so with care and grace, as any good son would.

Many of us will find ourselves in Rex Jr.’s shoes one day, as the number of elderly in the U.S. continues to grow. In fact, an estimated 40 million Americans already serve as family caregivers and of those, 24 million juggle those responsibilities with holding down a job (Rex Jr. is a bit of an outlier, as women make up the majority of caregivers for elderly parents.) Nearly one in five adult children provide care for at least one elderly parent at some point, according to Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. These caregivers spend an average of 77 hours per month with their parents, the Center finds, or the equivalent of about two weeks of work. Caregiving also exacts a mental and physical toll on health, with women caregivers reporting more pain and significantly higher out-of-pocket costs for their own healthcare, a study by the Center for Retirement Research finds. The study also finds that both male and female caregivers say they’re more depressed and suffer from poorer health because of parental care.

Many employers recognize the burden that caregiving employees shoulder: A new survey by the Northeast Business Group on Health (undertaken in partnership with AARP) finds that more than three quarters of the 129 mostly large employers surveyed agree that caregiving will grow in importance to their companies over the next five years. Respondents cited increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs as the top drivers that would make a compelling case for investing in benefits that would make them “caregiver friendly” organizations.

“Family caregiving is an issue that affects the vast majority of us,” says AARP Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond. “We are either caregivers now, have been in the past, will be in the future or will need care ourselves.”

Fewer than half of the companies surveyed have programs or benefits designed specifically for caregivers, such as caregiver support groups, subsidized in-home back-up care for those being cared for, or counseling services. For those that do make such offerings available, communication appears to be an issue, with most saying their employees are only “somewhat” or “not very” aware of these benefits and services.

Plenty of compelling reasons exist for employers to get serious now about offering — and communicating — these services.

“The implications of this trend are significant not only for workplace productivity but for employee population health and healthcare costs,” says Dr. Jeremy Nobel, Executive Director of NEBGH’s Solutions Center. “Caregivers tend to abandon their own physical and emotional needs and employers need to plan for how to respond.”

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Professionals surveyed by staffing firm OfficeTeam said they squander an average of 56 minutes per day, or the equivalent of nearly five hours a week, using their mobile device for non-work activities in the office. In contrast, senior managers estimate their staff members spend 39 minutes each day on their cell phones during business hours.

Workers also admitted to clocking 42 minutes a day on personal tasks. All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than 8 hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job, according to OfficeTeam.

“It’s understandable that employees may occasionally use their mobile devices or attend to personal tasks during business hours. But these activities can easily become big distractions,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “To best manage their time, staff can take advantage of breaks during lunch and throughout the day to catch up on non-work email or errands.”

(View an infographic of the research and data tables with breakdowns of the results by gender and age.)

Additional findings:

  • Employees ages 18 to 34 rack up 70 minutes on mobile devices and 48 minutes on personal tasks each work day, the most of all age groups.
  • While 62 percent of managers think staff spend the most time on social networks when using their own mobile devices during business hours, workers said they’re most occupied by personal email (30 percent).
  • Male employees most frequently check non-work email on their cell phones (32 percent), while females browse social networks more (33 percent).
  • Workers reported social media (39 percent) and entertainment websites (30 percent) are most commonly blocked at their companies. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) indicated their organization doesn’t restrict access to online content.
  • More than half of professionals (58 percent) often use their personal devices at work to visit pages that are banned by their company, a 36-point jump from a 2012 survey. Only 39 percent of managers think it happens that commonly.
  • Sixty-eight percent of male workers frequently use their cell phones to access blocked websites in the office, compared to 43 percent of females.

 

Who’s Afraid of Automation?

Despite all the hand-wringing over automation’s potential to displace scores of hard-working humans, it seems that a majority of employees are actually ready to welcome our new robot overlords.

In fact, just 14 percent of U.S. employees say they’re worried that automation will take their job away someday, according to new research from Atlanta-based Randstad North America.

The 2017 Randstad Employer Brand Research study polled more than 5,300 workers, with 76 percent of respondents saying they don’t fear automation. Nearly one-third of employees (30 percent) said they think artificial intelligence and automation will make their jobs better.

This optimism seems to be at odds with how some have described the prevailing employee sentiment toward robotics in the workplace.

In a May 2017 HRE feature, for example, Laura Maechtlen discussed the “Chicken Little-type thinking” she often encounters in discussions about automation’s impact on the future of work.

“There’s just so much fear about people being replaced,” said Maechtlen, a San Francisco-based partner at Seyfarth Shaw, and co-chair of the firm’s diversity and inclusion action team.

That fear isn’t well-founded, she told us, adding that automation should be seen as an opportunity to augment an organization’s talent, not to supplant its employees.

This recent Randstad poll certainly suggests that employees are getting more comfortable with the concept of artificial intelligence and automation, and many would be willing to take part in additional training to maintain their current job status. Overall, 51 percent said they would be happy to retrain in order to develop and update the skills needed to work alongside AI—provided that they were being paid the same or more than their current salary.

“It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence and robotics in the workplace,” says Linda Galipeau, CEO of Randstad North America, in a statement.

“These sentiments should be welcome news for companies as they seek greater adoption of automation to drive productivity and innovation,” says Galipeau. “As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology.”

While AI is “becoming a reality” in the workplace, this influx of automation “doesn’t make human skills less valuable,” Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America, tells HRE.

In the future, says Link, an organization’s success will depend on its ability to enable humans and AI to function collectively and collaborate effectively.

“Companies and HR leaders owe it to both their companies and their employees to play an active role in communicating and teaching the skills needed for the future, as automation moves into the workplace,” he says.

“This can encompass anything from training programs that focus on upskilling employees’ strategic, problem-solving skills—expertise that AI doesn’t necessarily possess—to providing employees with incentives to develop these skills on their own time.”