« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 29, 2007

The lighter side: bad resumes, annoying interview questions

If you've been working in HR for more than about a week, you have probably seen your share of blunders and "creative" statements on resumes. CareerBuilder.com offers their list of the top 12 resume disasters. We'd have to agree that these represent some definite yellow flags but they make for an amusing list. We have found a few other compilations on the web that we've enjoyed. But if we are going to poke fun at the applicants, then turnabout is fair play. Some students compiled the top 100 most annoying questions asked in job interview - a very instructive list. Many people seem to take a visceral dislike to the "where do you want to be in X years" question. This applicant offers an honest response.

June 28, 2007

Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence

Lately, there's been a spate of grim headlines about domestic violence resulting in deaths: the professional wrestler who killed his wife and young son and then himself, and the pregnant Ohio mother who was murdered, allegedly by the father of her child. Domestic violence is certainly nothing new but, occasionally, high profile cases such as these bring the issue to the forefront.

Because we spend so much time at work, colleagues and supervisors are often in a unique position to spot signs of domestic violence and employer can often play a critical role in directing the employee to help through referrals to an EAP or other community resource. In the past, the "none of my business" type of thinking often prevailed, but today employers know that problems at home rarely stay at home. All too often, domestic abuse comes right to the workplace:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
  • Of the approximately 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence that occur in the US every year, 18,700 are committed by an intimate partner: a current or former spouse, lover, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
  • Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year - the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund identifies an annotated list of seven reasons why employers should address domestic violence. Here's a quick summary:

  1. Domestic violence affects many employees.
  2. Domestic violence is a security and liability concern.
  3. Domestic violence is a performance and productivity concern.
  4. Domestic violence is a health care concern.
  5. Domestic violence is a management issue.
  6. Taking action in response to domestic violence works.
  7. Employers can make a difference.

The site also offers an excellent list of case histories of what some progressive employers are doing to combat domestic violence and suggests a site with actions that both large and small employers can take to combat domestic violence.

Some of the basic things that employers can do include:

  • Instituting a workplace zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence
  • Providing secure work environments
  • Raising awareness of the problem by educating your employee
  • Reminding employees that help is available for domestic violence
  • Training managers and supervisors to be alert for potential signs of domestic abuse
  • Having referral protocols and resources in place for employees who need help - preferably an EAP or a social service experienced in dealing with domestic abuse

Some other good resources include:
American Institute on Domestic Violence
Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Corporate Alliance to End Domestic Violence

June 22, 2007

Has your organization gone to the dogs?

Sorry to be bringing you this news so late, but we've just learned that today is the official Take Your Dog to Work Day. This annual event is sponsored by Pet Sitters International and scheduled for the first Friday after Father's Day. The underlying purpose is to extol the benefits of bringing people and pets together and to remind people that dogs make great companions—so great that maybe all you non-owners might be moved to adopt one.

According to a 2006 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, nearly one in five companies already allow pets in the workplace. Pets-at-work proponents cite an increase in employee morale and a decrease in stress.

Mercedes Medical, a medical supply distributor in Sarasota, Fla., thinks that allowing pets at work increases loyalty and may even bolster employee retention because workers might no be able to bring a pet to work at a new job. The company has 35 employees, and about 6 to 10 visiting canines at any given time.

At Replacements Ltd., a 500-employee china and silverware retailer, it was owner Bob Page's idea to allow dogs at work, and he thinks it is a perk that pays off in productivity and enhanced employee satisfaction. According to the previously cited survey, 46 million Americans said they would work longer hours if they were allowed to bring their pets to work.

The types of establishments that allow pets can run the gamut from colleges and IT shops to tire shops and design/build firms.

If you are wondering whether a pets-at-work policy might be beneficial to your workplace, Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW) offers some guidelines for taking pets to work, which includes some sample policies. The San Francisco SPCA offers additional pets-at-work benefits, guidelines and policies. Since dogs at work are part of the Web behemoth's work-life program, you can also read Google's Dog Policy. But not everyone thinks that the idea is problem-free. Naysayer Ethan Winning lays out some of the HR issues that should be considered.

If you plan to bring your pets to work today, be sure to have them read these 5 rules for doggy etiquette at work. First and foremost, don't bite the boss—a good rule for pets and humans alike.

The cuteness factor: Pictures of working pets
What pet story would be complete without some winsome pet pics? We don't want to disappoint so we've found some photos of working pets to share.

Animal Hubub has some sweet pics of pets at work. But they don't show you the potential downside.

Shop Cat profiles cats that work in stores, libraries, hotels and many more places - you can even search by state to find working cats near you.

Dogs at work are often more than just pets. There's a long tradition of working dogs and some of these hard-working creatures perform a wide range of very important services.

And OK, because it's Friday we hope you will forgive us for including a link to our favorite animal site, even though most of the animals depicted have nothing to do with work. Cute Overload delivers what are arguably the most adorable pictures of puppies, kitties, bunnies and assorted animals on the Web. If you can't have pets at work, a daily visit to this site can be a real stress reducer. But be warned—it's addictive!

June 21, 2007

Workplace tools: Depression Calculator

The cost of depression in the workplace can be steep: lower productivity, higher absenteeism and higher medical costs. Some studies put the national price tag for untreated depression in the workplace as high as $80 billion a year.

How much does employee depression cost your organization? The Depression Calculator is a tool that provides employers with a financial snapshot of workplace costs associated with untreated depression and the potential savings that would accrue by helping employees suffering from depression to obtain treatment. Results are tailored to organizations based on size, industry type, location and age/sex breakdown of the work force.

The tool was compiled by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)in 2004 and was reissued again earlier this year to reflect new economic data. It uses a Productivity Impact Model, a research-based management tool, to predict the number of days of absenteeism and associated costs, as well as to project the net savings from treatment.

The calculator is broken into four sections. Participants first enter basic demographics about their type of business and various characteristics of their work force, such as size and composition based on age and sex.

The second section charts the expected prevalence of depression based on these responses and estimates the lost time and medical costs that untreated depression are likely to incur. The third section estimates the likely reduction in absenteeism and medical costs if employees get treatment and the fourth section estimates the incremental benefits over a three year period.

In addition, the Depression Calculator site includes a good list of resources about depression for employers and for individuals who might be suffering from depression.

June 15, 2007

Creative workplaces

It's no secret that a pleasant work environment brings out the best in people. Veerle Pieters, a graphic and web designer takes a closer look at inspirational workplaces—she's certainly gathered some fun, creative examples in her post and she offers her thoughts on how an environment can influence the worker's state of mind. Veerle also set up an inspiring workplaces photo-sharing pool on flickr so that people could add photos of other creative workspaces. If you work in a great environment or know of one, jump in the pool!

We've posted about creative work environments before. In March, we posted about life in the Googleplex and last November, we posted about 10 seeeeeriously cool places to work, courtesy of The Chief Happiness Officer who frequently discusses the benefits of fun and creative work environments. In a newer post he offers another pictorial essay on the work space and creativity. There are some very imaginative furnishings in his post, ranging from art tables to "bibliochairs." Don't miss the conference bike—come to agreement and stay healthy at the same time.

Many of the workplaces cited in these posts are from offices, ad agencies and tech firms—we'd love to see some pictorial examples from manufacturing, retail, health care and industrial concerns, too. One of the most creative work environments we've encountered is a precision plastics manufacturer headquartered in an historic New England building with state of the art facilities. Not only is it a colorful, clean, and energizing place to work, but the attention to environment has paid off in an outstanding safety record, high productivity and great morale.

An article in Business 2.0 discusses ways that office redesign can boost the bottom line. They cite a survey in which 90% of the workers polled said they would work an extra hour a day if they had a better work environment. Less than 40% said they would be proud to show important customers their workspace. The article makes this excellent point:

Consider this insight, which came from the General Services Administration decades ago: Of the total cost to a company for running an office building over a 30-year life span, the initial construction represents just 2 percent; operating expenses come to about 6 percent.

The remainder? It all goes to paying the workers inside. The point should be obvious: People are the biggest cost inside a work environment, so leveraging your human capital ought to be near the top of your priority list.

Even when budgets and space are limited, imagination and effort can be focused on shared spaces, break rooms and other common areas. Showing employees that you care about them is a good way to get employees to care back about you. And we've said it before, but it bears repeating: even the most exciting environments are only skin deep. A really fun work space is great. A really good manager who supports, motivates, and inspires staff is even better! And when the two are paired? Well that's pretty much the definition of a world-class workplace!

June 13, 2007

Teen and first-time workers: keep them safe!

For many workplaces, it's that time of year when the ranks of employees swell with part-timers and seasonal workers. Finding great part time workers can be a challenge for any organization, particularly in a tight labor market. Young first-time workers comprise a huge portion of the seasonal work force, and with this influx of teens, employers face a special responsibility: keeping them safe.

During the summer months, about 2 million teens join the work force and, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), every two minutes one of those teens is injured on the job. About once every five days, a teen dies as a result. NIOSH estimates that every year, about 230,000 workers under the age of 18 are injured on the job and between 60 to 70 die due to workplace injuries.

Some workplaces are particularly dangerous for teens. While any workplace can have its hazards, the National Consumer League identifies the five most dangerous jobs for teens as:

  • Agriculture: Fieldwork and Processing
  • Construction and Work in Heights
  • Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service
  • Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATVs
  • Traveling Youth Crews

OSHA lists the most frequent types of deaths experienced by teens as homicides, driving or traveling as passengers in motor vehicles, machine-related accidents, electrocution and falls. The most frequent reasons why these injuries occur are cited as:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Stressful conditions
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth
  • Trying to hurry
  • Alcohol and drug use

A special mandate
Young workers are callow. They lack the experience, judgment and stamina of older workers, and are eager to please new employers. These characteristics can be a toxic mix, particularly when exacerbated by a young person's normal inclination towards feelings of invulnerability. Employers must take special measures to ensure that young workers are safe on the job.

First, ensure that everyone in your organization is complying with applicable laws regarding young workers. OSHA issues a teen worker guide for employers that links to federal labor laws. For a quick summary, Youth Rules offers a one page summary of when and where a teen is allowed to work. Specific states may have additional provisions, so be sure to review those laws, too.

Second, redouble your training programs. Many organizations that have stellar orientation programs for full-time workers can short shrift temporary or part-time workers—a big mistake since all new workers are highly vulnerable to on the job injuries, regardless of job status. And for the reasons cited, teens are especially vulnerable. Ensure that safety is an integral component in any orientation and job training. Explain your organization's safety philosophy and policies. In addition, explain the specific hazards posed by each job. "Show and tell" training is particularly important. For teen workers, and can be a wise practice to assign a buddy or a mentor to keep an eye out as they acclimate to the job.

Third, raise overall safety awareness in your organization. Use any influx of new workers to promote your organization's safety policies to all workers, and "deputize" your veteran workers to help enforce any policies. Make safety everyone's job. Have managers—particularly senior staff—conduct regular safety walkthroughs and audits.

Additional resources
Workers Comp Insider offers employers 10 tips to keep teen workers safe as well as a list of resources and links for teens.

Here are additional sites:

June 8, 2007

Short takes: workaholism, work wackiness, military leave, forgiveness, and more

Extreme Work - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer discusses recent USA Today article on workaholism as an addiction: "About 60% of high-earning individuals work more than 50 hours a week; 35%, more than 60 hours; and 10%, more than 80 hours. Add a typical one-hour commute, and a 60-hour week means leaving home at 7 a.m. and returning at 9 p.m. five days a week. Using the definition of extreme worker, the researchers found about 20% of high earners surveyed have extreme jobs."

Workplace wackiness - Every year, The National Law Journal draws up a list of the top 10 bizarre employment law situations. This year's list covers everything from poison ivy and peeping Toms to spankings and spiked drinks. Thanks to Richard Bales of Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer.

Military leave - Human Resource Executive recently completed a survey on how companies are coping with workers on military leave. Roughly 77 percent of the respondents said military deployments had little to no impact on their organization. More than half the respondents were distributing the work of deployed employees among existing employees, while about another 26% absent had hired temporary or permanent employees to replace absent military workers. About 40% offered supplemental pay to active duty workers workers and about 60% offered health benefits.

Blog discovery - we've just discovered The Business of Management, a blog by Workforce Management editor John Hollon. John is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years' experience as a newspaper, magazine, Internet and business journal editor. He's been blogging since February, but just recently came to our attention.

Culture of forgiveness - The Chief Happiness Officer talks about forgiveness in the workplace and suggests that companies with a culture of forgiveness are more productive. He offers some tips for getting started. Good idea - why not forgive somebody today?

Even shorter takes ....
Dirty jobs - Clorox takes a look at the the germiest jobs. More on Dr. Germ and his studies of workplace cleanliness.
Think you have what it takes? - Emloying for a job at IKEA
At the movies - Watch the YouTube trailer for Outsourced, a film about an HR manager in India. More info at Outsourced The Movie.
Techno safety - 25 Free health Tips for Computer Nerds - good tips for anyone who spends long hours at the computer.
What we can learn from baseball - The Group Guy looks at baseball and talent.
Whistle while you work - The Cenek Report has a great little post about songs with work-related themes. We note that "Take this job and shove it" did not make his list.

June 1, 2007

EEOC issues guidance on caregiver discrimination

Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance for employers on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities. Some employers and legal observers question whether this represents a step in the direction of increased regulation in the area of family responsibilities discrimination.

EEOC guidance notes that while laws prohibiting discrimination do not specifically extend to caregivers, there may be circumstances in which discrimination against caregivers could be considered unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or the Family and Medical Leave Act. There may also be state or local laws that extend protection to caretakers under various provisions.

In issuing the guidance, the EEOC cites the demographic shift in the work force over the last four decades since the Civil Rights law was enacted, most notably the increase in working women who continue to shoulder the bulk of caregiving responsibilities. Caregiving responsibilities are defined as including care for school-age children, care for the disabled, and, increasingly with the aging of the Baby Boomers, care for aging parents and relatives.

EEOC guidance encompasses the following areas:

  • Sex-based disparate treatment of female caregivers
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Discrimination against male caregivers
  • Discrimination against women of color
  • Unlawful caregiver stereotyping under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Hostile work environments
  • Retaliation

Tresa Baldas of Law.com discusses the EEOC guidance and the issue of family responsibility discrimination (FRD), which is "a legal and social science term that experts have coined for the growing phenomenon of employees suing employers for discriminating against them because of their caregiving responsibilities at home." She notes that because federal laws do not specifically prohibit such discrimination, employees with grievances file suit under a variety of existing federal and state laws:

"During the past decade, the courts have seen a significant increase in FRD claims, from 97 cases in 1996 to 481 in 2005, according to a University of California Hastings College of the Law study. And FRD cases—won by plaintiffs more than 50 percent of the time, according to the study —have yielded several multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements."

The article, well worth reading, discusses the growing pressure on employers to accommodate employees with family obligations while balancing the demands of specific jobs. Baldas reports that EEOC officials deny that the guidance is an attempt to establish a new class of discrimination claims or to bolster plaintiffs' lawsuits: " 'We're not creating any new category under the EEOC laws ... . We're looking to the extent that the existing laws apply to work-life balance issues,' said EEOC vice chairwoman Leslie Silverman."

One resource in this area is the The Center for Work Life Law from Hastings College of the Law, University of CA. Their site offers resources for preventing family responsibilities discrimination, including court decisions and a model employer policy for discrimination prevention. The Center also has an affiliated WorkLife law Blog. (We thank Richard Bales of Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer - another site worth visiting for this and a multitude of other employment law-related topics. )

eXTReMe Tracker