March 21, 2014

How HR Uses Social Media: Infographic

Forbes has declared that 2014 is the year that social HR matters, citing a recent survey in which Millennials say that a prospective employer’s online reputation matters as much as the job it offers. Jeanne Meister writes about seven social media trends to watch over the course of the year, "as organizations leverage all forms of social collaboration to re-imagine how they source, develop and engage employees."

In another look at how HR is leveraging social media, we present an infographic based on an HR Trends survey conducted by BLR’s HR Daily Advisor and sponsored by SuccessFactors. In the survey, HR professionals also share information regarding their current practices for retention and engagement, formal programs for tracking and development, and HR metrics. Click here for a larger version and to access the survey.

BLR's 2013 Social Media Infographic

BLR's 2013 Social Media Infographic: By HR.BLR.com

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ESI-Logo.jpg If recruiting and retaining employees is important to your organization, ESI EAP can help. Our Administrative Referral program can help in resolving employee issues that are impeding performance. And when complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers managers and supervisors direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. No other employee assistance program offers more tools and resources for employers and more benefits for employees than ESI EAP. Call to learn how we can help your organization: 800-535-4841.

December 31, 2013

What 2014 has in store for Human Resources

What does 2014 hold in store for HR? Here's a roundup of predictions and prognostications from some smart people.

Employee Benefits News Roundup: 2014 Trends Edition

What can HR expect in 2014? Regs, rulings, reform and more

25 employee benefit trends for 2014, Part 1 and Part 2

The Top HR Compliance Issues for 2014 – Ask #HR Bartender

2014: The Year of Recruitment Marketing

Workplace Trends In 2014

HR predictions for 2014

This Cynic’s Top Ten 2014 Predictions for HR

What Workforce Trends Will HR See in 2014?

HR trends to watch in 2014

Culture Change is in the Air

Top 10 HR Technology Trends For 2014

2014 Top Three Trends in Rewards & Recognition

Top 5 Trends for 2014 from HR Tech

CareerBuilder and EMSI Release Best Jobs for 2014

Your Badge, Please: Why 2014 Will See A War Over Professional Identity

5 Trends Your Business Must Jump On Before 2014

4 business trends to follow in 2014

Delitte: 2014 Industry Outlook

October 10, 2013

Issues That Keep HR Managers Up at Night: Health Care Costs, Retention, Safety, Productivity

Recently, we conducted a flash poll of our blog readers to see which human resource issues are most troubling to their organizations.

When asked to rate ten issues as to “what kept them up at nights,” respondents cited healthcare costs (61%) as their top concern. This was followed by employee retention (43%), workplace safety (42%) and employee productivity (38%) to round out the top four issues.

When asked if their organization had a plan for changes with the Affordable Care Act, 68% said yes, 32% said no. When asked if they personally had enough knowledge about the Affordable Care Act to talk to their employees, 66% said no, with only 34% saying yes.

In unaided awareness, respondents were asked to list their most pressing human resource concerns. Responses were categorized as:

  • 30% – employee disciplinary and management issues (conflict resolution, terminations, morale, personal problems, training,)
  • 22% - healthcare costs, healthcare issues and the Affordable Care Act
  • 16% - retention, recruitment, succession planning
  • 15% - compliance issues such as FMLA, ADA, discrimination, workers’ compensation
  • 10% - budget issues: benefit costs, budget cuts, doing more with less.

Our survey was issued to our blog readers who signed up to get email notifications. The majority of these are employer clients of ESI Employee Assistance Program. More than 200 Human Resource managers completed the survey. Of the participating respondents, 61% were from organizations with fewer than 250 employees, 24% had between 251 and 1000 employees, and 15% of the respondents were from organizations with more than 1000 employees.


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If you have something that's keeping you up at nights, we can help. When complex Human Resource issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

May 19, 2013

Would you hire these people?

If you're like most HR people, you've seen more than your your share of resumes. Are there any that stood out from the crowd or that particularly stuck in your mind over the years? How do you feel about video resumes, would a 6-second Vine clip get your attention? Would a stylized infographic impress you? What about a resume that is converted into a chocolate bar? In the past, we've posted about resumes that hiring managers found "memorable" - and note the intentional ambiguity in that word. More recently, we've found some interesting examples of creative resumes, many harnessing social media. We've gathered some of the most creative and unusual examples of resumes for your perusal. Whether or not they'd make it through your screening process or they succeeded in landing the candidate the job, they've certainly succeeded in gaining some momentum in social and traditional media.

10 Creative Social Media Resumes.

9 Dynamic Digital Resumes That Stand Out From the Crowd

10 Resumes That Got Worldwide Attention

Creative Graphic Resume Designs – 53 Examples

Luís Gandarez gathers a variety of creative Curriculum Vitae on Pinterest

23 Cool Resumes On Instagram

And perhaps on the "too creative" side, we offer:
150 Funniest Resume Mistakes, Bloopers and Blunders Ever

This Is The Worst Resume Ever

Thoughts on creative resumes
John Feldmann talks about how much is too much when it comes to creative resumes

Melanie Pinola at Lifehacker talks about how electronic resume management systems work and how to design your resume to get past the resume robots

Do Creative Resumes Really Get You The Job?

20 Resume Tips from a Hiring Manager


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esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 14, 2012

Employee tracking: Boon for bosses or brave new world?

In the New York Times Bits blog, Quentin Hardy talks about Google's introduction of a product called Maps Coordinate that will allow you to locate your workers at all times. The company press release says the tool, "combines the power of Google’s mapping technologies with modern smartphones to help organizations assign jobs and deploy staff more efficiently."

You can learn more about the product at the Google blog post, Introducing Google Maps Coordinate: Organize teams on the move. Daniel Chu notes that, "As the number of mobile employees continues to grow, so does the need for a location sharing solution that works in real-time. Research firm IDC estimates that there will be over 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015 (37.2% of the total workforce)."

While there are definite advantages to a tool like this, reaction has been mixed. In an article in Time -- Google Maps: Now Helping Your Boss Track Your Every Move -- Victor Luckerson highlights some of the benefits of the tool, while noting privacy concerns and the continued encroachment of work life and personal life. Also see Lloyd Garver's No place to hide from Big Brother.

Luckerson says, "Businesses will be trained by Google on the proper use of the app. But will they always play by the rules? Employers’ attempts to track employees off hours–on an alleged sick day, for instance–could open a whole new legal can of worms. “The issue is technology and innovation outpacing policy making to determine the rights and obligations related to tracking employees when off-work,” Coney said. "Litigation on an issue like this could be on where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy or not."

April 21, 2012

Facebook follies & how employers are using social media in the hiring process

There's been a big brouhaha of late about employers who ask prospective job applicants for passwords to their Facebook account. Apparently, the Maryland Department of Corrections had candidates log in to their profiles and click around while the interviewer watched, a practice called "shoulder surfing." This practice - which many think is so rare as to be apocryphal - has been widely denounced in all quarters as being everything from a gross invasion of privacy to just plain dumb.

But that is not to say that employers aren't mining social media to evaluate job candidates, indeed they are. An article by Gloria Goodale in The Christian Science Monitor talks about other perfectly legal ways that employers access social media profiles, making it "not only unnecessary but unwise for companies to ask for social media passwords."

The article offers this commentary:

“Once you ask for this kind of access, then you are on notice for anything that you might find,” says Todd Taylor, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen who specializes in communication technology. “I would advise against going after information that isn’t already public for the simple reason that if you see something and you don’t act on it, you have the potential issue of a negligent hire down the road.”

But just how are employers actually using Facebook in screening job candidates? In a survey of 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals, nearly 37% of the respondents say they use social networking sites to research and screen job candidates. Another 11% said they plan to start, while 15% said that their company prohibits the practice. The survey on the use of social media in hiring practices was conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.

Of the social sites, Facebook ranked the highest, at 65%, followed closely by LinkedIn at 63%. Twitter came in at 16%, and other sites at 17%. IT was the industry that relied on social networks the most heavily (52%) and healthcare the least heavily (28%).

34% of those surveyed found material that factored into a decision not to hire a candidate.Some of the most common findings that led to such a decision included:

  • Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info – 49%
  • There was info about candidate drinking or using drugs – 45%
  • Candidate had poor communication skills – 35%
  • Candidate bad mouthed previous employer – 33%
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. – 28%
  • Candidate lied about qualifications – 22%

For some of the potential pitfalls and legal minefields, see our prior post Tips for using Facebook (and other social media) in the hiring process. We also recommend the social media posts from two of our favorite employment law blogs: Ohio Employer's Law Blog and Connecticut Employment Law Blog


March 25, 2012

The BYOD revolution: Why your own employees might be scarier than hackers

Is your workplace part of the BYOD revolution? With or without your approval, it probably is. BYOD is the abbreviation for "Bring Your Own Device," a reference to the proliferation of employee-owned smart phones, notebooks and personal computing devices used in the workplace. Even companies that supply devices to workers often find that their employees are replacing or supplementing company-sponsored tools with the faster, sleeker personal devices they favor.

Many companies are embracing the change. A survey by Citrix last year found that bring-your-own-device is quickly becoming an accepted business practice, with 25% of both large and small employers worldwide supporting the use of personal devices for business purposes, and many are reporting jumps in productivity associated with use of these devices. But dual-use devices are not without their problems and risks. According to the survey:

  • More than 67 percent of survey participants reported that they don’t have any policies, procedures or IT systems in place to manage the use of personal devices for business purposes.
  • Less than half of U.S. firms (46 percent) are aware of all the devices their staff are using for business purposes.
  • 32 percent of firms are most concerned over the security implications of allowing application and document downloads on personal devices
  • 23 percent are concerned over personal devices trying to get remote access to the corporate network.

Security is an enormous issue, particularly for any firms that have customer data privacy and security issues related to HIPAA or financial data. The average data breach costs a company $7.2 million, or $214 per breached record.

We have met the enemy and he is us
Many companies deploy substantial security resources to guard against hackers but are inadvertently leaving the back door unlocked. In a recent survey of IT managers, 72% of respondents said that careless employees have been a greater security threat than hackers.

Top factors IT pros cited include:

  • 62% - Lack of employee awareness about security policies
  • 61% - Insecure web browsing
  • 59% - Insecure Wi-Fi- connectivity
  • 58 % - Lost or stolen mobile devices with corporate data
  • 57% - Installation of corrupt apps
  • 53% - Lack of security patches from service providers

ZoneAlarm has a good infographic - excerpt below - which breaks down some of the numbers and stats on securing today's mobile workforce.

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Risk management: Best practices
This is not likely to be an issue that lessens in significance over time. Employers need to understand the risk and the exposure, and need to take steps to mitigate the risk. These steps will include a combination of well-crafted policies, safe computing training for employees, and technology solutions. Here's a toolkit of good articles to get you started.

HR Hero offers a series of posts from employment law attorney Taylor Chapman around the issue of dual-use devices. In her first post, BYOD - When Employees Bring Their Own Devices to Work, she discusses the trend of employees the real-world concerns associated with the practice, and different approaches employers can take to policies. In Managing the Risk of Employee Use of Personal Technology, she discusses the legality of accessing employees’ personal devices and how employers can mitigate the security risk that comes when employees use their own technology at work.

Roger Cheng of the Wall St Journal covered the topic about a year ago in his article How the smartest companies are letting employees use their personal gadgets to do their jobs. He offers approaches that several companies are using, from policies requiring the use of locks, an agreement that the device will be wiped if lost or stolen, the ability to wall off data, and virtualization.

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers resource centers member employees on many hot button issues, including Cyber Safety. Our Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) can also provide tools for HR policy development. For more information on these or other issues that we can help with, call 800-535-4841.

February 26, 2012

Transgender in the Workplace

In December, the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found in favor of Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn's claim of sex discrimination for having been fired from a job as editor with the Georgia General Assembly. The Court found that Glenn's firing violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, just the latest in a series of such rulings. And the courts are not the only sign that the tide is turning. In an essay in TIME, Adam Cohen notes:

"Meanwhile, things are also changing in the workplace. Last week’s [December] report from the Human Rights Campaign found that 207 of 636 major U.S. companies surveyed, or nearly one-third, covered the cost of gender-reassignment surgery for transgender workers. That number increased from just 85 a year earlier. When HRC began monitoring the issue a decade ago, no corporations covered the surgery. Among the corporations that added coverage this year are Apple, American Airlines and Chevron. In pop culture, transgender people are also becoming more visible and recognized. Chaz Bono, the only child of Sunny Bono and Cher, has put a celebrity face on being transgender — especially after he competed this season on Dancing with the Stars."

Last week, Baltimore County approves transgender discrimination ban. Nationwide, more than 160 cities and counties have laws banning transgender discrimination, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Employment law attorneys Robert Brody and Rebecca Goldberg talk about what this means for employers in Changing Gender — The New Sex Discrimination (PDF). In discussing the case, the authors note:

But the most likely problem is workplace harassment. Research suggests as many as 97 percent of transsexual employees are harassed at work, more than double the number who reported being denied a job or promotion or fired. To prevent this problem, employers should proactively include gender identity in their anti-harassment policies and training programs. Waiting until an employee identifies as transsexual to implement these changes can draw negative attention to the employee and exacerbate the problem.

Dionysia Johnson-Massie and Gina Cook, attorneys at the employment and labor law firm Littler also take about the Court ruling's impact on employers in 11th Circuit Rules for Transgender Employee in Sex Discrimination Case.

Among other things, they suggest that both public and private employers should review the following policies:

  • Equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies
  • Dress code and appearance standard policies
  • Codes of conduct between employees, constituents or customers
  • Policies regulating the use of gender-segregated areas such as bathrooms
  • Policies regarding respect for the individual or manager-subordinate relations
.

Additional Resources:
State Advocacy from the Human Rights Campaign offers maps of state laws and policies, lists of cities and counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that include gender identity, and other resources.

Employer and Union Policies from the Transgender Law Institute

Transgender Discrimination - more resources at a prior HR Web Cafe posting.

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help with supervisory training and compliance issues, as well as help for employees who are facing any difficult life issue or decisions. Don't have an EAP? Call 800-535-4841.


January 3, 2012

Crystal ball for 2012

Last week, we brought you a wrap-up of 2011 - although we missed The Ten Most Annoying Management Terms of 2011 and it is worth checking out - if you still have 2011 bandwidth, there are some phrases you may want to internalize.

But now we are on to the new year. Here's a list of some brave souls who are making predictions about what you might expect:

30 Big Trends, Ideas & Predictions for 2012

Survey: Business Trends to Watch in 2012

10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012

The top 5 small business trends for 2012

12 Laws That Will Affect Your Business in 2012

Looking at the Future: Some Predictions for 2012

Looking to 2012: 14 HR Predictions, and Balancing the Global Workforce

Emerging HR Discipline Is Among 2012 Predictions

Talent Management Trends in 2012

2012 US Job Forecast - CareerBuilder (PDF)
Related: Hiring Outlook for 2012 Remains Cautiously Optimistic, CareerBuilder’s Annual Job Forecast Finds - Survey Reveals Four Employment Trends to Watch in the New Year

Glassdoor Unveils Employees' Choice Awards for Top 50 Best Places to Work in 2012

What Will 2012 Mean for Social Media?

What 2012 Holds for Social Media

5 Internet Marketing Predictions for 2012

Top 10 Privacy Trends for 2012

Deloitte Predicts the Top 10 Technology Trends for 2012

Information Week: Top 10 Health IT Predictions For 2012

June 18, 2011

Tips for using Facebook (and other social media) in the hiring process

If you use social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn as a primary source of recruiting, you may be inadvertently putting yourself at risk for discriminatory hiring practices. For one, there is the issue of disparate impact since some minorities may be underrepresented on social networking sites, a matter that may be particularly important for employers with any federal funding. The EEOC is currently reviewing the issue of disparate impact and it is expected that new guidelines may be forthcoming to encompass 21st century practices, such as social media.

Social media poses other potential risks for discrimination in hiring. Viewing a candidate's social networking pages may also expose you to information that you are not allowed to consider in the course of hiring, such as race, religion, age, political beliefs, or health issues.

Security experts CSO Online offer 4 tips for using Facebook legally to conduct background checks - which includes an article and the video, below. Among the many points they and other experts make are to have a policy and to enforce it consistently; be upfront and transparent, and to seek authorization; be aware of the potential legal hazards; to use a third party for screening and research; and recognize that online information may be inaccurate.

April 3, 2011

David Brooks: The social animal

In his recent entertaining TED talk, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks talks about new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences. He makes a case for why we need to pay more attention to and acknowledge our emotions, our instincts, and our intuitive life. This is in some contrast to the prevailing view of man as primarily a rational being. His ideas have implications for learning, for interpersonal relations, and for self-knowledge, as well as for the broader spheres of business, economics, and politics. It's an interesting perspective in terms of thinking about human motivation, and the whys, hows and whats of motivating people.

March 8, 2011

A focus on women in the workplace - now and then

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and today is the start of a series of commemorative global events that will continue through the month. The UN Has identified this year's theme as: Equal access to education, training and science and technology."

The Division of Labor has issued a special statistical focus on Women At Work. It encompasses a lot of interesting data about working women - here are a few highlights:

  • In 2009, 59 percent of working-age women in the United States were in the labor force. This percentage has increased from 43 percent four decades ago.
  • By 2010, nearly 65 million women had jobs, and 53 percent of these women worked in the three industries that employed the most women: education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; and local government.
  • The ratio of women's to men's earnings, for all occupations, was 81.2% in 2010. The ratio varies by occupation. In occupations such as personal financial advisors, retail salespersons, insurance sales agents, and lawyers, for example, the earnings ratios are lower than the overall ratio of women’s to men’s earnings. In occupations such as stock clerks and order fillers, bill and account collectors, and combined food preparation and serving workers, women earn more than men.

We thought it might be fun to take a look back and found a few clips that give an idea of just how far women have come over the last generation or two. If you are at or around boomer age, these clips may not be totally surprising, but they should be pretty mind blowing for anyone of younger generation! (Ladies, go home and thank your Moms and Aunts for paving the way to a more egalitarian landscape.)

The first clip is a training film from 1944 entitled "Supervising Women Workers" - obviously a special challenge!

In "The Trouble With Women," a clip from 1959, we see that a decade and a half didn't do much to enlighten male supervisors about how to deal with female workers.


February 5, 2011

Will your next cubicle mate be a robot?

Will the HR Director of the future literally need screwdrivers, nuts and bolts in their workforce management toolkit? If the smart office robots that are now under development begin supplementing the human workforce, the pejorative about "having a screw loose" may take on a new meaning. BusinessWeek takes a look at the current crop of office-helper robots noting that there are currently 8.6 million robots in use around the world. "Many of them have been doing jobs that humans can't do in places humans can't go, such as plugging oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico." But are a new breed of helper machines about to be unleashed in the nation's office settings, accomplishing tasks like document sorting, mail delivery, and going for coffee?

robots.jpg

Here are links to more information for a few of the robots mentioned in the article.
HRP-4 could easily take on a "secretarial role...in the near future."

QB, a "remote presence robot"by Anybots is basically a videoconferencing system on wheels.

PR2 robot can do remedial problem solving, open doors without instruction, and plug itself into a wall socket when its battery is running low.

Also, meet some of your future colleagues in this slide show of workplace robots.

The idea of robots in the workplace helping with rote tasks and operations is not a new one - machines and technology have been helping humans perform work through the ages and they've been a mainstay in industrialized operations for decades now, albeit not with such humanoid incarnations. For more on this emerging office workforce, see the CEO Guide to Robots in the Workplace.

January 28, 2011

Facebook NLRB case postponed

In November, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that Facebook posts are legally protected speech despite a company having a policy that prohibits employees from discussing the company on social media sites. The ruling came in a case involving Dawmarie Souza, who was fired after criticizing her supervisor at American Medical Response of Connecticut on her Facebook page. The NLRB announced its intent to prosecute, and scheduled a hearing January 25. The complaint hearing on the case was postponed to February 8.

According to the New York Times story in November:

"Lafe Solomon, the [NLRB] board’s acting general counsel, said, "This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act — whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that."

That act gives workers a federally protected right to form unions, and it prohibits employers from punishing workers — whether union or nonunion — for discussing working conditions or unionization. The labor board said the company’s Facebook rule was 'overly broad' and improperly limited employees’ rights to discuss working conditions among themselves.


This case could have far implications for all employers, regardless of union involvement. Until further clarification is issued, employers should be cautious about their social media policies. In November, Morgan Lewis Employment Law issued an alert about what the NLRB ruling means to employers (PDF), along with this recommendation:

"All private sector employers should take note of this issue, regardless of whether their workforce is represented by a union. Employers should review their Internet and social media policies to determine whether they are susceptible to an allegation that the policy would “reasonably tend to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.” In addition, employers should consider whether disciplining an employee for violating such a policy could lead to a charge that the discipline violates the NLRA. An employee who is disciplined for engaging in conduct that is protected by the NLRA may challenge the discipline by filing an unfair labor practice charge, even if the employee is not represented by a union."

January 9, 2011

Workplace trends for 2011

Here's a roundup of things to watch for in 2011:


January 3, 2011

List-o-licious: The Best of 2010

Here are links to some of the best recaps of 2010



And looking forward...

Thanks to Fimoculous, the source for many of these links, and more: 2010 Year Lists.

September 6, 2010

Social media for CEOs (and other business managers)

The ways that businesses communicate with their employees and their customers and the channels that they use for communicating have undergone a seismic shift in the last decade. In the past, businesses could go to the top of the mountain and broadcast their messages by harnessing a variety of one-to-many communication channels: speeches, memos newsletters, PA systems, bulletin boards, management meetings, policy manuals, advertising, brochures, sales staff, etc. With the Internet and mobile technologies, all that has changed. Business are communicating on a new and dynamic playing field, one that is characterized by interactivity and collaboration...and - most disconcertingly for many - a loss of control.

Mashable has an excellent feature on How CEOs Will Use Social Media in the Future. The operative word here is apparently "future" since recent research by Forrester shows that none of the CEOs in Fortune 500's top 100 global corporations has a social media profile. In fact, according to Forrester Research’s CEO George Colony, this trend encompasses CEOs of tech companies, too: "Eric Schmidt of Google is an infrequent Twitterer and is not a blogger; Steve Ballmer at Microsoft has no blog and no Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger … Steve Jobs of Apple, and Larry Ellison of Oracle have no Twitter, Facebook (Facebook), LinkedIn (LinkedIn), or blog presences that we could find."

That last bit of information is pretty startling. But as the widespread adoption of social networking continues apace, businesses are inevitably following (alas, not leading) their employees and customers and trying to engage them. How successfully they navigate these shifting sands is another matter.

In addition to the futuristic tone of the article linked above, Mashable also recently featured the article How CEOs Are Using Social Media for Real Results, which offer some success stories. Also see Anne Freedman's article on Leveraging Social Media in Human Resource Executive, which discusses how some HR managers are thinking of and using social media in their companies.

We recommend Mashable as a good resource to keep up to date on social media trends and news - particularly their business section. Plus, there are lots of "how to" articles, as well as tools and resources throughout the site - it has something for everyone from the veteran to the novice. Here are a few other business-oriented social media resources worth bookmarking:

Sharlyn Lauby on Mashable - HR pro turned consultant, her articles discuss strategies for businesses and HR professionals towork successfully with social media

5 Insightful TED Talks on Social Media

Social Media Glossary

Small business trends - social media category

15 Excellent Corporate Blogs to Learn From

Alltop HR News - an RSS headline news aggregator with feeds from many publications and blogs.

HR people and lists on Rwitter Listerious and from Twibe

Social Media Marketing Resources from MarketingProfs

Finally, this clip is now dated by about 8 months, but it's an engaging look at how social media is changing the landscape:

August 27, 2010

Smile or die

Author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has an interesting take on the darker side of positive thinking, which is illustrated in an engaging fashion in the following 10-minute clip.

If you enjoyed this clip - the animation is quite excellent - you can see other animated talks from the RSA, the UK-based Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, an organization dedicated to developing and promoting new ways of thinking about human fulfillment and social progress.

August 1, 2010

Why are Americans so vacation-deprived?

We're midway in the heart of the traditional eight-week summer vacation cycle, so if you haven't taken any time off yet, we have a question for you. Why not? It might be that you are one of the 49.4 millions Americans who are "vacation deprived." According to an annual survey conducted by Expedia, about one-third of employed U.S. adults, or 34%, do not use all their allotted vacation days. That's up from 31% last year. And it's not like the time off isn't needed: About two in five employed U.S. adults (37%) report regularly working more than 40 hours per week.

And not only does a large percentage of Americans leave vacation days on the table, many don't leave the job behind even while they are on vacation. About 1 in four report that they check work email or voice mail while vacationing, and about 30% say that they often have trouble coping with stress from work at some point during the vacation cycle.

Expedia has been conducting this survey for 8 years, and during all this time, the U.S. has had the dubious distinction of being the country with the largest vacation deficit, averaging only 13 vacation days per year, some of which go unused. This year however, workers in Japan win the distinction for being the most likely to leave vacation days on the table with 92% reporting they will not use all earned vacation days.

Country - Vacation days / avg unused vacation days
France 38 / 2
Italy 31 / 6
Spain 30 / 3
Germany 27 / 2
Austria 27 / 4
Great Britain 26 / 2
New Zealand 21 / 3
Canada 19 / 2
Australia 19 / 3
Japan 15 / 7
U.s. 13 / 3

Why are we so vacation deprived?
Vacation serve as a release valve for stress and help us to recharge our batteries. Taking time away from work leads to a healthier, more balanced life. Time away from the job can also foster creativity and productivity. Author Scott Berkun comments that "It’s interesting how us Americans are fond of taking pride in our freedoms, yet when it comes to time off we are the least free for much of the Western world." In an essay on the topic of whether Americans should get more vacation time, he notes that "hours are a lousy way to measure value" and suggests that "All sorts of goodness happens when managers learn to reward results, not effort. And this starts but getting past the stupid pretense of effort known as hours." He discusses shifting the way we think about time vs results, and offers suggestions for variable approaches that employers might consider for vacation and unpaid leave.

July 18, 2010

Is it getting crowded in here?

Yet another reason to be concerned about the collective expanding waistline of the workforce. According to a cool infographic and item entitled Size matters In Metropolis, a magazine about architecture and design, the average real estate of corporate cubicles is getting smaller while the average employee's "footprint" is expanding. At its introduction in 1968, the average cubicle size was 10' by 10' - but by 2006, it had shrunk to 6' by 6.' Over the same period, men have gained an average of 28 pounds and women have gained 24 pounds - so we are all squeezing more bulk into less space. (See our prior post when gyms and offices collide for some ideas to make the cubicle a less stagnant, more active place)

While weight is an issue we've discussed before, the flip side of this equation is the cubicle itself. Even the cubicle inventor came to question his invention, calling it "monolithic insanity." You can lean more about its checkered past and view a slideshow of historical images in Cubicles: The great mistake, an entertaining historical overview that Fortune featured a few years ago.

Will the cubicle culture ever die out? Probably not, but the nature of where we work is indeed changing. Sue Shellenbarger of Wall Street Journal has a blog called The Juggle, in which she writes about tradeoffs and choice people make juggling work and family. In a recent post entitled Beyond the Cubicle she talks about alternative places - and oddball places - that people work.

Related:


July 15, 2010

Vanishing professions and a look towards the future

In 10 Careers Gone for Good, Ira Wolfe of Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 looks at the issue of occupation extinction, noting that more than 25%, or over 2 million, of the jobs that were erased from the economy over the past two years are probably gone for good.

He cites an excellent NPR feature on the Jobs of Yesteryear - obsolete occupations. It includes a review of a dozen jobs that no longer exist, including a photo essay and some audio snippets from people who held those jobs. One of our favorites was the job of lector: "Cigar makers in Florida and New York City would sometimes pool their wages to pay a 'lector' to read newspapers or political tracts aloud to them while they worked."

It's a nostalgic look back, and makes the point. The nature of the work that people do is changing at breakneck speed. Wolfe's post also includes a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that looks at some jobs that are currently on their way to extinction.

For those job seekers who find this topic depressing, we would point to Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11, also from BLS, which offers trend information and projections about the shifting landscape in job sectors that are growing and declining. It includes tables listing the occupations with the fastest growth, occupations with the largest numerical growth, and occupations with the largest decline.

March 17, 2010

Work-Life Balance and Flex Work

The line between employees' work lives and personal lives is shifting. A growing number of U.S. workplaces are adapting to the needs and wants of a changing workforce. This week, NPR looks at these trends in an excellent series on flex-work and work-life balance. The broadcast of each segment lasts just under 8 minutes; print articles are also available. Each segment has also elicited an interesting range of comments from listeners, which are worth exploring.

Part 1: When Employers Make Room For Work-Life Balance - with enhanced technology and changing employee attitudes, rigid work schedules make less and less sense. Experts say that the traditional 9 to 5 40-hour work week was designed for an era when one parent worked, and Moms stayed home with children, but in most families today, both parents work. Combine this with a young, mobile, "untethered" workforce and other changing work factors. Increasingly, employers are offering a range of flex work options to meet these changing needs.

Part 2: The End of 9 To 5: When Work Is Anytime - a case study of the Hennepin County offices that are experimenting with a results-only work environment, or ROWE, which gives everyone in a company the freedom to do their job when and where they want, as long as the work gets done. Is it working? Productivity has jumped. In one example, a 2.5 week processing backlog was reduced to under 5 days. Hennepin County is not alone: It's estimated that about 3% of all workplaces are now practicing ROWE, the ultimate in flexible schedules. There is a sidebar adjunct to the article that lists the ROWE Basics.

Part 3: How To Make Shift Work Family Friendly - National Institutes of Health staff members are studying and working with low wage employers to help them understand that more flexibility for their employee is in their best interest - particularly in terms of health and wellness. They conducted research with employees at Best Buy headquarters, which had implemented an aggressive flexible work program, and also at grocery stores, hotels and nursing homes. Employees with the most rigid managers "had about a two-fold risk of having two or more cardiovascular risk factors and slept about 30 minutes less per night than people whose managers were more open and creative."

Related resources
Can Working Moms Have it All? Ha!
Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Workplace flexibility programs on the rise

March 8, 2010

Alabama and Indiana lawmakers OK "guns at work"

Employers in Alabama and Indiana take note: if you have policies that forbid weapons on company property, including parking lots, you will need to be amending your handbooks. Legislatures in those states have recently restricted employer private property rights by passing laws that allow employees to keep guns in locked cars in company parking lots.

In Alabama, at the urging of the NRA, the senate voted 26 to 2 to allow guns in cars at work. The Business Council of Alabama and other employer groups opposed the law.

The news article reporting this story notes that the vote came two weeks after a professor Amy Bishop was charged with fatally shooting three colleagues at the University of Alabama. The bill exempts electric utilities at the request of Alabama Power Co., as well as universities and other public employers. The fact that Bishop had a gun despite policies against guns shows that prohibitions are not necessarily effective.

Last week, Indiana legislators passed a similar measure allowing guns in work parking lots:

"As a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association watched from the gallery Thursday, the House voted 75-20 in favor of the bill. A few hours later, the Senate voted for it 41-9.

They couldn't have timed it any worse. The next day, an angry worker at the Department of Workforce Development in Portage walked out to his car, grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun, and fired into his office. No one was hurt."

The incident that the article describes -- an employee who retrieved a gun from his car and opened fire after a job review -- is an example of a scenario that many employers have said they fear:
On Friday, 16 employees were in the office in a strip mall located in the downtown area, police said. The suspect had been called into a manager's office for a job review, became upset, left the building and took a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun from his vehicle and returned to the building, Portage police Sgt. Keith Hughes said.
In Indiana, there are exemptions to the law: "Employers will still be able to ban guns from parking lots at schools, child-care facilities, domestic-violence shelters, jails, private residences, chemical facilities subject to federal anti-terrorism standards, nuclear facilities, investor-owned utilities' generation and transmission facilities, and in personal vehicles used to transport people with developmental disabilities."

It's also worth noting that most state and federal chambers where such decisions are made are exempt from the so-called "guns at work" laws.

Texas vetoed similar legislation
Last June, the state legislature in Texas voted against a similar "guns at work" law. In addition, in the face of strong student and administration protests against such a measure, the Texas legislature rejected a "guns on campus" bill. Since the Virginia Tech campus massacre, similar bills have surfaced in various states around the country, but to our knowledge, all have been defeated. Utah is currently the only state that allows concealed weapon permit holders to carry guns on university and colleges campuses. (See more about Guns on campus)

State gun laws
We can't vouch for how current or accurate any of these sources are, but here are some resources for researching your state gun laws.
State gun laws - the Brady Campaign
Stare Gun Laws - the NRA
State handgun laws

Prior posts on guns at work
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: guns in your company parking lot
Florida law: It's now OK to keep guns in your car on work property
Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?

February 8, 2010

Social media: fad or revolution? Manpower Research report points to the latter

Is your organization treating social media like a fad or like the biggest shift since the industrial revolution? If the former, you may want to view this 4.5 minute film, which makes a compelling case for the latter.

As compelling as this case may be, most employers seem to be taking a 'wait and see" approach, according to a report issued by Manpower Research, which found that only about 20% of the organizations surveyed have a formal social media policy in place. (See: Social Networks vs Management - Harness the Power of Social Media (PDF).) And of those organizations that do have a social media policy, it is more likely to focus on issues surrounding containment, control, and risk management rather than on ways that the organization can benefit by the power of social networks. The report suggests that social networks hold the potential to be transformative in enhancing productivity, innovation, collaboration, reputation and employee engagement.

Manpower's report recommends that companies consider taking the following steps to promote the constructive use of social networking:

Challenge employees to innovate
Promote the positive use of social media by encouraging employees to come up with ways to use these tools to do their jobs better. People love to discuss their successes, so get employees to describe how they've used social media tools in new ways, for example, to generate leads or serve customers better. You can focus these efforts by function or interest, as needed. Follow the lead of so many innovative organizations and run a contest for the best new ideas.

Tap internal experts
Teach by example by encouraging employees who regularly use social networking in their jobs to discuss and demonstrate how it's done. Keep track of the new ideas that flow from this kind of mentoring exchange and share the ideas and best practices.

Let employees "own" the governance
The foundation of any healthy social network is an engaged community. Let your employees help develop and enforce your company's guidelines. This approach will certainly appeal to those employees most likely to use social media, promoting trust in the goals of the guidelines that ultimately are instituted.

December 27, 2009

2009 Year in Review

Here's a retrospective look at 2009 via some best and worst lists for 2009.

Top HR Stories of 2009 - Human Resource Executive

20 Breakthrough Business Ideas for 2009 - Harvard Business Review

Best Business Books of 2009 - Fast Company

Top 25 Blogs for Workers Compensation and Workplace Issues - Lexis Nexis

Top Ten Risk Management Lessons and Trends from 2009

Top 10 Work Life Culture Stories 2009 - WorkLifeNation

World's Best Companies 2009 - Business Week

100 Best Companies to Work For - Fortune

50 Best Places to Work - Glassdoor.com

5 Worst Co-Workers of 2009 - MSN Careers

Worst Bosses of 2009 - eBoss Watch

Top 10 Health Stories - Harvard Health Letter

Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs - Time

World's 200 Best Universities 2009 - U.S. News

Top Buzzwords of 2009 - New York Times

Top Words of 2009 - Global Language Monitor

Top Twitter Trends of 2009 - Twitter Blog

5 Big Real-Time Web Trends of 2009 - Mashable

50 Best Websites - Time

Year in Photos - Boston.com

September 13, 2009

Social networking as a tool for hiring and detecting employee fraud

An August study by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com points to something that will be no great surprise to either employers or employees: employers are increasingly using social networking sites to check out job applicants. About 45% of the survey respondents are using social networks to screen job candidates — more than double from a year earlier. "The report showed that Facebook was the most popular online destination for employers to do their online sleuthing, followed by LinkedIn and MySpace. In addition, 7 percent followed job candidates on Twitter."

But mining information from blogs and social networking sites doesn't stop at job hire - some HR managers have caught lying employees red-handed when they brag about playing hooky online. And now Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance tells us about how some employees are outing themselves as workers comp cheats by their postings on social networking sites:

"Some claimants supposedly too disabled to work post locations and dates for their upcoming sports competitions or rock band performances, boast of new businesses launched, and include date-stamped photographs of their physical activity, investigators say.

Others have openly bragged about fooling their employers with “Monday morning” workers comp claims for injuries that occurred the weekend prior and away from the workplace."

The article talks about how the Web is a valuable tool for insurance fraud investigators who are often able to substitute web tracking for the more costly practice of physical surveillance. And it's not just insurance companies that are finding social networking sites a good source of fraud: The IRS and state tax authorities are using social networks to identify tax cheats

Advice for employers and employees
New Jersey attorney Jonathan Bick offers some advice to employers when mining online data on prospective employees and suggests some best practice policies to ensure staying within the law. He reminds employers that it is unlawful to use any information about race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion for certain employment decisions purposes, and that any information that an employer "...should only permit(s) employees to use the results of blog research as grounds for employment action if the information is related to work."

He also suggests that there could be some risk of liability for hiring employers who do not avail themselves of web-related information as part of the hiring process:

"From a legal prospective, some sources suggest that an employer who does not search social networks for readily available information may be negligent in their hiring practices. Internet social networks provide employers with a low-cost, easy-to-use, high availability screening tool for job applicants. For the safety of existing employees it may argued that a blog search is necessary. In light of the cost and availability, it may be argued that an employer has a duty to mine blogs of potential and existing employees."
For employers and employees alike, HR Daily Advisor offers advice to about 'friending' in Should you 'friend" your boss? Let your boss friend you?. The article offers some guidelines to help employees balance the line between work and personal information on social networking sites.

April 3, 2009

Watch what you tweet

The perils of modern technology take new but inevitable twists ... there have been numerous examples of bloggers who've been fired for blogging about their jobs so it was just a matter of time until Twittering landed someone in hot water. In this case, it was a job applicant rather than an employee - and while the entire episode may have been blown way out of proportion, it is a cautionary tale about the increasingly transparent world of social networking. While the numerous benefits of the new communication and networking tools are apparent, some of the perils may be less so as employees, applicants, and HR managers navigate these uncharted waters.

The case at hand was a job applicant who Twittered to her friends - and anyone else who happened by - that, "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."

Shortly after unleashing this ill-thought tweet, an insider from Cisco replied with, "Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web."

Oops.

The upshot is that this was not a case of job termination by Twitter, as it has been billed in mainstream media. It's not even clear if Cisco did indeed reject this candidate's job application based on the tweet. But the point remains - 140 characters or less can have repercussions on the job.

And whether or not the prospective employer exacts a toll, the original Tweeter has paid a price. As many before have learned, "the internet" can be harsh and unforgiving in the face of a faux pas. The "fatty paycheck" episode quickly spawned a number of unflattering blog posts and YouTube clips. Online sleuths (bullies?) quickly dug up her identity, her website, her photo, and her resume. After being subject to a few days of intense and scathing Internet infamy, you can read the applicant's side of the story on her blog.

In this case, it's the job applicant who got stung, but it could as likely be the HR manager tomorrow. But there's no sense throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the tool isn't the problem, it's how the tool is used. In 10 Essential Twitter Etiquette Tips, blogger Halfbrown offers some very sensible advice, with a few tips thrown in. One rule of thumb that we think is fundamental: Anonymity is a myth - don't say anything online or in an e-mail that you aren't prepared to live by and defend on or off the job.

George Lenard and guest posters at George's Employment Blawg have frequently posted about the perils of blogging, both from an employee and an employer viewpoint. Many of the same principles are at play with Twitter, which is often referred to as micro-blogging. Here are a few pertinent posts:
Should You Really Write that in a Corporate Blog? Legal Guidelines for Company-Sanctioned Blogs
Ready, Aim, Fired - Blogging Employees in the Spotlight Again

February 19, 2009

Twitter: productivity helper or nuisance?

Are you tweeting on the job? Aliza Sherman takes on the issue of whether Twitter is a time waster or a productivity tool. Is it an indispensable and efficient part of daily communications or a silly distraction? That might depend on how and why you use it. Aliza outlines both ten positives and ten negatives, offering links to several useful applications.

For more on maximizing the utility, Kim Lau a has great post on getting things done with Twitter, commenting that "There’s a lot you didn’t know you could do with 140 character spurts." She's compiled a list of applications that extend Twitter's capabilities - tools that allow you to track expenses, organize travel, monitor your commute, or keep post it note reminders. One that we found particularly useful for work projects is called GroupTweet, a group message broadcasting tool that offers a quick way for team members to broadcast quick, private messages.

Here are a few other useful Twitter tools:
Twibs - browse 4,755 current twitter businesses on twibs.com
Twitter Groups helps you to find groups of interest
Guide to Twitter for Business
14 tools of highly effective Twitter users
Twitter in Plain English (video)
Twitter - a beginner's Guide

Caution - a tool is only as good as its user
Before you harness an unfamiliar social web tool for business purposes, you might want to play around with it for a bit and test it out with friends and family until you develop some familiarity with its capabilities. Even an "old school tool" like e-mail can have its pitfalls. Making the buzz all over the blogs for the last day or two is the embarrassing mistake that Twitter's HR manager recently made when she issued a rejection letter to 186 candidates, mistakenly hitting "to" rather than "BCC," thus exposing the identity of all the rejected candidates - oops. Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist offers the full scoop on this incident, a painful example of how technology tools can turn on you.

September 22, 2008

Transgender discrimination

Chris McKinney of HR Lawyer's Blog posts about a plaintiff who recently won a discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress. Marcia McCormack of The Examiner had more details on Schroer v. Billington. McCormack writes that, "The court held that the discrimination on the basis of gender identity is literally discrimination on the basis of sex and it is also discrimination on the basis of failing to conform to sex stereotypes, both prohibited by Title VII."

In a related story appearing in The Ledger, Slowly, Companies Embracing Transgender Employees, Lisa Belkin writes:

Across the country, particularly at larger companies, transgender workers are being protected and assisted in ways that were hardly imaginable a few years ago.
Currently, 125 of the Fortune 500 companies include "gender identity" in their nondiscrimination policies, compared with "close to zero" in 2002, according to Jillian T. Weiss, an associate professor of law and society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and an expert on transgender workplace diversity.

For more resources on the topic of transgender issues in the workplace:
Human Rights Campaign
Transgender Law and Policy Institute
Employer and Union Policies
Transgender Employees: What's an Employer To Do?
Transgender at Work
International Foundation for Gender Education

September 8, 2008

Trouble at Work

Business Week unveils a new double issue, one that was created in collaboration with readers using online surveys and blogs through its own site, through LinkedIn, and in a poll conducted with YouGov and the Washington firm RT Strategies. Through more than 8,500 votes and 5,000 comments, readers identified their top concerns at work and offered their thoughts on how they address these problems. Editors note that this "reader-generated" approach was markedly different than the normal reporting where they might have contacted consultants to learn about emerging trends.

We've listed the 6 issues that readers identified below. Each identified problem has a mini sub-site with videos, articles, and an associated blog. You can access content through the index Trouble at the Office, or search any of the top problem areas that were identified:

Work-life balance - how to manage workplace balance without going crazy.
Staying entrepreneurial - sparking innovation and fostering creativity.
Time management - tips for making every hour count.
Negotiating the bureaucracy - breaking out of the box.
Generational tensions - generational collisions in the workplace.
Toxic bosses - or "how to live with the s.o.b."

July 18, 2008

Several states adopting four day work weeks to provide fuel cost relief

In response to high fuel costs, a number of states are offering their employees optional four-day work weeks consisting of four 10-hour workdays. While most initiatives are voluntary programs, at least one state - Utah - has made the four-day week mandatory for state workers so that government offices can be closed on Fridays. Workers who provide essential services will not be affected, but the measure will impact about 17,000 employees. Because about 1,000 buildings will be shut down on Fridays, the state expects the measure will save about $3 million.

Other states and municipalities have taken measures designed to offer employees some relief:

"Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) announced two weeks ago that her office was considering work-schedule alternatives to help commuters save fuel. And New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has ordered each state agency to adopt a policy for telecommuting and alternate work schedules by Sept. 1.
High gasoline prices led Kentucky and South Carolina to offer compressed workweeks to a handful of its state employees this summer. A smattering of other states — Arkansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Vermont among them — are considering expanding existing programs to more state agencies."

Not all private businesses could afford to shut down for one day; for many, it would put them at a competitive disadvantage. But some companies are enacting staggered four-day work plans, allowing some workers to have Friday off and others to have Monday off. With such arrangements, the extended work days may actually increase the service time available for customers.

Still other companies are looking to expand telecommuting or work from home arrangements. Bank of America just announced the launch of a voluntary telecommuting program for eligible employees. And one of our readers recently brought to our attention the concept of Third Place Thursdays - identifying one day of the work week (in this example, Thursdays) when employees can work from a "third place" - which is not necessarily the office or a home. The idea being that technology affords connectivity and access from almost any location.

Study finds four day week enhances morale, increases productivity
At least one recent study suggests that a compressed schedule may lead to an increase in job satisfaction, morale, and productivity. Professors at Brigham Young University studied the experience of the city of Spanish Fork, which adopted a four-day work week for city services in 2003 to reduce costs and to make public services more accessible to citizens by extending weekday work hours. The researchers surveyed city employees and residents to assess satisfaction, and found that 60 percent of employees reported higher productivity and 60 percent of residents reported improved citizen access.

Pros and cons
There are many advantages to a compressed week. In addition to the most obvious one of reducing gas expenditures by 20%, employees also see a 20% reduction in commuting time. And by commuting earlier and later on the other four days, employees may find that traffic is less congested during those off-peak hours. With a consolidated schedule, workers gain an entire day off, allowing more quality time for family and non-work pursuits. Some workers say that they use Fridays for errands and housework, and preserve their weekends for family time and leisure.

However, not everyone is in favor of a four-day week. Extended hours may be disruptive to child care arrangements. A compressed schedule may also be disruptive to employees who are engaged in a variety of other activities, such as taking night classes, juggling a part-time job, coaching a Little League team, or acting in community theater. It can be much more difficult to juggle daily life tasks on days with a longer work schedule. Safety proponents also point to the potential for increased risk, particularly for those with dangerous, stressful, or tedious jobs.

Pro or con, there is no doubt but that more public and private organizations are rapidly moving to alternate work arrangements, at least as a short-term measure to address soaring fuel prices. This will provide a good opportunity for researchers to study the positive and negative effects of alternative work schedules.

June 3, 2008

Wellness programs on the rise

According to two recent surveys, more and more employers are implementing wellness programs. Human Resource Executive reports that surveys by both Aon Consulting and Watson Wyatt Worldwide / NBGH demonstrate that employers are ratcheting up initiatives designed to improve worker health.

The Aon survey, which polled more than 1100 employers of various sizes, found a dramatic threefold jump in employer initiatives. The Watson Wyatt survey, which focused on large employers, showed a 28% jump in the use of health appraisals since 2006. The increases were attributed to escalating medical costs and a global labor shortage that is forcing more reliance on an older population. Employers are seeking to reduce costs and to find ways to keep their workers healthy and active.

Despite these promising reports, other recent research indicates that small and mid-sized employers are significantly lagging behind larger companies in offering wellness initiatives. Joanne Wojcik reports on a survey conducted by Principal Financial Group in Workforce which showed that, when offered, wellness programs are very popular and have a high participation rate. But while 26% of employers with 501 to 1,000 employees offered wellness educational tools and discounts, only 12% of employers with fewer than 500 employees offered wellness programs.

If you are in a small organization that is not yet offering wellness benefits for your employees, what are you waiting for? Wellness programs can help to reduce the high cost of health care for you and your employees and can enhance your worker health, well-being and productivity. There are many inexpensive initiatives you can undertake to enhance worker health. Start with investigating the free or low cost alternatives available to you. Some top-shelf EAP programs offer wellness benefits as part of their package. Your health insurer may also have free or low cost options such as health screenings that could be incorporated in an annual health fair. Large national health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society offer free literature, programs, and resources. Other alternatives include implementing programs that will help employees change behaviors, such as launching walking or biking clubs, replacing junk food with healthier alternatives in the cafeteria vending machines, and offering employee incentives or discounts for participating in exercise or weight loss programs.

January 3, 2008

A look back, a look ahead

The rear view mirror - a look at 2007
Anne Freedman of Human Resource Executive offers an annotated HR's Year in Review, with most items linked to the original news stories. It's a comprehensive snapshot of some of the year's most important stories - a good recap!

Michael Fox of Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer suggests that the wage and hour law was the biggest story for 2007 and predicts that story will likely be important again in 2008, and beyond.

Business Insurance offers their list of the Top 10 employee benefits stories of 2007.

Lifehacker recaps 20 of their popular Top 10 Lists of 2007 and also offers a roundup of their readers' suggestions for best tech tools, gadgets and life hacks in 2007.

Planning for the future - 2008
We start off the new year with employee confidence in the economy and their own employment situation at a low level. Hopefully, things will go up from here. A few HR experts and business observers offer their thoughts on the year ahead.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Blog tells us that 2008 is the International Year of the Potato so adjust your business plans accordingly. He has compiled a roundup of business press articles with thoughts and predictions about 2008.

Workplace Prof Blog points us to some predictions for Workplace Trends for 2008.

Susan Heatherfield of About.com's Human Resources offers The Top 10 Resolutions for Your Possible New Year.

Diane Danielson of HR Blog suggests a tool for customizing your year end goals.

SHRM features a 2008 HR Trendbook, a special supplement to HR Magazine. You can view a list of the topics covered and a brief introduction, but full access requires membership.

Inc. Technology compiles their suggestions for the 10 Must Have Tech Tools for 2008.

And if your best laid plans for 2008 are already are slipping out of control. Lifehacker suggests Free Tools to Manage New Year's Resolutions

October 23, 2007

Harnessing web communication technologies in a crisis: the San Diego fires

Our hearts go out to all the folks suffering in the terrible fires and related chaos in southern California. In the aftermath, there will no doubt be crisis-management lessons for employers in how to communicate with and support employees, just as there were HR lessons from Katrina.

Your technology and web staff should be front line soldiers in crisis planning and crisis management. The Web offers numerous tools that employers should learn to harness for both their public and Intranet sites in the event of natural or man-made emergencies. To learn more about these technologies and to view them in action, see Using Social Media Services to Track the California Fires. This article offers links and discussion about how Google, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia and del.icio.us are being harnessed to offer real time updates, news, and resources about the San Diego area fires.

Note: some of the following links may change or expire as the situation evolves.

Nate Ritter offers an excellent example of how one individual is providing an important public service via the text messaging tool, Twitter. News station KPBS also has a good Twitter news feed.

Some very interesting (and terrible) updates are being provided via Google Map mashups, which bloggers and programmers are cobbling together quickly. This KPBS News map displays fire burn areas, evacuation areas, evacuation centers, road closures, and more. This blogger is mapping the homes that have been claimed by fire in his neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo. His blog, And Still I Persist is an example of the valuable role that bloggers can play in a disaster.

As they were during Katrina, newspaper message boards become an important gathering point for local residents to share information, resources, and help to neighbors. The Union-Tribune's SignOnSanDiego wildfire forums have logged tens of thousands of messages since yesterday, grouped by geographic areas. Many distant folks have been reading these boards to keep track of areas where friends and family live.

And don't forget—one other vital employer resource during and after an emergency is an employee assistance program. Sadly, there will be many, many hurting people when this terrible fire has run its course.

September 14, 2007

Too much fun?

Is fun and essential component in a healthy workplace? Inc. magazine devoted its entire August issue to the theme of Fun: The New Core Value. In the introductory article, they state their rationale:

"With labor markets tight, business leaders understand that fun can tip the scales when all else is equal. Fun not only lures employees, it also helps them acculturate, which becomes more important as businesses become more virtual. And, of course, fun is associated with creativity."

The introduction also cautions that fun at work can turn into a grotesque joke unless an organization first has its act together. For fun to thrive, prerequisites include, "... meaningful work, competent management, fair compensation, and mutually respectful employees are table stakes."

Inc's "fun" issue encompasses nine articles on the theme, ranging from case histories of organizations that have successfully infused fun into their corporate culture to twenty-five ideas for keeping things loose at work.

We've previously posted about creative workplaces and creative employers, such as Google and we have a humor section here in our blog, so we have been proponents of fun. Particularly with the millennial generation, fun can be an important step in bonding and teaming, and can also have many salutary effects, such as stress reduction.

Can fun go too far?
But there is a curmudgeon in every crowd, and Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard shows the dark side of all the jocularity, making the case that the recent emphasis on fun in the workplace is infantalizing corporate America. In his recent article in The Weekly Standard, Are We Having Fun Yet?, he notes that, "Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces."

Matt takes a biting look at the emerging industry of fun consultants and sees a a nightmarish picture of mandatory fun run amuck. (Matt, I hate to tell you this - but your article was fun to read!) He certainly makes some valid points and trenchant observations:

"So who's to say the funsultants are worse than anything else that's happened to the American corporate drone over the decades? After all the paradigm-shifting and diversity-training and outsourcing and TQM'ing and synergizing and empowering and value-adding and globalizing and downsizing and full-frontal lobotomizing, maybe finger puppets are just the logical terminus."

All things in moderation
The whole issue brings to mind that parental wet-blanket cautionary note, "It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye." While we remain proponents of humor and fun, we agree that things can go too far, particularly when things become mandatory rather than optional. There are any number of employment attorneys who would largely agree with Matt's take on things, reminding their clients that in the workplace, there is just a gossamer thin confetti streamer that separates fun from a discrimination lawsuit or a workers compensation claim.

Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer to the Matt Labash article!

March 8, 2007

Wellness and work environments: when gyms and offices collide

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has been much in the news lately and with an aging and increasingly obese population, it's hardly surprising to learn that risks go well beyond air travel. Sedentary workers can also be at great risk - particularly those workers who spend much of the day at the computer. While DVT can strike at any age, some people have higher risk factors than others.

Many office workers are fighting back against the sedentary lifestyle and some workplaces are starting to look more like gyms than cubicle farms. Many workers are trading in their office chairs for exercise balls and many employers - including Google and BMW - are accommodating them. Sitting on an exercise ball takes a bit of getting used to requiring better balance, but proponents find them energizing and tout the benefits of "active sitting." Ergonomists and physicians suggest they are better for shorter periods of time rather than prolonged use, and are quick to point out that they are not an ergonomic solution to mitigate musculoskeletal disorders. There are several variations, some that offer partial back support.

Many workers find the prospect of a sedentary life less than satisfying, looking for alternatives to traditional seating arrangements. Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Donald Rumsfeld are a few of the notable proponents of standing desks. Recently, some people have been taking this concept a step further with the treadmill desk or the so-called "treadputer". Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic is a champion of the "Walking While Working" concept, seeing this as as a potential antidote for the obesity epidemic.

Maybe your workplace isn't ready for a complete transformation yet, but there may be some small adaptations that could energize your work force and keep them moving. Exercise balls might be a great alternative in meeting rooms to keep meetings short and dynamic. A few standing stations interspersed here and there might offer people an opportunity to get up and move while staying focused on a project. Whatever the seating or standing arrangement, the computer work station should be optimized for safety. OSHA offers an illustrated Computer workstation e-tool that offers guidelines and a checklist to ensure best ergonomic practices.

February 27, 2007

Trend watch: video resumes, caregiving, benefits, and teleworking

Video resumes - Are you ready for the video resume? In a series of posts covering the topic, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen of Time magazine's Work in Progress blog gives us the rundown. In her first post, she discusses the rise of the video resume and offers a good sample clip. In her second post, she tells us why many recruiters hate the video resume. Today's post offers a sampling of winning video resumes from a contest sponsored by the Vault, along with how-to list of the dos and don'ts for creating a good video resume.

Elder care - Mark Willaman of HR Marketer talks about a recent CBS segment on caregiving and the increase in the numbers of companies that are adding eldercare benefits similar to those that have been offered for child dependents. He wonders why many EAPs are slow off the mark in offering such benefits. (note: ESI offers both child and elder care benefits.)

Benefits - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer offers Benefit Trends to Watch from Watson Wyatt.

Teleworking - Benefitnews looks at the recent results of a survey of federal managers on teleworking that demonstrates that most view teleworking favorably. Excerpt: "The majority of federal managers who oversee teleworkers found the concept favorable (63%) and rated teleworkers just as productive as their in-office counterparts."

How does the U.S. stack up in family-friendliness? - Brent Hunsberger of At Work posts some highlights from a report from Harvard and McGill Universities finding that the U.S. is failing working families. An excerpt: "The United States is one of only five nations surveyed that doesn't provide moms paid maternity leave. Nearly 170 countries do, and nearly 100 offer more than 14 weeks of paid time off to care for a new baby. Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland, along with America, don't. 66 countries extend paid leave to new dads."

January 23, 2007

Flexible work environments

Some of the nation's leading employers are throwing out the old rule book and experimenting with flexible work arrangements in an effort to attract, retain, and motivate the best employees. Here are a few related stories we noted this week:

Smashing the Clock by Michelle Conlin, Business Week Online:

"At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation's leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical--if risky--experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for "results-only work environment," seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Hence workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are no schedules. No mandatory meetings. No impression-management hustles. Work is no longer a place where you go, but something you do. It's O.K. to take conference calls while you hunt, collaborate from your lakeside cabin, or log on after dinner so you can spend the afternoon with your kid."

Work less, gain more, an article in Management-Issues:

"Offering key employees the opportunity to work fewer hours at reduced pay and benefits might seem like heresy—particularly in U.S. corporations. But a new study has revealed that some household name employers have woken up to the very real benefits that such flexibility can bring.

According to Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek of Michigan State University's School of Labor and Industrial Relations, flexible work schedules that offer reduced workloads could be a key way of attracting, retaining and motivating top-performing employees. She and colleague Mary Dean Lee of McGill University in Montreal looked at a number of American and Canadian firms that had been experimenting with reducing workloads for at least six years.
Their study included such big names as IBM, Starbucks, Deloitte & Touche and General Mills, where they talked to employees, managers and executives to get their thoughts on how the arrangements were working. Kossek says the study showed that reduced-load work arrangements can reap several key benefits for employers, including greater productivity, less turnover and cost savings."

Most Women Aren't 'Opting Out' of the Work Force, Simmons Study Finds - Women are Leading the Way to a New Career Model - a press release discusses this recent study:

"Noting that more than 60 percent of the women surveyed said they would be more loyal and "go the extra mile" for an organization that offered flexible work arrangements, Shapiro said that organizations can benefit significantly by encouraging flexible work arrangements for women and men.

"There's a workforce shortage on the horizon," she said, "and flexible work arrangements may be the main strategic advance in the coming decades in attracting and retaining male and female essential talent."

August 17, 2006

HR news and views

Elder caregivers and productivity - According to a recent study by MetLife, the average elder caregiver costs an employer $2,110 per year in lost productivity. The total annual cost to employers for lost productivity for working caregivers falls between $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion in lost productivity.

"Working caregivers who juggle work and caregiving responsibilities make many workplace adjustments, such as coming in late or leaving early, reducing their work schedules or dropping out of the workforce entirely," said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. "Employer costs related to caregiving are often hidden ones and can be significant."

Timmermann suggests that employers can mitigate losses by implementing eldercare programs for employees, establishing flexible work arrangements, and ensuring that managers demonstrate sensitivity to caregiver needs.

Take the Eldercare Calculator to estimate your company's costs.

Serious business: worker complaints - Forbes features an article on the importance of handling workplace complaints properly to minimize the potential for lawsuits. The article offers basic rules to follow if you receive a complaint of discrimination or harassment. (Via George's Employment Blawg). In a related matter, HR Lori discusses a recent same sex harassment suit in California. If you think harassment involves a member of the opposite sex, this may change your mind.

Telecommuting - In his post Telecommuting: More Talk Than Action?, Jim Ware of The Future of Work links to a recent study on telecommuting patterns, preferences, and trends, discusses the results, and offers some recommendations. One eye-opening statistic: "If everyone who could took full advantage of telecommuting, the reduction in miles driven would save $3.9 billion a year in fuel and the time savings would be equal to 470,000 jobs."

More on Veterans - as a follow-up to our post on helping the military return to work, we noted that the Department of Justice has just launched a site to protect vets' civilian employment rights by enforcing the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Thanks to Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer for letting us know about this.

Bad bosses - here's a contest you hope your company doesn't win: Working America invited its readers to submit entries in its My Bad Boss. While he anecdotes are anonymous both in terms of submitters and the nominated bosses, it makes for some interesting reading. Hopefully, you won't recognize anyone from your leadership team on the list!

UR FIRD... THX 4 TIME - speaking of questionable managerial practices, Gizmodo features a post about a British employee who was terminated by text message.

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