Celebrating Labor

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To many Americans, Labor Day is the last day of a fun-filled three-day weekend that marks the official end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s a day spent with family and friends having backyard barbecues, pool time and end-of-summer short getaways.

But there’s an interesting history behind the national holiday, one that people rarely discuss at the backyard BBQ, and it has played an important role in how people live and work today.

During the late 19th century, many American workers had to endure labor intensive 12-hour workdays, often with poor pay and unsafe working environments. Children were also put to work, sometimes as young as six to seven years old. Children, but also adults, felt hopeless in many instances and did not believe that they had a choice. Over the years, trade and labor movements worked to institute reforms in the working hours and conditions.

On September 5, 1882, between 10,000 and 20,000 people marched down the streets of New York City, carrying flags, badges and musical instruments, according to the DOL. Even more people joined at the giant picnic that marked the end.

Beginning in 1885, individual states began considering legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday, DOL said. By 1894, 31 states had made it law. On June 28, 1884, Congress made the first Monday in September a legal, national holiday known as Labor Day.

We feel like we have come a very long way since 1882, 136 years in our history of the United States has elapsed.  Certainly, we have made great strides in abolishing child labor. We far better understand the implications of a good education.  We have made strides as well in improving the physical working conditions. Many of us reading this are not working in hard labor jobs, we feel safe, we are not working in sweatshops.  We sit in air-conditioned offices and toil away at our desks.

Have we made strides though in celebrating labor?  To celebrate something means that you enjoy it, look forward to it, get satisfaction from it.  We celebrate Birthdays and weddings and anniversaries, the events and their remembrances that have significance to us in a positive way.  And yet, how many people do you know who don’t want to retire, whose work provides real meaning in their lives, who have the opportunity to create and to offer the best of themselves to others each and every day, who enjoy getting up in the morning and look forward to what the day holds?  Sadly, I know very few. The vast majority are starting countdowns to retirement that may last years or even decades longer than they planned. Instead of living the life of their dreams through what they can contribute at work, they are putting that life on hold for a future that may or may not exist.  

We owe it to ourselves, now that we do have a choice, and those that we work with to take the responsibility to bring our best selves to work and to pursue it with meaning.  To be proud of the difference we make and the ways in which we contribute. If we can’t do that, we owe it to ourselves to be brave enough to do something different. I think that would be the best way to celebrate labor.

Employee Satisfaction

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When employers consider employee surveys to discover ways to boost employee satisfaction and retain employees, they often think of incentive pay, additional benefits, and perquisites. When reviewing results of such surveys, employers may fear they won’t be able to respond to employee needs that surface. However, they may be missing existing satisfiers that are already in place but are not being well utilized. In some cases, giving attention to current programs and setting of expectations can turn stale programs into real opportunities for employee satisfaction.

Career growth and even professional relationships are often motivators of satisfaction and engagement. One of the reasons employees leave a company is career growth opportunity; a reason employees stay is the relationships made while employed. One survey showed 25 percent of departing employees revealed that they would have stayed in their position with the company if they had a more respectful and connected relationship with the direct manager.

Employees want to learn, be in mutually beneficial and respectful relationships, and experience healthy professional relationships. Management must connect with workers both professionally and personally, and, depending on the work atmosphere and nature of the company, create a fun work atmosphere and initiate conversations about things outside of work. Other things managers can do to build employee satisfaction are:

  • Permit employees to use and demonstrate their strengths. Everyone wants to be valued and make a difference. Know where to place each employee for the greatest results. Ask what an employee wants to do in the company and look for opportunities to create the experience.
  • Ensure employees understand personal and business goals and the work scope related to their position and how it ties into the big picture. Individuals on a team create winning solutions when everyone knows their role on the field and the game rules.
  • Enhance communication. Hear your employees. Ask what is and is not working and take action to explore where the company can and cannot implement idea changers. Have managers meet with employees on a regular basis and report on performance, engagement, and employee feedback.
  • Consider stay interviews to understand turnover and engagement.
  • Create a learning environment. Foster internal opportunities to learn from one another and expand upon existing skills. While this may slow some projects down, future projects led by a well-rounded work team will create greater quality, productivity, developmental growth, and shared knowledge.

In the very tight labor market we are in, it is critically important that we find more cost effective ways to keep our employee workforce engaged and energized.

Identifying Lead Measures

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Many organizations go to great lengths to track and report on lag measures.  A Lag Measure measures the ultimate goal you are trying to accomplish, such as an increase in sales or profits, or a decrease in turnover, however, it is always in the past.  While useful, the challenge, and benefit, comes when we spend the time to figure out the lead measures. How do we impact turnover or how to we move the needle on cost per hire?  It is impossible to reliable impact your lag measures without understating all aspects of lead measures.  Lead measure are the measures of the activities most connected to achieving the goal.

Lead measures have two advantages, they are both predictive, meaning they lead to the accomplishment of the Lag Measure or goal, and they are influenceable, meaning you can do something about them. Lead Measures are about narrowing your focus down to the 2 or 3 things that “trigger” success, or your end goal.  If you understand your lead measures, you can more consistently and predictably replicate your success

In the example of employee turnover, a lag measure, what might influence that?  If our goal is to decrease turnover to 10% per year, what leading measures do we need to focus on to achieve that goal?  Some examples could be employee satisfaction, employee engagement, time to respond to an interview request. All of these need to be measured and focus needs to be given to 2-3 that can reliably be shown to have a positive impact on reducing turnover. Choosing only 2-3 will allow you the best chance of success.

Spend time thinking about where your focus lies.  Does it lie on a lag measure that is out of your control or on a lead measure(s) that you can actually control?  Lead measures track the critical activities that drive, or lead to the lag measure.  They predict success of the lag measure and are influenced directly by the team. A common example of a lag measure is weight loss. Which activities or lead measures will lead to weight loss? Diet and exercise! Proper diet and exercise predict the success of weight-loss and they are activities that we can directly influence. Simple enough but be careful. Even the smartest people fall into the trap of fixating on a lag measure that they can’t directly influence. This is because lags are easier to measure and they represent the result we ultimately want

In summary, Lag measures give you the score, but Lead measure tell you how to win!

Locus of Control

Most recently I heard Locus of Control referenced on an episode of Bull I was half watching on my way to Tampa.  The question he posed to prospective jurors was “Why do you catch a cold?”. Those with an external locus of control answered “ because I was exposed to germs” or something along those lines.  Those with an internal locus of control answered “Because I let myself get run down”. You can quickly discern the difference. One believes things happen to them and the other believes they are in control and they make or allow things to happen

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe that they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.  Infrequently does anyone fall exclusively in one category or the other. Most people fall on a continuum somewhere between the two

Your locus of control can influence not only how you respond to the events that happen in your life, but also your motivation to take action. If you believe that you hold the keys to your fate, you are more likely to take action to change your situation when needed. If on the other hand, you believe that the outcome is out of your hands, you may be less likely to work toward change.

Think about that for a minute in terms of your workforce:

Those With an Internal Locus of Control

  • Are more likely to take responsibility for their actions
  • Tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people
  • Often do better at tasks when they are allowed to work at their own pace
  • Usually, have a strong sense of self-efficacy
  • Tend to work hard to achieve the things they want
  • Feel confident in the face of challenges
  • Tend to be physically healthier
  • Report being happier and more independent
  • Often achieve greater success in the workplace

Those With an External Locus of Control

  • Blame outside forces for their circumstances
  • Often credit luck or chance for any successes
  • Don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts
  • Frequently feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations
  • Are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness

Which set of characteristics do you believe yield more motivated and productive employees?  Perhaps we should add to our long list of questions during interviews, “Why do you catch a cold?”

How to Handle a Workplace Bully

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We have talked about how to identify a workplace bully.  Now, how do you handle the bully that you encounter? Bullies, in general, prey on people’s insecurities and emotional nature.  The key is to remain calm and portray an air of confidence.

Don’t respond to emotionally criticism or offer explanations

Although this sounds counterproductive, the bully will often make outlandish claims in order to reel you into a fighting match.  You don’t want to give them fuel for their fire.  Instead of defending yourself in an emotional manner, simply state the facts.  “I don’t believe that happened” or “that is not how I recall the events” When your reply emotionally you let the bully know that he/she has gotten to you.

Do ask them to clarify and to speak slowly

The bully depends on being able to throw out accusations at record speed without anyone actually questioning them.  When forced to slow down, repeat themselves or offer actual facts, the bully will often feel deflated.

Document

If the bully is really out of line, no one deserves to be harassed.  Document the conversations, the way someone looked, what was said, threats made, etc..  All of this will be necessary if you ever have to claim a hostile work environment which will require that you have multiple examples. 

If you happen to be in a state that is a single consent recording state, record.  It is legal for you to record any verbal exchanges you have with the bully to be used when you make a formal complaint.

Teach People how to Treat you

In other words, don’t teach people that you are someone who will allow unprofessional behavior to occur without consequences.  If someone is yelling at you, calmly state “ I am not going to allow you to yell at me. We can continue this conversation when you have been able to calm down” and walk out of the room. 

Use your Allies

Everyone in business needs allies. Build them early and spend time reinforcing those bonds. They will serve as a double check that you are not doing anything to instigate this behavior and help provide support the next time the person is out of line.

Unfortunately, bullies are found in all walks of life and at all ages.  Educating yourself, in advance, on how to handle a situation before it occurs is one of the best ways to be proactive and ensure that you will look back on the situation, proud of how you handled yourself.

The Workplace Bully

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The word bully conjures up many images.  Perhaps, an elementary or middle school playground and physical intimidation. Maybe, in the technological age in which we live, bullies, the cowards they are, hiding behind social media and conducting their campaigns with anonymity but no less vengeance.  Seldom, though, when we hear the word bully, do our thoughts turn immediately to the workplace. And yet, bullies exist in the workplace as well. These bullies are a bit more calculating than their schoolyard counterparts. Not often will you find a workplace bully who comes up and pushes you to ground.  Instead, these types of bullies take great care to plant the seeds that they hope will 1) lead you to fall in line with their own selfish initiatives or 2) lead to your demise.

The most effective bullies employ a skillful blend of charm and aggression that can carry them to the top of their profession.  The below are the basics of how most bullies operate:

Intimidates through verbal aggression and spreads rumors

This verbal aggression could be directed at you in an angry voice but could also be something more insidious said about you that is intended to plant a seed of doubt in someone’s mind.  Bullies will often use words such as “obviously” and “you can’t possibly think…” to undermine your credibility and have you second guessing yourself.

Play Mind Games to distort the thinking of others

They keep people off-balance through half-truths, hearsay and misstatements. Their distorted version of events is intended to obscure and confuse the truth.  The only truth the bully is interested in is their own that will further their personal initiatives.

Blames Others

It is a very rare bully that will utter the words “I was wrong”.  In their mind, it is always someone else’s fault and there is no one quicker to point it out than a workplace bully.  They will often claim that they understood all along that the path being pursued was incorrect.

Disguises their true intentions

A bully puts on a good act to gain your trust and respect. They never reveal their true intentions, which are self-serving and at most times harmful to others. They conceal their innermost attitudes and emotions, which are self-absorbed and disrespectful of others. They maintain an image of strength, vision and leadership, and thus avoid exposing their underhanded, manipulative nature.

Pretends to Care

The bully will pretend to care about the employees and the workplace, but their actions will speak louder than words.  The bully will make suggestions and want you to carry out actions that are not in line with a strong employee culture built on trust.

Bullies have no place whether it be on the playground, on social media or in the workplace.  It is imperative that Human Resources be vigilant in identifying and addressing bullying behavior before the ramifications of high turnover or stress related disabilities start to take their toll.

The Employee Experience

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There are a multitude of ways, and just as many reasons,  to design a positive and unique employee experience. Developing a strategy to create an employee experience should takes into account the physical environment your employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity and learning to achieve their best at work. All of this is part of continuously evolving our employee capabilities. The Future Workplace and Beyond.com study entitled “The Active Job Seeker Dilemma” found that 83% of HR leaders said “employee experience” is either important or very important to their organization’s success, and they are investing more in training (56%), improving their work spaces (51%), and giving more rewards (47%). 

Companies are also forced to focus on creating a compelling employee experience as the war for talent heats up. With unemployment rates at less than 2% for 25+ year olds with college degrees, the experience you are offering becomes more important than ever.  Mercer predicts that 90% of employers anticipate more competition for talent, especially in India, North America and Asia. So, making the workplace an experience allows companies to embed their culture and values in the workplace and use this to their advantage.

Branding

Define your employment brand. Just like a company brand that helps customers understand who you are, how you act, and how you differentiate, companies also have an employment brand, whether it is conscious or not. It’s best if your employment brand is created consciously. Define your employee brand and deliver on your promise. Be sure that if your recruiters are promising a fun-filled work environment, the new employees won’t find drudgery and old technology awaiting them.

Work Space design

Most workplaces are “designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation.” Introverts are highly talented individuals with a very different set of needs and characteristics. So, companies should ask, “How can we accommodate both our introverts and our extroverts in our work spaces?”  Spaces should be designed to allow employees a choice of where and how they work. Some may choose high cube walls, where they can recoup form the pressures of interacting with others all day. Others may choose a very open environment where they are bombarded by noise, chatter and stimulation.  Both types of employees have much to offer but will be more highly engaged if allowed to meet their individual needs.

Free to Share

Gallup’s data revealed that just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count and matter. However, they found that by moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.  Reason enough to conduct regular Pulse Surveys on a variety of topics, ensuring that you feed back the results and the follow up action plan.

 

Trust in Leadership

Little else matters to employees if they don’t trust their leadership and the leadership of the company.  In the old adage “actions speak louder than words” we need to say what we do and do what we say. Trust is built a little at a time over a long period of time yet can be destroyed very rapidly.  Employees know when you truly care about them and their lives in and out of work.

There is no magic to creating an employee experience.  It’s all about understanding what your employees want and need and then finding a way to consistently deliver.

Predictive Analytics in Human Resources

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Unemployment rates across the nation are at 3.9%, the lowest we have seen since 1969. Unemployment rates in the college degreed 25+ age group are even lower hovering around 2.1%.  In this kind of an economic environment, it becomes critically important that we can retain our good employees and attract the kind of talent that can ensure we stay ahead of the competition.  The question is HOW??

Enter the world of Predictive Analytics. It is, at its core, a technology that learns from existing data and uses this to forecast individual behavior. This means that predictions are very specific.  Instead of predicting turnover as an aggregate number for the end of the year, using PA, we can stat to predict which employees have a greater chance of turning over. Predictive analytics involves using a set of various statistical (data mining) techniques used to predict uncertain outcomes.

People analytics today brings together HR and business data from different parts of the business and is now addressing a wide range of challenges: analyzing flight risk, selecting high-performing job applicants, identifying characteristics of high-performing sales and service teams, predicting compliance risks, analyzing engagement and culture, and identifying high-value career paths and leadership candidates.

To put theory into practice, we first need to gather clean data.   This may prove more difficult than you originally thought but stick with it.  You need to identify as many variables as possible. Think of basic pieces of information like homes address, to calculate driving time and distance to work, gender and pay grade and comparatio.  Think also about collecting more obscure data like number of vacation hours or sick time used, personality or behavioral assessments and whether or not they elect health insurance through your company.  You are looking for any data where you would find a stronger correlation between that variable, or set of variables, and employees who terminate versus employees whom you retain. Once you have designed the algorithm, it will be time to put it to the test.  Give yourself at least 6 months to collect data and test the validity of the algorithm.

Although 79% of organizations consider people analytics to be an important trend, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2016) report, only 8 % of the organizations had this capability in 2015.  It is one of the best tools we have for bringing HR out of the emotional, gut feel realm and into the world of  data based decision making, yielding quantifiable and sustainable results.

The (Dismal) Effectiveness of the Old-Fashioned Interview

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I refer to it as the old-fashioned interview because it is about as useful as were the old fashioned typewriters compared to today’s computers. Never mind the fact that it is a dismal predictor of future success on the job, it is still in use. The good news is that there are alternatives, although they are not yet widely used.

The Worst Predictors

 

Unstructured interviews

In general, unstructured interviews, those in which the interviewer is left to their own accord to ask whatever questions come to mind, can explain only about 14 percent of an employee’s future performance.  Yet, the interviews taking place today could largely be categorized as unstructured interviews.  Rarely is the interviewer prepared in advance for the types of questions they will ask or are the consistent across multiple candidates for the same position.

Reference Checks

Refence checks fair a little worse and can only explain approximately 7% of on the job performance.  Yet, how many of us still conduct reference checks only to be told that they employee was wonderful, never missed a day of work and that they would be re-hired.  Only a few times have I heard a voice on the other end of the line tell me something negative about an applicant. In those cases, I always wonder what that candidates less favorable reviewers would say about them if these are the best they could come up with.

Years of Work Experience

By far, the least predictive of success, coming in at explaining only 3% of performance is our concern with the numbers of years of experience an applicant has.  We somehow make the leap that someone who has been in an occupation for 15 years is better and worth more than someone who has been in the same occupation for only 5 years.  That may be true if the more senior applicant has shown significant career progression, but the inverse may actually be true if both applicants have been in the same job and neither have experienced career progression.

 

The Best Predictors

 

The Work Sample

While not all jobs easily lend themselves to work sample test, these are, not surprisingly, the best predictors of future success coming in at 29%.  While management jobs are notoriously difficult to give a work sample test to, there are many types of positions including finance, accounting, call centers that readily lend themselves to these types of tests.

Cognitive Tests

While there is some reluctance to give what people think of as IQ tests to candidates, these cognitive tests are the second-best predictor of performance coming in at 26%.  They actually don’t measure IQ as much as they measure the thought process that the candidate uses, their ability to solve issues and how quickly they can think and process information.  They are predictive because general cognitive ability includes the capacity to learn and the combination of raw intelligence and learning ability will make most people successful in most jobs.

Structured Interviews

In a tie with the Cognitive tests are structured interviews at 26%.  These structured interviews can be either behavioral where the candidate is asked to describe a past achievement in a certain area or situational where the candidate is given a hypothetical, but related scenario and asked how they would respond.

Given the above data, think about how you might re-structure your interviewing processes to give your company the best chance of hiring candidates that will experience success on the job.

 

The Gig Economy

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The Gig economy references a trend towards on demand hiring, an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent, of American workers would be independent contractors and MBO Partners predicts that by 2027 over 60% of the US workforce will be a part of the gig economy, which is up from 30% today.  There are many implications this has for HR organizations.

 

Communication

Developing a communication strategy early on in the process is the key to success.  If your company is used to having everyone in one place, how will you communicate to multiple remote employees?  How will you brand differently to create the unification that exists in more traditional workforces.  Are your communication systems as on- demand as your workforce is?

 

Software support

Few software packages are adequately focusing on managing a large temporary workforce.  Anil Dharni, CEO of Sense, a staffing platform, told HR Dive that initiatives are just beginning to target gig workers for improved methods of communication, for example. He said although gig workers expand in number each year, they had not been the focus of HR technologies. He said he expects that to change as the contingent workforce continues to grow. 

 

Classifications

One of the biggest risk related to the gig economy is ensuring that workers are properly classified as employees or contractors. Penalties can be stiff for noncompliance or inaccuracies. HR managers should make sure they understand whether the on-demand worker should be an employee or can be a contractor and whether, if the former, he or she is exempt or non-exempt. That all comes down to the nature of the work, the level of direction and control required and what is provided from the company to the worker in order to perform the work.

 

Pay

Outsourcing to temp agencies is expensive and you can save upwards of 25-30% by finding your own on-demand workers and simply payroll servicing them or, alternatively, bringing them onto your payroll system in a classification as a temporary worker.  Depending on the length of the assignment, it may be easier to payroll service someone who is only with you for a short period of time.

 

Succession Planning

To make the most of this fast, on-demand workforce, businesses should have a clear strategic direction, a compelling and well integrated corporate culture, and a sense of leadership continuity to truly become, and remain, a successful live business enterprise supported by an on-demand workforce.  Succession planning rules may apply differently to the on-demand workforce. Beyond the mere access to available talent, succession planning for on-demand workers should provide measures to ensure cross-functional collaboration, quick ramp-up times, and cultural integration. This approach increases employee engagement and effectively leverages a constant flow of workforce insights coming from a myriad of old and new resources.

There are a myriad of challenges for integrating an on-demand workforce into your current processes, but a combination of the more traditional 9 to 5 workforce with an on demand contingency can reap the best of both worlds.