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    Monday
    Jan152018

    Striking for a 28-hour work week: What happens when workers feel like they have the upper hand

    Over the weekend while taking a break from freezing and shoveling snow, I caught this recent piece from the Guardian - German workers strike for the right to two-year, 28-hour working week'.

    Turns out in Germany the combination of the traditionally strong position of workers and worker's groups, historically low unemployment, and a robust and growing German economy have conspired to put industrial workers, in this case the Metal Workers Union, in a place where they can hold 'warning' strikes against employers as they advocate for a new benefit - the ability to reduce their hours to 28 per week for a period of up to two years. More details from the piece in the Guardian:

    Workers have downed tools at more than 80 companies across Germany as the country’s biggest union stepped up its campaign for a 28-hour working week to allow employees to improve their work-life balance.

    In what is shaping up to be the biggest industrial dispute in the metalwork sector in three decades, more than 15,000 employees took part in warning strikes at factories including those of the carmaker Porsche.

    The IG Metall union, which represents around 3.9 million workers, wants every employee in the metal and electrical sector to have the option to reduce their working hours for a total period of two years, with the automatic right to return to full-time employment afterwards.

    Later in the piece we learn that this reduced working week proposal is centered around the need for improved work-life balance for workers, particularly in times when they have more elder or child care responsibilities. Certainly anyone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with the constant struggle to balance family and personal care needs with work would appreciate the benefit for which the German workers are advocating.

    Before you pass off this as another 'Coddled European workplace' story and dismiss its importance or relevance for most of the rest of us, think about this.

    The conditions here in the US are not all that different than what is happening in Germany, and in many other developed countries right now. Unemployment is at or near decades-long lows. Skilled workers are incredibly hard to find (and to retain). In manufacturing and other heavy industries, long tenured and older workers are retiring much faster than they can be replaced with new talent. And finally, more and more American workers are also struggling with elder and child care needs, and making the balance with work and these personal obligations work. In fact, we did an entire recent HR Happy Hour Show on this topic.

    The main difference, you would rightly point out, in the story in Germany and the labor relations environment here in the US is the US worker generally does not have strong union/labor council representation that can advocate for these kinds of benefits and policies. And that is a big caveat, I admit.

    But all the other conditions are present, if not more acute here in the US. In fact, the US unemployment rate is about 4.1%, much lower than in Germany right now.

    So the thing to think about might not be 'What will I do when the workers agitate for 28-hour weeks?', but rather, 'Am I / we prepared for a labor environment where we (the employer), have even less power and influence than we have today?'

    And, 'Are we prepared for a world where we don't choose employees, but rather one where employees choose us?'

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Jan122018

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 309 - The Importance of the Manager - Employee Relationship

    HR Happy Hour 309 - The Importance of the Manager - Employee Relationship

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Adam Rogers, CTO, Ultimate Software

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve is joined by Adam Rogers, CTO of HR Technology solution provider Ultimate Software to talk about some recent research Ultimate published on the manager - employee relationship,  why it matters, and how managers can make this relationship stronger and better.

    In late 2017, Ultimate partnered with the Center for Generational Kinetics to undertake and publish new research on the manager - employee relationship, to better understand how managers and employees see and perceive things differently at work, and then to help create solutions, both managerial and technical, than can improve and strengthen this critical relationship.

    It has been said often that 'people don't leave companies, they leave managers', and on the show Adam shared both what the research found about this idea with respect to how employee retention and engagement is shaped by these relationships, as well as his personal observations as a manager and leader of an organization.

    Additionally, we talked about the importance of openness, transparency, and trust, the need to provide training and resources to managers - especially new managers, and the need to focus on how the manager - employee relationship drives employee satisfaction and engagement.

    And we also managed to fit in some winter weather updates, college football, and NBA talk as well! 

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below:

    This was a fun and interesting show, many thanks to Adam to joining us.

    To learn more about the research we talked about on the show, register for an upcoming webinar on January 23 at 2PM ET with Adam and Jason Dorsey - more information on the webinar is here.

    Thanks to show sponsor Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com, back as an HR Happy Hour Show sponsor in 2018.

    Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    Thursday
    Jan112018

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Changing Composition of the US Workforce

    There are only two websites you need. Actually three, if you count this one. And hint, none of them are Facebook. I promise you that one day you will regret all the time you wasted with Facebook. But I digress.

    One is BLS.gov, the Bureau of Labor Statistics site where all the employment, industry, productivity, time use, compensation (and more) information you need on the US labor force is located.

    The other is the Federal Reserve of St. Louis' fantastic FRED site, where you can download, graph, and track over 500,000 data series covering the economy, employment, demographics and much, much more. Data geeks like me can get lost in the FRED site for hours.

    I was using these two sources to update my notes and perspective on US aggregate employment across industry groups, useful information that helps me guide and shape the specific industry focus that results in both the content for this blog, topics for the HR Happy Hour Podcast, and the program for the HR Technology Conference.

    This data is also useful to consider in a larger sense - like when thinking about governmental policies and investments, the focus of secondary and higher education and training, and even when answering questions like 'Just what is our country good at?' from a business/economy perspective.

    Have a look at today's Chart of the Day - (built at the FRED site) aggregate US employment since 1980 in the largest category components of the labor force, then some comments from me..

    We all know that 100 - 120 years ago the US shifted from a largely agricultural economy/labor force to a manufacturing, shipping, and trading workforce. And then, slowly but surely, beginning in about 1980, a shift started to occur. Manufacturing employment began to decline while professional services, health care, and retail began to climb.

    Here's the snapshot of latest employment numbers for the categories in chart, (Nov 2017).

    Manufacturing, while pretty apparent to most casual labor market observers, has fallen below professional services, health care, leisure and hospitality, even retail employment in terms of its overall share of US employment. For some perspective, as of November 2017 total US non-farm employment was about 149 million. At that level, manufacturing now represents only about 8.5% of US employment.

    In terms of where most observers see these trends continuing out into the future, the aging US population seems to clearly indicate that health services and health care will be the largest growth area moving forward. Retail jobs are under threat from automation, online shopping (and the efficiencies and lower labor costs associated), and by the constant chase for less expensive goods produced and shipped in lower cost countries. The same threats also impact manufacturing. Even the largest, new manufacturing plants require far fewer workers than the ones of just 10 - 20 years ago.

    There's lots more to think about when looking at this data. I encourage anyone interested to join me in a deep dive on BLS.gov and the St. Louis FRED.

    Tuesday
    Jan092018

    What comes after the smartphone?

    Today, January 9, 2018, marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of the original iPhone, when back on January 9, 2007 the late Steve Jobs introduced the world to the gadget that would change personal, workplace, and social technology profoundly.

    Even a decade plus later, the smartphone remains the dominant personal tech innovation of its time, with legions of users lining up on new model launch days to get their hands on the latest versions of their favorite new phone. Data below from IDC estimates over 460M new smartphones were shipped worldwide in 2016, (the latest full year data I could locate in 4 minutes of exhaustive research).

    But just like any other successful technology, the smartphone can't (probably) remain the dominant device for personal technology, communication, and productivity forever, right?

    Think about it - we don't carry around Palm Pilot PDAs, pagers, or Blackberry devices any more, (sorry Canadidan readers). There was a time, believe it or not, when those devices (and others), seemed just as important, even essential to our daily lives and our work.

    So it is likely to be the case with the smartphone too.

    Something will come next and while this something may not (at least right away) replace the smartphone, it is likely, based on the history of technology, that this 'next' thing will start to chip away at the foothold that smartphone has over lives.

    The annual Consumer Electronics Show has been going on this week in Las Vegas - the event where all the biggest providers of all forms of consumer technology (phones, appliances, robots, even cars at this stage), showcase their latest product innovations, make new product launch announcements, and generally share their vision of where consumer technology is going.

    If we are looking for insight what might come after the smartphone, CES presents a decent place to begin that research. And what has been the dominant theme of this year's CES so far (and what have I written about here at least twice already this year?)

    Here's a quote from Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Reserch for the Consumer Technology Association:

    "Coming out of CES, we're going to clearly have established that voice is going to be the go-to user interface," said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association. "Wherever we go or whatever we're doing, we're going to have some form of digital assistant at our side ready to help us."

    Amazon, Google, and pretty much every technology supplier that matters is thinking about what comes next and is chasing the next breakthrough innovation that will be as disruptive as the smartphone. If I had to bet right now, I would say the always-on, ubiquitous, and mostly voice-activated digital assistant and the ecosystem behind that assistant seems like the best bet to become that breakthrough.

    It will be interesting to watch for sure.

     

    Monday
    Jan082018

    SAVED FOR LATER: A word about words - the ones your use in your public job listings

    Since no one asked, a quick word about the process I have used for ages to find/save ideas for blog topics.

    I use Feedly, (while pouring one out for the late, great Google Reader), to subscribe to about 400 news and information sources on topics like tech, HR, news, pop culture, sports, and more for two main reasons. One, to try and keep up to date and informed about what is going on the world, country, and in the HR/workplace/HR tech space. And two, to leverage Feedly's 'Read Later' funciton  to effectively bookmark or save posts and articles that might be used as sources or inspiration for future posts.

    Inevitably, I save many, many more articles than become posts, (or topics on the HR Happy Hour Show). So sometimes, usually on the weekend, I page and scroll back through some 'Saved for Later' pieces that I didn't actually cover or discuss anywhere in order to make sure that there wasn't something really interesting that should have been covered but for some reason was not.  And there are plenty of these kinds of pieces for sure. So in 2018 I am going to try to do a little better about surfacing these topics, even if it is a little 'late' or if it seems the news cycle has passed. So here we go...

    From a few weeks ago, in something you may have caught, perhaps not, the HR Tech company Textio (who we featured at the 2017 HR Technology Conference), published a really interesting post titled '1000 different people, the same words', which shared the results from text analysis of over 25,000 public job postings from 10 well-known tech companies. The purpose of the analysis was to determine both the most common words and phrases used within a company's job postings, as well as assess how much more or less frequently these words and phrases appear compared to peer companies and a general baseline. Finally, Textio also examined the impact of these words and phrases in terms of how they drove differences in the expected number of male and female applicants. Take a look at a summary of the data below, then a couple of quick comments from me.

    It is pretty amazing and instructive what this fairly simple but still pretty profound text analysis suggests, (and possibly reveals), about the cultures, norms, and expectations that these companies have for their employees based on the words they use/overuse in their job postings.

    The words and phrases are also kind of reinforcing too, of the ideas we the public and job applicants likely have of these companies, based on what we know about them from the news and their reputations.

    The words that appear often in Amazon and Uber job postings like 'maniacal' and 'whatever it takes' are probably not surprising given what we know and have heard about these companies approach to work, business, competition, and performance.

    Likewise, Slack's use of 'lasting relationships' and Twitter's use of the phrase 'diverse perspectives' also pretty accurately reflect at least some elements of both of these company's ethos.

    This is really interesting, and I think important. The language that an organization uses in their communications, especially their public-facing kinds of communications say more about what they truly are about than any formal, stilted, and focus grouped to death mission or vision.

    It is a really good idea to make sure that the words, phrases, tone and manner with which your message is being carried to those who may not know (or have experience with) what you organization is really all about be true to what you believe (or aspire) it to be.

    Textio is doing some really interesting and important work in this area, thanks to them for sharing this data.

    Happy Monday - have a great week!