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    CHART OF THE DAY: Everything you want to know about Labor Force Participation

    I know that I definitely have hit Labor Force Participation a few times in the past in the often imitated but never exceeded CHART OF THE DAY series here on the blog, but now thanks to some really excellent work out of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta I think we have the best source yet for digging into Labor Force Participation.

    From the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics micro-site, check out just a couple of examples of what the data shows with respect to Labor Force Participation, that encompasses some important measures of who is actually working, looking for work, or unable to find work from the labor force.

    Chart 1 - The Big Picture - By mid-2014 Labor Force Participation was at its lowest rate since 1978

    Chart 2 - What accounts for this steep decline since the start of the financial crisis and ensuing recession in about 2007? Well, lot's of things, but mostly it is just the population getting older.

    Chart 3 - But what about people in their 'prime' working years? Are they still in the Labor Force in the same proportions history would suggest? Turns out not really.

    Chart 4 - But most of the decline in Participation for 'prime' workers has to be the bad economy, right? Most of the folks in the 25-54 group that are not in the labor force are missing not by choice I bet. They are probably just frustrated but still want to work. Actually, no.

    Turns out that the decrease in labor force participation among prime-age individuals has been driven mostly by the share who say they currently don’t want a job. 

    I know that it can be really hard to see the link from this kind of macro labor force data and the trends in participation to your day-to-day or even year-to-year workforce planning and talent management initiatives. But I am convinced it is important for any business leader to be at least cognizant of the macro trends and dynamics that your organization and your current and future labor force operate in. Plus, charts are fun!

    But ok, enough charts for now, you can check out the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics site for even more data and analysis on this topic. 

    Have a great Thursday!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 192 - DataNow

    HR Happy Hour 192 - DataNow

    Recorded Tuesday October 21, 2014

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guests: Mollie LombardiRachel Cooke

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish were joined by two of Trish's colleagues from Brandon Hall Group - Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst of Workforce Management Practice; and Rachel Cooke, COO. On the show Mollie and Rachel shared details about DataNow, a new research-based and data-driven product that can enable HR leaders to have better and deeper insights into research data, organizational benchmarks, and relevant insights.

    Additionally, the upcoming Brandon Hall Excellence Conference, set for January 2015 was previewed. This event is shaping up to be a great opportunity for HR leaders to learn from, network with, and engage with their peers as well as the experts at Brandon Hall.

    Also, Steve shared his indifference towards household pets ('They are sort of houseguests that don't really help with anything and just get into trouble'), and his need to escape the dreary Western New York weather.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    This was a fun and informative show about a innovative new approach to share HR and HCM research findings and insights and we want to thank Mollie and Rachel for joining us this week.


    HBS Grads on Competitiveness, Jobs, and American Workers

    Is there a better cohort might to survey about the state of American business, workforces, and competitiveness than Harvard Business School grads? 

    Chances are a whole bit fat bunch of us are taking direction today from a grad of the famous business school. It does stand to reason that if you survey enough HBS grads you will get a pretty decent understanding of what business leaders are thinking, saying, and doing, (or importantly, not doing).

    This is a long read, so you might want to save it for the weekend, but I definitely encourage you to check out An Economy Doing Half Its Job: Findings of Harvard Business School's 2013-2014 Survey on US Competitiveness. The Harvard researchers, led by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin, surveyed about 1250 HBS Alumni on questions of US firm's competitiveness, the quality of the workforce from a skills perspective, and their assessment of how the US K-12 Education system is performing in terms of producing capable and qualified workers.

    Long, long story short, while US firms remain highly competitive across a wide range of sectors, the HBS grads' responses about many important workforce-related questions do not bode well for workers today, and in the longer term as well. 

    There are lots of great money quotes from the study, (and again you really should take the time to read it all), but here is one that stuck out for me:

    Workers will not invest in developing their skills if it does not lead to employment and higher living standards. Employers will continue to turn to technology, vendors, or other alternatives to address their needs. The associated loss of productivity growth will further undermine both America’s economic growth and its long-term competitiveness

    Makes sense, people will not be incented to try and get better or improve their skills if they can't see a connection, even a potential connection, between this kind of investment and improved career prospects.

    But even if individuals don't see the link between skills development and a better living standard, then certainly organizations will still continue to invest in skills development anyway, right? After all, the organizations need and lament the lack of skills in large swaths of the workforce. Well, maybe not. Here is a another quote from the HBS study:

    Our survey reveals that business leaders in America are reluctant to hire full-time workers. When possible, they prefer to invest in technology to perform work, outsource activities to third-parties, or hire part-time workers. For instance, 46% of survey respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that their firms' US operations prefer to invest in technology to perform work rather than hire or train employees, while only 25% disagreed.

    So it seems like what we have been mostly thinking is likely mostly true - organizations would rather automate, outsource, find alternative (and cheaper) ways to get work done rather than take on more full-time staff (or train and 'upskill' the staff they have).

    It is a tough problem, with no easy solutions. The HBS authors do make several recommendations to try to better align workforce capability with opportunity and to encourage organizations to make investments in talent much like they have been making investments in technology. And while the answers to these problems are not simple, it does seem that unless we (all of us), begin to take them more seriously that large numbers of American workers are going to be left behind.


    CHART OF THE DAY: Read this while you're eating lunch by yourself

    Chances are if you are catching up on blogs on your lunch break today, you are probably at your desk, alone, while you read and munch on that tuna sandwich.

    Today's Chart of the Day comes courtesy of the retail and consumer goods research and advisory firm NPD Group that took a look at American's eating habits - specifically examining just how often people are eating alone. Turns out, you are not alone in eating alone. Take a look at the data and then some FREE commentary from me after the chart:

    A quick read of the data shows that we are eating alone about 60% of the time for breakfast and that about 55% of lunches are solitary occasions. We recover, and get more social for dinner however, with only about a third of evening meals take solo.

    What might this mean for you the HR/Talent pro? As usual, who really knows, but let's take a shot anyway.

    1. People will be more productive, (and probably happier), on the whole if they can take a complete break, even for 15-20 minutes from their work and the cognitive processing that accompanies said work. If someone never takes a break during the day time, then by about 2 or 3 in the afternoon they are likely to hit the wall, looking to some kind of artificial short-term remedy (like an energy shot which are disgusting or a candy bar, which are not disgusting but you probably don't need one), to try and make it until quitting time. If you in HR/Talent are really interested in helping people achieve the most they can at work, you are going to care if/when your entire organization seems to slow to a crawl at 3:30 every day. 

    2. Most people eat breakfast on the run and lunch by themselves at their desks because they have this sense of 'I can't take a real break, I just have too much to do', even if that is not really true. But we have gotten conditioned to see fully disconnecting from work as some kind of admission of slacking off, or of lack of dedication. We also think 'busy' equates to 'important' and while sometimes that is true, I bet the really important people at work probably are taking more social and casual lunches than most. HR pros should be mindful or at least aware of any ill-effects of burnout one symptom of which is an army of cube-dwellers eating/working through lunch day after day.

    3. If you need to 'catch' people that usually prove difficult to pin down, (Note: I am one of these kind of people), then you might want to attempt to hit them up at lunch time. Sure, there is some risk in interrupting someone's 'downtime' at lunch, but chances are they are not really taking a break anyway, they are by themselves still glued to their computer, and you won't be competing with anyone else for their time. 

    What's your take? How often are you eating lunch alone at your desk? See any problem with that?

    Have a great week!


    It's a short week, make sure you still put in your 47 hours

    Quick shot for a Tuesday that feels like a Monday and also feels like a Wednesday since it seems like I am already two and half days behind.

    Just before the long Labor Day weekend Gallup released some figures from its 2014 Work and Education poll that showed Americans that are employed full-time are, on average, putting in about 47 hours per week on the job, almost a full working day longer than what has been the 'standard' 40 work week.

    Here's some of the Gallup data in chart form (thanks Forbes), since we know that charts make everything better:

    The trends for both full-time and part-time workers, as you can see in the chart, have held fairly stready over time. But what also has not changed is the notion, at least held nominally, of the standard 40-hour work week.

    According to the Gallup data, only about half of full-time workers report their normal working week as 40 hours, (or fewer), with almost 4 in 10 workers reporting work weeks of 50+ hours on average. And I have a sneaking suspicion that surveys like this are under-reporting time employees spend tethered to their phones and emails that are spent at night or on the weekends.

    There is more data and analysis over at Gallup, but the real point I suppose I wanted to make here is that it probably is time to drop the '40 hours' a week notion if in fact that is not the reality for you or your organization. If you are an 'average' shop, then folks are already working almost 6 days a week now. Just face it if that is what reality suggests and expectations demand.

    And now we all better get back to work, going to be tough to cram in 47 into what is now about 3.85 workdays left in the week.

    Have a great week!