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    Entries in labor (64)

    Friday
    Oct272017

    What do you think you know about job hopping?

    Probably my favorite movie of the last few years is The Big Short, the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book detailing the run-up to the financial crisis/meltdown in 2007 - 2008.

    If you have not seen it, take some time this weekend and do so, you will be glad you did.

    But why I bring it up is that the movie opens with an on screen quotation, which is attributed to Mark Twain and that reads as follows:

    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    If you know the story of The Big Short you'll know why the Twain aphorism resonates. Again, take some time this weekend and catch the film if you haven't.

    But back to the point, or, rather, here's the point I want to make and why I thought of that quote this week.

    What do you think you know about job hopping? Meaning, do you think, as I suspect most of us do, that younger generations of workers, (younger Gen X, Millennials, etc.), are more likely to 'job hop', i.e., have shorter average tenures in their jobs than prior generations?

    I mean, that seems to be the convential wisdom, that the Millennials in particular have shorter job tenures, are much more likely than us older types were to leave a job that either is not working out for them, or for what they perceive is a better opportunity, and overall are less attached to workplaces and employers than we were in the past.

    Do you think that is more or less true?

    I admit, I did, (without ever looking it up), until I caught this piece in the Economist recently, Workers are not switching jobs more often. Here is a quick chart and excerpt from the piece:

    EVERYBODY knows—or at least thinks he knows—that a millennial with one job must be after a new one. Today’s youngsters are thought to have little loyalty towards their employers and to be prone to “job-hop”. Millennials (ie, those born after about 1982) are indeed more likely to switch jobs than their older colleagues. But that is more a result of how old they are than of the era they were born in. In America at least, average job tenures have barely changed in recent decades.

    Data from America’s Bureau of Labour Statistics show workers aged 25 and over now spend a median of 5.1 years with their employers, slightly more than in 1983 (see chart). Job tenure has declined for the lower end of that age group, but only slightly. Men between the ages of 25 and 34 now spend a median of 2.9 years with each employer, down from 3.2 years in 1983.

    And here is a quick chart showing tenure not really moving, at least at younger cohorts, over time.

    So yes, Milennials switch jobs more frequently than older workers. Younger workers have always switched jobs more frequently than older workers. The data shows that the phenomenon hasn't really changed much over the last 30 years.

    What's really striking from the chart is not just that the 25 - 34 age cohorts is basically exhibiting the same characteristics with respect to changing jobs than they did 20 or 30 years ago, but that the largest and steepest declines in job tenures are seen in the Men aged 45 - 54 group. That group's average job tenure has declined from 12.8 years in 1983 to 8.4 years by 2016.

    There are tons of possibly reasons for this, primarily how the events so well portrayed in The Big Short put so many of this group into unforeseen unemployment, as well as how technology, automation, and outsourcing have seem to affected this group more significantly than other labor cohorts.

    But that is a post for another day.

    The main reason this one stood out for me is that the data shows pretty clearly that what we think we know for sure, that Milennials are job hopping, low attention span miscreants, probably really isn't true.

    What else about work, and careers, and employees do we know for sure that might be, in the words of Twain, 'Just not so?'

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Oct262017

    CHART OF THE DAY: This labor market data point just hit a 44-year low (and low is good)

    It feels like its been awhile since I have busted out a new Chart of the Day post so what better to dust off the fan favorite feature than another look at one of my pet subjects, namely, the US labor market.

    While I have posted a ton of labor market charts over the years, I am pretty sure I have not talked about today's data point - Weekly Initial Jobless Claims. This data point is the total number of people making new claims for unemployment assistance for the weekly measurement period. And as you can surmise from the definition, lower is better with this metric. The fewer folks making unemployment claims the better.

    So here's the data, initial weekly jobless claims for the last 10 years or so, courtesy of our pals at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, then some comments from me after that. As always, my comments are absolutely free of charge but sadly, are non-guaranteed.

    The data please...

    Three quick thoughts about the data...

    1. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time totaled 222,000, the lowest since March 31, 1973. That's a long time ago. So long ago that the Knicks were about to win the NBA title in a few weeks.

    Lower initial claims leads to lower (over time) unemployment rates, fewer people truly out of work, and the need for HR and recruiting to essentially have to make two arguments when attempting to fill open roles. One, that the role itself presents the candidate great opportunity and value. And two, that the new opportunity and value somehow are better, more compelling than their current set up. Fewer and fewer of your candidates and prospects are going to be desperately seeking something new. You job continues to get harder.

    2. I know you, or more likely your CFO, won't want to hear this. But if you have persistently hard or long to fill roles you are working on, you have to sweeten your offering. And for the most part that means compensation. Fewer unemployed folks, more candidates already not sure they want to leave the good thing they have, and like the real estate market in San Francisco, potentially juggling multiple good offers. All that adds up to you left with empty chairs if you can't/won't compete on compensation.

    3. In a tightening labor market you know what else becomes important? Yep, retention. At the same time you are scouring LinkedIn profiles of people working at your competitors to see who you can poach, their recruiters are doing the same with your folks. What can/are you doing to strengthen your own value prop to try and build a moat around your best people? Because with each passing week, it is going to get harder and tougher to fill the spots of the faithful departed.

    When talent gets scarce, and their options multiply, the HR/recruiter role becomes that much more important in the organization.

    In fact, you might be getting offers yourself right now.

    Because in a really tight, competitive market the only thing that might be more valuable than talent to the organization are talented HR and recruiting people.

    Happy hunting.

    Wednesday
    Aug302017

    What should an employer do when the state reduces the minimum wage?

    While confessing to not knowing any of the back story or local details behind this, I read with interest this piece in the Atlantic about the state of Missouri rollback of the city of St. Louis minimum wage from $10/hour back down to $7.70/hour. The Atlantic piece is solid, if a little long, so if you don't have time to dig in to it the essentials are as follows:

    1. The city passed an ordinance which was designed to gradually increase the minimum wage in St. Louis from $7.70 to $11. The wage had hit $10 just three months ago, in May.

    2. The state of Missouri, whose governor and state legislature were not in favor of this increase, passed a so-called 'preemption' law, effectively barring cities and other local jurisdictions from setting local minimum wages at a level greater than the state level minimum wage.

    3. The preemption law went into effect on this past Monday, reducing or re-aligning the minimum wage in St. Louis back down to the state level of $7.70.

    Got all that?

    Why this was interesting to me was not because of the politics of it, the local control vs. state level authority issues, or even the economic benefits and/or constraints that minimum wages place on labor markets.

    What is interesting is the dynamics at individual employers who just three months ago were forced/compelled to raise wages to $10/hour for anyone earning less than that, and who know are allowed, by virtue of the preemption law going into effect, to cut wages back, as far back as $7.70.

    These numbers might seem small, but a cut from $10 to $7.70 is almost a 25% reduction in pay. I don't care what you are earning, if the boss cuts you by a quarter, you are going to feel some pain.

    So back to the interesting, (to me) stuff. Employers in St. Louis have three (maybe more, but they would be variations of these), options with respect to the wages of any folks they had to give increases to back in May,

    1. Cut everyone who was bumped up to $10 back to their wage level as of May. 

    2. Keep everyone at $10 who was given the bump in May.

    3. Pick and choose who gets to stay at $10, (the better performers, more essential folks), and bump others back to their May hourly rate, or some other rate less than $10 that better reflects their performance, value, and position relative to their peers.

    Options 1 and 2 are the easiest to implement, and for different reasons, the easiest to justify back to the employees. Which is why I would expect that the vast majority of employers will opt for one of these approaches,

    Option 3 is harder to effect, requires better understanding of employee performance and value, needs managers that know what is going on and can communicate clearly why decisions are being made the way they are, and could possibly drive better overall performance, as better workers feel more rewarded, and the others see a way to work towards the wages they desire.

    Yep, Option 3 is definitely much harder to pull off. Which for some cynical reason seems to me the one that the fewest employers will pursue.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Aug282017

    In the automation era, maybe people are still a competitive advantage

    In the last year of so I kind of moved off of the 'robots are taking all the jobs' topic as I had gotten a little tired of it and after reading 17.993 pieces on the subject it is pretty clear that nothing at all is clear about it.

    Maybe the robots will take all of the jobs. Maybe they will only take the 'bad' jobs that we don't want to do. Or maybe we will have to someday co-exist with our robot masters.

    Or maybe people and our unique ability to connect with other people will continue to be an important competitive differentiator in a world where we seem more and more inclined to develop and implement technology to remove people from business processes. Tale a look at an excerpt from a piece in Fortune last week about how the home improvement and supply giant Lowes is rethinking the importance of real, live employees in delivering better customer service, (emphasis mine)

    The company (Lowes) said its adjusted profit was $1.57 per share, below analysts' average estimate of $1.61, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, while net sales climbed 6.8 percent to $19.50 billion, short of forecasts for $19.53 billion. Comparable sales rose 4.5%, well below the result posted last week by Home Depot, suggesting Lowe's continues to struggle to capitalize on the housing boom compared to its nemesis.

    But the home improvement retailer thinks it has found a solution: increasing hours for store workers to improve customer service.

    "While our results were below our expectations in the first half of this year, the team remains focused on making the necessary investments to improve the customer experience," CEO Robert Niblock said in a statement. He added: "This includes amplifying our consumer messaging and incremental customer-facing hours in our stores." 

    'Incremental customer-facing hours' might be the worst possible CEO-speak for 'putting more employees on the floor' but the real point can't be lost in the gobbledy-gook. If you have ever shopped in a Lowes or similar big-box format store you know that actually finding a customer service employee to help you with a question or to get help locating an item can be a daunting task. It seems so obvious that increasing staffing, hours, and enhancing the knowledge of store associates would likely drive significant increases in customer satisfaction, sales, and longer term loyalty.

    But in the last several years most businesses like Lowes have seemed to focus energy and investment in all things digital - better websites and apps, self-checkouts, and even in Lowes case - actual robots that work in the stores.

    But maybe, still, consumers see the value, understanding, and empathy that only people can provide. Maybe in a world where it seems like most of your competitors are moving towards ecosystems and processes that remove people and increase automation that actually providing old-school, in-person, and expert customer service, (from human employees), can still be a source of competitive advantage.

    Really interesting times we live in where increasing customer service employees to improve a customer service problem seems like a bold, innovative, out of the box strategy.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Aug232017

    Tenure and Unhappiness at Work

    Caught some interesting data looking at the happiness and satisfaction with work of employees in the UK broken down by different age cohorts. As reported in Bloomberg, UK workers aged 35 years and up were twice as likely to be unhappy with work as their younger, millennial colleagues.

    Here's a quick look at one data set from the research conducted by Happiness Works and Robert Half UK about employee unhappiness distributed across age groups:

    According to this data, unhappiness at work takes a pretty decent sized step up in the 35 to 54 age group and increase a bit more with the 55+ group. Couple of small/medium/big things to think about before we take this data totally at face value.

    One is just what do we mean by 'unhappiness?' Is it 'kind of had a bad day that day' unhappiness or is it 'I am about three minutes away from quitting and smashing the printer on the way out the door' unhappiness? And second, what is the 'normal' or expected amount of unhappiness we'd expect to find in an average workplace? I can't think of any scenario when you get a large group of people in any kind of shared endeavor where some of them wouldn't be happy. Even a few folks I heard from yesterday thought the Great American Solar Eclipse was a little underwhelming.

    But getting past those concerns for a second, let's think about the implications of increasing unhappiness as the workforce ages a bit more. If true, or even kind of true, this could be an issue for more and more workplaces and more and more leaders of HR and people.

    Here's some more data, courtesy of my pals at the BLS. From 2015, a quick look at the median age of the US workforce, and some projections out to 2024

    How about that? The US labor force is trending older, and the trend is expected to hold for the next decade if not a little longer. So if workforces are getting older and unhappiness with work seems to be associated with the employee's age, then you could expect even more acute challenges to come with respect to happiness and its cousin employee engagement.

    The problem of course with aging in the workforce is that it is pretty similar to our own personal battles with aging and its effects. It happens, or seems to happen, so gradually that we hardly even notice it. And then Wham! all of a sudden we have gotten older. And we usually are not prepared for that day.

    If you are someone who has some concern or responsibility for the health, wellbeing, happiness, and productivity of a workplace you probably ought to be thinking about these issues a bit more than you have in the past.

    And it probably wouldn't hurt to take time to think about your own happiness and wellbeing too.