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    Entries in work (207)

    Wednesday
    Feb212018

    POWER MOVE: Who can get away with wearing sunglasses inside

    There are only two reasons to wear sunglasses inside (excluding for any medical/eye issues).

    Reason one (and this is by FAR the most common) - said inside sunglass wearer is a Grade A loser/jerk/poseur/idiot, and the sunglasses are screaming 'Look at me'

    Exhibit 1 - Lane Kiffin (back when he was still coaching at Alabama).

    As I mentioned - really jerky.

    Two (much less common but far more interesting) - the inside sunglass wearer is competing, with you, me, pretty much everybody around him or her, and doesn't want to give away any hint to what they may be thinking or feeling. The sunglasses in this case are saying something totally different - 'Don't look at me.'

    Exhibit 2 - Greg 'Fossil Man' Raymer - professional poker player most famous for winning the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event (and a $5M prize)

    Pro poker players doing the sunglass inside thing at the table is pretty common now, but back in 2004, Raymer was kind of an innovator - and a savvy competitor. Hard to get a read on a person when they are hiding behind the shades.

    Exhibit 2A - And my new hero, one Anna Wintour, fashion industry icon, and in this picture seemingly disrespectful to Queen Elizabeth by not removing her trademark sunnies.

    But why does Wintour rock the shades? Hint - it isn't because she is trying to be too cool for the room. It is because she doesn't want you (or me or anyone else), to know what she is thinking, particularly as she sits in the front row of a fashion show, eyeing the latest designs.

    From a recent piece on Business Insider explaining Ms. Wintour's affinity for the shades: (edited a little)

    If anyone's actually watched Anna Wintour in front row fashion shows before, they'd know she always wears her blacked out sunglasses so that people and prying media cameras cannot read and reveal her true thoughts on the fashion items as they pass her on the catwalk. 

    And that's the reason the real ballers go with the sunglasses inside look. When everyone wants a piece of what you are thinking, and it is not in your best interests necessarily to let them know what you are thinking, then players like Raymer and Wintour put their guard up, and kind of dare you to call them out on it.

    But when you win as much as Raymer and Wintour have in their careers, most folks don't bother to call them out after all, and if they do, it really doesn't matter, because after all, who is doing most of the winning? And one thing we see in most winners - they are often willing to do things that the rest of us wouldn't consider 'proper'.

    So here's the move I want you to consider. That next 'big' project or staff or client meeting when things could get a little tense, when you do want or need to play your cards, (sorry Raymer), close to the vest, and to not reveal what you are really thinking or feeling - do you have the guts to walk in like Wintour, with a set of blacked out shades? How would Jerry from accounting react when he looked at you an all he got back was a stone face and a set of Ray-Bans?

    Could you pull it off?

    Wouldn't it be awesome if you did? 

    Have a great day!

    Thursday
    Feb152018

    The changing mix of employee compensation increases

    TL:DR - More and higher one-time bonuses, fewer and less annual salary/wage increases

    In the aftermath of the recent tax reform legislation passed by the US Congress and signed by the President, you certainly must have noticed a pretty long list of major organizations who reacted to the reduction in the US corporate tax rate by (among other things), awarding bonuses (oddly, almost all exactly in the amount of $1,000) to their employees.

    Here is just a short list of select companies who have shared this windfall with their employees in the form of one-time bonuses:

    Alaska Air, American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast, Disney, Home Depot, Lowe's, Southwest Air, Walmart, Waste Management - and there are lots more.

    The companies above, (and plenty others) have directed the employee rewards portion of their expected tax cut windfall to these one-time bonuses, while a few others (Aflac, Boeing, Cigna, FedEx, Honeywell, UPS, Visa), have either supplemented these one-time bonuses with other employee rewards improvements - increases hourly wages, 401(k) contribution enhancements, and/or stock-based rewards.

    But the vast majority of publicly announced employee rewards increases as a result of the corporate tax cut have been these seemingly ubiquitous one-time $1,000 bonuses. It is almost odd, (and if you are a conspiracy lover, curious), that so many companies in different industries all settled on this same bonus amount. Weird...

    But these tax cut bonuses also draw our attention to a larger trend in employee compensation increases, one that pre-dates the recent surge in one-time tax cut bonuses - the trend of companies allocating more payroll budget towards one-time and variable awards, and relatively less budget to annual (and in theory, recurring), salary/wage increases. Said differently, more and more of the compensation increase that an average worker might see is tied up in discretionary and variable methods, like one-time bonuses. Check out this chart from a piece in the NY Times, reporting on an Aon Hewitt study of the topic:

    Back in 1991, for example, variable pay (like one-time bonuses) took up about 3% of total compensation budgets, while the budget for annual salary increases was 5%.

    Fast forward to 2017 and the amount of budget allocated to one-time bonuses has risen to 12.7% while the amount earmarked for annual salary increases has fallen to 2.9% (the 'getting 3%'ed to death phenomenon).

    A closer look at the data shows that after taking an expected financial crisis/recession dive in 2008/2009, compensation budget allocations have not really recovered to their pre-recession levels, while the budget for one-time bonuses and awards has continued on a slow and steady climb. This makes sense for a few reasons. The harsh economic environment from the recession era is still on many CEO's minds, and the need to be more flexible and adaptable, (especially when it comes to employee compensation), has become standard operating procedure and many companies. E

    Given these recent tax cut bonuses play into that line of thinking - CEOs can't be sure these tax cuts will be permanent, a change in control or philosophy of Congress could alter the landscape at almost any time. Giving one-time bonuses instead of 'permanent' salary/wage increases allows companies to respond to market, competitive, and economic conditions in almost real-time, whereas granting (and potentially removing), salary/wage increases is a much more difficult challenge to manage. Have you ever known any worker who will accept a salary or wage cut cheerfully?

    But beyond that, companies still need to keep worker's desires in mind, after all the labor market remains extremely tight. The Times reports that a second Aon Hewitt survey showed that when asked what they wanted their companies to do with their tax cut windfall 65% of them said they wanted a pay raise, far more than other options like a bonus or an increase to the 401(K) contribution. Interesting stuff for sure.

    Compensation is a tough job for sure. And oddly, it doesn't get that much easier when there are more dollars to spread around.

    Have a great day! 

    Monday
    Feb122018

    Don't talk to me, don't even look at me - I'm busy over here

    Slapping on a pair of headphones or earbuds while you are work, especially in open plan offices, in order to help yourself to focus on your work, and probably more importantly, to send a 'do not bug me right now' signal to your co-workers has been a pretty common element of work for some time now.

    But what do you do when simply putting on headphones is not enough of a barrier between you and pesky co-workers, their questions, their comings and goings, and other kinds of interruptions or distractions? You could simply accede to your true nature and quit your job and take up permanent hermit status? But let's say you don't want to go that extreme, and simply want to find a way to have a little bit more privacy, focus, and send an even more aggressive 'do not bother me' message to the office?

    Enter the 'FocusCap' which has been described as a kind of 'horse blinder for people'. The idea of the Focus Cap is create a 'moble, distraction-proof fortress' so that a worker can 'fully concentrate on high demanding cognitive tasks'. That sounds pretty good to me. I may even need one of those here at HR Happy Hour HQ.

    Check out the videobelow, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

    Pretty wild, right?

    Are office distractions, and the challenges that are presented by the lack of personal space and lack of privacy that modern, open plan offices generate really driving workers to try and build little personal cocoons to carve out some space and peace among the chaos? Maybe so. I have not worked in an open plan setting for quite some time, but I am pretty sure I would not enjoy it all that much. Maybe with a pair of headphones on and a pair of these horse blinders for people I could make it seem like I was in my own spacious (and private) office, or sitting on the sofa in my PJs. 

    And for the record, I have no relationship at all with the makers of the FocusCap. But I do think it is cool.

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Feb082018

    CHART OF THE DAY: There are too many open jobs, (or not enough people to fill them)

    A really quick shot for a busy Thursday - from the most recent JOLTS report (that's the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and you should have this page on permanent bookmark), the most recent (as of December 2017) data on the ratio of Unemployed workers to job openings in the US.

    Here's the data...

        

    The actual chart on the BLS site is interactive if you want to play around with it, but I will save you the time and let you know that as of the end of December 2017 the ratio of unemployed workers to open jobs was down to 1.1. Basically, the US economy is closing in on having nearly the same number of unemployed workers, (about 6.3 million ) as there are job openings (about 5.8 million) as of the end of 2017. The ratio of 1.1 has been steady for most of 2017 and ties the all-time low in the this data series' history.

    I have not much else to add to this, beyond what you already know. The labor market continues to be at or near record levels of 'tightness'. It will be really interesting (and fun if you are a data geek like me), to see of the ratio goes below 1 at some point, a situation where even if every open job in the US was suddenly filled by an unemployed person, there still would be open jobs remaining. I guess then we will have to build more robots to fill those jobs.

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Feb072018

    UPDATE: On striking for a 28-hour work week

    A few seeks ago I shared the story of the largest metal and steel worker's union in Germany whose members were threatening to strike for the right (among other things) for the ability to reduce their work week to 28 hours per week for up to two years at a time - mainly in times where a worker has increased child or elder care responsibilities. As a reminder, this is what the steel workers were trying to accomplish:

    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.

    In mid-January I offered the take that we shouldn't look at these worker's demands as another example of the 'soft' or laissez-faire approach to work that we in the US like to think is common in Europe, and let ourselves believe that these kinds of increased worker calls for more benefits (including fewer hours potentially), could not become an issue here eventually. Workers in all kinds of industries likely have more power than they are currently exercising.

    Fast forward about three weeks - how did it turn out in Germany?

    UPDATE - German metal workers union secures right to 28-hour work week.

    From the piece in Business Insider:

    A German industrial union has won its workers the right to work just 28 hours per week in a deal that could eventually impact almost 4 million people in the country.

    IG Metall, the biggest trade union in Germany for metal and engineering workers struck the deal which will allow staff to go down from 35 hours to 28 hours per week for as long as two years, in instances where they need to care for children, elderly, or sick relatives.

    The agreement between the union and industry impacts some major, global manufacturers like Porsche, Airbus, and Mercedes, and also includes a 4.3% pay rise for the workers. It is a pretty major win for the workers, who seem to have gotten just about everything they were looking for in the deal.

    Why does this matter, especially to US readers, in a time where unions and labor rights movements in general have been declining for ages?

    I would say to think about this deal, and why the workers were looking for it, as less of a 'union' issue and more of a work/life issue. One of the major benefits of the so-called 'gig' economy is the schedule control that most gig workers have. There is a tremendous amount of flexibility and even power that comes with being able to self-determine how many hours you will or can work in a given day or week or month. Some times you want/need to work more, and other times fewer hours. Especially when dealing with child, elder, or other personal responsibilities.

    This effort by the metal workers union is really an attempt to try and marry some of the best features of the 'regular' employee (steady pay, benefits, some level of security, commitment to one company), with the 'gig' worker economy, (flexibility, work/life balance, control and freedom).

    Gig working is not for everyone. It can be uncertain, scary, can have pretty major fluctuations in compensation and benefits. And 'regular' work also has its downsides - lack of schedule control, long hours, stress about work/life. So what the German metal workers are really trying to do is find a kind of compromise between the two - by crafting a design where they are still 'regular' employees, but have more flexibility to determine when they need to reduce (or increase) their working hours based on personal and family circumstances.

    That is the way to think about this story if you are a business or HR leader in the US or anywhere really - this is not about the union or some kind of Euro-socialist approach to work.

    It is about workers trying to find the 'right' kind of work/life balance and arrangement that fits for them in the modern world. And it is about companies trying to find ways to ensure their goals can also be met, knowing that for most of them, these goals can only be met through the success and well-being of their workforces.

    Have a great day!