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    Entries in work (145)


    CHART OF THE DAY: Trends in Labor Force Participation

    It's been ages since I broke off a CHART OF THE DAY post and even longer since I talked about the Labor Force Participation Rate, so let's remedy both of these situations in one shot.

    Courtesy of your pals at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, have a look at a recently published chart on participation, this one broken down by gender. As always, some insightful comments from me after the data:

    Let's break down the data a little, and see if we might (Shock!) learn something. Some observations...

    1.  Male labor force participation has been on a long and steady decline for ages. In fact, males, as a group, have been less and less inclined to participate in the labor market since at least World War II.

    2. The female participation rate increased from about 43 percent in 1970 to a peak of 60 percent in the late 1990s, from which it has remained relatively flat over the last 15 - 20 years.

    3. But despite the economic recession of 2007 - 2008 ending, the data show that between 2010 and 2013, participation declined even more steeply for both men and women. Average female participation in 2014 was 57 percent—the lowest level since 1988—and male participation was down to a record low of 69 percent.

    What should we think about when considering this data? After all, participation is influenced by numerous factors like workforce age, prospects, disability rates, desire to continue schooling, etc.

    Let's look at what the Atlanta Fed thinks is the near-term direction for Labor Force Participation:

    "As a guide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the factors pulling down the labor force participation rate will outweigh those pushing it up, and that by 2022, labor force participation will be 61.6 percent, 1.4 points below its level at the end of 2014."

    The trends and the predicted continuation of these trends suggest a labor market that is even tighter than we are experiencing currently. It seems also likely that the kinds of jobs that will be hardest to fill are not the ones that will be easily filled by simply coaxing more people back into the labor force. 

    If anything, a declining participation rate makes even seemingly 'easy' to fill jobs that much harder to fill.

    Long story short, this data suggests that filling all kinds of jobs is just going to get tougher. It's probably a good time to be a recruiter though.

    A good recruiter I mean.


    More from the 'Email is ruining our lives' department

    I have not written about email and how horrible it is for some time, so I was kind of glad that I was reminded of that horribleness (probably not a word, but let's keep going), while reviewing a recent survey about after-work hours email habits published by the enterprise service management company Samanage.

    It's a short, but informative report, and I recommend taking a few minutes to read the entire thing, but if you can't spare the 20 minutes or so (probably because you have to get back to your email), I will just call out the two most interesting survey findings and then because you expect no less, offer some FREE commentary about what these data points should make us think about as HR/business leaders.Ed Ruscha 'Actual Size', 1962

    Finding 1:

    More than 1 in 3 survey respondents (35.2%), said they spend more than 1 hour per day checking emails outside of work.

    Implication: The demands and expectations on many of us are so high that we simply can never get 'caught up', at least to the point where we can enjoy a night, or heaven forbid an entire weekend, without work, (in the form of endless emails), continuing to roll in. 

    When asked why we spend so much time after hours on email, almost all the responses are some version of the notion (and expectation), that if we don't spend at least part of your off-hours dealing with email, you won't be doing your job. That's pretty sad, and pretty frightening at the same time.

    Finding 2:

    20% of survey respondents reported that checking after-hours email produces negative feelings about work, including feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

    Implication: Of all the findings in the survey, this is the one that I think bears the most consideration by HR and business leaders. The long-term, heck even medium-term effects of this email overload into all hours of the day and night are taking a toll on the workforce, at least 20% of them anyway. And that is not an insignificant figure. How would you feel if you knew that 20% of your team was 'overwhelmed and frustrated?' 

    And it is not just the employee's feelings and welfare you should think about. What about their friends and family members who all too often find themselves taking a back seat to your employee having to answer her email during dinner or at the ball game or when they are meant to be doing something, anything that is 'not work?'  

    Ugh. But I know that email is never going away, not in our working lifetimes anyway. I have finally resigned myself to that reality.

    However it can be less terrible. And we can do better to make sure it is not ruining our free time, filling us with anxiety, and tethering us to our work and workplaces no matter where we may be and what we are doing.

    I don't think I am going to write about email anymore, at least for some time. I am kind of tired of thinking about it. But after all these years and the many, many hours I have spent writing about the tool I guess the simplest conclusion or recommendation I have reached to try and make things better is this:

    Before writing another email, especially one after hours or on the weekend stop writing and think for 30 seconds or "Do I really, really need to send this message, with this information, to these people, right now?"

    Followed closely by a this follow-up:

    "How do I want people to feel about me, their job, the team, and the organization when they see this email?"

    Think about both of these questions before you hit 'send' at 11:30PM on Friday night.

    Actually, think about them at 10:20AM on Tuesday as well.

    Have a great week!


    We are pretty sure robots will take all the jobs - just not OUR job

    File this item under the 'We all hate Congress, but we keep re-electing our representative every two years' or 'the roads are full of idiot drivers but no one ever admits to being not such a great driver'. 

    Take a look at a couple of charts from a recent Pew Research Center survey of 2,001 American adults that attempted to gauge American's perceptions and opinions about the automation of work and jobs.

    From Pew Research:

    Let's crack open that nut a little, shall we?

    According to the survey, a large majority of Americans, 65%,  of expect that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work and take over the jobs that are currently occupied by us humans. Kind of makes sense, right? Even if you don't follow the 'robot' beat that closely you have probably at least heard some of the doom and gloom predictions about the upcoming robot takeover.

    But just like no one thinks they are a bad driver, when asked about their own jobs and the likelihood they would be replaced by robots and automation, the results were a little different. An even greater share (80%) expect that their own jobs will remain largely unchanged and exist in their current forms 50 years from now.

    So while 11% of the survey respondents are at least somewhat concerned that they might lose their jobs as a result of workforce automation, a larger number are occupied by more immediate and practical concerns – like being replaced by lower-paid human employees, broader economic and industry trends or bad management by their employers.

    What to take from this, especially as we think about our own careers? 

    Probably the big takeaway is to not be naive about the chances that technology and automation may have on our jobs, companies, and industries in the near to medium term. You can't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking 'Well, I can't be automated. What I do is too special, unique, complex....'. It's only the call center agents and factory workers that have to be concerned.' That's a gamble you might regret later on. 

    Someone, actually many someones are going to be automated out of work in the upcoming years. 

    Don't let it surprise you when the robot comes looking for you.


    The smart leader's approach to dress codes, (or any other policy)

    Happy Spring!

    It's Spring right, at least here in the USA, (and I suppose some other places as well, I was never all that great at geography). But with Spring comes the return (hopefully), of warmer weather and the shift to our 'summer' clothes - both for work and for not work.

    And the first time Gabe from accounting or Marcia in customer service turns up to work wearing some cargo shorts or worse, you or your organization's leaders might be tempted to send one of those beloved 'all employees' emails from HR that run down the ins and outs of the official dress code, as you know, we don't want to really treat folks like adults, at least not at work.

    But before you do send that email listing just what types of concert T-shirts are acceptable and which ones are not, I would encourage you to read this piece from ESPN.com, on how one organizational leader is wrestling with these same workplace policy issues as you are: Joe Maddon, (Chicago Cubs manager), on dress code: 'If you think you look hot, wear it.' 

    Get past the title for a second and read the whole piece. Here is a snippet to prod you along:

    Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with his “lead bulls” on Sunday to go over team rules as 11 players and their boss discussed everything from a dress code to kids in the clubhouse.

    “The biggest topic of discussion was shorts or not on the road,” Maddon said after the meeting.

    Maddon isn’t a stickler for a lot of written rules, instead preferring a common-sense approach. He believes players know the line not to cross. He used last year’s policies -- his first on the team -- as a guideline. They worked out pretty well.

    “You have like a force field, not an actual fence. Guys know if they go past a certain point you might get stung a little bit, but you don’t have to see the fence there,” Maddon explained. “I like that.”

    “Exercise common sense with all this stuff,” he said. “There are so much archaic stuff that baseball stands for. I’m here to manage the team, not make rules. I learned my lesson with that to not go nuts about it.

    Just about everything you need to know about dress codes or most other workplace rules right there. Treat folks like adults, let them know what is really important for the organization to be focusing on, (it isn't the dress code), and involve a larger group of leaders and influencers on the staff as you talk about expectations and whatever policies you have. Not only will they help you define the rules, they will likely help you self-enforce them as well.

    It is actually really simple. Simple enough for even the Cubs to figure out.

    Have a great week! 


    Whose fault is it that you are working too much?

    A week or so ago I wrote about how France is considering placing a ban of sorts on after-hours email - the idea that people/workers are working too many hours as it is, and they should have the right to ignore work-related email messages that are sent outside of 'normal' working hours.  

    As is normally the case when an idea like that pops up, a number of folks chime in about how that is a terrible idea, and that people/workers need (and for the most part want), the ability to move between 'work' and 'not work' more freely and fluidly than the traditional design of work (in the office from 8:30 - 5:00, or some such), typically allows.

    In the modern world it is argued, people should 'blend' work and not work so casually that sitting in on a conference call while watching Junior's U8 soccer game and ducking out of the office at 10:30AM to go have a facial should both be seen as more or less normal and acceptable ways of 'blending' work and not work. And while I think that this is generally both a good and decent idea, and the way of the future (and possibly the present) of work for many folks, I also think that the balance never seems to really balance. Said differently, work is like water (or air), it flows naturally to where it isn't, and it expands to fill all the available space it can.

    I thought about this entire idea again, of the French idea to set a harder border or barrier between work and not work when I read this piece on the Campaign Live site the other day - Wieden & Kennedy trials limits to working hours, on how the Ad agency W&K is approaching these work/life issues. Here is a little bit from the piece:

    For the next few months, the creative agency is barring staff from organising meetings before 10am and after 4pm in a bid to stop its employees coming into work too early and leaving too late. No staff will be expected to work more than 40 hours a week. 

    Agency staff have also been told not to send or read work e-mails after 7pm and are encouraged to leave work at 4.30pm on Fridays.

    Neil Christie, the agency’s managing director, told Campaign that the changes are intended to make Wieden & Kennedy a more appealing place to work.

    In recent years, creative agencies have been forced to compete for talent with tech companies, such as Google, that ask an equal commitment of employees but are able to offer higher salaries to recruits.

    Pretty basic but still interesting ideas, that while positioned as a 'We think you all are working too much' also come off as decent recommendations on how to make better use of the time you are working. Early morning meetings stink. Late afternoon meetings stink even more. So trying to ban both of these makes sense not just from a 'we need to work less hours' point of view but also a 'let's make work a little more productive and enjoyable' while we are there perspective.

    But the real question is why the leaders at Wieden & Kennedy felt the need to set some guidelines and restrictions in order to ensure their staffs will work less. I bet most folks, when given the choice between working 70-80 hours a week and just logging a reasonable 40 hours will choose the latter, (all things being equal which sadly, all things never are). 

    Someone (or someones), in leadership there have set up a system/culture where, save for the few W&K staffers that probably really love what they are doing, have not much of a life outside of work, and see putting in 70-80 hours a week as the cost of getting ahead in the ad agency business, working all of the time is the norm and the expectation. And now leadership sees that this culture is not sustainable and may be creating an issue with retention and recruiting. Shocking, I know. It turns out that after a while grinding it out week after week takes a toll on people.

    But it is a little bit cheeky as a leader to place restrictions on working hours and after hours emails and not take at least some of the responsibility for creating the very conditions that you are know having to curb.

    Whose fault is it that you are working too much? Probably not yours, at least not totally.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!