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    Entries in workforce (67)

    Tuesday
    Nov282017

    CHART OF THE DAY: We're all getting pretty old

    A recurring topic on these Chart of the Day posts for some time now has been the impacts and effects on work and workplaces of an aging population. While in the US the demographic 'time bomb' is not expected to be as extreme as it will be in a place like Japan, there still will be some impact, mainly due to the large Baby Boomer generation exiting the workforce en masse.

    Population pyramids are a cool way to visualize the demographic mix in a place and at a point in time, and the below GIF courtesy of Visual Capitalist presents a moving image of the past and expected US population by age from 1980 - 2050. Have a look (or two or three) at the chart, and then some FREE comments and observations after the data.

    Pretty neat, right?

    A couple of things stand out from the data. In 1975, the median age in the United States was just 28 years old. However, it’s been rising fast as the Baby Boomers age, and it’s expected to break the 40 year mark by 2030. And just watch in the chart how life expectancy and average age both keep creeping up. Feels like that is a good thing but even still, these trends have some important implications for workplaces, governmental policies, and society overall.

    An older population by default means more older workers. Whether it is by need or choice or even employer choice, more and more older workers will be a feature or more and more workplaces. And what older workers, say ones in their later 50s and up will want, need, and expect from work and from employers is by definition much different from what the newest group of college graduate recruits will be looking for.

    And while that has probably always been the case, the numbers and increasing age of an organization's oldest workers make that problem or challenge a little tougher than in the past. The mix of ages of the workforce is skewing older, and that has implications for all areas of HR - from training, to benefits, to workforce management and more. And not to mention the need for organizations to be really aware and cognizant of more younger managers, many who lack adequate training and experience in management, wo will be asked to lead and coach more of their older colleagues.

    I remain endlessly interested and fascintated by how these macro demographic trends will impact work and workplaces. And this one in particular, as sadly, I, like you, am getting older every day.

    Thursday
    Nov022017

    Celebrating diversity in the organization

    A few years ago a local (Rochester, NY area), wine shop decided to create a holiday season TV advertisement that featured many (possibly all) of the store's employees instead of actors or models or the owner of the store.

    Cool idea, right? Nothing like a local business sharing some holiday season greetings and good vibes with the added bonus of making their own employees happy and excited as well. I mean, how often has an accounting clerk or a cashier or a maintenance person get the chance to be on TV, and in local cable regular rotation no less?

    The ad, as many locally produced cable TV ads are, was pretty basic, and didn't really have much in the way of production values. It was essentially, a rapid fire series of close-ups of the individual members of the staff who each wished the viewers a 'Happy Holidays' or a 'Merry Christmas' or some such. 

    Employee after employee each getting about two seconds of screen time and sending out their best wishes.

    Pretty neat, right?

    Except the only reason I remember this entirely unremarkable local ad is that every single person, every staff member featured in the ad was a white male or a white female. About 20-odd faces flashed across the screen, each one looking more or less the same as the last. And seeing that many faces, in such a short time, and in the context of a local business wishing a 'Happy Holidays from us to you' kind of way left me thinking only one thing. Or perhaps asking one thing.

    Is the wine store for only white people?

    It was so obvious and clear from watching the ad, that I remember not believing that anyone who had looked at it prior to approving it for TV would have green lighted it to run. It was such a weird and awkward and almost off putting spot. I can't believe I still remember it, but I do. 

    What made me think about that weird, 'White people wine store' ad was this short piece I caught on the PSFK site, about cosmetics retailer Sephora's use of some of its own, real, employees in an upcoming ad campaign.

    Over 1,000 Sephora employees submitted video applications to be included in the new campaign called 'Reach Out and Gift', and from that group, 10 Sephora employees were selected. Have the mental image of the parade of 20-something white faces from the wine shop TV ad I described above when you take a look at this pic of the Sephora employees who were selected for the campaign:

    A pretty diverse, interesting, and for Sephora, representative collection of their team, and a reflection of the customers they serve. This image makes you think that everyone is accepted at Sephora, no one is excluded, and more importantly, that everyone is accepted for who they are. It is amazingly cool.

    You can read more about the Sephora employees that are participating in the campaign here.

    For organizations talking about diversity is certainly important. Creating a culture that values diversity is necessary.

    But truly celebrating diversity like the folks at Sephora are? That has to be to goal that the rest of us should shoot for.

    If I had a need to buy some makeup, I know where I'd be shopping.

    Happy Thursday.

    Wednesday
    Oct042017

    The sometimes fine line between retention and regrettable turnover

    Your pal Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine passed away last week at the age of 91.

    While you probably now plenty (maybe more than you care to know) about the Playboy brand and Hef's pretty remarkable life, you might not know the impetus for him setting off to create Playboy magazine and launch 294,295 'I only subscribe for the articles' gimmicks.

    According to the Chicago Tribune's accounting of Hef's long life, at 26 years old Hef left his copy writing job at Esquire Magazine to launch Playboy after the prescient folks at Esquire denied his request for a $5 per week wage raise.

    After being rebuffed by the thrifty team at Esquire, Hef cobbled together about $8,000 of investment and borrowed funds to debut Playboy in 1953 and the rest, as they say, is bunny-eared history.

    No one is likely around who was in the meeting at Esquire when the 'We can't give him $5 more a week' decision came down, so the rest of this is pure speculation. But that kind of decision really reeks of process, politics, salary review periods formalities, and a bunch of other formal HR and talent management 'rules' that can often get in the way of managers and leaders doing right by the business.

    Hef does not get the extra fiver per week, and out the door he goes and eventually, (actually it happened pretty quickly), becomes a legend in the magazine industry. 

    Oh yeah, the same industry he was working in that thought he was not worth a sawbuck every pay periiod.

    It can be a fine line, a really fine line, sometimes between what good, valuable, productive, and 'want to be loyal' people want and what might send them out the door.

    In this case it was $5.

    In your case, it could be your best support person wanting to flex her hours once a week, or your third-best salesperson not wanting to show up at the office if he doesn't have outside calls one morning, or the 3rd year pro who is killing it in the marketing team and that you know you seriously low balled when you brought her in in 2014.

    RIP Hef. I am kind of glad Esquire wouldn't pay up back in 1953.

    I mean, if they had paid up, I would have missed LOTS of great articles...

    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!