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    Entries in workforce (65)

    Tuesday
    Dec062016

    Terms that mean 'employee', ranked

    Lots of us are employees. But some of us work at places that don't refer to us as 'employees.' Somewhere along the line, (I am guessing in the late 1970s, but I really don't know for sure), it became trendy, if not fashionable for organizations to move away from the more formal sounding term of 'employee' and start referring to their, well, employees using other terms.

    Inspired by a weekend spent in heavy retail environments and overhearing an 'All available associates, please report to the front of the store' announcement, I started thinking about all the various terms that are now used by organizations to substitute for 'employee.'

    And then I thought it made sense to rank said terms.

    As always, this list is unscientific, unresearched, incomplete, subjective, and 100% accurate.

    Here goes -  Terms that mean 'employee', ranked:

    10. Worker - About as cold as it gets. Unless you go with 'peon' or 'serf'. Which don't seem to be used (much), any more.

    9. Co-worker - Slightly softer version of 'worker'. Still pretty cold though/

    8. Staff member - As generic as it gets. Best used when the organization hates taking any kind of a stand about anything.

    7. Teammate - Unless the 'team' is designed to kick a ball or run really fast, probably should not be used in the workplace.

    6. Team Member - A little less cloying than teammate. But still not great. But yay - we are on a team!

    5. Crew or crew member - Are you on a boat? Do you build boats? No? Then you are not on a crew.

    4. Partner - This is actually sort of dumb. Unless the company is just made up of actual partners. Then it's ok.

    3. Colleague - This actually would be the one I would choose if I had to choose. Rides nicely that fine line between 'touchy-feely' and 'we all just work here' that I like

    2. Associate - a solid move if you for some reason need to move off of 'employee', but want to stay appropriately distant, yet convey a (fake) sense of importance to everyone in the organization. 

    1. Employee - Call me old school, but I still think the simplest solution is the best. I don't think anyone is really offended by being called an employee. At least I don't think so.

    Did I forget anything? Hit me up in the comments.

    And as always, you could disagree with these rankings, but of course you would be wrong.

    Tuesday
    Nov292016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Managing the algorithms

    It must be 'Algorithm Week' on the blog, given that yesterday I posted a piece about how HR folks need to consider carefully how algorithms and other intelligent technologies are introduced into HR and talent management practices. 

    Keeping with that theme, today's Chart of the Day is also about algorithms, more specifically about how the overall role and responsibility of HR and HR leaders might shift as more intelligent technologies are introduced into workplaces. The chart comes to us from an MIT Technology Review briefing paper titled 'Asia's AI Agenda: How Asia is speeding up global artificial intelligence adoption', a look at how the increased adoption of automation and other 'smart' technologies are going to impact work, workplaces, and too, the practice of HR.

    The entire paper is interesting, but for today's chart I wanted to share what MIT's survey of Asia HR leaders revealed about how these HR leaders see their roles changing along with the changing workplace (and workforce).

    Here's the chart, then some FREE comments from me after the data:

    Three quick takes...

    1. First off, it is really interesting, (and I think really encouraging), that more than 87% of HR leaders in the survey realize that these new technologies are going to have a 'major impact' on the role of the HR leader moving forward. The first step in the grieving process is acceptance, (actually, I am not sure if that is true, but don't have the time to look it up, so just pretend it is true anyway), so it is a good sign that the vast majority of these HR leaders are at least cognizant if not accepting that advances in automation and smart tech are going to change the HR role. 

    2. Next, it is also interesting, (if possibly a little naive), in that fully two-thirds of these surveyed HR leaders see that their roles will expand to encompass the 'overall productivity' of both people and the machines and other intelligent technologies that are increasingly being introduced into their workplaces and processes. I have to admit to being a little surprised that so many HR respondents seem ready or at least willing to get into the 'machine management' business.

    3. What that does imply however, is that these HR leaders wanting to expand the traditional talent management role to include machine management as well are going to have to develop an entire new set of expertise and skills, (not to mention some baseline understanding of this technologies), that have as far as I can tell never been a part of HR or talent management in the past.  I am not sure if 'managing' the machines and algorithms is going to be easier or harder than managing people, (if I had to bet, I am going with 'easier'), but either way it will require an expansion of the traditional HR role beyond what most if not all HR leaders are prepared for.

    Check out the paper from MIT if you want to learn more. Really interesting stuff on how business and HR are thinking about the increasing incorporation of automation and algorithms in the workplace.

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Election edition

    Wow, what a crazy few days. 

    I was thinking about most of the CHART OF THE DAY posts I have run over the last couple of years and I realized that they have been, as far as I can remember, all really positive reflections of an improving US economy. 

    Charts about record levels of job openings, charts about declining unemployment rates, and like today's chart that I will share in a moment, near-historic high rates of voluntary job separations, aka, 'Quits'. But no matter the chart, it has been for the most part, 'good' news.

    You know what, let's just get on with the chart, courtesy of your pals at the BLS, and then some semi-related comments and observations after the data. And probably some more charts too.

    1. The 'Quits' rate, i.e. the percentage of the workforce that voluntarily left their jobs sat at 2.1% in September, just a tick below the data series all time high level of 2.3% back in September 2005. Quits have been at or above 2.0%, many observers threshold for what defines a confident labor market, for a little over a year now. Said differently, the labor market seems attractive enough for more people to voluntarily quit their jobs with the expectation that a new, probably better, job can be more easily found.

    2. The 'Quits' rate usually tracks pretty closely, at least directionally, with overall wage growth. And wages have been going up. Heck, here is another chart showing the year-over-year change in average hourly wages going back to 2009.

    Wage increases in general help to encourage folks to move on, more confident in their ability to not only find a new job, but one with better pay and benefits as well. Like I said above, generally good economic news and data that has been trending positive for several years now.

    3. Want more data to chew on while still thinking about Tuesday's results? Ok, let's toss in the standard unemployment rate chart, while not a perfect indicator of the health of the labor market, at least the one that is most well-known and followed:

    Post-recession unemployment hit it's high of 10% in October 2009 and in the seven years since has meandered downward by half to its current level of 4.9%. There are some arguments over what unemployment rate constitutes so-called 'full' employment, but most economists would peg it in the range between 4% and 6%. Said differently, there is less slack in the labor market today than any time in the last 10 years.

    My anecdotal evidence backing up the strength and tightness of the labor market is seen at my local dry cleaner, who has had a 'Help Wanted' sign up in the window pretty much every day in the last 2 years.

    Sure, there are elements of the labor market that don't paint as encouraging a picture (labor force participation rate being one big one, increasing time-to-fill time is another, as it suggests skills mismatches in the labor force), but overall, it is hard to look at the data and not conclude that since the depths of the recession in 2008, that the labor market and the overall economy are light years better than in those bad times.

    4. Want some other data that is not directly related to the labor market but still provides a window view to the strength and health of the economy? How about the S&P 500 , the broad barometer of the performance/value of large company stocks and a pretty decent overall proxy for 'the market'. Here is the last 5 years or so of the S&P 500 Index to take a look at:

    That is a pretty nice 5 year run if you had some money sitting in an S&P 500 index fund for the last few years. It is even better of you push the window back to start at the bottom of the recession in 2008 or so, but the charting tool I found was not that flexible, and I think you get the point anyway. If you were fortunate enough to still have investable funds at the end of the recession, you probably feel pretty decent about how those investments performed.

     

    So getting back to the surprising results from Tuesday, and buying in to (which I do), that political maxim of 'It's the economy, stupid', then what accounts for the startling repudiation of the status quo, and the rejection of the continuation, more or less, of the policies of the last eight years of recovery and growth?

    I suppose the core can be found in another maxim, this one about progress, technology, and the future.

    The science fiction author William Gibson once said "The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

    Let's look at one last chart that kind of channels the Gibson quote and also suggests possible reasons why in spite of all this good economic news, (as I write this the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 just closed a stone's throw from their all time record highs, reversing an anticipated market plunge in the hours just after the election results were clear):

    Going back a ways, and certainly before the last decade, the 'spoils' of a growing economy have increasingly gone to a smaller percentage of folks in the US. There are probably hundreds of reasons why this has been the case, but in terms of making a decision about a candidate, a party, a platform, and an expected (or hoped for) future, none of the underlying reasons really matter. What matters is that for many, many people, the recovery of the better part of the last decade, the stock market comeback, and improving overall economic security and prosperity have passed them by.

    And it is easy for the folks like me and maybe some of you, and certainly the powers that be in both major parties, and the media, and the corporate big shots, and the hedge fund guys, and the Silicon Valley tech bros, and all the people who think they run things to have forgotten about that, or just to have ignored it completely. After all, most of the people we know are doing ok. Most of our friends seem really secure.  No one we talked to said they voted for the other guy.

    I think that what we did learn on Tuesday night, or at least one of the things we learned, is that for millions and millions of people most of the economic recovery has simply not happened. Their jobs, if they are employed, are worse than the ones they used to have. They have less job security than ever before. They are increasingly unprepared to do many of the 'new' kinds of jobs that might improve their situation. And every day some 23 year-old Stanford grad invents some new technology that has the potential to automate, disaggregate, and 'productize' with an app or a algorithm the kinds of work they used to rely upon to take care of themselves and their families. Self driving cars are going to be awesome, right? Unless you are a bus, taxi, or commericial truck driver. If you have one of those jobs, well, good luck.

    I am stupid and I do think it's the economy. And I think until we all figure out ways to have this incredible, amazing, technologically wonderful future more evenly distribted we will remain a country very divided. 

    But even as we struggle with figuring it all out if nothing else the results Tuesday should ensure that we no longer continue to ignore or wish away these problems.

    Friday
    Sep092016

    CHART OF THE DAY: There's almost no one left to fill your open jobs

    I am an absolute mark for big picture labor market data. And the best, most interesting regular look at labor market data os the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report, better known as the JOLTS report.

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has stated that the JOLTS report is one of the most important data sets she relies on when pondering the Fed's decisions on monetary policy, and if the JOLTS is good enough for J-Yell then you had better believe the rest of us should be paying attention to it as well.

    For today's Chart of the Day, take a look at what's happening with the ratio of unemployed persons to current job openings - a fixture of the JOLTS data. First the chart, then some comments from me after the data.

    Some quick thoughts on the data:

    1. When the most recent recession began (December 2007), the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.9. The ratio peaked at 6.6 unemployed persons per job opening in July 2009 and has trended downward since. The ratio at the end of July was 1.3 unemployed persons per job opening. This represents the all-time low in the ratio since it has been calculated by the BLS.

    2. In addition, the very same JOLTS report shows that the denominator of the ratio, the number of current job openings in the US is also at a record level, hitting 5.9 million at the end of July. 

    3. This data reminds us that it is both a great and terrible time to be in recruiting/talent acquisition. Let's start with the terrible part. For lots of jobs and locations there simply are not enough (qualified for sure), candidates to form an adequate pipeline for the roles you need to fill. There are fewer unemployed persons overall, workforce participation rates remain really low by historical standards, (a subject to its own), and lots of people with desirable skills are coming to terms with their power and negotiating leverage in the market. When you have to pry someone away from the job they already have, that gives a little bit of power to the person that in worse economic times they would not enjoy.

    The good news is that the same JOLTS report that shows the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening is at an all-time low, also shows that the 'Quits' rate, i.e., the percentage of workers who are voluntarily leaving their jobs continues to trend upward - hitting 2.0% in July, which equates to about 2 million quits. In other words, workers continue to express confidence in the labor market and willingness, (almost at a pre-recession rate), to quit the job they have now, to (in theory), take the job you are trying to fill. If you can make a compelling offer, chances are at least decent you can pry someone out of where they are now to take it. And you may have to as the unemployed/jobs ratio continues to fall, and nothing seems to be significantly moving the needle to entice more people back into the workforce who are currently on the sidelines.

    There is plenty more in the report, but I think you get the idea and I will leave it to you to dig in more. The JOLTS report should be your monthly must-read if you are interested at all in what is happening at a macro-level in the US labor market. Bookmark this page and thank me later.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Aug292016

    Three quick 'Gig Economy' links and a warning for HR leaders

    There are about 12,238 surveys and data points that you can unearth when researching the rapidly evolving, and probably growing, 'gig economy', i.e. work that is performed by independent contractors, self-employed types, and those that for better or worse, (worse), get referred to as '1099 workers', for the IRS form on which their earnings are reported.

    Rather than spit out a bunch of (sometimes contradictory) data on how and where this gig economy is heading, I wanted to share three quick and interesting developments in this area that are worth thinking about and then one more recently released set of survey data that should be a warning to HR and business leaders that are moving towards increased usage and reliance on 'gig' workers.

    Item 1 - Atlassian now lets you hire freelancers right from Jira

    JIRA, Atlassian’s flagship project management service, is getting a new feature today that will let you easily convert JIRA tickets into job postings on Upwork’s freelance marketplace. “The smartest people will always exist outside of your company,” Atlassian’s head of growth for JIRA and Bitbucket Sean Regan told me. For many companies — and especially small startups — it’s also hard to have all the right expertise available in-house to solve every problem. With this new integration, these companies can now click a button in JIRA and get a pre-populated form to submit to Upwork’s marketplace.

    Steve here - an example (of which we will see more I am sure), of enterprise technology and management tools integrated with sourcing/hiring platforms for 'Gig' workers 

    Item 2 - LinkedIn enters the Gig Economy with an Upwork competitor

    LinkedIn has created a freelance marketplace. Launched on Wednesday, "LinkedIn ProFinder" asks employers to submit contract jobs in categories such as design, writing, or financial services and promises to send them up to five free quotes from LinkedIn users in response. Over the last five years, the number of freelancers on LinkedIn has increased by 50%, according to the company.

    Steve here - Of course it makes sense for LinkedIn to dive in more heavily into the 'Gig' work space. It's growing, and LinkedIn thinks/knows it has the way to connect gig workers with opportunity

    Item 3 - This CEO says he was shut out by tons of investors in Silicon Valley for classifying his workers as W-2 employees

    But Josh Bruno, the CEO of senior-care startup Hometeam, said that for him it was always clear that Hometeam's 1,000-plus caregivers needed to be on W-2s. They needed a lot of training, and Bruno wanted to give them the sense that Hometeam was investing in them for the long haul.

    But unfortunately, when Bruno was trying to raise money, that wasn't what Silicon Valley VCs wanted to hear.

    "I was kicked out of every office on Sand Hill Road," Bruno said, referring to the iconic street that houses many famous Silicon Valley VCs. Bruno said he even had a verbal agreement with a "flashy name" VC, who then wouldn't go through with the investment unless Bruno put his workers on 1099s.

    Why? One reason, Bruno said, is because big names like Uber and Lyft were doing it. Bruno's main competitor, Honor, which was named one of Business Insider's hottest San Franciscostartups to watch in 2016, originally used 1099s. It has since switched to W-2s.

    But it wasn't simply because everyone was doing it, Bruno said. The deeper reason rested in what a 1099 represented.

    Bruno said that to VCs he spoke with, a 1099 meant a job that was both easy and repeatable. The worker is a part that can be swapped in, which is good because it means the business will be easier to scale, Bruno explained. And it would be easier to get the kind of growth the VCs were looking for.

    Steve here - In case you wondered what the general attitude of 'people who have money and are looking to have more money' is towards labor, there you have it. 'Gog' workers are cogs, more or less the same, more or less interchangeable. This isn't a problem until.... Well, let's ask some of the Gig workers.

    And as promised, here's your warning, 67 percent of Americans who have worked as independent contractors would choose not to do so in the future (infographic below courtesy of Deloitte).

    A recent online poll by Deloitte of nearly 4,000 workers found that 67 percent of respondents who have worked as an independent contractor would choose not to do so again in the future. Additionally, more than 60 percent of employed workers said that their stability would suffer if they moved to independent contract work, and 42 percent worry about sacrificing good compensation and benefits.

    Steve here - Lots of interesting nuggets to take away from the Deloitte data, but they all point to the same place - that many, many 'Gig' workers are not at all happy to be Gig workers, and that most organizations are doing a terrible job managing and engaging these gig workers. it's almost as if the Silicon Valley VC attitude towards labor is taking hold and becoming more common.

    The danger is at the same time you as an organization make the strategic move to increase your use of Gig workers, and the tools and technologies are making it easier for you to incorporate Gig workers into your processes and workflow, that the way we value, treat, and support Gig workers seems to be getting worse. And lots of Gig workers are not happy.

    Plenty to think about here as the next few years play out.

    Have a great week!