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    Entries in workplace (91)

    Monday
    Jan152018

    Striking for a 28-hour work week: What happens when workers feel like they have the upper hand

    Over the weekend while taking a break from freezing and shoveling snow, I caught this recent piece from the Guardian - German workers strike for the right to two-year, 28-hour working week'.

    Turns out in Germany the combination of the traditionally strong position of workers and worker's groups, historically low unemployment, and a robust and growing German economy have conspired to put industrial workers, in this case the Metal Workers Union, in a place where they can hold 'warning' strikes against employers as they advocate for a new benefit - the ability to reduce their hours to 28 per week for a period of up to two years. More details from the piece in the Guardian:

    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.

    Later in the piece we learn that this reduced working week proposal is centered around the need for improved work-life balance for workers, particularly in times when they have more elder or child care responsibilities. Certainly anyone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with the constant struggle to balance family and personal care needs with work would appreciate the benefit for which the German workers are advocating.

    Before you pass off this as another 'Coddled European workplace' story and dismiss its importance or relevance for most of the rest of us, think about this.

    The conditions here in the US are not all that different than what is happening in Germany, and in many other developed countries right now. Unemployment is at or near decades-long lows. Skilled workers are incredibly hard to find (and to retain). In manufacturing and other heavy industries, long tenured and older workers are retiring much faster than they can be replaced with new talent. And finally, more and more American workers are also struggling with elder and child care needs, and making the balance with work and these personal obligations work. In fact, we did an entire recent HR Happy Hour Show on this topic.

    The main difference, you would rightly point out, in the story in Germany and the labor relations environment here in the US is the US worker generally does not have strong union/labor council representation that can advocate for these kinds of benefits and policies. And that is a big caveat, I admit.

    But all the other conditions are present, if not more acute here in the US. In fact, the US unemployment rate is about 4.1%, much lower than in Germany right now.

    So the thing to think about might not be 'What will I do when the workers agitate for 28-hour weeks?', but rather, 'Am I / we prepared for a labor environment where we (the employer), have even less power and influence than we have today?'

    And, 'Are we prepared for a world where we don't choose employees, but rather one where employees choose us?'

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Jan042018

    Learn a new word: Nomophobia

    My son hassles me from time to time because I have, (again, from time to time), became irrationally worried when we are out and about and I notice the battery life on my mobile phone has dipped below, say 80% or so.

    It could be because I travel a fair bit and rely on my mobile more than most people for essential functions, or that for that last 7 or 8 years I no longer have a working 'home phone' so my mobile is the only way to contact me. Or it could be that I need UP TO DATE scores on Knicks, Liverpool, and South Carolina Gamecock games.

    Actually, that is probably it.

    But all of us probably at one time or another felt the creeping anxiety or frustration or maybe ever fear that comes from being without our mobile phones - either from a dead battery, being in a place with no mobile/data service, or even one of the rare (and disappearing fast) places where mobile phone use is not permitted.

    How long could you go, in a non-emergency, 'normal' life situation, without having access to a working, functional mobile phone? An hour? Maybe two? Maybe much less than that, if you are the kind of person who more or less runs your life and business and family stuff from your mobile phone.

    Turns out this anxiety/fear of being out of mobile contact has a name, or at least a proposed name - Nomophobia.

    From our pals at Wikipedia:

    Nomophobia is a proposed name for the phobia of being out of cellular phone contact. The term, an abbreviation for "no-mobile-phone phobia", was coined during a 2008 study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based research organization evaluating anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they "lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage".

    I'd say since 2008, the year of the referenced study above, that the percentage of folks who would admit to being 'anxious' if they were without their working mobile phone would be much, much higher. Like everyone, I am thinking.

    Why bring this up, this pretty obvious, 'We all are reliant on our mobile phones and we get really squirrely when we don't have them or they don't work' take?

    Because there is at least some responsibility from workplace rules and norms, and associated workplace technologies that are contributing to this phenomenon.

    The original research into the causes of nomophobia most often cited respondent's need to keep in touch wth and be available to friends and family as the prime driver of their anxiety during times when they had no mobile access. Today, for many if not most employees and even contingent workers, I would probably add "the need to be able to see, respond, and otherwise be accessible to 'work'" as another significant driver of nomophobia-type anxiety.

    Sure, we need to be able to text our kids to find out where they are, when they need to be picked up, or when they are coming home. Not being able to perform that function is a real hassle, and can be anxiety-filled.

    But I bet if you were honest with yourself, you would rank 'Missing an important email from the CEO/Boss/Client' almost as high on your list of nomophobia triggers.

    Once any tool becomes a workplace tool, the folks who architect and design work and our relationships to the tools we use for work have at least some responsibility to ensure that these tools are used, well, responsibly.

    It is probably worth a minute or two, before 2018 really gets going and you won't have time for this nonsense, to think a little bit more about what we expect, demand, and require from our teams and ourselves, when it comes to being 'always' accessible.

    We have a lot to get nervous and anxious about without worrying about missing an email at 11PM on a Saturday.

    Postscript- The Wikipedia piece on Nomophobia links to a 2012 research paper titled 'Mobile phone addiction in adolescence: The Test of Mobile Phone Dependence (TMD)', that includes a 12-question survey (way at the end of the paper), to test your own addiction to mobile technology. Worth a look if you suspect you might have a nomophobia problem. 

    Wednesday
    Jan032018

    Five things I think I think, year-begin 2018 edition

    Kicking off 2018 with five quick observations, (not predictions), about HR, work, tech, basketball, or whatever comes to mind in the 27 minutes I have allotted to complete this more or less first post of 2018.

    1. Workplace- In the 'year-end 5 things post' last week, I mentioned the situations involving Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein (among others). Over the New Year's break I saw that a high-profile college football coach, (Rich Rodriguez from University of Arizona), was fired due at least in part to allegations of inappropriate behavior. To me, now the question isn't 'If' these kinds of situations are going to show up in your industry or your organization, but 'when' will they emerge. Besides the obvious succession planning angle that I mentioned last week, there probably needs to be a serious review of how the organization can emerge, change, and grow from these situations in order to have a reasonable shot at retaining the kinds of good people that don't want to be associated with a tarnished brand, and to attract the ones you need to keep the machines running in 2018. This issue could get bad enough in some organization that it becomes a tangible risk to recruiting, branding, and retention.

    2. HR and HR Tech- I am going let go, (for the time being), of my recent 'Voice interfaces are the next disruption' take, although I really believe it to be the case, to mention the other 2018 buzzword - Artificial Intelligence. Just this morning I caught this piece - China is reportedly building a $2 Billion AI park as it looks to become a world leader in the field. The race for AI technologies, talent, and investments are not just going to occur on a company-to-company level, they are going to become national-level initiatives. China and Russia both think the key to future global power, influence, and wealth lay in 'winning' the AI contest. How these macro/global projects will eventually impact and filter down to 'normal' workplaces is still a little unclear, but I think it is safe to say these impacts are probably being underestimated. Five years ago every HR Tech company tossed the word 'social' into its product pitch. In 2018 AI is the new social.

    3. Email- In 2018, I vow not to read email on my phone, before I get out of bed. I am pretty sure email is the absolute worst way to begin a day. But I also vow to get better at keeping up with my email in 2018. I did do the 'email bankruptcy' thing on January 1 though, by marking everything as read. If you send me an email in 2017 and did not hear back, you probably should re-send if you need a reply.

    4. HR Happy Hour- I don't have too much to add to the what I posted last week about the HR Happy Hour Show but I will mention two things. One, the first show of 2018 posted yesterday - great conversation with Derek Belch from STRIVRabout how companies as diverse as Walmart and Stanford University's football team are incorporating VR technology for training and development. You can listen to that show hereor on your favorite podcast app. And two, we are open to working with new podcast sponsors in 2018, if you or your organization is interested in becoming an HR Happy Hour Podcast sponsor, please contact me at steve@h3hr.com.

    5. SMB - Not sure if anyone cares, but since I am more or less off of Facebook and Instagram, (no one cares about that I am sure), but I did have a great holiday break highlighted by a trip to the Tampa, Florida area where I watched my South Carolina Gamecocks defeat the University of Michigan 26-19 in the Outback Bowl. Great trip, great time, awesome experience. I had not been to a college football game in a long time, and the game brought back all that I used to enjoy about attending games at Williams-Brice Stadium in Carolina. Here's a health, Carolina, forever to thee.

    That's it, I am out - I hope you have a fantastic 2018!

    Wednesday
    Dec202017

    More on the employee caregiver challenge

    Quick shot for a counting down the days before a long holiday break Wednesday. Today's New York Times ran a piece on the growing elder care challenges in the US and the disproportionate impact that elder care demands are placing on female workers. You can read the piece titled 'How Care For Elders, Not Children, Denies Women a Paycheck', here.

    Two things of note from the piece, and then one plug for a recent HR Happy Hour Show we did on this topic in case you missed it.

    One, the numbers and population demographics in the US are making the elder care situation a much greater issue in the last 15 years or so. One researcher estimates that currently there are about 21 million family members in the US who are caring for an adult relative (and not being paid for this care). He estimates that by 2040 this number will increase to around 34 million. So again, the elder care challenge/crisis is only going to increase.

    Two, the responsibility for providing elder care tends to fall predominantly on women. The American Time Use Survey indicates that about a quarter of women aged 45 - 64 are providing some level of elder care. Other research points to decreases in labor force participation for women in this age cohort, a reduction in earnings and hours, and an overall decline in economic health and prosperity for these care givers. Finally, factor in elder relatives living longer, (and needing more long term care), smaller families (lessening the ability to rely on siblings to assist with care), and increased divorce rates, (often making the care giving burden much harder), and you can see that the elder care challenge is complex and real.

    It is important that HR/workplace leaders are aware of these issues as they will continue to impact an increasing percent of American workers. I must admit to having not given the elder care issue much thought until a couple of months ago, when we welcomed Adam Goldberg, CEO and Founder of Torchlight to the HR Happy Hour Show

    Torchlight is an outcomes focused, employee caregiver platform that helps reduce the costs and complexities of modern care giving for families and employers in the U.S. 

    On the show, Adam talked about the growing challenge of care giving in the US, the situation where employees have significant responsibilities outside of work with childcare, elder care, and other care giving situations that require, time, attention, resources, and are a major source of life and work stress for employees.

    I usually don't like to re-post older podcast episodes on the blog here, but after reading the NYT piece this morning, and thinking more about the importance of the issue, I thought it right to try and raise some additional awareness of the challenge and how one innovative company is helping employers and employees.

    You can listen to the podcast with Adam here, on the widget player below, or on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

    Have a great day!

    Thursday
    Dec142017

    Code words for 'Get ready for some layoffs', ranked

    Big news on the corporate M&A front announced this morning with the news that Disney has reached an agreement to acquire substantial portions of the Fox media empire (including Twentieth Century Fox film and TV studios, a bunch of cable and international TV businesses), for approximately $52.4B in Disney stock.

    While most of the coverage I read and heard this morning focused on the business and content strategy implications of the deal (basically these assets strengthen and augment Disney's content inventory for their eventual direct to consumer streaming service which will compete with Netflix), less attention was given to the inevitable 'people' costs of these kinds of transactions. Namely, the almost certain reductions in headcounts from the newly combined (and larger) entity as execs look for ways to try and pay for the huge acquisition cost, and wring more profit and efficiency from the combined entity.

    And the fun part (it is not really fun, I am being sarcastic), is that when the 'people' issues are discussed in these M&A deals the word 'layoffs' is never, ever used. No, we get other, less direct and more corporate-speak words and phrases that more or less try to mask what is really going to happen to a whole bunch of people that through no fault of their own become part of the costs (ironically savings to the corporation), of these transactions. This topic will always resonate with me because a few years back I was caught on the wrong side of one of these transactions myself.

    In that light then, I present my unscientific, unresearched, incomplete, subjective, and 100% accurate ranking of 'Code words for 'Get ready for some layoffs''...

    5. More than one appearance in a Press Release of any of the following words - 'Nimble', 'Optimize', 'Simplify', 'Align', ''Strategic', 'Targeted', (I could keep going but you get the idea). The key is the more corporate buzzwords you see, the more you need to worry.

    4. 'Refocus', 'Restructure', or for a modern spin 'Pivot to (insert something slightly different from what the company has been doing here)' - The 'Pivot to' something else one is my new favorite. Somehow most corporations equate 'trying something new' with 'get rid or everyone who was doing the old thing'

    3. 'Cost savings from efficiencies' - this phrase is actually used in the Disney-Fox press release. But be certain that most of these cost savings will come from the fact that the new entity won't need separate administrative and back office functions. Running payroll for 12,000 employees isn't that much more labor intensive than running it for 9,000 employees.

    2.'Rightsizing' - Ever notice that getting the company sized 'right' always means 'making the company smaller?'

    1. 'Synergies'- Any time 'synergies' are mentioned anywhere in the Press Release, time to polish up your LinkedIn profile 

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings, but sadly, you would be wrong.

    Happy Thursday. Hope you don't get M&A'ed before the holidays.