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Showing posts from May, 2009

Does Employee Use of Social Networking Sites Damage the Company's Brand?

The 2009 Deloitte Ethics and Workplace Survey came out the other day with some new findings about how employees and employers view social networking sites.

In a nutshell, employers (74%) think employee use of sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can damage the company's brand --- something the survey refers to as "reputational risk". 60% of executives felt they have a right to know how employees display themselves (and potentially, their employers) online.

As you'd probably expect, employees see things differently: 53% think it's none of the employer's business what kind of social networking they do, and what they post. Leave me alone, employees say, I'm not your monkey.

But the risks are there. I've interviewed entrepreneurs who make Facebook, MySpace et al their first stop when they're checking out a prospective hire. They sign up for Facebook accounts just so they can look up applicants to see what they've posted. Is this legal? As far…

Pre-Employment Credit Checks: A Looming Issue

According to the National Deliquency Survey released yesterday, a staggering 9.11% of all home loans were delinquent by the end of the first quarter of 2009 --- an all-time record. 3.85% of U.S. mortgages are in foreclosure, another record.

This recession isn't taking down just the consumers with sketchy credit and purchasing decisions; it's taking down the consumers with good credit, too. And keeping your credit score in good territory is getting harder, sometimes for reasons consumers may not realize. Take this excerpt from a Scripps News article:

One of Huettner's clients, who always had a score of about 740, went to do a refinance and found her current score at 719. "The reason was, she put a new washer and dryer on a store credit card," he says. Many store cards are actually revolving credit, which means your limit is essentially your starting balance. So that purchase maxed out her card and caused a 23-point score drop.

Employers don't get information abou…

Please Stop Smiling!

I'm posting this article simply because I find it kind of funny.

The Virginia DMV is banning smiles in driver's license photos. Now Virginians will get to look both bored and unhappy, which is pretty much my experience when I waited 90 minutes to renew my driver's license at the North Carolina DMV.

The Virginia DMV says the ban will be statewide within weeks, and it will help the state's recognition software systems better identify cases of fraud and identity theft. Evidently, looking blase in a photo helps the technology do its job. Who knew?

Tales of the Revolving Chair, and Why It Needs to Go

Companies are downsizing and it's leaving a lot of empty desks. It's affecting employee morale. That goes without saying.

But what about the insidious "revolving chair" --- a.k.a., "high turnover position" --- that so many companies have?

Early in my work life, I took a job in the sales department of a small company where one position turned over every three to six months. A new hire would come on board and wouldn't be able to build a client base from the pile of poop on his or her prospect list. Eventually, the employee would get frustrated and quit, or get fired for "under-performance". Then the department manager would frantically start interviewing new applicants while the remaining employees had a feeding frenzy over any scaps of value (i.e., new clients) the ex-employee had managed to land. A new hire would come on board, only to discover how hard the job was going to be. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Later on, I experienced the "revolving c…

Employers Are Dropping Employee Surveys

Do you like your job? In this economy, your employer would rather not know.

Employers are doing fewer employee surveys. Saving some money is one reason for shelving surveys, but there's another reason, too: If employers don't ask employees what's wrong, then they don't have to fix it.

This "don't ask, don't tell" mentality isn't a good move when employees are working harder and are worried about losing their jobs. The silence is only making once-benign problems fester underneath the surface, and many employers are going to wake up a year from now and wonder why everyone is leaving. Right now, anonymous surveys can be the only way to find out what employees really think.

Employees really want employers to care what they think, especially in a recession. If the boss doesn't care enough to ask how they're doing, employees will talk among themselves until an "us vs. them" mentality sets in. I've seen this happen, and it never works…

Daylight Saving Time Means More Workplace Accidents

New research at Michigan State University is finding a spike in workplace accidents right after the daylight saving time change.

The researchers blame the increase on sleep deprivation. Among the findings:
In two separate studies, they found that the March switch to Daylight Saving Time resulted in 40 minutes less sleep for American workers, a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries, and nearly 68 percent more work days lost to injuries.Accident rates, however, don't increase when the clocks go back an hour in November. That extra hour of sleep makes a big difference. The research will appear in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy

I was web surfing You Tube last night and came across this old Conan O'Brien clip feature comedian Louis CK. I've seen it a few times, and it never fails to make me laugh and appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to live in such amazing times, technologically and otherwise.

Like Louis CK, I'm old enough to remember rotary phones. My parents had one that was earth-toned green. Later, they switched to a banana yellow color. I remember calling my grade school friends and listening to the slow, click, click, click as the dial moved. And letting it ring and ring and ring when no one was home because there were no answering machines. Or deciding whether to watch NBC, CBS, ABC or PBS because there wasn't anything else to watch.

It amazes me to think that our young daughters will never know a world without a mobile phone that lets them watch movies. And Tivo that lets them watch what they want when they want it. To them, the TV and computer are interchangeable. When we stay a…

Money vs. Honesty From the Boss? Employees Want Honesty More

A new study out today from the nonpartisan group Partnership for Public Service assesses how 212,000 federal workers feel about their supervisors' leadership skills, as well as their own advance opportunities. 
Some results mentioned in the WAPO article:
"Fewer than half of federal workers, 48 percent, are satisfied with the information they receive from superiors about what is happening in their organizations, a number that trails the private sector by 18 percentage points. Overall, 66 percent of federal workers think their immediate supervisors are doing a good job, eight points less than in the private sector."

It's important to note the employees were surveyed last summer, before the economy really melted down. Still, this study's results are better than those gathered in previous years. A WAPO source cites two reasons for the improvement in federal employees' attitudes toward their jobs. One, they see working for the federal government as a safer propositio…

Target Tests a Program that Pays Employees to Stay Healthy

Retailer Target has a new strategy for battling health care costs: It's paying employees who get health screenings and take medical advice for improving their health. 
Employees who sign up for the pilot program receive $25 for getting a health screening, filling out a health risk assessment form and signing up online for the program. Then they receive $50 every quarter for following doctor recommendations, as well as another $25 if they get an annual checkup.
So far, Target has rolled out the program to 4,000 employees. Roughly 60 percent of eligible employees at the company's Minneapolis headquarters signed up initially, but only 38 percent have continued the program quarter to quarter. That's a 20 percent drop. 
I would suspect human nature (read: laziness) certainly plays a part in the declining numbers. Following a new health regimen quarter to quarter can be hard work, especially when you're working hard and eating on the go. I applaud Target for trying something di…

What's in Your Fridge?

Who hasn't reached in to the back of the refrigerator to find a forgotten Tupperware container that contains a few fungal surprises? You know, the kind of thing that makes you hold your breath slightly as you're dumping the mold-laced contents in to the garbage can? 
Now imagine you're at work and the office fridge is filled with moldy, gross food that's been sitting in there for God knows how long. Finally, a brave, industrious employee volunteers to clean it up. She starts using spray cleaners. The fumes from the spray cleaners mix with the stench coming from the fridge. Employees start throwing up because the combined stench is unbearable. The fumes get so bad that the company has to call a hazmat team.
This actually happened the other day at an AT&T office in San Jose, California, where the company fridge had so much rotten food in it that a Hazmat team showed up. Seven employees ended up at the hospital after inhaling noxious fumes, while 28 other employees need…

A Column Gets Some Heat

One of my recent workplace columns in Entrepreneur magazine seems to be generating some controversy online. The topic of the column is whether small companies (defined as work sites with fewer than 100 employees) should hire the workers laid off from large corporations. What are the pros and cons of bringing someone from a big company into a very small one? Is it a recipe for disaster?
The column is making its way onto various blogs. Some bloggers think it offers some valuable insights for laid-off job seekers, while others seem to think I'm unfairly dissing the employees coming out of large, corporate settings. 
I believe that applicants with corporate backgrounds who apply to startups have a lot of offer, actually. But they have to show that they're able to adjust, because some entrepreneurs don't believe people who have worked primarily for very large companies can adapt to an entrepreneurial work environment where things happen quickly. Entrepreneurs, fairly or unfairly,…

The Future of Credit Checks

With all the defaults and foreclosures over the last year, will companies have to change how they evaluate pre-employment credit checks?
Credit checks are run on applicants who, if hired, would have a high level of control over company money. It's standard operating procedure in the the financial and banking industry and in senior management positions. Given the nature of these jobs, it makes sense for companies to check an applicant's credit history for debt levels and responsibility in handling money. The last thing a company wants is an investor lawsuit claiming its hiring procedures were negligent because there wasn't a pre-employment credit check. 
A typical credit check allows companies to gain access to information about an applicant's debt load, liens and other financial glitches. The only thing employers won't know is the applicant's overall credit score. Still, with the economy the way it is, it will be interesting to see if employers will have to bend …

You Want Me To Apply Over Your Website? No, Thanks.

New Conference Board data out today reports that online job listings in the United States continue to decline, falling 31 percent in the last month alone.  
But what if you're the applicant scanning these sites for openings? Chances are, you're pretty frustrated. I know some incredibly smart, talented (and currently employed) people who have pretty much stopped applying for jobs online. They'll scan job boards to see what's out there, but that's about it. It's not that they don't feel qualified for some of these jobs; they do. So what's the problem? Anonymity, and too much of it. They feel like they might as well be throwing their resumes down a rat hole. They think a human being will never read their resumes. Sometimes they don't even get an automated reply that says their resumes have been received --- a worrisome event the age of identity theft.
Companies, on the other hand, see online application systems as a time saver and the best way to simplif…

From The 'Duh' Files, Part 1: Narcissistic Workers Create More Workplace Conflict

New research coming out of the University of New Hampshire reports that workers who feel entitled create more problems in the workplace. What kinds of problems, you ask? Well, they're not very good at self reflection, for starters, and they refuse to take the blame for projects they've screwed up. Instead, they like to blame their co-workers while taking credit for the successful projects. The most entitled workers don't enjoy their jobs as much either, presumably because they feel they deserve more, better, faster. 
Want to take a wild guess which generation feels the most entitled? Gen Y, of course. "Managers are finding that younger employees are often very resistant to anything that doesn't involve praise and rewards," says UNH researcher Paul Harvey. While I find this type of research fascinating, it's not very shocking somehow. Take any Gen X manager out for a beer and ask for his or her experiences managing Gen Yers, and you'll get an earful. Ra…

Happy First of May

Today is May 1st, a day that commemorates the labor movement's struggle for an eight-hour work day. For immigrant workers and activists, it's a day for rallying. It's estimated that 12 million illegal immigrants are living in the United States.
But will immigration reform really happen this year? President Obama is expected to start holding town halls on the topic, but it's debatable whether any meaningful reform will happen this year. It's even debatable whether it will happen in 2010, when politicians will be busy campaigning for the November midterms and may treat immigration like a hot potato.
I'm hoping for meaningful reform this year. The immigration debate in recent years has centered around building walls and offering amnesty to illegal immigrants with less attention paid to the U.S. companies that hire these workers. It's created a disingenuous immigration debate, because people from Mexico wouldn't cross our borders illegally if there weren'…