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Showing posts from September, 2009

An Oldie, But Goodie

I was digging through a decade's worth of my management columns and came across a column I wrote back in 2001 on the topic of employees who simply can't see their own incompetence. Where the manager sees a glaring deficiency, the employee sees a valued competency. What do you do with an employee who is incompetent but can't see it?

Anyway, it's still one of my favorite columns and I thought I'd post it.

Pres. Obama Announces $5B in Research Grants

President Obama just wrapped up a speech at the National Institutes of Health where he announced $5 billion in new research grants for scientists.

The money will fund more than 12,000 science projects, including cancer research. The money is being allocated from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds --- e.g., the economic stimulus.

The President said the money should help create additional jobs.

"Do You Want To Get That?"

Don't bring a ringing cell phone anywhere near Hugh Jackman when he's on stage acting.

I'm sure the audience was stunned, as it should be. I applaud Mr. Jackman for taking on a scourge of our society: Cell phones that ring --- and the resulting conversations that take place --- at the most inappropriate times. Kudos, Mr. Jackman, kudos.

Which U.S. Metro Area Is Your Best Bet for Health Coverage?

My dad has always been fond of certain phrases. One of his favorites is: "You've gotta go where the jobs are." I think this sentiment was born out of his teenage years during the Great Depression, when jobs were hard to come by.

These days, however, I think he'd say: "You gotta go where the health insurance is."

So where can you better your chances of finding a job that offers access to an employer-sponsored health plan?

Today the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics answered the question in a cool chart that ranks the 15 largest U.S. metro areas according to how many of their residents have access to an employer-sponsored health plan. Here are the results, from lowest to highest:

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 69%

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA 70%

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 71%

Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-NH 73%

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 73%

Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD 74

New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA 75%


Because We Don't Feel Guilty Enough Already

The Institute of Child Health just released a new study that finds children of working mothers are less active and eat more unhealthful foods.

ICH surveyed mothers to learn about their work hours, and their child's eating and exercise habits.

The study, however, didn't survey dads and here's why, according to the study author:

Professor Catherine Law, who led the study, said they had not looked at fathers in this study because fathers employment levels had not changed whereas the numbers of working mothers had increased dramatically.

It's estimated that more than 60% of mothers with kids under age five are working outside the home.

I'm not sure I'm following the researcher's logic here. Sure, more women are working but dads can help out here and there by cutting an apple or peeling a banana, taking the kids down the street to the park, and turning off the TV once in awhile. I think the role of fathers deserves a look, too.

Besides, to leave dads out of this k…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

It's going to be a crazy week around my house: Older child's school is closed today for an in-service day. Younger child's preschool will be closed on Thursday and Friday for a teacher's conference. Somewhere in-between, I will attempt (and "attempt" really is the right word) to write a few decent posts. Perhaps something related to parental leave would be in order? Hmm...

That said, here are some headlines catching my eye this morning:

The U.S. Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate of workers ages 16 to 24 has reached 52.2%, a post WWII record.

The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its Current Population Survey for 2008, which reveals that Hispanics and African Americans in the United States face significantly higher uninsured rates. About 31% of Hispanics and 19% of African Americans were uninsured in 2008, compared to 11% of non-Hispanic Caucasians.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D - WV) announces he will seek to extend health care coverage to employe…

Do You See Your Dream Job?

Yesterday I spoke with Sue Frederick, a Colorado-based career "intuitive" and author of the new book, I See Your Dream Job: A Career Intuitive Shows You How to Discover What You Were Put on Earth to Do (St. Martin's Press).

Frederick uses numerology and her intuition (hence, the job title "intuitive") to help people see what they should be doing in life. She hosts workshops to help people who are struggling with career stasis, metamorphosis or traumatic career upheaval of the "what the hell do I do now?" variety.

I have to admit I'm pretty skeptical about numerology as a means of pinpointing one's true calling, but Frederick has some insights that I think any unhappy, unfulfilled or laid off careerist navigating the worst recession since the 1930s can appreciate.

One thing Frederick talked about is how most of us are programmed from youth to respect and utilize our analytical side (the left brain) instead of our intuitive, creative side (the rig…

What is North Dakota Doing So Right?

A new Bureau of Labor Statistics report out today reveals the states with the most statistically significant job losses between August 2008 and August 2009. Without any further ado, the states with the most job losses over the last year are: California, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Georgia and my current state of residence, North Carolina.

Here in North Carolina, we've been hit hard by the banking crisis (Charlotte is the epicenter of banking activity), as well as a host of technology layoffs and textile jobs that continue to go overseas.

Only the District of Columbia and North Dakota saw job growth between August '08 and '09, with a 0.3% and 0.2% increase, respectively.

I know what you're thinking. North Dakota?

Yup. The Peace Garden State just reported a 4.2% unemployment rate among its 650,000 residents last week. Yes, you heard that right: 4.2%.

North Dakota's economy grew at the fastest pace of all 50 states in 2008. Its housing market --- buoyed by…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

First off, let me say that I'll never look at John Deere lawn mowers the same after last night's episode of "Mad Men." Ouch!

Here are some news headlines catching my eye this morning:

The U.S. Justice Department says extra-close monitoring of Federal employees' communications doesn't violate their rights, or those of the people with whom they're trading emails, IMs and texts.

Halliburton Investor Relations, a division of the larger company of the same name, is named one of Dallas's best "small" places to work.

Health care workers in New York are required to get flu shots as a condition of employment, but employees are resisting the mandatory requirement.

Highly-skilled foreign-born workers are fleeing the United States for jobs in other countries. Duke professor estimates 100,000 Chinese and 100,000 Indians will return to their home countries over the next five years.

Artful dodge: UK businesses aren't donating money to the arts. 1 in 4 comp…

Hyatt: How Not to Fire People

A hotel asks its housekeepers to train their "vacation" replacements. The housekeepers do as asked. Then the hotel fires the housekeepers and replaces them with these "vacation" replacements, who are really lower-cost temps outsourced from a staffing firm.

Evidently, this brand-damaging scenario really happened on August 31st to 100 housekeepers at three Boston area Hyatt hotel locations.

The ex-employees just held a rally to protest their dismissal. Politicians attended the rally and are calling for a boycott of Hyatt.

One wonders what Hyatt managers were thinking when they made this decision. I don't know exactly, but they sure weren't thinking ahead about the ramifications:

At last count, more than 584 comments had been posted on the Globe's website about Hyatt's actions. The article has been among the site's most-emailed pieces of content, and was picked up by websites like Executive Nomad and the Consumerist. A rally was held last evening in …

Thoughts on Helicopter Parents & Pizza Parlors

When I moved home for the summer after my freshmen year of college, I applied for a job at a local pizza place.

The next day, the manager called to arrange a quick in-person interview. Could I come by later that day? I said sure.

Being a somewhat shy and awkward 19-year-old, however, I came to the conclusion that I needed some extra moral support. I walked into the den, where my 70-something dad sat on the sofa reading his daily stack of 6 to 8 newspapers. CNN blared in the background. What can I say; he liked his news.

"Hey, dad. I have a job interview at the pizza place. Will you come with me?"

He looked at me and said, "WHAAAAT?!" My dad, you see, had grown very hard of hearing. Repeating myself two, three, four times was par for the course.

He turned up his hearing aid while I turned down the TV. I repeated my request even more loudly. It was met with a look of confusion.

"You want me to WHAT?! Go with you to your job interview? Jesus Christ," he said, ch…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

GM is returning non-union salaried employees in Canada and the United States to their original pay levels following a temporary pay cut of 10% in some cases.

Staying put: Survey finds 33% of companies will increase employee relocation this year, while 67% will either decrease or maintain employee relocation levels.

A year later, Lehman Brother employees are busy moving on. They dig their social networking, too.

A different kind of Coke rewards: Employees at Chinese Coca-Cola bottling plant under investigation for taking bribes.

Disney and its employees are going head to head over proposed changes to the company's health care plan that Disney says could increase family coverage by $250 a month.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement workplace raids are creating new job opportunities for legal American employees.

Boeing's workers in South Carolina reject unionization.

Deere to lay off 367 employees.

Food banks are having a tough time keeping…

Poll Finds Businesses Want Health Reform

90% of U.S. business leaders in a new Business Forward survey point to health care as their number one issue --- ahead of taxes, government regulation, labor costs and energy costs.

If nothing changes, 86% of the 800 leaders polled say health care costs will continue to increase. 55% think costs will go up "a lot."

If nothing changes, roughly 9 in 10 business leaders say they'll need to increase employee deductibles and co-payments. 8 in 10 will have to cut benefits. 1 in 3 companies say they'll have to lay people off.

Here's how they responded to various elements of the health care reform plan:

78% want an insurance exchange.

71% want efficiency reforms.

79% want an oversight commission requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

51% support a public health option.

I am pleased to see so many employers backing coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Anyway, it's an interesting survey. Find more here.

Thoughts on 9/11

On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, how much effort are employers putting into disaster preparedness?

The good news is, employers have made some progress. In a 2008 survey, 58% said their employers offered training in workplace emergency plans in 2008. In 2006, only 43% said their employers offered some kind of disaster training.

But employers still have a way to go. Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a report entitled Personal Preparedness in America: Findings from the 2009 Citizen Corps National Survey. It reveals that 41% have actually practiced a workplace evacuation drill. Only 14% have tried a home evacuation drill --- an enlightening statistic when you consider that 34 million Americans telecommute.

The FEMA survey also found that 30% of Americans haven't prepared at all for a potential disaster, believing that emergency responders will help them figure out what to do when something bad happens.

In other words, about one-third of Americans are …

Companies Struggle with CEO Succession

RHR International released a new study the other day on the topic of CEO succession planning. In all, 236 company officers responded to an online questionnaire, and here's some of what they said:

95% think CEO succession is critical for business continuity, but less than half think they're good at succession planning.

40% say their companies are unprepared for a quick CEO exit.

48% say the current CEO is responsible for his or her own succession planning.

67% say their main struggle with CEO succession planning is having “too few candidates” to choose from.

About 50% say they "over rely" on an outside applicant's resume in a CEO hiring decision.

Maybe these number help to explain some of the continued CEO job churn? 101 CEOs quit their jobs last month alone, according to global outplacement consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. To date, 834 CEOs have quit their jobs this year.

I'll be speaking with someone at RHR International tomorrow to find out more a…

McKinsey's Working Its Magic at Conde Nast

Consulting firm McKinsey may soon be winding down its work at publisher Conde Nast, whose magazine holdings include Vogue, Traveler and Details.

The New York Observer is reporting there will be some "surprises" announced in the coming weeks. My favorite part of the article, however, is this bit about the stylish young McKinsey consultants treading Conde Nast's hallways:

Through conversations with several staffers who have endured the McKinsey interviews, we’ve assembled a portrait of the typical consultant. First, they’re quite young! Despite the early perception that they’d look like pasty lawyers wielding big-wheeled suitcases, they’re apparently a plucky, charming bunch.

“They’re kind of hot,” said one source.

Crisp shirts, no jackets, freshly pressed pants—not unlike the fresh-faced boys who posed for the Harvard fashion shoot in the Styles pages of The Times this past weekend. They jot notes down on legal pads and in marble notebooks.

I would imagine it's no easy fea…

It's National Suicide Prevention Week

It's National Suicide Prevention Week, and tomorrow is National Suicide Prevention Day.

For employers, it's the perfect opportunity to raise an otherwise uncomfortable topic that's become more important in light of a 28% increase in workplace suicides last year.

My research turned up this disturbing statistic as well: 90 Americans will kill themselves today, and another 2,300 will try.

Employers should have a strategy for dealing with suicidal employees, especially in a poor economy where people feel more stress at work and home.

That said, here's my new article about spotting and dealing with troubled employees.

It's a Sign of the Times, I Guess

Big-time CEOs are bumping up their own security measures amid so many layoffs.

As a USA Today article points out, the median spending on personal and home security for CEOs at the 100 largest publicly traded companies was $65,348 in 2008. That's an increase of 123% over 2007.

My favorite paragraph:

Starbucks, which has laid off workers, closed stores and switched from whole to 2% milk to save pennies a gallon, bumped its spending to $511,079 last year on the personal and home security of CEO Howard Schultz. FedEx, which quit matching employee 401(k) contributions, spent $595,875 on the security of CEO Fred Smith. Walt Disney spent $645,368 for CEO Robert Iger; Occidental Petroleum spent $575,407 for Ray Irani; and McKesson spent $401,706 for John Hammergren.

Well, I guess we know where the layoff cost savings are going...


The National Labor Relations Board is in turmoil, according to a new Washington Post article.

"Dozens" of labor-related decisions sit unaddressed in the board's hopper. Among the questions waiting for an answer include whether employers can stop employees from using company email systems for union messages, where employees can hand out union materials on work property, and so on.

At issue are three unfilled board seats. Right now, the NLRB has one Democrat and one Republican on its board. The fight is over how to fill the other three seats.

President Obama has nominated people to fill the open posts, but Republicans are raising a stink. They're fearful that a functioning NLRB could make an end run around Congress and implement the Employee Free Choice Act, which would essentially help employees form unions. THE EFCA is stalled in Congress.

Evidently, the EFCA isn't the only thing that's stalled in Washington.

Labor Day News Round-Up

Hope the Americans visiting this site are enjoying their Labor Day weekend. I'm enjoying an overcast, warm, breezy day here in North Carolina. The weather is pretty much perfect.

Still, I can't let today slip by without posting my Monday workplace news round-up. So here are some headlines catching my eye today:

National studies find workers this Labor Day are working more, making less and in general, are pretty frustrated.

Employers are shedding fewer temporary workers, and some are taking it as a sign that recovery is underway.

The Ph.D.s who write multiple-choice testing exams for federal employers are updating tests after job applicants file lawsuits claiming discrimination. No word on whether coloring outside the ovals will invalidate the answers.

New surveys reveal employers will regret their current employee management strategies.

New survey shows how the jobless are coping in this recession. (Hint: They're not coping very well.)

So long, Doug! Women now outnumber men in t…

Pew Finds Doubts About Working Moms

A new Pew Research Center survey of 1,815 people conducted last month turned up some interesting results. Among them: The public remains skeptical about full-time working mothers.

I'll let this story break down the numbers:

The public is skeptical about full-time working moms. Just 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women say that a full-time job is the "ideal" situation for a woman who has a young child. A plurality of the public (44 percent) say a part-time job is ideal for such a mother, while a sizable minority (38 percent) say the ideal situation is for her not to work outside the home at all.

Evidently, full-time working mothers agree: 61% of the full-time working mothers Pew surveyed indicated that they would prefer to work part time for now. In contrast, about 20% of full-time working dads yearned for a part-time job.

I Don't Get Twitter

I'm going to admit it: I don't get Twitter.

Like millions of other people, I have my own Twitter page. I use it to post stories I find interesting, to advertise new blog postings, and occasionally, to relay a little bit of (usually very boring) personal news.

But to be honest, I'm not sure why I'm bothering. Facebook and LinkedIn make sense to me; I "get" them. Facebook is where I go to keep up with friends and family, and it's a terrific tool for that purpose. LinkedIn, which I visit less often, is great for joining online professional groups and for creating a resume landing page for other professionals to see.

But Twitter? I'm still struggling to understand it. I've written about Twitter as a potential HR and hiring tool, and I do see value in Twitter for posting and finding jobs, and for marketing purposes.

I don't know how to maximize my use of it, though. I've consciously tried to keep my Twitter page professional instead of too persona…

Management Job? You Can Have It.

A new Randstad/Harris Interactive survey finds that 51% of employees don't want to become managers.

Why? It's too stressful, you might have to lay off people, and there's too much damn paperwork. They do have a point about the paperwork.

The online survey was conducted this spring and included 2,199 employees and 833 managers.

Workers over age 64 are the least interested in management positions, while employees between 18 and 29 are the most interested. A full 58% of younger employees surveyed were interested in becoming a manager. That makes sense, since younger workers are the most interested in career advancement.

Why would the survey include 833 managers, though? They're already managers, so wouldn't their inclusion muddy the results? That part confuses me. And are the managers surveyed saying that they don't want the jobs they have? It seems like there are dueling research questions here.

Anyway, the survey might offer companies a little bit of insight.

August Job Cuts Fall 21%

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports this morning that August job cuts were 21% lower than in July, with U.S. employers cutting 76,456 positions.

Challenger also reports that August '09 job cuts were 14% lower than August '08. Great news.

Government and non-profit jobs topped the list for having the most positions cut last month --- not surprising with the U.S. Postal Service hoping to eliminate 30,000 jobs through early retirement buyouts.

But there's cause for concern, too. From the press release Challenger emailed to me:

While the pace of downsizing has steadily slowed, announced job cuts for the year have managed to reach 1,070,504. That is 60 percent more than at this point a year ago and less than 200,000 away from surpassing the 2008 year-end total of 1,223,993.

Traditionally, employers make the bulk of their job cuts between October to December. So we'll know soon whether or not the worst is finally over. Let's hope so.

Employee Theft is Up

Loss prevention consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International has just released its 21st Annual Retail Theft Survey that looks at shoplifting and employee theft.

In sum, employee theft is up, with one in 30 employees apprehended for stealing from their employers in 2008.

Also among the findings:

Employee Apprehensions: 72,120 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2008, up 3.01% from 2007.

Employee Recovery Dollars: Over $69.8 million was recovered from employee apprehensions in 2008, up 9.9% from 2007.

I covered this topic in April 2009. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that hidden employee fraud --- that is, when employees secretly take from their employers --- filches 7 percent of a company's revenue every year. The dollars lost to fraud can grow quickly, one expert told me. Um, yeah.

It's not surprising in a tough economy that more employees are tempted to take from their employers. The trouble is, employee stealing ranges from the obvious infractions li…