Generational conflicts in the workplace—the Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO) team has had this highly topical issue on our radar for quite a while. The crossfire can be intense, as revealed in this recent article from The Fiscal Times (TFT), a New York-based digital news, opinion and media service.
In “Gen Y vs. Boomers: Workplace Conflict Heats Up,” author David Koeppel explores the dynamics of the modern business office and the sometimes strained interplay and resulting tensions that arise among the various age groups working together.
Click here for the full article.
Generational conflicts have always been present in the office, but experts say Baby Boomers and Generation Y in particular have characteristics that can clash.
Feelings of desperation and even anger among the millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 2000) towards their Baby Boomer (those born between 1945 and 1964) managers are common among young job seekers according to experts. The recession has put a damper on their career goals—55.3 percent of those 16-29 were employed in 2010, down from 67.3 percent in 2000, and 5.9 million Americans between 25 and 34 lived with their parents, up from 4.7 million before the recession, according to recent census data.
At the same time, statistics show that Baby Boomers are delaying retirement.
A 2010 study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire found that while 17 percent of men and 9 percent of women age 65 and over were in the labor force in 1995, by 2009, 22 percent of men and 13 percent of women were still working. Those numbers are expected to grow.
According to data from The Population Reference Bureau, the number of older workers in the next few years will increase by 11.9 million, meaning nearly 25 percent of employees will be seniors by 2016. This backlog of older workers has heightened potential workplace conflict between the generations.
This is evident in some of the comments posted in response to the article. First, Jen from “Gen Y.”
Jen Zucker—”Boomers are the ones who have gotten us into the financial mess (and just about every other mess). They plucked the system dry for those coming up behind them and then blame the generation they stole from. Message to Boomers: Pack it in, your time has come and now leave. And by the way, the thing sitting on your desk, its not a microwave.”
But many Boomers don’t quite see things that way.
rdl114—”One gadget does not a summer make. I am 60 and my peers began using computers in the late 1970s. By the mid-1980s they were a part of virtually all white collar jobs. So, weigh it for yourself, younger folks. We have about 35 years of experience in the tech arena. Being ‘savvy’ about Facebook and iPhones is not what is required in the workplace. Tell us you can run analytics on the price of, for instance, precious metals; show us you know Fibonacci numbers, Chinese Candlesticks and other advanced math processes and maybe we’ll sit up and listen. Or show us you can write a sentence as sharp and clear as diamond. No worry. You’ll get a job then.”
Still, the generational lines aren’t impermeable. Here’s a contrarian take from one of the younger members of the workforce:
RIPCivility—”‘It’s vital that baby boomers extend an olive branch to Gen Y’?? Are you kidding? What do they need to apologize for? For an economy what wiped out their retirement? For being marginalized after being laid off and unable to find work? For developing the technology so Xers (like myself) and Ys can work from Starbucks? I believe this generation is bright, motivated and they think in new and unique ways. But they also give up easily, feel like nothing is ever their fault and think they have the right to ‘demand’ rather than earn their jobs.”
Today’s challenges facing HR administrators necessitate first understanding and then reconciling the opposing forces currently impacting the modern workplace. None of this conflict is going away anytime soon, so squarely facing the challenge is the HR order of the day.
At Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO), we keep our eyes on important trends in order to maintain our in-depth understanding of workplace dynamics within the larger economy.
One excellent source of information is HR Magazine—The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) flagship publication. The magazine reported on SHRM’s 2012 HR Trendbook in its Dec. 1 edition.
In an article titled “Feels Like Recession, But …” Jennifer Schramm, SHRM’s manager of workplace trends and forecasting, analyzed the state of the economy.
Though economists say we are now well into our third year of recovery from the 2007-09 recession, high rates of unemployment, continued economic uncertainty, volatile markets and debt-burdened national economies have made many around the world feel like the Great Recession never ended. These factors are prompting many leading forecasting bodies to readjust their views of what lies ahead in 2012. Most predictions are less optimistic now than they were when 2011 began.
Surveys of HR professionals indicate that there could be at least some areas in the economy where skills shortages may be a factor.
For example, data from the SHRM’s Leading Indicators of National Employment show that even as employment expectations started to level off in 2011, recruiting difficulty generally continued its slow rise. The recruiting difficulty index is based on the difficulty HR professionals report in finding candidates for strategic positions—generally, jobs with higher and special skill demands.
Similarly, the SHRM Jobs Outlook Survey report for the final quarter of 2011 shows that even as HR professionals’ optimism about the job market has gone down, they still report having problems filling skilled jobs.
Only 34 percent of respondents have some level of confidence in the U.S. job market for the fourth quarter, a steep drop from the second quarter, while 57 percent expressed some level of optimism about job growth.
Three-quarters of respondents said the workers they had the most difficulty hiring in the third quarter were overwhelmingly skilled professionals, distantly followed by skilled manual workers.
Finally, a November survey of HR professionals shows that in many industries, new jobs require new skills—in some cases, almost completely new and different skills compared to jobs lost in the recession.
Many HR and staffing professionals have noticed the irony of having a harder time recruiting while unemployment levels remain so high. The more specific the skills requirement, the more difficult recruiting has been.
“For entry-level jobs, it’s completely different. But from a skilled jobs perspective, people are in lockdown. They are fearful to make that change,” says John Hasna, manager of talent acquisition at TD Ameritrade in Omaha, Neb., and a member of SHRM’s Staffing Management Special Expertise Panel.
“Even if your company’s balance sheet looks good, there is so much uncertainty.”
According to Hasna, this uncertainty is making many potential job candidates much choosier about accepting job offers. Even unemployed candidates are more reluctant to relocate.
“We’re getting, ‘Maybe at a later time when things are more stable.’ They’re not willing to take the risk.”
Until hiring rates improve and the global economy gains sustainable momentum, this lack of confidence in the future job market is likely to influence both employers and job seekers.
Says Hasna, “There’s a cycle that needs to be broken.”
When it comes to employment, do you think in terms of “Total Workforce?”
At Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO), we have to. We provide outsourced HR services that help companies navigate risk, increase productivity and reduce the costs, complexities and administration burden related to employment. Doing this successfully on an ongoing basis requires an in-depth understanding of workplace dynamics within the larger economy.
The “Total Workforce” includes ALL forms of labor that execute work in an organization’s name.
First, consider that focusing just on regular employees makes less and less sense as this group comprises an ever-shrinking percentage of the modern enterprise workforce.
Next, the significance of today’s contingent workforce should not be underestimated. Unfortunately, even the U.S. government does this. In the United States, it is widely reported that between 8-10 percent of the workforce is contingent, but like most government-supplied data, that figure is flawed. It represents only the portion of the U.S. workforce that is employed through temporary staffing firms, most notably in security, facilities, maintenance and administrative roles. This statistic does not account for the millions of people who work as independent contractors, work for consulting firms, or work for service providers.
Full-time, temp or freelance, the concept of the “Total Workforce” suggests that a great labor pool realignment is in full force.
In the November 2011 issue of HRO Today, writer, reporter and freelance journalist Russ Banham analyzes this subject in an article titled “The Total Workforce.” Click here to read the whole article.
One of the trends that Banham reports on is the increasing merger of the roles of the managed services provider (MSP) and the recruitment processing outsourcing (RPO) company. Up until quite recently, one type of firm historically recruited full-time labor positions, and the other recruited contingent labor. The reason, in part, had to do with client companies. Within U.S. organizations, procurement typically rode herd on buying the contingent labor, while HR was in the driver’s seat when it came to more permanent positions. This model is now changing.
Another trend is the shift in general expectations about employment. People right out of college these days are more willing to be free agents on the contingent labor side. Full-time, seasoned workers are open to more contingent positions, particularly retirees not yet ready to retire in the present volatile economy. And some contingent workers often are open to a full-time job at the hiring organization at some point in the future.
What does all of this portend for the future? With the unofficial (i.e., not recognized in government statistics) number of Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed now at nearly 27 million persons, flexibility in both offering (employers) and finding (employees) paid work is paramount in keeping people working steadily through the current economic situation.
The “Total Workforce” must always be ready to go to work. And employers must be ready to hire them.
No, it’s not the latest Patricia Cornwell novel—it’s a recent court ruling on an FMLA-related lawsuit. The ruling held that even employees on FMLA leave are required to give proper notice and to follow their employer’s call-in policies.
In 2008, Jordan To brought suit against his former employer, U.S. Bank, for violating his rights by terminating him during FMLA leave. After months of military leave, To failed to return to his clerk job as scheduled on August 4, 2008. He spoke to his U.S. Bank supervisors via conference call and explained he wasn’t feeling well and needed time to recuperate. To’s supervisors asked for a doctor’s note to return to work, which To provided. One week later, when To failed to report for work as expected, he spoke to his supervisor and sent another doctor’s note. A week after that, To not only failed to report for work, but did not notify anyone at U.S. Bank for four days. On the third day, U.S. Bank sent a termination letter to To, citing job abandonment. Upon receiving the letter, To claimed a third doctor’s note had been faxed to excuse the current absence—a note U.S. Bank did not receive and a note To could not produce. Given the status of the missing note, U.S. Bank upheld To’s termination. To sued.
Is this a case of wrongful termination under FMLA law?
The answer lies in U.S. Bank’s employment policies at the time of To’s absence. As explained in the “Reporting Absences” provision of its employee handbook, U.S. Bank’s call-in policy stated that absence requests must be reported as soon as the employee becomes aware of such a need—that is, the employee provides reasonable notice. The policy also stated that all absences must be reported by speaking directly to the employee’s supervisor, not through voicemail or e-mail. The handbook also contained a “Job Abandonment” provision, which stated that after two consecutive days, an unreported absence would be considered voluntary job abandonment. Both provisions specifically included FMLA absences under their umbrellas.
Giving To the benefit of the doubt, assume U.S. Bank legitimately failed to receive his faxed doctor’s note. In that case, the note should have satisfied the “reasonable notice” requirement of U.S. Bank’s absence-reporting policy. But note or no note, To violated the “call-in” requirement when he failed to directly notify his supervisor. The FMLA angle of his case had no bearing, because FMLA absence requests are legally expected to follow employer policy on standard absence requests. Clearly, To did not comply with his employer’s call-in policy. The court thought so, too—it ruled against To and upheld his termination.
According to a CNN report, Americans working in a claustrophobia-inducing cubicle have one more thing to complain about: shrinking cubicle size.
The average worker’s office space has dwindled 15 square feet since 1994, down to a cozy 75 square feet in 2010. And it’s not just the everyday workers who are feeling the squeeze—senior workers’ office space shrunk 19 feet over the same period. Everyone but executive management, who enjoyed an increase in office space, has to do more work with less space.
Or are they?
What popularized the cubicle in the 1960s was its functional, modular office space without the construction required to build walled offices. In the past, cubicle size has had to accommodate the latest office technology, such as bulky telephones, typewriters, and desktop computers. Today, that technology is slender and sleek, such as flat-screen monitors, laptops, iPads, and Blackberries—and more important, that technology is mobile.
Mobile technology replaces the need for workers to be chained to their desks. Instead, workers can telecommute or work from different places in the office, as in the open-space seating model found at companies such as Facebook and Intel. This open-space model is becoming more popular thanks to its team-oriented setup and efficient use of work space. Due to meetings, travel, shifts, or personal leave, not all work space is required at all times, so it makes sense to have fewer and unassigned work stations.
While some employees appreciate this modern, flexible approach to office space, other employees reject the approach’s irregularity, close quarters, and lack of privacy. Since employees spend half their days at work, it’s important their office environment works for them to foster comfort and productivity. But just as office spaces come in all shapes and sizes, so do employees, so not every model will suit every employee’s personality or work style.
Does that mean private offices are on the verge of extinction? Not if SAS, a North Carolina business intelligence software company, is any indication. For the last two years, the company was named Fortune magazine’s best place to work. The kicker? SAS gives almost all its employees private offices.
Is your business ready for January 31, 2011? No, we’re not talking about W-2 distribution—we’re talking about the deadline for employers to apply new Social Security withholding tables and the new 4.2-percent tax rate.
These new numbers are effective under the Tax Relief Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010’s “Social Security tax holiday.” Under this “holiday,” employees earning up to a low six-figure salary will pay 4.2 percent in Social Security taxes, while employers will continue to pay the full 6.2 percent.
As if those changes aren’t enough to remember, employers who didn’t implement the new tax tables by the first pay period of 2011 will find they have withheld too much tax from their employees’ paychecks. This may be a common inaccuracy due to the tax tables’ late-December release; however, withholdings should be corrected as soon as possible and no later than March 31.
If the influx of tax and payroll changes has you scratching your head, let GHRO look out for you. We monitor the latest legislation and regulations to keep your business running at its best, so you can focus on core business matters. Let us do the work for you. Call us today for a free quote!
I’m assuming that many of you are active Human Resources professionals, and as such you’re responsible for everything from evaluating candidates, posting job descriptions, to handling employee’s questions regarding their retirement, and making sure their benefits are in order. However, for the focus of this post, I’d like to offer some insights regarding the hiring process from the perspective of a candidate who has been searching for a job for quite a while. Anyhow, take from my thoughts what you will! I hope I can be of some help.
The first area I’d like to offer my advice in is to say this: avoid confusing job descriptions. Now, I’m sure you do your best to write good job descriptions, but I still want to counsel you to try to look at what you’re writing from the perspective of a desperate job hunter. The vague job descriptions bring in all sorts of desperate people, many of whom are unqualified, who justify their applying for a job they’re clearly not capable of doing because the job description is unclear.
Secondly, you should try to make the interview process as easy as possible for the candidate to navigate. This means telling the candidate the basic information up front. You’d be surprised at how many interviews I’ve been invited to attend, only to have to call back later and ask for directions, for the names and positions of the people who will be interviewing me, and how long I can expect the interview to last and any other special considerations. Job candidates who are asked to interview are already stressed as it is; try to make the process easy on them.
Finally, once the interview is over, be in touch with the candidate, regardless of the outcome. I’ve sat through interviews that I thought were going well, only to leave without knowing what the process going forward is. I’ve had several places not call me to inform me of their decision. If you invite someone in for an interview, it’s only right that you follow up, even if that person did not make the cut.
I realize that many of you are already doing your jobs well, and probably do these things above all the time. So this isn’t a criticism at all. Instead, it’s just a gentle hello from the other side of the job application website, saying “Don’t forget about me!”
So far, you’ve learned when to update your business’ employee handbook and how to avoid potential handbook horrors. In our third and final entry into our employee handbook series, you’ll find out key points to include in any effective handbook.
When properly prepared, the employee handbook should be a critical communication tool between your business and its employees. Your handbook should explain your business’ expectations from its employees and establish what your employees can expect from the business. This information should be presented in a clear and easy-to-understand fashion.
Here are ten essential items that should be included in every employee handbook:
- A form acknowledging the employee’s receipt of the handbook
- A disclaimer reserving the employer’s right to change the handbook’s content in the future
- The organization’s mission statement
- Recruitment practices, including how open positions are posted and filled
- Salary administration practices, including merit increases and performance reviews
- Computer and Internet use policy
- Employee code of conduct
- Absence policy, including maternity leave, bereavement leave, and jury duty
- Complaint and grievance procedures
- Guidelines for employment termination
Now that you know when to update your business’ employee handbook, this second entry into our three-part employee handbook series will teach you how to avoid small verbiage that can lead to big business bothers.
The employee handbook is your tool to distribute company policy in plain and simple English—so be careful to avoid commitments you don’t want to honor in the future. To maximize understanding and minimize potential litigation, an effective employee handbook should be:
- Easy to read – Remember the plain and simple English? The handbook should be written in language easy for everyone to understand. The handbook is not the place to show off your high-scoring Scrabble words.
- Carefully worded – Don’t use wording that creates an employment contract. Never promise to terminate employees for “good cause,” because good cause is subjective and will most likely be decided by a court!
- Regularly updated – The handbook should contain a disclaimer stating that management reserves the right to periodically update the contents.
- Consistent – To avoid potential misinterpretation, the handbook should be consistent within and between all sections. Maintain a list of related policy items, where if one item changes, they all must be changed.
- Realistic – Set only realistic promises and achievable goals. Your employees are only human!
- Appropriately detailed – Including too many fine details can come back to bite you. For example, when it comes to performance reviews, it’s best to stay away from rigid statements like, “Performance reviews will be given annually.” Such statements can lead to potential litigation troubles if not strictly followed. Instead, indicate reviews will generally be conducted on an annual basis but may be given more or less frequently, as needed.
- Fun – The last thing a new employee wants to do is trudge through 86 pages of dry reading. Your handbook should be technically correct, but it can still be fun! Try to incorporate a theme or fun graphics to make the entice employees to read.
- Digital – Gone are the days of expensive, hardback handbooks better served as paperweights. Distributing read-only electronic copies makes the handbook easier (and cheaper) to access and update, and means employees will never use their handbook as a doorstop.
If your employee handbook was last updated in the age of high hair and parachute pants, it lacks key legislative changes such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Polygraph Protection Act. Relying on an out-of-date handbook is a surefire way to invite litigation!
Your HR team should continually review the handbook for necessary updates. Employment law is constantly changing, so your HR team should check new laws against your employee handbook’s policies. Your HR team should also confirm handbook policies match actual practices. The last thing anyone wants is to be cornered by an employee armed with a handbook offering six weeks’ vacation, when current company policy only offers four.
Having an up-to-date handbook provides many benefits beyond avoiding uncomfortable confrontations. Not only does the handbook provide guidance to employees and supervisors, but it also establishes consistent policies important to risk management. Consistent policies also ensure a more harmonious work environment, since everyone knows what to expect.
If it’s time to update your employee handbook, consider the following steps:
- Regularly review the handbook to ensure the most current policies.
- Have an attorney review the handbook at each phase.
- Implement a plan to address policy updates and how to communicate them to everyone in the business.
- Train management staff to consistently follow handbook policy.
- Record all updates and changes in a log.
Check back soon for Parts Two and Three of our Employee Handbook series!