From December, 2011

Employers Bear the Load of the Overweight Worker

I have written past posts on weight affecting a job candidate’s ability to land a job based on the notion that an overweight employee could more significantly impact a company’s  healthcare costs in comparison to a candidate of normal weight.  Gallup has recently released more research to substantiate this fact and many are calling for legislation to protect not only the overweight job candidate but also the overweight employee.

According to the survey, absenteeism was far higher among overweight employees with one or more chronic conditions when compared to normal weight individuals with one or more chronic conditions.  The annual cost of lost productivity due to these absences was three times higher for overweight individuals compared to employees of normal weight.  This cost increases when “presenteeism” is accounted for which is when employees go to work but are less productive because of their overall poor well being.

Years ago, as the detrimental effects of smoking gained attention, employers began discriminating against smokers or charged higher healthcare premiums to those who smoked.  Tobacco lobbyists came to the rescue and legislation was passed in 30 states to at least partially protect the smoking worker’s way of life.  Today overweight individuals far outnumber smokers but little is being done to protect them.  A great deal of evidence points to obese women earning less pay than their healthy weight counterparts and experiments show that overweight individuals with credentials equal to those of their healthy weight counterparts, receive less job interviews and lower performance reviews.

Clearly, discrimination against overweight candidates and employees exists, but is the discrimination justified?  A corporation’s primary goal is to make money. When an overweight individual costs the company several times more money in lost productivity and health care costs does it not seem logical for a company to hire the cheaper more productive thinner worker?  Is this discrimination or just good hiring practices?  On the flip side, how many perfectly healthy and productive overweight workers have been passed over for a thin, seemingly healthy worker who smokes?  Considering that 65% of the workforce is now considered overweight, the attendant health issues are being forced on employers.

What percent of your employees are going to leave in 2012?

In 2010 nearly 900 high potential employees were interviewed. Twenty-percent said they planned to leave their employer in the next 12 months.  Are one in five of your best performing employees ready to bolt?  Could it be an even higher percentage? 

One reason so many top performers consider leaving, according to the same survey, is that 40 percent of internal job moves end in failure.  So planning to leave may just be a rationale response on the part of smart, high performing individuals who can see the handwriting on the wall. 

This evidence points to an ongoing problem which suggests that many companies are ineffective in managing and retaining top talent.  Here are a few suggestions to retain and manage your superstars. 

“You’re special!” – Thirty-three percent of employees not told of their status were looking for a new job compared to only fourteen percent who were told they were special. 

Empower them – Give your employees assignments and allow them to both make mistakes and succeed on their own.  Research suggests that high potentials excel when they are held accountable for clearly defined outcomes. 

Respect their lifestyle needs – For example, don’t destroy morale by forcing your married workers with young children to pull up roots and relocate.  Finding creative solutions that accommodate lifestyle needs yet still promote advancement is very attractive. 

Provide learning and advancement opportunities in abundance – Allowing your employees to receive training and giving them opportunities to perform will help you identify employees who perform well in specific areas. 

Give managers adequate assessment tools for selection – According to a survey of 120 HR professionals, 48% of manager are inneffective at identifying high potential employees. 

Part ways on friendly terms – You never know when you may want to go out and recruit back that high potential employee. 

Your top leaders have to buy-in. – As Roland Smith, Ph.D., lead researcher at the Center for Creative Leadership states, “When we look at organizations that are best in class in identification, selection and development of high potentials, the senior most executives are directly involved and understand it’s a key responsibility.”


The One Chart Best Depicting the Great Recession’s Impact on Hiring

Chart of Unemployed Per Job Opening

This chart, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is worth way more than a thousand words.

It hints at the real impact of 8 million jobs lost. It shows the human toll of the unfettered greed and avarice in our financial system and depicts in meaningful terms the challenge before us.

Take a close look. First, examine the “ordinary” recession that preceded the Great Recession.

If you were a job seeker in early 2001 things were pretty good. Numerically there was almost one job available in the United States for every person who was looking for a job. Sure, that doesn’t mean there was a one-to-one fit, but it does speak to your odds of finding a job if you were looking for one.

Then, starting in March of 2001, the U.S. economy entered a nine-month long recession. During that recession the number of job seekers for every job opening essentially doubled from 1.2 to 2.3. Ouch, that hurt. Even worse, after the recession ended the job market continued to deteriorate for job seekers, and by September of 2003 reached almost 3 job seekers per opening. How am I ever going to find a job?

Fortunately things finally turned around and the market improved steadily from September of 2003 until early in 2007 reaching 1.5 job seekers per opening. Then someone decided the real estate fueled boom was going bust. Welcome to the Great Recession, the worst downturn since the Great Depression!

What happened next is what we call a “hockey stick” effect for its similarity to the way the end of a hockey stick juts up from the handle. From the time the 19 month long Great Recession started in December of 2007, until its end in December of 2009, the number of job seekers per opening did something not seen in recorded history. It grew from 1.8 to 6.1 job seekers per opening! And, like the previous recession, after the Great Recession ended it kept growing to almost 7 job seekers per opening.

Can you imagine how that must of felt? During the Great Recession job openings fell (from 4.5 million to just over 2 million) while layoffs and discharges increased (from 2 million to a peak of 2.5 million). It was like the reverse of an old saying, the rats didn’t flee the sinking ship but rather kept getting on the hiring ship as it was going down.

Where are we now? In September of this year the number of job seekers per opening had declined to 4.2, still almost three times the ratio before the Great Recession.

This bulge of job seekers presents human resources professionals and hiring managers the challenge of identifying the most suitable candidates from among large numbers of applicants. We’re seeing success dealing with this issue though the use of video to screen and interview job candidates. The benefits of video screening improve both time-to-hire as well as quality of hire.

Is a Lack of “Executive Presence” Impeding your Career?

Is A Lack of “Executive Presence” Impeding Your Career?

            A report from the Center for Work-Life Policy, a non-profit research organization recently found that though they are highly ambitious and motivated, Asian professionals are unable to reach senior positions at their companies.  According to Asians in America: Unleashing the Potential of the ‘Model Minority’, sixty-three percent of Asian men feel stalled in their careers.  Forty-one percent of Asian men said the bias issues they faced were severe enough that they’ve scaled back their work efforts and nearly twenty percent said they plan to quit within a year.

            These biases, labeled as the “bamboo ceiling”, occur as Asians move up the corporate ladder and are held back from executive positions through the perception that they don’t have “executive presence”.  This presence considers factors such as appearance, self-confidence, poise, authenticity and an individual’s ability to “look the part” as defined by the corporate culture.

            The bamboo ceiling and this assumption that Asians lack executive presence brings up yet another set of criteria for which job candidates are assessed.  Today job candidates are screened for not only their qualifications and skills but also a number of behavioral characteristics most candidates don’t consider, and for which many hiring managers don’t even realize they are subconsciously screening.  These may include is the candidate “likable”, do they appear “healthy”, are they dressed appropriately and well groomed and now, do they have “executive presence?” 

          Job candidates should try to be aware of all the criteria for which they are now evaluated.  Is your lack of self-confidence hurting your chances at securing that sought after leadership position, as is allegedly occurring with Asian professionals?  Are you discriminated against based on your weight or appearance because companies fear paying the health care costs associated with overweight individuals?  

         While no hiring manager may admit to eliminating a candidate for anything but a lack of qualified skills, a myriad of other issues influence the hiring manager’s decision.  Actors with years of experience and training must still audition for roles for which they are suited based on criteria such as their age, weight, and height, not just their comedic and or dramatic ability.  So too must qualified job candidates with years of experience now “audition” for executive positions based on a number of similar criteria that could make or break their role as superstar employee.