From Employee Development

Opioids Are Ravaging the Workplace!

Opioids such as Fentanyl, Percocet and Hydrocodone, are prescription pain relievers presently prescribed at an alarming rate.  These drugs aren’t injected through a dirty syringe or snorted from a glass coffee table next to an overflowing ashtray, these are pills popped out of a common orange bottle filled at your local pharmacy and prescribed by your friendly neighborhood doctor.  As innocent as they appear, opioids, according to the CDC, killed 33,000 Americans in 2015.  Those dying are not careless, sallow eyed teens.  Many are everyday working class joes who became addicted to opioids while trying to deal with the pain of an injury.  Quite a few of your co-workers are likely addicted and you may not even know it.

Here are a few startling statistics that capture the seriousness of this epidemic:

·         Thirty-five percent of Americans were prescribed opioid painkillers in 2015 – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

·         23% of the U.S. workforce have used prescription drugs non-medically – National Safety Council

·         According to the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 10 to 12 percent of workers are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while at work.

·         A 2017 survey of more than 500 HR professionals by the Center For Disease Control revealed that 39% reported that employees missed work due to opioid use, 15% that opioid use caused or nearly caused a workplace injury and 10% have had workers overdose from opioids on or off the job.

·         Injured workers who are prescribed even one opioid have average total claim costs four times greater than similar claims from workers who were not prescribed opioids – National Safety Council

·         A 2016 CDC study estimates that nonfatal overdoses cost $20 billion in lost productivity.

·         Fifty-seven percent of companies drug test all their employees, but 41% of those tests don’t screen for opioid pain relievers – National Safety Council

·         According to a NSC employer survey, only 13% of respondents are confident their workers could identify opioid abuse among their colleagues.

Managers must be cognizant of potential abuse in their workplace.  Here are a few signs to look for when detecting opioid abuse:

·         Mood swings

·         Changes in energy level – They nod off on the job

·         Signs of withdrawal – Flu, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, shaking, aches, runny nose

·         Pill bottles in trash can

·         Financial problems – Borrowing money

What steps can you as an employer take to create a drug free workplace?

·         Enact a clear drug policy.

·         Train employees on the dangers of illegal and prescription drugs and how to seek help.

·         Train supervisors on how to spot potential drug abuse and what steps they should follow.

·         Create an employee assistance program which enables employees to access services for personal concerns privately.

·         Expand your drug testing beyond the commonly used five-panel test to one that detects commonly used opioids such as oxycodone.

To get employees the help they really need, HR professionals must take care to remove the stigma of addiction and not shame their employees.  This is perhaps the first step to providing real help.

The Benefits of Hiring Veterans!

Each year as many as 360,000 military men and women join the civilian workforce.  Programs such as the Veteran Jobs Mission and the White House Joining Forces have helped reduce high unemployment numbers for veterans in recent years, however former military personnel still face several challenges when trying to find civilian work.

A stigma of mental illness surrounds many veterans today with the public grossly overestimating the number of those affected by issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Additionally, employers struggle with how to incorporate military skills into civilian jobs.  Lastly, the military environment is culturally different than the civilian environment.  Job candidates are encouraged on their resumes and in interviews to focus on individual achievements, however the military mentality focuses on teamwork and group achievements.  Veterans, according to Melissa Stirling, director of military, campus and youth programs at Hilton Worldwide, are very humble and “not good at singing their own praises.”

Veterans offer numerous benefits! Below are but a few:

·         They have many of the necessary skills required to fill talent shortages.

·         They possess a strong work ethic.

·         They have problem solving skills.

·         They are disciplined.

·         They are safety conscious.

·         They are detail oriented.

·         They are team players.

The U.S. Department of Labor provides a veterans hiring tool kit with tips on how to hire and retain veterans.

·         Create a veterans hiring program and clearly outline your strategy and goals.

·         Create a workplace accommodating to veterans by better understanding their culture and experience.

·         Actively reach out to veterans and military spouses.

·         Partner with groups that can help you locate capable veterans.

·         Understand what you are permitted and not permitted to ask during an interview.

·         Develop a mentorship program with a veteran as the mentor.

·         Show appreciation for veterans’ service on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

·         Explain their training and the organizational chart.

According to a survey by Futurestep, eighty percent of organizations lack veterans recruiting programs despite the overall success in employing them.  Organizations complaining that college graduates aren’t taught the necessary skills to compete in the workforce are neglecting a gold mine filled with candidates possessing ample and applicable skills.  Following the tips above will help better acquaint employers with the challenges a very skilled segment of the workforce face, but also how to incorporate them into their organizations and take advantage of their skills.

What is A.I. and How Will It Affect Your Job?

Earlier this year I wrote about the coming robot storm and the studies that suggest many jobs now held by humans will soon be executed by robots.  Yesterday the Guardian published an article by Stephen Hawking who was commenting on, united-states-856368_640among other things, growing income inequality.  He remarked, “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

What exactly is AI and how does it differ from basic automation such as a robot working an assembly line? AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and though those words may inspire grandiose images of androids such as Star Trek’s Data, the applications for it are far less advanced but also more widespread.  Automation is hardware or software that is programmed to automatically complete a task based on external stimuli.  For example, a sprinkler system that automatically operates when smoke is detected or car headlights that turn on automatically.  AI however not only responds to the stimuli but learns from it to make better decisions for you in the future.

Here are a few examples of AI you perhaps have not noticed.

Autonomous cars – These are perhaps the most recognizable uses of artificial intelligence today.  Soon not only will our cars drive themselves by adapting to the environment around them but so too will our cabs, busses and commercial trucks.

Netflix, Hulu, Spotify – These sites don’t just allow you to watch movies or listen to music, their software algorithms makes suggestions based on your past viewing/listening choices. Think of automation as a record player changing the record, but AI will play the songs you most likely want to hear.

Fraud detection software – These programs understand your buying habits and can alert you of irregular purchases.

News writing – News outlets such as the AP use AI to write very basic news stories such as sports recaps or financial summaries.

The examples demonstrate a few ways that AI can improve our lives but also a few ways it can steal jobs, some of which may be taken sooner than later.  Autonomous trucks for example may save the trucking industry millions but it will also put drivers out of jobs.  The same is true for cab drivers.  These aren’t the only jobs in imminent danger.   According to a study on AI by McKinsey Global Institute, 64% of data collecting jobs and 69% of data processing jobs are ready for automation takeover. 

The good news for most industries is that wide adoption of these changes might still be decades away but they are certainly coming.  According to McKinsey’s Michael Chui, “There’s time for us to adapt.  We might start to think about, can AI save the economy by increasing productivity?”

The belief has always been that new technologies create jobs, but it doesn’t create new jobs for those whose jobs have been stolen.  The individual who loses his job driving a truck can’t immediately be shifted to a job writing software for that truck.  That opportunity is made available to a programmer in a different industry.  So yes, perhaps AI can increase productivity and give people more free time or it will take jobs from thousands and give those people a whole lot of free time!     

Millennials: Statistics About Them You Need to Know For Retention

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996, make up a majority of the workforce and by 2020 will comprise nearly half of all workers.  Millennials, as with previous generations before them, have been labeled as job hoppers.  Perhaps job portrait-1469500_640hopping is a symptom of youth or perhaps millennials truly are different from previous generations. Either way, understanding the job issues millennials must contend with and their motivations will help you better retain them as employees.

According to Gallup, these are the five most important issues millennials consider when applying for a new job:

·         Opportunities to learn and grow

·         Quality of manager

·         Quality of management

·         Interest in type of work

·         Opportunities for advancement

Below are a few statistics that paint a better picture of the millennial workforce climate.

·         Sixty-three percent of millennials have a bachelors degree.

·         Forty-eight percent of them work in jobs that don’t require a four year degree.

·         6 in 10 millennials are open to different job opportunities.

·         21% of millennials have switched jobs in the last year – 3x higher than non-millennials

·         Non-engaged millennials are 26% more likely than engaged millennials to take a different job for a raise of 20% or less.

·         Of the millennials that changed roles last year, 93% did so by changing companies.

·         59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job.

·         48% say that overall compensation is extremely important to them when seeking new opportunities.

·         In their current jobs, 87% rate professional or career growth as important to them.

·         Less than 50% of millennials strongly agree that they’ve had opportunities to learn and grow in the last year.

·         77% of millennials say that flexible work hours are essential to boosting their generation’s productivity.

·         Fifty percent do not believe Social Security will be available when they reach retirement.

·         Fifty-six percent would not work at a company that banned social media access.

·         Sixty-nine percent believe office attendance is not necessary on a regular basis.

·         89% of smart phone owning millennials regularly check email outside of 9-5.

We now have a better view of the picture plaguing employers.  Millennials want more growth opportunities.  Millennials are working in jobs that don’t require a degree.  Millennials desire more work/life balance.  Millennials value social media and half feel they need to earn money now because no social security will be waiting for them when they retire.

Employers must do a better job of retaining their millennial workers by offering growth opportunities and benefits such as flexible hours that are more in tune with millennial desires.  They must also continue using social media and technologies such as video interviewing to reach younger workers routinely accessing the web and their social media presences over their phones.

As mentioned, 46% of the workforce will be made up of millennials in four years and if 60% of them are open to new opportunities, you have a significant chunk of the U.S. workers who could be jumping ship.  This benefits nobody in the long run.  So if you are looking for a New Year’s resolution it should be to retain, retain, retain.

Would You Bench One of Your Employees for Unbecoming Conduct?

Many companies have employee code of conduct and work rule policies in place to ensure not only that operations go smoothly but also to ensure the interests and safety of its employees and the organization.  Here are a few workplace basketball-team-1604548_640behaviors that can often warrant disciplinary action or termination.

·         Theft of company property

·         Working under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol

·         Fighting or threatening violence in the workplace

·         Sexual harassment

·         Disclosure of confidential business information

·         Possession of explosives or firearms at work

These are all legitimate concerns and should receive discipline or even termination if practiced at work. What if, however, such offenses were committed outside the workplace?  Many organizations, especially sports associations such as the NFL and NBA, have policies that demand proper behavior off the field/court as well.

Josh Brown, a New York Giants kicker, was recently reprimanded by his organization for admitting that he had abused his girlfriend several times in recent years.  On top of that, he was unapologetic about it.  The Giants benched him for one game this past week until further judgement on him can be made, a move that has been highly criticized by the media as far too lenient.  Greg Hardy, a former defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, was suspended his first four games of 2015 for a domestic dispute incident in 2014 in which he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend.  Hardy has also made disparaging comments about other players and their wives on social media.  In 2016, through six weeks, no team has signed him.

The NFL’s code of conduct policy extends beyond the workplace, not just to the club house, locker room or the field.  Unbecoming conduct in a player’s personal life is also subject to reprimand.

According to the NFL’s code of conduct policy when prohibited conduct is committed by one of its players, the player committing the offense, and the club to which he belongs, has an obligation to report the crime.  Additionally, their policy states, “Any Covered Person arrested for or charged with conduct prohibited by this policy will be required to undergo a consultation and additional counseling as directed.”  It goes on to say “Examples of such Prohibited Conduct include, without limitation: any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons; the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime; possession or distribution of a weapon in violation of state or federal law; involvement in “hate crimes” or crimes of domestic violence; theft, larceny or other property crimes; sex offenses; racketeering; money laundering; obstruction of justice; resisting arrest; fraud; and violent or threatening conduct. Additionally, Covered Persons shall not by their words or conduct suggest that criminal activity is acceptable or condoned within the NFL.”

Does your corporate policy demand that employees report other employees for criminal activity that may occur outside of work? Does your personal conduct policy state that your employees must undergo counseling for their personal offenses or that they should be suspended for a period of time or fired?  Probably not.  Yes, you may fire an employee for showing up to work under the influence but would you at the very least demand counseling if they received a DUI on the weekend?

The NFL, its franchises, as well as other sports franchises and the players’ sponsors are worried about image.  They are worried about their brand.  Conduct unbecoming not only affects team chemistry but it affects sales as well.  Are your employees’ personal conduct violations affecting your company’s culture or morale and is that hurting overall performance and ultimately your organization’s brand?  Are you willing to bench one of your players or at the minimum, get them the help they need?  Why don’t you pretend for a moment that the TV cameras are constantly scrutinizing your every move and then decide.

Should You Hire A Superstar Who is Toxic?

Every organization wants superstar employees and some will even delay the hiring process weeks or even months until that perfect candidate blips on the smoke-1192648_640radar.  What happens though if once you find your purple squirrel, they have mange or rabies?  Do you cut them lose or keep them around for their quota busting, nut gathering ability?

Economist Dylan Minor and Cornerstone OnDemand’s chief analytics officer, Michael Housman, examined nearly 60,000 workers to determine the cost of retaining toxic workers.  In their study, they define “toxic” as conduct harmful to an organization’s people or property.  They found that retaining toxic workers, even those residing in the top 1% for productivity, cost far more than the rewards reaped from a toxic employee’s high production.

Their study revealed that a top one percent worker could produce over $5,000 in annual cost savings however a company could avoid $12,000 in costs by not hiring a toxic worker.  In short a toxic worker, even if they are super productive, is far more costly to an organization than an average, non-toxic worker.  Take a look at the chart below provided in their study!

Toxic - cost savings

 

 

 

Even though a worker in only the top 25% of productivity saves a company far less than one in the top 1%, the study shows that replacing a superstar toxic worker with a less than stellar non-toxic worker, to still be the more cost effective choice.

Why are toxic workers so much more expensive?  The most apparent answer is turnover.  Toxic workers drive other employees away and the cost of replacing those employees is high not to mention that morale and productivity often drop until a replacement is found.  Additionally toxic workers produce other toxic workers.  Negativity spreads like wildfire.

Interestingly enough, toxic workers are more productive in terms of their output and one 2013 study found that unethical workers remain longer at organizations.  This explains why toxic workers are so often selected and even retained for long timespans.

In summary, avoid hiring a toxic worker if you can but should you find yourself burdened with one or many, remove them despite their high production.  As former GE CEO Jack Welch put it, “People are removed for having the wrong values…we don’t even talk about the numbers.”

Productivity is on life support: Blame the Millennials and the Baby Boomers

As we likely all know, U.S. workers have not been enjoying much in the way of rising wages for some time. The economy’s health as far as bringing workers ever increasing prosperity is a function of ever increasing ekg-158177_640worker productivity.  

Labor productivity is defined as the amount of output produced per hour of labor. Productivity is affected by new technology, capital investment, the organization of production, managerial skill, and the characteristics and effort of the work force. The more you produce per hour the more your employer profits. The employer hopefully shares the profits of your labor with you, the worker, through higher wages.

But productivity growth has been lagging. During America’s post World War II boom years of 1947 through 1973, productivity enjoyed a 2.8% annual growth rate. This sharply contrasts with 2007 through 2015 when productivity grew just 1.2% per year, a drop of almost 60%.

So why is productivity not increasing faster?

First of all, we’re all busier than ever but are we getting more work done?  The problem is the things we’re busy at are not necessarily resulting in higher productivity. For example, just think about how much time you spend cleaning up your email box every day. Sure, email has made communication more efficient, but has it made it more effective?  We don’t have to play phone tag so much anymore, but email has also brought us spam. But it’s not just email. Think how Facebook and Twitter and Snap Chat and Instagram and Youtube, etc., all take their toll on productivity.

Economists are arguing over whether succeeding waves of new technology necessarily deliver less and less in the way of productivity gains.  I’d argue that some technology gains deliver productivity loss.

Second, the gig economy and the celebration of entrepreneurship means many workers, and in particular millennials, are working on their own projects even if they have a fulltime job, and often while they’re at that fulltime job. As a manager I’m astounded at how much time millennials at work spend not working on their employer’s agenda, but rather on their own. In a discussion with a high level corporate executive, he told me that their company was formulating a policy that their workers would be required to spend at least 75% of their time on the job working on the employer’s assigned tasks, allowing them to work 25% of the time on their own projects.  Say what? His rationale was that their millennial workers would just quit otherwise. This is a clear case of corporate insanity sabotaging the company’s own productivity growth.

Finally, the baby boomers aren’t capable of delivering strong productivity growth. Research shows that worker productivity slows down after age 45, at least in some industries.  Forty-five plus old individuals make up about 44% of all employed workers, and of course most of these are baby boomers, the youngest of whom are now 53 years old. I’m not saying baby boomers don’t contribute. Science says our analytical skills continue to develop as we age, even if our memories degrade. But baby boomers are not going to be delivering the productivity gains needed to fuel significantly growing worker incomes.

The best hope is the millennial generation, which is even larger than the baby boom. But unless they get focused on being more productive for their employers than they have been we may have many more years of sub-standard productivity and wages.

Research Reveals The Many Ways You Make Yourself Look Dumb At Work

If you read my post, “5 Ways We Make A good Or Bad First Impression According To Research” you understand how quickly opinions of us are formed and how the-horse-290907_640these favorable or unfavorable opinions can determine the number of doors opened or closed to us.

New research further indicates ways we may be blowing it by unintentionally appearing less intelligent or confident than we are.  In addition to the five I previously named in my post, below are a few more. Continue reading “Research Reveals The Many Ways You Make Yourself Look Dumb At Work” »

U.S. Workforce: Why Is Everyone So Miserable And What Can We Do About It?

If you are employed but unhappy with your job you may have heard these words when depressed employeegrumbling about your work week to a friend, “At least you have a job.”  If you’re a manager do you feel your employees are lucky to even be employed?   This attitude might be influencing you to treat them in ways that do not contribute to their success or well being.  I mean if you believe they have no other place to go, then your investment in retaining them might be fairly minimal, fueling their disengagement. Continue reading “U.S. Workforce: Why Is Everyone So Miserable And What Can We Do About It?” »

Providing Praise in the Wake of Failure!

In 2008 Lolo Jones was streaking ahead of the competition on her way to a gold medal in the 100M hurdles when a misguided step destroyed her dream.  She stumbled on the ninth of ten hurdles and finished 7th.  She was on her way to gold but came away with nothing.

Four years later Lolo Jones had a chance at redemption!  We wanted her to win because her mother raised her alone, because at one time in her youth they lived in a church basement.  We wanted her to win because she should have won in 2008, because like many Olympians she rose out of poverty.   And we wanted her to win because underneath her beauty we saw a courage, grit and determination we desperately desire.  Sadly competing against a deep field she finished fourth, .10 seconds from a bronze medal.  Once again her medal hopes were dashed.

In response the NY Times released an article criticizing Jones and her popularity leading up to the event.  Lolo Jones has “received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”

A crushed Jones, who happens to be the American indoor record holder, replied, “They should be supporting our U.S.Olympic athletes, and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I thought that was crazy because I work six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race.”

Jones finished fourth in the world.  THE WORLD!  She didn’t finish 4th at the county fair, at a high school tournament, in a footrace between friends or even at a state track meet.  She proved on the biggest competitive stage she was the fourth best hurdler in the world and yet clearly that wasn’t good enough.  Despite all her hard work and the adversities overcome, someone probably much less accomplished than her, still needed to lambast her in the media.

Are you praising your employees for their efforts or only for their results?  As a recruiter I worked with a hiring manager that often quoted to his employees, “Don’t confuse effort with results.”   To put it another way, “just because you’re working hard does not mean you are working effectively.”  Not a bad saying when trying to convey to employees that you want them to focus their efforts to maximize results.  Hard work however does not always provide immediate results.  Your employees’ road to success is filled with many obstacles.  Your leadership and encouragement or lack thereof will determine if they make it to their goals or sit down in the road and quit.  Providing continued guidance and encouragement in the face of failures will create a stronger, more capable employee.

As a manager how would you handle Lolo Jones or how did you react to her loss?  In our constant pursuit for perfection in others do we reserve our praise only for our employees’ favorable results and overlook their efforts?  What do you say for instance to a sales person who lost a deal despite putting in hours of overtime?  Do we not understand that aside from our disappointments they might equally be as crushed?

At this stage is when your employees need you the most.  You are the coach.  You are the man or woman who needs to run out on the track, pick up your fallen employee, brush them off and say, “Damn good effort!  You came up short today but tomorrow you can get them!  Let’s regroup and come up with a new strategy.”

If you are a colleague then you are a teammate.  Lolo Jones finished fourth but two of her U.S. teammates finished second and third.  As a colleague do you allow your jealousies or pettiness to hinder another colleague’s success or your appreciation of their efforts?  Does not their success within the company further the company’s progress as a whole which in turn helps you?

Lolo’s effort and continued commitment to promoting the U.S.’ excellence can’t be underappreciated despite her failure and likewise your employees’ efforts should also be valued, acknowledged and appreciated for their commitment to promoting your company.  If not you are going to see a lot of employees walking out the door.