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News from August 2003
- More on "vacation starvation" in the US
(Aug. 31 '03)
Joe Robinson, author of Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life and founder of the Work to Live Campaign (www.worktolive.info), which is lobbying for a three-week minimum paid-leave law, argues the case for increasing American workers' vacation entitlement, now the lowest in the industrialized world. He notes that 13 percent of companies now provide no paid leave, up from 5 percent five years ago, according to the Alexandria-based Society for Human Resource Management. He also cites evidence of productivity gains in firms that provide 3 weeks vacation. This discussion is reminiscent of economist Juliet Schor's book, The Overworked American, published over a decade ago. The paradox is that aggregate US productivity has increased at the same time that workers' time to rest and recharge has diminished -- raising concerns about the sustainability of the US economic engine.
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- Overpaid bosses bad for morale
(Aug. 25 '03)
According to a new UK poll of human resource managers, reported in the August 23 Guardian, employees working for bosses who receive huge salaries and bonuses despite poor corporate performance will feel demoralized. Ths survey confirms what should be obvious to any competent manager -- and board of directors. That's the need for consistency in preformance criteria and a sense of fairness when it comes to compensation. What's needed, though, is a better understanding of how employees' perceptions of these issues actually affect individual and firm performance. Armed with this evidence, HR experts may have to redesign executive comp systems.
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- Is there an attitude shortage?
(Aug. 25 '03)
Harvard Busness School professor, Jim Heskett, poses some important questions about whether or not employers are facing a shortage of attitudes, given that increasing emphasis is placed on looking for the 'right' attitudes when hiring and promoting. If there is an attitude shortage, what specific attitudes are in short supply and can these be taught -- or are they more innate? The readers' responses continue the discussion in interesting and international directions.
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- Innovative program at Johnson & Johnson to reduce ergonomic injuries
(Aug. 16 '03)
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to help develop and identify best practices that will reduce ergonomics injuries in the workplace. The three-year partnership will provide OSHA with first-hand knowledge of Johnson & Johnson's successful ergonomics programs. The partnership's foundation is built upon four goals: reduce the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) at the company's operating facilities; identify and communicate an effective process to develop and implement successful ergonomics programs; identify at minimum three Johnson & Johnson ergonomics best practices and related training in the company's pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer goods divisions; and share the company's best practices in ergonomics with other facilities throughout the company, other industries, and the public. Under the terms of the partnership, Johnson & Johnson will develop a written process to address ergonomics hazards in the workplace, covering management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and training. OSHA will also work with the company to develop an ergonomics protocol for assessing compliance requirements, and for communicating best practices through various compliance assistance tools, training (Education Center courses) and other outreach programs. Various incentives for participating worksites are on the menu including maximum allowable penalty reductions for ergonomics and other violations that are abated in a timely manner, six month deferral in programmed inspections, and ergonomics technical assistance to assist and advise on specific issues.
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- Wellness programs a growing trend in Canadian workplaces
(Aug. 15 '03)
More employers are offering health and wellness programs to workers, betting that healthier employees will be more productive and have better morale, according to a Mercer Human Resource Consulting survey of 206 Canadian organizations. The survey found that 40% of companies surveyed offer employee wellness programs, up from 34% in 2001. Physical fitness programs are also becoming more pervasive, with 30% of respondents offering them, up from 16% two years ago. Wellness programs can be diverse, offering information on anything from nutrition to child and elder care.
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- Persistent concerns about the financial costs of work stress
(Aug. 15 '03)
Steve James, in an August 9th article on Reuters entitled "Work Stress Taking Larger Financial Toll" raises, once again, the size and costs of the work stress problem. As James reports: In the 1999 movie "Office Space," stressed-out workers crammed in cubicles and belittled by incompetent bosses plot to break out of their bored existence. One smashes the permanently jammed photocopy machine and another finally loses it and burns down the office. Hollywood fantasy? Perhaps, but job stress is a leading cause of illness, depression and work place violence in America today and is increasing, experts say. It is estimated to cost U.S. industry a staggering $300 billion a year in absenteeism, health costs and programs to help workers manage stress as unemployment rises and companies cut staff in what is euphemistically known as "down-sizing."
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- New evidence linking repetitive strain injury and work stress
(Aug. 12 '03)
The August 2003 issue of Health Reports, published by Statistics Canada, documents that 1 out of every 10 Canadian adults had a repetitive strain injury (RSI) serious enough to limit their normal activities in 2000/01. This marked an increase in the prevalence of RSIs during the late 1990s. Just over half of RSIs sustained by men and women happened while working. Work stress deriving from a fast work pace, role ambiguity, worry and monotonous tasks has been associated with RSIs in the past. The report supports the association between work stress and RSIs, but also finds that once other contributing factors are taken into consideration, the association differs for men and women. People who reported at least some work stress were generally more likely to report an RSI in 2000/01 than were those who reported no work stress. This relationship was especially pronounced for women: 18% who indicated that their work was "extremely stressful" reported an RSI, compared with 10% who considered their work "not at all" or "not very" stressful. Even allowing for other possible explanatory factors, the odds of reporting an RSI were higher among women who found most days at work were "quite" or "extremely" stressful, compared with women who felt lower degrees of work stress. The association between workplace stress and RSI did not hold for men, however, once the same factors were taken into consideration.
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- Work stress increases heart attack risk, concludes UK union study
(Aug. 11 '03)
Workplace stress increases the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, according to new research. Long-term stress is worse for the heart than putting on 40lbs or ageing 30 years because workers deal with stress by smoking, drinking and "slobbing out". Those who suffer stress for at least half their working lives are 25% more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and have a 50% greater chance of dying from a stroke the report found. The study comes as the first NHS hospital has been threatened with legal action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to protect its doctors and nurses from stress. The research - the Modern Workers Health Check - has been published in the UK Trade Union Congress-backed Hazards magazine.
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- Stress code launched for firms in the UK
(Aug. 11 '03)
The Health and Safety Executive in the UK has launched a six-point "stress code" which which requires employers to protect their staff from stress. Employers must support their employees and ensure they do not feel overly pressured in their roles. Companies will be assessed to see if they have reduced stress to manageable levels. If fewer than 65 to 85% of all staff feel each standard has been met, the company will fail its assessment. The code was piloted in 24 companies. The code was successfull piloted in 24 organizations. The HSE believes the "stress code" will make it easier for employees to bring actions against firms, and will give its inspectors something to measure firms' performance against.
Here are the six stress tests:
Demands - 85% of employees must say they can cope with the demands of their job
Control - 85% must feel they have an adequate say over their job
Support - 85% must say they have the back-up they need
Relationships - 65% must say they do not have to face unacceptable behaviour such as bullying
Role - 65% must say they understand their roles and responsibilities
Change - 65% must say they are involved in organisational change
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- The business case for employee diversity and affirmative action
(Aug. 7 '03)
In an article entitled "Diversity: Bonus for business", in the Washington Post (Aug. 3, 2003), Greg Schneider and Dina ElBoghdady examine the reasons why major employers are promoting workforce diversity, and the business benefits of doing so. One example is from Microsoft, where designers had spent weeks creating a controller for the company's XBox gaming system when two Asian-American employees made a suggestion. In Asia, the pair said, people who play video games prefer smaller controllers. So Microsoft designed a second, more compact controller to sell in Asian markets. Now, a year after "Controller S" debuted in Asia, the smaller device is outselling the original controller even in the United States. Throughout business, companies are finding that having a diverse workforce pays off in tangible ways: from bringing new perspectives on products to helping to open markets that otherwise may have gone untapped. Hiring employees from a variety of backgrounds is no longer just a matter of good corporate citizenship, it a key to financial survival. That's why earlier this year, 65 major American corporations filed a legal brief supporting the University of Michigan in its defense of its affirmative-action admissions system before the U.S. Supreme Court.
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- BC child labour law a step backward, critics claim
(Aug. 6 '03)
Critics argue that new legislation tabled by the British Columbia government is a big step backward by loosening controls on the use of child labour, writes Gwendolyn Richards in the Career section of the Globe and Mail on August 6. Changes to the B.C. Employment Standards Act, which could go into effect this fall, will allow employers to hire children between the ages of 12 and 15 with parental consent alone, dropping the requirement for permission from a school counsellor and the director of the Employment Standards Branch. The Liberal governments sees this as cutting red tape, but critics counter that the B.C. government is leaving children open to abuse and instead of easing the rules, should have strengthened them. Unlike other provinces, in BC there are no restrictions on the types of jobs a child can do, how many hours the child can work nor any limitations on when the child can work -- except that, under the School Act, no child can miss school for work and under the Occupational Safety Act, a child can't work with toxic pesticides.
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- New Best Employers Award for 50-plus Canadians
(Aug. 6 '03)
From the August 6 edition of workplace.ca:
(TORONTO) An organization's efforts and achievements in employee job satisfaction specifically for older workers will be recognized with the Best Employers Award for 50-plus Canadians. Developed and implemented by the non-profit advocacy association Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus or CARP (Canadian Association for Retired Persons), and FGI, a Canadian employee and employer supports services provider, the awards program will be based on criteria of excellence in key areas of hiring, training, career development, health care, employee and family benefits, retirement policy, pensions, and pre- and post-retirement support systems. The exact criteria will be announced at a kick-off luncheon scheduled for this fall. An independent panel of judges will select the winners, who will be announced at a ceremony planned for Spring 2004. An awards summary and profile of the winning organizations will be featured in a special section of 50Plus magazine, published by CARP.
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- Concierge service for hospital employees
(Aug. 6 '03)
CINCINNATI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 4, 2003--Employees of University Hospital in Cincinnati, OH now have access to an on-site concierge service provided by Cincinnati-based Best Upon Request. University Hospital considers maintaining a high level of employee satisfaction and quality of life a critical component to being employer of choice and a leader in patient-focused care.
University realizes just how stressful a profession in health care can be and understands the impact that has on an employee's work/life balance and well being. "The employees at University Hospital are very valuable to the success of our organization. We wanted to give something back to them that demonstrated our gratitude for their hard work and our respect for their personal lives," said Karen Bankston, VP, Operations and Hospital Administration. "Best Upon Request offers one of the many solutions we have considered over time. The health care environment can be stressful and this is just one way we can help reduce that stress for our employees." Employees can contact the concierge for such things as dry-cleaning, car services, film developing, gift buying, grocery shopping, or running to the post office to name a few. "We ease the day...You seize the day! (R) This motto captures the essence of our single aim since 1989...to enable our customers to experience a life that is less complicated, a day that is more manageable, and free time that is more enjoyable," explains Tillie Hidalgo Lima, President/CEO of Best Upon Request.
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- Senior Executives Are Not Rigorously Evaluating Their HR Functions
(Aug. 5 '03)
Senior-level international executives are not rigorously evaluating their companies' human resource (HR) functions, according to a new global research study commissioned by EDS (NYSE: EDS) and conducted by Harris Interactive(R). The study showed executives make decisions based on limited metrics and tend to form subjective impressions about their HR departments. The study reveals that 90 percent of U.S., Canadian and European companies surveyed evaluate their human resource functions primarily on three criteria -- employee retention/turnover, corporate morale/employee satisfaction and HR expense as a percent of operational expense. This raises 2 pressing issues: (1) do these same executives consider HR central to the firm's business strategy? and (2) what metrics are able to track the impact of longer-term human capital investments?
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- Management lessons from the New York Times fiasco
(Aug. 5 '03)
Lori Robertson's article, Down with Top-down in the August 2003 issue of American Journalism Review offers a thorough analysis of how the The New York Times and Salt Lake Tribune implosions underscore the perils of the top-down management style. She explores a more enlightened approach to running newsrooms, based on basic principles of good communication and fairness. Her comments apply to many knowledge-based organizations that stifle professionals with command-and-control management styles.
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- Lessons on team work and leadership from the Tour de France
(Aug. 2 '03)
Michael A. Thompson, a human resource consultant, offers some good business insights from this year's Tour de France. Writing in the Globe and Mail on July 30, Thompson argues that the following 5 lessons are as applicable to business success as they are to the members of a Tour de France team: 1) Every leader must be clear about what success looks like. 2) Each member of the team must understand how he or she can contribute to that success. 3) The team must behave like a unit and be willing to work toward a common goal. 4) There are limits to acceptable competitive behaviour. 5) Leaders lead by example.
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