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News from June 2003
- Thomas Friedman's NYT op-ed asks: Is GOOGLE God?
(Jun. 29 '03)
This weblog depends in large part (but not entirely) on GOOGLE, so NYT columnist Thomas L. Friedman's reflections on the power of Google raises interesting issues about global knowledge integration and the power of the internet -- despite the bursting of the high-tech financial bubble.
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- Bad bosses a health risk, British study finds
(Jun. 29 '03)
A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a journal of the British Medical Association, provides evidence that bad supervisors are stressful. This leads to higher blood pressure, which in turn is directly linked to coronary heart disease and stroke. The study involved female nursing assistants. It supports other research on the stressful effects of poor quality direct supervision.
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- Leadership and management training important to recruit and retain the 'new professionals'
(Jun. 27 '03)
An article on The New Professionals in the Australian Business Review Weekly (BRW.COM.AU), documents how law, accounting and other professional service firms are focusing on providing young recruits with improved leadership and management training. According to the article, GenX and GenY professionals are loyal to good leaders and managers, not corporations, and want to develop these skills themselves.
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- Americans are short-changed on holiday time
(Jun. 26 '03)
Catherine Valenti' June 25th analysis of international vacation entitlements and practices for ABCNEWS.COM is aptly titled Vacation Deprivation.
She writes: "If it feels like you're stuck behind your desk on a sunny summer day while the rest of the world is on vacation, that's because you are and it is. Few other industrialized countries have as little vacation time as America, where there aren't even legal guarantees of vacation time." The article provides detailed international data and thoughtful analysis of the "hyper work ethic" that some claim underlines American productivity. There seems to be a ground swell for legislated vacation time and more time off.
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- European Union work hour guidelines spark debate in Britain
(Jun. 26 '03)
The Guardian reports that The Confederation of British Industry is vigorously defending workers' "right" to work more than 48 hours weekly, in response to a new European Union directive capping hours at 48. The CBI wants firms to opt out of the EU directive. Unions and many employees, according to surveys, want the "right" to shorter work hours. Interestingly, the CBI claims are couched in the language of "greater flexibility". Flexibility for whom?
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- Work demands and hours major sources of stress, Statistics Canada reports
(Jun. 25 '03)
Working Canadians feel most stressed by jobs that keep them at work too long or make too many demands on their time. At the same time, job security has become less of a concern. These conclusions, reported in the article "Sources of workplace stress" in the June online edition of Perspectives on labour and income, are based on the General Social Survey. In 1994 and 2000, the highest proportion of working Canadians - more than one-third (34%) - cited too many demands or hours as the most common source of stress in the workplace. However, over this period, stress about job security decreased. In 2000, 15% cited poor interpersonal relations, and 13% cited risk of accident and injury. Even though the introduction of new technology into a workplace can be a source of stress, only 1 worker in 10 reported that they were stressed by having to learn new computer skills.
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- Trust is the basis for successful mentoring
(Jun. 25 '03)
A Wall Steet Journal article examines the failure of many mentoring programs, where experienced baby boomers are expected to show young GenXers the ropes. The problem is that the baby boomer's credo from the 1960s -- '' Don't trust anyone over 30' -- is exactly how today's young workers view their mentors.
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- New US research on depression highlights implications for workplaces
(Jun. 24 '03)
From a New York Times front page story on June 18: More than 16 percent of Americans — as many as 35 million people — suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives, according to the National Comorbidity Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and published in a new special issue on depression of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Depression costs employers $44 billion a year in lost productive time, according to a second survey reported in the same issue of the journal. That figure is $31 billion more than the amount lost because of illnesses in people who do not have depression. Most of the lost time occurs while people are at work. This is the problem of 'presenteeism'.
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- Teamwork and employee involvement underlie the success of Ford's Taurus
(Jun. 24 '03)
The success of the Ford Taurus rests on innovations in design and quality control. Breaking down entrenched boundaries and practices, the Taurus was designed by a multi-disciplinary team and employee involvement ensured higher final product quality. However, these lessons were not applied to other parts of the Ford operation. Read more about this story of success and failire in work innovation in AutoWeek.
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- Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters recommends actions to improve innovation
(Jun. 20 '03)
CME's new report, entitled Striving for Excellence, provides an analysis of the competitiveness and productivity challenges facing Canadian industry and concludes with three areas where industry can take action now to ensure their long-term business success: Improving marketing and customer relations; Lean thinking to lower costs and improving efficiency; Collaboration with peers to share innovative ideas and best practices, and to lower training and implementation costs. All of these recommendations have direct implications for the organization of work and human resource management practices.
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- United Way promotes family-friendly workplaces in California
(Jun. 20 '03)
The United Way in Santa Cruz, CA, is recognizing local employers for providing family-friendly policies and practices. This award program is through the 'Success by 6' initiative, which aims to ensure that all children have a good start in life. So it is about the kid's future. This shows the positive role community agencies, such as United Ways, can play in promoting workplace best practices.
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- Companies focusing on return to work after illness or disability
(Jun. 19 '03)
Writing in the Globe & Mail, Virgina Galt and Katherine Harding outline the growing emphasis among Canadian employers to help injured or disabled workers to return to work. Yet, as the article points out, most people who become seriously disabled or ill during their working lives never return to work. There are ethical and economic reasons to change this.
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- Ethical corporations provide respect at work
(Jun. 19 '03)
An article in Ethical Corporation Magazine argues that to promote human rights within the workplace culture in the UK, companies have to take more responsibility. The Human Rights Act created new liabilities for employers to make provision for human rights in the delivery of services and at work. Yet the government has done little to encourage the notion of embracing human rights within the workplace culture in the UK. Too often human rights are associated solely with compliance abroad rather than best practice at home. A recent white paper ‘Respect and responsibility 'taking a stand against anti-social behaviour' does little to promote the concept of mutual respect within workplaces. The article discusses the role employers can play to address issues like anti-social behavoiur in their organizations.
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- New Canadian evidence that shift work takes a toll on workers' health
(Jun. 18 '03)
An article in the summer 2003 issue of Statistics Canada publication, Canadian Social Trends, examines the link between working shifts or non-standard hours and health. At any given time, approximately 30% of employed Canadians work shift or non-standard hours. While shift work may be critical to the economy, evidence indicates that it can take a physical and emotional toll on workers. This article provides an up to date profile of shift workers and studies their physical and mental health both at one point in time and over a longer period.
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- US workers sacrificing vacations due to job insecurity, new poll finds
(Jun. 18 '03)
A poll conducted by US benefits provider ComPsych Corporation found that US employees are deferring or reducing their vacations this year because of increased job insecurities and workloads. The US unemployment rate is the highest in 9 years.
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- Mental health problems the main cause of workplace disability claims, Watson Wyatt study finds
(Jun. 17 '03)
An article in workplace.ca reports that psychological conditions such as stress are the leading causes of short- and long-term workplace disability claims in Canada. Stress, anxiety, depression, and related problems account for the greatest percentage of short-term (79%) and long-term (73%) disabilities, according to the Staying@Work study on disability management by consultants Watson Wyatt. But few employers target employee mental health: only 23% have mental health programs for workers, 36% have stress management initiatives, and 38% have substance abuse programs.
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- Matching people and jobs
(Jun. 17 '03)
An article in The McKinsey Quarterly (2003, Number 2), summarized on Forbes.com, outlines the challenges of systematically matching people and jost. The full article sets out an approach to succession planning that addresses: The challenge of organizing the workforce; Who is really pivotal?; What is the most important productivity challenge? Where is the link to financial performance? Emerging human-capital technologies.
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- Useful insights on change management
(Jun. 16 '03)
An interesting article on "Change management" by Roisin Woolnough in the current issue of MIS (a UK IT and information management publication) provides arguments and examples of the importance of the change process, especially communication, for successful organizational change.
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- SARS crisis brings nursing workforce issues to a head
(Jun. 13 '03)
Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, comments in the Globe and Mail raise crucial questions about the basic hurdles health care employers must overcome as they attempt to become 'employers of choice'. Government policy and exployers' expedient staffing strategies have unintentionally made temporary agencies the employers of choice for many nurses, but in doing so, undercut the overall goals of the healthcare system -- and made life for nurse employees more difficult.
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- Stock markets affect retirement plans
(Jun. 10 '03)
An interesting commentary on the impact of declining stock markets on retirement plans in the US. The author cites some trends that need to be carefully tracked: Last year in the US, 1 in every 8 people 65 and older was either working or looking for work. The percentage of people 65 and older participating in the labor force in 2002 was at its highest level since 1978. And the annual Employee Benefit Research Institute's Retirement Confidence Survey found that nearly a quarter of those 45 and older say that they plan to postpone their retirement. Are there similar trends in Canada, and what are the implications for retirement policies and programs?
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- Perrin Beatty and Ken Georgetti offer advice on how to energize Canada's Innovation Strategy
(Jun. 7 '03)
Perrin Beatty and Ken Georgetti, co-chairs of the Canadian Labour and Business Centre, agree that the federal government has made a commendable effort to highlight the human resource challenges facing our economy. Ottawa also has engaged over 10,000 individuals in discussions of how to foster greater innovation. But without major initiatives to support workplace learning and skills development, this will go nowhere.
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- Modelling the links between employees, customers and performance
(Jun. 7 '03)
A consulting firm, ORC International, has developed a statistical model for Nationwide Building Society in the UK that reveals the link between employee commitment, customer satisfaction and business performance. The model documents strong links between people management and its product sales, after analysing data from a mix of HR indicators, a staff attitude survey, sales figures and extensive customer research. Nationwide has been running its employee opinion survey since 1993, but it is only in the last year that it has carried out analysis to gain a more detailed view of the key drivers of its business, and demonstrate the impact which employee satisfaction has on sales. This project shows the advantages of integrating and systematically analyzing all available firm data.
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- One in five employees 'disengaged' according to Towers Perrin survey
(Jun. 6 '03)
A Towers Perrin study documents employees' level of engagement, defined as the willingness and ability to contribute to company success. The survey found that 19% are disengaged and only 17% are highly engaged. Most (64%) are moderately engaged and could move to either end of the engagement spectrum. The Towers Perrin 2003 Talent Report is based on a Web survey of medium and large organizations in North America conducted in February 2003. Of the 40,000 responses, 4,500 were from Canadian workers. A big question raised by studies like this is: what are the work environment factors and HRM practices that contribute to enagement and, through this, retention?
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- Job satisfaction, especially challenging work, key to retaining MBAs according to new UK poll
(Jun. 6 '03)
According to a poll conducted in Britain by MBACareers.com, over two-thirds of MBA qualified employees surveyed are not satisfied with their current jobs and are seeking new positions. The results of the poll reveal that MBAs' criteria for job satisfaction are challenging work, competitive compensation, and respect from their employers. This is just the latest of many studies to arrive at this basic conclusion.
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- Examples from the insurance sector of how to promote employee learning and development
(Jun. 6 '03)
Two Canadian life insurance firms have won industry awards for their learning initiatives. Both provide useful examples of how employers can promote employee development. Manulife was recognized for its "Breezing Through Finance" course, which brought small groups together to connect knowledge and life experiences to work-related activities creating a learning map. Co-operators Life won for its "Learning Agreement" program, which developed a simple document linking each employee's personal training and development plan to their learning agreement. It provides awareness to the employee about why they are attending a workshop and speaks to the accountability of training outcomes.
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