COLA

COLA

There’s a word that compensation consultants of a more recent era have shunned for at least two decades:  COLA

And not in favor of the unCola – in favor of NO COLA.

In fact, the consultants at CHRC have spent a fair amount of time explaining the differences between

Merit Budgets

and

COLA – Cost of Living Adjustments

Until their faces turn an unattractive shade of blue.

The phrase that gets economists animated is “wage-price spiral” … and many are turning an unattractive shade of red believing that the current wage increases are going to take the U.S. to the kind of wage-price spiral that the U.S. economy experienced in the 1970s.

So much to our delight, last week Mitchell Hartman on Marketplace did a story that featured the COLA that we don’t like to imbibe.  More importantly, in addition to economists that are convinced we are headed for the spiral, he featured two that pointed out key distinctions of what separates the current situation from that in the 1970s.

Ross Mayfield of Baird points out that unlike the 1970s, the worker’s demands aren’t driving inflation, supply constraints caused by the war in Ukraine and Covid are.  Economist Joe Brusuelas underscores the statistic that undergirds Mr. Mayfield’s point:

“At that time, labor unions represented approximately 1 in 4 American workers.”

Why were those COLAs so worrisome?  They were built right into those union contracts for years at a time, regardless of market conditions. That was a very large factor in the wage-price spiral

How many Americans belong to a union right now? 

Reach for the STARs

Reach for the STARs

Our February musings have encouraged looking beyond your own environment — whether a groundhog emerging to see his shadow, imagining beyond deep snow drifts to the intricate physics of a single flake, and now urging you to gaze at STARs …

STARs is an acronym for Skilled Through Alternative Routes.

The Burning Glass Institute recently published The Emerging Degree Reset. While employers are finally understanding that eliminating the degree requirement for some of their jobs will give them access to a broader labor pool, there will be a burden as well: 

“A reset requires employers to be more articulate about the skills they require for the job”

Article after article on this topic concedes that employers have used the degree requirement as a proxy for the competencies that they assume a college degree imparts, versus articulating or probing for those behaviors in the interview process.

How many more workers?

In a recent story on Marketplace, Papia Debroy, who leads research at the nonprofit Opportunity@Work said:

“There are more than 70 million workers in our U.S. labor force today who are skilled through alternative routes — through community college, through military service. Most often they’re learning on the job…”

If you’re wondering what sort of employers might be looking for STARs, the piece interviews Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, who is an advocate.  

“The assumption has always been, ‘I need to look for people that have a technical background, and then the easier thing to teach is the soft skills,’” “It’s easier to teach them the technology, and they already have amazing skills for doing client-customer interaction,” Etheredge said.

If you’ve ever seen a detailed image depicting the crystal structure of a snowflake, it didn’t come from a college graduate.  Those photos taken under a microscope in the bitter cold were taken by a farmer nicknamed Snowflake Bentley who had all the competencies like curiosity, initiative, and determination – but lacked the technical tool to capture the images.  Once armed with that technology, the sky was his limit, and his laboratory.

Hero’s Welcome … in the Workplace

Hero’s Welcome … in the Workplace

A friend’s recent LinkedIn post grabbed my attention and resonated with me, both personally and professionally.  My friend is among 30 professionals who received recognition as a Military Veteran Executive.  He credits his career success to many lessons learned in the Army, citing the fact that few civilian experiences require the same level of teamwork, or mental and physical fortitude.

My father was a member of The Greatest Generation; he served in WWII having enlisted in the Marines right out of high school.  In my family, a grandfather, two uncles, and cousins also served our country in various branches of the military. My friend’s LinkedIn post reminded me of the many lessons my father shared with me about how his time in the Marine Corps shaped his life.

These days, the news is constantly filled with stories of the chronic labor shortage.  How often do employers think about what an amazing and qualified source of talent our former veterans can be?  As HR professionals, we readily see the breadth of competencies and experiences this talent pool offers:

  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Strong work ethic 
  • Problem-solving and decision-making
  • Honesty, integrity, and attention to detail.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian, non-institutionalized population ages 18 and older. Further, the Armed Forces see more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year. 

Employers such as JP Morgan Chase, Walgreens, Boeing, and Home Depot all have hiring programs for veterans. While many smaller employers might not have such targeted programs, recruiters can consider resources both locally and regionally that offer programs to help veterans transition from serving our country to civilian work life. 

Just few programs are:

  • Hiring our Heroes
  • Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW)
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has training videos for HR professionals on its website.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes job fairs offer in-person training for HR and hiring managers. 
  • The Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Foundation has developed the Veterans at Work program to provide HR professionals, people managers and business leaders with proven educational content and resources, at no cost, to learn effective ways to reduce barriers and stigmas affecting the employment of veterans and their families.
  • The Foundation also offers a Veterans at Work Certificate Program education program that focuses on best practices to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

    This Veteran’s Day let’s go beyond the “Thank you for your service” and find tangible ways to honor their service by creating ways to welcome them into the workplace.  I don’t know about you, but I sure think a few more veterans in some logistics jobs might help us with some of our supply chain issues!

    [Human] Capital Calibration

    [Human] Capital Calibration

    Manufacturing equipment has come a long way since 1964. The environment in which you put your equipment?  Back then, a somewhat level floor, a power supply, fans for HVAC, and what was a little grease on the floor? You turned it on, and assumed it would run.  When you invest in a sophisticated machine today, you may build a special room, complete with its own HVAC and filtration. You wouldn’t dream of operating this equipment without the needed care and calibration. Your organization ensures that those responsible for the care and upkeep of this huge capital investment have the requisite technical expertise to protect your investment; you wouldn’t dream of leaving it to someone that didn’t know what they were doing. Yet why are we okay doing that to our largest investment: our employees.

    The current conversation about “back to the office” seems a lot more like 1964, the year that Gary Becker published his first book on human capital. He rocked the world of economics and business with his work on the value of human capital ––  people were one of your most valuable assets.  It paid to further invest in them now that their life span was longer and technological advances made new skill acquisition imperative.

    We sit here in 2021 as the seeming randomness of Covid deaths and quarantining has given Americans plenty of time to pause to reflect on the meaning of life. For many Americans, they are finally understanding their worth as a unique model of human capital.  They’ve grown to understand the distinctive sets of skills that they have acquired, honed, and refined over the years AND the optimum conditions under which they perform.  When an employer doesn’t understand that, enter…

    The Great Resignation

    One of my favorite Total Rewards thought leaders, John Bremen, has written a great article, advising how organizations can turn The Great Resignation into the Great Hire.  He very rightly points out that more people have been hired in 2021 than have quit – which side of the equation is your organization on?

    Solution? It’s not about going back to “the way we always did things.”  It IS about recognizing the conditions under which employees can turn in peak performance and earn their organizations more gold.

     

    Shattered

    Shattered

    “Nothing gives you better clarity than a near-death experience. It awakens you to the frailty of life and the importance of living with purpose and meaning.”

    You might think that quote was from one of the residents of this London street in 1940, at the outset of the Blitz:  lucky not be among those killed that day, but as one of the survivors surveying the randomness of the dropped (and exploded) bombs, wondering if there were any unexploded bombs, why their neighbor’s house was gone and theirs was still standing, and what would tomorrow bring?

    Instead, the quote was from an article written by Jack Kelly in Forbes just last month, Read More Here  and it was an insight that reinforced a hunch about the current labor market that had been nagging at me.

    Nearly 40 years ago, I decided to study abroad because of my interest in events that had taken place 400 years earlier.  Living in England just 40 years after WWII presented an entirely unexpected gift: eyewitness history from people who had survived the Home Front.  I heard first-hand accounts of the London Blitz from people who had lived through it.

    At the same time, both in Britain and traveling throughout Europe, I noticed a healthy respect for leisure time.  A weekend was a weekend – no work involved.  Vacation – usually double the American allotment – was to be taken and one did not check in at the office. 

    Eventually I connected the dots:  while Americans had rationed, grown Victory Gardens, lost young men, when death happens on your doorstep, to your next door neighbor, without rhyme or reason, you realize that there is more to life than work.   

    Covid has been our Blitz.  Those who have contracted Covid, maybe at the same gathering as others who did not fall ill, seems as random as where a Luftwaffe bomb fell.  Everyone has heard a story of the perfectly healthy person who has died from Covid, not unlike the one house on the block that was flattened by a V-1, while all the neighbors’ homes remained intact.  We might not have had to sleep in backyard bomb shelters or Tube Stations, but quarantining has given Americans plenty of time to pause to reflect on the meaning of life. 

    Is it any wonder that in the face of what seems like random death, with plenty of time to ponder, Americans are reassessing how they want to spend the rest of their lives?  An article in last week’s Economist drives home this fact, “… recent research by Goldman Sachs … finds that “excess retirees” account for about a quarter of the decline in the country’s [labor] participation rate.”  HR experts have been warning the C-Suite for some time now that employees are aching for meaningful work; Covid has them searching for a meaningful life.

     

    We’ve Seen This Show Before

    We’ve Seen This Show Before

    Lots of the country has been suffering from blistering heat.

    Back in the days before most homes had air conditioning there was one really good way to escape the heat.

    The movies.

    If you weren’t around in 1947, you, too, may have missed “The Best Years of our Lives” which won multiple Oscars that year, including Best Picture and Best Director for William Wyler.  The story begins with the unceremonious way in which three returning WWII veterans must find their way back to their shared hometown, bonding in the process.  As the story unfolds, the viewer realizes that pre-war life didn’t necessarily dictate war-time rank, and that being a hero in one uniform, might not translate stateside. After watching our essential workers, who were called heroes at the height of the pandemic, it was uncanny to watch a wartime hero strive to earn a living wage once the conflict was over.

    While there seems to be no excuse for NOT having seen this movie before, watching it now, as the U.S. is emerging from our battle with Covid, seems eerily fitting.

    We’ve all been telling ourselves that never before have we had to deal with such a crazy labor market.  That people have never had to readjust after such a life and death struggle; so many have lost loved ones.  What about those that might never be 100% healthy again? How does our society and business world work around that? What about folks that have skills that are obsolete? How are workers supposed to retrain and reskill yet again? 

    Whether you are trying to escape the heat, sit out a rainy weekend, or finally understand why everyone raves about William Wyler and his films, “The Best Years of our Lives” will knock your socks off. 

    The U.S. has seen this show before, and after watching this movie, you will feel the resolve that we can get through this again, despite all of our collective wounds.