Thursday, August 21, 2014

The E-mail "Cool Button"

The Atlantic came up with a really clever way to make sure we don't get ruined by e-mail (H/T to Ally for the link):

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Astronology: Pay Disparity Revisited

Two years ago, Astronology explored the ongoing issue of gender pay disparity.  Since that time, discussions of the issue have continued on both the national and local stages.  In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue, March 14, 2014 was Equal Pay Day. But the question still remains, has anything changed since the 2012 census information regarding pay equity?
The PEW Research Center released a report in late December 2013 noting that women earned 84 cents for every $1 made by men in 2012. Included in their research are hourly earnings. Pew Research explains, “We chose to use hourly earnings, estimated as usual weekly earnings divided by usual hours worked in a week, because it irons out differences in earnings due to differences in hours worked.”
The report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics used in the study accounts for full time workers only (those who work at least 35 hours per week). This can impact the view of weekly earnings as women are twice as likely as men to work part-time. Regardless, the gap still falls at 16-19%.  However, on a positive note, PEW indicates that the wage gap is less among employees in the Millennial generation.  Today’s younger women have more education and an increased presence in professionals that tend to pay more, than previous generations of women.

Other factors that PEW suggests may be part of the reason that the pay gap still exists focus on wage negotiations research. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) noticed in a natural field experiment that randomizes nearly 2,500 job seekers, “when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men are more likely to negotiate than women.” It is also suggested that women are willing to trade certain amenities, for instance, health insurance, for lower wages.
Fairly recently, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to pass once again. Those who oppose this federal bill state that the bill will increase civil lawsuits, and find it duplicative since gender discrimination is already illegal. Those who support the bill believe the Paycheck Fairness Act will secure equal pay or reinforce equal pay for all Americans. It would also update the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which has helped close, but hasn’t fully eliminated the pay gap due to limited reinforcement and “inadequate remedies.”

Astron wants to know your opinion. Do you think the Paycheck Fairness Act would help in closing the pay gap? Do you feel like there isn’t a need for this additional law? With the millennial generation experiencing less disparity in pay, perhaps fair pay will eventually happen on its own? Contact Astronology to share your opinion!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ask The Expert: Pay Negotiation Strategy

A few years back we had some really amazing questions for our Ask The Expert series. Astron Solutions' Founding Partner and Managing Director, Jennifer Loftus, is our resident expert and gave some sage advice to those who submitted questions. Well, we received another one and Jennifer once again came to the rescue. The question was: "Is it appropriate to ask someone you are in salary negotiations with (a senior-level position) to prove what their previous salary was (either through a W2 or paystub)?" Here's what Jennifer had to say:
Salary negotiations – always a delicate topic! The prospective employee wants to maximize his / her total rewards income, as the potential employer wants to compensate fairly and in a budget sensitive manner. Even talking about salaries may be difficult for some candidates, while others provide a robust salary history in an attempt to build for the future.

The way the current “Ask the Expert” question is written, it sounds like the person asking is the one doing the interviewing for his / her employer. I know of several organizations that ask candidates to prove their current or past salaries by providing W-2 or paystub documentation. This practice is not illegal under federal law. However, different states have different labor laws, so please check with your state’s Department of Labor before instituting such a policy.

Simply because something is legal, however, may not mean it is prudent. If the organization conducts background checks, salary information may be verified through that process. Duplicating that effort may not be necessary. In addition, one many construe such a practice as price fixing and an exploration of a competitor’s pay rates, raising concerns with the Department of Justice. In addition, if the practice is not applied consistently, the door is possibly open to discrimination claims.

Furthermore, asking for such information may send the message that the employer does not trust its candidates. For example, if someone says he / she previously made $40,000 a year, and are asking for $45,000 at your organization, this should not raise a red flag if the position’s pay range is $35,000 - $52,500. If, however, the person claims he / she earned $50,000 two jobs ago, is currently making $105,000, and now wants a salary around $140,000, I would explore that more deeply. Such pay jumps could be related to explainable factors such as earning an advanced degree, or receiving a desired promotion. Or it could be due to salary fibbing.

Good luck with your interviews! We’d love to hear how everything works out.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cool Infographic: What Top Companies Get Right

Once in a while a very cool link ends up in my inbox--this one is from Top Management Degrees and looks at what top companies do right. Check it out:

What Top Companies Do Right

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Job Rotation: Can it Work for Your Organization?

In this issue of Astronology we explore job rotation. Has your organization used job rotation as an employee development tool?  If not, now is a great time to learn how it can help your organization to be successful!
In short, job rotation is an employee development tool used to help employees to develop skills of a wide variety of areas in an organization.  After spending some time learning a position, the employee moves to another role in the organization.  This pattern may continue for several months, or perhaps a few years, depending on the employee’s skill set and level in the organization.  There are many advantages to job rotation, including

  •         Overall employee development,
  •         Development of knowledge, skills, and techniques for how to handle various levels of responsibilities,
  •         Minimizing job boredom / job dissatisfaction,
  •         Promotion preparation
  •         Decreasing work burnout, and
  •         Increasing employee motivation and appreciation of organizational roles.
Workers’ Compensation expert Jon Coppelman remarked that when implementing job rotation in the garment industry, “The somewhat hidden benefit in this was that, when the workload increased in one area, or when someone went out sick, they had people who were cross-trained on a variety of machines so they were not short-staffed in one particular area; I don’t see any downside to people having a wider skill set, other than perhaps, increased training costs,”

What are some drawbacks of job rotation? From a labor relations perspective, experienced employees may not be pleased with revisiting entry-level positions.  Organizations that have unions may need to look into how collective-bargaining agreement clauses could encumber some job rotation programs. Naturally, overtime pay can also be an issue if not handled properly. Another concern can be quality of work. Work done by a new trainee vs. work done by a trained worker can be completely different.  Depending on the type of work and the sensitivity of the end result, some positions may not be well suited for job rotation.

Things to consider when establishing a job rotation program

·     “Job Rotation must start with an end goal: If the goal is for all the employees to be crossed-trained to do every job, the structure will have to be carefully created to avoid issues related to overtime and unions. If the goal is to train employees for eventual promotion, or to decrease job boredom, the structure will be different in regards to frequency and extent of work.
“Job rotation must be carefully planned”: This links back to the original program goal.  One series of questions to consider are

o   How will the program measure employee participation?
o   Will it be mandatory or optional?
o   What restraints will be placed on it?
o   Will employees pick out the areas where they would like to learn more?
o   What policies will need to be put in place to avoid abuse of the program, as well as protect employees from becoming overwhelmed?
o   Of what legal obligations do I need to be mindful?

·     “Employees are able to assess whether the job rotation is achieving the goals”: Making the program transparent will help employees to see how well they are doing. How will you make the program transparent enough for the employees?

·     “A mentor, internal trainer, or supervisor / trainer is provided at each step of the job rotation plan”: This additional support communicates seriousness and can assure to the employee that his / her time is valued. It also ensures for the organization that the employee completes the goals outlined for the job rotation program.

·     “Written documentation, an employee manual or online resource enhances employee learning”: Job descriptions are a must, but outlines for job rotation will also be helpful.

Now that you’ve learned more, will you consider job rotation as an option for job development in your organization? If so, how do you plan to implement it? Share your thoughts with Astron!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Dilbert Monday

It was so popular last week, I decided to make it a weekly occurrence. Have you heard a job description that sounded like this before?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dilbert on a Monday

This one made me laugh. Hoping that it helps you get over your "Case of the Mondays!"

Friday, July 11, 2014

Astron Activities!

In this issue of Astronology we will look into the activities some of the Astron staff will be participating in over the next few months.  We hope to see you at one or several of these events!

ASAE Annual Conference
August 9-12, 2014 Nashville, Tennessee
Join the Astron team at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee as they participate in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) annual conference! Early registration ends July 9th 2014! 
Astron will be in booth #235, so please be sure to stop by and say hello!

CNY SHRM Survey Debrief
On August 21st, Astron National Director Jennifer Loftus will conduct her annual survey debrief to the Central New York SHRM (CNY SHRM) chapter in Syracuse, NY.  Attendance is limited to survey participants.  If you want to hear about the latest trends in compensation, participate today!  The survey can be found at

Green Mountain Payroll Meeting
On September 10th, Astron team member Michael Maciekowich will be a guest speaker at the Green Mount Payroll Association one day conference in Burlington, VT! Come here him speak on designing an effective total rewards strategy. Sign up soon, there is limited spacing for this event!

CEA Survey Debrief
On September 16th, Jennifer Loftus will conduct her annual salary survey debrief to the Cement Employers Association during their annual gathering.  This year’s event, limited to CEA members, will be held in Savannah, GA.

New York State SHRM Conference
Have you wondered how you can engage your employees in a new and innovative way? One avenue organizations are exploring is Gamification.  Astronology discussed the growing popularity of gamification in a previous article. On September 28-30, 2014 Michael Maciekowich will be a guest speaker in Buffalo, NY at the New York State Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference. Michael Maciekowich will be speaking on Gamification and the use of it in Human Resources. Register today to hear him speak!

2014 Upstate NY Healthcare HR Conference
From October 8 – 10, The American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Association (ASHHRA) Upstate New York Healthcare Human Resource chapter will be hosting its annual conference. The Astron team will be in attendance and look forward to seeing many of our friends in the Healthcare industry! The conference will be located at the Woodcliff Resort & Spa in Fairport, NY.

Wisconsin State SHRM Conference
Looking for a way to gain more knowledge on HR topics and policies? The Wisconsin State Society of Human Resource Management will be holding its conference at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference will be held October 15-17, 2014. In addition to exhibiting, Michael Maciekowich will present “Gamification in Human Resource Management: An Introduction.” He looks forward to seeing you!

As you can see Astron will be on the road several times throughout the summer and into the beginning of fall. Will you be near any of these locations? Consider stopping by and saying hello to the Astron team! For future updates on Astron’s travels, check out our Astron Roadshow page!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Six Months on Capitol Hill – Five Potential Laws You Need to Know

In the last issue of Astronology, we explored three pieces of legislation with the potential to impact Human Resources: the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act (ALERRT), the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, and the Department of Commerce and the Workforce Consolidation Act.  Continuing our review of Human Resources impacting legislation being considered and written on Capitol Hill, Astronology highlights five more bills circulating in Washington, D.C.

4. Equal Employment for All Act of 2013
Introduced in the Senate on December 17, 2013, this bill would amend the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA) to prohibit employers from requiring credit history of potential employees as part of the job application process. Under the law, employers cannot use consumer credit reports of prospective and current employees for hiring purposes or for taking negative action. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), states “A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is reflection on an individual’s character or abilities; families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness --- let people compete on their merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.” She adds, “It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and that can be riddled with inaccuracies.”

5. Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2014
This bill, presented in February 2014 by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover employers with 25 or more employees, lowering the current 50 employee threshold. “No one should have to fear that they’ll lose their job if they need to take medical leave or care for a family member; the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act sought to end that insecurity by guaranteeing 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of workers are not covered by that law because they work in businesses with fewer than 50 employees…Every American deserves the rights afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act and this legislation would help us reach that goal.” The amendment also seeks to add reasons for which FMLA leave can be taken, including:
  •  participating in a child or grandchild’s community program or school activity,
  •  meeting routine medical needs for one’s self, child, spouse, or grandchild, and
  •  attending to the needs of the employee’s elderly relatives, including nursing / group home visits.
6. Paycheck Fairness Act
A bill that continues to make its appearance in Congress is the Paycheck Fairness Act. With its reintroduction, the bill was intended to shrink the pay gap between men and women. The sponsors (Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.) believe that because women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man for equal work, there must be corrective action taken to fix the disparity that can cost women over the cost of their careers approximately $434,000 on average. In April 2014, the bill was once again outvoted for further discussion from the Republicans and one Independent present.  According to the Washington Post, Republicans support equal pay for equal work.  However, the bill would increase civil lawsuits.  To the Republicans, the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.

7. The Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA)
A reintroduced bill on February 6, 2013, SNOPA is designed to protect employees from divulging their personal information on their social network profiles. It would prohibit institutions such as places of employment and educational institutions from requiring users to relinquish their log-in information (user name and / or password, etc.).  The law would also protect employees from being punished for refusing any such request.  Although the federal government has been slow in this area, states have already begun motioning on creating such laws.  Maryland, for instance, is the first state to prohibit employers from requesting / accessing social media passwords or gaining access to the social media accounts of prospective and current employees. We have yet to hear anything else on this law; sometime in 2014 it could reappear given the activity at the state level.

8. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes for employment discrimination prohibitions. Previously introduced, the ENDA would make it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to:

1. Refuse to hire or fire any individual due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also make it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to their compensation and terms of employment.

2. To classify, limit or segregate applicants or employee in any manner that would deny an individual employment because of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ENDA was passed in the Senate and awaits a vote by the House. As of current, 21 states have passed laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 19 states also prohibit gender identity.  We shall see, perhaps in 2014, the House’s response to the ENDA.

What other potential laws have you on your toes?  Write to Astronology! We’d like to hear your input on current Human Resource laws and possible future legislation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tips from a Job Interview Pro

The Wall Street Journal had a very interesting Q&A last week with Sofia Faruqi who went on over 100 job interviews. I found her answers really interesting for not just job seekers but interviewers as well. You want to make sure that the job seeker feels comfortable with the questions you are asking but that you actually challenge them to answer important questions. Here are a few parts of the Q&A that I thought would be helpful for Human Resources and all who are interviewing to take notice of:
WSJ: Over the course of 100 interviews, you’ve been asked a lot of questions. Which ones caught you by surprise?
Faruqi: The ones that caught me by surprise were the ones that were either really good or really bad. Some of the best that I’ve been asked were: “What values did you grow up with? What makes you proud of who you are?” Also, “What’s the most exaggerated point on your résumé?”
WSJ: That last one is bold.
Faruqi It’s a good question, because all résumés have some level of exaggeration. It’s really good to just ask that outright. In terms of the worst questions, one was “Your resume says you speak French. So, let’s do this interview in French.” Another horrible one was, “Will you go out with me?” That only happened once, so it’s a very rare thing to happen, but not great. You always have to keep your composure, no matter what happens....
WSJ: The rest of your interviews would have been by phone or video. What are the challenges of those mediums?
Faruqi: In a phone interview it helps to remove distractions and put yourself in a position where you are focused. Right now, my office door is closed, so there are going to be no interruptions, my computer screen is blank, so there are no pop-ups or e-mails or other distractions. This way, I can focus on our conversation. 
That is some good advice there for both interviewers and their interviewees. For those who do a lot of interviews, do you have questions you try to use to surprise the candidate or do you try to keep the questions very basic? When you conduct a phone interview, do you make sure to eliminate all distractions as well or do you think that's only a requirement for the job seeker? Just a few things to think about the next time you have a job seeker at the other end of the table or the phone call.