Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From A(ctuary) to Zzzzzzz, the Best and Worst of Jobs (200 of them)

I like to post about the best and worst jobs sometimes to give you an idea that either you're not alone in liking or disliking your job or to make you feel like maybe you're suffering from a case of "the grass is only greener on the other side". But the tough part of most of those rankings is that you get a top 5 or so to choose from and most professions rarely fit into the list. Well how about 200 jobs, in order, with a searchable format? Well and the Wall Street Journal have just that for you in this post.

Spoiler alert:

Top 3
  1. Actuary
  2. Biomedical Engineer
  3. Software Engineer
Bottom 3
  1. Reporter (Newspaper)
  2. Lumberjack
  3. Enlisted Military Personnel
The 4th worth job is actor, though, to be honest, I'm not sure that you'll see Tom Cruise, Robert Downey, Jr, or Anne Hathaway complaining too much. Though, I guess you may see the Anne Hathaway crying a lot, but she'll probably be winning prestigious awards while doing so.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Top Two Reasons for Turnover

A 2010 Deloitte Shift Index survey indicated that about 80% of workers hate their jobs. Such a statistic can be alarming for every organization. With dissatisfied employees lies the high probability of constant turnover, a formidable challenge organizations try their hardest to avoid.

By means of a collection of over 14 years of exit interview data, Astron Solutions has compiled a list of top reasons why employees leave their places of employment for seemingly greener pastures. In this issue of Astronology, we will explore the top two reasons for employee turnover, and techniques you can use to avoid losing your employees.

Reason #2: Dissatisfaction with the Supervisor

Dissatisfaction of employees with their supervisors is a serious concern for all employers.  Inevitably, personality clashes will happen.  However, an overall cohesive environment is needed to keep everyone happy.  A large contributor to this dissatisfaction is lack of communication.  An NBRII article mentions, “The biggest problem with any relationship is lack of communication. And that extends beyond the personal life and into the work life.” Employees may be shy about speaking of concerns they may have, especially if those concerns may run against the grain and contrary to what a superior would like to hear. Something must be done to encourage this type of honest communication before it is too late. Conducting yearly satisfaction surveys is an excellent way to promote this communication.

Reassuring employees that their thoughts will be completely anonymous will allow employees to speak up on the matters that most concern them.  Designing a survey to include employees’ thoughts on their direct superiors will allow for more honest views and feedback. An anonymous survey will also give each supervisor a starting point to address, and hopefully correct, issues that fall squarely on the supervisor’s shoulders. Besides allowing employees an opportunity to voice their opinions, it is also important for the employer to communicate to these employees that their opinions have been heard, are being considered, and there will be action taken. Employees need to know that their opinions matter…that the employee matters to the organization.  Not sharing a high level overview of the survey results with the employees, on the other hand, is an excellent way to breed additional discontent among employees.

Reason #1: Change of Career Objectives

The number one reason employees leave an organization is for a career change. Ironically, many of your employees may not be aware of their opportunities that exist right within your organization.  Are you continually communicating the opportunities for growth that employees have with your organization? During the annual performance appraisal process, do all leaders take the time to find out where the employee sees himself in the future?  Do all managers jointly set career development goals with employees?  These approaches can facilitate employee retention among individuals who think it is necessary to change employers to move up the corporate ladder or onto a different career path. 

Employee mentoring is another valuable approach for keeping employees on track with their career goals, giving them valuable reasons to stay with an organization. There are many options to mentoring, ranging from project-oriented mentoring, formal (structured program) mentoring, and even informal mentoring (schedule and monitoring designed by mentor and mentee). These programs are affordable, as the mentors are employees with experience in the organization and the profession for a minimum number of years. Although some employees will leave despite one’s best efforts to support their career objectives, taking the initiative builds trust.  Providing the chance to map out an employee’s goals, and using the assistance of the organization in order to achieve these goals, can be an enticing incentive to stay. 

Is your organization experiencing turnover woes?  “Even in an uncertain economy, employment opportunities await top talent – talent your organization can’t afford to lose,” explains Jennifer Loftus, National Director for Astron Solutions.  “All organizations must proactively continue to re-recruit their employees every day.  If not, another employer will!”  If you need assistance with your employee retention game plan, Astron Solutions offers consulting and services and various areas such as:
  • Compensation Review
  • Incentive/Variable Compensation Programs
  • Performance Appraisals
  • Employee Communications
  • Succession Planning
  • Exit Interviews

A Break from the Regularly Scheduled Program

I was about to post another article but I felt like it would be bereft of duties not to send our sympathy, thoughts, and prayers from the entire Astron Solutions community to the people of Boston. As a New York-based company, we certainly know the horror that accompanies terror attacks and we understand what you're going through right now.

There is a lot of rivalry between New York and Boston but as Jon Stewart elegantly said on The Daily Show, it's a sibling rivalry and we love you like brothers. Here's to hoping the people who committed these acts get brought to a swift justice and those who are injured are healed just as quickly.

And now we will do the best thing we know how--go on with the regularly schedule program since we won't let anyone stand in the way of being who we are or destroying our way of life. Stay Strong Boston--New York carries you in our hearts

Monday, April 15, 2013

Attracting the Best Candidates

A few years back, when the economy was really looking poor and the job market was in shambles, a headhunter friend of mine told me that it was the best time to be hiring. Granted, they weren't so happy about the situation, but companies didn't have to be all that great at recruiting or impressing candidates as many highly qualified candidates were looking for jobs. Instead of trying to pick from the bottom of the barrel, they were able to choose from highly skilled candidates for even the most junior of jobs.

Well the tide has turned and some of those companies are now having a harder time finding those qualified candidates to fill their top positions. They can find someone right out of college to be an analyst but managers and VPs are harder to come by nowadays. Sure the headhunter is happy as he no longer has to impress his clients with lavish dinners and nice seats at the Yankee games, but now the onus is on both of them to attract the best and the brightest. And some of that attracting has to start with your social media presence. has some advice on how to impress candidates. The first has to do with social media:
Did you know that a whopping 24 percent of Millennials said that a company’s social media policy would be a key factor in accepting a position? This particular group puts a huge emphasis on their gadget and social media freedoms, so create your social media policies with this in mind and make it known. Until just recently, social media policies didn’t even exist, and now people are accepting or rejecting job offers based on them! Who cares if other companies aren’t doing it, tweet your policy, Facebook it, include it in job listings. Like it or not, this is a major factor today. This is a cost-free and really simple bullet for your recruiting arsenal. Companies like Coca-Cola and Apple make theirs public and so do all these companies.
Career Cloud looks at one company, in particular, that does a great job of social recruiting--GEICO. This one ad caught their attention and with good reason--they take advantage of both in-person recruiting as well as a strong Twitter presence. "Job hunting has never been more complex and time consuming. If you help people understand it better and teach them, you can use it as a branding opportunity & recruit them at the same time."

There are certain jobs that you can post and sit back and let the resumes roll in but the best job postings that result in the best candidates are now going to involve some instances on social media on your end. The key is to make sure that your social media presence is clean, professional and fun. But most of all, it should be another avenue to differentiate yourselves from your competition in the job market.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Do's and Don't's of Resume Building

A lot of people offer advice on resumes but the truth is for the most part, they are suggestions: a resume is your own voice to a potential employer. So whether you have the perfect template for your resume or put it on pink paper with a nice scent and maybe a video, well, own it. But there are some pieces of advice I think are helpful. Two recent articles put it in good terms.

From Brazen Life:

A recruiter will glaze right over large chunks of text on a resume because paragraphs don’t stand out. List your accomplishments in bullets to improve the chances of catching the recruiter’s eye. If you submit most of your resumes through online applications, you may be tempted to write in paragraphs because bullets don’t always copy well into form fields. Don’t give in to this temptation! 
It's hard for some people to keep it short and sweet but each job should be able to be broken down into quick bulletpoints. Save the paragraphs for the cover letter.

And from US News and World Report on red flags on a resume:

Grammatical or spelling mistakes. Mistakes can get your resume immediately tossed, because they convey to an employer that you don't pay attention to detail. Employers assume that you've polished your resume more than you will most documents, so if you have mistakes in it, they assume your work will have even more errors.
Not every job requires you be a good writer but it shows that you don't give a hoot about your work if your most personal document--your resume--can't be given the care needed.

Most of the real do's and don'ts with resumes are common sense but some of them require a little more thought. Make sure that as a resume writer that you are following a format that you would want to receive as a potential hiring manager and if you're a hiring manager, understand that not every resume needs to be cookie cutter to be accepted

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Compensation 106: Variable Pay

The final feature in our Astronology six part series is here! In this issue of Astronology, we will discuss variable pay. WorldatWork’s 2012 Compensation Programs and Practices Survey found that 84% of organizations use some form of bonuses or incentive compensation to reward employees. With the popularity of variable pay, there also come questions, such as: what are the pros and cons of some different variable pay design options?  Does one variable pay design fit all?  Should the variable pay design change over time?  We will explore these questions and more in our final Compensation Practice Basics article.

Variable pay is a form of compensation that typically is earned by accomplishing specific goals, and is not equally paid throughout the year. It is also referred to as “performance pay.”  Variable pay is used to “recognize and reward employee contribution toward company productivity, profitability, team work, safety, quality or some other metric deemed important.”  When it comes to variable pay, one size does not fit all.  Variable pay can take one of several forms, including the following:
  • Incentive
  • Profit sharing
  • Bonus
  • Holiday bonus
  • Deferred compensation
  • Cash
  • Goods or services
Many organizations look to variable pay during uncertain economic environments. It is easier for employees to accept and understand a reward that is tailored to one’s personal performance and the organization’s overall performance, than to understand low or no salary increases. As such, many organizations in both the for profit and non-profit worlds have issued employees bonuses instead of annual salary increases in order to retain their top-performing workers.

The practice of variable pay has also fostered an increase in productivity. Employee engagement increases as workers become highly engaged in achieving goals to receive rewards. Employees take a larger role in the responsibility for their work outcome, which also drives commitment to the organization.

Some drawbacks related to variable pay can include execution. If a variable pay plan focuses on quantity, the end results can be a lack of quality. Tangible measurements become more valuable than innovative techniques or genuine customer satisfaction. While an increase in performance is always welcomed, if not careful a variable pay plan could result in outright cutthroat competition…thus ruining an organization’s cohesiveness.

As there are different forms of variable pay, every organization that wants to include it in their compensation mix must consider their individual circumstances. It is suggested that a task team should be appointed to consider variable pay as an option. When planning and designing the program this team should consider the following:

  • Identify if more than one plan is needed based on employee groups,
  • Identify plan participants,
  • Determine how to encourage the entire organization to success through positive communication,
  • Determine how the plan will be funded, and
  • Determine the plan’s key aspects, weightings, and measurement methodologies.
Once a plan has been selected, thoroughly develop the modeling criteria, methodologies, and formulas. Create a document that outlines the plan, policies, and procedures. In non-profit organizations, ensure that the maximum potential payouts have been included in the organization’s budget to address the legal and tax considerations.  Conduct focus group sessions to determine if the plan is easily understood by employees, while paying close attention to the motivation the focus group members demonstrate. If needed, revise the plan based on the focus group results.  Ensure that focus group members understand that the payouts from the plan are at risk – not a guaranteed payment that employees can rely on to pay the mortgage or other critical bills. 

This task team and focus group approach should be revisited every few years.  Variable pay plans generally have a window of greatest effectiveness.  Once employees have achieved the targeted goals, it may be time to revisit the plan or eliminate it altogether. 

As with every new initiative in an organization, it’s important to have full cooperation with all of its members. In order for this to happen, clear communication must be made on the full details of the variable pay. All must be able to understand how this new system will work, how it will benefit them, and what is expected of them once the new pay variable plan goes into effect.

Are you considering introducing variable pay to your organization or updating an existing plan? Need some help getting started? Astron Solutions is here to help! We offer compensation consulting and can assist in introducing a variable pay plan through our cloud-based Talent Management system, FLARE™.  Please contact us today with any specific questions you’d like us to explore with you!

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