Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Managing the Incoming Millennials

The month of May involves a flurry of graduation ceremonies. These graduates are more than likely already applying to work for your organization. Are you ready to handle them? Astron has explored the concern of working with Millennials in Astronology.  It should not be a surprise that in five years, the majority of our workforce will be the current 80 million millennials. In this issue of Astronology, we review some of the millennial generation’s values, and how organizations can successfully work with those values.

Empowerment through Feedback

A key value for millennials is empowerment. As a leader, how can you empower your millennials? Guest writer for the Ladders.com, Dylan Kaufman writes, “A reported 80% want regular feedback from their managers, and are eager to improve their professional arsenal of skills.” The Ivey Business Journal suggests that millennials have a different “social mindset” due to social media’s presence. Due to constant exposure to instant gratification and instant feedback, millennials require and value feedback more than previous generations. A Business2Community.com article suggests that “some millennials may take the lack of reviews and feedback to mean that they are not appreciated.” Obviously, depending on the field of work and personal preference, the amount of feedback needed will vary.  Conduct formal feedback regularly and pepper with informal feedback throughout the year.

Enthusiastic Work Environment

Millennials value enthusiasm in the workplace.  For loyalty and productivity to grow, employers will have to focus on making the work environment friendly. This means being open in communication and recognizing the value in creating work teams. An IBM survey notes that, similar to Generation X workers, millennial workers prefer to work in groups. The business2community article suggests, “You need to value the importance of the group and instead of ‘laying down the law’ and dictating decisions that affect the whole group, you must involve your team or at least show them why the decision was made. Your team will work better if they feel that the entire group is valued and is in it together.” Also consider the power of transparency in communication. When workers, regardless of their generation group, can communicate clearly and effectively with each other, shared goals are acknowledged and motivation is created. Never forget the connectivity clear communication can create.

Find Flexibility

Millennials value flexibility. As a result, freelancing and self-employment are becoming a trend. To combat this, some employers have offered flexible scheduling as a retention strategy.  However, there is a concern regarding flexibility stigma. This is when employees are viewed as less valuable, due to their flexible scheduling or their less traditional presence in the office space. Despite this concern, 38% of US Millennials are willing to move for better benefits in areas such as parental leave. The Harvard Business Review online suggests, “Give employees some control over when and where they work, combined with managerial support for their work and family lives.” There is a classic fear that people will take advantage of flexible schedule offerings, but Karyn Twaronite, an EY Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer mentions, “research shows people aren’t actually asking for all that much. They want flexible start and ending times and telecommuting for 1-2 days per week…these options improve engagement and productivity.”
Has your organization prepared for the new graduating millennials? Has your organization already hired and started working successfully with millennials? What adjustments has your organization made in order to support this burgeoning group of workers? Tell Astronology about it and we may share your insights with the rest of our readers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Non Competes: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By guest author: pmphrblog for Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc. Tri-State area human resources and labor relations consulting firm.

In today’s information economy, the protection of proprietary information is becoming even more essential. Employers, in increasing numbers, are requiring employees to sign so called “covenants not to compete,” or non-compete agreements. A covenant not to compete is an agreement that the employee will not work for a competitor for a specified period of time. In addition to confidentiality agreements, this is a powerful tool to prevent employees from misappropriating proprietary information such as trade secrets, or client information and supplying it to competitors. Such agreements also prevent employees from poaching clients and starting their own firms.

Who should sign non-compete agreements?
Employees who pose the greatest risk to theft of proprietary information should be required to sign these agreements. Thus, courts are far more likely to enforce a non-compete against an engineer or an accountant, than a janitor.

There are numerous pros and cons of requiring employees to sign non-compete agreements. In some cases where the risk to proprietary information is high, they are a necessity. In other situations these factors should be weighed to determine if one is necessary.

Some advantages of non-competes are that they:

  • Protect trade secrets and other confidential information,
  • Can help prevent high performing employees from leaving and working for competitors,
  • Prevent the loss of clients or key customers when an employee leaves, and
  • Have the effect of improving retention.
On the other hand requiring employees to sign a non-compete can create tension between employees and employers, and may induce some employees to quit immediately. It may also be more difficult to attract talent, as incoming employees may be reluctant to sign a non-compete. Moreover, such agreements may be found unenforceable in court. Even if the agreement is enforceable, the costs of enforcement can be prohibitive. Enforcing such agreements often requires the retention of an attorney and the initiation of a lawsuit which can cost an organization thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Covenants not to compete must be reasonable in terms of the following three areas:

1. Duration: Courts will generally not enforce a non-compete that has a duration longer than two years. The shorter the duration, the more likely courts will find the agreement reasonable.

2. Geographic Scope: It becomes more complicated when deciding the geographic scope. The scope must be limited to the area where the business primarily operates. For example, an organization that does most of its business in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut must limit its non-compete to those states. Most nationwide non-compete agreements are unenforceable except for high level employees at large corporations.

3. Industry: Non-competes must be limited to the particular industry of the employer. For example, a company that produces semi-conductors cannot prevent an employee from working in a restaurant or other unrelated industry.

Overall these agreements must be drafted in a way that satisfies their purpose of protecting proprietary information, while not being excessively burdensome on the employee. These agreements are not always looked favorably upon by the courts.  The courts have placed limits on the scope and reach of non-compete agreements. Thus, employers must weigh these advantages and disadvantages when deciding whether to require employees to sign a non-compete. All agreements should be reviewed by counsel before asking an employee to sign it.

This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.

For more information on labor relations please visit us at:

About Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl and Associates:

Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl and Associates, Inc. (PMP),  the oldest labor relations consulting firm representing management on Long Island, was founded in 1964 by former union organizer and worker’s rights advocate, Murray W. Portnoy.  Initially, Murray offered human resource consulting and union contract negotiating services to a handful of clients. Today PMP has a full staff of experienced and talented human resources and labor relations consultants, labor and employment attorneys, and administrative personnel. Murray Portnoy's values and vision remain at the core of PMP's mission and principles.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Be Frugal and Generous

There are a few people who I love reading everything they write and every interview they give. One of those people is Google's head of HR (officially, "head of people operations"), Laszlo Bock. That definitely rang true as he gave a recent interview to The Guardian with ten tips to get ahead at work. There are a ton of great parts in there (pay unfairly, spoil your best workers, choose a job that makes you happier, etc) but my favorite one was this: Be Frugal and Generous.
Most things Google does for its people costs nothing. Have vendors bring services in-house or negotiate lunch delivery. Guest speakers require only a room and a microphone. Save your big cheques for the times when your people are most in need. Your generosity will have the most impact when someone needs emergency medical attention or when families are welcoming new members. 
This is true even for the smallest company. My father founded an engineering firm that he led for over three decades. He cared deeply for each of his people. When any of his team reached five years in tenure, he took them aside and told them that the company had a pension plan, and at five years they were fully vested in it. 
In addition to whatever they’d been saving, he had also been putting money aside for each of them. Some cheered, some cried, some simply thanked him. He didn’t tell people earlier than that because he didn’t want them to stay for the money. He wanted them to stay because they loved building things and loved the team.
I've been at companies that spent wildly on their employees...and then had to cut them later to save money. I've been at companies that held tight to every dollar...and then had employees leave because they were way too frugal. This seems like great advice on how to fit in between.

You don't have to give everyone a pension plan that you personally pay into or bring in lunch every day--sometimes, you just need to find a way to show you care and do the things for your employees that show you appreciate they stuck around. Bock has some great ways to do that in this piece.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Advice for Working Remotely--or from Anyplace

After spending almost a year working remotely, I've written about quite a few do's and don'ts for doing so yourself. There was an article recently in Medium with some advice for working remotely. While I actually don't think this article is a great one for working remotely, I do think there are a few key takeaways for any employees.

The best of them references one of my favorite apps, Pocket, and described a real-life work situation:
Here’s an example: It’s Tuesday, 11am — I’m working away on a project, when Twitter prompts something of interest… Oh, man, I’m interested! Let me just click and see what it’s all about… …No, wait a minute, I’ve been in this situation hundreds of time: I’m about to click away and lose my focus… Yes, I want to read this article! And if I read it now, I’ll lose my focus for sure! Instead, I add content to Pocket, it bookmarks things on all devices — I then review it in my own time.
You will never be able to keep your employees away from other websites during work hours (I don't think you even want to, in all honestly). But the key is to keep them from sitting and reading and not paying attention to their work.

Bring in Pocket which will not only save that article to read later, but also download the article to your smartphone. So if you, like me, take a subway to work or travel for work (and so have some time without cell coverage), you can read this article on your phone. Fully downloaded.

And if you find a good article like this that you want to make sure you put in a blog post, well, you can save it and then send it to yourself and it ends up here. Whether you work from home or from your office, using productivity apps like Pocket can help you be a better employee. 

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