Friday, May 27, 2011

Employee Satisfaction and Happiness: What Is An Employer's Role, If Any?

"What is the proper role of an employer in employee satisfaction and happiness?"

It is a question often asked and the answers reflect differences of opinion.

If employee satisfaction and happiness had no impact on productivity and profits, some, perhaps most, employers would answer the question, "While I'd prefer my employees be happy, it really doesn't matter because it doesn't translate to shareholder return which is my only real responsibility."

But, employee satisfaction and happiness are related to productivity, which leads to a different answer and a new question: "How can I increase employee satisfaction and happiness?"

Most employers, protestations aside, still believe more money is the answer that fixes most problems. More importantly, employees also believe it.

Yet, many studies have belied the linkage, e.g., once an economy reaches an income per person of about $15,000 (measured at purchasing-power parity), economic growth ceases to add to happiness. The United States, for example, is considerably richer than Denmark, but Americans are no more satisfied with their lives.

But, even if money isn't the answer beyond a certain level, most employees don't know it and don't believe it. In that case, is it the employer's obligation, duty or just intelligent business practice to nudge its employees in the right direction? And, what if they don't want to be led?

The aame question was asked in an article entitled, "The Joyless or the Jobless" in today's The Economist, not with regard to employers, but to governments and their duties, if any, regarding the satisfaction and happiness of their citenzry.

The analysis is interesting.

"Sometimes people have the knowledge and the self-command to choose happiness, and they still fail to do so. That is the surprising finding of a recent study by Daniel Benjamin, Ori Heffetz and Alex Rees-Jones, three economists from Cornell University, and Miles Kimball of the University of Michigan. They persuaded hundreds of people to answer conundrums such as: would you rather earn $80,000 a year and sleep 7.5 hours a night, or $140,000 a year with six hours’ sleep a night?

"About 70% of people said they would be happier earning less money and sleeping more. Likewise, almost two-thirds would be happier making less money and living close to their friends, rather than more money in a city of strangers. In response to another question, over 40% said they would be happier paying twice the rent to enjoy a shorter commute of ten minutes, rather than 45.

"These findings support the notion that money isn’t everything. But ask people what they would actually choose, as opposed to what would make them happy, and their answers can sometimes surprise: 17% of those who say they would be happier sleeping for longer and earning less also say they would still choose the higher-paying job; 26% of those prizing short commutes over low rents would still take the cheaper home; and 22% of those who value friends over money would still move to where the money is."

For the employer, like governments, it may be in the best interest of citizens and employees, governments and employers, that people in their charge be happy and satisfied. But whether they choose to be satisfied is uniquely individual and what role government and employers can effectively play is a question for another time.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Work Isn't Working Anymore? Let's begin with what makes us happy . . .

'FOR more than 70 years, economists have been fixated with measuring economic ouput. Their chosen measure, gross domestic product, has limitations—it takes no account of natural-resource depletion and excludes unpaid services such as volunteering. On May 24th the OECD launched its alternative measure of well-being which includes 20 different indicators across 11 sectors in its 34 member countries, from life satisfaction to air pollution. It has produced an interactive tool which allows users to change the weight of each sector according to their own view of its importance. The chart below shows the results of its headline Better Life index (which is equally weighted) plotted against GDP per person at purchasing-power parity (which adjusts GDP for differences in the cost of living across countries).' (The Economist, May 24, 2011)

There is much worth discussing in this report and we will be doing just that at the CrediblyConnect blog over the next several weeks. Suffice it to say there are some surprises that are relevant to the workplace and to all of our lives vis a vis understanding human satisfaction, from where it emanates and mostly where it does not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Should We Measure Success. -- GDP or SWB?

"Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." H.L. Mencken observed that religious dynamic a century ago, but much has changed between then and now. Whereas it once was considered selfish, if not downright sinful, to focus on personal happiness, in modernity it is hard to find someone who isn't focused on it most ofmthe time, most often in the form of the question, "Why am I not happier?"

In our book, "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," Fritz Aldrine and I spent a lot of time on this question vis a vis work and its role in happiness and satisfaction, but mostly how work has failed to make us happier and why. The book is regretfully out of print but remains available at in PDF format.

With a broader inquiry, some of the most knowledgeable are debating the issue of happiness, its measurement, and whether by measuring Gross Domestic Product we are missing the point which is happiness and satisfaction which can also be measured but which has been all but ignored.

You can follow the debate at

Ed Deiner, a leading authority on the measurement of subjective well-being and oft-cited on "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," observes the following to kick off what will be a lively discussion:

"We analysed the relation of subjective well-being (SWB)to income in the Gallup World Poll, covering over 150 nations, for a five-year period. We see that in general income and life satisfaction correlate both in cross-section and longitudinally. Despite the high correlation between income and life evaluations, there are instances of poorer nations, such as Costa Rica and South Korea, being much happier. Furthermore, although income and SWB move together over time on average, there are many instances where income rises and SWB does not, and even where they move in opposite directions. These exceptions indicate that other important factors can influence the SWB of societies. In addition, and importantly, income correlates at much lower levels with enjoying life than it does with life satisfaction. By measuring SWB we can understand more about factors other than GDP that affect the quality of life of nations."

The SWB of workforces is the focus of our Credible Connections program, used by companies large and small worldwide.

The only requisite to participate is to believe that people matter and that employees are more than units of labor and deserve communication, positive relationships and respect.

More on this discussion as it proceeds . . .

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New "I'll Sue You App" Courtesy of the Department of Labor

This problem is simple and straightforward. Follow along carefully . . .

1. Employers have the legal obligation of correctly tracking the time worked by non-exempt employees.

2. Many employers effectively "round" by assuming 40 hours a week for employees who don't put in for overtime compensation.

3. In the old days, i.e., yesterday and the days before yesterday, employees would occasionally complaint to the US Department of Labor that they were not being paid for all of their overtime hours. It was a liar's contest and, if the employer was keeping any records, it was difficult to prove they were in some way insufficient.

4. Move forward to this day. The game has changed. The Department of Labor is providing an "app" to employees that runs on their I-Phones, I-Touches and I-Pads that allows them to carefully track each and every hour worked (and perhaps some that were not, including the time it actually takes to learn and use the app). It even contains an handy e-mail application so they can mail their hours directly to the Department of Labor along with their complaint.

5. Now they have their records which they testify (truthfully or not) were kept on a real-time basis. Most employers can't say the same. Net-net: Employees will begin winning and filing more wage and hour claims.

Answers to questions you are asking:

1. Yes, fleeing the country is always an option.

2. Yes, you can "win" (or at least have a fighting chance) in this game by a simple change in your procedures. Ready?

Have every non-exempt employee sign a sheet each week showing the hours you believed they worked that week stating that "the hours reflected below/above accurately reflect the hours I worked." Give them a space to contest the hours the company calculated and resolve the issue right then and there if there is a dispute. If not, with their signature, their I-Phone app won't mean as much to the endgame.

And, what if employees insist on working overtime even though they are told to keep to 40 hours a week? Don't dock them. That's what the government wants you to do -- big problems there. Rather, write them up. Discipline, if necessary. Even fire if it comes down to that.

But, to let an employee with an I-Phone start calculating their own hours which you will learn about much too late to do anything about it is an expensive way to do business.

You heard it here.

Now, how lucky do you feel?

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Best Use For Government Payroll Numbers . . .

When I heard that American employers hired 244,000 new employees last month, I pictured employees going back to work in manufacturing plants and maybe some new computer programmers coming out of college finding work at some new high-tech startups.

But when I pulled back the curtain I found . . .

The Bureau of Labor Statistics added 175,000 of those 244,000 jobs through their "hedonic adjustment birth/death model." In short, that means there is no evidence that a single one of these jobs was actually created. Rather, through "modeling" they were assumed into existence.

Another 65,000 of those jobs were what I call "sort of real," created via the McDonald's road show -- the hamburger king ran simultaneous job fairs in April all over the country to show what a good corporate citizen it is. It would only be fair to mention that fast food turns over more than a hundred percent of its restaurant employees each year, meaning a very high percentage of these newly hired low wage workers will be back on the street soon. Most are part-time students and those unfortunates who can't find work that will support a family.

Which leaves about 4,000 "other" jobs that, if we can assume the wizard behind the curtain isn't pulling another fast one, might, just might be what we'll call "real jobs."

Reality: No new jobs are being created. None. Not on a net basis.

Which brings us back to the question . . . What do we do with these numbers?

Step 1: Carefully print them out

Step 2: Lay paper on which they are printed in the floor

Step 3: Show dog the paper

Step 4: Wait

Step 5: Pick up both dog and government crap and put in trash can

That is the highest and best use for the US government numbers on employment.

Millenials -- Did you get the memo?

What is wrong with this picture?

71 percent of millennials reported in the survey by DeVry University that "meaningful work" was now one of the three most important factors in determining their career success, only 11 percent of hiring managers surveyed said that they felt meaningful work was most important to millennials.

Indeed, 30 percent of these 21-31 year olds identify meaningful work as the single most important measure of a successful career.

Managers thought millennials were most concerned with money, followed by having a high level of responsibility. High pay is still important — ranked as most important by 27 percent surveyed. But a "sense of accomplishment" ranks nearly as high at 24 percent.

Hiring managers who tend to be older than the Millenials they are hiring are still singing out of the old hymn book -- good, steady work, competitive pay, and a career path.

The young aren't buying. They have seen their parents (or a friend's parents) lose their jobs. They are hip to "outsourcing" and they know the dirty little secret -- there is no job security. None. Nada. They understand they will hit the street on the first bad earnings report. It is OK. They can live with that fact as long as you give them what they really want.

"Job security" is a bad joke and telling it makes companies look like liars, or at least disingenuous.

What they want is to feel they are in some way making a positive difference based on the decisions they make in their jobs.

How to get that done? A topic for another blog. In the meantime, make sure your HR department the memo, this memo.

Friday, May 06, 2011

When Work Really Doesn't Work Anymore . . .

. . . some employees just, well, kill themselves.

Such is the plight of Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that makes some of the world's most sought-after high tech gadgets, mostly in China.

After 16 suicides or so and protests by SACOM (Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior), Foxconn determined that rather than deal with 80 hour workweeks, frequent and open humiliation of employees, and working conditions which sometime include the inability to sit down, the best way to handle the problem was to compel all employees to sign "the pledge" in which they promise not to kill themselves.

That's right, they have to promise that no matter how bad things get, they won't commit suicide, not anymore.

I am not sure of much these days, what with so many workplaces holding together like cheap suits, but my guess is that this is not the solution.

Have a great weekend and before you leave today, don't forget and sign "the pledge."