The week@work – new overtime rules, sharing the wealth of the ‘gig economy’ and college grads’ skills gap

This week@work President Obama announced changes in labor rules that will extend overtime benefits to 4.2 million Americans, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren advocated for the rights of ‘gig economy’ workers and a new report indicates a continuing deficiency in recent grads’ communications skills.

Christine Mai-Duc reported on the revisions to overtime regulations that will go into effect on December 1.

“The proposed changes would more than double the salary threshold for overtime eligibility to $970 a week in 2016. That means employees earning a yearly salary of $50,440 or less automatically would be eligible for overtime pay.

Currently, the threshold is $455 a week, meaning a salaried worker making more than $23,660 a year does not automatically qualify for overtime pay under federal standards.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters that too many managers are falling behind and getting caught in the “middle-class squeeze.”

Proponents of the change say the salary threshold, designed to exempt highly paid white-collar workers, hasn’t seen meaningful change for more than 40 years. In 1975, more than 60% of salaried workers were eligible for overtime. Today, less than 8% of full-time salaried workers are covered by those regulations, according to the White House Domestic Policy Council.

“In effect, we have seen inflation repeal the regulations that went into effect decades ago,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor economist and professor at UC Berkeley.”

The man at the head of the Department of Labor, Secretary Thomas Perez, shared his approach to worker advocacy in an interview with David Gelles for The New York Times.

 

“It’s a day job intended to help other people with day jobs. He wants companies to take better care of their employees, even if it costs them in the short term. It’s not a message many C.E.O.s want to hear, but Mr. Perez believes it is his duty to spread the word.

Mr. Perez’s courting of chief executives also stems from a recognition that his department alone can’t fix the problems bedeviling American workers. Thorny issues like wage stagnation, stingy vacation time, shoddy manufacturing and environmental degradation are so complex, so entrenched, that no one government agency can tackle them (not to mention the diminished influence of organized labor).

He is talking about “conscious capitalism” and “inclusive capitalism.” He is singling out “high road” employers. He is promoting B Corps, companies that adhere to lofty social and environmental standards. In doing so, he hopes he can persuade less enlightened corporations to change.

The employers who do best are employers who reject these false choices,” Mr. Perez said. “It’s not a zero-sum world where you either take care of your workers or you take care of your shareholders. You can do good and do well, too.

We’re building a movement,” he said. “It’s undeniably a work in progress, but there’s a fundamental desire to see capitalism to do something different.”

On Thursday, Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the annual conference of Washington D.C. think tank, New America. Her remarks, ‘Strengthening the Basic Bargain for Workers in the Modern Economy’, detailed the reality of the changing workplace and proposed steps to create an income safety net and ensure portability of benefits for all workers.

Warren takes part in the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington

“The problems facing gig workers are much like the problems facing millions of other workers. An outdated employee benefits model makes it all but impossible for temporary workers, contract workers, part-time workers and workers in industries like retail or construction who switch jobs frequently to build any economic security.

Just as this country did a hundred years ago, it’s time to rethink the basic bargain between workers and companies. As greater wealth is generated by new technology, how can we ensure that the workers who support this economy can share in that wealth?

I believe we start with one simple principle: all workers–no matter when they work, where they work, who they work for, whether they pick tomatoes or build rocket ships–all workers should have some basic protections and be able to build some economic security for themselves and their families. No worker should fall through the cracks.”

Lydia Dishman summarized a report released last week by compensations specialists, Payscale, citing a ‘skills gap’ between managers and employers. And, wait for it…there’s a generational twist.

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Some of the skills hiring managers find lacking or absent are unexpected. Critical thinking, problem solving, attention to detail, and writing proficiency top the list of skills managers find missing from job seekers’ personal tool kits. On the flip side, managers didn’t find graduates wanting for know-how in search engine optimization marketing, foreign languages, and coding.

Overall, hiring managers found soft skills such as communication, leadership, ownership, and teamwork were missing in this new crop of workers.

“Graduates need strong communication and problem-solving skills if they want to interview well and succeed in the workplace, because effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking enables you to accomplish business goals and get ahead,” Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said in a statement. “No working day will be complete without writing an email or tackling a new challenge, so the sooner you develop these skills, the more employable you will become,” Schawbel adds.

It’s important to note here that age matters in this report. Fifty-five percent of managers who are millennials themselves believed graduates are prepared to enter the workforce versus 47% of gen Xers and 48% of boomers.”

The week@work – agents of change, NY values and imagining a windfall

The week@work was dominated by stories of the small group of workers in entertainment, sports and politics. It was also the week that everyone had the opportunity to imagine entry into the world of celebrity via the purchase of a single $2 lottery ticket.

On Sunday evening the Hollywood Foreign Press Association handed out their annual Golden Globes, with the surprise winner being Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal for his role as conductor of the fictional ‘New York Symphony’ in Amazon’s Golden Globe winning ‘Mozart in the Jungle’. “I want to dedicate this to music, to all the people that find the music and common ground for communication, for justice for happiness.”

As Huell Howser might say, “This is amazing!”, that a series about classical musicians led by a talented Mexican actor, wins an award in a year of political polarization and classical music’s declining prominence in our culture.

On Thursday, the actor who played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, Alan Rickman died. “With the last film it was very cathartic because you were finally able to see who he was,” Mr. Rickman said “It was strange, in a way, to play stuff that was so emotional. A lot of the time you’re working in two dimensions, not three.”

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Agents of change in theater, music, and the workplace challenge our thinking. On Monday we learned of the death of another transformational icon, David Bowie.

“In his dazzling artistry, daring style, unabashed intelligence, intensity of emotion, cultivation of magic, mystery and imagination, Bowie was a figure who bridged high and low culture, reverberating on so many different levels.”

On Monday morning, NPR replayed his 2002 interview with ‘Fresh Air’ host Terry Gross.

“I’m not actually a very keen performer. I like putting shows together. I like putting events together. In fact, everything I do is about the conceptualizing and realization of a piece of work, whether it’s the recording or the performance side. And kind of when I put the thing together, I don’t mind doing it for a few weeks, but then, quite frankly, I get incredibly, incredibly bored because I don’t see myself so much as a – I mean, I don’t live for the stage. I don’t live for an audience.”

David Bowie event planner? When we think of careers, we make assumptions about success, only to realize that each of us holds a unique definition which sculpts our approach to a calling.

“People often forgot, but up until his death, on Sunday at age 69, Mr. Bowie was a New Yorker

And though Mr. Bowie was enormously wealthy, he wasn’t one of those rich guys who kept an apartment in the city, along with a portfolio of global real estate holdings, and flew in. Aside from a mountain retreat in Ulster County, N.Y., his Manhattan apartment was his only home.

You may not have considered all this because Mr. Bowie was an apparition in the city, rarely glimpsed. You heard it mentioned that he lived here. Somewhere downtown, someone thought. But seeing him out? Good luck.”

Which brings us to the political discourse on ‘New York values’ and its relevance to job search. Relocation is a major consideration for many seeking career advancement. Understanding the character of the community you join outside of your workplace is equally, if not more important to understanding the values of your workplace community.

How many folks have decided to take a job in New York or LA only to later realize a major disconnect? This is not a value judgement, just a realization that we all need to find a place where we can be successful. Unfortunately, the job perks sometimes outweigh the geographical/cultural component in the decision making mix and it’s only when we are fully committed to our workplace that we begin to realize our success is being eroded by deficiencies in our neighborhood.

On to the world of sports. On Monday evening, two college football teams competed in the College Football National Championship game in Arizona. The University of Alabama’s team won by a score of 45-40 over Clemson. A few days later at the NCAA’s annual meeting, “NCAA president Mark Emmert praised student-athlete activism during his annual speech Thursday at the NCAA convention.”

During his 20-minute address at the NCAA’s opening business session, Emmert urged schools to continue to emphasize academics, fairness and the health and well-being of student-athletes.”

And yet, actions speak louder than words. Inside Higher Education reported“While the time demands on college athletes ­became the central focus of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual meeting here this week, several proposals to deal with the issue were seemingly tabled the day before the NCAA’s five wealthiest conferences were scheduled to vote on them.”

Here’s the thing. With the exception of college coaches, everyone is in agreement that the ‘student’ in the ‘student-athlete’ equation takes priority. ‘Official’ time demands don’t begin to reflect the ‘unofficial’ time requirements of competing in Division I sports. And with only a select few moving on to compete in their sport as professionals, these students need the flexibility to explore career opportunities and participate in internships.

“Roderick McDavis, president of Ohio University, said it would be a mistake for colleges to wait for NCAA policy changes to prompt that shift. “Policies don’t change behavior,” he said. “People change behavior. We can hope that the NCAA catches up with us all one day, but what I know I can control is I can go home tomorrow and make a difference on my campus.”

And then there were the omnipresent billboards advertising the Powerball Jackpot at $999 million. Except the amount had grown to over $1.5 billion, which gave us all an opportunity to contemplate what we would do with that amount of money.

On a CNN broadcast the night before the drawing, international anchor Richard Quest asked anchor Anderson Cooper what he would do with the winnings if he had the lucky set of numbers. (You may know that Mr. Cooper is a Vanderbilt by ancestry.) His response, “I would buy a watch.” And he would be back at work the next day.

Here are a few additional articles that you may have missed from the past week.

‘Why I Always Wanted to Be a Secretary’ by Bryn Greenwood – Does your work define you? What if your dream job is central to an organization, but society’s definition is demeaning?

‘At Work And Feeling All Alone’ by Phyllis Korkki – In the world of telecommuting, new research indicates those left behind in the office have ended up feeling lonely and disconnected.

‘60% of Women in Silicon Valley Have Been Sexually Harassed’ by Lydia Dishman – Results of a survey of 200 women demonstrates a serious level of dysfunction in the tech giants’ workplace.

‘Yahoo’s Brain Drain Shows a Loss of Faith Inside the Company’ by Vindu Goel – “More than a third of the company’s work force has left in the last year, say people familiar with the data. Worried about the brain drain, Ms. Mayer has been approving hefty retention packages — in some cases, millions of dollars — to persuade people to reject job offers from other companies. But those bonuses have had the side effect of creating resentment among other Yahoo employees who have stayed loyal and not sought jobs elsewhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg’s parental leave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem have lunch, and 29 words to avoid in an interview

The stories selected from this week@work include Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take two months of parental leave, a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem, and advice on words to avoid in an interview.

Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to ‘lead by example’ and step away from work to care for family may signal to Facebook employees and other CEOs that the world is finally changing for dual career parents.

Covering the story for Wired, journalist Julia Greenberg wrote:

“Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent chief executive of a major public tech company to take this much time off following the birth of his child. That’s important, because executives set the tone for a company (and, in some ways, the country) when it comes to balancing work and family.

Like some other major tech companies, Facebook already offers new parents a parental leave plan considered very generous by US standards. New parents at Facebook can take four paid months off. They receive benefits such as $4,000 for each child born or adopted. As we’ve written before, however, employees may feel reluctant to take advantage of such plans if their companies don’t have a culture that encourages taking time off. And company culture typically comes from the top.

 Let’s hope more companies will offer new parents more leave, and that dads will be able to follow his lead.”

One of the highlights of The New York Times Sunday Style section is the ‘Table for Three’ feature. This past week, Philip Galanes shared the conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem.

I recommend reading the complete interview, if for no other reason than to provide a historical context for the current conversation on gender discrimination in the workplace. Here is a short excerpt.

PG: One of the cleverest things you did as a litigator was demonstrate how rigid gender roles harm men as much as women.

RBG: There was an interesting case this court decided in the first year Justice O’Connor was on the bench, about a man who wanted to go to the best nursing school in his area, but it was women-only. You could read between the lines what she understood: There was no better way to raise pay for women in nursing than to get men to do it.

GS: Equal pay for women would be the biggest economic stimulus this country could ever have. Big-time profits are being made from gender roles as they exist. It would also be win-win because female-headed households are where children are most likely to be poor.

PG: Last subject: You are both bridge builders. Justice Ginsburg on the court; and Gloria, with a sea of men and women over the years. Any advice for getting along with people who disagree with us to the core — like Justice Scalia?

RBG: Last night, my daughter and I got a prize from a women’s intellectual property group, and Nino [Scalia] was in the video, saying his nice things about me. He’s a very funny man. We both love opera. And we care about writing. His style is spicy, but we care about how we say it.

GS: I think Ruth is better at getting along with people with whom we profoundly disagree. I feel invisible in their presence because I’m being treated as invisible. But what we want in the future will only happen if we do it every day. So, kindness matters enormously. And empathy. Finding some point of connection.

Moving to the job search, Jacquelyn Smith writing for Business Insider provides us with a list of ’29 words you should never say in a job interview’. Drawing on tips from Michael Kerr, here’s a sample:

“‘Money,’ ‘salary,’ ‘pay,’ ‘compensation,’ etc.  Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process, Kerr says. “Focusing on the salary can raise a red flag with potential employers that you are only there for the money and not for any deeper reasons,” he says. “More and more, employers are looking for people who align with their mission and values.”Negotiations can and should be done after — or at the end of — the interview phase.

‘Weaknesses’ or ‘mistakes’   Never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr. And don’t bring up mistakes you’ve made at work, unless you’re talking about them to show how you’ve made significant improvements.”

Two other articles of interest were published on the Fast Company site this week:

‘Where Google, Apple and Amazon employees want to work next’Lydia Dishman

‘The World’s Five Biggest Employers Aren’t Who You Think’Charlie Sorrel

One more thing…

This past summer I celebrated July 4th in Brussels. It’s one of my most favorite cities in the world. The people I met in shops and restaurants are in my thoughts this weekend. Be safe.