Showing posts from 2011

Benefits for Care Givers

Health information has never been more readily available.  However what you hear about and what people need is often two different things.  Wed MD's Top Searches for 2011 have, so far, been Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms (Steve Jobs), Listeria (tainted cantaloupe), and Bullying (hot topic in the media). What people most struggle with, however, are the basic life balance issues and stresses that revolve around care giving. A recent Gallup study showed that one in every six employees in America is a care giver for a minor, ill or aged family member.  Before you draw any quick gender conclusions, 46% of those are men and 54% women.  If you slice the data by age and income, the numbers increase to one in five for middle aged and older employees and those earning middle income and below. The importance of this study, other than the human need, is that these care givers miss an average of 6.6 days per year in call-in, care-giving-related activities.  The lost productivity and paid time o

Yes, There is a Scott Agthe

Scott Agthe is a labor attorney with whom I have worked for 15 years. We started working together when I opened up new facilities in El Paso for my Japanese employer at the time.  He was a labor attorney with one of two major law firms in that city. Scott and I worked together on the opening of a warehouse/material services center and a wire mill.  Later he moved to Austin to join a regional law firm and continued to service my needs from there.  Later I moved on to Thomas Nelson and, with a Texas operation in Plano, Scott continued to take care of my needs in that market. Scott and I have worked complex cases together and have always been successful. We've beaten back bogus EEOC claims, phony worker's compensation claims, and consulted on the whole array of labor issues.  We know each other's voice and no longer have to say, "This is Jim" or "This is Scott". We know our kids ages and send each other a little something at Christmas. But last night

How Our Sick Bank Works

Ten years ago we combined our sick and vacation programs into a comprehensive Paid Time Off (PTO) bank.  A couple of years ago we moved from a PTO-payout program to a use-it-or-lose-it program. This was in response to the Recession for financial reasons. It wasn't simply that paying out unused sick/vacation time was an expense. It was also that accrued but unused PTO has to be booked each month as a liability against company profits due to the fact that is a payable obligation under most states' Wage and Hour regulations. Even if you use that time to take a vacation, between the time that you accrue it and the time you actually take the vacation the value of that time is a financial liability. Moving to a use-it-or-lose-it program is a difficult move for employees. There are all manner of reasons why people forfeit unused time at year's end, from simple mismanagement all the way to work demands and won't allow for all time to be taken. For that reason we implemented S

Separating Person and Behavior

One of the hardest things for managers, especially inexperienced ones, to do in a Christian organization is to call out unacceptable behavior. Doing so can cause conflict or hurt feelings and we are taught as Christians to be kind. Working oftentimes in small work groups, offending one of your staff can mean having 1/3 of your workforce mad at you. For that reason two things often happen: either the manager doesn't address the behavior at all or does so with so much positive "spin" that the corrective message doesn't get through. In either case two bad things happen. In the short term the behavior gets worse, and in the long term the manager gets fed up and wants to terminate the individual who may not understand what they did wrong. Ken Blanchard, in the old "One Minute Manager" series explained how to do this well. He spoke of separating the individual from their behavior: loving and supporting the person but not tolerating what they did. It is

Fire Drill October 7th

On October 7th at 2:00 we will have a fire drill for the Corporate Headquarters.  It has been a long time since we had one for this building while the warehouse has done a much better job conducting these drills. For that reason this drill will not involve the DC. First Responders are scattered throughout the building and cover all areas.  They are also best equipped to handle any injuries should someone become injured either during a fire or exiting the building (falling down stairs, for instance).  For that reason we will ask them to take responsibility for clearing their work area. All employees should exit the building and go to the South lot.  If you are directionally challenged (like I am) that is the lot heading towards the airport and running parallel to the warehouse.  There each employee should find their supervisor and group by divisions and determine who was in the building at the time of the alarm and if they all got out.  HR will float between divisions with a checkli

The Continuing Power of Face-to-Face Communications

Earlier this month Gallup released an article entitled "Three Social Media Myths" in which is made three broad statements worth considering: 1.  Social Networking Primarily Happens Off-line .  It then carries over to on-line social media outlets, not the other way around. 2.  Social Media Doesn't Drive Customer Loyalty. Brand Engagement Drives Social Media Engagement .  Brand loyalty is a complex thing but once it happens it, like social networking, spills over on-line.  Again, not the other way around (i.e. you don't build brand engagement on-line). 3.  Social Media is a Tactic Waiting on a Strategy .  HR is a face-to-face business.  It like so many similar pursuits from retailing to sales calls has felt the pressure of outsourcing or centralization leveraging social media communications channels. Here's a daring prediction: the next dot bomb will be some social media outlets.  There is way more hype than substance, but there is some substance.  This med

Boiled Frog Alert: Changing our Service Award Program

You probably have heard the old metaphor; how a frog placed in hot water will jump out immediately, but put in cold water and slowly heated he'll sit there and boil to death.  That happens in business so often: we have a program that works in place and turn our attention away from it until one day we find we've been boiled and hadn't noticed. Such is our Service Award program, which had been in place a decade or so before I got here a decade or so ago.  It is a corporate incentive not charged to HR so we hadn't paid attention to the pricing, and since we administer the program nobody else had looked at the cost assuming we had. Then we began to get complaints about the quality and selection of the awards.  When we dug in we found that, looking up those same items on on-line retailers, we were paying about double plus shipping.  Then we had a great suggestion from an employee: why not just give her the same value and purchase on-line through Amazon with free shipping

Separating Social Media Messages and Sites

If you've read this blog or followed my tweets since I started using social media you know it has been an uneven path.  I have twice deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts only to re-start them some time later.  I have vacillated on the best use of this blog and generally questioned the whole purpose of this medium. Now a few years later I use this blog, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In on a regular basis. The reason I use four sites when I once questioned the use of social media at all is simple; it makes sense to separate various types of communication among various outlets and restrict access to some. If you have ever sent a Facebook friend request and been ignored, or worse yet been accepted and subsequently dropped, do not feel excluded.  I use Facebook for family and current close friends only. By that I mean if we grew up together but haven't seen each other since high school, or we work together but do not see each other socially, I don't grant you access on my

New Concept Workplace, Meet Reality

There are all manner of new-concept workplaces written about in on-line and print media.  From Google to Zappos HR professionals are forever getting articles, some of them sent anonymously, about the rule-less workplace; where performance is all that matters and policies are so last-gen. New Concept, Meet Reality. As much as I would like to build a workplace where the rules are minimal to non-existent, there is a huge looming presence that makes that irresponsible in the form of Federal, State and Local Governments. The various laws and regulations promulgated and enforced by various government agencies at all levels comprise a bureaucracy that can be used as a weapon against employers.  Some of these are staffed by true believers who honestly feel that greed and discrimination are institutionalized in every workplace and its their job to use the full force of government to set things right. HR's job is multi-faceted, but it is primarily to build a fair workplace where good

Leading Through Your Failures

I came on board at Thomas Nelson in April 2001.  There was a lot wrong with the overall HR program for a lot of reasons (no body's fault in my estimation; just a dysfunctional evolution), which was why I was recruited.  The one thing that was going right was payroll, and by May of 2001 I had managed to screw that up pretty well. We were closing all operations except Plano, TX and Nashville.  To do that required that we consolidate payroll processing from four ADP processing centers in four different regions of the country into one center in Atlanta.  We had a new payroll person and we didn't know what we didn't know. The first pay date after going live with the consolidation we had 265 messed-up paychecks.  The ADP center in Atlanta, we would come to find out, trained its people on small accounts like ours.  Our instructions weren't followed and we didn't know how to find that out before the line formed outside our door. One fateful week all sales commissions we

Summer of Space Projects

This is shaping up to be a summer of major projects in the Facilities part of our group.  We're making good investments in providing a safer work environment for our warehouse team and keeping our Nashville operations all on one campus.  This includes adding air conditioning to the areas of the Distribution Center where about 80% of our people work, moving the Library Archive to the DC, moving our Design and Multimedia Group into the current Library space, moving the Remainder Sales showroom into the existing DMM production room, and reconfiguring the current DMM space as growth space for new office positions. The Cap-X was approved last week and these projects are rolling out as follows: This week modular walls are being delivered to the warehouse to build the new Library Archive space.  This self-contained, climate-controlled room will be heat and humidity controlled to protect this very important company asset.  This space should be ready for the Library assets between June

One To Go

A year ago this past weekend 11 families in the Thomas Nelson workforce experienced flood damage to the extent that their homes were, at least temporarily, unlivable.  Four had to be almost completely rebuilt.  One in particular, the home of Mark and Yvette Cowden, had to be bulldozed after it took Metro months to decide if they could rebuild or not. This past week construction finally began and is progressing quickly.  Yvette recently had a baby and this family has been in an apartment with their lives on hold for a year.  When construction ends, which looks like late this month, we'll want to partner with them for whatever they might need such as moving, landscaping, etc... This will conclude our flood relief efforts. Of our 11 families not one received a dime of aid from We Are Nashville or the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee or the Red Cross.  Even though some applied, none was given.  I personally will never give money to CFMT or the Red Cross again, especially gi

Rx HDP Off to a Good Start

Today my wife went to our local Publix pharmacy to fill two of our maintenance drugs.  Each was a Tier 1 drug under the PPO plan meaning that they were covered under a $10 co-pay each, or $20 for the two.  We paid full price for both of them which was $16!  So for the past couple of years I've been paying an insurance premium which caused these two drugs to cost me more. When she went to pay she swiped our HSA card and it worked. Success! For those of you, like me, chose the HDP and HSA pairing for medical coverage, I hope you are having a similar experience.  If not I'd like to hear from you, and feel free to comment on this blog. For those of you still on the PPO plan, with or without an FSA, I'll keep you posted with our family's experience in this brave new world of quasi-self insurance.

Off the Aggregator

This morning I asked Lindsey Nobles, who reluctantly agreed, to take my blog and twitter feeds off the Thomas Nelson blog aggregator and website.  If you wish to read it you will still find it here but it won't be listed as a Nelson blog. My intention in this blog has been to use it as a tool for (1) employee communication and (2) HR tech-talk. The former of these was successful but can be accomplished through internal email or the occasional link-out to a specific post here.  The latter has been problemmatic and is why I chose to make this change. The big issues changing the HR landscape and about which we need to talk shop are changes in employee lifestyles,  immigration, changing demographics, and the changing religious landscape not just in our country but right here in our community.  The labor pool locally and nationally is growing more non-white, less married, less Christian (either secular or Muslim in particular) and more multi-lingual. How HR departments and employers

Periodically Check the Calendar

When were your attitudes formed, and where?  By whom?  Are they still relevant today? These are questions you should ask yourself periodically, especially as you (1) get older and (2) work in one organization over time. Lately I've run into several examples of this.  I don't know if it is circumstance or because lately I've personally made some changes, but I'm noticing outdated attitudes in others. My favorite comment of late is, "Open Outlook and check the calendar; its not that year anymore." In this position you hear all manner of things, very few of which I can repeat.  In general I see occasional perceptions about "how things are" that are 10 years behind reality.  The occasional turf battle that arose out of fear based on something that happened years ago. The occasional person who is afraid for their supervisor to know that they came to HR, as if their right to come here for anything at any time hasn't been a matter of policy for 10

What A Quality Focus and Time Can Accomplish

Yesterday the Department of Transportation reported an encouraging if not amazing statistic.  Highway fatalities in this country for the year just ended were just over 33,000, the lowest in any year since 1949.  Fatalities reached their peak with 52,000 in 1972. The reasons are many but all have their origins in various systems which have been intentionally improved over the years. Cars are better.  Airbags, side curtain air bags, stability controls, better tires, and more recently spacing control radar in high-end models.  Highways are better, smoother, and with more gradual curves as road builders have improved their techniques. DUI enforcement is much stricter and values have changed along with the law.  Law enforcement no longer lets intoxicated drivers go with a warning. Medical techniques for trauma have improved.  EMT response time and techniques are vastly better than in the 70's, and trauma care in emergency rooms improved significantly with doctors coming back from

Sooner or Later

I've been saving this post for a very long time.  As we come to the end of another fiscal year, one in which we have much to celebrate, I want to take a moment to challenge the thinking of a sub-culture within our company that looks for signs of layoffs...constantly. This was undoubtedly our comeback year so as we move forward to build a better Thomas Nelson I'd like to ask this simple question: how can we as Christians contemplate and come to terms with the gravity our own mortality and eternal destination and yet gyrate uncontrollably at the thought of losing a job ? Over lunch one day Sam Moore told me the story of how he came to buy Thomas Nelson from Lord Thomson.  Undoubtedly many of you have heard or read that story, although some of our newer or younger people haven't.  It is one of the great lines on this topic and what follows is the abbreviated version of what Sam told me. Lord Thomson, British publishing magnate getting on in years, notices the success of

A Thankful Monday

This morning as I was doing my usual 6:30 email and web news check the big story was another Abercrombie and Fitch stumble . Adding to its history of sexualizing pre-teens, the company recently made the news for selling a push-up padded bikini top marketed to girls as young as seven.  The news caused me, on a groggy Monday morning, to pause and be thankful for where we work.  While we're not without our problems (what workplace isn't?), I wondered for a moment what it would be like as a person of faith working at A & F.  How could you be proud of your company?  How could you feel good about going to work knowing that you contributed to a product line and company culture that makes money turning second graders into sex objects? By contrast last week I spent a day in Abilene visiting the missionaries who had come to Nashville for flood rebuilding and relief.  They reminded me that it was the inspiration of our products that caused them to form domestic mission teams .  T

Why I've Not Blogged and What's Next

After posting almost daily I've been silent for about a couple of weeks.  Since my last post we've been at the individual counseling stage for employees making important and sometimes difficult benefits choices.  I've also been to Texas to do the same for our Live Events workforce.  The days have been too full to allow much blogging time. I've also been avoiding topics other than Open Enrollment until April 1st.  We have been using this blog as a place to post FAQ-type information for Thomas Nelson's benefits plans.  This has driven traffic to the blog.  Because of this I've shied away from op-ed pieces; I don't want anyone thinking that I've driven them to my blog so they could be exposed to my opinions on one topic or another. After April 1st I hope to get back to regular posts on more general workplace topics as our benefits enrollment deadline will have passed.  I may also have one more post on the CAN-DO ordinance before Metro Council, as its Fi

So What Constitutes a Medical Emergency?

In the choice between P and S networks one of the most common concerns is emergency room care.  We always say, "Never drive past an ER", meaning that you should never think about in and out of network in emergency situations.  Another reason is that emergency care (which is different from emergency room care which could include going on the weekend for the flu) is covered in our medical plan at the same in-network rate at any hospital. When we give this response the first very reasonable question we get is, "So what is emergency room care to Blue Cross?"  The concern is that a person might go to an out of network hospital thinking something is serious, find out that it isn't, and then be stuck with a big ER bill for out-of-network treatment. Here, exactly, is the Blue Cross Blue Shield definition for emergency care. An emergency situation is defined by a "prudent layperson" who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, as a medical

Why Are We Moving the Book Archive?

While plans are not yet finalized, the word appears to be out that we're planning on moving the company's archive to space in the warehouse building.  All manner of speculation ranging from dead-right to ridiculous has made its way around the building.  I'll take responsibility for not getting out ahead of this story; it is a proverb in HR and PR that if you fail to tell your story someone will tell it for you, facts or no facts.  So what's the real story? We are out of space.  With the recession-era move of all offices into the Corporate building, and subsequent subleasing of our other spaces, we are committed to one location for our publishing operations.  We are about to embark on a new budget year with less than five spaces left in our building.  When the new budget year rolls around on April 1st we will begin to receive requisitions to hire those approved positions and we have no place for them to go. Our options were to reduce all cubicles down to 6x8, makin

If "Preventative Services" are Free, How are They Defined?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the law behind Congressional Healthcare Reform also known as PPACA) mandates that all preventative services be delivered at no cost to the insured patient (that's you if you participate in our health plan).  So since most everyone at some point or other has been burned by the specificity of how an insurance carrier defines covered services, the big question so far as been, "What exactly is considered a preventative service?"  Here from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee PPACA flier "Preventative Services" is how BCBS defines these services.  All Members • One-a-year preventive health exams. More frequent preventive exams are covered for children up to age 3 • All standard immunizations adopted by the CDC • Screening for colorectal cancer (age 50 – 75 ), high cholesterol and lipids, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression • Screening for HIV and certain sexually transmitted diseases,

High Deductible Plans and Medicare Part B Don't Go Together

Those of you who have reached or are approaching age 65 have an extra decision to make regarding our Open Enrollment. You are or soon will be enrolled in Medicare Part A, which is free and automatic for U.S. citizens. This covers hospitalization, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and some home health. This does not impact your group insurance decision at all. What is an issue is whether or not you should take Medicare Part B, which covers physicians, outpatient procedures, and durable medical equipment. Part B must be elected and will cost you, for this year, at least $1,384.80 for the next 12 months. In our opinion, and that of our broker Corporate Benefits Alliance, this coverage will not pay more in benefits than you'll pay in premium (see chart). Now before your eyes gloss over, let's walk through it. Medicare pays 80% (you pay 20%) after a $162 deductible. Medicare is always the payer of last resort, but it will pay its portion between the $162 Medicare ded

Guest Post: "Why was that High Deductible Plan so SCARY?" by Matt McCurry

Let’s face it : most of us like security. When it comes to our health I would venture to guess that we all love security. Health, and the lack there of, can be a scary thing , and that’s why I was willing to pay for “peace of mind”. Two years ago I subscribed to the theory that paying the highest insurance premium had to be cheaper than paying the doctor or hospital for their services out of my own pocket. It also gave me the sense of security I was looking for in regard to my family’s health. I was married , we had just had our son , and I knew we would be going to the doctor quite a bit because that’s what infants like to do. So what changed my our mind? Our wonderful HR department had just sent out the new insurance premiums , and after I picked myself up off the ground I decided that I really need ed to weigh out every option. I read up on this crazy thing called an HSA and found it to be quite intriguing. Not only was it a way for us to save up for medical expenses , but it

S and P Network Hospitals

With the start of Open Enrollment, one of the biggest issues for Tennessee staff is whether to take a plan with the Blue Cross Blue Shield network S or network P. The most common question is, "What's the difference?" Well, here you go: Hospitals in the S Network include Vanderbilt, St. Thomas, Baptist, Nashville General, Williamson Medical Center (Franklin), University Medical Center (Lebanon), and Middle TN Medical Center (Murfreesboro). The HCA hospitals, which are in the P network but not in the S Network, include: Centennial, Southern Hills, Summit, Skyline, Stonecrest, & Hendersonville Medical Center. A complete list of P and S network providers can be found her e. Note that there are several network listed on that page but only P and S are available in our plan. A complete list of HCA hospitals, none of which are available in the S network, can be found here . As always, see any member of your Human Resources team with any questions you might have.

Benefits Education Week March 14 - 18th

March is Open Enrollment month for Thomas Nelson. Every year we have a Benefits Fair in Nashville, and attempt to get local resources to visit Live Events offices to deliver similar information. This year in Nashville we'll devote the entire week of March 14th - 18th for education on some important topics. In addition to raising general awareness on the benefits available to our emplmoyees (i.e. our Benefits Fair and electronic communications), our points of emphasis will be: 1. High Deductible Plans and Health Savings Accounts 2. 401(k) participation and diversification of investments 3. Home ownership and refinancing We chose these points because the medical insurance market is moving toward almost all high-deductible plans. We won't be there this year, but could be by next. With the 401(k) match still suspended, wisely saving and investing your own money is more important than ever. Also, being in the plan is necessary to take advantage of any future restoration of m

Guest Post: "An Accountant Runs the Numbers on the High-Deductible Health Plan" by Darlene Mangrum

I have been enrolled in the HDP insurance plan through Thomas Nelson for two years. The HDP insurance plan is based on the principle of the insured having a deductible and no co pays. Once the deductible is met, the insurance pays 80% of medical costs and the insured pays the remaining 20%. In the HDP plan offered by Thomas Nelson, the deductible for our current year is $2,400 for employee + 1 and family coverage. What that means is that you will pay $2,400 out of your pocket before the insurance pays anything. I know that seems like a big pill to swallow, but consider the cost/benefit of the HDP over the PPO. When thinking about deductibles, there are differences between the PPO and HDP. With the PPO, you pay higher premiums, you pay a $35 co pay each time you visit the doctor, and you pay a co pay of $10, $30, or $50 for each prescription at the pharmacy. In the PPO none of these payments are credited to your deductible. With the HDP, everything counts toward the deductible. So on

Guest Post: "Why I Chose a High Deductible Health Plan" by Mandy Mullinix

I consider starting a Health Savings Account (HSA) in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made. I came to Thomas Nelson in August 2007 after five years of working at a small-business that unfortunately did not have a large enough pool of workers to get good health insurance at a competitive price. As a result, I watched my health insurance premiums and co-pays increase dramatically year after year. By early 2007, I was paying close to $100 a week (or $5,200 annually) just for bare-bones coverage that came saddled with huge out of pockets costs. My “a-ha” moment came that year when I actually sat down and read an Explanation of Benefits letter and saw just how little my insurance at the time paid my doctor. My son had been for a normal visit for some routine kid-sickness he had at the time. He didn’t have an x-ray, blood work or even an injection. It was a simple doctor visit and we received a script for an anti

Guest Post: Strengthen Your “Critical Connections” at Work

Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau are co-authors of Fired Up or Burned Out ( Michael is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training firm. He writes about leadership and employee engagement at his award-winning blog, Jason is president of Life Spring Network, a Christian discipleship and leadership training ministry ( Research has shown that people perform better if they take time to create checklists that break their work down into necessary tasks. Here is an approach we recommend. Make a list of those individuals whom you count on you in order to do your work well and the individuals who count on you in order to do their work well. Think of these people as your “Critical Connections.” Strengthening your relationship with them is, in addition to making checklists, another key to achieving excellence in your work. With each Critical Connection you should strive to develop a “Ratio

Our Benefits Direction

We're pretty much finished with this year's insurance renewal negotiations and, as expected, it was another brutally frustrating year. Our claims experience was outstanding yet again, with claims running between 80 and 90% of premiums. While that would normally mean a flat renewal (as underwriters have to project this trend out 15 - 16 months to reach the end of next plan year), this year it means another set of increases. How could this be? Trust me when I say we've asked that question repeatedly for weeks. The answer lies in three places: (1) the general mess that is the state of American health care, (2) the lack of competition among insurance carriers, and (3) the unfunded mandates of the Health care Reform law. I'll save you my personal views on what's wrong with our health care system, other than to say that we spend a huge amount more than any other nation on earth and rank somewhere around 10th in life expectancy. The lack of competition comes from the f

A Moment to Appreciate Gender Progress

Last Tuesday I hosted a coffee-talk session with our staff members hired one year ago or less. I wanted to get a first-hand view of what we were doing well and not-so-well now that we're hiring with more frequency. I didn't realize until the list spit off the printer that every one of these individuals were young women, almost all in their early-to-mid twenties. This turned the session from a look at "newbies" to a session exploring age and gender issues as well. I had my usual list of questions: from generally how they liked it here to what do they specifically like to what do they specifically not like. I was very pleased with almost all of what I heard. We are doing a very good job connecting mission and people; not just articulating our company mission and values, but in selecting people with a passion for who we are and what we do. Almost everyone in that room appeared to be a really good fit. Most of the negatives revolved around on-boarding, initial tra

Eight Gables and the Lesson of Debt

We are spending a long Valentine's Day weekend once again in Gatlinburg at Eight Gables Inn, a favorite of ours for some years. This year we've met the third owner since we began coming here. The results of this new ownership, in place since November, is significant. The situation here has a lesson to teach for businesses and individuals about debt. The last owner, a dear lady who we liked a lot, simply paid too much for this property. During her tenure prices went up to cover that debt, which was structured pre-recession. During the recession, due in part to the higher prices, occupancy went down as did service and the number of available staff. The new owners, from all indications, paid considerably less. The property had been on the market for some time before it sold. The new owners also operate a string of wedding chapels in Gatlinburg so this property is an adjacency for them; book the chapel and house the wedding party in one package: operate the Inn as normal otherw

Nashville's Anti-Discrimination Issue

Once again the Metro Council has taken up the issue of requiring companies that do business with the city not discriminate against gays and lesbians in matters of employment. Mayor Karl Dean was quoted in today's Tennessean newspaper that if passed, he will sign it. The Nashville Chamber is asking to slow down consideration of the measure for more study; in other words, they don't favor it but need more time to know just why. Its time for this measure to pass. Discrimination is good and necessary so long as its based upon performance and behavior. You should, as an employer, pay more, give more, and advance people who perform in favor of those who don't. The word "discriminate" has a negative connotation based upon its use in the civil rights struggle, but leaders must do it every day to lead an organization. It is discrimination using factors other than performance and behavior that run counter to both Christian and American values. Labor lawyers and traditio

A Simple Solution to Retaliation Charges

Thompson vs. North American Stainless, LP is the latest ruling to send labor lawyers spinning. This US Supreme Court ruling expanded Title VII protections against retaliation to cover third party employees. In Thompson lower courts had ruled that the employer had retaliated against the fiance of a terminated employee who had brought legal action against them. The employer's defense was that Title VII didn't cover third parties. That the Court ruled for the Plaintiff has caused a new selling opportunity for labor law seminars, as law firms want to teach all of us in business how to protect ourselves from third party retaliation claims. This is much hysteria about nothing for a couple of reasons. First Title VII already protects against "affiliative discrimination" i.e. protection against retaliation for whites who worked with and/or are friends with a non-white who brought an EEOC charge. Protection of third parties is not a new theory. Second you can avoid third

Better Unemployment Numbers for Nashville

This morning the Tennessean announced that the jobless rate in Nashville had dropped from 9.3% a year ago to 8.1% last month. That sounds good... actually that is good. But what exactly does that mean? The Chamber of Commerce lists the adult workforce in Nashville at 787,389. Allowing for those commuting in from outside Nashville and undocumented/uncounted workers, let's just say that the total adult workforce in 850,000. Remember too that at any one time about 4% of the workforce is in transition; just moved here for their spouse's job, just had a baby and out of the workforce for awhile, just graduated and looking for that first job, etc... Historically Nashville's unemployment rate, even in boom times, is 4.5%. So the real unemployment rate, that percentage of people who want a job and can't get one, is the difference between 8.1% and 4.5%, or about 30,000 people. That's still a large number but in a community of over a million people, its 3% of the pop

Weather As Drama

This morning WSMV in Nashville, usually my favorite local station, reached a new low in weather reporting. With a light snow falling amidst rising temperatures and substantially clear roads, the warnings and imagery would have you thinking Donner Party. Our parking lot is almost empty, and much of that due to Metro Schools lack of courage in closing yet again when it didn't have to. Other absenteeism can be traced to folks looking at their televisions and not out their windows. There were two accidents, count them, in Metro Nashville that required emergency workers. The footage of one of those accidents played continuously throughout the morning weather coverage. Some young cub reporter was dispatched to Clarksville showing footage of a slushy street with cars moving at nearly full speed. His comment? That it was surprising how fast traffic was moving given the dangerous conditions. He also pointed to Wilma Rudolph Blvd. where "last week over 200 wrecks were reported."

The Inevitable Younger Boss

Unless you get to be CEO, at some point in your career you'll work for somebody younger. When that happens it stings for a lot of reasons. It is an unpleasant right of passage like the loss of an older friend or grandparent. It tells you where you are in your career unless you do something drastic to shake things up. What it tells you about your career status may hold true even if you do shake things up. Organizations, as much as they may try to adopt egalitarian language, are pyramids. There are fewer positions the higher up you go. Along the way you reach a point past which you won't rise higher. You know that in your intellectual mind just like your know your own mortality. You just don't want it brought front of mind like when one supervisor moves on or retires and the next one is younger than you. This can happen for several reasons. You can be a professional in a skill that supports, but is not at the core of, your employer. I'm an HR professional in

The Fool's Errand

Our daughter works in HR for a local state-supported non-profit. They absolutely, positively prohibit employee use of social media at work. Don't do it, don't think about it, don't even think about thinking about it. This means she violates organizational policy whenever she updates their Facebook page or posts job openings on Craigslist. You can't make this stuff up... Now before you think I'm picking on one organization I would submit that there are a lot of old school traditionalists that are still of the mindset that social media use at work can be banned. The State of Tennessee where two of my relatives work has blocked eBay at the firewall. Many others have blocked Facebook. What all of these types of organizations fail to recognize is that a game changer has arrived. Mobile Social Media. Here's why this changes everything. According to Research in Motion approximately 50 million people use mobile social media applications, most notably Twit

What It Takes to Get to Work

Please don't mistake this for a rant because it absolutely isn't. I have a bias for coming to work and I always, always do unless I'm so sick that I can't get out of bed. I have missed work because of road conditions a total of two days in the nearly 30 years that I've been working for companies. This doesn't mean as much as it used to; technology has changed the nature of work to the point that much of it can be done from anywhere. Missing a day here or there while working from home, especially if schools are closed and you are watching kids is sometimes the better part of valor. But what if your work won't allow that? What if you have to work in order to get paid and pay your bills? I find that a lot of younger workers don't understand what that takes. Here are some things I've learned and where my "I always go to work" comes from. I grew up in a rural community of 1,200 where almost every man did one of two things; worked on t