As we move into a new “generation” era I see conflicting trends arising in the workplace. The wants and desires of workers don’t mesh with the wants and desires that our government perceives we have. Individual identity is being subsumed into the collective. There is a desire for protection from the evils of the world, yet a cry for individual freedoms. From an HR perspective it is becoming a challenge to deal with people due to these conflicts. Let’s explore a few of these.
Flexibility in the workplace vs government control
There is a move in many companies to break down the “rigid walls” of business (literally and figuratively). Companies are creating structures that include things like teleworking and unlimited time off driven by the desire to enhance employee productivity. Employers want work done and goals achieved and don’t care when you do it or how many hours it takes as long as deadlines are met. The whole ROWE (Results only work environment) movement is based on that concept. Telework is expanding as more and more employers recognize that employees can be very productive working from somewhere other than the office. Yet the US Department of Labor does not recognize this.
The USDOL has enacted, and is working on more, regulatory changes that take away flexibility and require more administration. The soon to be released changes in the FLSA will reclassify millions of workers as nonexempt employees which will require them to track their time after all they will have to be paid overtime. This will totally eliminate the concept of work whatever time it takes to be productive. Employers will be required to pay people based on the amount of time they work, not the result of their work. My friend Jon Hyman pointed out:
Employees like being exempt. They like the flexibility of not having to track their hours. They like the flexibility that comes with a salary that compensates an employee for all hours worked in week, whether it’s 30 hours this week, or 65 hours next week, or 47 hours the week after…I bet if you polled the five million, you’d find that most would prefer to keep their flexibility instead of trading it in for whatever minimal additional compensation (if any) they expect to recover from a switch to non-exempt.
The result of much of this regulation may be a fall back to much more rigid timekeeping requirements and possibly a fallback to “you have to be physically present to be counted as working” for of attendance.
The NLRB effect
At a time when private sector union activity is at an all-time low with only about 7% of the work force unionized, the NLRB passes regulations that increasingly make it more difficult for employers to defend themselves from union activity. The NLRB also rules on cases that have required employers to change policies allowing some absurd situations to occur like penalizing a company for dismissing an employee for sexual harassment in preference to protecting his rights under the NLRA.
One ploy the unions are using is wrapped around the move for a $15 per hour minimum wage. The unions push the increase in the minimum wage yet then appeal for an exemption from that wage if the employer is unionized. The employer is pushed into having to decide against paying a hire wage or becoming unionized. The government and the unions are under the impression that everyone needs to be protected by an union. This is counter to what is actually occurring.
Here are some other trends that are in conflict:
- The Gig economy model versus everyone needs an employer
- Merit pay versus government requirements of Equal Pay that disregards merit and effort
- Company and personal privacy versus pay transparency requirements
- Removal of the performance evaluation versus government requirements of copious documentation on pay decisions
Do you have any you would add to this list?
Being in HR is a tough job. Owning a business is a tough job. With these trends in conflict it is not going to getting any easier anytime soon. Not until we have a robotic workforce.
Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici