Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Harbeke’

If Widely Adopted, Workplace Bill of Rights Would Dramatically Improve Our Economy

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

*The following post originally appeared in Winning Workplaces on February 9, 2010 in support of our proposed Workplace Bill of Rights. Thanks to Mark and Winning Workplaces for their support!

The U.S. has survived and, most often during its 234-year history, thrived under a forward-thinking Bill of Rights.  Much more recently, innovative airline JetBlue has turned its industry on its ear and even inspired action by the White House through its Customer Bill of Rights – which, from a consumer’s point of view, is one of the few bright spots amidst a slew of disappointing developments like this one.

If the Bill of Rights concept works, why not apply it to the workplace culture? After all, research shows that more highly engaged employees result in stronger company earnings, and lead those firms to more resiliency in down economies like the one we’re in now.

That – along with fair treatment of, and an adequate living wage for, employees – is the idea behind Workplace Fairness’ proposed Workplace Bill of Rights.  The 9 “basic rights [they] believe every worker should be entitled to” that they spell out here are the basis of a petition in partnership with Change.org.  The signatures gathered will be presented to the Obama Administration, through which a best-case scenario would produce widespread adoption of the bill by employers.

The largest hurdle before this initiative is, of course, business owners’ uncertainty of the payoff of employee engagement, or of anything beyond what they’re already doing in a tough economy.  This is especially true of small businesses, which comprise the vast majority of employers and tend to be under-resourced versus their larger peers.

To help prove the point of my title for this post, and hopefully help overcome this hurdle, I’ve linked some of the 9 basic employee rights* Workplace Fairness is advocating to bottom line business results that Winning Workplaces has seen in our small business award honorees, and confirmed in workplace research by others – both of which I’ve blogged about previously:

Employees should be treated with honesty and respect – Among our 2010 small business award applicants, employee activities designed to foster greater respect helped them grow 2009 revenues 12% over 2008, on average.
Working full-time should guarantee a basic standard of living – Paying only 5% over the minimum wage saves a business almost $2,200 per employee in turnover costs.
No working person should be without health insurance – An average increase in employer-paid employee medical premiums of 6.8% of our 2009 small business award finalists, over their 2008 counterparts, led to increases in employee tenure and year-over-year revenue growth, and a decrease in turnover.
Employees should be able to leave a job with dignity – Our 2008 award winners’ universal adoption of retirement plans that match employee contributions at an average rate of 2.8% is linked to double-digit, year-over-year revenue growth and average per-employee revenue of over $200,000.
There is more to life than work – We pointed to Talent Management’s citation of a Corporate Executive Board analysis which shows that strategies to promote work/life balance can raise workplace productivity by 21% and employee tenure by 33%.

The net impact of these business outcomes is stronger sales from a larger, more satisfied customer base, which adds up to job growth and ultimately a more robust economy over time.

If you see benefits for both employees and companies in WF’s Workplace Bill of Rights, you can help to advance it by signing their petition here (and voting /commenting at Change.org)

*Update: Workplace Fairness Executive Director Paula Brantner informed me that even though their list was promoted as having 9 employee rights, there are actually 10.  See toward the bottom of their petition, as well as the voting/comments page over at Change.org.

About the Author: Mark Harbeke ensures that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

Companies That Care About Workers' Rights: Apply Now to be Named a 2010 Top Small Company Workplace

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Inc. magazine and the nonprofit I work for, Winning Workplaces, have partnered to find and recognize exemplary workplaces; those that motivate, engage and reward people. A model workplace can offer a critical competitive edge, ultimately retaining employees and boosting the bottom line.

Together, Inc. and Winning Workplaces will identify and honor those benchmark small and mid-sized businesses that offer truly innovative, supportive environments, thus achieving significant, sustainable business results.

“Growing, privately held companies have always excelled at competing based on the people they employ,” states Jane Berentson, Editor of Inc. magazine. “Their innate ability to innovate is woven throughout their cultures, including the way they manage and motivate their employees. Inc.’s partnership with Winning Workplaces is a great opportunity to fully recognize private company excellence in supporting their human capital.”

Click to apply for Top Small Company Workplaces 2010“Winning Workplaces is thrilled to partner with Inc. as we honor truly exemplary organizations who have created workplaces that are better for people; better for business; and better for society,” said Gaye van den Hombergh, President, Winning Workplaces. “These organizations are an inspiration to business leaders looking for ways to leverage their people practices to create more profitable and sustainable companies.”

The application process is open through January 22, 2010. To apply, go to tsw.winningworkplaces.org. The Top Small Company Workplaces will be announced in a special issue of Inc., which will be available on newsstands June 8, 2010, and on Inc.com in June. An awards ceremony, honoring the finalists and winners, will be held at the national Inc. On Leadership Conference in October 2010.

About Inc. magazine
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. magazine (www.inc.com) is the only major business magazine dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies that delivers real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. With a total paid circulation of 724,110, Inc. provides hands-on tools and market-tested strategies for managing people, finances, sales, marketing and technology.

About Winning Workplaces
Winning Workplaces (www.winningworkplaces.org) is an Evanston, IL-based not-for-profit, whose mission is to help the leaders of small and mid-sized organizations create great workplaces. Founded in 2001, Winning Workplaces serves as a clearinghouse of information on workplace best practices, provides seminars and workshops on workplace-related topics and inspires and awards top workplaces through its annual Top Small Company Workplaces initiative.

About the Author: Mark Harbeke ensures that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

Another Reason to Create a Winning Workplace: Less Litigation

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

In recent posts on our blog I’ve mentioned the following as ROI for small organizations that define employee engagement, build and utilize practices to engage employees, and turn to manager team building to create a strong culture that trickles down from leadership:

But there’s another one that has perhaps a greater impact on the bottom line than any of the above: greatly decreased chance of a stakeholder (employee, supplier, customer) bringing forth a lawsuit against your business.

I was astounded to read on HR Daily Advisor recently that according to a survey by the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., close to 4 out of 5 companies experienced new litigation in 2008.  Compare that to cases you could count on one hand among the 70 companies that make up our Top Small Workplaces Winners and Finalists over the last two years.

And virtually all of those were due not to egregious behavior by the managers or the leadership (not as a result of a toxic company culture), but by natural oversights or miscalculations in contracts and other arrangements between employees and the company.  In addition, to my knowledge these cases were settled quickly and amicably.

So if you want your organization to fall among the 21% that are litigation free, your seemingly “soft” focus on fostering good team building can go a long way toward making that happen.

Your thoughts?

Cross-posted from the Winning Workplaces blog.

About the Author: Mark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplaces.  Mark’s role is to ensure that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University.Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

How Small Business Could be Reshaped After Today's Election

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be an endorsement of any party or candidate but, rather, an exploration of issues affecting small business as shaped by what will *most likely* happen at the polls today.

Today’s election will be historic, no matter the outcome.  If you’re anything near the political junkie that I am, you’ve been watching for the last few days the result projections of some of the major pundits from the basic and cable news networks, as well as from some of the bookies.

If there is a commonality here, it is that Barack Obama looks poised to win fairly big or really big; and that the Democrats will make gains in both the House and Senate – although the Senate “magic 60” number is still a far cry as of this writing.

Yet, if we assume the above, as David Gergen has noted on CNN, even without the Dems getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, they would still have a greatly enhanced ability to push through legislation that supports their agenda, with a president ready (on most issues) to sign it into law.

How would this scenario affect small businesses?  A look at four issues that are central to their survival and success – two of which have been covered at length by candidates of the two major parties and the media, and two of which have been largely ignored – offer a clue.

Taxes

  • Obama’s plan, as detailed on his website, stresses cuts in capital gains taxes and additional tax cuts for corporations that create jobs in the U.S.
  • The Democratic Party website also talks about efforts of the majority Democratic Congress (elected in 2006) to “slash regulations on small companies.”
  • Point of contention: The now-familiar “Joe the Plumber” caveat: Entrepreneurs who start businesses that generate more than $250,000 in annual revenues would see their taxes go up – albeit to 1990s levels.

Healthcare

  • Obama: Establishment of a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small firms provide affordable health insurance to their employees.  He has also talked about creating an insurance pool that individuals and small firms can pay into and receive the same benefits that members of Congress receive.
  • Democratic Party: Emphasis on cutting bureaucratic waste – chiefly by standardizing electronic medical records – that would, along with incentives to increase competition among health plans, reduce company-paid premiums over time.
  • Point of contention: Nationalizing healthcare, which would mandate the coverage of children, would keep costs high.

Changes in Labor Laws – Specifically Enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

  • Obama: A Proponent of the EFCA; wants to make it easier for employees to form unions.
  • Democratic Party: Behind the EFCA. They also list a goal of raising the minimum wage.
  • Point of contention: The EFCA and federal increase in the minimum wage are both hotly contested issues, with adoption of both falling pretty squarely in the “workers, yay; business leaders, nay” columns.  Since the federal minimum wage was just raised in July, the EFCA bill, if it were highly modified, might stand a better chance of gaining the support of small business leaders in the shorter term.

Immigration Reform

  • Obama: Reduce the bureaucracy that slows the process for illegal immigrants to earn legal status, which he argues will “meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.”  Crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants.
  • Democratic Party: Supports “economic development in migrant-sending nations, to reduce incentives to come to the United States illegally.” Long-term, this would ensure that tax dollars from businesses as well as individuals aren’t stretched as thin.  The party also echoes Obama’s above concerns.
  • Point of contention: This is a sticking point for leaders of some smaller firms that are actively hiring undocumented workers.  Most other business leaders seem concerned that their taxes are not raised for inadequate or unnecessary measures to secure our borders.

So, would a fly on the wall of a small organization in February 2009 see a noticably different landscape than in the same firm today?  Probably not.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to project how the probable shift in the balance of power in Washington after today will play out for these enterprises.  Who knows, it may even shape smaller-scale efforts – the things we love to talk about and help our clients refine – like employee engagement best practices and workplace team building.

What say you?

(Cross-posted from Winning Workplaces Blog)

Take Back Labor Day: Week 2 Roundup

Friday, September 12th, 2008

For this week’s installment of our Take Back Labor Day project, we had ten new posts representing the incredible quality and diversity that exists among those who think and write about workplace issues. With a wide variety of topics, including domestic workers, CEO pay, and workplace flexibility, and the representation of powerhouse organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the new Health Care for America Now coalition, and Women Employed, Week 2 was another stellar week.

Kicking off the week, on Monday, September 8, were Dr. David Madland and Karla Walter of the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Mark Harbeke of Winning Workplaces.

Madland and Walter, of the Center for American Progress‘s American Worker Project, point out the abysmal record of the current administration when it comes to having the Department of Labor simply do its job of protecting workers.  What’s the solution (besides voting, of course)?  Passing the Employee Free Choice Act, which the next administration should have the opportunity to do.

Winning Workplaces helps small and midsize organizations create great workplaces, and often it’s Mark Harbeke bringing some of the very best workplace practices and hottest workplace trends to our attention.  This post was no exception, as Mark found three different studies that all make it crystal clear that employers have to engage their employees, if they want them to be productive and satisfied with their work.  If you’re too busy to read the handwriting on the wall, just read Mark on a regular basis at the Winning Workplace blog.

Continuing on Tuesday, September 8, were workplace columnist Bob Rosner and Anne Ladky of Women Employed, respectively tackling the hot topics of CEO pay and paid sick leave.

In a bit of workplace Freakonomics, who figured out that CEO performance has an inverse relationship with their house size? No, it wasn’t Bob Rosner, but he tells us about the study that figured out that the larger the CEO’s house, the more likely that shareholders will pay for the CEO’s poor performance. Pay close attention to Bob — you’ll be seeing a lot more of him soon around these parts!

Anne Ladky of Women Employed provides us a great way to track our progress between this Labor Day and next:  have we passed a federal paid sick leave bill?  If not, we’re not done ensuring fairness in the workplace, while a benefit considered standard by most professionals—paid sick time—is unavailable to millions of lower-paid workers, including 22 million women.

Wednesday, September 10 featured two titans among lawyers who represent workers:  Paul Tobias and Ellen Simon.

Paul Tobias, who can count founding Workplace Fairness and the National Employment Lawyers Association among his myriad of career accomplishments, uses Labor Day to identify a number of necessary changes we need to our employment laws for workers to get a fair shake.  As he remarks, we all hope that the presidential candidates will take note of these needed changes and actually fix them during the next administration.

Ellen Simon, one of the foremost employment and civil rights lawyers in the United States, tells us about a recent surprisingly positive Supreme Court decision (Sprint v. Mendelsohn), which gives us a slight bit of hope that the Court — not especially known for its friendliness to workers — will actually enforce the long-standing rules of evidence, even when to do so might benefit workers.

Thursday, September 11, was a somber day of remembrance for many of us.  Blogger Jason Gooljar looked back to the very origins of the Labor Day holiday, while Chai Feldblum and Katie Corrigan looked to the not-too-distant future of the flexible workplace.

Jason Gooljar, blogger Working Families Party Man, points out what even the most worker-friendly among us might not know about Labor Day: that it was proposed as a September holiday to prevent the celebration of what was considered a much more radical observance:  May Day.  While we may now observe a watered-down holiday, we don’t have to have a watered-down global labor movement, and Jason tells us why that’s important.

Chai Feldblum and Katie Corrigan, who co-direct the Workplace Flexibility 2010 campaign at Georgetown Law, talk about how many workers have extreme difficulty juggling the competing demands of work, family, and community involvement.  Workplace flexibility (including telecommuting, phased retirement, and flexible work arrangements) is a solution which can ultimately bring about more effective business, a stronger workforce, and healthier families — if enough businesses choose to embrace flexibility principles and practices.

Week 2 wrapped up on Friday, September 12, but we didn’t slack off at the end of the week, with Melvina Ford and Jason Rosenbaum tackling two urgent workplace problems:  the lack of sufficient legal protections for domestic workers, and the lack of adequate health care for many, if not most, American workers.

Melvina Ford, Executive Director of the DC Employment Justice Center, identifies a problem hardly confined to the DC metro area:  the exploitation of domestic workers who cook, clean, and take care of children and seniors at home.  She correctly notes that many current laws weren’t written with domestic workers in mind, and either exempt them entirely or do not adequately protect them.  Some recently enacted laws show promise in educating oft-exploited workers about their rights, but we need to do even more to ensure that domestic workers are fairly compensated for their often back-breaking work.

Jason Rosenbaum, writing for the recently formed Health Care for America Now! coalition, makes a relatively obvious but incredibly overlooked connection:  a healthy worker is a better, more productive worker, and sick workers who lack adequate insurance sap productivity.  Yet both businesses and employees face skyrocketing health care costs as a result of insurance company intervention.  Yes, health care is an economic issue — and a vitally important one that we are forced to address in the days ahead.

Whew:  health care, CEO pay, domestic pay, the Supreme Court, the Department of Labor:  you name it, we covered it in week 2, if it’s important in today’s workplace.  And next week continues the fine tradition we’ve established this month:  with at least five guest bloggers continuing the quality posts you’ve seen all month.  Stay tuned!

Three New Studies Link Employee Engagement to Achieving Key Workplace Metrics

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The Labor Day holiday implies adults in the workforce, but this day involves younger generations, too. Witness the millions of parents, and their kids, getting used to quickly changing schedules as the latter group goes back to school.

It’s fitting, then, that this post start off as a generational footnote to a post I wrote recently on a BlessingWhite survey of thousands of workers, and some of their managers, in the context of working women in Generation Y. Among other “pitiful” results, their survey found that employees in this generation are the least engaged among the three generations it measured.

In looking for the root cause of this disengagement, I went back to the long-held notion that people don’t quit companies, they quit people. Turns out that three other new studies prop up this perception further. What’s more, the root cause seems to be your boss, and even your boss’s boss.

As Personnel Today recently noted on its website, quoting the Institute for Employment Studies’ Human Capital Measurement,

organisations that have commitment from senior executives to monitoring employee engagement will reap rewards in improving staff morale, and therefore improving customer satisfaction.

So if a company’s leadership is on board with actively and frequently engaging employees, two important metrics – one inside and one outside – are positively affected.

A corollary to improving morale turned up in another study of over 2,000 organizations by human capital management consulting firm HR Solutions. According to this press release, they found that whether employees are engaged or disengaged by their supervisors makes a huge difference when it comes to whether and how they pitch suggestions to fix problems in an organization, as well as how much value they’re perceived to be adding in a group or team building setting.

“These scores underscore the importance of the immediate supervisor in engaging the workforce,” Murat Philippe, a principal consultant at HR Solutions, says in the release. “A supervisor’s chances of having productive … employees can hinge on whether the employees feel valued and empowered.”

So now we know (if we didn’t before) that buy-in and long-term commitment of both senior and middle management is needed to ensure productivity is at its highest. But what lessons can small businesses take from this?

One answer emerged from yet another survey. As BusinessWeek recently announced – they got the exclusive on this – a joint study of 1,000 public and private companies by IBM and the Human Capital Institute found that small companies, with one to 1,000 employees,

were 4% better than the total sample [which included firms with up to 50,000 employees] at collaboration and sharing knowledge, 6% better at promoting virtual working, and 4% better at identifying relevant skills.

I read these results as integral to (respectively) task completion speed and accuracy; increasing average employee tenure; and recruiting ability, including effectively promoting from within.

So if you’re the leader of a small firm and you want to improve any or all of the following…

  • attracting and retaining top talent,
  • productivity,
  • driven-down decision making, or
  • customer satisfaction

…then you really need to look closely at how both you and your managers are engaging the rest of your workforce.

Bonus: To help in this regard, this pdf provides a number of low-cost, high-impact employee engagement methods focused on learning. We created this list based on our experience helping small businesses and nonprofits improve their work environments. Enjoy!

About the Author: Mark Harbeke’s role is to ensure that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

(Cross-posted from Winning Workplaces Blog)

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