Monday, October 6, 2014

As job market opens, a rush to retain talent: To many employees, a healthy workplace is as important as competitive pay.

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG Associated Press
Star Tribune
October 6, 2014
   People are quitting their jobs at a faster clip, and that’s pushing small-business owners to work harder to hold onto top talent.
   Dance studio owner Andrea Bisconti has experienced the challenge firsthand. When Kellie Love, an instructor there, said she was planning to leave to start a business of her own, Bisconti decided to act. Love inspires students to keep coming back for more lessons and brings in more than a quarter of the studio’s revenue, says Bisconti, owner of a Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Willoughby, Ohio.
   “My most terrible fantasy was I would see students walk out the door in droves, and I would be scrambling,” Bisconti says.
   As the economy and job market improve, keeping the best employees is becoming vital for small businesses. Forty-three percent of owners are working to keep top staffers, according to a recent survey by Principal Financial Group. The reason: A growing number of employees are giving notice. The Labor Department reported more than 2.5 million people quit their jobs in July, up from 2.3 million a year earlier.
   The trend is expected to continue. Thirty-eight percent of workers plan to change employers in the next five years, according to a 2014 survey by the management consultancy Hay Group. That’s up from 30 percent in 2010.
   Bisconti figured out a way to keep Love. They are negotiating to make her a business partner. Other owners are using strategies such as communicating and coaching, creating a healthy environment and giving raises.
   Communicate and coach
   Jon Lal talks continually with the 25 employees of  , walking around the office at the start and end of the day and chatting about work and staffers’ personal lives. He brings lunch in for everyone once a month.
   The conversations give Lal a sense of whether staffers are satisfied or want to advance. He has kept one employee for eight years by giving her a series of new assignments to keep her motivated.
   The approach is critical to retaining employees and avoiding unexpected resignations at the Boston-based company, which runs a website with coupons and cash-back deals, he says.
   “If [a departure] comes as a surprise to you, very often it means you have not been in very close touch with what’s going on with that individual,” Lal says.
   Communicating regularly with employees also gives owners a chance to provide feedback, something staffers want, says Michael Timmes, a consultant with HR provider Insperity, based in Houston. And it’s an opportunity to teach employees new skills.
   “People want to be coached [and] want to be given guidance,” Timmes says.
   A healthy atmosphere
   At FutureAdvisor, head of recruiting Chris Nicholson polled the investment advisory company’s 30 employees about why they stay. Most said it was the positive atmosphere created by the San Francisco-based company’s owners. They mentor staffers, set realistic goals and promote a healthy balance between work and their personal lives, Nicholson says.
   “If the top management has their heads screwed on straight, the whole organization that grows out around them is going to be in a lot better shape,” Nicholson says.
   Legacy Publishing trains its managers to speak to the company’s 95 staffers in a positive way, to give constructive criticism and to pay attention to workers’ quality of work life, says Rhonda Tracy, director of human resources for the Westbrook, Maine, company, which makes instructional software.
   “We spent a portion of a meeting yesterday coming up with ways to make the employees’ days better,” Tracy says. One solution: Getting rid of some of the small, tedious tasks that can frustrate or bore them.
   Show them the money
   Owners and HR consultants say most people don’t leave a job solely because of pay unless another employer offers them so much money they can’t refuse. Job satisfaction is more important for many employees. But pay can be an issue at companies that slashed salaries during the recession, says David Lewis, president of OperationsInc, a human resources provider based in Norwalk, Conn. And workers at many of those businesses had to take on additional responsibilities as jobs were cut. They’re still carrying a heavy workload.
   “At some point, it’s no longer sustainable to give people 2 or 3 percent increases on a base salary you’ve already reduced in some cases by 20 percent in 2009,” Lewis says.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Supreme Court takes case about Muslim teen’s scarf Claims of religious bias at work doubled in 15 years.

By GREG STOHR Bloomberg News

   WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of a Muslim teenager who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. because she wore a head scarf, in a clash over religious discrimination in the workplace.
   The justices Thursday said they will hear an appeal from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is suing the retailer under a federal job-bias law on behalf of Samantha Elauf. A federal appeals court threw out the suit, saying Elauf didn’t explicitly tell Abercrombie that she needed a religious exemption from its dress code to work at a Tulsa, Okla., store.
   The court ruled in a separate case in June that corporations can claim a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control coverage requirements. The new case aligns President Obama’s administration with religious organizations, potentially pitting them against business groups looking to fend off lawsuits over dress codes and work schedules.
   Claims of religious discrimination in the U.S. workplace are rising. The EEOC received 3,700 formal complaints last year, more than double the number 15 years earlier.
   The issue “is of enormous practical importance to a wide array of believers from numerous religious traditions, and its importance increases daily as the nation grows more religiously diverse,” according to a court filing by eight religious groups, representing Christians, Jews, Sikhs and Muslims.
   Federal law requires an employer to “reasonably accommodate” workers’ religious practices as long as the business wouldn’t suffer an “undue hardship.”
   The case stems from Abercrombie’s requirement that its in-store salespeople reflect the store’s style.
   Under Abercrombie’s “look policy,” salespeople must wear styles similar to the clothing sold in the store and are prohibited from wearing hats or anything black.
   Elauf, then 17, wore a black scarf, known as a hijab, when she met with an assistant manager about a job at an Abercrombie Kids store in 2008. The subject of her religion never arose during the interview, and the manager, Heather Cooke, was prepared to offer Elauf a job.
   Cooke then discussed Elauf ’s scarf with Randall Johnson, an Abercrombie district manager. Johnson said that, because Elauf would be in violation of Abercrombie’s dress code, Cooke should downgrade the girl’s interview score and deny her the job.
   Abercrombie, which is based in Ohio, agreed to pay $71,000 to settle two similar suits in California last year.