Amazon Employees (BHM1) Crush Union - 10 Things You Need to Know...

I’ll start this post with what should be obvious. Twitter’s not the real world, and neither is today’s version of the news. There are extremes on both sides of the news industry and what you read is likely to be more Op/Ed than true reporting. It takes real work to find true reporting these days.

A related issue is the unwillingness of normal people to share their thoughts and beliefs on any news topic of relevance in the world for fear of one side—generally the left these days—looking to shame the source for any thought not believed to be progressive enough.

It starts with dialog on race (hard topic coming off of 2020) but has spread like wildfire to other areas.

Simply put, the world needs all of us to be vocal when we can add value.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Amazon

For months now, we’ve heard about organized labor (known as unions to the layperson) bringing justice and representation to Amazon workers at an Amazon Distribution Facility in Bessemer (Birmingham), AL. (In the case of the Amazon vote, the union in question was the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which I’ll simply refer to as the “union” from this point forward.)

 Last week, employees at that Amazon Distribution Facility voted “no” to that union representing them. 

But they didn’t just say “no”. Based on the numbers and the circumstances, the employees actually said, “HELL NO” (all caps to express the sentiment).

What’s been represented by the mainstream media over the past 4-5 months related to this union campaign is very different than the outcome. Due to that, I wanted to share some things that I want my HR, Recruiting, Talent and Business leader friends, who haven’t had much experience with organized labor, to know about the Amazon union drive in Bessemer/Birmingham and about organizing activity in general.

Before we get it into it, let me say this: every employee deserves an opportunity to earn a great living based on their performance. They deserve a safe environment that respects all people and provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.

If a union is the best option for a group of employees (because the company has failed), so be it. 

But a union wasn’t the best option for workers at the Amazon DC in Bessemer, AL, regardless of the pounding on the topic that happened from politicians and the media.

Let’s dig in and understand why something we were told was great (employees saying “yes” to a union at Amazon) was met with such strong opposition by an incredibly diverse set of Amazon employees in the Birmingham area. 

Buckle up, friends—this is a long one but an important one.

HERE ARE THE 10 THINGS I WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE UNION ORGANIZING PROCESS AT AMAZON (BESSEMER DISTIRUBTION CENTER):

1—Let’s start with the basic of how union organizing works, shall we?

The process of organizing generally works like this: a limited number of employees at any company are dissatisfied and reach out to a union organization wondering about representation. A process is followed, and if there’s enough interest, an election is held asking employees at the location/unit inside the company if they want the union to represent them.

If employees vote no, things remain as is. If the employees vote yes (simple majority is all that is needed), collective bargaining (negotiation) starts between the company and the union to create an agreement on all employment stipulations. There are 100 more things experts could tell you about this process, but let’s keep this high-level to make sure you’ve got the base.

Got it? Great.

2—The Union Organizing process at the Amazon DC had a lot of friends on the left, including POTUS, most mainstream media, Hollywood and more. 

Most of the people listed above assumed what they wanted to happen (employees vote “yes” to bring in the union) would happen based on the narrative they were building. It didn’t.

Article after article has covered the Amazon union vote as a watershed moment for workers, the left, and for organized labor. Most coverage cited hard working conditions in an Amazon DC as being unfair to workers. Is that true? You’ll have to dig in to the results to understand what the workers thought. But the media coverage was unrelenting over the past couple of months and was easily a 90/10 split—90% of articles talking in glowing terms about the union movement, etc. and only 10% actually doing reporting.

To increase the pressure, the POTUS was active, making the following statement.

"Today and over the next few days and weeks workers in Alabama - and all across America - are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important - a vitally important choice," he said.

"There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their preferences."

More to come on that statement, because, as it turns out, unions and the employees who are pro-union have all the opportunity in the world to do exactly what Biden is talking about—pressure and coerce employees—as part of the process. We never hear about that.

And, of course, others weighed in. Bernie Sanders came to Birmingham (Bessemer is in the Birmingham, AL metro) to show solidarity with the workers and apply pressure. Entertainment stars piped in with their support, and some even came to Birmingham to support the union.

3—It’s probably warranted to talk a bit more about the organizing process that a union follows to get to an employee vote to give you more context.

I told you earlier that a union organizing process starts with a limited number of employees at any company being dissatisfied and reaching out to a union organization to ask about representation. Let’s keep adding to those notes.

My experience—and I hold it to be true—is that it’s never the high performers in any company who initiate inquiries about unions. High performers are almost always comfortable with a meritocracy and aren’t open to paying a % of their compensation in union dues. To be fair though, inquiries about unions can begin from departments inside companies with horrific managers. In addition, companies with high performance quotas like Amazon can sometimes incite some normal to high performers to consider union representation as well.

Once the call comes into the union, meetings are held away from work between that small group of employees and union organizers to discuss the issues. If the union sees opportunity, they will seek to invite more people to meetings to continue the evaluation process.

Once the union decides the opportunity is strong enough to warrant the additional effort, something called authorization cards are introduced, which ask employees to sign saying that they are interested in the union representing them. In order for a union to have enough cards to present to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and get a union election inside the company, they have to have at least 30% of employees within the “unit” in question sign the card.

4—Most unions want 50-70% of employees to sign authorization cards before presenting to the NLRB, because they understand many of the cards will be signed under duress and employees will flip back to the company side.

Here’s how asking for a card works in many circumstances. A pro-union employee will approach their colleagues and friends, give a little elevator speech about the unfairness on the company side and ask the person in front of them to sign the card as a signal that “you’re with us/me.”

At that point, the person being solicited has a choice: they can sign the card or not. As you might expect, many sign the card to avoid conflict with the pro-union person in front of them. Sounds awesome, right? When Joe Biden said workers should be able to make their decision about union representation without interference from the company, he fails to mention this form of coercion on the union side. That’s really weak.

5—The reason most organizing campaigns never get to a vote is because employees who don’t care for union representation get wind of the secret card signings going on and report it to the company in question.

Names for these employees reporting the presence of cards in the workplace range from “fink” to “hero” depending on your side of this. But once it’s reported that there are authorization cards in the workplace, most companies ramp up their training on what unions are and begin other union avoidance activities. More to follow on this in a bit.

6—Let’s talk about the result at this point.  The union got absolutely crushed in this thing. CRUSHED.

A union needs a simple majority of voting employees in order to win an election and earn the right to represent the employees unit. 50% plus one vote.

If you believed the media reports in the two months leading up to the Amazon DC union election, you either thought it was going to be a close election or it was a foregone conclusion the union would win.

The union got absolutely CRUSHED in this election by Amazon employees in the Bessemer DC.

Here are the results:

  • Total eligible voters – 5,876
  • Voided ballots – 76
  • Number of votes cast for the Union (RWDSU) – 738
  • Number of votes cast against Union – 1798
  • Number of challenged ballots – 505 (roughly 300 challenged by Amazon, 200 by the union)
  • Number of employees not casting a ballot – 2,759

Amazon’s statement on the vote pointed out that only 16% of employees at the Bessemer DC voted “yes” to the union. Amazon also correctly positioned the result: it wasn’t a win for Amazon (although it was); it was an overwhelming decision made by real employees with real jobs—and probably very few active Twitter accounts.

It should be noted that almost half of the employees in the defined unit (in this case, that’s the entire distribution center) did not vote in the election. Not voting in this election is in all practical purposes a “No” vote.

The union and organized labor got crushed by this outcome.

7—Amazon was helped by expanding the number of voters in the election. This is called defining and expanding the “unit” in any union election.

Here’s another thing to know about the Amazon outcome. When unions get the initial call from a disgruntled employee, they only want work units that maximize their chances of winning an election. This reality means that unions want to keep scope small. Better to keep the group small and win an election than expand the size and lose is the practical thinking.

A common employer strategy is to expand the size of the group voting on whether to be represented by the union. It’s counterintuitive to think employers would want to put more people at risk of being organized, but the bigger the group, the harder it is for pro-union pockets to have influence.

The NLRB hears arguments on this topic and provides rulings on the appropriate scope of a unit for any organizing process/election. For the most part, common locations or work units are the most frequent rationale in expanding the size of the unit that will vote yes/no on whether they want to be represented by the union in question.

One of the things I’ve read in the media was that when the union presented the authorization cards to the NLRB, they assumed the size of the workforce was 1,500 workers. Amazon responded that it was 5,000+, which meant the union had to go out and get more cards to get to 30%. It’s never a good sign when the union in question isn’t aware of the employee count at a facility.

A lot of workers are going to sign the cards under the “you’re with us, right?” peer pressure. Let’s assume the union needed 1,800 cards (30% of 5,876) to get to 30% (after they incorrectly assumed the facility size was 1,500 employees). They ended up with 738 votes in the election. Ponder that. Then add the fact that this whole union vote was conducted over a two- month period via mail-in ballot.

That means that 1,800 employees signed a card when someone rolled up on them and asked them to, but only 58% of them (I added the 300 votes Amazon challenged to the 738 for this math) followed through and mailed in their ballot.

Let all that that sink in. Then think about the pressure the union side puts on an employee to get an authorization card signed based on those numbers. But sure, employers are the only problem in this equation. LOL.

8—It’s obvious that the employees at the Amazon DC voted in a way that suggests for many that working for Amazon is one of the best jobs they’ve had related to pay, benefits, etc.

Only 16% of employees at the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer voted “yes” to union representation. The other 84% voted “No” or couldn’t be bothered to vote in such an election.

Why did 84% vote “No” or abstain in supporting a union? There are multiple reasons for this. First up, employees voting “No” or abstaining from voting indicates that they didn’t believe union representation to be in their best interest. They voted for a direct relationship with their supervision and Amazon over union representation.

Another reason for the blowout win is that the jobs in question are pretty good jobs. Consider the following rundown from Yellowhammer:

“On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive health care from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.”

Add base wages, OT, benefits and more, and you’re suddenly looking at a job worth 45-50K+ that grows over time. Amazon is already one of the best-paying jobs a non-skilled laborer can get in Alabama.

A diverse employee base at the Amazon Distribution Center trusted that more than they trusted the union in question.

9—After this result, the Biden administration and the media will push the narrative that employees were influenced in an unethical way by Amazon and will use that as a narrative to push through new laws and NLRB rules. Don’t believe it, remember “FOE”

Scan the news and you already see this: complaints about interference from Amazon in the union election process are widespread. For the uninitiated, the law and NLRB rules and regulations protect the employer’s right to be proactive in telling their side of the story to employees during a time period known as the “campaign period.”

During this period, employers can hold mandatory/captive meetings where they can share their thoughts on why voting “Yes” for union representation is a bad thing. Simply put, employers can provide “FOE” (Facts, Opinions and Experiences) but cannot engage in “TIPS” activity (Threaten, Interrogate, Pressure or Surveil).

The Biden administration will use the Amazon outcome as a proxy for why employers should be limited in telling their FOE-based perspectives and will attempt to change the law and NLRB rules and regulations as a result.

Don’t believe it? Remember that unions conduct their initial activities in secret and routinely use pro-union employees to pressure peers to sign authorization cards (no secret ballot in that!) that lead to elections.

Amazon said in a statement that “the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.”

“Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us,” the company said. “And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

The union got blown out in this one. Companies should be able to tell their story on such an important topic before the employee base votes.

10—To really blow your mind, consider the fact that this election was held 100% by mail-in voting due to COVID. Let’s dig in on what opportunity that provides for a union attempting to organize.

My friends, consider this. NLRB-sanctioned union votes are generally held in similar fashion to pre-COVID federal and state elections. Employees go to a polling place run by the NLRB and vote in secret-ballot fashion. It’s on lockdown.

The union vote for the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer was held over a two-month period via mail-in voting. Let that sink in—a distribution center where the work is 100% on site (no remote employees) was allowed to do 100% mail-in voting for a union vote. Amazon protested this (rightfully so) and lost its challenge.

What does mail-in voting mean? It means the union in question had the opportunity (if they opted to or asked pro-union employees to act as proxies) to approach employees, ask them to complete their mail in votes (pro-union of course) and offer to drop the ballots in the mail for the employee. It basically offered the same opportunity for influence, pressure and more in the voting process that I described earlier when pro-union employees approach their peers for a signed authorization card in the stage before a vote.

Still, only 16% of employees voted for the union. Crazy.

THE BIG FINISH

I know about 100 people who know more than I do about unions, organizing efforts by unions and strategies to remain union-free on the company side.

But none of those people feel like they can share their expertise publicly. Why?

Because all of them fear being attacked by the digital mob.

That’s where we’re at in America in 2021. Good people with great knowledge and a perspective the world needs to hear won’t share their expertise on a variety of topics for fear of being cancelled, shamed or—God forbid—being called a Republican.

The Amazon union vote is a great reminder that the vast majority of America isn’t aligned with the extremes—on either the right or the left. They’re simply looking for opportunity that they didn’t have last year, and when someone treats them fairly—even if the work is really hard—most Americans are going to be very skeptical of someone telling them it’s a bad thing.

As for me, I’m going to try to be less fearful of the digital mob moving forward. I’m going to try and write and have conversations that respect how the vast majority of America thinks.

To the Amazon employees in the Bessemer Distribution Center: congratulations on the outcome that left no doubt on what the vast majority of you value, and thanks for the reminder that at the end of the day, we all need to be less afraid of speaking the truth on a day-to-day basis.


Capital Riots: Considerations for Great HR Leaders...

Welcome to 2021 friends! Had a couple of publications reach out to me for comments on employee situations related to the Capital Riots, so I thought I would share the responses I gave to one of them. 

Any time you're starting your response with the phrase, "In a world" in a classic movie trailer guy voice, you know that reality has officially jumped the shark. I can only assume I'll be answering questions about the best way to onboard Alien employees in 2022. Politics

Onto the questions I answered about whether we should term employees wearing Trump stocking caps only, versus those carrying the speaker of the house podium while wearing said hat:

-Beyond legal questions, what kind of ethical and cultural considerations do HR leaders need to think about if they learn an employee participated in the Capitol riots?  

I'm going to start my answer sounding like the movie trailer guy with the great voice that always starts each trailer with "In a world..."   In a world where almost every election of note is a 50/50 split, HR leaders thinking about the Capital riots are going to have to dig deep and do what they normally do related to showing judgement with employment decisions. That includes logic, judgment and common sense rarely seen in social media, and at times in the media cycle.

Great HR leaders will start with the obvious - for the employee in question, what did they actually do? If they were in the Capital on the day of the riots, did they a) participate in some low level demonstrations somewhere around the mall, b) attend the Trump rally at the White House, c) march with the crowd to the capital, d) protest outside the capital and/or e) enter the capital (and if so, did they cause damage)?

This is the world of the HR leader and employment calls. People come to us with a claim, and it's up to us to figure out what actually happened. An employee that was in DC on approved PTO but did not enter the Capital building and wasn't otherwise arrested, etc. isn't a relevant call to term. People will make the case that it is, but assuming the employee is a functioning member of your company and didn't do anything illegal, real HR leaders have to look at the facts. 

That's what the money's for as an HR Leader.  People pay HR leaders to be the grown ups when bad situations happen and calm minds are needed, and the good news is that's exactly what we are.

-What is your advice for HR leaders concerned about action they take looking partisan or political?

Welcome to the world of HR. The more HR leaders have pitched their political beliefs in the past, the less they have the ability to lead in times of crisis where employment calls can be considered politically driven. Note this isn't rationale for HR leaders not to make tough calls, just the reality. The more you've shown you're less than politically neutral in the past, the less you'll be able to make a tough employment call (fire, don't fire) in your company that both sides of the political spectrum will respect and acknowledge as fair. 

-Do you think this event should prompt HR to revisit codes of conduct? If so, what should they look out for or consider including in light of current events?

It's 100% imperative that HR has access to a broad-based "Professional Conduct Policy" that gives them the ability to take employment action across a broad range of unforeseen circumstances. A great Professional Conduct Policy (PCP) not only lists specific things for consideration in the workplace, but includes broad language that suggests conduct and behavior outside the workplace that is inconsistent with the values of the organization may warrant an employment decision by the company, if the company deems the behavior and conduct makes it impossible for the company to more forward with the individual as a member of the team.

Great Professional Conduct Policies provide flexibility for HR leaders, because you can't cover every scenario this crazy world is going to throw at you. 

That said, great HR leaders treat these policies as a last resort for action, only using them if it's apparent the employee can't move forward.

2021 is the best! You know I'm around for the punishing emails. Don't hate me because won't automatically term someone. Great HR Leaders evaluate, consider, then show decisiveness. That's what makes them great.


Post-Election Skill for Leaders: Making All Feel Welcome & On Equal Ground...

I read this post recently by William Wiggins at Fistful of Talent on Transgenderism. It's a simple, insightful piece on being aware. 

Prior to reading William's post, I finished Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. It's the story of how Uber rose from humble beginnings to become a Unicorn, then stumbled from the top as it's bro-tastic culture caused it to be tone-deaf to the world around it via PR fiasco after PR fiasco.

Both are highly recommended reading. One is 500 words and one is 80,000 words.

Then of course, like you, I've been through the shit show that is the 2020 Election Season.

There's never been a bigger need for awareness for making all feel like they belong and are welcome than post-election 2020. 

The lesson? Being a leader in modern times is tricky. Consider the following realities:

  1. You're a leader.
  2. You're full of personal thoughts, a specific background and some form of bias. You think how you think. Politics included.
  3. When change comes and you're asked to lead everyone, it's easy to react as if it's a burden or worse.
  4. You can say it's all gone too far you shouldn't be asked to manage people on the far right or the far left. Many will agree with you.
  5. But - you'll ultimately acknowledge the views of the group of people in front of you - everyone - or you won't be allowed to lead anymore. Unless you're in a groupthink organization where everyone thinks the same.

History shows this cycle to be true. Your job is to lead everyone. When you don't engage or find the good in a group of people in front of you, you won't get the results you want or need as a leader in your organization.  When you think about the election we just went through in 2020, it's easy to become polarized and lose sight of this universal truth.

Saying that the vocal people on the left want to ruin America is lame. Saying that anyone that voted republican must be a racist is lame. Both are intellectually lazy. 

What if you decided that rather than be late to the game, you made it a priority to make all feel welcome and on equal ground in your company or on your team as a leader?

What if?

I'll tell you what if, my friend.  If that was your approach, you'd find the people in question - the special class of people currently causing others discomfort (the groups change over time) - incredibly willing to work for you and just as importantly, freed to do their best work.  You'd be maximizing your ability to get great work from the resources you have.

When you choose to lead everyone and not take the polarized bait the world wants to feed you, a funny thing happens. Performance and the ability for someone to do their best work goes up.

None of us are perfect when it comes to the change cycle outlined in #1 through #5 above.  Stop reading things in your bubble and start thinking about the best way to bring everyone on the team into the fold in 2021.

Performance goes up as bullshit goes down.  Just be crystal clear on what's bullshit in this cycle (anything that makes you slow to accept that reasonable people can think differently).


Talking About Glassdoor's New Diversity Ratings with Joel Cheesman...

In Episode 18 of BEST HIRE EVERKris Dunn chats with Joel Cheesman, founder of Poach and Ratedly (as well as a co-host of the aptly-named Chad and Cheese Podcast) about the addition of Diversity Ratings on the Glassdoor platform. 

Joel and KD discuss the new rating and what it means for company reputation, the complicated relationship between Indeed and Glassdoor and how smart EB/Marketing/HR/TA pros can use the DEI focus to grow and protect their careers in a recession.

Please subscribe, rate and review (Apple) and follow (Spotify) to get the latest delivered to you.  Click here if you don't see the player below!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:25 - Joel breaks down his work at Poach and Ratedly. Poach follows employee sentiment and tells you when to reach out to great talent at a company that's thinking about jumping. Ratedly aggregates review sites so you can track what's being said about your company without logging into 15 review sites.

4:40 - Joel covers and outlines new Glassdoor ratings in the area of DEI and Diversity. Are you ready for your employees to rate your company on diversity?  Sure you are...

8:30 - KD and Joel talk about the number of ratings needed at a company for the diversity rating to appear - a disadvantage for SMBs.

9:30 - KD breaks down big company current DEI ratings on Glassdoor and Joel reacts.  It's complicated.

12:05 - Joel breaks down the complicated relationship between Indeed and Glassdoor, which are owned by the same PE firm. The companies had a 28% drop in revenue during the COVID period.

14:50 - Joel and KD talk about who has more leverage in the world of HR and TA - Glassdoor or Indeed. 

16:40 - KD asks Joel about the potential to show Glassdoor ratings on the Indeed platform, etc.

19:20 - Joel breaks down the challenge specifically for Employment Brand and marketing pros during the downturn, and how DEI branding presents an opportunity for them to survive in a pandemic flavored recession.

RESOURCES AND SHOW NOTES:

------------Joel Cheesman

Poach.ai

Ratedly

The Chad and Cheese Podcast

Joel Cheesman on LinkedIn


------------Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

Kinetix

The HR Capitalist

Fistful of Talent

Boss Leadership Training Series

Kris Dunn on Twitter

Kris Dunn on Instagram


The All-Too Human Condition of Hating a Candidate Due to the Referral Source...

Referrals - We love them in the talent world.

Ideally, referrals are made by employees/team members who understand the culture we've created at our company, and only refer the best in their network to us. That's generally true, and even if there's a few referral spammers in your company, we're better off with referrals than without them.

You know what types of referrals we hate and are suspicious of?

THE REFERRAL FROM SOMEONE IN OUR ORGANIZATION WE DON'T LIKE.

If you've got enough experience in the recruiting/team building game, you've been there before.  You've got an open spot on your team, and you're doing your normal recruiting game.  Then it happens.

Rick, a guy you detest, sends you a referral and vouches for the candidate.

Damn. That's the last thing you needed. But the intensity of your discomfort is directed by the following determination:

--The candidate isn't good. AH HAH!  Rick is clueless. Order has been restored to the universe.

--The candidate is really, really good.  Whoops!  Shit just got complicated.

Why does the candidate being good make it problematic? Well, you hate Rick. That means the following things are in play:

1--If you don't interview a great candidate, you're the problem, not Rick.  That's never been a part of the narrative you had related to your relationship with Rick.

2--If you interview the great referral from Rick and don't hire them, it gives Rick an avenue to criticize the selection you do make. 

3--If you interview the candidate and hire them, have you just hired someone sympathetic to Rick when he's kind of been your nemesis during your tenure at ACME.com.  That seems like it might be problematic.

All of these things go through our mind when we get a referral from someone in our organization we don't like. The blind spot is simply to ignore the referral, because you won't engage with a person you don't respect and trust. But if you do that, you're playing small. You're better than that.

The real talent magnets understand that quality internal referrals from sworn enemies or simply people you don't like are GIFTS.  You should absolutely interview them and hire them if they're the best person for the job.

Whether you simply interview or actually hire the quality referral from a known enemy inside your company, you're playing chess - not checkers - with your engagement with this type of candidate.

Mine the candidate for info about Rick. You may learn they don't know Rick as well as you thought they did.  But if they do, be sure and drop some details to Rick about your conversation.  It's fun to watch Rick be a little bit uncomfortable.

Can you hire this candidate?  That really depends how good you are at your job.  If you're great at your job, they're going to enjoy being part of your team and Rick's not a threat.  Rick may actually end up hating the fact that he gave you a great referral, which is a gift in itself.

Great referrals from sources you hate are an opportunity. Play chess, not checkers.


How Buffer Approaches Salary Transparency (It's Kind of Cool)

Attention HR geeks who like to dabble in compensation...

Also, attention anyone who is interested in current events, which finds some highly compensated workers moving out of high priced areas (SF, NYC, LA) to work remote. As you're aware, companies have started communicating they'll be adjusting the salaries of some of this high priced talent to reflect the cost of living in their new locations. Buffer

For those of us used to formal compensation plans, this move is standard - it's called geographical grading, and most formal compensation plans set ranges for jobs, then adjust them upward or downward based on the area the talent lives in.  There are generally 5-6 geographical grades in a compensation plan.

Of course, it's the cancel culture and the "how dare you" culture that's SHOCKED a company would reduce compensation for someone moving from San Francisco to Iowa. 

Many of the same people who would rage against the audacity of a company reducing salaries for lower cost locations would also be huge proponents of salary transparency.

And this is the point where we merge both topics - salary transparency and geographical adjustments.

Consider the technology firm BUFFER.

Buffer does a nice job of describing it goals with salary transparency - you can read up on it here.

But what's super interesting about their view on transparency is how they set salaries within a range and how they adjust them up or down. More from Buffer's page that talks about their philosophy and even provides a <freaking> calculator

This multiplier is still applied by using a teammates’ location to determine one of three geographic bands, based on a high, average, or low cost of living area. We use data from Numbeo to figure out which band applies for each teammate. For high cost of living areas we pay 100% of the San Francisco 50th percentile, average is 85%, and low is 75%.

We figure out each teammate’s geographic band by comparing the cost of living index of a teammate’s location to the cost of living index in San Francisco.

So let's examine that a bit for what we know about formal compensation plans. The fact Buffer provides one salary they pay for each job (they don't adjust for who you are, that's how they keep it consistent and can do transparency) means that they have elected a single point to pay within a salary range recommended by salary surveys from a provider like Numbeo.  I'd assume they're likely paying at the midpoint in the range (ranges have minimums, midpoints and maximums) for anyone in the role to keep it real.  Then, as stated, they are adjusting through geographical grades or bands in the way described above.

So, if you're moving to Denver, you're taking a 15% cut, which by the way, is super consistent with the numbers reported related to VM Ware and Twitter adjustments (widely reported as 18% for a move from SF to Denver). If you're moving to Ames, Iowa - sad trombone - it's a 25% cut.

Geographical grades and band have been around forever. It's interesting to see a company committed to salary transparency be unapologetic for adjustments for geography.

How can they do it? Simple, when you pay everyone in the same job the same $$, the black box of comp mystery goes away. I'm not saying that's the way to do it, but it's a bit of a case study on how simple it could be, and it automatically addressed equity concerns. 

See the calculator online at Buffer by clicking here!!


Cost of Living Pay Cuts for Twitter Employees Moving from Bay Area: Valid or BS?

By now, you're aware that hundreds or thousands of companies have announced that their white-collar jobs won't be returning to the office until 2021, and perhaps until a vaccine is approved, deployed and effective.

That means people working for those companies can work anywhere. Add that the densely populated cities were the first hotbeds of COVID infection, and you've got a recipe for a talent migration - individuals determining that this is a good time to leave coastal areas like NYC, the Bay Area and Los Angeles (click link for one of hundreds of reports). Twitter

But as every HR pro knows, salaries offered via compensation plans get adjusted based on how much it costs to live in specific geographical areas. To no HR pro's surprise, that means companies at some point are going to adjust the compensation of people leaving areas like San Francisco for more remote areas where a 3-bedroom home doesn't cost 2-3 million.

Surprise! The process has started even at the most tech friendly (fair to say progressive) companies.  Last week, Twitter and VM Ware announced the plan to adjust salaries of those fleeing the Bay area was formally being rolled out. Here are some of the details via Bloomberg:

--VMware (NYSE:VMW) offered to let employees work from home permanently, but those who opt in and move out of the Bay Area will receive pay cuts. .

--The salary reductions depend on where the employee relocates. Denver, for example, would come with an 18% annual pay cut (San Diego, 8%), according to Bloomberg sources.

--Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is using a similar strategy with its newly permanent employees, and Facebook is mulling adopting the compensation scheme.

--Twitter employees who move and lose pay will get a $3,000 one-time allowance

--VMware tells Bloomberg it adjusts pay depending on the "cost of labor" for the region and notes that employees moving to more expensive areas could receive raises.

Is this fair? The talent pros who have been around the block will undoubtedly say yes. After all, if you open up a software developer shop in Denver as a means of relieving recruiting pressure in SF, and your compensation plan tells you the cost of a developer is 98k instead of 120K, that guidance would drive the recruiting plan related to what you wanted to pay. You might use the range based on what you find in the market, but that guidance is there for a reason, and most of the delta is cost of living guidance.

As expected, the Twitter mob is losing its mind. It's unfair, another example of the man attempting to screw the little guy, etc.

It's actually just data and math, folks. And for the most part, it's 100% legit.

Having said that, booming markets where a bunch of California people flee to in order to escape oppressive state taxes (and whatever else they're fleeing from) can lag a bit related to what the best compensation surveys might show. Denver and Idaho are red hot, but 18% still seems in range if you're trying to escape San Francisco.  Austin is another hot location, which begs the question of state taxes (0% in Texas) being included in the calculus.

Of course, what's normal and customary is also an opportunity. Tech companies looking to grab talent could take the market position of "we're not reducing salaries for those who move!", and use it as a recruiting advantage.

But that would cause compression and resentment for those that remain, which is kind of what the whole geographic thing related to compensation was designed to handle in the first place.

Good luck with the move, Twitter people! May your W-2 remain robust and in conjunction with your locale...


Clickbait Reporting on HR Issues in Today's World...Sucks (The HR Famous Podcast)

Look, I get it. We live in a clickbait society designed to write a great title to any story and get everyone enraged about whatever the issue of the day is.

Politics. Masks. All issues on COVID. You can list all your other examples in this box - <insert here>.  It's clickbait all the time, Blizzard-entertainment-cover-photo and few reporters take the time to present a balanced account of the issues at hand.

But I'm an HR leader by trade, and since the clickbait has firmly landed in the world of HR, now I'm mad. 

What am I mad about? The uptick in articles on business sites citing issues in workforces at American companies. Full disclosure, if there are big issues at any company, that's on the company and people like us to get in front of and make better.

But reporters have lost their way in reporting on these issues.  Case in point, this recent Bloomberg article about employees at Blizzard entertainment not making enough to eat.

Things this article didn't do that should be required in standard reporting on workforce issues:

--They didn't share any details to build credibility on source documents provided by a source (in this case, an internal salary spreadsheet created by one or more employees)

--They didn't share how many employees they talked to for the article. I've seen articles describing big problems at a company with as little as 6 employees cited. This one doesn't even say how many employees they talked to.  The company in question (Blizzard) has 5,000 employees. Duh.

--They didn't use publicly discoverable information (Glassdoor, any salary site) to provide context related to what the limited number of employees they interviewed told them.

I could go on. If there are issues, HR is responsible for helping fix those issues and should be accountable if things aren't right.

But reporters should be accountable too. But, in today's world, too often they are not. They get three data points out of 5,000 available, don't do research, write a sexy headline and publish.

Reporters: Do Better. DO YOUR JOB.

This rant is why the latest episode of The HR Famous Podcast features me and Jessica Lee discussing the recent Bloomberg article that attempted a takedown vs Blizzard Entertainment related to pay issues - including some employees passing around a cloud spreadsheet listing salaries they make at Blizzard. Along the way,  we discuss what quality reporting looks like around this type of issue, messaging as part of damage control when a company finds itself under scrutiny, and we also look for clues related to the depth of pay issues at Blizzard on the company's Glassdoor page.

Take a listen below!

---------------------------

Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player below) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:30 - Tim is gone (again) this week on another vacay! KD and Jlee talk about what they think Tim is doing on his Lake Michigan getaway. Ginger people don’t tan!

12:00 - Next topic of the day - Blizzard Entertainment, famous for making many popular video games like Call of Duty, has a situation where employees circulated a salary document internally that showed major pay disparitiesThe salary document was first reported by Bloomberg - but the gang has questions.

15:00 - Jlee praises the person who circulated the Google sheets form for being efficient. If anyone has the link to the spreadsheet, HR Famous would love to see it! KD wonders aloud how many columns are on the spreadsheet?  Are there names? The gang doubts it.

18:00 - An Activision spokesperson says that they compensate their employees fairly and gave their top performers a higher salary increase than in prior years. KD compares this issue to an episode of The Office where they have to decide who to give raises to and how.

21:00 - KD comments on the quote from the Activision spokesperson that says “a 20% increase on salaries compared to other years” was questionable language. KD and Jlee give high marks to this language that is a little clever to the untrained eye. 

25:00 - KD points out that Blizzard has thousands of employees and not everyone could be consulted for this article. He's kind of over articles that splash, but make no mention of how many employees a reporter talked to.

26:00 - What do you think Blizzard’s Glassdoor rating is? KD is a little surprised by Blizzard’s rating and thinks that their rating isn’t indicative of some of the problems this article addresses. 

29:00 - KD finds the reported Blizzard salaries on Glassdoor by job and finds that many aren’t too far off the industry average/ KD guesses the problems are in customer service and QA based on low hourly rates.

32:00 - Jlee feels for Blizzard and their HR department in these tough times for their company. KD wants reporters to tell a full story and do their job right. He encourages them to take their clickbait titles for traffic, then tell whole story.


Human Nature: We Hate Good Ideas From People We Don't Like (The HR Famous Podcast)...

You know it's true. When your arch enemy does good, you could applaud them. But it just feels better to bitch by questioning their motives behind the good idea they're pitching.

You know the idea I'm talking about - the one YOU had in mind. It just turns out that you weren't in a position to deliver on that idea, so your arch enemy, nemesis or competition did it before you could get to it.

I know - you really hate them. You hate them more for announcing the idea that's a part of your identity.

Case in point - this week on The HR Famous Podcast, we're talking about the Trump administration announcing moves to make it easier for people without degrees to get government jobs. That position/move sounds more progressive than arch conservative. As such, the spin from the media was predictable - It's a ploy to try and buy votes from the poor people on the fence who might vote republican.

Of course, there's one little problem - the bill is actually a good one and there's no way this bit of news impacts the election.  We don't need more degree requirements - let's help more people get into consideration for good jobs by eliminating requirements that are barriers, as well as non-predictive of success in the role. While the media loved to spin this one, it's a great example of what I described at the jump.

We love good ideas - until whoever we consider our nemesis launches the idea before we do.

Human nature 101. Check out the conversation at the podcast below starting at 22:30 and highlighted below, and subscribe while you're there!

-------------------------------------


Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player below) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!
 
SHOW HIGHLIGHTS
 
10:30 - First BIG topic of the day - Apple is giving all employees paid time off to vote or volunteer at a polling place in upcoming US elections. Tim gives his employees time off to vote within reason and he commends Apple for allowing retail workers to have time off to vote.
 
14:20 - Tim Cook and Auburn University shoutout from KD!
 
15:00 - KD doesn’t think that Apple’s decision is that out of the box. He brings up the potential logistical concerns in manufacturing or other settings where scheduling could be an issue. 
 
16:00 - KD and Tim discuss the potential influence of who to vote for from company execs. Tim talks about how his Mom used to share wisdom on who to vote for and why. 
 
18:00 - Tim and Jlee think Apple should have released to the public the memo on PTO to vote for good employment marketing. 
 
20:30 - Jlee is planning on taking a PTO day for the day after the election hangover. How late are you willing to stay up to watch election results?
 
22:00 - HR Famous supports Apple CEO Tim Cook and Auburn University (at least KD does). If you’re reading this Tim, we would love to have you on the pod!
 
22:30 - Second BIG topic of the day - President Trump signed an executive order in late June ordering the federal government to revise their qualifications for jobs, in hopes to prioritize jobs skills over college degrees. Ivanka Trump is leading this initiative to help those without higher education get good federal government jobs.
 
24:30 - Tim praises the federal government for catching up to private industry and taking out unnecessary job qualifications for certain jobs. 
 
26:30 - Tim and KD worry that this news coming from the Trump administration will be discounted because it’s coming from President Trump and both of them think it’s a pretty progressive move. 
 
31:00 - Tim talks about how he used to require all of his recruiters to have a college degree and the determination it shows to finish a degree. He has changed his requirements since and he’s seen some of his best recruiters come in without a degree. 
 
33:20 - Tim asks Jlee and KD what percentage of jobs they think actually require a degree. What do you think?
 
36:50 - One final War Eagle and Tim Cook shoutout!
 

 


HR TROLLS: Thinking Unemployment on Steroids Means You Have a Compensation Problem...

Short post today, but an important one. I belong to multiple online groups covering HR on a variety of platforms - you know the type - people can post questions on problems they're having in their HR shops and get help, advice and recommendations from their peers.

On one of the big forums on Facebook, a HR Director posted about problems she was having recruiting for the Distribution Center she supported, and reported that she believed that part of the issue was Trollthat many candidates who would normally be under consideration were recipients of the $600 weekly employment benefit that's part of the COVID stimulus program. The theory, which many of you know, goes like this - once a potential candidate adds up the state and federal unemployment and is earning the equivalent of 40-55K annualized (depends on your state benefit level), it's hard to get them to come back to a $15-20 an hour job.

That's more than a theory, that's likely reality in many cases.

So our friendly HR Director asks for guidance, and I'd say 20% of the responses went something like this:

"You should look in the mirror and pay a living wage."

There were different versions of that, but they all shared a common belief. The problem wasn't the incentive, it was the company.

What planet did I wake up on as I navigate the 5th month of the COVID experience? Mind you, this wasn't a random message board, it was a members only HR forum. You know, HR people. 

It's a tone deaf, light form of shaming that we've become all too used to in the cancel culture we live in.  How dare you not pay your employees enough to incent them to come back from a historically rich form of government benefit designed to keep the economy going in a pandemic?

Man, those shaming style commenters in a HR forum. Talk about not understanding the business as a limiting factor to HR success.

I'm still a fan of what the US government did. They moved fast, and while it wasn't perfect, the stimulus did what it was supposed to do.

But artificially propped up comp can't last forever, and while I write this it's unclear what type of Federal unemployment benefit will emerge in August after the $600 benefit expires at the end of July. It's likely to be significantly less. There's likely to be pain as a result of the benefit being reduced, and I don't take that lightly.

HR trolls suck. The world has enough trolls - our profession doesn't need our own version.