How Office Parties Need to Change After #MeToo

H.R. expert explains how Weinstein, Spacey and Lauer can impact our holiday festivities

After America’s perennial nice guy Matt Lauer was accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace, many people were left shocked. His name is just one of many in the ever-growing pile of powerful men who have been disgraced after their egregious (and sometimes criminal) behavior was brought to light by their female colleagues.

And now, many H.R. experts are saying massive changes need to take place in American workplaces if companies want to protect their employees and their reputation as a safe place to work, especially as it relates to office parties around the holidays.

“We need to be very careful around our choices this holiday season,” says Rob Wilson, H.R. expert and President of Employco USA. “As the #MeToo campaign proved, it would behoove us all to take a closer look at our behavior towards women in the workplace and beyond.”

So, what does Wilson recommend?

First, he says, no booze at the holiday party. “I know this is not going to be well-received by every employee, but the reality is that alcohol is a match which can ignite a powder-keg. You can still serve festive ‘mocktails,’ or serve coffee, cider and cocoa. Better yet, have your party early in the day, such as at brunch. People won’t be as likely to expect alcohol or a ‘wild’ atmosphere.”

Second, he advises that companies need to be careful when wording their dress code policy. “In the light of these sexual assault accusations, many people have blamed the victims and suggested that they invited the attention due to their dress or appearance. This has created a tricky line for employers to walk: You want to require appropriate clothing at your holiday party, but you also don’t want to contribute to such victim-blaming. Hence, when wording your dress code policies make sure to focus on your employees dressing professionally rather than modestly. The goal is not to police women’s bodies or suggest they mustn’t lead men astray, but to create a workplace in which every person is dressed appropriately for their position and title.”

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375 Million People Are Going to Be Replaced by Robots

Employment trends expert explains the shocking new numbers regarding jobs and automation

It was just announced that 375 million jobs may be automated by 2030. Those most at risk at being replaced by robots include those that work in fast-food and data collection and processing.

“If you work in a physical job that has a predictable environment, such as a fast food worker who takes orders, you are at risk of being replaced in the future,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert. “The same is true for people who work in low or mid-tier office jobs, such as data entry specialists, paralegals, and many more.”

Wilson says that we are already seeing signs of this in our fast-food restaurants and fast casual dining spots. “Places like Panera and Wendy’s are using kiosks and self-service tablets to simplify the customer experience and to make ordering even faster. The same is true for sit-down restaurants like Chili’s and Olive Garden. While many people enjoy the convenience of using a computer versus waiting for a server, it’s causing a great deal of concern for low-level employees and people who don’t have access to continuing education and job training.”

Wilson also believes that minimum wage hikes could make robots the preferred option for employers. “Robots don’t need raises,” he says. “They don’t need health care or sick days. For employers who are looking down the barrel of ever-increasing business costs, robots are a cost-saving option in the long-run.”

However, Wilson assures Americans that automation is far from a death knell for the economy. “Yes, automation is going to change the economic landscape, but it’s not going to turn the country into a dystopia run by robots. However, workers do need to make sure that they diversify their skills and become adept in many different functions, as robots (such as the automated burger flippers in fast-food joints) have limited abilities. It’s no longer enough to just show up and do your daily duties. A worker has to be engaged, present and connected to their fellow workers and their customers, as this human connection is something that a robot can never achieve.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

The Five Rules of Holiday Gift-Giving in the Workplace

H.R. expert weighs in on the complicated etiquette of presents in the office

Exchanging holiday gifts in the workplace is often a tricky affair. The rules tend to be ambiguous, and expectations tend to vary widely from employee to employee. Luckily, there are several things that managers and H.R. personnel can do to make the holidays more joyful.

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert says, “The biggest mistake I see is that managers think they shouldn’t weigh in on gift-giving. Yet employees want clear, concise guidelines. Some employees wonder: Should I give my boss a gift? And, if I don’t and everyone else does, what will they think of me? Others are strapped for cash yet feel obligated to give to everyone in the office, while some employees feel maligned because they are expected to give gifts when they don’t even celebrate the holidays.”

So, what is the answer? Wilson believes that a carefully crafted “gift-giving policy” is needed, and should be passed out to all new employees as well as circulated again at the holiday season. Possible tips to consider include:

  1. No gifts from supervisors to employees. “It could lead to the appearance of favoritism. “Christmas bonuses” and the like are a different matter, but managers should not be giving personal gifts to their staff, unless the same gift is given to each employee.”
  2. No direct presents between employees. “This is a good way to ensure that employees won’t feel left out or obligated to give gifts to everyone. Gifts among coworkers can be a financial strain, and it is also a drain on employee productivity. Instead, organize an office gift exchange. Those who wish to participate may do so, while those who do not can opt out without penalty or embarrassment. Set a gift price limit ($20, for example). Those who participate can receive a voucher from which they can select a gift at the holiday office party.”
  3. Holiday office parties are best if employee-only. “If you make your office party open to spouses, you could be looking at tricky situations regarding the ‘rules’ about bringing dates, i.e. Can it be a date from Tinder? Or, does it have to be a husband/wife? What if an employee identifies as asexual/romantic? What if an employee is gay or bisexual but not openly ‘out’ in the office? It’s best to simply avoid all these matters by making it employee-only. A simple brunch or lunch will suffice.”
  4. Think about what employees really desire. “It might be better to simply skip the office party altogether and instead update the office Keurig. Find ways to make work days more enjoyable and productive, and you will reap the benefit long after the holiday season has ended.”
  5. Don’t allow office charity collections. “Now is the time of year when employees start coming to work selling wrapping paper, popcorn and other sundries from their kids’ schools. Nix this as it can get out of hand quickly and easily become a distraction. Instead, work with a local charity or shelter in your area to make an office-wide donation. Place a bin in your office lobby where employees can donate if they so desire.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

Friday’s Jobs Numbers Bring Glad Tidings as Holiday Season Approaches

Employment trends expert explains the latest jobs numbers and what they mean moving forward

Over 260,000 jobs were added in October. But, what does this latest jobs report mean for the average American?

“Last week’s numbers were quite encouraging,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert. “Even with hurricanes and other major natural disasters across the country, the job market continued to stay strong and show positive growth.”

Wilson says that this latest report suggests that the American economy could be in the strongest place it has been in recent years. “Jobs have been growing for a while now,” says the employment trends expert. “But, we were always quick to caution Americans that it could be a blip. At this point, I think it is now safe to say that this is not an anomaly: the employment market is finally recovered and resilient once again.”

The employment trends expert points out that October’s numbers are the highest in more than a year, “Additionally, unemployment has not been this low since Clinton was in office,” says Wilson. “And, other indicators (like consumer spending) are also very heartening.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

Should Non-Smokers Get More Vacation Days?

Employment solutions expert explains this new trend

SmokeBreakIt is estimated that smokers waste 5 weeks every year with their smoke breaks. So, not only is smoking hazardous to your health, but it can also be incredibly hazardous to your company’s bottom line.

“Wise employers are confronting nicotine-addicted employees through incentivization,” says Rob Wilson, employment solutions expert and President of Employco USA. “For example, Tokyo-based company Piala Inc. is now offering non-smokers extra days off in compensation for all the time they spend working while their other co-workers are out enjoying a smoke.”

The idea is that non-smokers are being offered extra days to make up for the time they don’t spend smoking, and it’s quickly catching on.

“For years, non-smoking employees have complained that they aren’t allowed to take breaks for fresh air, but others can take breaks to inhale toxins,” says Wilson. “Programs like this, as well as employee wellness programs, aren’t just helping to make things more equitable, but they are helping employees to make healthy choices.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

HR Halloween Horror Stories

Halloween Costume Horrors 

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA, was mentioned today in an article from The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The following excerpt, and full article, provides tips and best practices to help employers avoid an HR nightmare during the Halloween season.

Employco would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

A Holocaust victim. An anorexic woman. A flasher. A “tranny granny.”

Those are among the Halloween costumes now being sold at retail stores and online.

They may be OK for some parties. But when it comes to workplace Halloween festivities, don’t even think about going there.

What’s meant to be a lighthearted celebration of Halloween can—if not properly handled—devolve into an event that offends colleagues.

“Remind everyone to stay away from political, religious, overly revealing or gruesome costumes because those can easily offend people,” said Rob Wilson, president of Westmont, Ill.-based Employco USA, which offers human resource services to companies. “HR can have an extra box of appropriate and inexpensive costumes for people to change into if they come to work dressed inappropriately.”

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For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

Will Your Employer Stop Paying for Your Birth Control?

Group insurance expert predicts how Pres. Trump’s decision will impact average American 

Many people are concerned that their employers are going to opt against paying for birth control now that President Trump has taken steps to reverse the federal mandate requiring companies to do so.

“Headlines across the country have frightened people into thinking that their companies are no longer going to pay for their contraception,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group insurance expert. “Thankfully, this is going to be unlikely across the board.  Even before President Obama used the Affordable Care Act to require employers to pay for birth control for employees, 9 out of 10 companies already did so.”

Essentially, the ruling just allows for people to opt against covering contraceptive costs if it challenges their religious beliefs, however, the number of employers who fall in this category will be small, says Wilson. And, he says changes are even less likely when it comes to big firms.

“From a business standpoint, it’s wise to provide affordable contraception options to your workers,” says Wilson. “After all, birth control is much less expensive than the cost of pregnancy and delivering a baby, not to mention family leave. So, the reality is that despite the scary headlines, most employees should expect little to no changes in their contraception costs.”

Nor does he think employers would be wise to use this as a loophole to get out of paying for birth control. “One way or another, all employers pay a price for their workers’ reproductive decisions,” Wilson says. “Financially speaking, contraception is the least expensive option, provided it does not go against your religious beliefs.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

The “Hidden Jobs” Market: How to Find the 80% of Jobs That Are Not Posted on Jobs Boards

Employment advisor weighs in

“Known as the ‘hidden jobs’ market, these positions are often more lucrative, and they often involve less competition,” says Rob Wilson, employment expert and President of Employco USA, a nationwide employment solutions firm. “If you want access to these job opportunities, you have to have connections. You can’t just hop onto Craigslist and see the job posting.”

So how does Wilson suggest that job-seekers find these desirable jobs?

“There is no replacement for in-person connections,” says Wilson. “Yet networking events can often be a bust, as most people at these events will be job-seekers such as yourself. This doesn’t mean that this won’t be valuable and a good way for you to brush up on your speaking skills, but really, the people who hire folks aren’t going to be at a networking event on a Thursday night.”

To that end, Wilson believes that the real power of networking lies in temp agencies and part-time positions. “You need to get in the door. You need to get out of the hotel lobby networking over a plastic cup of red wine, and into the office where you can prove your mettle and earn those relationships day-in, day-out. Not to mention, employment solutions firms can help to ensure that you aren’t left with large gaps in your resume or your skill-set.”

Wilson also believes that temp agencies and employment firms are a boon for employers as well. “It gives you a chance to take a risk on people you wouldn’t normally go for,” he explains. “Maybe you meet someone who has very little experience, but you just have a strong feeling about their potential and work ethic. A temp position gives you the chance to test them out and to see how they respond to your company culture.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.

Here’s Why NFL Players Don’t Get to Plead “Free Speech”

Employment expert explains why employees should tread lightly when discussing politics

Wilson points to the recent termination of Google employee James Damore, who was given the ax because of an email ‘manifesto’ which became public. “Damore offended many people with his views about women and gender equality, and he ended up being terminated as a result,” says Wilson. “For many people, this was seen as an affront to free speech. Now, this issue is coming to light again in the NFL. Should players be punished for expressing their beliefs, or are employers within their rights to demand that they stand for the anthem or face termination as a result?”

The employment trends expert argues that the NFL owners could have a case for terminating their players’ contracts if the behavior can be proved to have a negative impact on their bottom line. “NFL ratings are down, as President Trump himself declared,” says Wilson. “If employers feel that the players’ protests is impacting their business, they will be within their rights to boot the player off the field. In fact, the contracts which players sign give owners plenty of leeway to fire them for any behavior they deem unbecoming, both on and off the field.”

In other words, says Wilson, the First Amendment cannot protect someone who has signed a contract promising to behave in accordance with their employer’s values. “For the average American, this means that your expression of free speech can come back and haunt you, whether it’s something you post on Facebook or a political discussion you have in the break room. If your employer has set forth certain points of decorum which you have agreed to, you can’t break those rules without consequence, whether you’re a server wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ pin or a lawyer making sexist jokes online.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.