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Friday, September 4, 2015

State of Union Membership in Illinois

This morning, I was interviewed by WTAX talk radio about the title above.  This coming the morning after Governor Bruce Rauner’s AFSCME arbitration veto failed in the Illinois House and as we approach the Labor Day weekend which was initially started by a union. This was a victory for the governor.  The requests of the governor is not unlike the majority of employers in the US.  He simply want’s a pay freeze and wants workers to pay more for health insurance.  The state is in a budget crises for god’s sake, why you would want to freeze wages until it can get resolved.  We have people leaving this state left and right due to the high costs to live and operate a business in Illinois.  Obamacare has increases health care costs all over the US.  Every single employer who falls under the requirements of the new law to be imposed next year are seriously considering how they are going to survive.  AFSME wants an 11.5% wage increase which I have never heard of during my entire professional career in any private employer.  The average increase has been 2-3% for over a decade and the highest I recall is in the late 90s when it was 4-5%.  What are they thinking?

Illinois does not have a right to work statute because they are an agency shop employer which means employees who are hired by unionized shops are forced to join the union. In other words the union can get an employee fired for not paying union dues in this state. Some of our neighboring states are Right to Work states which gives employees the right to choose whether or not they want to be a union member.  In the beginning unions were important but due to increased legislation since the 60s there is less of a need for them.  Competition is fierce and benefits are now required to be offered if you work more than 30 hours a week depending on the size of the organization.  Employers are already doing everything the unions were originally put in place to do.  I am not saying they are not needed at all as there are still some bull headed employers that can’t get themselves in the program of following the laws but I would say the majority want to be in compliance even if they don’t know all the rules in the playbook.  That’s why they seek help from consultants like me to help get them in line.  Why have a third party involved in employee/employer negotiations if you don’t need them.

The Joey McLaughlin, WTAX interview about this topic will air at either 6:40, 7:40, or 8:40 am on Monday, September 7, 2015 (Labor Day). Listen to my interview on state of unions on labor day via @wtax.


The average union membership across the US as of 2104 according to the BLS is 11.1% compared to Illinois average of 15.2%.  Only 7 of the other 49 states have a higher union membership average than Illinois.  In the US public-sector union membership is 37.5% while private-sector membership is at 6.6%.  Specifically in Illinois approximately 15% of wage and salary workers belong to a union.  When you break that down the public sector membership is 51.8% and private membership is more closely aligned with overall US figure at 9.7%.  The average weekly union membership earnings are within $29.00 of each other between private ($1,001) and public ($1,030).  Basically, to sum it all up Naomi Lopez Bauman said in her March, 10 2015 Illinois Labor-Union Membership in 10 Charts article on the Illinois Policy website:

“One in 10 workers in the private, for profit sector are union members in Illinois – One in 12 in the nonprofit sector.  But more than HALF of ILLINOIS GOVERNMENT WORKERS BELONG TO A UNION”.  

When they are getting double digit increases, work 2.5 hours less a week that they typical 40 hour a week worker and can earn as much as five weeks of vacation that can be very costly for the taxpayers throughout the state.  No wonder Illinois is in a budget crisis.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

How Often Does a Background Check Include Social Media?

The following is a guest post from Lisa Green. She can be contacted directly at

The world of social media grows by the second and with every growing second, there are more and more comments, pictures and videos posted that could potentially hinder an applicant's chances of landing their dream job.

Finding a job was once a simple process but now, companies all over are screening their applicants on everything from their criminal history to their driving records, and even their social media presence.

Different types of career fields choose different types of screening that apply specifically to their job requirements and many are now using social media as a way of seeing if an applicant’s personality will mesh well with their current staff.

Jobs That Require Social Media Checks

In 2015, more than 80 percent of companies use social media checks as part of their screening process. For those companies, they say it’s a great way to see what an applicant’s personality type is without directly asking them during an interview process.

Media and entertainment companies use social media screening the most because of their influences on society. Careers in politics, education, and hospitality use social media screening heavily because of applicant’s interactions with the public.

In essence, if an applicant is working with the public or for a business that counts on public image to succeed, social media is almost always a crucial part of hiring.

What Social Media Checks Uncover

During an interview process, an applicant may present themselves professionally and politely to their potential employer. Many interviewers understand it’s a part of the interview process to be polite and professional but an employer still doesn’t get a true sense of an applicant’s personality so they turn to social media screening.

The information on an applicant’s Facebook or Twitter page can reveal a lot about their personality:

Lack of networking – Employers look at who an applicant connects with and what groups they’re a part of. It shows an employer that the applicant is outgoing and willing to interact with people they might not necessarily have had connections with otherwise.

The most difficult part of any career is making connections with those in the workplace and with a weak sense of networking; employers will determine an applicant can’t handle the pressure of meeting new people.
Typos and incomplete profiles -- Continuous typos or incomplete profiles can show an employer that an applicant is inattentive to detail. In careers that require an applicant to write or type, this can be a huge turn off to employers.

A bland profile – Employers want energetic and exciting employees to work for their company. It makes the overall atmosphere a more enjoyable one so when employers see a Facebook or Twitter profile with unenergetic posts or uninteresting pictures, they assume the applicant will only be a stale addition to their team.  

Inappropriate pictures and videos – It’s the quickest way for an employer to exit out of an applicant’s profile and never think about them again for any future position. Those crazy nights at a bar may come back to haunt an applicant because an employer could see them as immature or lacking control in their lives.

In addition, photos or videos that are inappropriate for everyone to see, could potentially come back to haunt not only the employee themselves but their company. Employers think about what a potential applicant’s Facebook presence could do to their company's reputation. No employer wants their employees posting media that could potentially come back and affect their company.

The Right Social Media Screening Partner

Social media can be detrimental to an applicant’s chances at landing the perfect job, which is why being proactive can reduce those chances of not getting hired.

Many times, applicants who know their social media pages are subject to screening by potential employers will take it upon themselves to clean up their social media accounts. They’ll also search for social media screening partners who specialize in analyzing social media pages, so they can ensure nothing will affect their chances of getting a job. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Federal Response to the OPM Data Breach

The following is a guest post from a very hard working, dedicated, and friendly man in uniform that I am honored to know and work with: Joe Schweickert As a veteran myself serving from 1985-1993 this is a deeply disturbing HR issue that the military personnel records have been exposed.

By now, most of us have heard about the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) data breach, in which hackers (allegedly sponsored by China) gained access to personnel records of current and former federal employees. A recent interview with Jason Miller, Executive Editor at Federal News Radio, discussed the two different breaches, and the federal response to improve security for information systems. 

First, it is important to understand that there have been two separate breaches at OPM. The first, and more widely reported, involves personnel records on up to 14 million current and former federal employees, dating back to the 1980s. The second involved background investigations on employees, military members, and contractors who possess security clearances. These investigations (using the SF86 questionnaire that can exceed 100 pages) includes sensitive information such as criminal records, bankruptcies, and substance abuse history, as well as information on relatives. For a foreign intelligence operation, this presents an enormous opportunity to identify potential targets for blackmail.

The federal response, as outlined by Federal CIO Tony Scott of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) involves four steps:

  1. Fix all Critical vulnerabilities within 30 days – part of the federal Cybersecurity Sprint’.
  2. Tighten policies on ‘privileged users’ – requiring administrators to use 2-factor authentication for access to systems, making it harder to steal passwords.
  3. Accelerate use of ‘smart cards’ for system access for all users – Government wide use is only about 42%, but agencies (such as Defense) that have adopted smart cards have seen a significant decrease in hacks. (See example smart card – access to the computer requires both inserting the physical card, as well as a PIN).
  4. Deploy ‘indicators’ to scan systems/logs and detect breaches.

Federal ID
Additionally, OPM has initiated a massive notification campaign to explain the breach to all affected employees, and has contracted for credit monitoring services for 18 months. Part of the interview focused on concerns about the bidding process for that contract, but that is of more interest to acquisition experts than HR professionals.

While this breach is unprecedented in scope, it highlights a vulnerability common to all HR functions, whether you manage payroll for a local diner or have millions of employees. From the first day the employee turns in an application or fills out their W-4, they are entrusting us with their personal information. This information is critical to ensuring we provide them the pay and benefits they earn, but it is also a potential target for identity theft, harassment, or exploitation. 

As HR professionals, we must ensure personal data is protected. For the federal government, this is mandated by the Privacy Act of 1974, but private sector employers are also bound by laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Protection includes strong technical safeguards, such as Smart Cards or complex passwords and robust firewalls. But it also includes physical security measures – keeping paperwork locked when not in use, and ensuring portable devices are secured. 

We have had incidents in our organization of individuals emailing personal information, covered by the Privacy Act, to a home email to ‘work from home’, which exposes it to hacking. We have also had information exposed when an employee left their laptop in their car and it was stolen. In both cases, we had to take steps to mitigate the damage, by identifying whose information was vulnerable and notifying the employees. This affects employee morale and trust in the organization. 

Remember, taking care of people includes taking care of their information – information security is our responsibility.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Blogging: It's Been A While!

It's been so long (too long) since I blogged. It's mostly due to so much family tragedy in my life and unfortunately it's related unnecessary drama not to mention grief. You see I lost my brother a couple months ago to a hit and run driver and my father last year due to cancer. So I'm sure you can imagine if not empathize due to your own family experiences. 

However, it's time to move on and focus on the future and the most exciting work related thing in my future is to speak the the Society for Human Resources Annual conference next week in Las Vegas, Missouri SHRM in August and at ILSHRM conference in September. I hope to see old friends and make new. Thanks to everyone's support during these trying times and I look forward to getting back into blogging again. Look for a post on the Women of Management blog right after SHRM15. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Employer Mandated Training

One of the most fulfilling employer training programs I did last year was Empathy In the Workplace.  Another name for it is Sensitivity Training.  You know, when employee's need to think before they speak and say something that either offends someone or makes them depressed. In my clients case they had an employee who did both to the point that the employee was no longer allowed to go to their clients office until they had proof that he had been through some sensitivity training.  Here are the objectives for the program I developed:

Empathy In the Workplace Learning Objectives:
  1. Increased understanding, insight and self-awareness about ones’ own behavior and its impact on others, including the ways in which others interpret one’s behavior.
  2. Increased understanding and sensitivity about the behavior of others, including better interpretation of both verbal and nonverbal clues, which increases awareness and understanding of what the other person is thinking and feeling.
  3. Better understanding and awareness of group and inter-group process, both those that facilitate and those that inhibit group functioning.
  4. Increased diagnostic skills in interpersonal inter-group situation. The first three objectives are important for the accomplishment of the fourth objective. 
  5. Increased ability to transform learning into action, so that real life interventions will be more successful increasing employee effectiveness, satisfaction, and output.
  6. Improvement in individuals ability to analyze their own interpersonal behavior, as well as to learn own to help themselves and others with whom they come in contact to achieve more satisfying rewarding and effective interpersonal relationships.
  7. Complete self-assessments to help the employee further understand how the concepts in the program apply personally to them. 
Another program that I delivered for an employer was in response to a harassment and discrimination complaint they had received.  The board of directors made the management training mandatory and I provided some guidelines for management to share some of the slides I developed with the employees so the awareness did not stop there.   Here are the objectives for the program I developed:

Title VII Management Training Learning Objectives
  • Explain what federal discrimination laws are and their basic provisions
  • Define discrimination
  • Define harassment
  • Cite categories of harassment
  • Define retaliation
  • Cite costs involved with violations of federal discrimination laws
  • Describe the organizations policy on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
  • Describe the organizations complaint process and procedures
  • Explain the responsibilities supervisors have in complying with federal discrimination laws
These are just a couple of topics employers should require to be mandated but often are not even on the radar.  Employees are coming into organizations expecting dignified and respectful treatment. Gone are the days where employees put up with disrespectful and inappropriate treatment. It's important to consider what has previously been termed "soft skills" as important as those needed to do the work because communication is part of the work. It is what helps to engage and retain employees. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2014 A Year In Review

It's time once again to complete my annual performance review.  This is a time for reflection, documentation, and most importantly improvement.  I have been participating in the annual review process most of my professional career.  Typically it's been a meeting with my supervisor where they go over a checklist type formatted document that all managers use in the organization and basically tell me how I scored.  In the academic arena the tables are turned a bit where it's you telling a committee in written form what you did, how you were evaluated, and what your going to do about it. The latter is the most important aspect, in my humble opinion, because the process requires you to sit down and determine what your next steps are as it relates to improvement in all areas of your professional work.  For me that is teaching, advising, community service, training, speaking, blogging. consulting and branding. 

Part of my reflection is to look at what I have been writing over the year and I know it's about half as much as I wrote the first few years with only 15 posts this year compared to 23-31 in 2011 to 2013.  I'd say a big part of the first half of year would have had a lot to do with my dad dying, learning about my paternity and new family members, and being hospitalized.  After that it seems the focus has been on catching up and working on getting healthier which is still a focus in 2015.

The year began with a summary of all the 2014 HR Webcast Series that I was doing for the UIS Continuing Education Department that has since been disbanded.  As a then pre-approved provider of HRCI programs I had been providing webinar training for this program for approximately three years.  It was a program that was initially intended to accommodate all types of training from faculty campus wide but the majority of the time only my webinars appeared on the website.  I personally did not have time to market the programs so they started taking up way more hours than what I was getting with only 38% of the revenue.  Personally, I have benefited with extra time the last half of the year since the program was cancelled.

Like this year, I wrote a 2013 Blog Post summary which was then followed by a few posts related to speaking and appearing on HR related programs such as:
The biggest blogging impact I made in the community (and my entire blogging experience since 2010) was related to the big SHRM announcement that rocked the HR world about the new #SHRMCertification.  The entire four part series drew 4,410 views overall.  While I was surprised about the announcement and had my own opinions, I tried to stay neutral and share all the various communications that went about the news in a way that allowed readers to link to what was new up until it started to become old news.  Thus the series consisted of the following posts:
So maybe the service I provided to the community researching and pulling all the writings into one post gaining thousands more viewers than normal made up for the fact that I wrote less in 2014.  Additionally, a few more posts in the year covered an event I attended (Lobby Day in Illinois Success) and an overall review of my consulting business (Lucky 13) celebrating then 13 years in business and over 100 client file reviews conducted over the summer.

A couple students guest blogged on my page this year with an intro related to the topic from me covering Internship and Diversity.  They are: 
Finally, I blogged about my very first STRATEGIC (or should I say BUSINESS) credit approved program from HRCI HR Metrics & Workforce Analytics.  While this may not seem like a big deal, it is not easy to prove to HRCI you have developed a program with enough emphasis on business to get this approval.  I delivered the program in Decatur and Peoria SHRM chapters last year.  This year, I have plans to deliver in Mattoon, Metro East Area, and Springfield.

So while I was feeling kinda down at the beginning of this write up, I guess I didn't do all that bad! Of course, this is only the reflection as it relates to blogging.  This performance evaluation process takes a while.  Good thing it's not due till my birthday.  Happy 2015 to all!!

ADDENDUM: How could I forget Women of HR posts? I had two last year that were very personal and direct.  To keep with the theme of the site itself, I always try to write about personal experiences as a women and learning lessons that can help others in the workplace:

  1. Women Can't Do Anything Right! #BULLSHIT This was a perception based piece that focused on how to overcome this sentiment and understand those in the workplace that may have a defense mechinisim in their personalities that may be based on this belief. 
  2. Is She Really a Bitch in the Workplace This was another perception based piece that focused on women in the workplace who are called a bitch for getthing their job done to include to other related posts from others included one on Forbes.
I also guest blogged on the ILSHRM page regarding the SHRM Certification situation: Some Light Reading of "SHRM Certification Announcement" Communications in May.

Monday, February 2, 2015