Is Google Going to the Dogs? The Benefits of Dogs in the Workplace

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Researchers have been telling us for years that dogs are good for us, even if they’re sometimes a little hard on our carpets, gardens, and shoes. Petting a dog can actually lower your blood pressure; having a canine companion may reduce depression and loneliness; and children raised with dogs less likely to have allergies.

A study conducted by the University of Missouri – Columbia has also demonstrated that petting a dog releases mood elevating hormones such as serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while decreasing stress hormones.

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living centers have been catching on to the health and mental health benefits of canines and felines alike. For many residents, visits from Pet Therapy volunteers mark the highlight of their week and a growing number of facilities now come equipped with full-time resident cats.

A handful of universities have likewise discovered the benefits of allowing students to keep a dog in their dorms. Being allowed to keep a dog reduces homesickness and depression. Students are less likely to stay out all hours partying or to oversleep and miss a class if they have a dog that needs to be fed and taken out on a regular basis. College is supposed to be as much about learning self-discipline, time management, and responsibility as it is about mastering academic material. What better way to practice those skills than by being fully responsible for a pet, especially when Mom and Dad aren’t around to help?

Now businesses are starting to catch-up. If your company operates out of an office building in Manhattan and you don’t want your employees distracted by having to be home at a certain hour to take Fido out, what do you do? Make every day a Bring Your Dog to Work Day. And that’s exactly what Google has done.

According to Google, dogs play an important role in enhancing the quality of life and  boosting office morale.

When I worked at Montgomery County Government‘s Human Resources Offices, we originally occupied a suite in a small building across the street from the County Courthouse, a building we shared with an audiologist. Our building backed up to an alley and we began noticing a medium size dog knocking over garbage cans in search of food. The little fur this dog had left (most of it having been lost to mange), hung in thick knots. Rags, as we began calling him, was terrified of people. None of us could get near him, but we were able to leave dog food and water out for him. We even took turns running up to the office on Saturdays and Sundays to feed him. Before Rags showed up, we had been a loosely knit staff, each of us holed up in our respective cubby-hole-of-an-office. Now we grew closer, our audiologist-neighbor included, as we worked towards the common goal of taming and  saving Rags.

Weeks of food, water, and kindness slowly paid off. Rags no longer bolted the moment one of us set foot out the back door, but waited some thirty feet away while we put down his food and water. Over time, that distance was whittled down to ten feet, then five, and then, miracle of miracles, he accepted an especially tempting morsel of food (from someone’s lunch, no doubt) from a human hand. Another week passed and we were able to lay a gentle hand upon his head, then stroke his back and, finally, slip a collar on him.

Rags was far less traumatized than we expected when Dennis, our Safety Officer, loaded him into his car and drove him home to his girlfriend who was a professional dog groomer. A few medicated shampoos and couple of trips to the vet later, Rags began growing a lovely, silky black coat which fell in gentle ringlets much like a Labradoodle’s.

In the meantime the audiologist, a gentleman well into his sixties, whose children were all grown and gone, convinced his highly reluctant wife that the one thing their meticulous, expensively furnished two-story home with a spaciouse fenced yard needed was a dog. And so Rags went from  a back alley life of rags and dumpster diving to an upscale suburban life of riches: two square meals a day, frequent walks, a bed to call his own, and all the toys and rawhide bones a dog could want. Unfortunately, the latter did not prevent Rags from chewing the corner of the rug. Luckily for Rags, by then  the couple had grown far too attached to him to toss him back out onto the streets. He had filled the hole their children had left behind, even if he had left a hole in their luxurious rug.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to boost employee morale, consider allowing your staff to bring their dogs to work with them. Or maybe your office could commit to fostering a dog for a canine rescue organization, with one employee taking on the responsibility of taking the foster dog home nights and weekends. You could even pick a breed to serve as your company mascot.

My husband and I own an air conditioning and heating company  and we have adopted not one, not two, but four rescue dogs, three of whom accompany me to the office each day and head home with me each night. (One pictured here as a puppy, fresh out of the animal shelter).  I may not work for Google, but at least I enjoy one of the same perks as Google’s employees: my dogs by my side.

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Sixteen Kick-Ass Resumes You Have to See to Believe

cv license plateDear Followers, Fellow Bloggers, and Drop-Ins   —  If you haven’t heard from me over the past couple of days, it’s because I’ve descended into the deep, dark hole of preparing month-end, quarter-end, and year-end employment tax reports, not to mention W-2’s and W-3’s.  Once this tax season is over with,  I’m going to need some serious WD-40 to lubricate my brain and get me going again. Either that or a few days on a beach beyond the reach of the polar vortex, the IRS, and those damn robo-callers who consume more of my monthly airtime than all other callers combined. I had this great idea to save their numbers under the contact name ‘x’ and assign every last one of them the no-ring ringtone. This was working quite well until about three months ago, when I tried to save the latest robo-caller’s number only to have my phone flash “Memory Full.”

That said, since I don’t presently  have the time to write a halfway decent, much less  indecent, post, I’m going to give you a treat to hold your appetite: a link to Business Insider‘s article “The 16 Most Creative Resumes We’ve Seen.

You will love it, once you get over the shame of how absolutely boring and archaic your own resume is.

Lindt ChocolateMaybe after I get through with all these tax documents and w-hatevers, I’ll take a whack at my own resume.  Maybe I’ll engrave an edible resume on a slab of chocolate to submit to Cadbury, See’s, Lindt, Dove, and Ferrero-Rocher. Surely they need experienced tasters.  Or a  [delete delete delete]. I can’t tell you the second one because I’m going to use it for real and I don’t want anyone stealing my idea, much less the position I’m after. But I promise to let you know if I get the job.

If you come up with a really fresh c.v. (creative vitae) of your own, send me a snapshot and I’ll post it on my blog.

Dutch Executives Seeing Green – How Millennials Are Reshaping the World

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Davos, Switzerland — If you can’t beat them, bribe them. Are the days of environmentalists versus capitalists coming to an end?  DSM, a global firm based in The Netherlands, is tying forty-percent of its executives’ short-term incentive pay to whether or not the company meets its environmental and sustainability goals. 

What is driving capitalism’s sudden interest in saving the environment? My guess is that it’s the Millennials, the twenty-somethings who make up the most rapidly growing demographic in our current workforce.  When  Millennials go looking for jobs, they seek out employers who are a cultural fit. That is, they want to work for companies which care about the same things they care about and which demonstrate that care both by the way they do business and by the non-business causes they support.  Outside of Silicon  Valley and the High-Tech world, Millennials have not yet made it to the C-Suite. However they are the force which is motivating a growing number of companies to select and act on a cause. Actions companies take may include realigning their business practices to support the cause they’ve adopted, allowing employees to perform volunteer work on company time,  educating their employees and their clients about the cause, or making outright donations to non-profit organizations.

Because they are tuned into and care deeply about such things as culture and branding, Millennials are making an impression on corporations not only as prospective employees but as prospective consumers of their products and services.  The radio station I listen to each morning (The Rod Ryan Show  on Houston’s 94.5 The Buzz) appeals  to a Millennial audience. In their sometimes R-rated, may-not-be-suitable-for-more-sensitive-listeners morning banter, the Buzz’s DJs make more references to “giving back” and talk more about what celebrity or what local business is doing what good deeds than any station I have ever listened to before. Not only that, the show itself supports its favorite causes. Its Drumsticks for Drumsticks campaign auctions off drumsticks signed by famous drummers to raise money for the Houston Food Bank.  In the fall, it raises funds to provide backpacks to underprivileged Houston school children. This spirit of giving back is being repeated by other companies throughout the United States whose clientele is primarily Millennials.

Because the Millennials’ manner of speaking (concise, direct, straight-from-the-hip) often comes across as curt, Baby Boomers tend to write them off as rude. But these young people have heart. They not only care about the world, they pay attention to how individual companies treat the environment,  animals, third world countries, and other underdogs, and they demonstrate their concern by choosing which companies they will or will not work for and whose products or services they will or will not buy.

The BBC reports that  “At the Davos 2014 World Economic Forum, a gathering of more than 1600 global business leaders in Switzerland this week, one of the hot topics is ‘doing business the right way’.”  In fact, the summit’s theme is Reshaping the World.

When I was growing up, Bob Dylan sang, in his awful twang, about “The Times, They Are A-Changing.”  Well, guess what. Nothing is static. The times are changing again, maybe, (sorry, all you doomsayers) for the better. Under pressure from our young people, corporations are recognizing that the bottom line and making the world a better place are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, they may be more closely linked than we ever imagined before.

Reverse Polar Vortex – American workers are whipping their way up across the Canadian Plains

ImageFor years oil industry workers headed east to Saudi to make quick thousands (or  tens of thousands) toiling in air conditioned offices beneath an unrelenting Saharan sun.  Now there is a new migration patterns as American workers flow north, a Keystone Pipeline  in reverse, to Canadian oil fields.

With 50,000 job vacancies in the energy employment sector,  Canadian employers are hungrily eying skilled American workers to the south.  The province of Alberta, in particular,  has launched a recruitment campaign in the United States. American veterans are among those being targeted.

Reasons Canadian companies are particularly looking our direction to fill their skilled labor gap include the fact that Americans speak English, share a similar business culture, and, most importantly, after spending a couple of dark, sub-zero winters up north, will be more than happy to relocate back to the United States.

Let’s just hope they don’t bring another polar vortex with them.

What Are Behavioral Economics? Or Why Johnny Lingo Paid Eight Cows for His Wife

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From a Human Resources standpoint, Behavioral Economics occurs when an employer pays its workers more than what the current market demands, on the premise that the more valued the workers feel, the better they will perform.

Patricia McGrerr‘s  famous short story “Johnny Lingo’s Eight-Cow Wife” (Women’s Day, November 1965) is a good example of this principal. On the Pacific island where Johnny Lingo lived, a man could purchase a decent wife for two to three cows. A highly satisfactory wife could be had for four to five cows.  Sarita, the woman Johnny wanted to marry, was plain and skinny and, in the opinion of most islanders, worth only two cows, three at most.  To everyone’s amazement, Johnny paid eight cows for her.

After Johnny and Sarita wed, she became a beautiful, charming woman, one of the finest in the village. Johnny attributed her transformation to the price he had paid for her.

“Do you ever think,” he asked, “what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? … I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. … Many things can change a woman. Things happen inside, things happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks of herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands.”  

In theory, the more valued your employees feel (as reflected by their salaries), the more they will value themselves and their skills and the more likely they are to live up to your high expectations.

This is just one aspect of Behavioral Economics, the main gist of which is that humans do not always behave in an economically rational way.  Johnny Lingo’s decision to pay eight cows for a wife who was originally worth no more than two or three was anything but rational.

The sometimes irrational and, therefore, unpredictable decisions people make in regards to finances and economics can be a force for good (the transformation of Johnny’s wife) or for evil. Many economists blame the crash of 2008 on the irrational decisions made by banks and other organizations.

This theory of Behavior Economics plays an important role in Janet Yellen, our newly appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve’s, approach to economics.

If this post is the first time you’ve heard of Behavioral Economics, it’s not likely to be the last, as Ms. Yellen takes over our nation’s economic reigns.

Only time will tell how many cows she is truly worth.

The Buck Stops Where? What Bridgegate and Benghazi Have in Common

George Washington Bridge Once a popular Broadway musical, Jersey Boys has reinvented itself as mini-series of scandals heading the front pages of our newspapers. Has its star, Governor Chris Christie,  gone from being  “Big Man in Town” to  “Fallen Angel?”

As I write, the Democrats are expanding their “Bridgegate  investigation to look at claims that politics played a role in the distribution of Sandy relief funds.”  (“Democrats Plan to Expand Christie Probe” USA Today, January 20, 2014). Governor Christie’s administration allegedly withheld Sandy recovery aid from the City of Hoboken, when the city rejected a major redevelopment plan.

Regardless of whether Governor Christie knew about, much less authorized, these not-so-natural disasters, the fact is they occurred on his watch.  Executives of corporations, non-profit organizations, and government offices alike have a responsibility to establish a cultural tone, a brand, an ethos, if you will, for the organizations they lead.

One of the tools they have at their disposable for accomplishing this are their Human Resources Directors. They should enable and empower  Human Resources to communicate, promote, and, when necessary, enforce their organizations’ code of ethics. This cultural branding should begin at the recruiting and selection stage and should be reinforced during onboarding.

When a local corporation recently asked me to help screen applications for a Safety Officer opening, I read through stacks and stacks of resumes.  The one resume which jumped out at me belonged to an applicant who, under work experience, had written, “created a culture of safety.”  Yes! That’s what the corporation was looking for.

When you have a position to fill, read resumes not just for the facts they contain but for their tone. You may also take advantage of social media  to assess each applicant’s “personal brand” (how he presents himself online).   Is he a good fit for your organization’s culture?

Next, use new employee orientations to emphasize your organization’s culture and its code of ethics.  Last, but far from least, encourage management to live up to and model that code.  Refer to it in your organization’s newsletters or on your intranet. When someone, anyone, in the organization falls short of  The Code, they should be reminded of what the organization stands for and the behavioral expectations which go with it.

The Buck Stops HereIt seems The Buck Stops Here has gone from a clever sign that President Harry Truman once kept on his desk to  a sometimes overused cliché to, regrettably,  a thing of the past. We saw this when the Democrats attempted to place the blame for the Benghazi attack on the shoulders of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Of course, Benghazi was not so much a breach of ethics, as it was a breach of competence. Either way, it should never have happened. Maybe Governor Christie, like President Obama, didn’t know exactly what was going on with the George Washington Bridge traffic jam until it was too late.  Neither Governor Christie nor President Obama can undo what has been done, but they can take full responsibility for it. President Truman would have done no less. Or so his sign said.

Going forward, all executives (corporate, non-profit, and government alike) would do well to draw on the ethical expertise of their Human Resources Directors, not only to guide them through the often choppy, gray waters of business and politics, but to establish and nurture a culture of ethics among their staffs.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is in for a long run.

 

Do Employment Laws Hurt Rather Than Help Those Who Serve in The Military?

VeteransClose to 48,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are either homeless or are “in federal programs aimed at keeping them off the streets.” (USA Today, January 17-19, 2014). The unemployment rate among veterans who served after 9-11, is 8.6%,  compared to a nation’s overall jobless rate of  6.7%.

One of the factors which may account for this gap is the fear among employers spawned by   the publicity given to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Employers worry that if they hire a veteran and that person displays the outbursts of anger sometimes correlated with the disease, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can make it very difficult for the employer to let the individual go.   The ADA specifically identifies post-traumatic stress disorder as a protected mental impairment.

Should the employer become concerned about workplace safety, his only recourse may be to go to the expense of paying a psychiatrist to perform a fitness-for-duty evaluation (FFD).

Another reason many employers now shy away from hiring members of the  Armed Services, The Reserves, and the National Guard  is to avoid having to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This act requires employers to  promptly reemploy them in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty  (even if this means laying off the people hired to replace them) and to grant them any pay increases and, in some cases, any promotions they would likely have been entitled to had they not been deployed.

Employers who violate  or who are perceived as having violated USERRA  may be sued.  In 2011, U.S. Army Reservist David C. Fyock filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that  the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) had violated USERRA   ” by failing to retroactively promote Fyock from a corrections officer 1 to a corrections officer 2 position” after he returned from military deployment. Fyock took a make-up promotional exam after he returned and scored higher than those colleagues who had been promoted to the higher position while he was deployed.  The Department of Justice found in favor of Fyock and has ordered PDOC to  promote him to the Corrections Officer 2 (Sergeant) position and to give him back pay along with other benefits.

More recently (in 2013), U.S. Army Reservist Curtis Kirk sued All Battery Sales and Service (ABS) for reemploying him in a lower position than the one he had held when he left for active duty. The new position came with fewer guaranteed working hours, a less lucrative commission and bonus structure and fewer opportunities for promotion. Later ABS let Kirk go, which Kirk claimed was also a violation of his rights under USERRA. The Department of Justice found in favor of Kirk and ordered ABS to pay him $37,500 to compensate for lost or reduced wages and benefits. 

Yes, not hiring someone because they might suffer from PTSD is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and not hiring them in order to avoid USERRA is outright discrimination, but this hardly curbs employers from putting their  business interests first and the law second. In fact, it’s quite possible that by scaring off prospective employers,  the ADA and USERRA has done more harm than good to those enlisted in the military.