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Do We Still Need Take Your Child to Work Day?

photo credit: wageslaves

Full disclosure – I’m a mother of two kids. They’re 18 and 20, and both veterans of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day programs. In fact, my daughter and I co-hosted the first Take Your Daughters to Work day program at Lotus Development in 1993 when she was 5 years old. The original goal, as established by the Ms. Foundation for Women, was to expose young girls to career opportunities beyond traditional women’s roles.

The current program has the following mission:

“Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives do during the work day is important, but showing them the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success.

Kids like to visit their parents’ workplace, no doubt about it. Whether these visits inspire them to future career decisions is questionable, but allowing parents a day to share their workplace with their kids is one means of engaging the employer loyalty of working parents. While no substitute for fair pay, flexible work options, good health benefits, and other perks that help parents balance their fiscal and family obligations, these programs do acknowledge the balancing act that working parents have to manage.

On the flip side, Newsday columnist Helaine Olen wrote today about the need for a day for parents to stay home with their kids and do absolutely nothing. Her take is that we’re a nation of workaholics who are taking BlackBerries to ball games and thereby teaching our kids that the cost of flexibility is that the work switch is always set to on. I wonder, how many of the adults who brought their kids to work today for art projects, age appropriate speakers and pizza and ice cream lunches will pay for it with extra night or weekend catch up time in the next few days?

It’s not only the parents of participating children who are impacted by these programs. Take the survey on the right and let us know how this plays out in your workplace.

Guest Blog: Frontline Employees Are Expendable

photo credit: krytofr

Today, a guest post from one of our board members, Mel Kleiman. We’ve written before about the increasing trend toward replacing customer service professionals with self service options. Mel muses here where that path leads. A modest proposal, a la Jonathan Swift

Unless your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or point of difference is Exceptional Customer Service (like Nordstrom, BMW, Ritz Carlton, and the Container Store), there’s no reason to sweat it when you lose frontline employees. Most likely, they were not that good anyway because, truth be told, you haven’t invested a lot of money in your hourly hires and even the training you provided, if any, didn’t cost much. In fact, their replacements will probably be just as good and may be even better than those you lose. New employees are excited about their new jobs and will probably have a better attitude and try harder – at least for the first three-to-six months. On top of this, employee turnover will probably reduce your labor costs because you won’t have to fund any benefit programs for a while. And there’s no need to worry if the new hire doesn’t know very much because the customers don’t expect them to know much when customer service is not your USP. You may even want to have new people wear a button that says: “I’m new. Please help me help you.”

Customers are expecting less and putting up with more in large part because automation has taken a lot of the service out of customer service. Voice mail and automatic attendants have eliminated the need for most phone operators and receptionists. Voice recognition software has reached the stage that it can direct your customer to the proper self-service option or you can send them to your website to look up the answer for themselves. Pay at the pump, self service gas has replaced the need for station attendants. And how about self-service checkout at grocery and retail outlets? Then we have touch screen ordering, self-service check in when you travel – not only with the airlines, but also for your hotel room. (If they could only get you to make your own bed!) These self-service options are often faster and the machine always says “thank you.” Production jobs are being performed by robots and no one does repair work any longer because we don’t get things fixed any longer, we just replace them.

The list could go on and on. Today, a few great workers can do as much as what a lot of average workers used to do. Just remember that those few workers better be great because by the time your customer gets to talk to or deal with a real human being, he or she is going to be so mad and frustrated that it will take a Herculean effort to defuse the situation and keep them from going to the competition. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says by 2010 we are going to be more than 10,000,000 workers short in this country. Don’t believe them. In 2000, they said by 2007 we would be 5,000,000 workers short and we still have about 4.6% unemployment in this country because they did not factor in the jobs that technology would replace.

Things have come full circle since the start of the Industrial Revolution and, in today’s world, frontline workers are once again replaceable cogs in a giant wheel.

Mel Kleiman CSp President of Humetrics.

Arming the Frontline Manager in the War for Talent

In the grand tradition of Charles Dickens, we are releasing a book serially over the course of this year. The Workforce Institute and our Board of Advisors is collaborating on a series of articles (to become chapters) that will focus on helping companies with significant hourly populations to engage and retain the hourly employees according to the unique retention thresholds they require.

Today’s release is “The Role of Frontline Managers in Retaining Hourly Workers“. In this article, our board members David Creelman and Steven Hunt discuss a number of best practices that can help organizations to control unwanted turnover through improved management practices including:

  • Refusing to accept that there is nothing you can do to improve voluntary turnover
  • Measuring the performance of frontline managers with respect to their management of turnover
  • Ensuring that corporate issued policies and procedures don’t undermine the field manager’s ability to retain staff
  • Understanding that hourly workers vary in their motivations and needs to work for your organization – the retiree will be engaged by different management practices than the high school student

One key item Creelman and Hunt touch on in this article is the value of flexible scheduling in retaining hourly employees. Flexible schedules have been a hot topic in the salaried ranks for a while. See David Zinger’s recent post on this topic. If you’d like to read a recent Nucleus Report on the benefits of automated employee scheduling, you can download it from

We’d love to hear from those of you who’ve used flexible scheduling with success in the hourly world.