Corra Daily Planet » 2007 » February

Physicallty Unfit Workers Can Cost You Loads of Money

Tue, February 27th, 2007 - 11:24 am - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this article on CNN

Fitness reshapes the bottom line

By Nick Easen for CNN
(CNN) —Workplace health is not a new concept, but the way employers assess its value is shifting.

Businesses are waking up to the fact that reshaping the fitness of their staff could also shave pounds off their bottom line.

In the light of soaring medical bills, more corporations are swapping their reactive health insurance policies for proactive programs that promote fitness and health to staff.

“If you’ve got a healthy and productive workforce you should have a healthy and productive company,” Dr. Damien Marmion from BUPA Health Insurance told CNN.

“When you look after the fitness of employees with you for a long time, especially senior executives, you will also prevent them from having major diseases over the long term.”

Health troubles arising from obesity alone are estimated to cost U.S. companies $117 billion a year, according to a report by former Surgeon General, David Satcher.

And in the United Kingdom the National Audit Office reported that 18 million sick-days were lost in 2001 due to health problems associated with being overweight — the equivalent of 40,000 working years.

“Studies show that if you have higher fitness levels you have better attention spans, you sleep better and you are better able to cope with stress in the work place,” Marmion added.

A few corporations have already reported a positive impact from proactive corporate wellness strategies.

A report in the American Journal of Health Promotion found healthcare costs are reduced by an average $3.48 for every $1 spent on health promotion in the office.

Companies such as Dupont, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills and Pfizer all report that they have benefited from investing in preventative health programs.

Yet the majority of corporate health budgets are still devoted to treating the effects of our inactive office-bound lifestyles and not the cause of the problem.

“Quite a few companies don’t get involved because they feel like its part of the private life of the employee,” says Kent Richards, of UK health club operator, Fitness First.

“This aspect needs to be overcome because your private life does affect your work environment.”

Governments have gone some way to promoting workplace health with education pamphlets, videos — but with limited effect.

This year the U.S. Workplace Health Improvement Program could soon be made into law, resulting in greater tax deductions for health club memberships.

Legislators hope such a law will help reduce burgeoning medical bills and health-care premiums by promoting more active lifestyles and help reduce the incidence of problems later in life.

Arguments for similar legislation are also being made in the UK.

Corra is reminded of all those usually black and white vintage films from the fifties and sixties, showing workers doing calisthenics during break time. For the most part they were films from other countries, and their remoteness added a quaint quality to the earnest employees all in a line, sweating for the company.

But the fact is, it did make good sense to keep a workforce physically fit. Studies, as this article reveals, shows physically fit workers are more efficient can reduce the cost of health care. This is no small achievement where the cost of decent health care is rising faster than, say, gasoline.

Recruitment interviews won’t always tell when a worker is physically fit. He or she may look slim and athletic, but there may be underlying maladies. It is no surprise that some companies require a physical checkup before offering employment.

A physical checkup is part of the recruitment process. It should be part of the overall pre-employment screening process. A comprehensive background screening should include a criminal search, and a credit search, especially if your candidate has access to sensitive databases or intellectual property that someone may persuade him to steal. A Social Security Trace today is a necessity, and one should consider the education and employment verification as well.

In today’s world every business should issue comprehensive screening of every employee, from a physical check to at least certain aspects of a candidate’s history. As Corra says, check them out before you hire.

India IT Shortage Could Mean More Opportunities For Domestic Techies

Mon, February 26th, 2007 - 12:18 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We saw this article on BPM today.

Bangalore Bust: India’s I.T. Labor Pinch

At India’s 1,200 technical colleges, just 400,000 engineers graduate each year. Among those, only a fourth have the skills to start work at a multinational or major Indian I.T. firm. Contrast that to 35% of engineers in Malaysia and 50% in Poland and Hungary who can perform the offshore I.T. jobs that are now migrating to countries where labor costs are low.

A few years ago, it would have been unheard of for job recruiters to pay a visit to India’s Government Engineering College in Ujjain. The college, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, isn’t anywhere near the top of the nation’s technical school rankings, and it’s not part of the traditional circuit during the job-hunting season.

But these days, corporate types are swarming the Government Engineering College campus, and they’re starting to pop up in surprising locales at lesser-known schools.

Consider Shreyans Mehta, who joined Tata Consultancy Services last August. The 23-year-old GEC grad had his pick from some of the big names in India’s technology sector, including Infosys Technologies and Wipro, but decided to go with TCS, India’s largest tech company. “It’s a dream come true for me,” he says, beaming.

Boom Times

It’s certainly a good time to be a young, college-educated techie in India. The country now accounts for 28% of information-technology and outsourcing jobs among 28 developing countries, according to a recent Nasscom-McKinsey report. And it’s adding new jobs fast as India builds itself into a global technology-outsourcing hub.

The result: Businesses are whipping themselves into a hiring frenzy. India’s Big Three — TCS, Infosys and Wipro — are looking to add a combined 100,000 to their workforce globally. Similarly hungry for talent are giant multinationals such as Cisco Systems, Accenture and IBM, which have been beefing up their India-based software development and services.

Cisco aims to staff its Globalization Center in Bangalore with 4,000 new hires. IBM has announced plans for 100,000 new jobs by 2010, while consulting firm Accenture will add another 8,000 to its head count of 27,000 in the next six months.

Electronic Data Systems, which acquired Indian company MphasiS BFL in June 2006, is expected to double its staff of 17,000 software engineers and outsourcing jobs in the next two years. “If you have a business growing 40% year-on-year, boosting manpower is only a given,” says Alok Shende, vice-president at research firm Frost and Sullivan.

Hiring Hunt

The competition has become fierce as companies fight over the most qualified college grads. “It has been tough to get people,” admits Amitabh Ray, IBM India’s vice-president for global delivery application services and consulting.

Corporate recruiters say the process used to be a simple matter of flying to the top colleges and meeting with grads who had the best grade-point averages. Not anymore. “Now we travel by train and rickety three-wheelers to way-out destinations to unearth talent,” says a human resource manager at an I.T. company.

Bangalore Bust: India’s I.T. Labor Pinch

February 21, 2007 11:19AM

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At India’s 1,200 technical colleges, just 400,000 engineers graduate each year. Among those, only a fourth have the skills to start work at a multinational or major Indian I.T. firm. Contrast that to 35% of engineers in Malaysia and 50% in Poland and Hungary who can perform the offshore I.T. jobs that are now migrating to countries where labor costs are low.

You would think that finding talent in the world’s second-most populous nation wouldn’t be too hard. An estimated 7 million Indians enter the workforce every year. (In China, it’s more than double that, at 18 million.) But there are few engineers among them. That’s partly because fewer than 8 million of the country’s 200 million students make it through high school, and even fewer finish college.

At the nation’s 1,200 technical colleges, just 400,000 engineers graduate each year, estimates the National Association of Software & Services Companies, an industry trade body. Among those, only a fourth have the skills to immediately start work at a multinational or major Indian I.T. firm. Contrast that to 35% of engineers in Malaysia and 50% in Poland and Hungary who can perform the offshore I.T. jobs that are now migrating to countries where labor costs are low.

Outreach Efforts

Some companies are starting their recruiting efforts early, interviewing college students a year or two before they get a degree. Asha Bhat, 23, who attended Bangalore’s Ramayya Engineering College, says that while still in her third year, she went to hear the presentations of visitors from Dell, IBM, EDS, Accenture and i-Flex Solutions before finally choosing IBM.

Other companies are sending managers as guest lecturers or to help educators improve curricula. For instance, Infosys has begun sharing its training manual with some colleges, while TCS sponsors a masters program at IIT Kharagpur in the eastern state of West Bengal. The wealth of new programs has made it an exciting time to be a human resources chief in India. “It’s a bit like changing your car wheels when the car is in motion,” says Prathik Kumar, executive vice-president of human resources at Wipro Technologies, India’s third-largest software exporter.

Even Kumar’s boss, Chairman Azim Premji, has been pitching in. Premji says he’s been extending his search to more campuses overseas. Premji travels to colleges in the U.S., Japan and Europe, and plans to add Australia to his itinerary soon. “Now it’s a huge thing to have the India stint on your resume,” he says.

Application Overload

The downside to such aggressive recruiting is the deluge of job applications. Last year Infosys received 1.3 million, but picked just 26,000, or 2%. “It’s a tough task to filter” through all the applications, says Infosys CEO S. Gopalakrishnan.

And even as companies continue to ramp up their recruitment, they will have to find ways to retain talent. “It’s a universal management challenge,” says Jerry Rao, EDS vice-president. At many companies that will mean training programs, work opportunities overseas and the fast track for the best and brightest. Says TCS Executive Vice-President S. Padmanabhan: “Everyone here has a new role in 10 to 12 months.”

Corra loves the irony that after all the hype about India and outsourcing there may not be enough Indian techies to go around. Besides outsourcing to other parts of the world, perhaps companies should be seeking domestic techies who are available and who may have lost their jobs and are driving bread trucks. If there were bread trucks.

This could be a good opportunity for domestic techies, but I’m sure the jury is still out. While people cite higher salaries, etc., it si also possible the search and recruitment required to snare Indian or other global techies may end up costing as much as hiring the guy or gal who lives down the street.

Still, it pays to make sure that every candidate is up to standards. As well as a criminal background check, it pays to run an education check and employment verification check. With the Federal Government cracking down on hiring undocumented workers it is almost mandatory that you conduct a Social Security Trace.

Corra group can conduct domestic or international employment and education verification searches. So check them out before you hire.

Homeland Security Management Has Low Ratings–How Does Your Company Fare?

Fri, February 23rd, 2007 - 11:48 am - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this article on

Homeland Security rated low by workers
By BEVERLEY LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Homeland Security Department received the lowest scores for job satisfaction on a federal survey, “a clear and jolting message,” the No. 2 official told agency workers.

The most satisfied employees worked at NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the survey by the Office of Personnel Management.

The survey released Tuesday ranked 36 agencies on measures of job satisfaction, leadership and agency performance.

Homeland Security, as noted by Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, ranked:

-36th on job satisfaction.

-35th on leadership and knowledge management.

-36th on results-oriented performance culture.

-33rd on talent management.

“These results deliver a clear and jolting message from managers and line employees alike,” Jackson wrote employees. His memo was obtained by The Associated Press from an aide who requested anonymity because it has not been released publicly.

Starting up the new department, Jackson said, “is clearly not a walk in the park.”

He added that employees have “shouldered the weight of long hours, complex integration assignments, multiple reorganizations, and no small amount of criticism” since the department was created in March 2003.

Almost since then, criticism of the department, an amalgam of 22 different agencies with varied responsibilities, has been widespread, particularly on Capitol Hill.

“I read this report with grave concern, especially since OPM reported similar results in 2004 and not much has improved,” said Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa, chairman of the management subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“Widespread dissatisfaction with management and leadership creates a morale problem that affects the safety of this nation,” Carney added, saying he will hold hearings on the issue.

Union representatives were dismayed, too, by the new evidence of serious morale problems.

“I have told DHS leaders from the start that this department cannot succeed without listening to and respecting the voices of experienced, front-line employees,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Jackson promised that he, Secretary Michael Chertoff and others will analyze the details of the survey and seek advice from the agencies that scored higher.

The government survey was intended to give federal managers insight into work force issues that need attention.

The top agencies for job satisfaction were the White House Office of Management and Budget, the NRC and NASA.

On the question of leadership and knowledge management, the first three were the NRC, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

For the category of results-oriented performance culture, the top three were the foundation, the Federal Trade Commission and NASA.

For talent management, the rankings were led by the NRC, the National Credit Union Administration and NASA.

Corra realizes that working for Homeland Security has to be a thankless job. Then again, having read, heard and even experienced various occurrences with TSA makes Corra and just about everyone else wonder who has been minding the store. What store? Then there is the Homeland Security aspects of Katrina, and then the list goes on from there.

In fairness, you do have hard working people in search of decent management and leadership. Having seen management and leadership on the news, Corra finds it a small wonder that the employees complain.

The thing is, are you employees grousing about your management and leadership? When you hire managers and leaders are they the right fit for your organization? Or are they, too, causing grievances and morale issues, and possible litigious circumstances where you, the company are liable. Litigation can get expensive.

Corra suggests you run extensive background searches on those who management and run your company. There are criminal checks and credit checks, employment and education verifications, which indicate certain aspects of behavior individually, but collectively such searches show a picture that is more the some of its parts.

So heed Corra and spend the time reviewing your managerial candidates. And check them out before you hire.

Bullies and Jerks Can Pull Down Morale in the Work Place

Wed, February 21st, 2007 - 4:24 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this article on

Bully Rulebook

How to deal with jerks.

From: Inc. Magazine, February 2007 | By: Leigh Buchanan

Call them jerks, bullies, louts, boors, or–as Robert Sutton prefers–assholes. Whatever you call them, such characters are a part of every organization, and Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, has written a book about how to deal with them, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. Sutton shared his thoughts on the topic with Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan. Prohibited by her editors from using the objectionable word, Buchanan turned to a thesaurus for help.What got you interested in jerks?
My late father. He was an entrepreneur who started a half dozen companies. And his standard for a work relationship was if people were assholes, it wasn’t worth it no matter how much money you could make. Because in the end it would drive you crazy. Then when I got to Stanford, my department had a no-asshole rule that we applied in hiring.Is that the term they use at Stanford?
You do see the word more now because dirty talk is more socially acceptable in organizations. When I first got to Stanford, they were talking about it. It wasn’t written down, of course.How do you define the term?
There is a two-step definition that comes from the literature on abusive supervision. The first standard is whether someone consistently leaves people feeling demeaned and belittled and deenergized. The second standard is whether that person targets people who have less power than they do. But there’s also an emotional component–the feeling that you’re being oppressed or pushed around by a bad apple.

Does this refer only to bosses?
Can someone be an entry-level brute?

Sure. It starts at lower levels when people start oppressing their peers. At that stage, they tend to be less successful because they have less power, but they can still do damage. I’ve even worked with undergraduates who have left me feeling bad about myself.

It seems like schmucks can be particularly dangerous in small companies.
The thing about small businesses is there’s no place to escape to. It’s not like you can transfer to another division of a four-person start-up. You just have to leave. Especially when organizations are in start-up mode, people spend an unbelievable amount of time in one another’s company. Assholes in that situation can have an enormous impact. Also, a company’s size can create situations that can make people act like jerks. Someone wrote to me about a woman who was pregnant and worked in an office so small there was no bathroom. She had to use one in a neighboring shop. Her boss decided her visits were too frequent and started taking them out of her breaks and lunchtime.

Explain how jackasses can take a financial toll on companies.
You can actually calculate the total cost of assholes, or TCA. One Silicon Valley executive told me he had a rainmaker who was consistently abusive. No secretaries in the company would work for him, so they had to do external searches. He had to have training for sexual harassment and anger management. He was constantly complaining to management and to human resources about any little thing pertaining to his benefits. The HR people got so mad at him that they calculated the cost to the company of his being an asshole and it was $160,000 a year. The firm used that information in his compensation discussion and cut his bonus to send him a message.

How do you screen for antagonizers like this?
Mostly it’s classic HR stuff. Don’t believe the interview because it’s so easy to fake it. Seek out people who know the candidate but weren’t given as references. Try to work with people you’ve worked with before. It’s also good to have people from multiple groups interview the candidate. That’s because similar people tend to clump together, and if one group has assholes in it, they will want to work with other assholes. If there are assholes in your IT group, maybe another group will be able to keep new assholes from joining.What if your customers are tormentors?
That’s harder to deal with. Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) sent letters to abusive customers and occasionally asked them not to fly on the airline in the future. Tom Kelly at the San Francisco design firm IDEO said in his company’s early days, and when things were hard, they would take on someone they knew was going to be a jerk. And they were always sorry because they were miserable and would lose good people. So it was not worthwhile. Many independent consultants talk about “asshole taxes.” That is, when clients are difficult they start raising their rates. One reason is practical: Assholes generally take more of your time. It also helps justify taking the job if you’re getting 25 percent more for working with a jerk.Can women be schmos?
My wife impressed upon me the importance of including as many women as possible, and there are many who fit the bill. Everybody I know who worked closely with Carly Fiorina will say she fits perfectly. My star female asshole is Linda Wachner of Warnaco (NASDAQ:WRNC). She had a history of routinely demeaning people, putting them down in public. When you didn’t make the numbers, she would make you feel knee-high.Are you ever a browbeater?
People have called me an asshole and I’ve deserved it. But doing the research has had an effect on my behavior. I think I’m an asshole less often now, and when I am I feel even worse. In person, I’m generally okay. In e-mail, I’m a bigger danger. I’m less inhibited when I’m writing because I can’t see facial expressions so I just start going off.If companies stop hiring rascals is there a danger that bands of unemployed harriers will roam the streets picking on small children and the elderly?
Based on what I’ve seen in law firms, corporate America, and Silicon Valley start-ups, there’s no danger that companies are going to stop hiring assholes.

Corra finds a great deal of wisdom in this somewhat profane but very insightful article. There is no question a jerk or worse can ruin the morale and production levels at any business or division therein. Worse are the violent offenders, the substance abusers and the other products of our universal Grand Guigunol that we refer to mostly as our daily workplace.

Having a jerk in your work space is bad enough, but then there are the violent sort, the criminal sort, and those who are either unqualified or have lied about their education. This, of course, may include the sexual leeches and domestic abusers who are often “red flagged” by a combination of driving, financial and criminal records.

So heed the advice given in the article. And heed Corra’s advices as well. Check them out before you hire.

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