Corra Daily Planet » 2009 » April

Employees Getting Less Pay for Longer Hours

Thu, April 30th, 2009 - 5:58 am - By Gordon Basichis

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As one who grew up hearing stories from the older folks on how labor was in dire straits back in the day, with long hours and lousy pay, until the unions came along.   After much turmoil the older folks would boast, the unions won out and workers were given the forty hour work week, more benefits and better wages.

Now granted it was a different world and the older folks were Great Depression Survivors or who at least grew up in its shadow, hearing stores from their parents, uncles, aunts and the like.   They were focused on basic labor.   Then America was a place for  heavy industry, manufacturing and a lot of manual labor.  It’s a different world.  Instead of white collar and blue collar you have today the employees working in technology and other industries that are not as easily defined in terms of labor and management.   Today it seems there are more polo shirts or even tee shirts in the workforce than white collars or working person’s uniforms.

But now we don’t necessarily face the Great Depression, at least not yet.   We do face a major recession and an economic meltdown that may flatten outbut take years in restoring us to our former economic status.   If ever.    The recession is a wake up call and while employers are struggling in every way to keep afloat the smaert ones are trying to retain their working staffs for the eventual if even limited turnaround.

So now you have media giant, Hachette Filipacchi imposing salary cutbacks and increased working hours.    Unlike other companies that are cutting salaries and creatiing mandatory free days, according to an article int he New York Post, Hachette is imposing six percent pay cuts on all overtime exempt employees and three percent pay cuts on all those workers eligible for overtime.  The company is also extending the workday from 7.5 hours to 8 full hours.  Being Hachette is French owned, this is a notable difference.

But Hachette believes it can save between $3 Million and $5 Million with this move.  They believe it’s the difference between earning a scant profit and going underwater.   This comes on top of the company closing down certain magazines and trying to sell others within its group.   Hachette also wants to sell its office building and move into cheaper digs downtown.

So while the strategic measures from Hachette and others imposes harsher working conditions on its employers, they are not the harsher standards or a throwback to the early union or even pre-union days.    Even the unions realize certain measures have to be taken to keep their members working.   And working, in a market of extreme layoffs and employee buy outs, is the key.  As the elders said about the Great Depression, “you were lucky to just have job.”

Background Checks and Interviewing Part of Preemployment Screening

Wed, April 29th, 2009 - 5:27 am - By Gordon Basichis

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U.S. News and World Report had a recent article in its Small Business and Entrepreneurs Section.   the article was entitled “Interview for Integrity”.    In the article, one of the subjects, Jay Meschke, offers some great tips about interviewing employment candidates.  He comments on everything from spotting possible lies to the increased deception as a result of the economic meltdown and the resulting pressure and desperation in a lousy job market.

Below you can find some of my comments–

Jay Meschke makes some excellent points in his article. But as Co-Founder of Corra Group, and Employment Screening Service, we have had dozens of incidents where the candidate has passed all interview stages and then, in their background check, it was discovered to the surprise and chagrin of the employer that everything was not what it appeared. It could be a falsified education, a criminal record, a lesser job position than what the candidate claimed. It could be a driving record that revealed DUI’s and other issues that would lead an employer to believe this was not the soundest choice.

The example about a candidate claiming he was CFO at a larger company like General Electric is a bit misleading. When we conduct employment verifications, it is a simple matter to obtain verification, including the date started, date completed, and final position. We will even obtain the name and position of the verifying party. However, when verifying employment with a smaller company, it is best to first verify whether the company phone number is indeed that and not the phone number of your candidate’s wife or good friend. Again, it is important to get the name and title of the verifying party.

Most candidates may embellish their employment history. But where those who lie are most prone to fabricate is with college degrees. Most who lie will claim to be graduates when in fact they only attended for a couple of years. Others never attended at all, which always leaves us wondering what motivated them to pick that particular school instead of any one of thousands out there. Was it a large school, where they thought they could get lost in the shuffle? Or was it a smaller school, where they thought it so obscure no one would bother checking? Hard to say.

As noted earlier, Jay Meschke gives some useful tips on how to better utilize the interview process to pick up on red flags and suspicious claims on the part of your candidate. But the fact remains, with most employers it is only after they have decided on their candidate’s do they move forward on their background checks. Any any good backgorund checking service may indeed pickup on the fact it is the candidate’s mother providing a reference and boasting on his outstanding capabilities.

Always remember, as Meschke cautions, the best liars are very good. So check them out before you hire.

Jobless Rate Climbs in California

Tue, April 28th, 2009 - 5:00 am - By Gordon Basichis

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The number of people out of work has reached six million, nationally.   That is is you only count those still on the radar screen.   Undocumented workers and unemployable’s are not included in these statistics.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, California, where Corra Group is headquartered, suffers from an 11.2 % unemployment rate.  Los Angeles County is even a few tenths of a point more.

What’s worse, the mainstay of the summer scene, the Music Festivals around the country have either been canceled or put on hold.  Oh, bummer.    Cuts in state or civic funding is cited as one of the reasons for cancellation.    I should add that the Coachella Festival is still going strong.   Maybe it’s the desert air.

But here we are with the recession thrust upon us.   A bad economy that has been brewing for a couple of years now has sodden our delusions that we can live forever on permanent credit.   Ain’t so.

But some people are hiring.   As a company that conducts background checks, we do see some glimmer of hope; perhaps it is even the same glimmer of hope perceived on Wall Street and inside the White House.   Maybe.   But there are employers who are still hiring.

To me the thing is to look at their business models and review what they have done correctly, and what they have done to prepare for hard times.   Not a lot of risk taking, you can be sure.  Not a lot of evaluating worthless everything and giving it an ersatz and inflated value.   Probably good, clean business fundamentals.   Solid business practices, as noted in Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras must read book, “Built to Last.”   Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

So there you go.  The glimmer of hope is a whole lot brighter when your business fundamentals are sound.  Trendy fundamentals cause business failure and economic meltdowns, leaving people standing in parks, holding signs and makings speeches about a Tax Day Tea Party.   Best to return to sound business fundamentals and move on from here.

Tough Times for Older Workers to Find Jobs

Mon, April 27th, 2009 - 5:39 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Any time is a tough time for an older worker to find a job.   But when the economy is in a meltdown and employees are being laid off from just about every industry, then the odds have increased exponentially that the more senior employment candidates will not find work.

The supposed experts offer a lot of reasons why older workers find it so difficult to obtain employment.   They cite how younger executives don’t like having older workers reporting to them.  It makes them uncomfortable.   They cite how many older workers are set in their ways or lack the technological skills of the modern workplace.   They list a decrease in productivity as workers get older.   They say how older workers will typically work fewer hours than their younger counterparts.   They say they have to pay older workers more money, or their health insurance is more expensive. As I noted, they offer a lot of reasons.

Some of the reasons are valid, and some, frankly, are not.   Not really.   The notion that older workers lack esteem and the narcissism of younger workers, another reason noted in the recent New York Times article, contradicts the image of vain, feckless Boomers that many like to project on an entire generation.    The fact remains that older workers are more reliable and have a stronger work ethic, that is if we are running the generalities.   They are more likely to pass any initial preemployment screening regimen.   Their past indiscretions are too far behind them to be either picked up nt he radar screen or a consideration for employment.

As with most generalities, they punish the majority and the exceptions to the rule by branding them with inaccurate characteristics.   The fact that is generally indisputable is that older workers have more experience.

So we have entered a world where experience can serve as a liability.   We have entered a world where the latest academic theory, often taught by someone who has failed in the business world, can substitute for the skills and insights developed in the trenches.   Given that this is often the pervasive belief, it is small wonder we are experiencing the economic meltdown.   We had a theory about credit, lending and the belief that despite all experience and lessons to the contrary would work in our favor in this global economy.   We all see the results.

So experience does have its virtues.   I would think.   This is also not to say that more experienced financial folk were not responsible as well for leading us down the primrose path that left us at the intersection of Recession and Desperation.   This is to say that experience can help avoid the pitfalls encountered in business.  It should also be noted that experienced people who have weathered prior economic downturns are more apt to deal with it better than those that have always had success during the times when success was like shooting fish in the barrel.   Hard to fail when you are turning derivatives in a housing upsurge, or when credit is so readily available.   Try it now, and it’s a different story.

Anyway, there are good older workers and terrific younger workers.   There is dead wood in booth.   There are non-performers and those too occupied with their personal lives to pay your business the time it is due.   Perhaps in the end, like blended Scotch or Blended Coffee, a mix and match of old and young is the best solution in the workplace.

In any event, check them out before you hire.

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