To have flexible workplaces we have to have a flexible society.

I read about a very interesting study done by Prof. Seán Ó Riain from Maynooth University, Ireland, on changes that have occurred in the workplace since 1995. His contention is that while workplaces have become more flexible the world of services around the workplace have not. He says “We’re at a stage where we need to think about, now that we’re living in this world of flexible work, how do we respond to that? What are the kinds of services that will enable people to stay in these jobs for a lifetime?

Flexible work in an inflexible world

As the workplace has evolved work schedules have evolved. We now come in earlier or later than the 8 am or 9 am to 5 workplaces that have evolved. But for that to become more widespread the world outside the workplace needs to evolve too. Most services, beyond retail, have settled into the “9 to 5” schedule. Daycare services have adapted some, but government services have not on a widespread basis. Repair services of many types have not really adapted. Try to find a car repair shop open at 10 pm or a doctor’s office that deals with more than emergency services. As the professor says of our flexible work schedule “It also demands more complex, more high-quality public services. A general set of services that everybody benefits from actually becomes more important when people are working in more different ways than they used to.” We generally have to adapt to their schedules than they have to adapt to the working world.

The future must be a coordinated effort

One of the oddities that Ó Riain found was that the more flexibility there was in a workplace the more planning there needed to be. I think we will find that the more flexible companies want to provide will depend on the flexibility of services being provided. If we truly want a flexible workplace society, the more there needs to be a coordinated effort between government, education, service providers, retail companies and other segments of the business world. Otherwise, we will stick to the “9 to 5” model and the burden of flexibility will be on employers, who will only go so far.

Do you think this can occur? What flexibility issues have you seen in your world?


The February Carnival of HR

by Michael Haberman on February 22, 2018 · 0 comments

The February 2018 issue of the Carnival of HR was posted yesterday. It was hosted by 

  • @MeToo
  • Leadership
  • Compassion
  • Office drama
  • Hiring remote workers
  • Much, much more including a new writer’s first-time blog

This Carnival packs so much information in it that Laurie recommends you bookmark it so you can return to read rather than spending time on Facebook. Good advice.

Go here Carnival Of HR: February 2018 Edition



A must-have book for every HR and business manager’s bookshelf.

A couple of interesting age facts taken from Tom Peters’ book The Little BIG Things. Written in 2010, the information he gives us about age is still relevant today, given that in 2017 age discrimination cases were in the top five discrimination claims made, making up almost 22% of claims filed.

The facts

Here you go:

  • People turning 50 today have half their adult lives ahead of them- a quote from Bill Novelli, author of 50+: Igniting a Revolution to Reinvent America.
  • Americans own, on average, 13 cars in a lifetime, 7 of which are bought after the age of 50.
  • People age 55 or older are more active in online finance, shopping, and entertainment than those under 55 according to Forester Research.
  • Americans over 50 control a gargantuan share of the personal wealth of the United States (my guess is the same may be true in other western countries.)
  • Americans over 50 are healthier than they have been in the past.
  • American women over 50 control an enormous, and growing share of the total wealth.

The lesson in this?

Peters’ lesson derived from this information is that the vaunted 18 to 44 age demographic is highly overrated as a marketplace. More attention needs to be paid attention to the “oldsters.”

My lesson derived from this is that your 50-year-old employee may have another 25 years of good working life left in them. The days of retiring at 65 years old are over with. The Social Security Administration doesn’t even recognize 65 as a full retirement. Working past the age of 65 must be given much more consideration by employers. Yes, some employees may want to slow down, so you need to think about job sharing or part-time arrangements. You may need to consider training programs for older workers to bring them up to speed with new technology (Yes, we can handle it!) Don’t consider it a bad investment because they may only be around another five years, the younger worker you hire may only be around 3 years and you trained them. Consider that extra two years a bonus.


I asked my class the other day who had ever heard of Tom Peters? No one raised their hand. If you have never heard of him either, then you have missed one of management’s great thinkers. He gets you thinking outside the box. READ him. This book is a great one to start with.


When you make a promise (aka contract) keep the promise!

by Michael Haberman on February 20, 2018 · 0 comments

Contracts for bonuses or commissions need to be worded carefully.

Many moons ago, when I was a recruiter for a software company, I brought an applicant in that was highly regarded. In the interview process, he told us a story of why he was no longer with the very well-known company with whom he had been employed. He told us of about a commission agreement that escalated the more you sold. He signed it, the company signed it and everyone went happily along their way. Then he sold a deal with a large government organization for MILLIONS of dollars worth of software and the company started calculating what his commission was to be and they were aghast. They told him they could not pay him that much in commission. He told them that was the contract that he signed. They reneged, he resigned and sued them and still ended up with the commissions due him. The company ended up with an expensive lesson, suspicious employees, and a big lawyers’ bill. It was too bad another company didn’t get a chance to hear this story.

Contracts count

More recently, according to David Leishman of McGuireWoods LLP, Panera, LLC made a similar mistake. In order to recruit top-notch managers, they promised restaurant managers a bonus program that was very specific. According to Leishman:

“…qualifying managers were eligible for a one-time bonus payment based on a formula. Store profitability was a significant factor in determining the amount of the bonus. General managers signed agreements under which the bonuses would be paid about five years after execution of the agreement, provided the general manager was employed on the date on which the bonus was payable.

After the agreements were in place, Panera figured out they would be too expensive and capped the bonuses at $100,000. As you might expect, the managers also did some math and found out that some of them would be shorted a great deal of money. They sued and won.

Both the district court and the 8th Circuit court said: “…that an employment relationship is a unilateral contract under Missouri law.” According to Leishman, “…the court also rejected Panera’s argument that it expressly reserved the power to revoke or modify the offer by conditioning the bonus payment on the general manager’s continued employment and reserving the right to adjust the bonus metrics.” They said, and this is the important part of the lesson, that Panera might have had that right if they had expressed that in the agreement, however, they did not, and subsequently had their argument rejected. Thus they had to pay out large amounts to the managers.

Lesson learned

The lesson learned from both of these stories is that bonus or commission programs should be clearly written in order to allow companies to change the programs midstream. In reality, I think that companies should make sure that the consequences of any bonus or commission plan should be thoroughly thought out prior to instituting them. Do some “what if” scenarios where you consider what happens if someone totally blows the numbers through the roof. Even better, be glad that an employee brought that much to the company and reward them handsomely. Be glad they are on your side and not with a competitor, which they will surely be if you screw them over on a commission or a bonus.


How long do I have to keep HR records? From the Archive

by Michael Haberman February 19, 2018

Tweet For the entirety of consulting I have gotten the question of how long records need to be kept. Since I got that question again last week I thought I would republish this post.  In my work, I spend time looking at the personnel files for many companies. Some of these files take up large […]

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Future Friday: Merging AI and workers

by Michael Haberman February 16, 2018

Tweet For those of you that are frightened by the prospect of a robotic future, where your job, even your life has been taken over by artificial intelligence you can relax. The prevailing point of view today is not a take over of human jobs by artificial intelligence, but an augmentation of human work by […]

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Reducing flu at work is a matter of business continuity

by Michael Haberman February 15, 2018

Tweet As I have been watching the news daily I hear reports of yet another death caused by the flu. It seems to have a very detrimental effect on students. However, even when it doesn’t cause a death, it can be debilitating to a workplace, especially a small business, where staffing is sparse and absolutely […]

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What do harassment, Valentine’s Day and HR have to do with each other?

by Michael Haberman February 14, 2018

Tweet This post is not exactly about Valentine’s Day, nor is it specifically about harassment, as you will discover as you read further. It is more about the profession of HR. This post is a repeat of one I wrote last year at this time. However, today is a good time to be aware, especially […]

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Ten Human Resources Steps that WILL save you!

by Michael Haberman February 13, 2018

Tweet As I was teaching my HR certification class on Saturday we talked about the issue of how HR is to respond to an employee revealing information about actions that could be damaging to the company, but then asking HR to keep it confidential. Of course, HR cannot do that. They have an obligation to […]

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From the archive: Paying Employees During Bad Weather Closings

by Michael Haberman February 12, 2018

Tweet A friend of mine posted a picture of the empty parking lot of his place of business, after a snowstorm. Since we still have at least another month of winter, I thought it might be helpful to repost this about paying employees for bad weather closings. As [winter continues] the chances for snow and […]

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