Future Friday: Robots are not coming all that quick

by Michael Haberman on January 19, 2018 · 0 comments

This type of worker is much further away than most of us think.

We have all heard stories and news reports of robots replacing or displacing workers. Companies are developing driverless cars at what seems a rapid pace. Technology seems fated to give us all large amounts of “leisure” time aka unemployment. The prognostications, however, are not occurring at the pace many people expected.

Companies are not adopting that kind of technology

According to one report, only 10% of American companies that would benefit from robot technology have actually adopted it. Even McDonalds is not moving to replace workers threatening $15 per hour. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, in response to a question on robots and kiosks, “I don’t see it being a risk to job elimination.” He said “Ultimately we’re in the service business, and we’re competing with other opportunities for people to eat and drink out. Frankly, we will always have an important human element.”

The human element

That seems to be a key component to how rapidly workers will be replaced by technology. If the business has a big human component, contact with the customer, companies may be unwilling to mess with the customer relationship. Look at how many of us object to “robot” calls or “automated” answering services. Most people I know would be unwilling to jump into a car with no driver. Despite the fact that the technology exists to fly a plane without a pilot, how many of you would be willing to get on an airliner that did not have a human in the cockpit?

Even companies that have the technology to replace workers on a wholesale basis, such as Amazon, don’t use technology to replace workers, they use technology to monitor workers.

Worker shortage

For many companies, retrofitting to replace workers is not economically sound. Despite warnings of a shortage of labor, for the most part, there are enough workers to do the work. Yes, there are shortages of people trained to do certain jobs, but that is a training issue and not a numbers issue. When we get to a point where there are not enough people in existence to do the work, then we will see companies adopting technology on a much more rapid basis. For now, however, replacing all their workers with robots is not an economical solution for most companies.

Most of you reading this will probably never see the oft forecasted wholesale replace of workers with technology. Your work may be augmented by technology or monitored by technology, even made easier by technology, but few of you will be out and out replaced by technology, especially if you are customer interacting.

So we can relax a bit.


I often get comments on my posts that are questions or pleas for help. I received on yesterday on the subject of comp time. As a result, I decided to republish this post from the past to explain how a private sector employer must handle employees who work overtime.

One area of the Fair Labor Standards Act that I get asked about often is “compensatory time.” This is the desire to pay an employee for overtime by giving them time off the following week, or month or quarter. The person asking the question says that the “employee preferred to have the extra time off.” That sounds like a good deal for all concerned, doesn’t it? Less cash the company has to pay out and the more time for the employee. The problem is it does not work that way.

Limited use of comp time

According to the U.S. Department of Labor “The use of comp time instead of overtime is limited by Section 7(o) of the FLSA to a public agency that is a state, a political subdivision of a state, or an interstate governmental agency.” Thus a private sector company CANNOT compensate a non-exempt employee by the use of comp time.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that covered, nonexempt employees in the United States be paid at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked and receive overtime pay at one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.  FLSA overtime pay is due on the regular pay day for the period in which the overtime was worked.  The overtime pay requirement may not be waived by agreement between the employer and the employee.  The overtime pay requirement cannot be met through the use of compensatory time off (comp time) except under special circumstances applicable only to state and local government employees.

I highlighted three areas that are important to understand. First is “covered, non-exempt” employees. If you have employees who perform work for which they are compensated on an hourly basis they are “covered, non-exempt” employees. However, you may also have people that you pay a salary to. If they are non-exempt, as defined by their job description, then they too are “covered, non-exempt” employees. So they have to be paid overtime for hours worked that exceed 40 in a week. Additionally “Averaging of hours over two or more weeks is not permitted. Normally, overtime pay earned in a particular workweek must be paid on the regular payday for the pay period in which the wages were earned.

Cannot delay overtime payment

“Due on the regular payday” means you cannot delay the overtime earned in a single workweek. “May not be waived by agreement between the employer and the employee.” This means you cannot get the employee to waive their rights to overtime, even if they asked for it. So scratch that option.

After I have delivered this news, the next question I get is “What about supervisors?” Supervisors do not meet the standard of being “covered, non-exempt” employees (assuming they do meet the standards of the executive exemption). You can give the comp time all day long. Assume you have a period of time that everyone is working hard and long hours. Non-exempt employees get extra money for that. Supervisors don’t. Although you could pay the supervisors a bonus, you could also give them time-off as “compensation” for working so hard. There is no prohibition against that. Just remember just because you do it for supervisors does not mean you can do it for other employees.


So, let’s sum this up:

  1. You cannot average work weeks to level out hours worked
  2. You have to pay for hours worked that exceed 40 in a week
  3. This is based on status as a “covered, non-exempt” employee
  4. You CANNOT SUBSTITUTE time-off for earned overtime, even if the employee asks you to.

Of course, this does not apply if you are in the public sector or in a state that has regulations that are more friendly to the employee, such as California, which requires that overtime be paid for hours exceeding 8 in a day. But even there you cannot use comp time.


Who thought that this was a good idea?

by Michael Haberman on January 17, 2018 · 0 comments

Age discrimination is a bad business practice.

Sometimes an action occurs that makes you wonder what the thinking was when a decision was made.

Case in point

A Colorado hospital forced 29 employees to resign for performance deficiencies. I can picture someone saying “You can resign or we will fire you.” Offering that option is not that unusual, but what made this stand out was that all 29 employees were over the age of forty and had been employed for over 10 years. Naturally, that caught the attention of the EEOC, who, upon investigation, determined that younger employees had similar performance problems but were not forced to resign. Oops!

ADEA’s 50th anniversary

In the year of the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) engaging in age discrimination is sure to get you noticed, especially when done on the scale of this case. The poor thinking of management, or HR, or both cost this hospital $400,000. Management is accused of making ageist statements such as “They preferred younger nurses because they could dance circles around older nurses.”

In addition to the monetary fine, the hospital has a consent decree settling the suit requires the hospital “…to conduct annual anti-discrimination training for its employees, managers, supervisors and human resources employees. [the hospital] will also revise and distribute its anti-discrimination policy, and report to EEOC any complaints of age discrimination. The court approved the settlement and will retain jurisdiction for purposes of compliance for three years” according to the EEOC press release.

Just don’t do it

With Baby Boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day and Gen Xers now in their 40’s and 50’s there is ample opportunity to do something to someone who can sue for age discrimination. When taking action against an employee who is over the age of 40 you need to ensure you are doing so on the basis of their performance, not their age. If you would not take that action against someone who is 25, then don’t take it against someone who is 50. It is just wrong and can be an expensive action.


5 Human Resource Management Goals for Your Small Business

by Michael Haberman on January 16, 2018 · 0 comments

Small businesses can use HR technology to be more effective.

I occasionally publish the work of freelance writers who write about human resources. Today’s guest writer writes about HR and small business. 

 It’s that time of year: suddenly everyone is swearing off sugar and joining a gym. But when you work in a small business, you have resolutions of your own to focus on! And the new year is the perfect time to develop a strategic plan to grow your human resources efforts.

Every organization has its HR hurdles to cross. But if you’re managing HR for a small business, you have the added challenge of doing it all with limited bandwidth and resources. That means that small business HR management goals need to be both financially lean and efficient in terms of manpower and process. However, thanks to the proliferation of low-cost human resources software, SMBs can adopt a professional, organized and—perhaps most importantly—data-backed approach to their HR endeavors. Here are five of the best HR resolutions for your small business—and how applications can help you get there.

Reduce Turnover—and Accompanying Expenses—by Hiring the Right Candidates

 One competitive advantage your small business has over larger, well-established corporations is the ability to move fast. Organized SMBs can recruit, interview and hire in a span of a few weeks—compared to the months-long turnaround from larger, heavily bureaucratic organizations. Of course, you’ll hamper yourself if you can’t get your ad to the best talent. And you may find yourself burdened by the administrative aspects of the process: reviewing resumes, responding to candidate emails, and scheduling interviews can become time-consuming at best for already-stretched small business schedules.

This is where the right human resource software can have a huge impact. New cloud-based tool developers are dabbling with machine learning and AI techniques that can take some of the back-and-forth out of recruiting, answering emails automatically and leading candidates through the recruitment process. These applications often use programmed bots (sort of like “Clippy,” but useful!) that can answer questions and direct candidates to next steps. However, if you prefer a more conventional approach, you can still take advantage of enterprise-level talent management tools, resume databases and programs that integrate with LinkedIn and other social media to discover and engage with candidates. Either way, applications stand to take a lot of the work out of recruitment.

Develop and Streamline Employee Training and Development

 A lot of times the challenge for a burgeoning small business is to move from old, ad hoc methods to established processes. That usually means developing a fully-articulated onboarding and training program and allocating resources for continued education opportunities.

But how do you define the best plan for long-term employee development and ultimately, better retention? The answer lies in the employees themselves. Surveying your existing team provides crucial insights into where employees need to go—especially for specialized team members without a conventional career trajectory.

But gathering data and analyzing results is burdensome without some sort of digital aide. This may be the greatest benefit of adopting HR software—SaaS tools offer frequent, informal surveys and up-to-the-minute insights on any number of topics. You can feel confident that your data is correct, whether you’re using the results to create new programs or initiatives or presenting the findings to your boss.

 Define Measurable Benchmarks for HR Success

 Metrics are undoubtedly where HR software shines. The ability to measure the performance of softer initiatives is a key benefit of Hr management tools. Any number of objectives can be measured this way: employee and customer satisfaction, retention levels, the percentage of employees who meet their development targets or individual performance objectives and so forth.

HR dashboards can not only automate the collection of this data but also help HR teams analyze and present data and easy-to-digest formats. Now the board will finally understand what you mean when you tell them employees are motivated by intrinsic rewards.

 Automate Paperwork and Onboarding

 Paperwork: a necessary evil for any HR team. New employees come with boatloads of forms—and in a fast-moving new business, you may have to juggle onboarding for several employees at once.

Time-strapped teams often struggle to define clear-cut processes for employee onboarding. But thorough and intensive orientation is undoubtedly a predictor of employee retention and productivity. Luckily, there are many free or low-cost tools employers can use to guide new hires through the onboarding process. Some even feature time tracking and payroll tools—and will alert you when paperwork is outstanding, which can definitely save you time tracking down missing information and incomplete forms.

 Boost Communication and Collaboration

 Before your company establishes its first offices, you may have employees working in different remote locations. And of course, that means employees may struggle with communication—important information gets buried in email chains or lost in translation over text.

Because face-to-face interaction is so important, teams can benefit from sophisticated virtual tools that bring remote players closer together. Video conferencing applications and chat programs are go-to for most businesses, but you may also find yourself drawn to more immersive project management tools that include time tracking, productivity reports and file sharing, or engagement apps that can help you ensure everyone is on the same page. After all, when everyone is on the same page, you can start putting a dent in your real 2018 goal: crushing it!


Erin Vaughan currently resides in Austin, TX. When she’s not outside enjoying a hike through the Texas hill country, she writes about the latest technology and tools for TrustRadius.


When is the best time to make important decisions?

by Michael Haberman January 15, 2018

Tweet Last week I reported on some information from Dan Pink’s new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I mentioned that I was getting my copy that day and I would be writing about my reading of the book. This is the first report of several in the coming month. Timing can save […]

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Future Friday: What are you doing to prevent the ongoing “brain drain”?

by Michael Haberman January 12, 2018

Tweet When you read the term “brain drain” most of us envision freshly trained, younger students, leaving a state or country and taking their talents elsewhere. Many of us have not thought about the brain drain that is occurring at the other end of the scale, baby boomers that are retiring and taking all their […]

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A new test for determining if your intern should be a paid intern

by Michael Haberman January 11, 2018

Tweet The US Department of Labor is in the process of becoming a “friendlier” place. One such change has come in the form of a new test to determine if an intern can be an unpaid intern or if they should be paid. No longer six factors In 2011 I wrote a post called Unpaid […]

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When minimum wage may not mean what you think it means

by Michael Haberman January 10, 2018

Tweet Under the FLSA the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Does that mean that no one can get paid less than that on an hourly basis, or is there another way to view this? Is paying less than $7.25 illegal? Two Xerox employees made claim they were being paid less than the minimum wage […]

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The best time to deliver bad news

by Michael Haberman January 9, 2018

Tweet Dan Pink’s new book was released today. My copy is to be delivered by 8 pm according to Amazon. Some people, however, are privy to advance copies. Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, both the blog and the book, got an advance copy of the book. In his blog post, he […]

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The price of Wage and Hour violations just went up

by Michael Haberman January 8, 2018

Tweet Just this last Thursday I listed some of the top FLSA issues for 2018. It turns out that as of January 2, 2018, the costs of those violations have gone up. Published in the Federal Register The USDOL is required to annually update, due to inflation, the penalties it assesses for violations of regulations. […]

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