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What Does It Say When Companies Take A Joke Diversity Website Seriously?

When Arwa Mahdawi attended the Stupid Hackathon for stupid ideas, she thought she had a hilarious one: a Rent-A-Minority website that spoofed the diversity tokenism rampant in the media and tech industries. It was a funny idea, but also…after 91,000 clicks, a Mahdawi realized her fictional service was being taken seriously as an option by companies seeking to increase diversity in their workforces.

Diversity’s become something all businesses want these days — or feel legally obligated to have, anyway — having been linked statistically to retention, innovation, and productivity. “I created the site because I felt frustrated with the surface-level manner in which diversity issues are often dealt with,” Mahdawi told the Mail&Guardian.

Mahdawi may have wondered at first if her comedy was too broad. It has a hilarious tagline of “Get Ethics with Our Ethnics,” and an opening spiel that starts off:

“Rent-A-Minority is a revolutionary new service designed for those oh-[expletive] moments where you’ve realized your award show, corporate brochure, conference panel is entirely composed of white men. For, like, the fifth year in a row.”

And yet, companies actually thought the site was a legitimate staffing resource. Never mind that it offers to provide minority staff like Cheerful Woman of Color who won’t make you uncomfortable by being “an angry black woman.” There’s also Smiling Muslim Woman, “certified not to support ISIS (or your money back)” and Intellectual Black Guy to “stand next to you while you say racist things at parties.” It’s all pretty hilarious.

According to Haley McEwen, research co-ordinator at the Wits Centre of Diversity Studies (Wits is a real school and not part of the joke in case you’re wondering), companies may be in search of a pre-packaged diversification solution if management doesn’t see itself as having anything to contribute to diversification, or if they’re really only interested in diversifying to avoid a fine.

Rent-A-Minority is not that pre-packaged solution.

Naomi Thalenberg

Naomi is a reporter for TINYpulse, living and breathing everything employee engagement. She does this by always keeping her workstation fully stocked with dark chocolates.

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Manufacturing and Production Companies Step Up for Their Employees

Great Place to Work has just released its list of the Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production, and today’s employee experience  in these industries is miles apart from how many of us picture it. We may think of how it used to be. It’s apparently pretty great in 2016.

The top-rated company is Hilcorp, which garnered a 96% approval rating from 1,108 employees. (Curiously, the #2 company, Tactical Electronics, had a 100% ranking.) Hilcorp had plenty of competition, with the top 11 companies all having ratings of 90% or higher. The survey questioned 34,900 randomly selected employees at companies in the manufacturing and production sector.

As CEO of Great Place to Work Michael Bush told HRE Daily, “The best workplaces in the industry know they can’t just churn out their products with warm bodies. They need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent by putting people first, in a high-trust culture.“ Forget about the old image of factory workers laboring tirelessly and never getting ahead. Hilcorp, for example, awarded each of their employees $100,000 (based on their hire date) after the company met a five-year goal.

Hilcorp is the largest privately held oil, natural gas, electric and power company in the U.S., headquartered in Houston, Texas, with offices in Maurice, Louisiana, North Slope and Anchorage, Alaska, and Refugio, Texas. They have 1,400 employees. Here are four things the company does to keep its workers so engaged:

Buy-In Incentive Plan — Full-time Hilcorp employees can participate financially in company projects, allowing them to build wealth over time.

Bonus Program — An employee’s yearly bonus is tied to company goals, and bonus payout percentages are the same for everyone. During the past five years, employees bonuses have averaged 36% of base pay.

The Hilcorp Giving Program — The company offers to establish a $2,500 charitable trust that allows employees to support any U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization, and helps employees give by providing ongoing matching gifts of up to $2,000 a year.

Mega Plans, or “BHAG’s” — A BHAG is a ”Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” and every five years Hilcorp sets one. It’s a stretch goal with outsized rewards. The most recent, for example, sought to double the company’s rate, reserve, and value by 2015. (This was the $100,000 employee reward mentioned above.)

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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The 10 Healthcare Benefits You May Have and Not Know About

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, covering 10 “essential” healthcare services became law. Add state-required benefits and extras insurance providers offer, and you may have benefits you don’t realize you have. Caroline Banton of GO Banking Rates has put together a list of 10 unexpected common forms of coverage.

1. Diet Counseling and Obesity Treatments — 16 states require dietary or nutritional screening, and bariatric surgery to reduce the size of patients’ stomachs is now mandated in 23 states. Seven states require coverage for recently diagnosed diabetes.

2. Psychiatric Therapy — If your company has 50+ employees in its plan, or if you’re in an exchange, CHIP, or most Medicaid programs, the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act forbids insurance companies from charging higher co-pays for mental health visits.

3. Discounted or Free Health Clubs — Increased competition caused by the ACA has some insurance companies sweetening their products by adding coverage for fitness tracking/management and help with health-club membership costs.

4. Chiropractic Services — Some states offer coverage of chiropractic as a rehabilitative service. You can check out your state at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

5. Autism Screening and Therapy for Children — With 1 in 68 children on the autism spectrum, the ACA requires insurance companies to pay for preventive services including screening at 18 and 24 months. 43 states and Washington D.C. require coverage of autism services.

6. Smoking Cessation Programs — Treatment for tobacco addiction is categorized as a “mental health services and addiction treatment,” so the ACA’s required coverage also applies to rehab and treatment for other additions. The American Lung Association has details on the coverage mandated by the ACA.

7. Gender ReassignmentHuman Rights campaign has information on over two dozen insurance companies that cover transgender-related health care.

8. Pre-Natal Folic Acid Supplements and Breastfeeding Supplies — The ACA requires covering breastfeeding support and supplies, as well as folic acid supplements. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists additional covered preventative services for women.

9. Acupuncture or Massage Therapy — Some insurers are covering alternative treatments such as these. Your best bet is to check with your provider.

10. Hair Prosthesis — Most insurance companies cover the cost of a wig if prescribed by a doctor. Beyond that, some states require coverage as an essential benefit.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Employee Support Is Strong for Closing the Gender Pay Gap

If companies wonder how workers feel about compensation adjustments that level out pay between men and women, a new Glassdoor study finds that 93% of American employees surveyed are in favor of seeing the wage gap between men and women closed. Worldwide, the number’s 89%.

Workers often don’t think their own companies are the problem. 7 in 10 people on average worldwide believed their own company paid equally, though women were less likely to make that assumption. In the U.S. there’s slightly less confidence in one’s own company, with 70% overall choosing to believe the best — 77% of the men and 70% of the women. A third of U.S. women surveyed believed their employers were part of the problem, nearly twice the number of men who thought so.

Around the world, women are concerned about whether or not they were being payed equally. In the U.S., about two thirds think they’re being fairly compensated, while a third feel they deserve to be paid more. (5% of women don’t think women deserve equal pay.)

Though the percentages shift slightly a bit across the countries in the survey — United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland — the story’s the same everywhere: More men feel they’re being paid fairly and don’t think their company has a pay gender gap; more women feel they’re not being properly compensated and that a gender gap does exist at their company.

The survey points to some things companies offering equal pay should do. Glassdoor suggests they promote their equal-pay practices since, for example, 67% of U.S. workers surveyed wouldn’t even apply for work at companies with a gender gap in pay. Worldwide, 81% of women wouldn’t apply. For companies that do still have a gender gap, that leaves a vanishingly small talent pool to draw from. (63% of workers older than 55 may apply to such a company, but 81% of people from 18 to 24 won’t.)

Employees are eager to see companies step up, with 45% of U.S. workers ready for new policies that close the pay gap, and two thirds looking for more transparency in how compensation is calculated anyway. About 20% think female employees should request raises more frequently to help close the gender gap in pay. And 39% approve of the government stepping in to force companies to pay men and women equally.

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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Constituency Statues Protect Companies’ Ability to Innovate and Thrive

In this world of incredible pressures to produce short-term profits, business leaders can become understandably skittish about taking a longer view that encourages both innovation and their company’s long-term health. With anxious stockholders demanding one dazzling quarterly report after another, and with the constant threat of hostile takeovers, it’s hard to devote the time and patience required to develop new products and services. To remedy this, 34 states in the U.S. have enacted little-known “constituency statutes.”

A constituency statute is a state law that offers companies that legal right to consider stakeholders other than their stockholders, in particular employees and the community within which a company resides. Aleksandra Kacperczyk of MIT recently released a study that examines whether these laws, which first started appearing in the 1980s, actually work. Spoiler alert: They do.

Kacperczyk used patent records as a concrete way of measuring how constituency statutes protect and encourage innovation, more and more a top priority for business. But there’s a difficult “trade-off that you face between short-term profits and the long-term view, in that innovation takes longer to develop,“ as Kacperczyk puts it.

The report — co-authored with Caroline Flammer, assistant professor at the Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario — found that in states with constituency statutes, the average patent rate rose by at least 6.4 percent. And, ”There were not only more patents, but they were more original and influential,” says Kacperczyk, with the number of citations — other companies incorporating innovations they contain — increasing by 6.3 percent, according to the study.

Constituency statutes were initially designed to protect local communities from losing their businesses due to hostile takeovers by stockholders impatient for profits. According to Kacperczyk, “Hostile takeovers can be detrimental to workers and communities, so they really needed this. This is precisely when the interests of shareholders are being pitted against the interests of stakeholders. You need the stakeholder supremacy model to protect the interests of stakeholders.” The first state to adopt a constituency statute was Ohio in 1984, while Texas was the most recent to do so.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Facebook at Work Is Taking Up Some Other Companies’ Slack

When Facebook announced Facebook at Work in 2014, it made sense as a natural extension of a service most people already knew how to use. The platform’s appeal to companies is obvious and hard to argue with: Nobody already using Facebook needs any training to use the product, and that’s almost everybody. Employees simply use at-work identities separate from the ones they use elsewhere.

A company adopting Facebook at Work also instantly acquires their own mature internal social networking platform, and this one — unlike, say, standard Facebook — has no ads to get in the way. Though it may make some firms uneasy that no one knows yet how Facebook plans to make money off Facebook at Work, the company says they already have about 300 corporate clients using the product, according to The Motley Fool.

The most obvious competitor for Facebook at Work is Slack, the messaging platform that’s taken business by storm. Slack is clean, fun, modern, packed with customization features, and also free of public social platforms’ ads. However, it does come with a bit of a learning curve, and that means training and/or time lost to gaining familiarity with the way it works. Microsoft’s Office email clients and Alphabet’s Gmail are other platforms that have long dominated messaging, groups, and file sharing for enterprise, but they can be cumbersome to use and lack some of the instantaneous feel of a true social platform.

Motley Fool is suggesting that LinkedIn may also be nervously watching the progress of Facebook at Work. Though LinkedIn’s employment-networking features aren’t yet mirrored in Facebook’s product, it’s unknown what other business-related functionality Facebook plans to add going forward — of course, it could also be argued that LinkedIn shouldn’t worry considering how unlikely it is that companies would want to make it easier for their employees to seek jobs at other companies through a social network they themselves provide.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Intelligent Robots May Be a Stupid Idea. For One Thing, They Want Our Jobs

Last Sunday, during a speech at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., scientist Moshe Vardi did his best to sound an alarm about what he sees as the inevitable destructive encroaching upon human jobs by robots endowed with artificial intelligence. Verdi is a professor of computational engineering at Rice University.

What alarms Vardi is the assumption that the advancement of technology is always to the benefit of mankind. To the standard pro-technology stance that robots will free humans from the drudgery of work, Vardi responds, “I do not find this a promising future as I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life appealing. I believe that work is essential to human well-being.”

Vardi’s not alone in his concerns, with prominent scientists such as Stephen Hawking having written, “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it; the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

With robots expected to be capable of doing anything a human can within 30 years, Verdi expects human unemployment to top 50% by 2045. While he doesn’t expect technology to be stoppable at this point — “The genie is out of the bottle,” he says — he feels we have no more than 25 years to avoid serious problems. “What we need to do is to start now thinking very hard and investing in research into how society can cope with the advance of automation.”

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently announced his participation in the Open AI project, which is based on the counter-intuitive idea: Making AI technology available to everyone as it advances will safeguard  human priorities by not allowing it to become the exclusive domain of big corporations.

Or our robot overlords.

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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New Study Shows Women in Management Results in Higher Profits

The New York Times reports on a just-released study by the non-profit Peterson Institute for International Economics which shows that companies that want higher profits would be well served by getting more women into management. Nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies from 91 countries were surveyed in the study.

The study found no conclusive evidence, though, that a higher number of female CEOs or board members affect a company’s bottom line.

On the other hand, what the study did reveal was that having women in other top-management positions was definitively correlated with increased profits. According to Marcus Noland, the institute’s director of studies, “An increase in the share of women from zero to 30% would be associated with a 15% rise in profitability.”

While a Pew Research study released in 2014 showed that Americans consider women to be equally qualified for being business and political leaders, it’s obvious more needs to be done to actually make this happen.

  • Less than 5% of companies surveyed had a chief woman executive
  • 50% had no female executives at all
  • 60% of the companies had no women on their boards
  • 12% of American companies surveyed had female board members
  • 16% of their executives were female

Norway has the most diversity, with women in 40% of board seats and 20% of their executive positions. Japan was at the low end, with women only representing 2% of board members and only 3% of their executives.

One of the Peterson study’s tantalizing finds was that countries with high math scores in schools tended to produce more female business leaders. This was a far stronger profit indicator than legal quotas for female board membership such as those in Norway, Denmark, and Finland.

Surprisingly, the survey showed paternal leave contributed more to higher female leadership numbers than maternity leave, probably because it represents more sharing of child-rearing responsibilities. Overall, Noland says, “If you have a supportive set of policies, which would include paternal leave, which allows women to have children while maintaining their careers in a relatively undisruptive manner, you see more women making it to the very top.”

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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Something About Boomerang Employees Is in the Air

“Boomerang employees” are people who’ve left a company to work somewhere else and have now returned. The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and WorkplaceTrends.com have recently completed a study of boomerangs and have discovered, among other things, that 40% of workers would consider returning to a former employer. And 15% already have. Why not? Maybe they left for some upward mobility that they’ve now achieved.

The study surveyed over 1,800 HR professionals, and among the top findings are these:

  • While nearly half of the HR people surveyed said their companies previously had policies discouraging returners, 76% said they have a more favorable view of the idea now.
  • Boomerangs now pose a serious threat to other job applicants. 85% of HR people say they’ve received applications from ex-employees, and 40% say they hired about half of them.
  • A boomerang’s familiarity with a company’s culture obviously make training and integration easier than it would be with someone new. (Some HR people do have concerns that boomerangs may return with a stigma for having left, or with old company baggage.)

It’s hard to know what one’s professional future holds. Here are U.S. News Money’s suggestions for some things you can do to boomerang successfully.

  1. Leave on good, friendly terms: When you leave, don’t quit via text and give the company a full two-weeks’ notice. It’s also a good idea to send thank-you notes to your boss and coworkers.
  2. Make sure your performance reviews shine: When you return, it’s likely your reviews will get a fresh look as the company considers bringing you back. At least make sure you’ve corrected any inaccuracies in recent reviews.
  3. Stay in touch with friends at the company after you leave: Do what you can to remain part of the company’s “family.” Pay attention to things going on there via your friends’ social media updates.
  4. Leverage your knowledge of the company’s mission when they ask why you want a new job: You already know what the company’s story is. Bonus points for letting them know you’ve stayed in the loop on current company events (which you can do via continuing friendships with coworkers).

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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Business’s New Top Priority Is Innovation. HR’s Too.

A recently completed leadership study by CIPD, an international professional body for HR and people development, reveals that for the first time, innovation has become the leading business priority. It found that 35% of HR and 32% of non-HR leaders are now viewing the pursuit of innovation as their companies’ primary strategy. But there’s twist.

There’s a schism between the way HR and non-HR leaders think innovation can be nurtured. 26% of non-HR leaders felt that their company was in need of a refreshed people strategy, while 72% of HR people felt current policies were sufficient.

What non-HR leaders want to see in particular is a greater emphasis on diversity as an innovation driver. 31% of them want HR to focus on diversity, but only 19% of HR leaders say they are.

It’s CIPD’s recommendation that HR staff find their own ways to innovate, and that they publicize those efforts within the company as an encouraging example. The survey found a stumbling block, however: HR’s frequent failure to use analytics and to share them with others in the company. 28% of non-HR leaders didn’t know if their HR department had any analytics tools in place, and the same percentage said HR doesn’t share its data with company stakeholders if it does have it. Yet, only 12% of HR leaders felt there was any issue with their data or the way it’s shared with others in the company. CIPD suggests HR would be well served by staying on top of the ever-expanding capabilities of HR analytics tools.

The good news is that non-HR leaders and HR leaders share a common desire to promote innovation, and as Dr. Jill Miller, a CIP research advisor says, “Our survey highlights clear areas of opportunity for better collaboration and communication between HR and other functions.”

Naomi Thalenberg

Naomi is a reporter for TINYpulse, living and breathing everything employee engagement. She does this by always keeping her workstation fully stocked with dark chocolates.

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