WFD | Meaningful Work

| Ivanka’s Bullshit | People Ops 2020 | Ageism | Diversity Requires Diversity | Dostoyevsky |

Stowe Boyd
Jan 10 · 5 min read
Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–01–10 | Ten days into 2020, and neck deep into new projects, I feel a bit off balance. That’s why the daily hasn’t been daily.


Ivanka Trump’s Future of Work Isn’t for Workers | I couldn’t take Ivanka Trump’s CES presentation on the future of work seriously. The idea made me ill. Brian Barrett parses Ivanka Trump’s talk, and finds only platitudes. The reality is that the Trump administration isn’t actually doing much that’s beneficial:

“I think it’s unambiguously bad,” says Heidi Schierholz, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute and Department of Labor staffer in the Obama administration. “Every single time there’s a juncture where they could protect corporate interests or the interests of workers, they protect corporate interests.”

That applies even to ostensibly pro-worker programs like the Pledge to American Workers. “What we know is, most of the federal government training programs don’t work. What does work is when the private sector teams with a community college, a technical school, a university, a high school, and develops a curriculum that is taught to students and then ultimately hires those students,” Trump said on Tuesday.

One problem: They often don’t, especially when the training comes from the corporate side. “The programs that we believe are the best and most effective are where labor and management come together and workers have a voice in the process. We jointly funded industry programs where workers have credentials, where workers learn a skill and get a real job,” says Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “You’ve seen the model deteriorate over time, where more of the burden is falling on the individual, and in a marketplace where they’re sponsored by for-profit entities that take their money and [they] end up with nothing at the end of it.”

It’s unsurprising that the AFL-CIO would take a pro-union position. But recent studies have also backed that claim; in 2017, the Midwest Economic Policy Institute found that apprentices in joint labor-management programs in Ohio were 21 percent more likely to complete their training. Similar results have been found in Kentucky and Great Britain, as noted by the Center for American Progress.

Besides which, the Pledge to American Workers is largely duplicative; Bloomberg found that many of the companies involved would have done the training anyway. More troubling, it lacks oversight and accountability, entrusting the private sector to train workers with their best interests in mind, without repercussions for failing to do so.

Take a closer look, too, at the $2 billion in additional funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant that Trump touted Tuesday. The grant itself dates to an Obama-era reauthorization; the additional funds, appropriated by Congress, have been used to increase the number of children helped in only 16 states, according to a study from research group Child Trends.

And then step back a bit to assess the entire field of Trump administration policies. “They’re taking a ton of regulatory action, basically all of which leaves workers behind,” says Schierholz. Some of that is granular, like weakening overtime rules for hourly workers. Some if it is sweeping, like cuts to the social safety net. And some of it is systemic, like a dwindling Social Security pool. The future of work is inextricably tied to the future of workers, which the Trump administration has put very much in doubt.

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Seven key HR trends for 2020 | Cathryn Newbery offers some good ideas after talking to some smart people:

Employee experience should be about creating a culture where everyone can truly influence things — that people aren’t overlooked, or it’s just the usual suspects who are rewarded or involved in decisions. For me, it’s like a supercharged version of engagement — it’s almost like a higher-level, more obvious inclusion method, with employers putting people in the spaces where they’ll have the biggest impact. It’s like an overlay and uplift of [employee] engagement, rather than a reboot of it. — Perry Timms

[Rita] Trehan says organisations need to ask their people more profound questions than those usually found in employee engagement surveys. “We’re not going to shift the dial on culture if we survey people and ask things like ‘do you like your boss?’ “You need to ask the bigger questions: what are the silos that are stopping people doing what they think they can do? How easy is it to come up with an idea and follow it through, without going through 10 layers of leadership? Can you name five times you’ve looked at your company values and thought, ‘yep, those hold true’?”

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House to vote on expanded age discrimination protections | Ryan Golden reports on US Congressional efforts to counter ageism:

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on a bill that would reduce barriers employees face in attempting to prove age-based employment discrimination, according to a statement from the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-M.D.

H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, would amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to: 1) permit complaining parties to rely on any type or form of evidence in presenting their claims; and 2) clarify that complaining parties are not required to prove that a protected characteristic or activity was the sole cause of an unlawful employment practice.

The bill rejects the U.S. Supreme Court precedent established in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, in which the court held that a plaintiff bringing an ADEA claim must prove that age was the “but-for” cause of the challenged adverse employment action.

We’ll see what happens in the Senate.

In a related story, Court revives 52-year-old Home Depot manager’s constructive discharge claim, which is a living, breathing example of what is happening in fact:

After working for Home Depot for 20 years and receiving “excellent reviews, raises and bonuses the preceding three years,” Janet Wheeler received from her district manager her first disciplinary notice, along with the manager’s apologies and explanation that he was being pressured to “ensure store managers were being held accountable.” Despite positive store inspections, Wheeler continued to receive discipline notices. She also presented evidence that Home Depot wanted to fire older managers with higher salaries; she complained to HR that she felt targeted.

So she quit because the working conditions were intolerable, as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded, and reopened her lawsuit.

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10 Tips to Kickoff Your Diversity Recruitment Initiative | From Greenhouse:

Lauren Guilbeaux, People Geek at Culture Amp claimed that traditional key metrics don’t work when we’re thinking about diversity. She referenced the unholistic labeling and numbering each “type” of person. When you put people into traditional boxes, you’re not able to focus on the unique traits that bring together a blend of different perspectives. She added, “Work on defining your own key metrics specific to D&I in your organization, and start trying new ways of assessment.”

Diversity requires diverse thinking.


Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad.

| Fyodor Dostoevsky


Work Futures

Exploring critical themes of the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future

Stowe Boyd

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Work Futures

Exploring critical themes of the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future

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