Too Many Things in the World of Work Still Suck

I am still reeling from the amazing experience that was TED at IBM. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a co-branded and promoted event by TED and IBM designed to showcase some of the brightest minds in the world. One of the speakers that resonated with me was Nir Eyal. His talk was about “Habit-Forming Behaviors”. One of his slides pictured  below read: “Too Many Things Still Suck”. This sentiment stuck with me beyond the awesomeness of the conference because the statement is 100% true.

Courtesy of TED at IBM/Nir Eyal
Courtesy of TED at IBM/Nir Eyal

It made me think about the world of work and the aspects of work that are screaming for change. With our 71% disengaged workforce, we are tasked with herding “The Walking Dead” on a daily basis. As HR practitioners, it’s our duty to ensure that our zombies’ workers are providing the required outputs needed for our organizations to run and remain profitable.

What things still suck in the world of work? Let me count the ways.

  • According to a recent WSJ article, the pay gap between men and women continues to widen. It is reported that men‘s earnings have been growing twice as much as women’s earnings for the past three quarters this year. To be fair, the gap has been getting narrower with women earning 81 cents for every dollar a man earns. Still, HR departments and organizations everywhere should cringe every time a new statistic regarding this pay gap gets reported. How do we continue to justify paying someone less for the same work because of their gender or in my case gender and race? In case you missed it, black women fair far worse when it comes to pay inequity in the workforce.
  • The average work day isn’t what it used to be. Americans remain overworked and underpaid. According to a 2014 Gallup article called: The “40-Hour” Workweek Is Actually Longer — by Seven Hours, the 40-hour work week we all subscribe to is really a 47 hour week.  In fact, nearly 40% of full-time workers report working at least 50 hours per week.  The longer work day can be attributed to the average worker performing more than one role.

Show Me the Money or Not…

From 1979-2012 the top 1% saw a cumulative change in real annual wages of 153.6%. For the bottom 90% that change was only 17.1%. I guess more work, less money is the message.

  • Speaking of overworked, let’s talk paid benefits and I’m not talking about your medical and dental premiums. Did you know that the U.S. remains a part of a small percentage of nations that doesn’t offer some semblance of paid maternity leave, paid annual leave, or paid time off each week? I’ve always appreciated the notion of “working hard and playing hard”. However, I guess our message is work harder, play when we tell you and don’t get pregnant or sick.

Let’s Get To Work!

I share these numbers and facts to awaken HR practitioners everywhere. If it is true that we exist not only to support leadership, but to support our employees- why is this our reality in 2015? You either know someone that understands these realities all too well or you have been personally affected. Things in the world of work still suck, but it isn’t beyond us to fix them. We have a duty to ensure our people thrive. It starts with working smarter, not necessarily harder. It means getting back to a place where we pay for performance, rather than likeability.

I am certain that there are very few meetings in your organizations where you are examining the latest BLR statistics around wage or the latest report from the Economic Policy Institute on the “State of Working America”. Issues of retention, workforce planning, talent shortages and the like don’t get dealt with when we are ignorant to the economic and societal realities that impact the progress of our employees and businesses. It’s time to start examining these numbers and reports with your teams. The burden to change these things should not be completely shouldered by HR, but we should definitely be leading the charge.

 

2 comments

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for reading and sharing this on Facebook. You would be correct. It is less true now that I work for myself and have been able for the most part to garner the pay I want. When I worked for my previous employers, my salary lagged non-minority peers by at least $10,000-20,000 in annual salary.

      Best,

      Janine

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