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From juggling compliance issues to dealing with escalating workforce costs, human resource professionals are finding more and more responsibilities on their plates. Our panel of HR leaders discusses these topics, as well as the new strategic role that HR plays within organizations of all sizes.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Dr. David Cherrington, professor of organizational leadership at Brigham Young University, for moderating the discussion.
Brian Lee, Performance Progression; Chris Thomas, Intrepid; Ann Thomas, Mercer; Karlyn Norton, Xactware; Melissa Foster, OrangeSoda; Daryl Sisk, Employer Solutions Group; Dusty Fenwick, KLAS Enterprises; David Cherrington, BYU; Monica Whalen, Employers Council; DeNeige Hess, OrangeSoda; Ginny Sorenson, Boart Longyear; Jill Carter, Carter Consulting; Elizabeth Terry Dunning, Holland & Hart; Sharon Roux, The Summit Group; Amber Damron, Adobe
How do you assess the impact of the current debt crisis on the work you do in human resource management?
NORTON: There’s already a trickle effect down to the very issue of hiring, staying on board. The key word is “entitlement.” I’ve spoken with several recruiters recently. We notice that people come and leave, and they are only there for a little while but they expect things. For a lot of the younger generation, what they want, they think they are just entitled to. It starts with government programs, and when you get down to work and employment, entitlement is messing us up.
DUNNING: I’d like to offer a different way of looking at it. People who have worked their whole lives—so not the younger generation—don’t feel that Social Security is an entitlement. After all, money has been taken out of their check every pay period for as long as they’ve worked; it was put aside, they were told, so they would have money when they retired. There’s certainly a lot of truth to that position.
Particularly in my time as an employment lawyer, I’ve seen the erosion of private pensions for employees. There was a time when, for many people, Social Security was an add-on to what his or her private pension would provide. How many people here have pension plans anymore? A 401(k), maybe.
So we have to be careful, or at least thoughtful, when we talk about Social Security as an entitlement.
NORTON: I agree with that. I’m saying that it’s a whole attitude that is affecting all aspects of life and employment. I want my Social Security and I think I deserve it, but it goes into other areas that are affecting human resource management.
SISK: Let’s be honest. People worry about jobs a lot more immediately than about the implications on their pension plan. With the pension plans and 401(k)s, we’ve seen quite a few trends to taper back or actually cut out entirely retirement plans or suspend them for a period of time with some of the companies that we work with. They all do it with the hope that they will be able to reinstitute it at a later time.
But, again, the most immediate thing people are thinking about right now are the jobs. The economy as a whole is more than anything what they are thinking about.
SORENSON: We recently did a demographic study of our population. When we created a slide of our own demographic, it clearly showed that it’s an age group issue. For those from 20 to 35, everyone had pay at the top of their list of what is important, but after that, it was career path, flexible work schedules, et cetera. From about 35 up, it was retirement, health benefits. So you can see that if you want to be the employer of choice, you have to balance those pieces.
A lot of our field population is very young. They want to see where they are going to go, careerwise. If you have a driller who is 60 interview a young man, this young person sees his dad or his grandpa and cannot see himself in the career path. What we’ve found is having someone closer to that age do the interviewing makes a big difference.
FENWICK: We target a lot of BYU students for positions that we have open. We have a lot of students who are what we call “first and third applicants.” They will apply and go through the interview process, and they will be upset if I don’t offer them an $80,000 job right out of college. Then they will go into the market and won’t find that $80,000-a-year job anywhere, and then they come back and apply again. Even after they’ve said no to us the first time, I see so many resumes coming back.
I think that entitlement goes beyond programs. We are not training our young people—and I’m not focused just on the young people, but especially our young people—we’re not helping them be prepared for what post-college is like.