Weekly Wrap: A Little Help Coping With Workplace Rules & Regulations

I’ve attended quite a few HR and talent management-related conferences this spring, but the one that really got my brain going came wrapped up in the wonderfully warm, dry Arizona desert right before the heat of the summer kicks in.

Yes, it was in that marvelously pleasant environment that Littler Mendelson, the largest U.S. labor and employment law firm, had their annual Executive Employer Conference.

It was two days of panels, presentations, and discussions that were forthright and fascinating, and although the subjects might be different, the underlying message from all of them was basically the same:

There’s a lot of regulation and legislation coming out of Washington right now, and more to come, so you better be on your toes and ready to deal with it before it deals with you. 

Coping with the steady drumbeat of rules and regulations

Although nobody at the Littler conference really put it in those terms, it’s what all of us have been feeling, for several years under the Obama Administration, and just the titles for some of the sessions I attended should give you a better sense of what I’m talking about:

  • Who’s that Knocking on the Door? Preparing for and Responding to DOL Investigations;
  • The EEOC’s New Strategic Enforcement Plan — Critical Challenges Faced by Employers;
  • The Affordable Care Act — Critical Next Steps for Employers;
  • Social Hiring and Firing: How To Use Social Media Content for Employment Decisions Without Getting Burned;
  • New Challenges in the Hiring Process — An Employer’s Guide to Sorting Through this Legal Maze;
  • Time to Exhale? Wage and Hour Class Action Litigation Results in 2013; and,
  • Labor Crisis — The NLRB Targets Nonunion and Union Employers, Significantly Expanding Its Reach During a Tumultuous Time.

Now, these aren’t all the sessions listed in the conference agenda, but this is a pretty good cross-section of the types of discussions that were taking place, and all of them seem to have the same seed at their core — there are lots and lots of new rules and regulations coming out of Washington that you need to be ready for.

Skeptics out there might say, “Jeez John, this is a legal conference, isn’t it? Shouldn’t you expect to get content like this?”

Government is getting more involved in the workplace

My answer to that is, yes, I do expect to get stuff like this at a legal conference, but not with such a singular focus. The fact is, I’ve attended the Littler Executive Employer Conference in the past, but it has been a few years and I don’t recall past events having such a strong emphasis on what employers should be doing to deal with all that Washington is sending their way.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, especially me. I frequently get asked about current HR and talent management issues in the news, and when I do, I almost always mention the steady drumbeat of regulations coming from various federal agencies, and how this speaks to both the agenda of the current presidential administration as well as the inability of Congress to do much of anything except argue and procrastinate.

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But, wrapped into all of this legal content is a message that anyone who manages employees needs to remember — whether it is all the new regulations that are wrapped into Obamacare, the tsunami of decisions coming from the NLRB, the latest push from the EEOC, or the drive to over-regulate workplace social media interactions, government, at virtually every level, is getting more and more involved in the workplace.

You better be ready to adjust as needed, or else you may just get run over.

And the way to keep from getting run over is to stay informed by the many workplace actions and issues flowing from government and the courts. We cover a lot of that here at TLNT, of course, but Littler Mendelson has quite a bit of current information here on their website as well as in places like their Workplace Privacy Counsel and other workplace-related blogs.

I hope to attend the Littler Executive Employer Conference in Arizona again next year, because somehow, I don’t think the government is going to slow their regulatory zeal and workplace focus any time soon.

Lessons about today’s employment from Mad Men

Of course, there’s a lot more than legal conferences and the drumbeat of regulations from Washington in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • A new employer-employee contract? Everyone knows that the old employer-employee contract is long dead and gone, but as a story in the May issue of the Harvard Business Review points out, “You can’t have an agile company if you give employees lifetime contracts — and the best people don’t want one employer for life anyway. But you can build a better compact than ‘every man for himself.’ In fact, some companies are doing so.” And they add that, “The time has come, we believe, for a new employer-employee compact.” How this might work is pretty interesting, and, well worth a read.
  • Employees assume bosses track their work. This won’t come as any great surprise, but a new survey highlighted in the Los Angeles Times makes clear that, “Workers spend more than half an hour each day shopping for new clothing, exchanging instant messages with friends and taking care of other personal matters on their work computers. That was one of the findings of a survey of 300 full-time workers by SpectorSoft Corp., which sells computer monitoring software to employers. About 60 percent of workers surveyed said they used their computers at work for non-work activities. A Salary.com survey last year found a similar percentage of workers use their work computers to browse the Web for personal reasons.”
  • What Mad Men can teach us about employment today. According to the Fox & Hounds daily newsletter, “Mad Men is one of the few television programs, outside of the work-based reality programs, that takes employment and business seriously.” And it adds, “If the job market has changed, Mad Men of the 1960s (now in season 6, we’re up to 1968) has lessons for employment that are relevant today.”
  • Best friends are made in foxholes — and stressful offices. This story in the British newspaper The Guardian has an interesting premise: office stress helps bond employees to each other. “Far from falling out with each other or being cut-throat rivals for the next promotion, office friendships are closer and more emotional than any other,” the newspaper notes. “Even workers who seem to have little in common can become best friends. And far from the back biting of contestants on television hit The Apprentice, workmates can become best friends in the face of adversity,” a study claims.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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