It’s that time of year when HR nerds get together and talk policy and legislation at the SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference.
I’m not going to lie, it’s my favorite event on the calendar because it affirms my career-long thesis that HR sits at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. I always walk away smarter when I attend that conference, too.
Here are the issues on my mind. I’d love to hear HR professionals, consultants and academics talk about these issues a little more.
The workforce is too surveilled. From assessments to genetic testing to the internet of things, your boss knows more about you than you know about your CEO. I used to think transparency was a two-way street, but now I realize that I’m naive. While nobody has a right to privacy when committing unlawful acts, I fear that it will soon be illegal to do anything other than work fifty hours a week and keep your mouth shut. I hope the “human” part of human resources will advise employers that there’s a fine line between risk management and stalking.
People drop out of the workforce because they can’t afford to work. People are underemployed or working as contractors because it just doesn’t pay to show up for work and get hassled for less and less money. Lots of people like to blame Obama and regulations. I blame executives who are motivated by cash but tell the average worker that happiness has a threshold that caps around $75,000. Want to pay somebody less but offer a culture of happiness? Let’s put that to the test on the executive spectrum.
We work too much. I love being American, and I don’t want to be Italian or French. But I might like a government that supports the mental and physical health of its citizens. If Congress wants to increase its approval rating, it can win me over with mandatory paid leave.
Finally, I’m paying attention to the overall health and wellbeing of women in the workplace. It’s not like women’s health care rights are being challenged, and it’s not as if women are asked to perform their job duties in hostile work environments.
Human resources professionals sit on the front lines of work, power, politics and money. But they also sit on the front lines of intensely personal issues that affect workers to their core. It’s time to start treating our employees like humans — with wholly differentiated lives — and not commodities. And it’s time to create a better work experience for women.
I hope everybody at the SHRM event has a good time. I’ll be watching from the sidelines. Please channel good and creative solutions this way, and I’ll do my part to share and evangelize innovative ideas.