Minimum Wage Increases, Lost Jobs, and CEO Pay

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On May 15, Milwaukee fast food workers struck demanding, among other things, an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

However, many in the retail industry argue that increasing the minimum wage will not only limit job creation, but cost jobs as well.

In April, McDonald's more than tripled the pay packages last year for its new CEO Don Thompson and the man he replaced, Jim Skinner.

So, if the minimum wage increase cost jobs, wouldn't enormous pay increases for the CEO have the same effect?

The Employment Dilemma of Summer Teaching

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, May 24, 2013

For most academic institutions, it is the summer break.  Many students are away from campus pursuing that internship or summer employment that will boost their resume, or simply  taking some time for a little rest and relaxation.

One of the interesting employment dilemmas for colleges and universities involves summer teaching.  They want to serve the interests of students by offering a diverse array of classes so that a student can get ahead if he or she wishes to graduate early, or so a student who may have withdrawn from, or failed a class can make those credits up.

However, many faculty are on 9-months contract that covers only fall and spring semesters.  Summer teaching provides an additional stipend or an opportunity to offer a class that might not typically fit into the semester rotation.  Yet, there are opportunity costs - teaching in the summer takes time away from leisure, time away from family, or, for many, time needed to work on research and scholarship that could not fit into a busy semester schedule of teaching, service to the college or university through committee governance, and advising.

The challenge for many academic institutions is to find the price point that will be attractive to students to take away their own opportunity costs of leisure and/or summer employment, yet offering a stipend significant enough to entice a faculty member to incur those opportunity costs, while providing an additional source of revenue to meet budgetary demands.  

For some colleges, the stipend offered might be a percentage of salary, say 6-8%.  For others, it might be based on some combination of academic rank and student enrollment (i.e., a full stipend if some threshold is reached, say 8 students, but only 75% of that amount if only 6 students are enrolled).  

With the latter, the situation is complicated by when the college sets that enrollment date.  Does the college set it two weeks prior to the start of the summer session, and risk the enrollment numbers dropping by the time the class begins, resulting in less revenue for the institution?  

Or, does the college base the enrollment on those remaining in the class after the drop/add deadline, and shift the risk to the faculty member?  That faculty member might have reached the full threshold by the first day of class, only to find his or her stipend reduced, through no fault of his or her own, when some students drop the class.

Just another HR challenge faced by your colleges and universities every year.

What Should A Recent Grad Do If He/She Hates the Job Immediately?

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sadly, a 2013 college graduate writes:

 So I am coming to you for some advice. I started a job on the Monday after graduation. And I can honestly say it is the most boring thing I have done in my life. I almost dread going to work in the morning and it is only day 4 tomorrow. 8 hour days seem to last forever and I just know it is not going to get better. However, I dont just want to give up right away because I know it may reflect bad on me on when I search for jobs in the future. What do you think I should do? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you so much. 

It is disappointing and annoying to see a former student full of vim and vigor, ready to take on the world, get stifled so quickly.  So what could this graduate do to improve the situation?

Keep quiet - At the very least, don't go posting on Twitter or Facebook about the situation.  You don't want to see bridges burning already.

Bide one's time - Give the job 30 or 60 days before giving up.  While you do not think it will get any better, perhaps it'll take some time before the job grows on you.  New challenges could arise in the next few weeks that could turn the situation around to a more positive one.

Find other opportunities at work - Is there something else you could be doing at work that might make you happier?  Are there other things not being done at the workplace where you could thrive.  Show initiative and see if there is a new challenge you could be taking on.

Find a mentor - He/she could find someone to guide him/her through the organizational mindfields.    Find a person who might be able to providing coaching and advice about the job.

Find a friend - If you are frustrated, are their others feeling the same way?  Misery loves company.  At the very least, you have someone to share the experience with you that may make the time seem less like drudgery.  Make the best of a bad situation.

Reevaluate - Try to think about what went wrong before you took the job.  Did the organization make promises that they are no longer living up to?  Were you given a realistic job preview?  Is there a mismatch between what you were told and what is occurring on the job?  Were there questions you wish you asked prior to taking the job?  Use this situation to prepare yourself for the next opportunity, so that you are not caught off guard the next time around.

Chime in.  What other advice do you have for this recent graduate?

We'll Never Get Selection Right...Reason #247

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If you wonder why I continually write about sports and HR, take the trials and tribulations of former Detroit Lions 2nd round pick, Titus Young.  In Monday's column, Peter King highlights Young's on- off-the-field actions over the past year:
• Got into a fight with teammate and safety Louis Delmas.
• In at least one game, lined up wrong on purpose multiple times because he wasn't happy with his role in the Detroit offense.
• Shouted at receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on the sidelines.
• Was sent home during the regular season for insubordination.
• Was cut by the Lions.
• Was signed by the Rams, then cut by the Rams eight days later.
• Was stopped in California for making an illegal left turn, charged on suspicion of DUI, and arrested hours later for attempting to steal his own car from a police impounding lot.  (That's right....arrested twice in the span of 15 hours)
• Was arrested for suspected burglary, and charged with resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer.
Today, it was reported that Young has a brain disorder, but one has to wonder how much is real (which, if true, I hope Young gets the help he needs), or how much is it a father trying to protect his son.

Nonetheless, it demonstrates the vagaries of the selection process.  Young was the 44th pick in 2011.  The Lions had hours of game tape to evaluate his work performance.  He was prodded and poked at NFL combines.  He was interviewed over and over and over again.  Young was suspended for much of his sophomore year at Boise State after getting into a fight with a teammate. He was a first round talent who dropped in the draft because other teams considered him a risk based on the character flaws.  Yet, the Lions selection committee chose to take him over such talent as Randall Cobb or Torrey Smith (who both have had much more successful careers with the Packers and Ravens, respectively, while being picked later).

"Scout to me before Titus Young was drafted, 'I don't know if he'll ever be in trouble, but he's just not a good person.' ''
-- @Schottey, Bleacher Report NFL writer Michael Schottey, on Sunday.

Given the time, energy, and resources at the team's disposal, they still get it wrong.....a lot.  If an NFL team can't get it right, why should we expect most HR generalists with a one or two page application process, a small battery of tests, and an antiquated ATS to do it any better?

R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen - The Most Engaged Employee Ever?

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, May 9, 2013

© Rex Features / Chaz Gerretsen

It was with great sadness that I read this week about the passing of Ray Harryhausen, one of the icons of my youth. 

If the name is not familiar to you, you might at least be familiar with his special effects work in such films as Mighty Joe Young, It Came From the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Mysterious Island, One Million Years BC, and Clash of the Titans.  My personal favorites that I cherished as a youth were Jason & the Argonauts and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. 

And what makes him the most engaged employee ever?  He was a pioneer of stop-motion filmmaking.  Unlike the CGI work today, stop-motion filmmaking was a painstaking process requiring you to stage a scene and take a picture.  Then, you move an arm, and/or a leg, and/or a sword, and take another picture.  Repeat.  Given that the typical film speed is 24 frames per second, the ability to turn those micromovements into the illusion of motion is extremely time-consuming.

Take, for example, his work in the aforementioned Jason & the Argonauts.  To create the battle with the skeleton army, it took Harryhausen nearly four months, working seven days a week, mostly alone, to create the scenes.  Some days, he was only able to get 13 entire frames, less than a second of film, completed.

So, the next time an employee is complaining about the difficulty of their job.  Point him or her to the work of Mr. Harryhausen, and see if he/she will continue to be upset about his or her work.

Rest in peace.

The NFL Draft and Risk v. Reward when Finding an Employee

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, May 6, 2013

Caught this tidbit on the St. Louis Rams draft in Peter King's Monday Morning QB column at
Many have said the Rams are going to have one of these risky high picks -- Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree -- blow up on them, the way Pacman Jones and Albert Haynesworth blew up on Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. I didn't use it in the story for space reasons, but COO Kevin Demoff admitted to me that it was likely that one of these days they'd have an issue with one of the high-risk guys, and it was simply the cost of doing business when you take a talented player who has had issues.
For most NFL teams, draft picks are like gold.  With only 7 rounds, they are, for the most part, scarce items.    They represent opportunity: to fill a position of leverage in a improve the quality of one's team.  First and second round picks are even more valuable as they are one's you can least afford to gamble on. 

As an employment strategy, do you agree with the approach by COO Demoff?    Is the price of landing that top-notch talent worth it if it doesn't payoff?

Time to Change How We Choose Talent in the NBA and NFL

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, May 3, 2013

Over the past week, two major events in talent management occurred in the NFL and NBA

Sunday, April 28 was the deadline for, basically, those basketball players who still have at least one year of college eligibility remaining to declare for the NBA draft. Similarly, this past weekend saw the 7 round NFL draft.

Unlike most organizations, where employers can choose to hire whomever they want at whatever rate of pay they want, and applicants can choose to apply at organizations where they want to work, the NBA and NFL have a restricted model of employment.  Instead of choosing one's employer, candidates must declare they are ready to turn from amateur athlete into a professional, and are subject to the whims of the professional teams if they are to be selected.  However, there is a risk involved, particularly for the player - once you make that declaration, in most instances, you cannot return to the amateur ranks.

This past weekend, 21 out of 73 (28.8%) early NFL entrants went undrafted.  This was only a slight improvement over 2012, where 20 out of 64 (31.3%) were not chosen.  The NFL has put in place a draft advisory committee to give advice about where players may potentially be drafted, but, in many instances, the advice is either misguided or goes unheeded.

Currently, few (if any) prospective NFL players take advantage of NCAA rule
In football, an enrolled student-athlete (as opposed to a prospective student-athlete) may enter the National Football League draft one time during his collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his intention to resume intercollegiate participation within 72 hours following the National Football League draft declaration date.  The student-athlete's declaration of intent shall be in writing to the institution's director of athletics.  (Adopted: 10/31/02, Revised: 4/14/03, 12/15/06)
The NBA draft rules are just as convoluted.  The NCAA’s rule is that any player that has entered the NBA Draft with eligibility remaining and that hasn’t signed with an agent must withdraw their name from consideration by April 28th or lose their collegiate eligibility.  Once that April 28th date passes, you can choose not to be drafted, but you cannot return to college and play.  Further, the NBA has instituted an age rule regarding eligibility:
  • All drafted players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft.  To determine whether a player is eligible for a given year's draft, subtract 19 from the year of the draft. If the player was born during or before that year, he is eligible.
  • Any player who is not an "international player", as defined in the CBA, must be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class.
With the April 28 date now passed, 46 players with college eligibility remaining joined 31 international players, as well as a bevy of college seniors, to enter a selection system with just two rounds and only 60 slots.  Quite a few are going to walk away disappointed.

Its understand why the rules exist....the NBA players union want to protect veteran players, and a greater influx of younger talent means less potential slots for older ones.  For college coaches, they want to better be able to project what their roster will look like for the upcoming year and plan for scholarships.

However, why should the player suffer with regard to bad advice.

So, here is what I propose:

1.  Eliminate all restrictions on who a team can draft. 

If an NBA or NFL team with the first pick wants to draft a high school player or one with college eligibility, let them.  That player can choose to sign with the team or not.

2.  However, the teams retains all rights to any player drafted only in the first round until their college eligibility is used up.

By maintaining rights to that player, even for years on end, they are able to hold on to a valuable asset.  That player can sign with the team, or they can also trade him away, if they are unable to sign him.  It would also be interesting to see some teams drafting later in the first round gamble on a player who may not turn pro initially.

3.  Eliminate the transfer rule of a player sitting out a year if he transfers.
Players might have signed with a school expecting minutes to be available to play based on a player likely entering the draft early.  Now, if a player doesn't go pro, he has the opportunity to play elsewhere without having to sit out a year.  Further, coaches are able to change schools without having to sit out a year.  The same luxury should be extended to players.

In sum, most players turn pro early because they anticipate being picked in the first round of the draft where money is guaranteed.  Further, it is extremely unlikely that any player chosen in the first 15 picks is going to turn down the money available to him.  Finally, players who did not get chosen in the round they expected can return to school without being penalized for poor advice.