Relocation Could Rise With Home Prices

With the recent report on home prices showing the biggest year-over-year gain in more than six years, one employment authority predicts a surge in relocation by job-seeking homeowners in 2013, which could ultimately help to accelerate the decline in unemployment rates.

“One factor that has kept unemployment rates high has been the inability of underwater homeowners to relocate for employment opportunities.  With home prices bouncing back, even those who may now simply break even on a home sale might consider moving to a region where jobs are more plentiful.  This could spark a more rapid decline in the unemployment rate over the next year,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

As of December, there were still more than 130 metropolitan areas where the unemployment rate stood at 8.0 percent or higher and nearly 50 where the rate was at or above 10 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Meanwhile, there are about 20 metropolitan areas where unemployment is below 4.5 percent.

“It is likely that employers in these low-unemployment regions are actually struggling to find available workers with the skills need to fill job openings,” said Challenger.

Get the full report here.

Romance Rocks The Office


The approach of Valentine’s Day may have many human resource managers on the lookout for any evidence of budding or ongoing romances between co-workers or, even worse, between a worker and supervisor. With some surveys indicating that as many as 60 percent of co-workers, casually dating, hooking up and/or finding love in the workplace, it is an issue that keeps many human resource executives up at night. “Office romances are fraught with pitfalls that can impact workplace harmony, productivity, more and, in some cases, the bottom line if they end badly and a lawsuit is filed,” noted workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Despite the pitfalls, 35 percent of employers in a 2007 Challenger survey had no formal policy regarding romance between co-workers. The survey revealed that while many companies discourage such relations, others simply maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The growth of social media and networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are helping co-workers find each other and interact under-the-radar. A host of new social apps specifically designed to facilitate romance or more casual “hook-ups” between friends, work colleagues, or even married people, could create even more challenges for human resources professionals trying to keep a lid on workplace romance.

Should employers try to prevent workplace romance? Is there an upside to allowing co-workers to be romantically involved? What guidelines should romantically-involved co-workers follow to prevent any negative impact on the workplace?

Worst Flu Season In 10 Years Could Cost Billions

With three months remaining in what is already being called the worst flu season in a decade, employers around the country are undoubtedly feeling the financial impact of increased health care costs and widespread absenteeism.  Making matters worse, according to one workplace authority, is the tendency of employees concerned about job security to keep coming to the office despite their apparent illness.

“The economy is still on shaky ground and many workers continue to be worried about losing their jobs, despite the fact that annual layoffs are at the lowest level since the late 1990s.  In this environment, workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days.  Of course, this has significant negative consequences for the workplace, where the sick worker is not only performing at a reduced capacity but also likely to infect others,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that, on average, seasonal flu outbreaks cost the nation’s employers $10.4 billion in direct costs of hospitalizations and outpatient visits.  That does not include the indirect costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism.  Continue reading

November Job Cuts Reach 57,081

Job cuts increased for the third consecutive month in November, as employers announced plans to shed 57,081 workers from their payrolls.  That was up 20 percent from the previous month when announced layoffs totaled 47,724, according to the latest report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

November cuts were 34 percent higher than the 42,474 job cuts announced by employers in the eleventh month of 2011.  Last month was only the fourth time this year that job cuts exceeded 50,000.

Employers have now announced 490,806 job cuts this year.  Despite the faster pace of downsizing as the year comes to a close, the year-to-date total is 13 percent lower than the 564,297 job cuts announced through November 2011.

The November surge was led by the food industry, which saw 19,709 cuts during the month.  The bulk of those resulted from the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands which, after years of declining sales of its high-calorie snack cakes in a more health-conscious America, was forced to shutter its operations and dismiss all 18,500 employees.

The next largest job-cutting industry was the computer sector, which announced 3,313 job cuts in November.  That was up 208 percent from the 1,076 announced by these firms in October.  The computer industry remains the top job-cut industry for the year, with a total of 45,060 announced layoffs since January.  About 60 percent of those cuts, however, were the result of the 27,000 job cuts announced by Hewlett-Packard in May.

Get the full report here.

Hurricane Sandy Impact To Be Felt Nationwide


Hurricane Sandy has not even made landfall yet, but the economic impact of the storm is already mounting.  The biggest financial toll will come in the wake of the storm, when the clean-up begins.  However, with thousands of companies along the eastern seaboard already closed in preparation for the storm, including the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, as well as thousands of flights cancelled and railway transportation halted, the storm is already costing the economy millions in lost output, productivity and consumer spending.  “The effects of the storm could be felt well after the last cloud passes, as power outages and structural damage take days or weeks to repair,” noted John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  “If there is any silver lining in all the destruction the storm is expected to cause, it’s that such storms tend to provide a boost to the economy in their wake.  After the initial shocks to the economy related to lost output and productivity, we will probably see an employment surge in construction, skilled trades and other professions needed to help repair the damage.  There will also be an increase in business and consumer spending and companies and homeowners replace damaged equipment, household items, etc.  While much of it will be paid for with insurance money, the injection of money into the economy will be beneficial nonetheless,” he added.  Are there any steps east coast companies can take to lessen the impact of the storm on productivity?  How will consumers and companies in other parts of the country feel the economic impact of the storm?  What opportunities for economic growth will exist after the storm?

Retention At Issue With A Workplace Bully


Civility in the workplace is an ever-growing issue, as animosity between coworkers stemming from personality conflicts, differing work styles, or competition can result in a wide variety of workplace problems, ranging from lost productivity and higher turnover to increased and open hostility. Managers can no longer afford to look the other way during office conflict, says workplace authority John A. Challenger, CEO of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “Hostility can lead to childish behavior, unreasonable requests on co-workers or managers, unfinished projects, and in the extreme case, workplace violence. Additionally, as hiring slowly begins to pick up, talent will start to look for greener pastures, especially if their current workplaces are toxic. The issue really becomes about retention.” According to a 2012 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 68 percent of workplaces do not have a policy regarding workplace bullying. How can managers control an outbreak of incivility? What can employers do to boost morale in the office?  

Job Stress Could Be Big Problem For Troubled Airlines

Update 4/2/2012: U.S. airlines are performing at the highest level in 22 years, according to a joint study by Purdue University and Wichita State University,0,4579423.story

Yesterday, a JetBlue flight originating in New York and heading to Las Vegas made an emergency landing after its veteran pilot Clayton Osbon began acting erratically. Earlier this month, a flight attendant for American Airlines, which is currently in bankruptcy and just announced it would need to cut 13,000 employees pending approval from the bankruptcy court, disrupted a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago, ranting about the plane’s crashing and making references to 9-11. Both incidents come after years of turmoil in the airline industry, due to the high cost of fuel, competition, cost of increased security – the bulk of which the government passed to the airlines – and many airlines merging or folding. “Both of these events could be medical in nature and have nothing to do with the current state of those airlines. However, the industry has seen massive changes and huge job cuts announcements in recent years. Workers are worried about their jobs, and with the situation overseas, possibly worried about their security. No doubt workers in the transportation, specifically air transport, are feeling increased amounts of stress, and incidents such as these only add to the pressure,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Since January 2011, airlines have announced over 18,000 job cuts, mostly due to acquisitions, bankruptcy or cost-cutting. How can employees cope with uncertainty in their jobs? Workers can take control of their situations by shoring up their resume, reconnecting with their professional networks, and seeking solace from their colleagues. Additionally, workers can display their indispensability to their employers. “Showing employers you are indispensable is good for job security. However, if workers are feeling stress to the point of breaking, it may be beneficial for their employers to survey the workforce or implement programs to gauge and boost morale. While these incidents may be isolated, it would be best to know for sure that it is not widespread.”

For employers:

Bring people together. It’s best not to ignore negative situations. An informal social gathering or meal together will allow workers to develop a new sense of team and purpose.

Check with individual employees. Meet with each of your employees as soon after an incident. Take time to explore their emotions and see how they are adjusting.

Take Employee Pulse. Boosting employee morale starts with knowing where morale stands. Find out how workers are feeling or what areas of the job are causing stress. Create a plan to combat these issues and ease job stress. It may be necessary to involve a professional counselor.

Give rewards.  A little praise goes a long way. Acknowledge and praise past contributions to the organization. Institute “Summer Fridays” allowing workers to leave early, give gift cards for outstanding work, use sporting events to start office pools, wear jerseys or order pizza.

For employees:

Bring people together.  Today, diversity is more than a buzzword.  Companies value people at all skill levels who can ameliorate differences among groups.  Often the ability to resolve conflicts comes from experience in community and volunteer work.  Companies rely on coalition builders in an increasingly team-oriented workplace.

Look for trouble.  Adopting an employer attitude towards problem solving and seeking out difficult assignments is a sure way for employees to get noticed.  Individuals who gear their work lives in this direction can help make themselves “untouchable” during a downsizing or reorganization.

Non-stop learning.  Enthusiastic employees who are eager to learn, especially in the areas of technology and global business issues, are more likely to find a secure niche within their companies.  Employers place high value on an employee who soaks up new information and uses it to enhance the job.

Cross job borders.  People who display flexibility and perform several tasks well often can do the jobs of two or more employees, saving payroll.  The most valued employees, no matter the size of the company, take the initiative to obtain additional work assignments; they do not wait to be assigned extra tasks.

Employers Want Access To Your Facebook!

As employers become increasingly selective about whom they hire, it appears that some are taking the bold step of asking applicants for full access to their Facebook profiles, according to this article from the AP, which means handing over one’s username and password.  It is unclear how widespread this trend is, but one thing is clear: while social media has been a boon to job seekers’ ability to expand and utilize their network, there are many pitfalls associated with these sites that can derail a successful job search.  Job search authority John A. Challenger, CEOof global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., says employers should not have the right to ask for usernames and passwords and that candidates should refused to do so, but admits that not complying is likely to result in being eliminated from consideration.  That is, unless states enact laws to protect job applicants’ right to privacy.  “That being said, there are plenty of people out there who leave their social media profiles open for all to see.  It is important to understand that more and more employers are looking at whatever they can to inform the hiring decision.  Whether it is a photo from a college party posted on Facebook or incendiary comment on Twitter, employers are looking for anything that reveals more than candidates typically share in interviews.  Even a seemingly innocent remark on some social or political issue could put your candidacy at risk, if the hiring manager doesn’t happen to agree with your point of view.”  Should employers be allowed to ask for access to the non-public areas of one’s social media profile?  How should job seekers respond to such requests?  What can job seekers do to maximize the use of social media for the job search while minimizing the risk? 

Survey Finds Many Self-Identify As Addicted To The Internet

An online, non-scientific survey from SodaHead found that 61 percent of 602 respondents feel they are addicted to the internet. That may not be so surprising, given the survey was conducted online. More women than men felt they were addicted with 64 percent versus 55 percent. Teenagers reported themselves the biggest addicts with 73 percent. Older respondents, those aged between 45 and 54, reported 40 hours of browsing per week, but said they were not addicted, while teens reported 22.3 hours online. How could American’s internet addiction impact productivity in the workplace?  What can employers do keep workers focused on their responsibilities?  

Companies Concerned About Retention

With the economy slowly recovering, a new survey of human resources executives reveals that employers are increasingly concerned about losing their top talent to other companies.  As a result, many employers are bringing back some of the perks that were cut during the recession and others are introducing new ones to attract and retain the best workers.

In the survey conducted by global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., 42 percent of respondents said they were growing more concerned about other companies poaching top talent, as the economy improves.  Meanwhile, nearly 49 percent of respondents said the poaching of talent is always a concern, even in a recession.

“Even in a downturn with widespread layoffs, companies still need talent.  In fact, this may be the most important time for employers to hold on tight to their highest skilled workers.  However, as the economy improves, companies could be worried not only about other employers poaching their best workers, but also about their top talent actively seeking new opportunities,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Such an exodus may be just over the horizon.  A recent survey by MetLife found that nearly 40 percent of all employees hope to work for a different employer in the next 12 months.  Another study, this one from the Corporate Leadership Council, found that 25 percent of high-potential employees (a.k.a. top performers) intend to leave their current employer within the year.

In order to hang on to their talent, more and more companies are reinstating perks that were cut or eliminated because of the economic downturn that began in late 2007.  According to the Challenger survey, 39 percent of respondents said their companies were forced to reduce or eliminate perks during the recession. 

With the economy starting to spring back, about 18 percent of those polled said their companies have been able to restore all pre-recession perks.  Another 41 percent have brought back some of the perks that were cut or eliminated.  Nearly one quarter (23.5 percent) of those surveyed indicated that they have introduced some entirely new perks. 

“Whether it’s something simple, like free bagels in the lunch room every morning, or something more substantial, such as tuition reimbursement or flexible scheduling, these perks can be an essential part of worker morale and job satisfaction.  Companies that are frequently identified as ‘the best places to work’ typically offer a variety of unique and well-regarded perks,” noted Challenger.

“Nice perks alone are not enough to instill worker loyalty.  In other words, a company can’t make up for mistreating employees with a free gym membership.  But in companies where perks are an extension of a corporate culture that views its workers as partners or team members and not cogs in the machinery, employees are more likely to feel valued, engaged and happy,” he added.

The Challenger survey found that the perk most effective in retaining top talent is the performance-based bonus, selected by nearly 80 percent of respondents.  About 70 percent of respondents said 401(k) with employer contributions was an effective perk.  Other effective perks included vacation/personal time (49 percent); wellness-related benefits (43 percent); flexible schedules (40 percent); and tuition reimbursement (27 percent).

“Cash is still king.  Bonuses are always going to be popular because it conveys to employees that they are an integral part of the team and that their performance directly impacts the bottom line, so when the company does well because of their hard work, they are rewarded with extra money.  But many companies are also finding success with low-cost and no-cost perks,” said Challenger.

Offering employees opportunities to telecommute is one example of a no-cost perk that is popular among workers.  About one in four human resource executives surveyed by Challenger said telecommuting is effective in boosting retention.  And many companies find that it is not only no-cost; it actually results in cost savings, as employers are able to reduce their need for physical space.

“Other amenities, such as casual work attire, early dismissal on Fridays during the summer, and pet-friendly offices are just a few more examples of perks that are extremely popular among workers and, because they add no costs to the bottom line, companies are not forced to cut them in rough times,” said Challenger.

These types of fringe benefits seem to be in line with what employees want.  A 2008 survey by found the most popular benefits outside of monetary compensation are professional development, the ability to work from home, an additional week of vacation and a flexible work schedule.

 It appears that companies are listening.  A January survey of chief financial officers by Robert Half found that 33 percent of companies plan to offer or already offer subsidized training and education.  More than one-quarter (27 percent) will offer flexible work hours/telecommuting.  Another 25 percent will provide mentoring programs.

Flexible scheduling is another example of a low-cost perk that could end up benefitting a company’s bottom line.  Big box retailer Best Buy recently implemented a results-only-work-environment (ROWE) at its corporate headquarters.  The program gives employees much more control over their work schedules by basically saying, “We don’t care when, where or how your work gets done, as long as it gets done and the quality of the work meets expectations.” 

An independent study of the program conducted by a pair of sociology professors found that implementation of ROWE reduced turnover by 45 percent—after controlling for multiple factors like job level, organizational tenure, job satisfaction, income adequacy, job security and other turnover intentions.


As the economy improves, are
you growing more concerned about other companies poaching your top talent?

This is always a concern, even in a down economy


Yes, we are increasingly concerned about talent poaching


No, there is no evidence that
competitors are trying to lure away our talent



Was your company forced to
reduce or eliminate any perks due to the recession?






If forced to reduce/eliminate perks, has your company been
able to restore any of them?

Some of them


We have introduced new perks/benefits


All of them


None of them



Which perks are most effective in retaining your top

(Respondents were able to select multiple answers, so results equal more
than 100%)

Performance bonuses


401K with employer contribution


Vacation/personal time


Flexible schedules


Health/wellness programs


Tuition reimbursement






Onsite childcare or subsidized childcare


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.©