Today marks the 20th annual observance of Take Your Dog to Work Day, an event launched by Pet Sitters International in 1999 to promote dog adoption by encouraging organizations to let their dog owner employees bring their canine companions to work for the day. Take Your Dog to Work Day highlights Americans’ increasing level of devotion to their pets, especially among Millennials, the largest generation of pet owners today. Rising rates of pet ownership are inspiring employers to offer benefits like pet insurance and even pet bereavement leave.
Indeed, many dog owners would love it if every day were Take Your Dog to Work Day, and some research purports to show that pet-friendly workplaces have many upsides, from increased employee engagement and loyalty to reduced stress levels and greater overall wellbeing. For instance, a new study from Nationwide and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute suggests that employers with pet-friendly workplaces enjoy greater engagement among all employees, not just dog owners, Nick Otto and Yasemin Sim Esmen report at Employee Benefit News:
According to the study, 91% of the workforce feels more fully engaged in the work compared to 65% of employees who work in a non-friendly workplace, which is defined in the study as one that allows pets in the workplace (regularly or occasionally) and/or offers a pet-friendly employee benefit, such as health insurance. One of the interesting things that the study noted was the camaraderie and positive relationships with both supervisors and coworkers (52% and 53%, respectively) at pet friendly companies versus non-pet-friendly workplaces (14% and 19%).
Still, just a fraction of US employers allow employees to bring their pets to work, but some high-profile organizations do: Amazon has allowed dogs in the office at its Seattle headquarters for about 20 years, Jennifer Calfas reports at Time, and over 1,000 dogs come to work there with their owners on a regular basis. What works for Amazon, however, may not work for all workplaces. As Calfas notes, some dogs aren’t suited to spending time in an office, while some employees will object to having them around:
Atul Gawande/Wikimedia Commons
The joint venture launched earlier this year by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to explore new ways of lowering health care costs for their employees now has a dedicated leader. Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon, medical researcher, and author of several highly regarded books on medicine who has also been a staff writer at the New Yorker for 20 years, will serve as CEO of the as-yet-unnamed organization, Fortune reported on Wednesday:
Gawande may come as an unexpected choice to lead this new health care company, whose aim is to decrease health care costs and improve outcomes for the approximately one million employees in the triumvirate’s workforce. He practices general and endocrine surgery at the renowned Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and is a researcher and professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. …
Following the Amazon-JPM-Berkshire announcement, Gawande stated that he would continue his positions at Brigham and Women’s and Harvard and will keep writing for the New Yorker even as he takes the reins of the health venture on July 9. He will, however, step away from his role as executive director of Ariadne Labs—a company he founded that focuses on health care delivery with a global health-focused bent—to become its chairman.
Few other details are publicly known about the partnership, which was announced in January, sending ripples through the stock market as pharmacy benefit managers, health insurance companies, and biotechnology firms wondered what it would mean for them. The organization Gawande has been hired to lead is an independent nonprofit based in Boston, which is expected to focus on technological solutions, data sharing, and its participants’ bargaining power as large buyers in the health care marketplace. The organization may eventually partner with other companies along with Amazon, Berkshire, and JPMorgan.
The US Department of Labor has finalized a new regulation that will enable more small businesses and self-employed Americans to buy health insurance through association health plans (AHPs), which proponents say will help lower health insurance costs for smaller employers, but which critics say undercuts the essential coverage requirements created by the Affordable Care Act. The core impact of the nearly 200-page rule is to broaden the definition of the term “employer” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), establishing new criteria under which employers can join together in an association that would still be regarded as a single “employer” for ERISA purposes. SHRM’s Stephen Miller discusses what that means for how small businesses buy group health insurance:
The broader interpretation of ERISA will let employers anywhere in the country that can pass a “commonality of interest” test join together to offer health care coverage to their employees. An association could show a commonality of interest among its members on the basis of geography or industry, if the members are either:
- In the same trade, industry or profession throughout the United States.
- In the same principal place of business within the same state or a common metropolitan area, even if the metro area extends across state lines.
Sole proprietors will be able to join small business health plans to provide coverage for themselves as well as their spouses and children.
Previously existing AHPs, which were allowed under a more limited set of restrictions, will not be affected, unless they choose to expand in ways allowed by the new rule. The rule change, which President Donald Trump ordered the department to study last year, effectively exempts AHPs from ACA regulations that apply only to individual and small group plans by allowing them to operate in the more lightly regulated large group market. These regulations include the core package of health care services known as essential health benefits, which all plans in the individual and small group market are required to include but larger plans are not.
In the latest release of its applicant tracking system, Google Hire, the tech giant has added three new features that use Google AI to reduce repetitive and time-consuming tasks, Senior Project Manager Berit Hoffmann wrote in a blog post announcing the update on Tuesday. From measuring user activity, Hoffmann noted, Google determined that Hire has already cut down the amount of time recruiters spend on common tasks like reviewing applications or scheduling interviews by up to 84 percent; the new features are intended to simplify the process even further. The new features include:
- Interview scheduling: When a user wants to schedule an interview with a candidate, Hire now uses AI to automatically suggest interviewers and time slots. The AI will also alert the recruiter if an interviewer cancels at the last minute and recommend a replacement. “This means hiring teams can invest time in preparing for interviews and building relationships with candidates instead of scheduling rooms and checking calendars,” Hoffmann writes.
- Résumé highlighting: To reduce the amount of time recruiters spend scanning candidates’ résumés for key terms, Hire will now automatically analyze the terms in a job description or search query and automatically highlight them on résumés. Google introduced this feature after observing that users were frequently using “Ctrl+F” to search for the right skills—an easily automated process.
- One-click candidate phone calls: The final feature is designed to make it easier for recruiters to reach out to candidates by phone with a click-to-call functionality. Users can call a candidate simply by clicking on their phone number, while the system will automatically log calls to keep track of which candidates have already been contacted by whom.
Google Hire was launched last July as part of the company’s G Suite of enterprise software offerings, but only for US businesses with under 1,000 employees: a deliberate decision to help level the playing field for small and mid-sized businesses that lack the dedicated recruiting resources and bespoke applicant tracking systems of their larger peers. In April, Google Hire expanded into the sourcing realm with a new “candidate discovery” feature that allows users to more easily keep track of past candidates who might be good fits for newly open positions, along with more advanced search capability to provide more relevant results based on what recruiters are actually looking for.
ERE’s Joel Cheesman sees these new AI enhancements as further evidence of the massive edge large tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft enjoy in the new era of online recruiting: “Deep integration into technologies that so many people already use daily, such as Gmail and Google Calendar, must drive traditional recruiting technology solutions crazy. Build all the Chrome extensions you want, but nothing’s ever going to be better than the stuff Google has baked itself.”
A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge, a global network of startup accelerators, takes a close look at how startups founded by woman compare to those founded by men, both in terms of how much venture capital financing they receive and how well those investments pay off. Looking at five years of investment and revenue data from the startups MassChallenge has worked with, the study found that those founded by women consistently attracted less investment, even though they actually tend to generate more revenue:
Investments in companies founded or cofounded by women averaged $935,000, which is less than half the average $2.1 million invested in companies founded by male entrepreneurs. Despite this disparity, startups founded and cofounded by women actually performed better over time, generating 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period: $730,000 compared with $662,000. In terms of how effectively companies turn a dollar of investment into a dollar of revenue, startups founded and cofounded by women are significantly better financial investments. For every dollar of funding, these startups generated 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated less than half that—just 31 cents.
The findings are statistically significant, and we ruled out factors that could have affected investment amounts, such as education levels of the entrepreneurs and the quality of their pitches. … The results, although disappointing, are not surprising. According to PitchBook Data, since the beginning of 2016, companies with women founders have received only 4.4% of venture capital (VC) deals, and those companies have garnered only about 2% of all capital invested.
This gender bias may be costly to venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs: The study calculated that VCs could have made $85 million more over five years had they invested equally in the startups founded by women and by men.
The researchers went one step further and spoke to founders, mentors, and investors to understand the origins of the gender gap in VC funding. Consistent with various other research showing that women are more likely to be challenged, questioned, and criticized in the workplace than men, they found that women founders and their presentations receive more pushback from investors than their male peers. Men are also more likely to talk back to investors when their claims are scrutinized, and to make bold, blue-sky projections in their pitches:
In the US, one in three adults, or around 70 million people, have some form of criminal records, while 20 million Americans have been convicted of a felony. These records often serve to shut otherwise qualified candidates out of all but the least-skilled and lowest-paying jobs. Black and Latino men, who make up a disproportionate share of the prison and ex-offender population, suffer the most from this barrier to employment. The inability to get a good job leaves many former prisoners with few options for escaping a life of crime, and studies have shown that gainful employment for ex-felons is one of the most effective deterrents to recidivism, which means employers play a key role in helping reintegrate former prisoners into society.
With unemployment below 4 percent, more job openings than candidates, and many US employers struggling to find the workers they need, the stigma attached to criminal backgrounds in employment now stands to harm not only individuals and communities, but also businesses. “It is morally and economically bad for our country if we do not start removing barriers that prevent returning citizens from a shot at a better life after they have paid their debt to society,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and former secretary of education Arne Duncan write in an op-ed at the Chicago Tribune. “Business should be at the forefront of solving this challenge. Frankly, it’s in our best interest to do so.”
Dimon and Duncan point to several initiatives going on in the Chicago area and around the country to create employment opportunities for ex-convicts and people at risk of being swept up in the criminal justice system:
First, Boeing and a number of other organizations are partnering on Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago initiative. This two-year program is trying to reduce gun violence by providing returning citizens and others susceptible to gun violence with employment, job training and support services. Programs like this can help reduce recidivism rates, decrease neighborhood crime and promote economic opportunity.
As machine learning algorithms are called upon to make more decisions for organizations, including talent decisions like recruiting and assessment, it’s becoming even more crucial to make sure that the performance of these algorithms is regularly monitored and reviewed just like the performance of an employee. While automation has been held up as a way to eliminate errors of human judgment from bias-prone processes like hiring, in reality, algorithms are only as good as the data from which they learn, and if that data contains biases, the algorithm will learn to emulate those biases.
The risk of algorithmic bias is a matter of pressing concern for organizations taking the leap into AI- and machine learning-enhanced HR processes. The most straightforward solution to algorithmic bias is to rigorously scrutinize the data you are feeding your algorithm and develop checks against biases that might arise based on past practices. Diversifying the teams that design and deploy these algorithms can help ensure that the organization is sensitive to the biases that might arise. As large technology companies make massive investments in these emerging technologies, they are also becoming aware of these challenges and looking for technological solutions to the problem as well. At Fast Company last week, Adele Peters took a look at Accenture’s new Fairness Tool, a program “designed to quickly identify and then help fix problems in algorithms”:
The tool uses statistical methods to identify when groups of people are treated unfairly by an algorithm–defining unfairness as predictive parity, meaning that the algorithm is equally likely to be correct or incorrect for each group. “In the past, we have found models that are highly accurate overall, but when you look at how that error breaks down over subgroups, you’ll see a huge difference between how correct the model is for, say, a white man versus a black woman,” [Rumman Chowdhury, Accenture’s global responsible AI lead,] says.