UK Manufacturers, Tech, and Finance Fear Access to Talent Post-Brexit

UK Manufacturers, Tech, and Finance Fear Access to Talent Post-Brexit

With less than a year to go before the March 2019 deadline for finalizing a deal for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, three separate reports have come out in the past week highlighting continued anxiety among employers in key sectors about their ability to meet their labor needs in a post-Brexit environment.

First, Tech Nation 2018, the UK’s annual government report on the country’s tech sector, identified access to talent, cost of living, and Brexit as the main challenges cited by the tech community in the country’s key tech hubs of London and Cambridge. Mike Butcher at TechCrunch criticizes what he sees as the government’s attempt to downplay the elephant in the room, arguing that the report “has been heavily spun to de-emphasise the effects of Brexit on the UK tech industry”—which he says will be severe when considering the impact Brexit will have on British tech companies’ other major concerns:

In the rest of the country, access to talent was cited as the most common challenge – affecting 83% of the UK’s regional tech clusters. Access a funding was a top 3 challenge in 49% of clusters and bad transport links were also cited. Funding is clearly also Brexit-related, given that funding from the European Investment Fund has collapsed since the Brexit vote. The European Investment Bank has slashed deals with UK VCs and private equity groups by more than two-thirds, with no equivalent funding from the UK government in sight. …

However, you probably won’t get that impression from the way the report is being pitched to the media … Instead, the report is filled with heady statistics about the UK’s booming tech industry. The report also makes absolutely no mention of the effect of the UK leaving the EU’s Digital Single Market.

Another report, released on Monday by TheCityUK, an organization that promotes the UK as a global financial center, warns that losing access to European talent will have a harsh impact on the finance industry. That report, prepared in partnership with EY, urges the government to reform immigration policies to allow the sector to maintain access to a pan-European talent pool, arguing that hiring European talent after Brexit through the existing mechanisms for non-European immigrants will increase the City’s costs for hiring international staff by 300 percent. “Simply applying the current immigration system for non-European citizens to European citizens after Brexit will not work,” TheCityUK’s Chief Executive Miles Celic said in a statement carried by Reuters. In response to uncertainty over the future of UK immigration law, banks have already begun preparing to shift staff from London to other European financial centers like Frankfurt to handle their continental business.

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Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Waivers in Employment Contracts

Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Waivers in Employment Contracts

In a 5–4 ruling handed down on Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that organizations can legally require their employees to sign arbitration agreements in their work contracts and waive their right to resolve labor disputes through class-action lawsuits. The court split on ideological lines, with the five conservative justices voting to allow class action wavers and the liberal minority dissenting, the New York Times reported:

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said the court’s conclusion was dictated by a federal law favoring arbitration and the court’s precedents. If workers were allowed to band together to press their claims, he wrote, “the virtues Congress originally saw in arbitration, its speed and simplicity and inexpensiveness, would be shorn away and arbitration would wind up looking like the litigation it was meant to displace.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, a sign of profound disagreement. In her written dissent, she called the majority opinion “egregiously wrong.” In her oral statement, she said the upshot of the decision “will be huge under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well being of vulnerable workers.” Justice Ginsburg called on Congress to address the matter.

The ruling, which the Times adds could affect some 25 million employment contracts, comes nearly a year and a half after the high court agreed to hear a group of cases on the legality of arbitration clauses and class action waivers. It was not unexpected, given the court’s conservative majority and the inclinations Gorsuch and his right-leaning colleagues have shown in other labor-related cases.

Business groups and employer-side attorneys cheered the ruling, which they say will free companies from burdensome litigation and allow disputes to be resolved through the cheaper and speedier process of arbitration. Labor rights advocates expressed dismay, however, warning that it would result in a rollback of employees’ fundamental rights and would prove particularly disastrous in discrimination and harassment cases. In a Times op-ed, Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block, of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, criticize the ruling for taking away a key safety net for employees:

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It’s Not All Good News for This Year’s Graduates

It’s Not All Good News for This Year’s Graduates

Most of this year’s annual graduation season surveys in the US have indicated that the class of 2018 will enjoy a bright start to their careers, with a tight labor market and lots of demand for college-educated talent enabling them to demand the highest starting salaries in years. A new analysis from Korn Ferry, using a large data set of 310,000 entry-level positions from nearly 1,000 organizations, finds that new entrants to the professional job market this year might not be making big gains after all, notwithstanding their excellent prospects for finding a job:

Based on the analysis, 2018 college grads in the United States will make on average $50,390 annually. That is 2.8 percent more than the 2017 average ($49,000). “With the 2018 U.S. inflation rate hovering just over 2 percent, real wages for this year’s grads are virtually flat,” said Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner Maryam Morse. “However, with competition for top graduate talent so fierce, it’s critical that companies pay competitively, create an engaging culture and provide clear paths for advancement.”

In other words, this analysis points to the fundamental quandary of the US labor market right now: employers have every reason to pay more for talent, but wages aren’t growing as quickly as the law of supply and demand should compel them to.

Korn Ferry’s analysis also highlights the variation in starting salaries among major US cities: A graduate looking for work in Atlanta can expect to earn an average of just under $50,000, compared to over $60,000 in New York and nearly $64,000 in San Francisco (not adjusted for cost of living). The study also calculated average entry-level pay in various professions: A new customer service representative earns on average $35,000, an accountant $48,000, a registered nurse just under $55,000, and a software developer $67,000.

Another new report, from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, considers this graduating class’s prospects by analyzing data on recent college graduates aged 21 to 24. While EPI does not dispute the strong labor market position of these graduates compared to recent years, it also argues that the class of 2018 can and should be doing better than the class of 2007:

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Supreme Court Declines Case on Banning Dreadlocks in the Workplace

Supreme Court Declines Case on Banning Dreadlocks in the Workplace

In 2016, a US appeals court ruled against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a suit the agency had brought on behalf of Chastity Jones, a black woman who had been denied employment at the Mobile, Alabama insurance claims processing company Catastrophe Management Solutions after she refused to cut her dreadlocks in compliance with the company’s grooming policy. Absent an explicit racial dimension to the policy, the court ruled, CMS was within its rights to ban dreadlocks in general as part of its dress code.

The EEOC chose not to pursue the case further, but the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sought to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court. Last week, however, the high court said it would not take the case. The court’s refusal to hear this case is a blow to advocates who see workplace hairstyle policies like these as discriminatory in effect if not intent, as they place greater constraints on the choices black people, and particularly black women, than other employees and often penalize black employees for wearing natural hairstyles. Implicit bias against black women’s naturally textured hair is a well-documented phenomenon in American society, which causes many black women to experience pressure to artificially straighten their hair or wear hairpieces.

CMS’s dress code did not explicitly mention dreadlocks, but rather mandated grooming that reflected a “professional image” and barred “excessive hairstyles.” This suggests to Rewire’s senior legal analyst Imani Gandy that such policies as applied are not as race-neutral as they appear on paper:

First, CMS’s purported race-neutral grooming policy is anything but—since it excludes Black women’s natural hairstyles based on stereotypes that natural hairstyles are unprofessional, messy, not neat, political, radical, too eye-catching, or excessive.

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Less Talk, More Action: How to Solve the Problem of Communication Overload

Less Talk, More Action: How to Solve the Problem of Communication Overload

It’s impossible to hide from your coworkers. Whether you work in the office, from home, or at a coffee shop, any of your colleagues can instantly interrupt (and perhaps ruin) your day with a “tap on the shoulder” thanks to a plethora of communication technologies. At Bloomberg BNA Last week, Genevieve Douglas highlighted some new data illustrating the negative impact this constant onslaught of communication is having on a growing number of employees. Many are either missing critical information they need, or are considering changing employers to get away from the deluge of chatter and information.

Douglas points to a survey published in March by the communications software provider Dynamic Signal, in which half of respondents said they felt overwhelmed by the proliferation of these tools and pressured to use multiple platforms. A third of the employees surveyed said they were so stressed out by the state of communication in their workplace that they were ready to quit because of it.

Having personally tracked the reasons why employees quit with my colleague Brian Kropp for over a decade, I’m skeptical that employees will really quit because of poor communication alone. However, our latest research does substantiate the claim that providing employees with “on demand access” to information and HR solutions through more channels and new technology platforms really does hinder their performance.

Business leaders are aware of this problem of communication overload and looking to address it proactively, Natalie McCullough, general manager of MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics at Microsoft, told Douglas. When it comes to enabling employee collaboration through technology, our new research points to a useful rule of thumb: If you want to improve employees’ performance and experience at the same time, focus less on providing new ways for them to communicate and more on enabling them to act.

Adding a communication channel should not lead to more communications, but rather better communications that are ‘effortless’ to process and use. This, paradoxically, requires employers to restrict the sharing of information and communicate in ways that nudge employees to act. We call this “guided action.”

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Apple Partners with Nonprofit to Teach Coding to Blind Learners

Apple Partners with Nonprofit to Teach Coding to Blind Learners

Apple has formed a partnership with the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired to teach people with visual impairments how to code, the Chicago Tribune’s Ally Marotti reported last week:

Hadley plans to start by developing a series of free instructional videos that teach the audience how to use Apple’s Swift Playground app. The app was developed as part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code campaign, which teaches the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s programming language, Swift. …

“For a person that’s blind, (a device) is just a piece of glass,” said [Douglas Walker, Hadley’s director of assistive technology], who has only peripheral vision. “You have to learn a gesture-based system to move through it.”

Walker swiped right on his iPhone to trigger a feature that read aloud the apps he dragged his finger over — Clock, Maps, NOAA Weather. That’s where Hadley’s videos come in: They teach viewers those gestures, allowing them access to their iPhones or other Apple devices.

The institute has been teaching Braille and other skills to visually impaired people through distance learning since it was founded nearly 100 years ago. Today, Hadley’s free tutorials on how to use the accessibility features on Apple devices are more popular than its Braille offerings. A new series of videos to be released this fall will walk users through navigating the Swift Playground app, which teaches the language through coding games.

In the US, fewer than 44 percent of people with visual impairments are employed, Marotti notes, citing data from Cornell University, while bureau of Labor Statistics data show that only 2 percent of employed Americans with disabilities are working in mathematical or computer-related professions. Teaching coding skills to people who are blind or visually impaired could therefore expand opportunities for good jobs among a severely underserved segment of US adults. This initiative also stands to benefit Apple and other employers of coders by expanding the talent pool.

Last month, Fast Company‘s Lydia Dishman interviewed blind software engineer Michael Forzano, who has been working for Amazon since 2013 after getting hired through one of the company’s campus recruiting programs (he used his laptop instead of a whiteboard to write his code during the interview). Amazon also profiled Forzano in a post on its blog earlier this year, and here is a segment from an accompanying video the company produced in which he demonstrated how he writes code:

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Walmart Partners With Sharecare to Provide Wellness Tools for Employees

Walmart Partners With Sharecare to Provide Wellness Tools for Employees

Walmart and the mobile health management platform Sharecare announced a partnership earlier this month that will add a new element to the big-box chain’s wellness offering for its 1.5 million US employees. The partnership will give these employees, as well as their families, access to the Sharecare platform, which includes a variety of biometric data tools, an automated symptom checker to prepare for doctor visits, and tools for finding doctors and managing insurance claims. The program will first be introduced to participants in Walmart’s ZP Challenge wellbeing initiative:

Over the past four years, thousands of Walmart associates have transformed their lives by participating in the ZP Challenge, a series of 21-day programs that encourages and rewards associates and their families to improve their overall wellbeing by making better choices every day in the categories of fitness, family, food, and money. Building on the success of this initiative, Walmart will offer its associates using ZP with access to Sharecare, providing them with even more robust health and wellness resources to help them live their healthiest, happiest, most productive lives.

Walmart also will provide its associates and their families, alumni, and the community at large with full access to Sharecare to help each of them better understand, track, and improve their health, no matter where they are in their health journey.

The rollout to the full workforce will take place gradually over the coming few years, Sharecare president Dawn Whaley told Kathryn Mayer at Employee Benefit News. “We’ll start there [with the ZP Challenge], and then steadily scale over the next three years to engage more than 1 million users across the Walmart community,” Whaley said.

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