Microsoft announced on Thursday that it was launching a free version of its workplace chat and collaboration tool Microsoft Teams for groups of 300 people or fewer, the Seattle Times reported. The move puts the Redmond, Washington-based software giant in more direct competition with Slack, the startup whose popular group chat system operates on a similar “freemium” model. Previously, Teams was only available to subscribers of the Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of productivity software; the premium version remains tied to the 365 suite, but smaller organizations are now able to try out the free version and choose whether to subscribe and upgrade.
Like Slack, the free version of Teams puts some restrictions on what users can do, but the restrictions are different. Slack’s free version allows for an unlimited number of users but limits these groups to 5 GB of storage space and only lets them save and search up to 10,000 messages. Teams limits the number of free users but does not limit how many messages they can save. It also gives them more storage space than Slack: 10 GB for the group, plus 2 GB per user for personal storage. The free version also includes the platform’s built-in integrations with Microsoft Office and unlimited integrations with third-party business apps, TechCrunch adds.
LinkedIn’s latest round of updates to its job posting tool includes features designed to help smaller organizations without dedicated recruiting functions to more easily source and track qualified candidates, Monica Lewis, Head of Product at Linkedin Jobs, announced on the professional networking platform’s Talent Blog last week:
Now, when you post a job on LinkedIn, these new features will work to deliver a pool of relevant candidates who you can’t find anywhere else. … Once you’ve posted a job on LinkedIn, Recommended Matches will scour our network to find candidates who have the experience and skills you’re looking for. And, most of these candidates are exclusively on LinkedIn: 57% of our users in the US did not visit the top three job boards last month.
We put these potential candidates right in front of you, giving you access to their full profiles. In one click, you can indicate if you’re interested in a candidate and start a conversation with them about the job opportunity. Based on how you rate candidates, our algorithm learns your preferences and delivers increasingly relevant candidates.
LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, has also reconfigured its matching algorithm and given organizations the ability to add their own targeting preferences, giving them more control over who sees a job post. The update also makes it easier for users to keep track of candidates they are considering or wish to contact.
The new features are deliberately designed to encourage smaller and medium-sized enterprises to use LinkedIn as a job board. ERE’s Joel Cheesman calls this “a smart move at the right time”:
Early last year, Democratic lawmakers in the state of Maryland began working on legislation that would require businesses throughout the state with more than 10 staff to offer each employee one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work. This week, Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, pronounced both the Maryland House and Senate versions of the mandate “dead on arrival” if they landed on his desk for signature, according to the Washington Post. Hogan said he would veto the bills immediately “because they will simply kill businesses and jobs”:
The bill approved last week in the House would require employers to give seven paid sick-leave days a year. The version that will be voted on by the Senate as early as Thursday would require five paid sick days a year. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would have to provide five days of unpaid sick leave. Hogan is pushing a different sick-leave bill that would require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide five paid sick days a year and would offer tax incentives to smaller businesses that agree to do so.
The governor’s measure has not moved out of committee. At a news conference on Wednesday, he urged lawmakers to negotiate with him and create a bill more like what he is proposing, saying he cannot support a sick-leave law unless it provides flexibility and support for smaller businesses.
Hogan is not dead-set against progressive employment laws, as evidenced by the expansive new equal pay law he signed last year. The question for Maryland is not whether a mandate will be enacted, but rather whether Hogan or the Democrats in the state congress prevail in determining its ultimate scope.
The new overtime rule announced by the US Department of Labor back in May, which will raise the salary threshold for exempting employees from overtime pay from$23,660 to $47,476 a year when it goes into effect on December 1, is expected to hit small businesses particularly hard. Today, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the country’s largest association of small businesses, urged the Labor Department to delay implementation of the rule, USA Today reports:
“In many cases, small businesses must reorganize their work forces and implement new systems for tracking hours, record keeping, and reporting,” says NFIB president Juanita Duggan. “They can’t just flip a switch and be in compliance.” The group is asking for a delay until June 1.
But in a statement, David Weil, administrator of Labor’s wage and hour division, says officials provided businesses 190 days to comply, “more than three times what’s legally required.” He added, “The December 1 implementation date is a sufficient amount of time (more than six months) for employers to adjust to the new salary level.” …
The requirement will affect about 44% of the 5.5 million U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees, NFIB says. About 3.2 million of them employ 10 workers or less. Large corporations with “lawyers, accountants and human resources specialists” who read technical federal notices “may prove able to cope with the new (rule) in a 25 week window of time,” NFIB said in its petition. “But the department cannot reasonably expect America’s small businesses to match them.”
In addition, as Bloomberg BNA notes, the National Retail Federation, Chamber of Commerce, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association are among almost 100 business groups backing a piece of bipartisan legislation which “would phase the rule in over three years and eliminate automatic increases to the salary threshold under which workers are eligible for overtime pay.”
Over the past year, the US Department of Labor has been putting pressure on businesses whose relationship with an employee is mediated through another entity, such as a franchise, contractor, or temp agency—and holding them responsible for the compensation and work conditions of these employees. The department contends that an organization in this type of relationship exercises enough control over workers to be considered a “joint employer,” meaning that these employees may be entitled to bargain collectively with that organization, take it to court for labor law violations, or benefit from wage and hour protections afforded to employees of large enterprises but not small ones. Employers and business associations, obviously, disagree. The department’s interpretation is not law—and several states have since passed laws clarifying that franchisers are not joint employers—but its theory is being tested in court.
While the conversation about this new rule has mostly centered on what it means for large organizations, some of the franchisees and other small business owners caught in the middle tell the Wall Street Journal’s Melanie Trottman that they are worried about what it means for their ability to expand:
Franchisees … say they could lose their independence to hire, fire and manage workers as they please. They are also concerned about becoming too independent: Some say their franchisers have scaled back worker training tools and other guidance, fearing regulators would view such involvement as joint-employer-like control. Businesses say they are in a regulatory limbo because the new standard is vague about what constitutes control. The previous test measured the direct control one business had over working conditions of people employed by another business. Now, even indirect control can count.
At least in the US, a college degree is no longer optional for employment in the professional realm. More Americans hold bachelor’s degrees than ever before (nearly a third of Americans over 25, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), and employers know it. A CareerBuilder survey conducted late last year found that employers were increasingly hiring college graduates for jobs that used to only require a high school diploma, and advanced degree holders for jobs primarily held by BAs. Now, CareerBuilder’s Pete Jansons presents more findings showing that small enterprises are also a part of this trend:
According to recent CareerBuilder research, more than 1 in 4 small business employers (26 percent) say they have increased their educational requirements for jobs over the last five years. One in five employers (20 percent) are hiring more employees with master’s degrees for positions that primarily had been held by those with college (4-year) degrees, and 3 in 10 (30 percent) are hiring more employees with college degrees for positions that primarily had been held by those with high school degrees.
Higher degrees are also influencing promotion decisions. Thirty-five percent of small business employers say they are unlikely or highly unlikely to promote someone who does not have a college degree.
Guardian reporter Jana Kasperkevic tempers enthusiasm over JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s announcement last week that the bank was raising wages for its lowest-paid workers, arguing that the minimum wage hike neither makes a significant difference for these workers nor is it distinctive among major financial firms:
Lawrence Mischel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, calculated that the wage hike, which will go into effect in 2017, amounts to a 3.2% annual increase. “That’s good, but it’s not other-worldly. The fact is those wages are not all that high. For a leading sector, they should pay more,” Mischel said. Looking at the overall US economy, the average hourly earnings reached $25.61 in June, far above the minimum wage. The hourly wages have grown at the annualized rate of 2.6% over the past 12 months, an increase that Barack Obama earlier this year said was still “too slow”.
Considering all that, the 3.2% boost by JPMorgan Chase appears to be an effort to offer competitive wages. The fact is the bank is playing catch up. A report by Reuters revealed that other banks already pay wages within the range that JPMorgan Chase hopes to pay in next three years. “We started looking at our entry-level workforce a couple of years ago and have gotten already to the, call it, $12 to $16.50 range,” John Shrewsberry, Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer, told Reuters. Similarly, Citigroup’s spokeswoman said the bank’s US tellers start at a minimum of $13 an hour and overall earn an average of more than $15.50 an hour.