HR Policy Seeks New Paradigm in Workplace Policy

April 28, 2017

"Great employers are committed to making the workplace work for their people and need workplace laws that enable this," said Workplace 2020 Committee Chair Mara E. Swan, Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Talent at ManpowerGroup, the release of our new report, Making the Workplace Work.  The report reflects the views of America's top human resources executives, who are designing a workplace for the 21st century even as they take on challenges of uncertainty over federal and state policies, the "gig economy," and the expectations of five different generations of workers.  Ms. Swan further noted: "As senior HR executives working for America's largest employers, we are where the rubber meets the road—where public policy and a changing workforce intersect.  We understand what the workplace looks like today.  By rethinking employment policy for our new workplace reality, we can demonstrate to our employees that we are making the workplace work while helping America be more competitive globally."  The report seeks to drive a rethinking of employment policy to adapt to recent developments in the workplace, with the goal of "making the workplace work."  Often this goal is impeded by assumptions in 20th-century workplace laws that employers will only treat their employees fairly if required to do so by the law when, in fact, employers compete to attract talent by having enlightened human resource policies.  "Making the Workplace Work" covers virtually every aspect of workplace policy and makes recommendations in each area, including:

  • Diversity and Inclusion: Large companies are committed to diversity and inclusion for sound business and ethical reasons regardless of any government requirements.  Government agencies, typically fixated on numerical targets, should recognize the attempts by companies to address the broader cultural aspects of this goal which ultimately determine success.    
  • Changes in Employment Relationships: As alternatives to traditional employment arrangements continue to grow, attempts to expand the concept of "joint employer" and narrow the definition of "independent contractor" are actually impeding beneficial efforts by companies.  We propose a safe harbor for companies that, for example, would allow contract and temporary agency employees to take advantage of their on-site day care facilities.
  • Workplace Flexibility: While large companies are at the forefront of providing generous leave benefits, they are increasingly challenged by a patchwork quilt of varying administrative requirements under state and local mandates.  We propose a federal standard that would enable companies with generous paid leave benefits to operate under a single set of rules without having to accommodate the varying, and often inconsistent, strictures of state and local requirements. 
  • Workforce Development and Training: As companies far outpace the U.S. government in funding the education, training, and development of America's workforce, career progression—or lack thereof—is the No. 1 retention incentive and the No. 1 driver of turnover, respectively.  Federally funded training programs and tax incentives should be more closely aligned with privately funded education, training and development programs, which lead to in-demand skill development.
The report was featured in a number of news outlets, including Business Journal, PoliticoPro, and Bloomberg, in which Association Chair Mirian Graddick-Weir, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at Merck & Co., Inc., said, "While many existing government policies assume employers will only treat their employees fairly if they are required by law to do so, the war for talent negates that assumption."  HR Policy will release subsequent reports exploring in greater detail the issue areas covered in Making the Workplace Work.