Management Watch


Work in IT? Bill would have you say goodbye to OT.

A new bill by a North Carolina senator that proposes eliminating overtime pay for certain IT workers has garnered virtually no support from constituents who lambast the act for treating IT professionals unfairly. 

The Computer Professionals Update Act, which amends provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, would exempt IT professionals who make at least $26.73 hourly from the overtime payment requirement. IT professionals in this case are defined as those whose duties relate to “computers, information systems, components, networks, software, hardware, databases, security, Internet, intranet or websites,” whether it is analysts, programmers, engineers, designers or developers, according to the bill.

The CPU Act (get it? CPU?) was submitted by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and four co-sponsors and is now pending in the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. But constituents are far from embracing it with open arms, to say the least:  On OpenCongress.org, a nonpartisan online resource that promotes civic engagement, none of the 30 users who had voted on the proposal supported it.

“This bill does nothing more than enslave an already underpaid and overworked group of people, allowing corporate heads to keep their IT workers on-call 24/7, while not requiring any monetary compensation,” Marilyn Brown wrote to her New York representative on OpenCongress.org.

“This is a bill that protects the very people that caused their own problem,” she continued. “If they had enough people on staff, they wouldn't have anyone working overtime. … This is grotesque.”

James Harris Jr. questioned the fairness in eliminating overtime pay and how it would affect the overall economic climate: “I don't understand why you would support a bill that eliminates overtime for time worked,” he wrote. “Doesn't this expose workers to working overtime without pay? What's the protection to prevent the exploitation of this employer advantage? What's the loss income and loss tax revenue? How do those losses impact the economy?"

Robert Bregin also chimed in on the fairness issue, saying it’s only reasonable he gets compensated for the work hours he puts in. “If my company is trying to put out some new software and meet some absurd release date that is only possible by everyone working OT, then I should be compensated for that time,” he noted. “By passing this addendum, you are allowing my employer to be able to force me to work overtime just because I am salaried.”

And Drew Zarn pointed out the irony in amending the Fair Labor Act to include what he perceived was unfair behavior. “This bill wrongly targets a single subset of workers who are often required to work overtime/irregular hours as part of their job duties,” he commented. “It goes against the name of the ‘Fair Labor Standards Act’ to specifically permit worker-unfriendly behavior toward IT workers.”

The bill “doesn’t outright ban these workers from making overtime for hours past 40; it just means that companies that employ them are exempted from the overtime payment requirement,” said Tushar Nene on BlogCritics.org

“But all said and done, that doesn’t make it any better,” he added. “Given the current cost-cutting measures that are in effect across industries in the United States, do you have trust that a company will still pay overtime if they’re not legally obliged to?” 

Do you agree with the comments on OpenCongress.org? Do you think this proposal would ever get passed? And if it did, how would it affect you? Please share your comments.

 

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Dec 06, 2011 at 12:19 PM15 comments


Feds angry at possible pay freeze extension

Sen. Dean Heller’s proposal to extend the current pay freeze for federal employees an additional three years stirred up quite the emotional reaction among FCW’s readers, many of whom said they are ready to move on from government if the proposal becomes law.

“I've had it," Annette commented. "I can retire in 1.2 years, and I'm not sticking around for more of these threats. I know I can find a decent-paying job out in private sector. Here, I have a lousy boss, being overworked because of the personnel cutbacks, pay freeze and yet prices go up, [we are] perceived by public as lazy federal employees. You name it, I've had it.”

Another reader who predicted a gloomy future for feds expressed similar cynicism and offered some advice for those considering a public sector career.

“Frankly, I'm outta here in about two years, max -- less if I get a couple of other financial issues squared,” that reader said. “I'm reconciled to never seeing another pay raise. Would I recommend my kids, or other young folk, enter or stay in federal service? Not on your life!”

One commenter who is eligible to retire in less than two years agreed, and  “would never recommend employment with the federal government to friend or foe.”

“It's been an unbelievably difficult and tiring 34-year career to date, including three volunteer DOD civilian tours in Afghanistan supporting our troops,” the reader added. “This is the thanks we get from Congress.”

A couple of readers said they had decided to tough it out because of the current strained economic climate that makes better jobs few and far between.

“I'd stick it out, really, I don't have much choice as I am close but not close enough to retirement to consider a move to the private sector, etc.,” commented one reader. “But the savings in federal salaries realized by extending the pay freeze are so tiny in comparison to the budget it's laughable that anyone would think of it as true savings.”

Another reader said he had decided to stay because he had invested many years in government

“I have been in government too long to leave; basically, I'm vested in my retirement benefits,” Rodger said. “Based on some recent private sector employment and what my friends in the private sector tell me, I am unconvinced that private sector operations are necessarily more efficient or decent places than government to work.

Reader Puregold in Bethesda, Md., took a swipe at the Republican lawmakers who are backing the extended pay freeze proposal, saying they need to get reminded “that federal workers have real jobs and do real work.

“These clowns expect that federal workers, who generally get slightly lower salaries than at similar positions in the private sector, should accept five years of pay freeze, while they steadfastly refuse any proposal that multimillionaires pay even a penny more in taxes,” that reader commented. “Their idea of shared sacrifice is that the 99 percent (especially government workers) share the sacrifices, and the wealthiest 1 percent don't because they are allegedly the ‘job creators.’ We see how well that works. Get real!!

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Dec 02, 2011 at 12:19 PM101 comments


Will feds accept yet another pay freeze?

Republicans are considering extending the pay freeze for government employees by an additional three years, but federal employee advocates are sounding like they've had just about enough. 

It certainly hasn’t been the greatest year for federal employees, but despite layoffs, pay freezes and the threat of sequestration, only a small percentage of government workers are reporting low employee satisfaction

That was before Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced a bill that would add three more years to the two-year pay freeze already in place. The proposal would also reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015.

The Temporary Tax Holiday and Government Reduction Act would also eliminate millionaires’ and billionaires’ eligibility for unemployment compensation and food stamps and require them to pay higher Medicare premiums. The legislation also includes the Buffett Rule Act, which allows individuals who feel they are undertaxed to donate to the U.S. Treasury in an effort to pay down the national debt.

Heller, himself, called his bill “a practical solution” that would, he insists, preserve job growth and treat taxpayers’ dollars "responsibly." But Democratic leaders balked at the notion, arguing that the proposal would unfairly place more burden on an already strained workforce.

"The Republican payroll tax proposal represents another cynical ploy to single out federal employees for unfair treatment," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement. "The financial collapse and weak economy were not caused by the men and women who serve the federal government, and they should not be forced to shoulder the entire burden of the cost of recovery."

Union leaders did not mince words, either. The National Federation of Federal Employees President William R. Dougan said the legislation was “absolutely unacceptable,” The Washington Post reported.  

“It is despicable that our elected representatives in Washington would propose taking thousands from the pockets of VA nurses, border patrol agents and food safety inspectors simply to protect a small group of millionaires and billionaires,” Dougan said.
 
Are feds willing to endure an extended pay freeze? How would an extra three years tacked onto the current pay freeze affect you? Are you considering a move to the private sector? Or are you sticking it through and staying, despite the threat of further layoffs and pay freezes?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Dec 01, 2011 at 12:19 PM91 comments


Taking advice from the young and wise

When you picture a mentorship, chances are you’re conjuring up mental images of an older mentor with a younger mentee. But that traditional model for exchanging knowledge has quickly given way for a different approach that puts the younger individual in the mentor role. 

It’s called reverse mentoring, and according to The Wall Street Journal, a growing number of businesses are coupling upper management with younger employees to school the older executives in areas such as technology and social media.

The argument for reverse mentoring is that managers can learn new skills from the younger workers, who in turn “not only gain a sense of purpose but also a rare glimpse into the world of management and access to top-level brass,” writes Leslie Kwoh. 

Reverse mentoring is nothing new; it dates back more than a decade. It was popularized in 1999 by General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who realized he and his management team didn’t know enough about the Internet. Welch told hundreds of his senior executives to seek out younger mentors among the company’s newest employees. Most of these tech savvy mentors were in their 20s and 30s.

Today, it would be hard to find a senior executive who didn’t know how to use the Internet. But working knowledge of social media is another story. WSJ cites a managing director, age 42, who said he learned from his younger mentors how to spice up his tweets – rumored to be “very boring," Kwoh writes.

Another ad agency executive extolled the virtues of his younger mentor, who had taught him not only about the latest apps but how to be more flexible in the workplace.

“There’s an assumption that if you’re senior, you have a lot to teach, and if you’re junior, you have a lot to learn, and I'm saying let’s challenge the status quo," Andrew Graff, CEO of Allen & Gerritsen, told WSJ.

Forbes blogger Lisa Quast earlier this year highlighted the advantages of reverse mentoring, including the exchange of knowledge and empowering emerging leaders. Quast also pointed out that reverse mentoring doesn’t require much in the way of new processes, “just the ability to match up employees of different generations and then encourage each team to meet regularly to exchange ideas and challenge each other.”

Have any of you had a younger mentor or an older mentee? How did the mentorship work out? What did you learn? What did you teach?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 28, 2011 at 12:19 PM3 comments


IT needs to shift from engineering to 'anthropology' mindset

Much has been said about the evolving role of the CIO. Once considered a strategist, the modern-day CIO is expected to move “into a much more operational role than ever envisioned,” Paul Brubaker and Mark A. Forman wrote in a September 2011 op-ed for FCW.

The changing role is just one element of a bigger, drastically evolving IT landscape. The Corporate Executive Board’s 2010 report The Future of Corporate IT: How to Prepare for Five Radical Shifts in IT Value, Ownership and Role explored the five-year outlook for IT and concluded that “the IT function of 2015 will bear little resemblance to its current state.”

What does that mean, exactly? According to Audrey Taylor, senior director at Corporate Executive Board, these changes mean that many traditional CIO activities will shift  to individual business units, merge with other central functions such as HR and finance or be externally sourced.

“As a result, we see two potential paths for the role of the CIO: expanding to lead a multifunctional or ‘business’ shared services group, or shrinking to manage technology delivery,” she said. However, the end state for federal and private sector CIOs will ultimately depend on the degree to which technology is seen as a driver of agency excellence, and on the skill set of the individual CIO, Taylor said.

Here, Taylor shines the light on the new hurdles future CIOs will encounter, what trends will shape the responsibilities and duties of future CIOs, and why IT will need to move from an engineering to an “anthropology” way of thinking.

Q: What are some new challenges future government CIOs will face?

A: The current emphasis and excitement around big data and other information management initiatives, demand a new way of doing business that is not generally within the ‘DNA’ of traditional IT organizations. Unlike the linear requirements gathering process and traditional SDLC we use to deliver ERP and other process centric initiatives, delivering on projects centered on analytics, decision support, or improving worker productivity require a more flexible, iterative approach based on experimentation and observation. In many ways, IT will need to shift from an engineering to an anthropology mindset – a major challenge for not only the CIO, but their leadership teams as well.

Q: How will the roles of government and private sector CIOs differ or be similar?

A: The question of these shifts impacting CIOs, independent of economic sector, is a matter of when, not if. That said, our view is that the degree of impact will vary according to the intensity of the organizations' use of technology and the degree of diversity of its operations. Departments and agencies where information is central to the mission -- intelligence community, financial regulation -- will see more and quicker impact than those where IT is primarily an administrative support function.

Q: What are some major trends/technologies/events that will shape the future CIO’s role?

A: Across our research, we’ve identified 10 external trends that will impact the IT function. These trends point to a dramatically different way of doing business across the next five years; a critical implication of this is that CIOs need to start now to get ahead of emerging skills gaps. CIOs will need to transform or grow many key roles within architecture and service management, while also sourcing new-to-world roles -- cloud integration specialist, user-experience experts, technology brokers. Developing and implementing effective workforce strategies now will be critical to enable federal CIOs to source and/or retain the talent required to be successful in transforming how they and their agencies do business.

Q: Any duties/responsibilities today that will be obsolete to future CIOs?

A: [There is] no one cookie cutter answer here – although, traditional "doing" roles are rapidly being externalized. If you, as a CIO, are primarily managing infrastructure operations or ongoing software maintenance, start preparing now for a radical change.


 

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM1 comments


Online shopping during work hours, yay or nay?

Love the holidays but hate the countless hours spent shopping? Join the club. Forget the anxiety in scurrying around looking for the perfect present; nothing elevates my heart rate like trying to maneuver through jam-packed malls and frenzied crowds. The solution? Online shopping.

However, while it's not as time-consuming as shopping at traditional bricks-and-mortar stores, using your computer as a shopping cart still takes a chunk out of your day. And let’s face it: Most of us spend the majority of our time at work, so a fair amount of holiday shopping happens during business hours. A September 2011 poll by ISACA supports that assumption: With online shopping growing in popularity, nearly one-third of Americans say they will do some Christmas shopping online while at work.

The survey, which polled IT professionals from the private sector, also found that online shoppers will spend 32 hours on average purchasing gifts, with 18 of those spent on a work-supplied device or personally owned device used for work purposes.

Most federal agencies allow limited personal use of work computers, but the operating ethos is to keep waste to a minimum. For example, the Energy Department follows a directive that allows limited personal use of government information technology, as long as it means  “de minimis additional expense to the government.” That suggests that it's ok to use your work computer to order from Amazon.com or browse Cooks.com (or similar sites), as long as you're doing it on your own time and not charging your purchases to the government.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday less than two weeks away, are you planning on doing any online shopping at work? Does your agency have a policy that allows employees to use personal computers for activities such as online shopping? Or do you do your retail therapy after work, the old-fashioned way, at the mall?


 

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM10 comments


Exposed: The dark side of telework

Despite the benefits telework promises – from slashing costs to ramping up productivity – many are cynical about this increasingly common way of working, saying managers are turning a blind eye to those who violate the new privileges and policies. Are federal agencies oblivious to the pitfalls of this new way of working? FCW readers seem to think so.

One frustrated reader emailed me to share what goes on in her government agency, saying how employees claim to telework when they are in fact doing other things. She listed many examples of blatant abuse, including:

*Employees who listed telework on their timesheet but were seen out shopping.

*One worker didn’t have enough sick leave, so managers rigged up medical telework saying he/she was contagious. When his/her birthday fell on medical telework days, the employee came into the office to celebrate.

*Another employee who lives out of state claims to be teleworking when he/she in fact is on vacation.

* One employee stayed home “teleworking” because he/she did not want to use personal leave but did not want to come in to work either.

*Another worker said she was teleworking but was in fact home awaiting deliveries of appliances. She told other employees who needed some information from her that they would have to wait until she returned to the office – days later.

“I think telework can be a good thing, but it is being abused here,” said the reader who contacted me. “I don't know whom to talk to because these uses are approved by our senior managers and people are stealing from the government when they use telework instead of leave. I am a taxpayer as well as government employee.”

“I am not a nut case,” she continued, “I don't go looking for things to dig at -- here, these things are so out in the open and so dishearteningly obvious.”

She is far from alone in her criticism. Other readers have previously shared their gripes with telework, citing inept managers as one of the major challenges when it comes to telework.  In commenting on the article "Workplace flexibility could expand dramatically soon," a reader called Coloradoite said telework is about trust, which he/she said is something many managers seem to lack.

“It's currently hard to even get permission to telework here as upper management doesn't trust that people will be working,” Coloradoite said. "’If I can't see you, you won't be working’" seems to be the mantra. This may happen in D.C., but it will NEVER happen here in Denver unless it’s FORCED upon the management staff. There will be some reason to deny it.”

A reader who chimed in on the post "How to turn telework naysayers around" agreed that the problem is the lack of trust managers have and offered insight on where that distrust comes from: 

"The basic problem is that managers don't trust people to work out of their sight," the reader said. "That, in turn, stems from the managers not being able to break down the work into pieces with deadlines and allocating the pieces to their people while holding them accountable for the deadline. What many managers think is that ALL time should be used for the managers tasks -- which is erroneous."

However, employees should not always blame management when telework fails, another reader said.

“Telework exposes management incompetency since we all know a lot of managers became managers by putting in the time, not by being innovative or creative leaders or even being competent or good at what they do," said the reader who commented on "Ineligible to telework? Join the club." "That is your block to making telework work.”

Are federal agencies really ready to take the leap to an expanded virtual workforce? Are government managers turning a blind eye to the abuse of telework privileges? Or are they simply oblivious? What are some of your horror stories on telework?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 09, 2011 at 12:19 PM61 comments