Executive Briefing

HR job prospects on the rise; obesity management; more.

By Rita Zeidner Feb 1, 2010
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February CoverFeds Predict Rosy Decade for HR Jobs

Human resource professionals considering a career change may want to rethink that one.

In the next 10 years, job growth in HR will outpace overall job expansion by a ratio of more than 2-to-1—a whopping 22 percent compared to 10 percent—according to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released in December 2009. Those with college degrees in HR, HR administration, or industrial and labor relations, or who have earned certification, are expected to have the best prospects.

Employment of labor relations staff, including arbitrators and mediators, is expected to grow as business leaders attempt to resolve potentially costly labor-management disputes out of court. Additional job growth may stem from increasing demand for specialists in international human resource management and HR information technology.

Demand may be particularly strong for certain HR specialties, including training and recruitment.

Many organizations are expected to continue outsourcing HR functions such as duties related to the development and administration of complex employee benefits and compensation packages. Meanwhile, reliance on temporary HR staff to handle worker training and development is expected to increase.

Chart: HR Job Prospects on the Rise 

Obesity Management: Food for Thought

When it comes to helping—or forcing—Americans to deal with their rapidly expanding waistlines, there is little agreement about best practices. Alabama and North Carolina—both with large numbers of overweight residents—will soon require state workers to undergo medication screenings for several conditions, including body mass index. Those who are considered obese or who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high glucose will have to pay $25 a month more in health insurance. Alabama’s law takes effect in January 2011, and North Carolina’s six months later.

Those who support such policies shouldn’t count on winning any popularity contests. "Such tactics are punitive and regressive," charged several public health experts in the Summer 2009 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. Susan R. Tortolero and Karyn Popham of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Texas and Peter D. Jacobson, a health law professor who heads the Center for Law, Ethics and Health at the University of Michigan, say it’s better for employers to:

Shift their focus to "positive incentives," such as changes in co-payments or premiums that reward good behavior.

Read the emerging science surrounding effective wellness programs. They recommend the National Business Group on Health’s A Purchaser’s Guide to Clinical Preventive Services: Moving Science into Coverage.

Press for tax incentives that would reduce the cost of worksite wellness programs.

Support amendments to building codes to encourage establishing shower facilities in offices and to foster access to and use of stairwells.

The Other Face Of Facebook

Job applicants’ Facebook pages may reveal more than how they spend their weekends or what kind of music they like, according to new research.

In a recent study in the online Journal of Managerial Psychology (Vol. 24, Issue 6), Donald Kluemper of Louisiana State University and Peter Rosen of the University of Evansville in Indiana say personal pages on Facebook and similar social networking sites can be used to predict the personality of a job candidate, much like a personality test.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers randomly selected six sample Facebook pages from a group of students that had agreed to participate in the study. Each of 63 trained student raters was asked to individually review the sample pages. Using only what they saw on the site, students were asked to rate each Facebook user based on their perception of the individual’s personality, intelligence and academic performance—the researchers’ proxy for job performance. Evaluators consistently rated the pages in terms of students’ intelligence and academic performance, as well as the five major personality traits for predicting job performance—extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience.

"This is an important finding, given the sheer number of employers using screening tests as part of the hiring process," Rosen said.

Whether employers should use the sites in this way—or view them at all before extending a job offer—is another question, the authors concede. Many legal experts warn that basing hiring decisions on information gleaned from social networking sites could open an employer up to a charge of illegal discrimination.

Cautionary Tale In Government Data Breach

When it comes to keeping internal secrets, HR professionals best not follow the example set late in 2009 by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

In December, the federal agency that oversees airport security mistakenly exposed classified information about agency security procedures by posting to the Internet a document that had not been properly redacted.

HR Magazine has reported on the perils of circulating spreadsheets—which are used throughout HR departments, particularly to keep track of Social Security numbers, salaries and other personal data. It’s easy, after all, to mistake data that has been merely hidden for data that has been removed.

Unbeknownst to TSA officials, the same precautions are necessary when handling PDF (portable document format) files. Although officials thought they had redacted the version of the airport security operating manual posted on a web site used by private contractors, the information could be recovered by anyone familiar with Adobe graphics tools.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called the incident "an embarrassing mistake that calls into question the judgment of agency managers." A security manual, he said, "is not the type of document we want to share with the world. That it was incompetently redacted only compounds the error."

Rita Zeidner is manager of the SHRM Online HR Technology Focus Area.

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