Friday, August 23, 2013

Spousal Demerit - A Free Agent Watch Footnote

Growing health care affordability gap 
If you were responsible for the cost of employee health care benefits at UPS (either the 4th or 5th largest employer in the US depending on the source) won't you HAVE BEEN in favor of the single payer national health care model? I realize its a moot point. We're past that. Obama Care is here and its a hybrid something between the single payer model and the every-man-for-himself model which we've always had.

I am not singling out UPS however they were in the news this week because they are eliminating employee spousal benefits when there's coverage available elsewhere. Other large companies and organizations are doing the same - and the list will grow. The company quote, limiting plan eligibility is one way to manage ongoing health care costs, which are expected to increase between 2 and 4 % in 2014.

Back to the first paragraph. Given the nature of our free enterprise, capitalistic, Marketplace economic system, it seems perfectly logical for large institutions like UPS to WANT to eliminate not only spousal coverage but ALL employee health care coverage. Its a huge expense. So why weren't more businesses in favor of the single payer model? I mean they could have conceivably dumped this expense and overnight become more profitable and/or more competitive?

Perhaps its like the article I read in USA Today (August 10th weekend addition I think) reporting on Obama Care and what the state of Colorado was doing in response. The article profiled a bar owner that was COMPLETELY AGAINST Obama Care in principle and the big-government-tell-me-what-to-do philosophy it represents - - - - however, he was looking forward to shopping for insurance when the Colorado Exchange opened because he HAD NO HEALTH INSURANCE due to preexisting conditions.        ? - ! - # - ! - ?        Really?

But I can't imagine big business overlooking profitability and competitiveness. Nope. There must have been many a closet supporter in boardrooms across America during previous attempts to create a national single payer system. But it wasn't to be so they remained tucked away. But now? Look for more moves to offload health care costs. It makes perfect sense. If the spousal reduction isn't enough to convince you then stay tuned. In the meantime, note that the employer implementation provision of Obama Care was pushed back one year to give businesses and related vested interests time to plan it all out (such as spousal benefit reductions).

I believe in the Marketplace. Business (buyers of employee services) can be expected to act in their own best interests. Offloading health care expenses seems absolutely to be in their best interest. But its not a straight line issue. For all sorts of complicating reasons fast, drastic, harsh moves have never been in the cards. Therefore look for businesses to chip away at it - the UPS story is in my opinion a perfect example.

And for workers, especially those in the ever squeezed middle-class? Well, they're not completely asleep but certainly not awake. Drowsy maybe.

Nibble, nibble, chip, chip - benefits decline but wages are not keeping up - look at the chart one more time.

The Free Agentizing of the average US worker. It's a fact growing more evident each day.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How Digits Kill Jobs

An up close view of digits doing the do
While reading an article about Trader Joe's in an older copy of Fortune Magazine I came across the one-pager to the right.

It tells/shows the cost of a start up company using technology and social media in 2010 compared to what it would have been in 2000.

I don't have any way of verifying the numbers so lets assume they are close enough to make the point - specifically, that the digit is the culprit in the demise of many a job in the US. This is not a new theme here. I'm always on the lookout for examples to highlight and this is a good one.

The cost as shown in the picture is $40,000 Vs a comparable cost of $1,063,500. In other words, the total outlay in 2010 to start this business was 1/4 of what it would have been in 2000.

In each of the five highlighted categories, incorporating, branding, marketing, employees, and rent, the difference is significant. Clearly, the employee category stands out but there are dramatic reductions in all of them. Looked at from the point of view of the supplying businesses (and here's where the lost jobs come in) there was 75% LESS revenue with which to provide jobs.

In examples like this, the digit and the Internet have pushed upward and outward the "bang" from each buck invested. Add to this the Great Recession's acceleration of an already rapid move to even more automation as businesses searched for ways to increase efficiency - just to stay alive.

Should workers displaced by digits and technology have seen this coming? Maybe. But there's no time to waste NOW in getting right with the Marketplace - and the fact that we are all Free Agents.

To kick start your getting right with the Marketplace thinking, here's a few questions to ask yourself today:
  • will my job even exist in 5 years?
  • if so, what are the (honest) chances there will be an increase in salary or wages?
  • if so, will technology add to or reduce the amount of work I am doing now?
  • if not, how and why will the job go away?
  • if not, what can I do NOW to prepare?
Those dared digits ...

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not Getting It

The Proverbial Fork In The Road
Imagine coming to the proverbial fork in the road. If you go one way, you continue to struggle, facing one hurdle after another. If you go the other way, the struggle subsides. There's still work to do and in the process there are good days and bad, but the endless grind of fighting it fades. Energy that would otherwise go to the struggle is now used to get on with the actual search.

In a way this is what happens when job seekers awaken to the fact that they are Free Agents selling their services in the Marketplace - the struggle stops. In its place is clarity which allows one to actually see the route forward. Not being awake on the other hand ensures a reactive approach. The seeker continues as a participant in the Marketplace but does so without knowing the rules. Put another way, they're clueless but don't know it.

But what's new, people can and do perform in this mode while fast asleep. Take a good look around you. The problem? It doesn't last. Eventually something happens. It could be a big something, such as a personal implosion or a train wreck blowout - or less dramatic, like a series of never ending sideswipes and scrapes.

Of course being awake doesn't eliminate life-bumps and sideswipes; after all, people are people. However when one is aware in this way there will be understanding (mindfulness) concerning what is actually happening. When awake and aware, motivations originate from within and not from without (the catalyst for reaction). A positive byproduct of this is acceptance. Being able to accept things as they really are is the great diffuser of harmful negativity that so easily builds up as part of the not getting it cycle.

For those that know and live by it, the Serenity Prayer instructs, "accept the things I cannot change ...". Yes and to that I add "for now". Accept until you can appropriately and effectively do something about it Vs loading up to the point where there's a destructive blow up or melt down.

For example, take rejection. Job seekers experience rejection continuously. It comes about overtly in the form of rudeness and obliquely when one is simply ignored. Regardless, if the seeker is unaware, asleep, and clueless, the situation is easily (and usually) taken personally. To them, the "Me" in me, has received a blow. Its been nicked and bruised. And so it goes, happening again and again. To the frustrated seeker it's one put down after another. The pressure builds. Before they know it, they're once again at the fork in the road.

Now which way? The left fork, leading to a Pity Party, the Poor Me, a Whine Buddy session? If so struggle, angst, and agitation are sure to remain. Carried forward, the seeker paints himself into a corner, taking anything in order to put a stop to the pain (or so he thinks).

Selecting the right fork however leads to acceptance, adjustment, and re-engagement. Heading down this path doesn't t mean rejection is overlooked or downplayed, hardly. Instead rejection is taken seriously and is analyzing - but then quickly digested. Something is learned and this leads to a recalibration followed by re-entry back into the game.

Look, I realize approaching job search from this perspective may seem a bit much. After all, the job seeker is being pushed, judged, and kept on edge throughout. It's inherently a supercharged situation and the last thing most want is to get cerebral about it. But I believe this makes the point. When one is unaware and sound asleep, its impossible to take control of your search. It's easier to sink deeper into unconsciousness, pressing forward with one reactive move after another.

There's a far more effective and satisfying way to go about searching for a job. A way aimed at achieving the short term objective while keeping longer term goals in mind. However this approach requires awakening, something many people are not yet ready to do.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everything's Perfect - Chapter One

The Perfect Day
IF ...
  • you can't wait for Monday morning
  • you feel valued by your employer
  • your hours haven't been reduced
  • your pay has increased a lot
  • you're being paid what you're worth
  • your job is stable and indefinite
  • you're making $8, $10, $14, $16, $18, $20, $22, $26 ... an hour, and it's just right
  • there's been no downsizing at work in the last few years
  • your job description and duties haven't changed for the worse
  • your benefits have increased at no additional cost to you
  • you're only working one job and its enough
  • your vision matches exactly with your supervisor's
  • you're unafraid (and encouraged wholeheartedly) to speak up
  • HR is truly your friend
  • you just love your job
  • those around you just love their jobs too
  • there's no conflict at work
  • inexperienced and under-educated are NOT being promoted to management
If, at work, you've just never had so much fun IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE ...

Well okay, no need to contact me.

Otherwise click here.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fast Food Wars - Round Two

Although the pot's been on the burner for a number of months, the water hasn't reached the boiling point. We're still in the early rounds of the Fast Food Wars.

Round One was the lead-up to the tipping point. You could argue this has been building for years. However without catalysts, the status quo remains. But it looks like this movement has some legs and could go many rounds. The fight could last for years. It could get ugly.

We'll see.

I've listed some of the important factors leading to these protests, quickly gaining momentum around the country.

  • The Great Recession - all in, the Big Dog Catalyst
  • Wall Street, Big Banks, et al - after ALL THAT - its pretty much back to business as usual
  • A new mix of fast food workers - people that otherwise would be working elsewhere ...
  • Systemic wage and benefit stagnation - ongoing for 30+ years, like a tightening coil
  • Organized labor's need for a cause - this could be THE rallying cry

Round One brought about the initial action. Round Two is characterized by growth as the movement spreads geographically and awakening as the various stakeholders perk up and coalesce along traditional labor/management lines. We're at this point right now.

So what does all this have to do with Job Search?

In a nutshell, Free Agency - actually, anti-Free Agency.

The concept which I embrace and use daily states that all American workers (including management) are in fact Free Agents independently operating in the Marketplace. Every single fast food worker is, at the end of the shift, still a Free Agent. There's danger for those asleep to this idea. Getting caught up in what's happening and yet to come on the ground, can result in continued and ever deeper unconsciousness regarding their own personal situation.

This movement is built around two key labor demands, 1) the ability to organize 2) an increase in wages (asking amount = $15/hr). Incredibly powerful and invested players are circling just under the surface. There are complicating issues that will have an impact on how this plays out (such as the Affordable Care Act). Make no mistake, this has the potential of becoming a really big and protracted story.

Nonetheless, the question for most workers is the same - how will this impact me in the near term? Whatever the outcome, it won't come about quickly. Therefore, what's going to happen in the short run?

Who's to say, however things might get worse.

I find the current state of affairs deplorable on many levels. I am concerned for the future of the Middle Class as I am for those trying to get there. I know that continued (and growing) wage and standard of living inequality are not sustainable. And yet, in the near term, I hope that each worker impacted sees themselves for what they really are, Independent Free Agents. I hope they get what the Marketplace (if it had opinions and feelings) would instruct, that the process of collectivization does not or should not replace the requirement for each individual to think, plan, and act for themselves.  

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell