Would $70,000 a Year Make Employees Happier or Lazier?

After reading a 2010 Princeton study, which attempted to answer the eternal question Can money buy happiness?, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price concluded that the answer is might be yes. The study, which is based on massive survey data from Gallup, concludes that people with higher incomes reported happier moods and less stress. However, once someone hits the $75,000 earnings mark, more money did not improve their mood or disposition.

Based on this study, Price decided that all of the 120 employees at Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based credit card processing company, would earn at least $70,000 a year; quite an increase considering the current average wage at the company is $48,000 in annual pay. Some 70 employees will be affected by the company's new "minimum wage," and 30 of those will have their salary doubled. The changes will be phased in over the next three years.

The wage increases have been both lauded as a smart business move that will increase the company's competitiveness and success, and also criticized as an unsustainable business model that would make employees lose the incentive to work for promotions and salary raises. Price has made it clear however, that he believes the gap between his own pay and that of his workers is untenable. Price, who currently makes an annual salary of $1 million, will slash his personal annual pay down to $70,000 in order to help pay for the pay increases. The 29-year-old CEO claims that the disparity between CEO and worker pay is "ridiculous" and "absurd," and he openly criticizes the practice of determining executive pay by bringing in consultants who recommend compensation after focusing only on the highest paid segments of chief executives.

Most Americans are not even truly aware of the immense inequality between executive and worker pay. When surveyed, people approximated that the difference between CEO and employee pay is about 30:1. But they have drastically underestimated the figures; in actuality, CEOs make more than 350 times the average worker (The Washington Post, 9/25/14). And while worker pay has shown only minimal growth since the recession, pay for chief executives has continued in an upward trend. From 1978 to 2013, CEO compensation (when adjusted for inflation) increased 937%, while typical worker compensation grew only 10.2% during the same period (Economic Policy Institute, 6/12/14).

The vast inequality between executives and workers has emerged as a major policy issue, and there is a growing movement to curb the runaway train that seems to have become CEO salaries. In 2010, the Dodd-Frank law ordered public companies to reveal chief executive-to-worker pay ratios, but the numbers for these organizations has still not been disclosed. Three states have proposed legislation that would seek to limit CEO compensation; in California, for example, a state senator proposed a bill that would tie a firm's corporate tax rate to its executive-worker pay gap – in other words, the wider the gap, the higher the rate. Massachusetts introduced a bill that would prevent companies from claiming tax deductions for CEO bonuses over $1 million if employees are not given raises that keep up with cost of living. Although neither proposal has gained enough momentum to be turned into law, CEO compensation has increasingly come under heavy scrutiny and criticism. Hillary Clinton, who announced her bid for the Democratic nomination last week, has already attacked exorbitant CEO pay.

Economists assert that an enormous CEO-worker pay gap does not do those companies or the economy any good. Huge imbalances between executives and lower-level workers weaken loyalty and reduce productivity. Enormous wealth that is concentrated with a small percentage of the population curtails spending of the lower- and middle- classes, the consumers who ultimately drive the U.S. economy and make up the majority of GDP. Despite growth in the job market, consumption has fallen due in large part to the fact that many workers are not making enough to have disposable income to spend on consumer goods.

Although other CEOs have taken pay cuts in order to boost earnings for employees, Price and these types of chief executives are the exception, not the norm, and it may take intervention to minimize the widening income gap.

Readers, do you think that the gap between CEO and worker pay has become too vast? Will Gravity Payment's decision help or hurt the company? Comment and let us know!

Winning the “Vote” of Your Customers

Although the presidential election is still over a year away, the political machine of the election cycle is already revving its engine. Within the last month, four potential Commander-in-Chief contenders have announced bids for their party's nomination. Ted Cruz was the first, followed by Rand Paul about a week later and Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio shortly thereafter. These four potentials lead the pack of the presidential campaign thus far, but the race promises to be a crowded one, especially for the Republican Party, and more presidential hopefuls are predicted to announce within the coming weeks and months.

As each candidate strives to win the support, loyalty, and ultimately vote of their party members, their campaign announcements can teach companies about how to win the loyalty and "vote" of their customers. Whether you love or love to hate these candidates, each announcement had merits that companies should espouse.

Ted Cruz - Announced March 23
More than two weeks before anyone else had announced their candidacy for president, Cruz led the pack of Republican candidates and declared his campaign to a crowd of thousands at Liberty University, a Christian academy founded by Jerry Falwell. By declaring his nomination before anyone else, Cruz positioned himself as an immediate target for publicity, giving him a platform to speak before other contenders and allowing him to control the narrative before anyone else announced their candidacy. An adviser to Cruz said his speech highlighted his positivity and personal story, which have gotten lost amid his reputation for opposing Senate measures.

Companies should also consider how they can be the first to propose new ideas and stay ahead of the pack, especially as consumers have more and more choices and information about products and organizations. By doing so, companies can highlight optimism and their corporate histories in order to attract customers and win their loyalty and vote.

Rand Paul - Announced April 7
Like Cruz, Paul faces a similar challenge of standing out in a crowded arena. Knowing this, in his announcement speech, Paul focused on how his values and principles differ from not only the Democratic Party but even his own fellow Republicans. In fact, Paul called out his own party for being part of the problem and emphasized how his values and actions would be vastly different from other Republicans who are vying for the nomination.

Companies that want to differentiate themselves from their competition should take a lesson from Paul. Paul criticizes the shortcomings of Republicans and Democrats past and present and offers different solutions than what other nominees broadcast. Organizations should do the same: evaluate the areas in your industry that need improvement with razor-sharp precision and find a way to make your company the solution to those problems. Then, set yourself apart from the competition by highlighting your alternate thinking.

Hillary Clinton - Announced April 12
Thus far, Clinton is the only contender for the Democratic nomination, and although other potentials are predicted to enter the race, Clinton is viewed as the most likely winner; some have even predicted that her nomination is "inevitable." Unlike Cruz or Paul, Clinton did not kick off her campaign with a speech or an event. Instead, she announced on her social media sites with a short video that focused primarily on the people she hopes will vote for her. Rather than resting on an (almost) assured victory, Clinton advertised in her video that she would be "hitting the road to earn your vote." The video focused so much on those people that Clinton does not make an appearance in the video until just after the minute-and-a-half mark.

Companies with name recognition and a strong brand may have a tendency to slip into laziness and rely on recognition more than customer-centric principles. But, like Clinton, these organizations should always hone their focus on others, not themselves, and shift their mindset to serving those that keep them in business.

Marco Rubio - Announced April 13
Closely following Clinton, Rubio announced his candidacy just this week at the Miami Freedom Tower. Rubio is a 43-year-old freshman senator and the youngest contender for a 2016 party nomination; however, he has already made his youth and (relative) inexperience a calling card for his campaign. His background and youth is an immediate contrast to Rand and Clinton, as well as other potential contenders who are likely to jump in, such as Jeb Bush. In his speech, Rubio positioned his youth as a positive that would allow him to make better, clearer decisions not weighed down by outdated thinking.

Like Rubio, companies should not adhere to tradition simply because it's always been done that way. Even if a company has longevity, it should always be invigorated with new and unique innovation, rather than being tied to antiquated methods, procedures, or ideas.

All four of the current presidential contenders have announced their candidacies in unique ways. Each declaration has set the tone for the individual's campaign and each has a specific lesson that companies could adopt.

Readers, who has made the biggest impact with their presidential announcement thus far? Who else do you think will jump in the race?

The Personality Trap: Why Women Can't Win at Work

Venture capitalists (VCs) are well known for their aggressive and competitive spirits; these traits are necessary to be successful in an industry that is out for blood. But it seems that these same characteristics that make men revered may be less palatable in women VCs ... or women in any workplace.

Last week, Ellen Pao lost her highly publicized suit against her former employer Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Pao alleged that the company passed her over for a promotion to senior partner and then fired her in October due to gender bias. Claiming that she was professionally stunted because of her gender, Pao charged she was penalized and eventually terminated because of her complaints of discrimination.

Much of Pao's case put her personality on trial. When managers or superiors gave feedback about her performance, she was both criticized for being "passive, reticent, waiting for orders," while also having "sharp elbows" and being too "pushy." Although most women now face less overt gender discrimination at work, they must deal with more subtle sexism instead. Women are often trapped in performing the balancing act of the "double-bind" at work: be highly competent, but don't step on people's toes; take on leadership roles, but don't be too aggressive; advertise your success, but don't come off as arrogant. Nobody is perfect in the workplace – but women take on more of a burden for not being so; their personalities are regularly judged and found lacking even when their performance is high.

A recent study revealed the harsh discrepancy between the types of criticism that men and women receive in the workplace. In the analysis, both men and women voluntarily submitted their performance reviews for scrutiny. The study found that only 2.5% of the critical reviews received by men mentioned any negative comments about their personality, while 76% of critical reviews received by women did so (Fortune, 8/26/14). In the reviews, "abrasive" was used 17 times to describe women, but never to describe men.

Like Pao claimed for her own situation, women are judged much more frequently and more harshly on their personality at work than men. In a cutthroat industry, Pao said she was both criticized for being a wallflower and not contributing enough at meetings, but also frowned upon for speaking up, demanding credit, and positioning herself for success. In male-dominated fields especially, women are encouraged to "man up" and exhibit more masculine qualities: competitiveness, aggression, and confidence. A university study found that women who emphasize "male" qualities were more likely to be hired, but then these same qualities penalize them later in workplace reviews (University of Michigan, 8/7/14).

Another example can be seen in STEM. Women are 45% more likely than men to leave the field within a year, though 80% of those women said they love their work . So why are they abandoning the industry? Because of biased environments, prejudiced evaluations, and a lack of female mentors and leaders (Center for Talent Innovation, 2/12/14).

Although Pao lost her case against Kleiner Perkins, other women may be successful where Pao was not. A former Twitter employee is suing the company alleging that promotion opportunities are denied to women and based on arbitrary promotion policies that favor men (Tech Crunch 3/22/15), and a former Facebook employee is suing the company for sex and race discrimination (CNN Money, 3/19/15). Women in all workplaces, not just tech, face the double-bind dilemma, and more are starting to illuminate the subtle sexism that is easy to see but hard to prove.

Readers, do you think that women in the workplace face a double standard when judged on their personalities?

Still Working at 100? Not Going to Happen.

The common vision for retirement used to be plenty of leisure time spent perfecting your golf swing or visiting your grandkids. For many Baby Boomers, retirement may mean not retiring at all but continuing to work well past their 50s and into their 60s and even 70s. The Wall Street Journal has even speculated whether retiring at 100 could be the new normal, and the AARP told a picturesque tale about a 70-year-old woman who came back to the workforce as an HR Director.

However, stories like these may be painting too pretty a picture. Some 53% of workers over 60 are putting off retirement, and 75% of these say that they are staying in the workforce because their finances have yet to recover from the 2008 downturn -- not because they're afraid of getting bored or not knowing what to do with unlimited leisure time. Some 12% of older workers don't think they'll ever be able to retire (Fortune, 2/18/2015). Delayed retirement is less a choice to continue to be engaged in meaningful work and more a necessity to remain solvent and avoid personal financial collapse.

Although the average retirement age has increased over the years, the average age for men has held steady at 64 since 2008, which is not a large leap from the average age of 62 in 1985 (Market Watch, 2/18/2015). Most Baby Boomers are not continuing to work past the average retirement age; only about one third of Baby Boomers over 67 are engaged in the workforce in some capacity (Gallup, 1/26/2015). Those that do continue to work do so out of financial desperation. Near-retirees over 55 years of age, on average, have about $165,000 in their defined-contribution plans (Fidelity, 2/13/2014). And those estimates are optimistic; more dire research estimates that 75% have less than $30,000 (Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, 7/3/2012). Even 401(k)s at the higher end of the spectrum will not sustain Baby Boomers through 20+ years of retirement. With pensions plans outside the public sector essentially nonexistent and average social security benefits at $1,294 per month, about $15,000 per year and not far above the poverty line (Social Security Administration, 4/2/2014), those considering retirement are finding it increasingly attractive to try and stay in the workforce.

The feeling is not always mutual for employers, however. Many companies blatantly advertise that they are looking for "young," "fresh," "energetic" employees. The tech industry especially is notorious for age discrimination, and many are unwilling to hire "graybeards." Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that "young people are just smarter," and a Santa-Clara-based IT services company recently used the phrase "We Want People with Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them" on their careers page (now removed). Even outside of tech, few companies are eager to higher older workers. Workers in their 50s who are looking for a job are 20% less likely than their more youthful counterparts to be hired; when they are, they earn 15-20% less than in previous jobs (CNN Money, 2/23/2013). In addition, some companies use methods to push Baby Boomers toward retirement; isolating aging workers, cutting job responsibilities or working hours, and denying promotions are all subtle ways to move out older employees.

Employers should think twice though before pushing out their older workforce, and not just to avoid a discrimination claim. When Baby Boomers exit, companies often don't understand the loss until after their tenured experts leave. Retirees take institutional knowledge, influential relationships, and honed capabilities out the door. Losing the intangible expertise of aging workers could come with a price tag of up to 20x higher than the typical hiring and recruiting costs (Harvard Business Review, 12/2/2014). Baby Boomers have maturity and knowledge that younger workers can lack, and forcing them out of the workforce if they want to keep contributing is a costly error on the part of organizations.

Retiring from the workforce may be viewed as a choice, but for many Baby Boomers, age discrimination and illness may force them into retirement and an uncertain financial future.

Readers, is delaying retirement the new normal? Comment and let us know.

The High Cost of Low Wages, Part 2

This is part 2 of our series dispelling the myth that a company's profitability depends on rock bottom pay. To read Part 1, click here.

Since the Great Recession, low pay and stagnant wage growth have been the new normal, but Walmart's announcement that it will be giving a raise to 40% of its workforce hopefully signals that earnings are set to increase. Higher wages are obviously an advantage to employees, but they also benefit the companies that employ them. Organizations that offer paltry pay could be forced to increase wages in order to stay competitive. This trend is already playing out as TJX, which owns a variety of retailers, including TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods, announced immediately after Walmart that it will raise workers' base pay to $10 by 2016.

Any company offering higher wages is not doing so out of altruism; they have competitive pay because it is profitable for their organization. Livable wages attract more talent, increase worker productivity, reduce turnover, and at the end of the day add to a company's bottom line.

When a company offers higher wages, and especially when they are early adopters of higher pay in their industry, they will attract a higher quantity and quality of applicants. Last year when Gap announced that it would raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour, the amount of applications rose 10% (Bloomberg Business, 6/24/2014). Organizations that offer higher pay are rewarded with an applicant pool that has a higher IQ and with personality scores and motivation that make them a better fit for advertised jobs (Peterson Institute for International Economics, 1/13/2015). Walmart's choice to increase wages before other major companies such as Target and McDonald's positions it to attract and retain more qualified employees from a talent pool that is becomingly increasingly competitive and desirable. The low-wage model may reduce the cost of labor but does not do any good for a company's costs overall. Currently, about 44% of Walmart's 2.2 million hourly staff turns over each year (Bloomberg Business, 2/23/2015). Finding, hiring, and training replacements even for low-wage workers costs about 16% of an employee's annual earnings, and when nearly half of your hourly workforce is jumping ship, those costs quickly add up. With falling same-store sales and two straight years of stagnant earnings, Walmart is being forced to change its business model that is no longer sustainable in a tightening job market.

Many other retailers have already mastered the lesson that Walmart and other companies are just learning. At Trader Joe's, starting pay is $40,000; employees at Costco make on average $21 per hour; and staff at The Container Store make an average of $50,000 per year (USA Today, 10/17/2014). Costco's turnover rate is 17% overall and that number plummets to 6% after one year of employment (Bloomberg Business, 2/23/2015). All of these organizations operate in a competitive marketplace and refute the idea that retailers must pay measly money in order to make profit. Their happier, more productive employees also provide better customer service and more satisfied, loyal clientele. QuikTrip, a Fortune 100 convenience store and gas station chain, pays an entry-level salary of around $40,000; it's turnover rate is 13% (compared to 59% for the top quartile of the convenience store industry), and its per square foot sales are 50% higher than the industry average (The New York Times, 3/21/2014).

It is a myth that companies, especially organizations in low-margin industries, must constrict wage growth in order to remain profitable. Especially as the economy strengthens and competition for talent increases, companies must consider offering better pay if they want a more talented workforce, more loyal customers, and a stronger bottom-line.

Readers, do you think more companies will raise wages as the economy improves? Comment and let us know!

3/23/15 Update: On March 18, Target followed Walmart's and TJX's lead and announced that the company would be raising the starting pay of its workers to $9 an hour in April and $10 an hour by 2016. The decision will affect the pay of 500,000 employees.

4/2/15 Update: Fast food giant McDonald's announced on Wednesday that it will raise wages for employees that work at locations that it owns and operates. The company will raise wages at least $1 over local legal minimum wage for workers, to an average of $9.90 an hour by July 1. The increase in pay will only apply to those workers at the locations under corporate control, affecting about 90,000 employees. The decision does not apply to the 750,000 employees who work for the McDonald's franchisees. The pay increases come even as the company faces sagging sales.

Walmart Raises Wages and So Should You, Part 1

Last week, Walmart announced that it would be giving a raise to 40% of its workforce. About half a million employees will see their hourly wages rise to $9.00 in the next six months and $10.00 by 2016, well above the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The company will be spending about $1 billion dollars in increased pay and revised training and promotion programs. Recently, many companies such as Gap, Ikea, and health insurance provider Aetna Inc. have raised wages for their workers, but as the world's largest private employer, Walmart's decision to increase pay will be more closely watched and could have a larger impact.

Over the years, a job at Walmart has become synonymous with rock bottom pay. An unstable labor market and stagnant job creation made it possible for companies, including the retail giant, to consistently fill positions that had low pay and unsteady hours. In 2013, Walmart had 23,000 job applications for 600 jobs, with an acceptance rate of 2.6%; that's twice as selective as Harvard University (The Washington Post, 3/28/2014). In the years following 2008, low wages were an effective method to maximize profits. However, as an increasingly optimistic labor market continues to favor employees and job seekers, companies may no longer be able to sustain low wages.

In December, the percentage of people looking for work hit the lowest level since 2007. The economy has created more than 3 million jobs in three months; the number of available jobs posted by U.S. employers rose to the highest levels in 14 years; and job quits increased to 2.7 million, their highest level in six years, a sign of workers' confidence in the job market. Although the future of job creation looks sunny, wage growth has remained stagnant. Since 2012, pay has shrunk for people at almost all income levels with the exception of the bottom 10%, which have seen higher wage growth due to state-sponsored minimum wage increases (Economic Policy Institute, 2/19/2015). However, any increase in wages does not do much good for workers since inflation is rising faster than the price of labor. The income for a typical worker today buys fewer goods and services than in 2006 (Pay Scale, 1/12/2015).

The trend of frustratingly stagnant wage growth could start to reverse as the economy continues to improve and the labor market continues to tighten. Walmart's move to increase hourly earnings has already turned the spotlight on other retailers who offer similarly low wages, such as Target and Staples. The wage hikes have also put a spotlight on food service companies like McDonald's, which has consistently been singled out as an organization that doles out rock bottom pay. Companies that could once offer low wages may be forced to increase pay in order to stay competitive, attract talent, and reduce turnover.

Raising wages is not just an advantage to the workers it benefits; it is also a boon for the organizations that employ them. Join us next week for Part 2 of our series and learn why all companies, not just Walmart, should raise their wages.the Benefits of Raising Wages.

Readers, do you think that companies should increase worker pay? Why or why not? Comment and let us know!

Winning the Oscars of Business

This Sunday, actors, directors, and all sorts of other Hollywood stars will walk the red carpet and cross their fingers hoping that their name will be called when they hear, "And the Oscar goes to..."

Winning an Academy Award is the highest accolade given to those in the world of film. An Oscar validates the most memorable ideas stories and challenging performances in movies for the year. The Academy Awards can also offer lessons about what it takes to create something special and impressive in business. If your organization could win the Oscars of business, you would have all of the necessary components to produce a blockbuster company.

Best Actor/Actress
Actors and actresses are the face of a film; Oscar-nominated movies are immediately associated with their star performer. Great ones are willing to invest time, effort, and talent into their performances. Actors also evangelize for their film, touring and attending press events. Just like actors, your employees are the face of your company and the ones who should be advocates for your business. A half-hearted performance can ruin a film, and employees that lack passion or commitment will cause a company to wither.

Best Supporting Actor/Actress
Often, the stars of a movie are heralded above all others involved with the project; however, a film cannot typically stand alone on one great performance. Without the dedication of supporting actors and actresses, the efforts of the stars wouldn't matter. Similarly, employees who support starring team members like sales people, executives, or other staff in the spotlight should not be neglected or forgotten. Without the supporting staff, the essential operations and work in the background would go undone and the company would unravel.

Best Original Screenplay
This award honors the new ideas that come to life on the screen. By recognizing films that are based off of wholly original content, the Academy Awards encourages new ideas and innovation. Businesses should also ensure that those who are inspired by new thoughts, initiatives, or projects should be given the space to pursue them. By embracing and rewarding original work, companies will inspire innovation and consistently evolve into more efficient, productive, and creative organizations.

Best Director
In their acceptance speeches, actors and actresses always thank their directors for pushing, guiding, and motivating them to do their best work. Directors create and communicate a vision and strategy for producing an extraordinary film. The management of a company should function just like directors, inspiring their team with a vision of success and leading them in their efforts to always make sure that they are performing their best.

Best Picture
Finally, just as having a compelling story, dedicated actors and actresses, and a motivating director makes an award-winning movie, all of these elements also create a business that is Oscar worthy. The Best Picture award is granted to the film that has the strongest showing in all of these categories, and if you want your business to win this prestigious accolade, then the organization will need to shine in all of these areas.

Readers, will you be watching the Academy Awards this Sunday? Would your company win the Oscars of business? Comment and let us know!

January Jobs Report

The U.S. economy continued to show strength in the first month of 2015; 257,000 jobs were added, and although the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.7%, analysts estimate that the increase was due to more people looking for work in an optimistic job market (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary). The number of long-term unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 2.8 million, accounting for 31.5% of the total unemployed. Hourly earnings also grew by 0.5%, the highest monthly wage growth since late 2008.

In January, job growth saw the most expansion in retail trade (+46,000), construction (+39,000), health care (+38,000), and finance (+26,000). Temporary help services saw little change from last month but was 6.7% higher than in January of 2014.

Should Employers Mandate Vaccinations?

Disneyland may be the "happiest place on earth," but it also one of the worst locations for a measles outbreak, as occurred a few weeks ago. There are now more than 100 cases in six states (plus Mexico) that have been traced back to the outbreak in California. This is not the first resurgence of diseases normally avoided through vaccination: New York had a measles outbreak in early 2014, and Massachusetts and California both had bouts of whooping cough near the end of the year. California's outbreak was the highest in seven decades.

Diseases like measles and whooping cough, once essentially eradicated in the United States, have resurfaced in the last few years as people increasingly choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. In 2014, the measles and whooping cough cases in the United States rose to their highest levels in over 20 years (CDC, 5/29/14, 8/27/14). One in 10 parents choose not to vaccinate their children (Washington Post, 6/26/2014), and vaccination rates have decreased in pockets around the country. In the Santa Monica, Malibu, and Orange County neighborhoods of California, 10-15% of kindergartners are unvaccinated (CBS, 9/27/2014). When more than 8 percent of a population is not immunized, herd immunity is weakened and the disease can quickly spread. As more people choose to forgo vaccinations and these types of outbreaks continue to increase, Disneyland and other employers face the question of whether they should – or can – require employees to get vaccinated.

Most industries (with the exception of health care), including tourism, aviation, and hospitality where staff frequently encounter contagious people, do not mandate immunization. Disney has stated it will not require workers to receive routine inoculations as a condition of employment. Instead, Disney and most other companies encourage their employees to verify if they've been inoculated and, if not, offer tests and shots. The Disney employees who have not been vaccinated or could not prove their immunity status through a blood test have been put on paid leave.

Hospitals and health care facilities are a different story. States have varying laws surrounding the immunization of hospital workers; 19 have regulations requiring the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) and influenza vaccine for hospital workers. But often the policy is left up to individual hospitals. Seattle's Virginia Mason hospital was the first to require that hospital workers receive a flu shot in 2005. Kennedy Health in New Jersey recently mandated that all employees receive the flu shot unless an exemption was granted for religious or medical reasons. Nurses at the Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospital in Washington are suing MultiCare, which operates both facilities, for mandating the influenza vaccine. The union representing the nurses is suing based on the grounds that nurses who do not comply could be terminated.

Even inquiring about vaccination status can be tricky for employers. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act prohibit employment discrimination based on medical or religious status. Asking about whether an employee is inoculated could reveal both: some people are unable to get vaccinated due to allergies, medical conditions, or being immunocompromised, while others refuse vaccinations based on religious reasons. Mandatory vaccinations in the workplace contrast individual choice against wider public safety. Critics worry that requiring vaccinations can lead to medical and/or religious employment discrimination. However, advocates cite that a person's choice to remain unvaccinated is not restrained to the individual; the choice increases the community's chance of contracting preventable diseases, especially among vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.

Readers, do you think that employers should be able to make employees get vaccinations? Comment and let us know!

Super Bowl Ads: Lessons for Corporate America

This Sunday, millions of Americans will huddle around their televisions eager to see who will be named the champion of Super Bowl XLIX. The grand sporting event is consistently the most-watched television program in the United States. In 2014, 111.5 million people tuned in, the most in Super Bowl history. This year should also see record numbers as the Seahawks and Patriots compete.

But the winning team is not the only thing that will be immortalized; commercials during the event can be just as celebrated and remembered as whichever team claims the title. The best advertisements quickly go viral and many viewers watch just to see what interesting, funny, and creative commercials have been cooked up for this year.

The most impressive and famous advertisements from previous events showcase lessons for companies wanting to create organizations with a company culture just as enticing and anticipated as these viral ads. Take a look...

"The Force" – Volkswagen Passat
Lesson: Reward Ambition

In 2011, the entire Super Bowl audience was charmed with the adorably decked out young Darth Vader as he unwaveringly attempted to use "the force" without any luck. Even after half a dozen attempts and failures, his resolve remained. If companies could source and hire staff with this same mindset, no idea would seem too far-fetched and no failure would be too great an obstacle. Often organizations do find employees like mini Darth; however, bureaucracy and politics trample their optimism. An employee may keep dreaming of using the force, only to have their vision stifled. Instead of crushing passion, companies should encourage the wild ideas and creative dreams that can lead to innovation and success.

"Pug Attack" Crash the Super Bowl 2011 Winner – Frito-Lay
Lesson: Recognize Ideas

Since 2006, Frito-Lay has been challenging fans to "crash the Super Bowl" by creating their own Doritos advertisements where at least one fan-made commercial is guaranteed to run during the big event. The "Crash the Super Bowl" competition has become the largest online video contest in the world. Nearly every year, the Doritos ad quickly goes viral. Frito-Lay understands that their fans can generate more energy and creativity than a whole team of expert marketers.

Too often, companies forget that, like Doritos enthusiasts, their employees are reservoirs of knowledge and ideas that may never be used. By embracing ways to get employees involved and excited, companies will tap into the potential and talent from a previously unused source. Using this principle, Doritos has continually aired some of the most memorable Super Bowl ads, including "Pug Attack," a favorite over the years.

"Puppy Love" – Budweiser
Lesson: Make Connections

The Budweiser Clydesdales made their Super Bowl commercial debut almost 30 years ago at Super Bowl 20. Last year, Budweiser aired "Puppy Love," which features an unlikely friendship between the iconic Clydesdale and a feisty pup. Many Super Bowl commercials rely on slapstick or flash, but Budweiser was able to differentiate itself by telling a story that was simple, emotional, and universal. No one could withstand the charms of this animal duo.

People relate strongly to stories and experiences. If companies focus on telling narratives that convey real emotion and focus outward (you won't find a single mention of Budweiser's brand or beverage in the commercial until their logo at the end), then the company will grow beyond a product, into a legacy, much like Budweiser's recurring Clydesdales.

Readers, who will you be rooting for in the Super Bowl? Comment and let us know! Then, this Sunday, while you're watching the game, take note of the commercials and tell us which ones resonated with you.

More Entries