Ryan Lowery

A sampling of what a news junkie & business nerd has been reading

Posts tagged labor

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Want Higher Productivity? Stop Treating Employees Like Children

You could get a lot more done if your employees would just get off the Internet and get to work, right? Some estimate that time spent not working results in $130 billion (with a b) in lost productivity. So the last thing you want is your employees on Facebook or personal email. (Reading Inc.com is, of course, always good for your business.)

But a new study done by a team of economists reports that, even if they’re working, it’s the the temptation of the forbidden Internet that actually lowers their productivity. I’m always skeptical of research involving 60 volunteers, who are undoubtedly college students who had to volunteer for a study to get credit for their introductory psychology classes. Even so, the results are intriguing: They showed that concentration dropped when there was a video that the participants wanted to watch but were told not to.

The theory is, the energy to resist temptation detracted from their ability to focus on the task. Lesson: If you just let them watch the video, they can then focus on the task at hand.

I’m sure that is true. Any time we’re focused on something other than the task at hand, we’re more likely to make mistakes. But the unspoken problem here is not the temptation itself but the idea that the manager is going to swoop in and discipline them for taking a break. The authors of the study latched on to the Internet as the example of how this plays out in the workplace, but the reality is, the Internet is only one small attention sinkhole. Co-workers, planning your kid’s birthday party, last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, and everything else under the sun can also be a distraction to your employees. I think it’s more of an issue of micromanagement.

So, with all these things competing for your employees’ attention, just how do you increase productivity? I say, let them be grownups.

Don’t say, “No Internet for you!” Not because it’s a waste of time, but because grownups should be monitoring themselves. You should be looking at results and not monitoring minute-by-minute productivity. When a problem… [Read More]

Filed under Small business Business management labor

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The Case for a Higher Minimum Wage

Last night, during his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for the Federal minimum wage to be raised from its current rate of $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. He also proposed that we tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, allowing it to increase each year. If this became reality, it would be the first increase in the minimum wage in four years, and the most substantial increase in our nation’s history.

I got my first job in 1994, at the age of sixteen. It was in the warehouse of a moving and storage company. Being an entry-level labor job, it paid minimum wage, which was $4.25 an hour at the time. It was a decent job and I really liked the people I worked with. That being the case, if I decided today—nineteen years later—that I would… [Read More]

Filed under business politics minimum wage labor economics union unions

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer: Unions Are (Not!) Destroying America

It is unfortunate that we are seeing an attempt in Congress to scapegoat America’s unions for the economic problems that beset us.

After all, it was not America’s grocery clerks, nurses, teachers, postal workers and electricians that nearly caused the meltdown of the economy. It wasn’t America’s labor unions that were pushing for tax loopholes that made our revenue system a hopeless, inefficient mess. It wasn’t unions that pushed for shortcuts for worker safety that produced the tragedies that we have…

Filed under labor unions union

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Study: U.S. Has Weakest Labor Protections Among Rich Nations

A new international comparison makes it clear just how weak  protections are for working people in the United States. University of Missouri-St. Louis Associate Professor Kenneth Thomas reviewed numbers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and found that in 21 categories,

U.S. workers are more vulnerable than workers in any [OECD] mewmbers (rich industrialized democracies) or even…

Filed under labor unions union

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Goodbye, Borders (and 11,000 jobs)

It’s a sad day for book lovers. And for the economy and the unemployed. Today, Borders Group Inc. announced the company will be liquidated and all of its remaining stores will be closed.

After failing to find any last-minute bidders willing to keep the company in operation, the company canceled a planned auction that would have taken place tomorrow, and will soon turn the company’s assets over to…

Filed under jobs labor economy

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No, Let's Not Slash the Minimum Wage

Karl Smith agrees with Casey Mulligan that reducing the minimum wage would boost the job market:

I understand that there are sophisticated studies showing a limited impact of the minimum wage on employment. My judgment is impacted by those studies. Nonetheless, they are climbing a steep hill against intuition and a supply and demand paradigm that has proved incredibly powerful in the past.

It may not be the case that the minimum wage…

Filed under labor unions unemployment union jobs economy

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Poll numbers keep saying the same thing: Voters not happy with Scott Walker

As everyone who follows politics knows, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has been making some bold moves. His budget reforms that–among other things–targeted public unions exploded into a combination of street warfare and soap opera as pro-union forces took to the streets and Democratic state senators fled to hide in Illinois. (At the same time, Democratic state senators from Indiana were “vacationing” in the Land of Lincoln to avoid some issues in Hoosier-land. What’s next…Gadhafi in Peoria?)

As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Wisconsin’s public opinion pendulum is in constant motion, and the state has historically embraced free-thinkers over the long run. Earlier polls…

Filed under wisconsin unions union labor politics