pro-employee movement

Why the Pro-Employee Movement Matters to Your Business

Let’s get one thing clear up front; too many companies today fail to be pro-employee. The traditional, ubiquitous mindset regarding the employer-employment arrangement has been a barrier to humanizing and modernizing the workplace. Advancements in this area, however, would promote a pro-employee movement and would bring mutually beneficial advancements that are both pro-employee and pro-company.

The term pro-employee was astutely used by Namely, an HR payroll, benefits, and talent management solution, in their whitepaper, “The Pro-Employee Tide: Trends in HR Compliance.” In their report, the HR tech company outlined a variety of changes that reflect the pro-employee movement:

  • Increases minimum wage laws
  • Changes paid leave favoring new parents
  • The “Ban the Box” sentiment: a move to make it unlawful for employers to ask early in the interview process about the job applicant’s criminal history
  • Changes in eligibility for paid overtime

Certainly, these changes reflect significant shifts all business owners need to understand from a legal perspective. However, these changes are more than legal. The pro-employee movement represents an increased awareness of the impact work has on employees’ lives within, and outside, the workplace.

The Overwhelmed Employee

So why do we need legal reform? Today’s talent works longer hours and is subsequently overwhelmed. The consulting firm, Deloitte, recently shared survey results finding that 65 percent of executives rate the overwhelmed employee as an “urgent” or “important” trend. Sadly, 44 percent indicated they are “unprepared” to deal with it.

The ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, and laptops makes it easy for employees to stay connected to work. Many feel obligated to do so, leaving less time for them to recover.

Adding to the problem, according to Deloitte, is the complexity of accessing information. In their research, 72 percent of employees said they can’t find the information they need using the company’s information databases. Add robust meeting schedules, project demands, and the organizations’ inability to effectively prioritize work, and employee stress levels begin to undermine performance. This has a negative effect on their productivity.

Enter the Pro-Employee Movement

When I talked with Namely’s CEO, Matt Straz, he wisely observed, “The war for talent is over, and talent won.” The pro-employee legislative changes mentioned above are reflected in Straz’s observation.

The talent war may be over, but a new war is just beginning: the fight to improve employees’ well-being. With new labor rules from the Department of Labor taking effect on December 1, 2016, businesses of all sizes need to evaluate their employee expectations, written and unwritten.

The rules raise the overtime exemption salary amount to $47,476. As a result, 12.5 million more salaried workers will be eligible for overtime. Until this point, this group of employees had worked more than 40 hours a week without compensation. Some would say this practice took advantage of employees. After all, what high performing employees want to show their earnestness when the boss emails the team after hours?

It’s the long hours that negatively undermine an employee’s ability to separate from work, and their well-being takes the hit. In one research report, 46 percent of stressed respondents felt depressed and didn’t have emotional support. In the same survey, 43 percent said stress had increased over a measured time period. What’s the financial cost to a business? Gallup research has found poor employee well-being costs organizations $6,763 per person.

Taking Bold Action

While businesses re-evaluate their relationship with employees, forward-thinking leaders see the benefits. Pro-employee sentiments can lead to good business, assuming you take bold action. Here are some actions to take to maximize the good in the legislative changes:

  • Matt Straz recommends meeting with employees impacted by the laws. For the changes in overtime rules, Straz warns that some employees will struggle with being reclassified as hourly. Give them the opportunity to have an intelligent conversation on the matter.
  • If possible at a business-wide level, implement a rule that prohibits sending emails after 6 PM. If a business-wide rule is unlikely, make it a team rule.
  • Offer perks that help employee manage stress levels: massages, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation classes
  • Offer flexible work hours. This includes allowing employees who need to drop off kids at school or at daycare to come in later.

For leaders to make the workplace one that unifies human needs with business needs, it will take some outside influences: legislative changes that will push businesses to do what’s right for employees. These changes, however, also reflect better practices that can make a positive impact on the growth and goals of the business. It will take some time, of course,  for these to be better understood.


This post originally appeared in Shawn’s Column, Positive Business.


Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of Switch and Shift. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • IAMSynt

    This is an outstanding message. It speaks volumes.

    One of the most overworked groups is federal employees with great talent and work ethic. The ones who work hard find themselves picking up the slack for the ones who don’t work much.

    Great performers are given too much because they keep producing. That productivity is at the detriment of the individual. When they say no, they are viewed as less of a team player. There has to balance.

    Talent is human and has limitations. There are only 24 hours in a day. The trend of packing all their free time with work is wrong. When do they get to breathe?

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