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HR News Round-Up August 2017

Posted On: 24/08/2017

This week we kick off with a couple of ‘how not to’ stories – one from Silicon Valley giant Google, whose fall-out from an employee’s self-authored anti-diversity memo has been hitting the headlines worldwide, and another around millennial employees risking burn-out from constant screen checking.

 Google’s People Management Firestorm following Employee’s Anti-Diversity Manifesto

As if proof were needed that The Big Guys and Girls don’t always get it right, Google was forced to sack a software engineer this week after he authored an anti-diversity manifesto claiming that gender imbalance in the tech industry was due to biological differences between men and women. The document, which criticized Google’s implicit bias training and other programmes to promote diversity in the currently 80% male-staffed company, was published internally but then leaked to the media.

The US Department of Labour is, separately, investigating Google around wage discrimination – a charge denied by the company.

Since the news broke, multiple ex-employees have come forward with claims of discriminatory practice at the company. One current member of staff has said that “it’s possible to build inclusive teams …. [but] most managers are starved for information about how to actually go about doing that.”

Google has consistently ranked highly in Forbes magazine’s ‘Best Places to Work Survey’, and a sneak peek by Personnel Today inside Google’s HR function (named ‘People Operations’ internally) in 2014 showed that, on paper at least, the company is progressive in terms of its people policies. So the analysis of what’s going wrong and why is likely to go on for some time.

These latest events come in the wake of a months-long furore in the US around alleged gender inequality and pay gaps in Silicon Valley.

While tech start-ups should in theory struggle less with gender equality, setting out with smaller teams, it’s not been the case, with experts ascribing the problem to gender equality not being addressed early enough in most cases – and including start-ups founded by women.

Earlier this year, a Financial Times survey of 10 major tech companies showed that women occupied only 18.3% of technology roles.

 HR Under-Valued in UK Tech Sector

In other (but related) news, a report in Personnel Today reveals that it’s in the tech sector that UK companies most under-value HR functions, with unresponsiveness being one of the main criticisms levelled5.

Some 50,000 employees were interviewed for the survey, across 11 sectors.

The sectors that rated the function highest were the travel and food industries.

 Millennials Risking Burn-Out

New research from BUPA shows that ‘Generation Y’ employees, or ‘millennials’, put in over 12 hours’ work a day, including daily dawn and dusk e-mail checking – and around a third of them also check work e-mails while they’re on annual leave. This means they spend on average an hour longer working per day than their Generation X (‘baby boomer’) colleagues. BUPA, meanwhile, is keen to point out that round-the-clock screen-checking doesn’t necessarily make for productive working, with burn-out a real risk.

This latest study further bolsters the argument for staff work-life balance programmes, which could become even more important depending on the average age of staff.

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