Academic LERA members and Employment Policy Research Network researchers are presenting online webinars to corporate human-resource managers at some of the nation's largest and most prominent companies.
Some background: you may have read that the formerly employee-owned BNA, the Washington, D.C.-based legal and business publisher and a longtime organizational sponsor of LERA, was acquired last year by the huge business and financial information publisher Bloomberg. Bloomberg BNA's subscribers include a corporate who's who: AT&T, P&G, Whole Foods, Navistar, Alcoa, Chevron, McGraw-Hill, GM Financial, Kaiser Permanente, Northrop Grumman ...
Bloomberg BNA customers buy a subscription to a wide array of BNA informational and educational products. Cathy Tran (right), a CPA for the Standard Insurance Co. in Portland, Ore., explains that she and her company depend upon BNA for high-level, current requirements for state and federal tax information reporting. Tran receives Continuing Professional Education credits for her attendance at BNA webinars, conferences and classes that together satisfy the annual requirements for the accounting profession.
"In addition to webinars, our Bloomberg BNA corporate subscription enables us to access BNA's library of tax forms," Tran said. "We also use its web site to securely store our documents."
Tran has been to a number of BNA webinars. She characterizes them as "well-organized and informative" with presenters who are "well-known in the field and provide good, reliable resources."
Past LERA President Marlene Heyser (pictured, above) and Bloomberg BNA's Matt Sattong (left) drew the blueprint for the joint LERA-EPRN-Bloomberg BNA webinar enterprise. Sattong, who has been involved with BNA webinars since the beginning, says the company offers webinars on payroll, human resources and international human resources. He says there are two kinds of webinars.
"H.R. professionals are interested in practical information, new legislation or a change in regulation, such as a change in the Americans with Disabilities Act, so they can stay legal and in compliance," Sattong said. "The second kind of webinar consists of evergreen topics, such as labor-management relations and employee motivation."
It's the latter category into which most of the LERA member-presented webinars fall. "The Bloomberg BNA-LERA alliance is based on the caliber of LERA people — they're platinum," Sattong said, and capable of delivering "very high level, more-theoretical ideas. We look to LERA people for emerging trends and thought leadership."
Heyser and Sattong handed the webinar project off to BNA H.R. webinar producer Rich Bronson (left) and EPRN and LERA editor Mike Lillich to put the partnership plan into play. The webinars are 90-minute, online PowerPoint presentations with live voiceovers by LERA presenters. The presenters broadcast remotely from their offices or home computers. On the receiving end, BNA subscriber participants receive online new ideas, practices and concepts to take back into the management-worker day-to-day fray. BNA subscriber participants can call and email in questions and comments to the webinar presenters. The participants also receive continuing education credits. After the webinars, presenters retain their intellectual property rights, and Bloomberg BNA sells recordings of the webinars after the fact.
Producer Bronson describes the necessary elements of a great webinar presentation: "The first requirement is knowledge, expertise," he said. "Presenters also have to be communicators. And finally, they need to present good graphics on their PowerPoints. The slides can't be too information heavy. We can incorporate photos, video. At the high end of the graphics scale, there's hardly anything that can't be graphically recreated."
For their part, LERA presenters have the opportunity to test their employment research policy and practice ideas in the contemporary corporate marketplace. The presenters encourage their audiences to visit the LERA and EPRN websites, check us out, and maybe down the road join our conversation, become members and/ become a LERA sponsor.
So there are some big upsides all around.
From February to May, LERA and EPRN stalwarts stepped up and put on some impressive webinar presentations for Bloomberg BNA's corporate subscribers:
Eileen Appelbaum (senior economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research and past LERA president, EPRN) and Ruth Milkman (City University of New York Graduate Center, EPRN, pictured left) presented a February Bloomberg BNA webinar with data and ideas from their research paper paper “Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California.”
Attorney Anne Marie Lofaso (West Virginia College of Law, EPRN, left) presented her Bloomberg BNA webinar with facts and findings from her EPRN-posted paper, “National Labor Relations Board Primer and the Boeing Complaint.”
David Lewin (UCLA, LERA president, EPRN) and Alex Colvin (Cornell, LERA, EPRN, pictured left) presented a BNA webinar on alternative dispute resolution.
Tom Kochan (MIT, LERA past president, EPRN) and Barry Bluestone (Northeastern, EPRN, LERA, left) presented a Bloomberg BNA webinar "Negotiating the Future" on recent innovations and concepts in public-sector union negotiating applied to contemporary corporations. For their webinar material, Kochan and Bluestone drew on both their recent work on public-sector collective bargaining, "Toward a New Grand Bargain," (pictured, right) as well as prior research and negotiation experience with Ford and the United Auto Workers, Magma Copper and today's largest labor-management partnership Kaiser Permante.
Jennifer Swanberg (University of Kentucky and executive director of UK’s Institute for Workplace Innovation, EPRN, pictured left) presented her Bloomberg BNA webinar with successful approaches to managing hourly workers in her “Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Workers” paper. Co-presenter Susan Lambert (University of Chicago, LERA, EPRN, pictured below right) presented her findings on management of full- and part-time workers from her EPRN-posted paper, “The University of Chicago Work Scheduling Study.”
So the response by the LERA members and EPRN researchers to the BNA webinar was very positive. None shied away from the 100 percent corporate audience very different from an Annual Meeting presentation group. Susan Lambert (pictured, right) discussed her motivation to present the webinar with Sandberg on scheduling and managing mostly retail workers.
"Jennifer [Swanberg] and I were motivated to present the BNA webinar for the same reason we chose to study social work rather than [the more abstract and scholarly] sociology — because we wanted to work on the front lines and make a difference and deliver more employment security for hourly retail workers," she said.
So Lambert and Swanberg at the simplest level lay out for retail H.R. managers their hourly workers' point of view, which in practical terms means getting enough hours to pay their bills and having enough advance scheduling so they can plan their child care and make physicians' appointments, for example.
But Lambert continues the presentation was not a one-way street: "There's a payoff to the managers in the form of a more stable workforce."
Worker retention, another benefit of flexible management and more predictable scheduling from the H.R. manager's point of view, is important to retail managers in more ways than one, Lambert explains.
"Front-line managers have different ways of thinking about worker retention," Lambert says. "If they lose one person, that may be one-tenth or one-fifth of a store's workforce. So often the store manager ends up making up the former employees' hours."
The kicker: The manager is in an exempt employee, so she ends up making up the hours above her 40 hours. So she's getting no pay for taking up the store slack. This is a morale killer, and retail is difficult enough without taking one for the team with precious little credit or recognition.
Takeaway lessons from the Swanberg-Lambert webinar for smart frontline managers and webinar participants who want good store operations and loyal hourly employees:
The results: When workers are respected and viewed as assets, it shows in customer service and experience that are positive, informed and likely to result in repeat business.
Lambert and Swanberg describe what they do as "translational research," practices to be used in the workplace. "We talk to employers, front-line managers, supervisors and employees to get evidence-based practices and concepts to be used. We want to get beyond beliefs and preconceptions to new ways of thinking about and doing things in the workplace.
"But businesses and business schools need to take a step in that direction, too," Lambert says.
At this writing, plans for LERA-EPRN-BNA webinars 2.0 for fall are teed up and ready to go online:
Mingwei Liu (Rutgers, LERA, pictured at left) and attorney Jeffrey Wilson of Jun He Law Offices will present "China: Collective Bargaining, Collective Contracts and Strikes."
John Budd (Minnesota, EPRN, LERA, pictured at left) and his former student, Jennifer Reilly, now Hershey Co.'s H.R. director, will present a webinar based on Budd's book, The Thought of Work (2011, Cornell University ILR Press) presents what Budd describes as "broader ways of thinking" for corporate human resources professionals to hire, manage and motivate their workers. Reilly will bring her Hershey's H.R. management perspectives to the discussion.
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld (Illinois, past LERA president, EPRN) and Martin Malloy (Ford Motor Co. vice president for labor relations, 2013 LERA President-Elect, pictured at left) in November. Their webinar will bring both academic expertise and high-level labor-management experience to the best contemporary thinking in human resources in the global marketplace.
There are discussions between LERA and Bloomberg BNA about making the webinars available live and after the fact for classroom and LERA chapter program usage.
From both LERA's and Bloomberg BNA's points of view, the LERA-EPRN-BNA Bloomberg webinar partnership is that oft-touted, but seldom genuinely achieved, a mutually beneficial win-win proposition.
(Editor's note: LERA members with ideas for a Bloomberg BNA webinar they'd like to present can contact Mike Lillich for presenter details. (217) 244-0725.)