HRO Today’s publisher was in Brussels co-chairing the HRO World Europe Conference when the Democrats took control of the Congress and U.S. Senate on November 7. Though he’s a flag-waving blue-state guy, he decided that the election’s sweeping mandate calls for a cold, hard look at what the regime change means to HR transformation, HRO, and your career.
For those of you who are as geeky as I am and play rotisserie politics on FantasyCongress.com, this column will be a BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious). For non-geeks, reading this column is a good cover-your-ass investment (in case you hadn’t noticed, this column is named CYA).
On November 7, Democrats picked up a 33-seat majority in the House, and a 51-percent majority in the Senate, ending a decade of Republican domination. Some of you will yawn. But wait. This election’s results, unlike many in the past, will visit you and your business life, big time.
Disclaimer: If I were a politician (I’m not … at least not yet), I would be a cross between millionaire Malcolm Forbes (whose maxim was “Capitalist Tool”), and a populist fighter for non-millionaires (think Canadian-style healthcare and taxpayer-supported vouchers for day care). That means the Demo-sweep made me smile, but it also makes me worry. I fear revengeful New Deal Demos (usually elected during the Kennedy, Johnson, or Carter administrations) who want to punish evangelical neo-conservatives by sheep-dipping us all in Great Society goo.
Based on the election results, here are my three predictions for how the change in the political landscape will impact you in the next eight quarters.
• First, immigration. Remember that 700-mile fence at the Mexican border that the Republican Congress recently voted to build? Guess what? It will never be built. Here is why: The bill passed without specifying how to pay for this modern-day version of the Maginot Line (the supposedly impermeable French barrier which German invaders easily hopped). The new Democratic Congress will use this excuse to deny funding for the futile project.
True, Democrats’ traditional allies in the union movement tend to be anti-immigrant. But the new, more populist, practical Democratic majority will support greater efforts at assimilating immigrants. Why? Because there are 14 million mostly Hispanic undocumented aliens (read: future voters) already in the country. To court these future voters and their friends who do vote, Dems will work hard to loosen laws restricting immigrant legal inclusion into the workforce.
How does this impact you? Hint: Start getting ready to employ multi-ethnic recruiters, and it might be a good idea to learn another language or two … I’d start with Spanish.
• Second, employee security and screening. Background and credit-checking companies such as ChoicePoint, First Advantage, USIS, Sterling Testing, Verifications, Inc., and their brethren have recently become the subject of multiple levels of public paranoia. The widespread fear of the intrusiveness of such technologies has helped drive the now-massive “corporate responsibility” movement, which has dominated much boardroom conversation, especially in the wake of the challenges faced by HP. As it turns out, the issues of data privacy and security are at the heart of Democrats’ level-playing-field platform.
To avoid suffering investigation before new Democratic Congressional committees or worse, both employers and the vendors who serve them will need to spend extra effort on communicating their transparency policies and fairness practices. Learn the technologies, the law, and the issues around what is and is not okay to do. HP is an extreme example: pretexting for dirt on someone is not only illegal, it’s plain old stupid. But it’s the more subtle stuff that should scare you more.
• Third, ideology (read: theology) in the workplace. In the past three years, I have visited four workplaces each with more than 5,000 employees, places where attendance at company religious or prayer-driven events was more or less mandatory. Two of them were in Texas, one was in Florida; both states are heavily associated with the Republican majority. Sure, prayer is protected under the First Amendment, but religious belief or prayer as a condition of employment is not (except if your employer is a religious institution). Expect the new non-evangelical Democratic majorities to be more aggressive in keeping workplaces secular. Hint: If you find yourself as an HR leader in prayer-heavy workplaces, start boning up on labor law about separation of church and work.