Workers Crave More than Currency

domination concepts with apples

Losing weight isn’t always fun. Dropping the pounds is rewarding, but the journey can be tough. Very tough.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for your efforts? It turns out that doesn’t always entice employees, according to a new study.

Here’s a taste:

The study, published in January’s issue of the journal Health Affairs, reported the results of a yearlong randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of financial incentives to encourage weight loss among 197 obese employees of the University of Pennsylvania health system.

Participants were asked to lose 5% of their weight. Each was assigned to one of four study groups. The control group wasn’t offered any financial rewards. The three other groups were offered an incentive valued at $550.

People in one group were told they would begin receiving health insurance premium discounts biweekly immediately after reaching their weight loss goal. In another group, the people were told they would receive biweekly premium adjustments the following year if they reached their goal. Volunteers in the final group were eligible for a daily lottery payment if they met their daily weight loss goal and weighed in the previous day.

At year’s end, no group had met the 5% weight loss target. Participants’ average weight was virtually unchanged, whether or not they had a financial incentive to lose pounds. Nineteen percent of participants did meet the 5% target, but they weren’t concentrated in any particular group.

A Badge of Honor for Bilingual Grads

????????????????They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That notion also holds true for State Seals of Biliteracy, which recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.

California led the way nationwide in adopting the seal (in 2011). Indiana became the ninth state to do so during the current legislative session.

This excerpt from an NPR story has more:

Beyond shedding a more positive light on bilingualism, proponents say the seal allows employers to distinguish between people who can get by in another language from those who are truly fluent.

Each state determines who gets a seal, but several national language organizations have created guidelines. Recommendations include: passing the AP exam, the International Baccalaureate exam or the Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency.

Today, 74% of students who earn these seals are bilingual in Spanish. More than 165 school districts are currently granting the award.

One big question about the value of the seals is whether employers care about them. UCLA professor Patricia Gándara explored that question in a 2014 study. She surveyed 289 California employers, and found that they overwhelmingly prefer hiring a multilingual person. And, they said, they would favor someone with a certification that proves it.

Kruse, the Indiana bill’s author, says the seal goes beyond the obvious choice of speaking Spanish and English.

“A lot of businesses want to know, ‘Do you know Chinese? And how do I know you know?’ And you can have your certificate as verification.”

Stay Classy, Cable News: Turn Elsewhere If You Want To Be Informed

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started squirming in my seat during the movie Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. It wasn’t just for the reasons I was expecting – not the over-acting of Will Ferrell or the ridiculous raunchy lines coming out of Paul Rudd’s mouth.

Unfortunately, it was the characters’ realization that their news show – which was on at 2 a.m. on a new cable network back in the 1970s – would get higher ratings if they just glossed over all the important, yet boring news stories, and told everyone what they wanted to hear. Each episode ended with Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy saying “Don’t just have a great night, have an American night.”

Aye, yai, yai.

Then there was the scene when Burgundy decided to be the first show to broadcast a local car chase live, in an effort to take away attention from an important and much more relevant interview on a competing channel. That is broadcast journalism at its most sensational and lowest point.

You guessed it – their plan worked. The show became the most popular on the network, and changed the face of America’s broadcast news landscape. Yes, I know, it’s a movie. But, if it wasn’t a great personification of how actual cable “news” shows impact American opinion, I don’t know a better way to explain it.

Maybe a 2012 survey from Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey will help. “What you know depends on what you watch: Current events knowledge across popular news sources” was a follow-up survey from the university’s 2011 PublicMind™ poll and showed that National Public Radio (NPR), Sunday morning political talk shows and even The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were more informative news sources than partisan outlets, such as Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

In fact, out of 1,185 people surveyed nationwide, those who identified as having watched only one of those political news sources was less likely to correctly answer a series of national and international current events questions than someone who identified as having watched no news at all.

The average person could answer 1.8 out of four questions correctly on international news, and 1.6 out of five questions on domestic matters.

The results showed that people who didn’t watch any news at all could, on average, correctly answer 1.22 of the questions about domestic politics, either by guessing or from their existing knowledge.

Here’s the real kicker – someone who only watched Fox News (on average) could only answer 1.04 national questions correctly. NPR consumers got 1.51 questions correct and Daily Show viewers got 1.42 questions correct. The findings were similar for international questions.

Additionally, the survey noted the impact of the “ideologically-based” sources on the audience that consumed the information. Liberals, for example, did better on the questions when gleaning information from MSNBC; same with conservatives with Fox News. But, moderates and liberals who watch Fox News were worse at answering the questions.

Dan Cassino, political scientist and poll analyst, was quoted in the survey about the impact of the partisan sources on news knowledge.

“Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience. This is solid evidence that if you’re not in that audience, you’re not going to get anything out of watching them,” he said in the survey.

Read the full survey results.

Columnist: It’s About More than Jobs

In the world of economic development, some say jobs are the measuring stick of success. While they are undoubtedly important, jobs cannot be the only measuring point when the ultimate goal is creating prosperous communities, according to Governing columnist William Fulton:

Here are the facts: The national radio show This American Life aired a segment in May on economic development, including a visit to a conference put on by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). Because the show depicted the council and what it represents in such negative tones, long-time IEDC President Jeff Finkle wrote a lengthy letter of complaint, saying he felt like a guy who invited the show’s producers to a dinner party at his house, and then watched them insult the guests. Ira Glass, producer of This American Life, apologized for the segment’s snarkiness. In the end National Public Radio, which co-funds the show, apologized too.

All this was good copy, as we say in the newspaper business. In particular, Finkle deserves credit for successfully calling out the radio show for its highly negative story and eliciting an apology — something that almost never happens. But the whole controversy obscured one valid criticism of the profession: The way job creation is used as the first, last and only measure of success.

The problem, as the radio show correctly identified, is that there is enormous pressure on politicians and the economic development experts who work for them to take credit for jobs created — and, in some cases, jobs only supposedly created. Sometimes economic developers differentiate between good jobs and lousy jobs, mostly by looking at the hourly or annual wage scales of the jobs — but usually the headline simply telegraphs the number of jobs a state or locality has produced. As the radio show pointed out, at times politicians go to hilarious lengths to take credit, as when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon held a press conference to celebrate the creation of eight jobs.

So in the same way that teachers are expected to deliver test scores rather than educated children, economic developers are expected to deliver jobs rather than prosperous communities. Hence the focus on poaching jobs from somebody else’s turf and the spotlight on poaching big companies rather than small ones.

As we all know, there’s far more to the economic development profession than jobs. Over the past 20 years, as smokestack-chasing has subsided, economic developers all across the country have done a great job of focusing on growing jobs locally rather than poaching them. But even this approach doesn’t really convey how economic development works. Ultimately, successful economic development can’t be measured only by the number of jobs or even the number of high-paying jobs that have been created.

Everybody needs a “job” in the sense that everybody needs a source of income capable of sustaining them. But prosperity today is so much more than providing everybody with a conventional job. Entrepreneurs need an entire ecosystem to support them — financiers, lawyers, strategists and a growing workforce. Communities need wealth retained in their hometown to endow their future needs.

Different types of people need different types of jobs — white collar, blue collar, professional, technical. As I wrote in this space in May, the next generation increasingly realizes that their future lies in the so-called “1099” economy, where temporary work is becoming the norm. They have no expectation of a traditional career path or even a traditional job.

These are the subtleties of economic development in the United States today that cannot be captured by measuring what we traditionally call “jobs.” They are measured by other things: venture capital available to local companies, skills in the workforce, the value of local philanthropic endowments, the number of startups (successful and unsuccessful) and overall household income.

The end result of all these activities is a prosperous community where people have money in their pocket and a commitment to spending it in a way that benefits both themselves and their hometown. Yes, sometimes this means smokestacks, and yes, most of the time it means jobs. But the underlying truth of that NPR segment is that there’s a difference between jobs and prosperity. If economic development is about nothing but jobs, then stealing jobs and taking credit for jobs that don’t exist will be the inevitable result.

Government Makes Money that Nobody Wants

Few days go by when one fails to hear something of significance when listening to NPR. But this story goes beyond the normal good work, highlighting the federal government’s wasteful production of $1 coins that primarily sit under heavy guard in Federal Reserve vaults.

Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in Federal Reserve vaults in breathtaking numbers, thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007.

And even though the neglected mountain of money recently grew past the $1 billion mark, the U.S. Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate.

The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year.

A joint inquiry by NPR’s Planet Money and Investigations teams found that the coins are the wasteful byproducts of a third, failed congressional effort to get Americans to use one-dollar coins in everyday commerce.

In 2005, Congress decided that a new series of dollar coins should be minted to engage the public. These coins would bear the likeness of every former president, starting with George Washington. There would be a new one every quarter. So, far, the Mint has produced coins through the 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant.

Members of Congress reasoned that a coin series that changed frequently and had educational appeal would make dollar coins more popular. The idea came from the successful program that put each of the 50 states on the backs of quarters.

Off Target? In the World of Politics, Be Careful Who You Back

Earlier this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court eased the rules on corporate giving to political campaigns, it was deemed a victory for the business community. However, Target recently discovered that this can be quite polarizing. When the company donated to a group supporting a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate for his approach toward economic growth and job creation, it soon received a backlash from employees for his views on social issues. Minnesota Public Radio reports:

The CEO of Minneapolis based Target Corporation is apologizing for a donation the company made to a political group supporting Republican Tom Emmer’s bid for governor.

The contribution to MN Forward prompted a backlash from Democrats and gay rights groups who called for boycotts of the company’s stores. At least one gay rights organization is praising the apology but is waiting to see whether it follows up with its renewed emphasis on supporting gay rights causes.

In a letter to Target employees, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote that the purpose of the $150,000 donation to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation, but he wrote that the contribution affected many employees in ways he did not anticipate and quote "for that I am deeply sorry."

Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud said the company will also do a strategic review of political donations and plans to lead a discussion on improving gay rights in the workplace.

"Our commitment right now is in letting people know that we’ve heard their feedback and we’re really sorry that we’ve let them down," Michaud said. "We want to continue doing the many things that Target has done as a company to foster our inclusive corporate culture and then look at ways of doing things better in the future."

The company’s tone has changed dramatically since it became public in July that the company contributed to MN Forward. At the time of the donation, Target officials said the company gave to both Democrats and Republicans and the contribution was aimed at fostering a better business climate in Minnesota. But the donation to Minnesota Forward and the group’s subsequent TV ad in support of Tom Emmer ignited a backlash that spread nationwide.

Michaud wouldn’t say if the boycott affected the company’s sales and also wouldn’t say whether Target would stop making political donations to MN Forward or other groups.

That’s what Monica Meyer, executive director of the gay rights group OutFront Minnesota, said she’ll be watching for. Meyer said she’s pleased Target apologized for the contribution, but she wants to make sure the company follows up on its promise to be committed to gay rights.

The Power of Stories

Russ Linden scribed an interesting column for Governing on the power of story telling. He articulates how he was ultimately persuaded to contribute to NPR because of a fellow listener’s story, and how it’s relevant for politicians and businesses:

I wasn’t going to contribute to National Public Radio this year. Yes, I love its jazz and classical music, and I appreciate the news stories I can’t get anywhere else, but it was just one check too many. Our daughter will be married soon, we’re committed to several other wonderful causes (all of which are hurting because of the recession), and NPR would have to wait until next year.

Then I heard this story during NPR’s annual fall fund drive. A woman talked about her own decision not to contribute to NPR one year, but every time she heard the appeal for money during the fund drive, she felt guilty. So she’d turn off the radio and play her favorite song, which happens to be "You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog," sung by Big Mama Thornton. After a while, she’d turn NPR back on to hear the news or music.

She tried to remember when she first heard that recording of "Hound Dog," and suddenly it occurred to her: on NPR! As you can guess, she took out her checkbook that evening and sent a contribution. And after hearing her story, I did the same thing.

I didn’t write my check this year out of guilt; rather, a story was told by someone like me, and it reminded me how much I value the news and music on NPR. There’s something about a well-told story that grabs us. We can relate to a story. We remember stories far longer than we retain figures and facts (example: I can’t remember the percentage of income my NPR station receives from the feds, state government or corporate underwriters, even though it’s often mentioned during the fund drive, but I will long remember the story about Big Mama Thornton).

Stories are a powerful form of communication. Think about your favorite president. Most Republicans cite Reagan, most Democrats point to JFK or Obama. All three were/are great communicators, and all made excellent use of stories. When Kennedy faced the press a few days after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, he began by recalling an old saying: "Success has a hundred fathers, and failure is an orphan." He went on to take responsibility for the "orphan" (the military failure), something most presidents have difficulty doing. And his poll numbers went up!

When Ronald Reagan wanted to make a point during a talk to the nation early in his first term about the size of the federal budget, he held the entire budget document in his hands, dropped it on the desk, and talked about his concern over the size of government. It was very effective, a "visual" story if you will.

Stories also connect to people with a wide variety of learning styles. Big-picture thinkers and those who love to get into the weeds can all relate to a story. And, as Annette Simmons points out in her wonderful book The Story Factor, the more detailed the story, the more generalizable. That is, the story’s specifics help us relate it to our own lives. As the woman who felt guilty about not giving to NPR described her favorite song (and then that song was played briefly), it reminded me of some wonderful music I have only heard on NPR.

Juan Williams Discusses Rise of the American Woman, Changing Culture at Economic Club Lunch

Juan Williams, a veteran journalist now known best for his roles with National Public Radio and Fox News, addressed nearly 700 in attendance at today’s Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in downtown Indianapolis.

Williams, known mostly for his political prowess, delved into the topic of culture and outlined some key points that Americans must recognize as the nation moves forward. For one, he says the growing American population will change the way we interact in the future.

"Right now, the U.S. has over 300 million people — but in 10 years, we’ll have over 400 million," he says. Williams adds that is largely due to the booming growth rates of immigrants.

He also offers some surprise at the increasing power of women in America. While researching for a story on American teens in Minneapolis, he asked a longtime teacher’s aide what was the greatest difference between the 1960s and today. She then explained that out of the very best students, 8 out of 10 were girls, and 5 out of 10 of the best athletes were girls, as well (based on who was likely to compete at a Division I NCAA level).

"Women are now the majority in American graduate programs," Williams adds. "And when John McCain needed help (during the 2008 presidential election), he got Sarah Palin."

He adds there are 16 female U.S. Senators and one-fourth of Congress is female, noting the power of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

Williams also discussed the rise of political polarization (explaining only 24% of Republicans support the job Pres. Obama is doing versus 88% of Democrats), and is concerned the deterioration of newspapers will only contribute to that as Americans look to media sources that simply validate their previously held opinions.

The Economic Club of Indiana lunch series will head to Merrillville, Evansville and Fort Wayne this summer. Check the web site for details.

Juan Williams to Present Insider’s View at Economic Club

Juan Williams — one of the most accomplished and respected journalists in America — will share his powerful insights with the Economic Club on May 1 (at noon in the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom).

Williams’ storied journalism career includes 23 years with the Washington Post, a bestselling book on the Civil Rights movement and an Emmy. He currently works as a senior national correspondent for NPR and analyst for Fox News — where his professionalism and candor through spirited debate has become well-known.

Join us on May 1 as Williams presents an insider’s view of politics, the economy and other current affairs. Get your tickets now.