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Most Important Developments in HR for 9/20

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The payroll plot thickens. HR pros everywhere were stunned when online payroll processor MyPayrollHR abruptly shut down, leaving more than 250,000 employees of some 5,000 small businesses without their direct-deposited paychecks. The company allegedly diverted $35 million from employee checks and bank accounts, even going so far as to pluck previously-deposited money out of employee accounts if the deposit had gone through. This week, the FBI searched CEO Michael Mann’s home as part of their investigation into whether Mann or someone at the company moved workers’ money into a personal account. The whole debacle has left many employees, who live paycheck to paycheck, unable to make mortgage or rent payments. CBS News

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This new book (out in October) is getting a lot buzz in The Economist and elsewhere. It’s by Stephen Martin, CEO of the training and consulting company Influence At Work, and his colleague Joseph Marks. The book explores the powerful forces that shape who we choose to listen to and believe in politics, business and everyday life, why talented and qualified people are sometimes ignored, and how these messengers influence society. The messenger is the message, they say, delving into why we fail to separate the idea that’s being communicated to us from the person who is communicating it. Spoiler alert: Oftentimes it’s how they dress, how rich they are, what kind of shoes they’re wearing, or myriad other superficial things that have nothing to do with the message itself. Amazon

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In 2017, at a luncheon in New York, Minda Harts found herself seated next to a recruiter for corporate board positions. The two talked about race in the boardroom; the recruiter, a white woman, complained about the challenges of finding black women to be corporate directors. Harts, who founded a career development company for women of color, asked the recruiter who she would feel more comfortable putting forward as a candidate for a board: a woman of color with a sleek ponytail, or one with a natural hairstyle. The recruiter said the woman with the ponytail. Harts said it was a reminder that “these unconscious and conscious biases keep us from even having the opportunity to have a seat at the table.” New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and other states have proposed legislation to explicitly ban race-based hair discrimination — tackling a remaining loophole in the law governing discrimination in workplaces, schools, and other public places. California and New York were the first to sign legislation into law in July. The Washington Post

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On Tuesday, LinkedIn announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers. So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert. If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months — plenty of time to develop her skillset. Forbes

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The work-from-home concept is about to be disrupted, by the coming of 5G and its ability to enable virtual reality (VR) anywhere through what’s known as XR, the combination of extended, augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies. Fifth-generation (5G) communications networks, with their exponentially faster connection speeds, capacity, and communication response times will make possible an astonishing range of innovative new products and services. Imagine being able to interact with a full-size “digital twin” of every place and thing that exists in the physical world, all from a home office. A plant manager in Seattle can immerse herself in a factory in Vietnam; she can see, hear, feel, even smell the shop floor. Avatars of executives can appear in a conference room anywhere in the world. Doctors can even assist with surgeries in faraway hospitals, operating remotely using immersive 3D holograms beamed right into their homes or offices. In other words: While basic internet access allowed work to be done remotely, XR and 5G will allow work to be done truly virtually. Quartz at Work

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