May 2018 Prosperity at Work E-Tip

Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind”

“Will automated vehicles take the stress out of driving? Research says ‘don’t count on it”

“Divide and conquer: Creating better medicines with fewer side effects”

The Industrials:
“Five Things to Consider When Creating a Company Culture”

Human Capital Solutions, Inc. (HCS) is a Retained Executive Search and Professional Recruiting firm focused in Healthcare, Life Sciences, the Industrials, and Technology. Visit our LinkedIn Company Page to learn more about HCS and receive weekly updates.

HCS has created the Prosperity at Work proposition which focuses on creating prosperous relationships between companies and their employees (associates). HCS assists companies in improving bottom line profitability by efficiently planning, organizing and implementing optimized, practical and value-added business solutions.


Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 164,000 in April, and the unemployment
rate edged down to 3.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Job gains occurred in professional and business services, manufacturing, health care,
and mining.

Household Survey Data

In April, the unemployment rate edged down to 3.9 percent, following 6 months at 4.1
percent. The number of unemployed persons, at 6.3 million, also edged down over the
month. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women decreased to
3.5 percent in April. The jobless rates for adult men (3.7 percent), teenagers
(12.9 percent), Whites (3.6 percent), Blacks (6.6 percent), Asians (2.8 percent),
and Hispanics (4.8 percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See
tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary
jobs declined by 188,000 in April to 3.0 million. (See table A-11.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little
changed at 1.3 million in April and accounted for 20.0 percent of the unemployed.
Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 340,000. (See
table A-12.)

Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.8 percent, and the employment-
population ratio, at 60.3 percent, changed little in April. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred
to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 5.0 million in
April. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were
working part time because their hours had been reduced or because they were unable
to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In April, 1.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down
by 172,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These
individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and
had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as
unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the
survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 408,000 discouraged workers in April,
little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)
Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they
believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.0 million persons
marginally attached to the labor force in April had not searched for work for
reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 164,000 in April, compared with an
average monthly gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months. In April, job gains
occurred in professional and business services, manufacturing, health care, and
mining. (See table B-1.)

In April, employment in professional and business services increased by 54,000. Over
the past 12 months, the industry has added 518,000 jobs.

Employment in manufacturing increased by 24,000 in April. Most of the gain was in
the durable goods component, with machinery adding 8,000 jobs and employment in
fabricated metal products continuing to trend up (+4,000). Manufacturing employment
has risen by 245,000 over the year, with about three-fourths of the growth in durable
goods industries.

Health care added 24,000 jobs in April and 305,000 jobs over the year. In April,
employment rose in ambulatory health care services (+17,000) and hospitals (+8,000).

In April, employment in mining increased by 8,000, with most of the gain occurring
in support activities for mining (+7,000). Since a recent low in October 2016,
employment in mining has risen by 86,000.

Employment changed little over the month in other major industries, including
construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing,
information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at
34.5 hours in April. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.2 hour to 41.1
hours, while overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.7 hours. The average workweek for
production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by
0.1 hour to 33.8 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
rose by 4 cents to $26.84. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by
67 cents, or 2.6 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and
nonsupervisory employees increased by 5 cents to $22.51 in April. (See tables B-3
and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down from
+326,000 to +324,000, and the change for March was revised up from +103,000 to
+135,000. With these revisions, employment gains in February and March combined were
30,000 more than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional
reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published
estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job
gains have averaged 208,000 over the last 3 months.


Life Sciences:

“Meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind”

It has long been claimed by Yogis and Buddhists that meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, strengthen our ability to focus on tasks. A new study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.

The research shows for the first time that breathing — a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices — directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertiliser. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study, carried out by researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity, found that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronisation between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus. The authors believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilise attention and boost brain health.

Michael Melnychuk, PhD candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity, and lead author of the study, explained: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer.”

“This study has shown that as you breathe in locus coeruleus activity is increasing slightly, and as you breathe out it decreases. Put simply this means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimise your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronised.”

The research provides deeper scientific understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms which underlie ancient meditation practices. The findings were recently published in a paper entitled ‘Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama’ in the journal Psychophysiology. Further research could help with the development of non-pharmacological therapies for people with attention compromised conditions such as ADHD and traumatic brain injury and in supporting cognition in older people.

There are traditionally two types of breath-focused practices — those that emphasise focus on breathing (mindfulness), and those that require breathing to be controlled (deep breathing practices such as pranayama). In cases when a person’s attention is compromised, practices which emphasise concentration and focus, such as mindfulness, where the individual focuses on feeling the sensations of respiration but make no effort to control them, could possibly be most beneficial. In cases where a person’s level of arousal is the cause of poor attention, for example drowsiness while driving, a pounding heart during an exam, or during a panic attack, it should be possible to alter the level of arousal in the body by controlling breathing. Both of these techniques have been shown to be effective in both the short and the long term.

Ian Robertson, Co-Director of the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity and Principal Investigator of the study added: “Yogis and Buddhist practitioners have long considered the breath an especially suitable object for meditation. It is believed that by observing the breath, and regulating it in precise ways — a practice known as pranayama — changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator are realised. Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind.”

“Our findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing. Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. Our research offers one possible reason for this — using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”


“Will automated vehicles take the stress out of driving? Research says ‘don’t count on it”

The expectation that automated vehicles will make drivers’ jobs easier, especially if they’ve been behind the wheel for an extended period, may be more than a little flawed, according to a study by human factors/ergonomics researchers at Texas Tech University.

In their newly published Human Factors article, “Driver Vigilance in Automated Vehicles: Hazard Detection Failures Are a Matter of Time,” Eric Greenlee, Patricia DeLucia, and David Newton evaluate whether increased time on the road could reduce drivers’ ability to detect and respond appropriately to an automation failure.

Greenlee, an assistant professor of human factors psychology, notes, “State-of-the-art vehicle automation systems are designed to safely maintain lane position, speed, and headway without the need for manual driving. However, there are some situations in which the automation system may fail without warning. To compensate for this, drivers are expected to remain vigilant, continuously monitor the roadway, and retake control of their vehicle should the need arise, but past research has shown that a person’s ability to remain vigilant declines as a function of time.”

To test the role of vigilance in automated driving, the researchers asked 22 young adults to drive a simulated automated vehicle for 40 minutes. The drivers’ task was to observe vehicles stopped at intersections and distinguish between those that were positioned safety versus unsafely, a roadway hazard that the simulated vehicle’s automation could not detect. Participants then pressed a button on their steering wheel to indicate a dangerous vehicle.

The drivers detected 30% fewer hazards at the end of the drive than at the beginning, and they also tended to react more slowly to hazards as the drive progressed. Additionally, participants reported in a post-task questionnaire that monitoring for automation failures was difficult and stressful.

“Our results demonstrate that there are high costs associated with the need for sustained supervisory duty in automated vehicles,” Greenlee adds. “And the expectation that a human driver will provide reliable, attentive oversight during vehicle automation is untenable. Monitoring for automation failures can be quite demanding and stressful, suggesting that vehicle automation does not ensure an easy or carefree driving experience. As a result, vigilance should be a focal safety concern in the development of vehicle automation.”



“Divide and conquer: Creating better medicines with fewer side effects”

Today, a new study published in Science by Professors Yossi Paltiel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ron Naaman from the Weizmann Institute of Science describes a breakthrough technology with the power to create drugs with fewer unwanted side effects.

Chemical compounds are made up of molecules. The most important molecules in biology are chiral molecules. “Chiral,” the Greek word for “hand,” describes molecules that look almost exactly alike and contain the same number of atoms but are mirror images of one another — meaning some are “left-handed” and others are “right-handed.” This different “handedness” is crucial and yields different biological effects.

Understanding chiral differences was made painfully clear by the drug thalidomide. Marketed to pregnant women in the 1950’s and 1960’s to ease morning sickness, thalidomide worked well under a microscope. However, thalidomide is a chiral drug -its “right” chiral molecule provides nausea relief while the “left” molecule causes horrible deformities in babies. Since the drug company producing Thalidomide did not separate out the right and left molecules, Thalidomide had disastrous results for the children of women who took this medication.

Though a crucial step for drug safety, the separation of chiral molecules into their right- and left- handed components is an expensive process and demands a tailor-made approach for each type of molecule. Now, however, following a decade of collaborative research, Paltiel and Naaman have discovered a uniform, generic method that will enable pharmaceutical and chemical manufactures to easily and cheaply separate right from left chiral molecules.

Their method relies on magnets. Chiral molecules interact with a magnetic substrate and line up according to the direction of their handedness — “left” molecules interact better with one pole of the magnet, and “right” molecules with the other one. This technology will allow chemical manufacturers to keep the “good” molecules and to discard the “bad” ones that cause harmful or unwanted side effects.

“Our finding has great practical importance,” shared Prof. Naaman. “It will usher in an era of better, safer drugs, and more environmentally-friendly pesticides.”

While popular drugs, such as Ritalin and Cipramil, are sold in their chirally-pure (i.e., separated) forms, many generic medications are not. Currently only 13% of chiral drugs are separated even though the FDA recommends that all chiral drugs be separated. Further, in the field of agrochemicals, chirally-pure pesticides and fertilizers require smaller doses and cause less environmental contamination than their unseparated counterparts.

With these statistics in mind, Paltiel and Naaman’s simple and cost effective chiral separation technique has the ability to produce better medical and agricultural products, including medicines, food ingredients, dietary supplements and pesticides.

“We are now transforming our science into practice, with the help of Weizmann’s and the Hebrew University’s technology transfer companies. Placing better medical and environmental products on the market is a win-win for industry and for patients,” concluded Paltiel.


The Industrials:

“Five Things to Consider When Creating a Company Culture”

Human resources executives and recruiters have been using the term “cultural fit” – generally defined as the ability of an employee to fit with the core beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that make up an organization – for a decade or two. And culture shaping is now seen as one of the most important drivers to achieving competitive advantage among companies. Most search firms, including boutiques, now offer some variation of it to their clients.

Why is culture such a hot topic? An ever-growing body of research points to the positive impact the right organization culture can have in enabling positive financial, employee and customer related outcomes, while recognition of the destructive impact of cultural dysfunction is growing. As a result, the topic of culture has attracted more interest among business and HR leaders than ever before, according to a recent report by search consultants Sahiba Singh and Samantha Mark of Spencer Stuart.

“Leaders and leadership teams are now even being measured and held accountable for their impact on organizational culture, arguably as they should be,” the report said.

“At Spencer Stuart, culture underpins many of the discussions we have with leaders – not only when we are brought on as consulting partners for targeted culture related interventions, but also in broader conversations about executive search, assessment, development and succession, all of which are inextricably linked with the organization’s current and aspirational culture,” the recruiters said.

Spencer Stuart looked closely at the nature of these discussions and found some common themes around the thinking of business and HR leaders on the topic of culture, including these:

The penny has dropped. Few leaders today need convincing about the importance of having the right culture in achieving organizational strategies. With the ‘why’ settled, they have largely moved on to talk about the ‘what’ and the ‘how.’

The language for talking about culture remains elusive. Lack of commonly understood, shared vocabulary and frameworks to describe culture often leads to ambiguity and inconsistency in the way it is understood and explained.

Different people, different perceptions. When asked to identify the most dominant dimensions of the culture in their organizations, it is surprising how frequently even highly tenured members of the same leadership team present misaligned or divergent views, said Spencer Stuart.

Striving for the ‘ideal culture.’ Most leaders today display an intellectual appreciation for the fact that organizations can succeed with vastly different types of culture, according to the report. “Yet, the subtle glorification of certain cultural dimensions is evident in most such conversations. Infusing greater learning, innovation and agility into their cultures – particularly inspired by organizations like Google – is a request we frequently come across,” Spencer Stuart said.

A fragmented, rather than integrated approach to culture. A large number of companies today think about their culture in some context or the other, whether it’s understanding the potential culture fit of new hires, focusing on cultural integration in an M&A situation or aligning cultural strengths to the employer value proposition. “However, few organizations look at culture in a holistic manner, taking into account all the ways in which it manifests itself, evolves and changes over time,” the search firm said.

In the last few years, Spencer Stuart has partnered with a number of organizations across various industries, helping them assess, articulate, build or transform their cultures. In the report, the search firm looked back at these and identified five key questions that organizations concerned about their culture must think about:

1. Are we thinking of culture as a magic wand?

The recent buzz in management literature around the topic of culture has led to a situation in which culture is at once blamed for, and seen as solution to, almost every organizational performance issue. “While the criticality of culture shouldn’t be understated, it is important for organizations to also think through other factors that may have the same or larger impact on the problems they are seeking to solve,” Spencer Stuart said.

2. Do we really understand our current culture?

It is commonly known that leadership teams often lack alignment in the way individual leaders perceive and describe the culture of their organizations. “It should come as no surprise, therefore, that there often exist significant differences in the ways cultures evolve and get manifested across different locations, functions, etc., within the same organization,” said Spencer Stuart. A clear appreciation of these differences and the reasons contributing to organizational sub-cultures is essential for gaining a nuanced view of where things stand currently.

It is equally important to distinguish between the articulated and the actual, emergent culture, which can be very different. “A formal, structured assessment of the current culture, therefore, is a critical first step in any culture-related intervention,” said the firm.

3. What is the impact that our culture is having?

In their desire to adopt elements of what they perceive to be the “ideal” culture, Spencer Stuart said that many organizations skip the important step of considering how the current culture is affecting various organizational outcomes and, by extension, how changing the culture would impact those outcomes.

4. What should our culture be like?

Although Spencer Stuart conceded that there is no simple answer, the firm said it encourages organizations to consider the following when thinking about the culture styles they want to emphasize: First and foremost, the culture must always be aligned to the strategic goals a company is trying to drive. “Imagine a regulatory or fraud-prevention body with a culture emphasizing enjoyment and learning, over safety and order,” the firm said.

It is always easier to build on what you have; so leverage and reinforce the strengths of your current culture instead of trying to change everything. “Culture has staying power; use yours to your advantage,” Spencer Stuart said. Always consider the trade-offs and unintended consequences of any change.

5. What does cultural transformation entail?

While far from all-inclusive, Spencer Stuart sees the following as fundamentals that organizations embarking on cultural change must consider:

A. Obtain the buy-in and alignment of stakeholders early in the process – ideally at the point of identifying change priorities. A process of open debate and discussion to jointly agree on the way forward helps drive the engagement of the leadership team and other stakeholders with the change agenda.

B. Synchronize actions and activities around change. Stand-alone initiatives, no matter how impactful, cannot drive sustainable culture change. “Organizations must think through the changes required in all aspects, to move the needle on culture – the actions of their leaders, the stories that are told in/about the organization, the systems and processes in place, and lastly the capabilities and behaviors of employees,” Spencer Stuart said.

C. Understanding the readiness of the leadership team for driving the change agenda. The recruiting firm noted that much research has shown that leaders have a disproportionate influence on the culture of their organizations and teams. “By extension, leaders whose personal leadership styles and cultural preferences are closer to the cultural dimensions an organization is trying to reinforce, and those who display higher change agility, are likely to be early adopters of the change,” Spencer Stuart said. Structured assessments of the leadership team on these elements can help to identify the change agents within the company, and highlight when there is a need to bring in fresh blood and diverse perspectives and styles to complement existing leadership styles.

D. Ongoing measurement of the progress. Contrary to the popular belief that culture is intangible and tough to measure, experience shows that organizations that are serious about culture transformation are very disciplined about putting in place specific goals and metrics and regularly taking stock of the progress against these, said Spencer Stuart. In identifying these objectives and metrics, the firm said it encourages its clients to measure the outcomes (i.e., the actual change in culture after a certain amount of time), and also the roadmap, by having specific, measurable targets against the various actions identified for driving the desired cultural changes.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Recent Posts