TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

These States Have the Most Jobs For College Grads

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Getty Images

You'll never guess which little states hold the biggest opportunities

New college grads looking for work online have the best shot at getting jobs in Massachusetts and Delaware, a new study finds.

Since as many as 90% of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher are advertised online, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce took a comprehensive look at online job listings around the country to figure out where the jobs are, along with what types of jobs they are.

As might be expected, large states with big populations — notably, California, Texas, and New York — have the most online job ads, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Georgetown did a deeper dive into the data to see which states have the most online job ads relative to the number of working, college-educated residents, providing a more accurate measure of the labor market for bachelor’s degree-holders in each state. “Strong job growth doesn’t necessarily translate into good job prospects [because] job growth also tends to bring increased competition,” the report points out.

When the numbers are crunched in a way that takes into account the number of workers, a clearer picture of job opportunities emerges: Massachusetts, Delaware, Washington state, Colorado and Alaska have the highest number of ads seeking candidates with bachelor’s degrees or higher per worker, respectively. Higher still is the nation’s capital: Washington, D.C. has three times the national average of online job ads relative to workers with college degrees. “The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than remaining in or moving to states with fewer job ads per worker,” the report says.

West Virginia residents with college degrees, in particular, might want to think about relocating: This state has the weakest online job market, followed by (respectively) Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi and Hawaii. The good news is that the states with markets higher than the national average are geographically disparate, with most regions represented.

When it comes to the kinds of jobs employers looking for college grads are trying hardest to fill, the story is the same as it’s been since the recovery in the labor market began. “We found that two large occupational clusters – managerial and professional office and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – dominate the online college labor market, accounting for three out of every five online job ads,” the report says. Employers in the industries of consulting, business, financial and healthcare services are responsible for more than half of all the online job postings seeking college-educated candidates, while STEM jobs have more than three available job postings for every worker, more than twice as many as any other field. The states that saw the biggest growth in STEM jobs between 2010 and 2013 are Wyoming, Missouri and Wisconsin, and relative to the number of college-educated workers, Georgetown says Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York offer the best job prospects for college grads with STEM degrees.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The prison system is costly and rarely rehabilitates prisoners. Imagine a better way to transition inmates to freedom.

By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox

2. Lawmakers should listen to the budget hawks, not the defense hawks.

By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One

3. For teenage girls, it’s possible to shift “attention bias” — literally focusing them on happy faces instead of sad ones — and fight the risk of depression.

By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard

4. The next generation of American workers isn’t prepared to take over the jobs of departing baby boomers. The cost of this failure will be enormous.

By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay

5. As a four-year college education slips further out of reach, community college has some important lessons to teach us.

By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Workplace

How to Deal When You’re Promoted Above Your Peers

Illustration by Mikey Burton

When a promotion kicks you out of the coffee klatch, you’ll need to keep your former peers from becoming your future critics.

Right after you celebrate that well-earned promotion, reality hits: You’re now the boss of people who had been your peers. “When you become a supervisor, the relationship structurally changes, whether you like it or not,” says Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor who studies organizational behavior.

Going forward, your work will be judged on your ability to lead people with whom you used to consort and complain. If that’s not enough pressure, you’re now at risk of being the one complained about. Make the transition seamless with these steps.

Meet One-on-One

Sit down with each person to discuss the change in leadership. “You’re in learning mode,” says Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Being the Boss. Ask staffers to share their short- and long-term goals, skills they’re building, and obstacles that get in the way of doing their jobs. You’ll convey respect and gain valuable info that can help you achieve buy-in.

Also, if you were promoted over a colleague, “address the elephant in the room” and alleviate worries about your ability to work well together, advises Atlanta social media strategist and job coach Miriam Salpeter.

Step Back Socially

You can be a great manager and preserve friendships by slightly altering your behaviors. Continue attending happy hour, for example, but stay for only one drink, suggests Hill. Allow your staff space to vent. “We all need to blow off steam sometimes,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion! (Just make it clear to your people that if something is really bugging them, they can talk to you, she adds.)

Also, disconnect from your subordinates on all non-work-related social media. “Many times you’re doing people a favor, since it puts less pressure on what they can and can’t share on their profiles,” says Salpeter. Do let employees know before unfriending them, though, so that they don’t take it personally.

Prove You Don’t Play Favorites

Prepare to make—and to justify—difficult decisions, particularly regarding raises and promotions. To be seen as objective, try to grade everyone using the same metrics, and be sure people know what those metrics are, says Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

To show humility, solicit feedback from subordinates on your own performance, says Gentz Franz, a University of Illinois lecturer who studies job succession. “It’s incumbent upon managers,” he says, “to open the lines of communication if they want to create a collaborative work environment.”

TIME Retail

Walmart Must Pay $188 Million to Settle Claims of Cut Rest Breaks

The company said it may appeal the decision

Walmart has been ordered to pay $188 million over claims by employees that the company regularly cut their breaks for meals and rest. The payment would be a settlement for a class-action lawsuit that went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supereme Court. The ruling would hurt Walmart’s earnings, the company said, by reducing its profits from continuing operations by 6 cents per share. Wal-Mart said it may appeal the decision.

The lawsuit involved 187,000 Pennsylvania-based Walmart employees. They worked at the retailer between 1998 and 2006.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

Nearly Half of Liberia’s Workforce Is Out of a Job Since Ebola Crisis Began

Liberia is the hardest hit nation in the Ebola outbreak

Nearly half of Liberia’s working population at the beginning of the Ebola crisis is no longer doing so, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The West African nation has been the hardest hit in the regional outbreak, accounting for more than 7,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. To measure the economic impact of that devastation, the World Bank, Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services and the Gallup Organization conducted phone surveys and found that not only is a massive part of the country’s work force out of job, but food insecurity is worsening.

Wage workers and the self-employed have taken the biggest hit, the report finds. Prior to the epidemic, more than 30% of working household breadwinners were self-employed, but now that rate is just above 10%. Many people lost jobs because their business or government offices closed.

Agricultural workers were significantly burdened at the start of the outbreak, too, since transportation routes were interrupted and people avoided large gathering spaces like markets, but the report shows Liberians are beginning to return to work as the harvest approaches.

Read the full report here.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Why Even Red States Want a Higher Minimum Wage

The first minimum wage was $0.25. Today, that’s $4.22

San Francisco and Oakland voted Tuesday to increase their minimum wages, and so did four states that roundly backed Republicans. Rising standards of living and inflation may be what triggered this increase, but is paying workers more the one issue we can all agree on?

Watch #TheBrief to find out what’s driving the push to pay their workers more.

MONEY Food & Drink

Stop Ordering Off the Starbucks “Secret” Menu

Starbucks cup
F. Carter Smith—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Quit it with the Samoa, Kit Kat, and Nutella Frappuccinos. You're driving baristas crazy.

You may have heard some Internet buzz over the years about secret specialty drinks pop up at Starbucks STARBUCKS CORPORATION SBUX 4.88% but are nowhere on the menu. What a cool factor, if you can get your hands on one — most of us love the feeling of being a first adopter who’s “in the know.” However, lots of baristas hate these secret drinks.

Baristas’ negative opinion of the drinks has nothing to do with the drinks themselves, which sound delicious as well as clever. With autumn upon us, they could conceivably include seasonal stealth offerings such as Candy Corn, Fall Mashup, and Perfect Pumpkin Frappuccino. Names like Cap’n Crunch and Oreo, not to mention favorite tastes Red Velvet and Cake Batter, sound fun and delicious. What about some of the treats people love, like Samoa Frappuccino, Kit Kat Frappuccino, and — wait for it, hazelnut addicts — the Nutella.

A site called Starbucks Secret Menu offers up the skinny on a whole slew of cool beverages like those. However, such revelation sites may actually be tantalizing us with the cool factor while doing baristas a disservice. In August, Buzzfeed named quite a list of Starbucks’ secret offerings, but its structure was an Internet quiz asking “How many have you tried ?”

Sadly, these revelations and even quiz challenges may theoretically be good buzz for Starbucks, but not necessarily for baristas. There’s a perfectly logical reason why some baristas hate or even despise the secret drinks.

The customer isn’t always right

A few of my colleagues and I recently talked about Starbucks’ awesome corporate culture. Its employees receive many great benefits that rarely show up in retail, such as health care coverage and a stake in the company called “Bean Stock.” Many of Starbucks’ initiatives, such as fair trade and artisan coffees, as well as increased environmental efforts, give many employees a sense of working for a company that cares about the world.

When I study companies to consider as investments, I include cultural attributes in my analysis. I loved the idea of secret, basically exclusive drinks at Starbucks. Front-line innovation is an awesome thing, and it illustrates pride in one’s work as well as offering customer-pleasing products.

However, one of my colleagues, who did some time as a Starbucks barista, brought up an interesting thing most of us wouldn’t suspect: many baristas hate them. Much like any art, they’re usually one individual’s creation that, of course, is not available in Starbucks’ 10,000+ cafes. When baristas don’t know the recipes to these specialized creations and turn down customer requests, it’s not an “I won’t” situation — it’s “I can’t.”

Meanwhile, customer reactions generate dread of what should be fun. Many customers become irate or even enraged if a barista can’t fulfill a “secret drink” order. Examples of customers’ extreme expressions of anger would shock most of us.

The downside of creativity

Maybe Starbucks could use the idea as a business builder while making employees happier, if it’s handled in some different ways.

Employees who work on extra tasks show engagement, and studies reveal that engagement with one’s work boosts happiness and productivity. From the business perspective, employees can find efficient ways to do things, or take it upon themselves to delight customers in creative ways. When they’re recognized and rewarded for their talents, it can be as strong or stronger an incentive than huge paychecks. Creating a product of one’s own is a pretty engaging activity.

I had a few thoughts off the top of my head on how Starbucks might be able to take the situation and flip it into a positive.

  • Make it clear that “secret drinks” are “secret” for a reason; they may not be on the menu. For baristas’ happiness and sanity, this would be the most important element.
  • Occasionally offer some “secret” drinks in some cafes for a taste test “beta.”
  • Use chalkboards, social media, and other ways and to reveal the opportunity to taste an exclusive, secret drink; this could be an exciting store-by-store exclusive offering.
  • Compile information and feedback from means like social media, trying to identify the most popular or promising ones.
  • The most popular secret drinks could be rolled out on a widespread basis, with clever names and barista attribution.
  • Take a page from many modern companies and allot some time once a month or so in which baristas are paid to work on concocting secret drinks instead of in the fray.
  • Drinks that make it to a test phase or some other goal could yield a monetary bonus incentive.

Testing a way to reduce elements that frustrate or upset workers is a big deal, given the importance of morale. Public-facing jobs can particularly degrade morale even among the most culturally sound companies, particularly jobs that are so frantically fast paced and so close to customers. Turning the negative feelings into a positive initiative turns into a win-win-win situation.

The most important thing is to hope some angry, impatient customers can start exercising respect for baristas who work hard in a stressful job, regardless of what their complaints are. Whether this type of situation is one that Starbucks deems necessary to address, everyone has a choice as to how they treat others, and treating people poorly is a win for no one.

MONEY Jobs report

How the Fed Will React to Today’s Surprising Jobs News

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altrendo images—Getty Images

The fact that employers created fewer jobs than expected in August only emboldens the Federal Reserve to keep rates low for the time being.

The Fed is unlikely to raise interest rates this year — and not just because of Friday’s disappointing jobs report.

Though the economy fell short of adding 200,000 jobs in August — as it had in the six prior months — the unemployment rate remains at a better-than-expected 6.1%. Consumer confidence, meanwhile, rose in August and the economy grew by a robust 4.2% last quarter.

Many have long-waited for the time when the economy picks up and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates along with it. Even the presidents of the St. Louis and Philadelphia Federal Banks recently said the nation’s central bank should raise interest rates sooner than expected thanks to job gains and slightly rising inflation.

But given muted inflation and the growing concerns in Europe — where the economy threatens to slip back into recession and central bankers are still slashing rates in a desperate attempt to jumpstart business activity in the region — Fed chair Janet Yellen was unlikely to act soon. And today’s Labor Department report, showing that only a modest 142,000 jobs were created in August, only reinforces this.

Jobs

The unemployment rate has already dropped more than half a percentage point this year.

US Unemployment Rate Chart

US Unemployment Rate data by YCharts

But that’s just one way to look at the labor market. Another is the labor force participation rate. Since younger Americans tend to go school, and Baby Boomers are beginning to retire en masse, you can look at the participation rate for workers between the ages of 25 to 54. Before the recession almost 80% of those Americans were working or looking for a job. Now, 77% are. To put that into perspective, 81% of prime aged workers in France participate in the labor force.

Another, more inclusive, employment metric is the so-called U-6 rate of unemployment — which includes unemployed workers, Americans who want to work but have stopped looking for a job, and part-time workers who’d rather put in full-time hours. The U-6 rate has dropped from about 17% after the recession to 12% now, but that’s still close to four percentage points higher than before 2008.

u-6

Here’s Yellen from her Jackson Hole speech a couple of weeks ago:

At nearly 5% of the labor force, the number of such workers is notably larger, relative to the unemployment rate, than has been typical historically, providing another reason why the current level of the unemployment rate may understate the amount of remaining slack in the labor market.

Inflation

Despite predictions of increased inflation thanks to unorthodox monetary policy, deflation has been a bigger concern since the recession than inflation. Nevertheless, some central bank officials are still worried about an unexpected rise in prices thanks to an improving jobs situation and want to head off that potential rise with higher interest rates.

As Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said on a Bloomberg Radio interview, “I would rather us get started raising rates sooner and raise them more gradually than put them off and have to raise them very quickly.”

The Congressional Budget Office disagrees. The non-partisan agency predicted that over the next 10 years inflation will only rise around 2% a year, in a recent report. “CBO anticipates that prices will rise at a modest pace over the next several years reflecting slack in the economy and widely held expectations for low and stable inflation.”

Right now core inflation, according to the Federal Reserve’s preferred measurement, grew by 1.5% in July over the previous 12 months. That’s well below the Fed’s target rate of 2%.

Europe

Depressed Americans need only look across the pond to see how badly our recovery could be going. The Euro zone area experienced no growth in the second three months of 2014. Combine that with ultra-low inflation and you have the recipe for economic stagnation. Even the vaunted German economy stalled.

This three-year experience of little economic traction follows the European Central Bank’s decision to raise interest rates in 2011 during the sovereign debt crisis in order to fight inflation. Quash it they did. Prices recently rose by an annual rate of only 0.3% in August in the 18-country Euro zone, prompting ECB President Mario Draghi (who wasn’t in charge back then) to drop interest rates to an all-time low of 0.05%.

Eventually American consumers will see raises and go off and spend that extra cash. Demand will not stay depressed forever, and the Fed will one day raise interest rates. That decision, though, is more likely to be later than sooner.

TIME photo essay

Inside Bangladesh's Cheap Cigarette Factories

Sayed Asif Mahmud's powerful photos document the many hazards facing workers in Bangladesh's cheap tobacco factories.

About a year after Sayed Asif Mahmud began hanging around Bangladesh’s bidi factories to document those who make the hand-rolled cigarettes with low-grade tobacco, a cheap and popular alternative for pre-packaged ones across southeast Asia, he stopped. “I’m always in a dilemma with whether I’m the right person to tell someone else’s story,” he tells TIME. “Why am I doing this? For me or for them?”

That was in late 2008, as he was finishing his third year of business school and starting lessons at the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka. Looking for a story, he began to regularly visit factories around Rangpur, his hometown in the north where tobacco is largely grown. But Asif, now 28, was neither thrilled with his pictures, nor drawn to go deeper, and chose to prioritize personal projects. After being asked by workers why he stopped visiting without his camera, though, he returned to the story in September 2010 and pledged to shoot in the way he’d done with past personal work—suggestive rather than literal.

A number of reports have detailed the hazards of bidi factories—workers have little or no protection against toxic chemicals and dust from the tobacco—and highlighted that smoking bidis is associated with chronic bronchitis, emphysema and certain cancers. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey found in 2009 that of the 23 percent of people in Bangladesh who were 15 or older and smoked tobacco—about 22 million people—half were smoking bidis, at an average of seven per day. That was especially the case in the remote north—13.5 percent compared with 4.7 percent in urban areas—where many of the factories are concentrated.

Asif spent most of his time in the north but also visited the south to look at the impact of deforestation (trees are chopped down and used as firewood for kilns in the tobacco curing process). He photographed the workers who stripped off the leaves and dried them in the sun. He documented the clay huts that housed kilns before they were sold to factory owners. And he visited the crowded, poorly ventilated facilities where the leaves were thrashed into pieces tiny enough to roll and tie by hand.

“They have signs outside the factories that say we don’t have child labor, but inside it’s a different thing,” Asif says. Children usually roll the papers at home and fill them in the factories, then tie them that night and submit them the next day, he adds. One report by Bangladesh’s statistics bureau found that workers are usually drawn in by poverty and a lack of other opportunities in their area.

In July 2012, three workers died after security personnel fired on a large crowd outside an Akij Bidi factory in Kushtia during a protest for barely higher wages. The International Trade Union Confederation sent a letter to the prime minister, but the deaths barely dented the news cycle, as these workhouses are often the only viable employment in some regions and bidi use is so widespread. “You can’t close the factories,” Asif explains. “They’ll just die.”

Asif considers the NPPA-honored project, named ‘Tobacco Tale,’ half-completed and plans to shift from the production side toward consumerism. He wants to show how ads and movies—”where the heroes smoke”—attract the younger generations despite the health risks and warnings.

His subjects hold the photographer in high esteem, telling him these images could prompt their bosses to improve conditions or pay. That’s unlikely, Asif, says: “I don’t think photography can change everything. I’m not that kind of dreamer.” But, he admits, “I see that you can make an impact on public consciousness.”


Sayed Asif Mahmud is a Dhaka-based documentary photographer and tutor at the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. Follow him on Twitter @sayedasifmahmud

Andrew Katz is a homepage editor at TIME and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz


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