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    Friday
    Oct172014

    OFF TOPIC: More and Less

    We Need More:

    Really cool, interesting, and innovative ideas for work, workplaces and people (see Fuel50, BlackbookHR, Data Morphosis, BrandAmper, QUESocial, and Zenefits).

    Simple and elegant approaches to solve complex questions.

    Pumpkin donuts.

    People who don't take themselves too seriously.

    BBQ.

    Walt 'Clyde' Frazier.

    We Need Less:

    Updates on your Fantasy Football team.

    Emails sent at 11:49PM.

    Details about your latest run, CrossFit Workout, or set of push-ups you did.  You do know you get the same benefit and burn the same number of calories even if you don't Tweet about your stupid workout, don't you?

    War or combat analogies when talking about sports. 'That quarterback sure is a warrior down near the goal line.' 

    Sports analogies when talking about business. 'This new marketing campaign is sure to be a home run with the target demographic.'

    Telling us all how busy you are or how hard you are working.

    Comparing yourself to the competition. Forget the competition. Most of the time the people/companies that you are worried about are just as amazingly paranoid and possibly dysfunctional as you. Don't worry about them. There is plenty of opportunity for everyone.

    Tom Brady. I am so sick of Tom Brady. (I am a Jets fan).

    Have a great weekend! 

    Wednesday
    Oct152014

    Your HR Tech Vendor Should Tell You 'No'

    Having an interesting day at the HR Tech Tank event in Toronto meeting with and talking to a talented group of HR Technology Startups that are (mostly, I think anyway), based in Canada.

    One of the recurring themes that has come up during the day is the importance of listening to customers/prospects in the design and development process. As a couple of the startup veterans in the group have pointed out, if you run too far down a development path and have not done enough research, prototyping, and received enough detailed feedback from the most likely users of the product, then you place yourself at serious risk of building something that no one (except maybe you) actually wants.

    But at the same time, if you do too much listening to customers and prospects and focus on attempting to incorporate all of their feedback, enhancements, and feature requests into an existing product, (and more importantly, into a product that is meant to be fairly tight in scope), then you end up with a more complex product than you had intended, might miss important delivery commitments, and risk not staying true to your initial vision for the product. Probably the very same vision that sold your first employees, investors, and even customers on initially.

    It is definitely a fine line to walk for an HR Tech Startup founder and their team, and likely also for more established HR tech providers. It really comes down to having a pretty deep understanding of your product, your team's capability, the completeness of your vision and product, and lastly your philosophy about working with customers.

    There are no specific of set rules or answers for sure. Which is why creating and delivering product is really, really hard.

    But for customers or prospects it feels or seems much easier, right? Just look for and agree to continue working with only those vendors that continually say 'Yes' to all of your enhancement and new feature requests. After all, you are the customer and the customer is always right. And if your vendor doesn't react as completely as you like, and according to your timeframes then you can simply find some other one that will.

    Except for the fact that unless you are the startup's very first customer, then that means that there are others, maybe even thousands of other customers making similar requests of your vendor. And guess what? All of those other customers think their enhancement requests are just as important as yours.

    And if the vendor keeps saying 'Yes' to all of, or even most of your (and everyone else's) requests, they will end up with a product that is more a set of collected features and less of an elegant solution to a problem. A solution and vision that was what originally so compelling that you had to have it.

    The vendor, especially the startup vendor, HAS to say 'No' sometimes, maybe most of the time.

    The challenge for you, the customer, is to learn that 'No' is sometimes, maybe most of the time, the right answer. For both of you.

    Tuesday
    Oct142014

    A warning about hiring too narrowly

    As an HR/Talent pro if you have been involved in the hiring process for software engineers or developers then it is likely you have run into this scenario when presented a hiring requirement from one of your managers:

    Find me someone really proficient in (one from a long list, doesn't really matter which one), Node, Django, jQuery, AngularJS, Redis, Ruby, etc. and I need him/her right away. So you set out to examine your ATS, check LinkedIn, StackOverflow, GitHub, the Starbucks over by your local University - whatever, and you secure the person that is proficient in skill 'X' , just like your hiring manager asked for. Sean Scully, Maesta 1983

    Everyone is happy, right? The candidate found an opportunity that matches their skills, the hiring manager got someone that knows the specific programming language that they need, and you can move this Req into the 'Closed' folder and see if anyone brought in any extra Halloween candy to the break room.

    But there could be a longer term problem with this kind of approach to hiring, it can result in something called 'Resume Driven Development', a condition where the products that get ultimately developed and provided to customers become a reflection not of the requirements of the customers, but of the capabilities/resumes of the developers that work on the project. 

    What this looks like is pretty thoroughly explained in this piece from the O'Reilly Radar blog:

    Resume Driven Development happens when your group needs to hire a developer. It’s very hard to tell a non-technical HR person that you need someone who can make good decisions about software architecture, someone who knows the difference between clean code and messy code, and someone who’s able to look at a code base and see what’s unnecessary and what can be simplified. We frequently can’t do that ourselves. So management says, “oh, we just added Redis to the application, so we’ll need a Redis developer.” That’s great — it’s easy to throw out resumes that don’t say Redis; it’s easy to look for certifications; and sooner or later, you have a Redis developer at a desk. Maybe even a good one.

    And what does your Redis developer do? He does Redis, of course. So, you’re bound to have an application with a lot of Redis in it. Whenever he sees a problem that can be solved with Redis, that’s what he’ll do. It’s what you hired him for. You’re happy; he’s happy. Except your application is now being optimized to fit the resumes of the people you hired, not the requirements of your users.

    The problem is that your team is optimized around the inability to communicate at a critical stage: the inability of a technical team to specify what they really want (a developer with good programming taste and instincts), and instead hiring someone who has a particular skill or credential. I suspect that Resume Driven Development is quite pervasive: an overly complex application stack that’s defined by the people you hired, and by the current toys that the “cool kids” on the programming block get to play with, not by the requirements of the application.

    A pretty good example and reminder that in hiring, as in the rest of life, you get what you pay for, or in this case, what you ask for.

    And I think this problem, or this tendency, might only get more likely over time as organizations try and move to more 'just-in-time' talent acquisition strategies that incorporate more and more contingent workers.

    It is not an easy problem to solve for sure. The natural or easy tendency is to try and define or simplify the hiring process into simple or discrete definitions. Hire Person 'A' with Skill 'B', to code in Product 'C', that kind of thing.

    But there is a definitely some advantages that can be accrued by expanding, at least somewhat, the requirements for both technical and even non-technical roles.  The warning though, that Resume Driven Development suggests, is that unless you know exactly what you will need, for at least the foreseeable future, then you are going to get forced into being locked in to a set of people and technologies that you may not want to be locked in with.

    Monday
    Oct132014

    Some final thoughts and thanks from #HRTechConf 2014

    Last Friday we wrapped up the 17th Annual HR Technology Conference, what I believe was an extremely successful event and for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, press, analysts, bloggers, and everyone else in the large HR Technology community, a professionally and personally valuable experience.

    For me, who spent the bulk of my time in 2014 planning, preparing, organizing, promoting, and then for lack of a better term, hosting the Conference, it will still probably take a few more days/weeks for everything to settle in and to take the feedback and observations from the last week and incorporate that into next year's planning process. But I did take the weekend to kind of decompress, tried to stay (mostly) offline and catch up on my sleep, and to think about my initial thoughts about the Conference that I would like to share, and more importantly, to publicly thank at least a few people that played an important part in the event this year.

    First - three quick general thoughts about the event 

    1. I thought there was great energy and enthusiasm at the event - in the Expo, at the General Sessions and Awesome New Tech demonstrations, during the parts of concurrent sessions that I was able to see, and of course at the receptions and dinners that I attended.  Even by last Friday, Day 4 of the event, we had a lively and engaged audience for the Awesome New Startups demo that started EARLY at 8AM, and then for Ray Wang's closing keynote. Excitement or engagement is a really hard thing to measure, but so many folks stopped me to tell me that they just felt a better vibe around the show this year, that I wanted to mention that. I want HR Tech to be energizing and fun, and I hope we succeeded in that.

    2. After a certain point, size becomes a real challenge. This year the Conference had a record number of speakers, sessions, and even keynotes that made for the 'biggest' HR Tech Conference to date. And while we are really proud of that, we also have to acknowledge that with the increase in size and scope, that it has become just about impossible to see everything and meet everyone that you would like to at the event. I did think that the physical layout of the show was such that the long, long walks of prior years were lessened, but there were still times where I know that I personally could not make it to where I wanted to be in time. I will try to find ways to manage this going forward, but if I was not able to talk or meet with you at the event, I do want to apologize for that.

    3. Some folks come a long, long way to attend HR Tech. I noticed this the most on Friday morning, before and after Ray's closing keynote. Since the event was just about complete, and I was almost out of things to worry about and do, I had a fair bit of time to just chat with attendees. And that morning in the space about about 15 minutes I met (and took photos with), attendees from China, India, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. That was really fun, and kind of cool. And also serves to me as a great reminder that attendees make a huge investment of time and resources to attend HR Tech, and we need to continue to work hard to deliver a great and valuable Conference and experience.

    Second - Keep, drop, and make new

    The big challenge with taking over a long-standing and successful event is figuring out how much to change, what to leave as-is, and what/where/how to try and move the event into a new direction. And that process of evaluation for an event like HR Tech is an ongoing, and sometimes inexact one at that. As for some of the new elements we introduced to the show this year, (expanded opening day/night, a more 'Technical' track, and an overall increase in sessions/speakers), I think for the most part they went over well. So I would expect all of that to continue on into future events. We also tried to stay true to what has been traditionally been a strength of the event - detailed case study type presentations from HR leaders at many of the world's leading organizations.

    Finally, early reports seem to suggest that an increased focus on HR Tech startup technologies, in the Expo Hall as part of our first-ever startup pavilion, and with our inaugural 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session, were both well-received. Of course, I welcome your comments and feedback going forward on what to more of, what to do less of, and what new things we should bring to the show.

    Third - Some folks I have to thank, (and I apologize in advance to not be able to list or mention everyone that I should, just like the Conference has grown to make it almost impossible to talk with everyone that I would like, I can't possibly name everyone here that I should thank), for their incredible contribution to the Conference this year. But I am going to try anyway... (these are presented in no particular order, just streaming them out as they come to me)

    Kris Dunn - KD stepped in at the 11th hour to take on a pretty big spot in the Agenda that came open due to a very late speaker cancellation. There are not many people who would have been willing and able to step in like that especially considering he already was leading a session later in the day. Huge thanks to the Capitalist for taking that on.

    Laurie Zaucha, Sara Hill, Coretha Rushing, and Ashley Goldsmith - These four HR leaders were the participants in the 'Modern CHRO' panel that I co-hosted along with Trish McFarlane. This was a great group of HR executives, were easy to work with, and reminded us all what true leadership looks and sounds like. I want HR Tech to be a place where we see and hear from the absolute best of the best in HR, and these panelists exemplify that completely.

    Trish McFarlane - In addition to Co-hosting the Modern CHRO Panel mentioned above, Trish also led an Expert Discussion session on HR Technology implementations about which I heard fantastic reports. But beyond that, she was a great sounding board and source of excellent advice throughout the event planning process. And she co-hosts my favorite podcast the HR Happy Hour Show!

    Jason Seiden - Jason launched his new startup BrandAmper at the Conference, as one of the participants in the first-ever 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session. This was not without risk, pressure, and probably some lost sleep. But Jason and Lisa Cervenka did an amazing job (like all of our startups), and I hope to see them back next year on the Big Stage!

    John Sumser - John led one of our sessions in the new Ideas and Innovations track, his on Computational HR, and while I was not able to sit in on the session, it probably was the one that I feel the worst about missing. He is also a remarkably nice and generous person that has contributed much to the event and to me as well.

    Michael Krupa - Mike did a tremendous job not only personally serving on a two-hour long panel in our 'Tech' track, but also serving to help create and coordinate several other elements at the show. Plus, he is one of the very few people I will allow to hug me in public.

    Naomi Bloom - Naomi did a tremendous amount of work in the run-up to the show, coordinating and helping to program what was a very successful Tech track at the event. Sadly, she was unable to actually participate live at the event due to a medical issue. But she had prepped her panel so well that they were able to carry on, and she stayed engaged with the event on Twitter throughout. Get well soon, Naomi!

    Mike Psenka - Mike runs the Workforce Analytics team at Equifax Workforce Solutions and not only did he present a great session with Whole Foods, he also allowed Trish and myself to crash his team dinner once again. Mike and the Equifax team are a super nice bunch of people that I enjoy spending time with at HR Tech each year.

    Ed Chase, Dave Shadovitz, Vicky Dennehy and the rest of the LRP team - It goes without saying that probably 95% of what happens to deliver an excellent experience to the HR Tech community goes on behind the scenes, and out of sight of most. But the LRP team does such a fantastic and professional job getting the thousands of elements aligned to present a great show for everyone. Trust me, you don't have any idea what goes on out of view, and you probably don't want to know, but the LRP team takes it all in stride. Many thanks to all of my colleagues for everything you do.

    All of our attendees, speakers, exhibitors, analysts, sponsors, and friends - We have such an engaged, vibrant, and enthusiastic community around HR Tech that in many ways that makes my job easy. So thanks to everyone who was at the event last week. There are literally thousands of you who contribute to the event, each in your own way, and that adds up to a remarkable and valuable community of people that make what I get to do really fun and amazing.

    Thanks again and please do mark your calendars now for the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference - October 18 -21, 2015 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

    Have a great week! 

    Monday
    Oct062014

    Notes from the road #11 - Heading to #HRTechConf Edition

    Random observations, thoughts, and disposable commentary from yesterday's journey out to Las Vegas for this week's HR Technology Conference...

    1. If you want to save your company or yourself a few bucks on air travel, (and most of either have to or want to do this), you either have to fly really early, (6AM), really late (hello red eye back from the West Coast), or sit around for hours and hours on a layover in places like Detroit or Chicago. Note, I am drafting up at least the start of this post about 60 minutes in to a 3-hour layover in Detroit).

    2. If you fly say about once per month or more, and generally stick with the same airline, then it is definitely worth the $500 or so to buy a airline club membership for the year. I know it sounds like a lot of coin for what you think will only be a few random hours here and there when you'd actually use the club but you would be wrong. Food, drinks, free wifi, clean bathrooms, drinks, (did I say that already?), agents at the front desk that can actually help you, and a relatively calm and quiet place to wait out layovers and delays. The very first time you use the club after buying in you will be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner. Trust me on this.

    3. From the 'I can't believe this is happening' department, in recent weeks I have had delayed flights for two different reasons that in two decades or so of travel I had never had happen before. In the first, we could not leave until the on board oxygen canister was recharged, (it had been used to give some O2 to a nervous passenger during boarding). In the second, the plane was not able to depart because it had been over-fueled and some indeterminate amount of Jet A had to be siphoned out. I have no idea how they actually do the siphoning, but it takes an ETERNITY to do. 

    4. Detroit airport has the only (that I have ever seen), food concession that sells pretty much exclusively peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This may sound like not that big a deal, but if you have someone in your family with a peanut/nut allergy (as I do), then finding places to get a little bit of a PB&J fix is a VERY important thing. I hope my son is not reading this right now.  But I miss PB&J...

    5. No one reads in airports or on planes any more. You are either pounding away on Email (most of the sad-looking middle-aged guys in first class and in the Sky Club), or are cruising Facebook on a tablet, (pretty much everyone else). It seems to me from my very unscientific observations that older women, (think 50+) are the most enthusiastic Facebook users. It's like Facebook has given validation and opportunity for them to be all up in the details of everyone's business (like they always wanted to be, but used to require more effort). I am 95% done with Facebook by the way. I am on Ello though. That I like. Until the big corporations ruin it.

    6. Ok, I am out for now. Need to score that PB&J before my flight out to Vegas. If you are heading to HR Tech, please be sure to say Hi. I would love to meet some folks who read the blog.

    Have a great week!