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    Wednesday
    Dec172014

    Show and tell

    The 'Steve Jobs was an amazingly creative thinker and leader' anecdotes will seemingly not be stopping anytime soon, and that is probably just fine. One of the latest, and that particularly caught my attention was related in this recent piece on Business Insider, Here's the Simple Yet Brilliant Challenge Steve Jobs Posed to Employees During Product Meetings.

    Here is an excerpt from the BI piece:

    Ken Rosen, a managing partner at consulting agency Performance Works, which worked with Jobs at Apple and at NeXT, shared one way Jobs was able to get the NeXT team thinking about design from different angles. 

    The challenge was simple: each person would bring a product he or she respected into their team meeting.

    "It could be anything, [even] a paperclip," Ken Rosen, who worked in marketing at NeXT, tells Business Insider. "People brought in very different products, from electronics to a paper notebook to a jump rope."

    Jobs wasn't interested in criticizing or judging the employee based on what product he or she brought in. Rather, the assignment was about broadening the way the team thought about product design.

    [Jobs] just really wanted to develop an organization where people knew what good products were," he says. "He wanted to develop a vocabulary and a kind of nuanced sense of judgement about what a good product really was."

    I think this story is cool for at least two reasons. One, it shows a willingness and a predisposition to look for ideas, inspiration, and even answers to NeXT's particular product and design challenges from just about anywhere. Notice Jobs did not instruct his team to bring in examples of their favorite competing computers or even broadly similar products in the electronics family. He asked them to bring in any products that resonated with them.

    Good ideas can come from everywhere, anywhere really.

    The other reason this story is cool is that it probably helped Jobs understand better the point of view and the design sensibilities of the members of the NeXT team. It is one thing for a team member to sit in a meeting and offer comments on a design sketch or a prototype, but it is quite another for that same person to carry in an object or a product and explain to the group what it is about that object that they find compelling. The exercise wasn't really about rating or evaluating any of the particular objects that the team brought in, but rather to think and see what good product design really was.

    Fun story for sure. Probably something worth trying sometime in your shop as well. And of course after reading I had to think about what product or object I would bring in for workplace show and tell...

    Hmm. I do love my little Acer Chomebook, (used to write this piece). I also might consider my Adidas Superstars, (classic sneakers for the uninitiated).

    Good question.

    What would you bring in for show and tell?

    Tuesday
    Dec162014

    UPDATE: The ADP Workforce Vitality Index

    Back at the HR Technology Conference in October, the folks at ADP introduced their latest measurement of the pulse and health of the American workforce and labor market, called the ADP Workforce Vitality Index.

    The Index is compiled by the professionals at the ADP Research Institute and provides quarterly measure of U.S. workforce dynamics that looks at key labor market indicators, such as employment growth, job turnover, wage growth and hours worked. This free report yields insights into workforce dynamics and trends than previously available -the index includes lots of key metrics on employment, workforce strategy and human capital management.

    Since HR Tech in October, most of the reporting on 'macro' labor market trends all seem to be signaling a tightening labor market, upward pressure on wages, and an environment where workers (at least the ones with the 'right' skills), have more and better options than they have had in years. 

    The ADP data seems to bear this out, with an increase in overall 'Vitality' (a measurement of the total wages paid to workers across a number of dimensions), across regions, industries, and income levels.

    Take a look at the latest report embedded below (Email and RSS subscribers may need to click through).

    Infographic: ADP Workforce Vitality Index Shows Real Wages Accelerating

    Overall, the data show real wages accelerating - the total real wages paid to the US private sector workforce, is Indexed to 110.6 in the third quarter of 2014 (2Q2011=100, Seasonally Adjusted), an increase of 0.77% from the previous quarter.

    There is plenty more to dig into in the ADP data, especially if you are a data geek like me, and more information and complete data sets that can be downloaded can be found here.

    One of the greatest potential benefits that the massive data sets that are available to the largest HCM solution providers make possible is the ability to analyze, synthesize, and derive insights from the aggregated data from thousands of employers and millions of employees. The ADP Workforce Vitality Index is a great example of this and hopefully, soon other providers with similarly robust HCM data sets will create their own unique reports and indices for use by HR and organizational leaders.

    Monday
    Dec152014

    LEAKED: Two observations from the Sony Pictures hack

    I am sure you have heard or read about the widespread hack and subsequent leaks of massive amounts of corporate information like email archives and other sensitive organizational (and HR) data at Sony Pictures.

    If you would like to be familiar, or at least caught up, a useful timeline of the hack and the leaks, (which appear to be ongoing), is here.

    Embarrassing email exchanges, written potshots being taken at various industry players, and even a dump (in the form of an Excel spreadsheet), of salary and other HR data for the organization's executives.

    A mess. And seemingly not going anywhere, not for a while anyway.

    So here are my two, thought about this for 10 minutes, observations for HR/Talent professionals from this brouhaha.

    1. It's time to stop thinking of Email as private, secured communication. I think since the rapid rise, and subsequent realization of the lack of privacy of public social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we somehow look at email, in comparison, and think it is private and secure. And while it should be, the Sony hack is just another example that reminds us that any communication in written, digital form is not ever 100% secure. We use Email so much, and in the large company environment it is so essential and ubiquitous, we have become beguiled to accept it as (mostly) private by default. And that is, in a word, insane. Forget about getting hacked by a malicious 3rd party - all it takes for your private, sensitive, possibly career-threatening email to get out into the world is one tiny error in the CC box, or one slip-up when forwarding something to John Jones and having it go to John Johnson instead. Lesson: Stop emailing so much (general). And talk to your leaders, managers, and employees about maybe picking up the phone once in a while.

    2. Employee and HR data in Excel spreadsheets is likely your single largest HR data-related risk area. Every single company has HR or Comp people with salary, bonuses, and other HR/Compensation data sitting in Excel spreadsheets on individual PCs and company servers. For smaller companies, this is usually out of necessity: Excel is the only tool available to them to do comp calculations and analyses. But even in larger companies that have powerful and sophisticated Compensation Planning tools, often these tools are used to simply dump Employee and Comp data into Excel for additional manipulation and even file sharing. The Comp planning systems are powerful and secure. Excel spreadsheets are powerful and highly insecure (ask Sony). Where should you insist your Comp data remain?

    We have spent literally years reminding our kids and each other that nothing that gets posted on Facebook or Instagram is really private.

    It is also time to remind ourselves and our employees that nothing posted anywhere is really private either.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Dec122014

    OFF TOPIC: The Collateral Damage of Gangnam Style

    You might have caught the news last week that the video Gangnam Style has been viewed so frequently, (2 BILLION plus times), that it actually 'broke' YouTube, whose underlying code had been unable to store and display a video views count above 2,147,483,647.

    YouTube subsequently fixed the bug, if it even could be called a bug, and now assures us that it can handle a views count maximum of somewhere north of 9 quintillion.

    Let's hope that Gangnam Style, (or Grumpy Cat or Celebrities Reading Mean Tweets or anything else) doesn't ever get too close to breaking YouTube again.

    Why?

    Because there is a cost of sorts in all this YouTube watching. An opportunity cost really, for all of us. A few months back, before Gangnam Style broke YouTube, the folks at the Economist did some calculations to estimate what else humanity might have been able to accomplish with all the time spent (140M hours at that point), watching Gangnam Style.

    Here is the chart from the Economist that will proably make you weep a little bit for humanity:

    Amazing.

    One Gangnam Style equates to 20 Empire State Buildings, 4 Great Pyramids, and almost 2 new Wikipedias.

    That is potentially the kinds of things we could have accomplished had we spent the time watching Gangnam Style in more productive endeavors.

    Look, I am not sitting here saying I spend every waking minute in deep study, volunteering for the less fortunate, saving abandoned puppies, or helping elderly folks cross the street.

    I waste plenty of time. I do.

    But seeing this kind of data does make me pause a little. I know I can do better, and I only contributed 1 measly view to the 2 Billion count for Gangnam Style. 

    I know I can do better. Probably you can too.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Dec112014

    The former next big thing

    I was doing some cleaning/organizing/trying to find something (there's almost no difference), over the weekend when in a box of old papers and books I came across the CD that you see pictured on the right (click on the pic for a much larger version).Click for an enormous version of this

    Since it still might be a little tough to catch all the details from the pic, let me explain what you're looking at.

    This CD dates from 1997 and contains the Functional Overviews, (essentially user manuals), for Oracle Applications products for Finance, Supply Chain, Human Resources, and more. But more notable than the fact that I still have an almost 20-year old CD set of Oracle Apps manuals, is the particular Applications release or version number of the products - something called 10SC.

    For those reading this post not familiar with Oracle Apps Release history the 'SC' in 10SC stood for 'Smart Client' - in Oracle-speak, 10SC was the initial version of the applications that were deployed using graphical forms instead of character-based input screens, and in true client-server mode.

    After typing that I just realized there are probably lots of readers that in addition to not being familiar with old Oracle Apps version numbers, probably are not even that familiar with the notion of 'client-server' as well. Put really simply, client-server was/is a method of deploying applications installed on a central computer (the server) to the end users (the clients) over a local area network, a wide area network, or, later, the internet.

    Prior to the client-server revolution, business applications were primarily installed on mainframes and minicomputers that possessed input/output terminals, (I know, this post has officially become incredibly boring, I promise I am getting to the point soon), so the migration to more advanced client-server application architectures was a VERY BIG DEAL.

    I mean a big, huge, massive deal. If we had Twitter or LinkedIn back then you would have been inundated with pieces like '10 Ways Client-Server is Going to Change How Work Gets Done' and 'Client-Server offers HR Leaders the Opportunity to Re-shape HR service delivery'. And if you were not on board with Client-server for some reason, you'd have been labeled some kind of technology Luddite and a 'typical HR person' getting in the way of progress because you didn't stay on top of technology trends.

    Kind of the same way that the 'Cloud' has been referred to in about 14,980 articles written this year.

    So here is the point. It is not that the Cloud and how HR technology has changed dramatically in the last few years isn't important. It is. It does matter and I firmly believe that owning the HR and workplace technology agenda is the true secret to developing lasting influence and power in organizations.

    It is just that this has pretty much ALWAYS been the case and the Cloud or smartphones or wearable devices are just the latest manifestations or versions of Client-server, or Email or Fax machines.

    Sure you might be tempted to say 'You are wrong, things are moving faster. It is different this time.'

    You are right. It is different this time. It's different EVERY time.

    Keep this in mind as you wind down 2014 and read any 'Top HR and HR Tech predictions for 2015' pieces. Even ones where your humble correspondent might be quoted.

    Happy Thursday.

    Note: If anyone from Oracle is reading this and wants the 10SC CD, let me know I will send!