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    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 194 - Small Improvements

    HR Happy Hour 194 - Small Improvements

    Recorded Wednesday October 29, 2014

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guest: Linda Jonas

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish were joined by Linda Jonas, International traveler, and Director of Marketing for Small Improvements, an HR technology provider of tools that provide a simpler, easy to use, and more engaging approach to performance management, workplace feedback, 360-degree reviews, and more.

    We talked about Linda's annual 6-week world tour where she meets with customers and partners, her Small Improvements colleagues, and attends events like the HR Technology Conference and the upcoming HRevolution (of which Small Improvements is a sponsor). 

    Additionally, Linda shared some insights into emerging and ongoing trends in employee performance management, and the need for both software providers and organizations to keep these processes clear, easy to adopt, and valuable for employees, managers and organizations overall. Everyone seems to hate on Performance Management and one of the reasons is that the process has often been overengineered and over-complicated. Check out Small Improvements to get some insights into how you can change that in your organization, while improving (pardon the pun) both the process and the desired outcomes.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'. 

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio



    This was a really fun show - thanks to Linda and to everyone at Small Improvements!


    Microsoft Band and the Future of Wearables at Work

    As a certified data and tech geek, and a wannabee runner, (slow runner at least), I am totally fascinated and interested in the launch of Microsoft Band, the software giant's new wearable fitness tracking device. 

    What interests me with the Microsoft take on wearable fitness tracking, which admittedly is not really in and of itself all the groundbreaking, we have had Fitbits and Jawbones and all kinds of other fitness and activity tracking devices for some time now, is how the folks at Redmond are talking about and developing the Band as much more than a personal activity tool, but rather as a productivity tool.

    Read the (long, but interesting) post on Microsoft's News Center describing the new Band. The word 'productivity' pops up at least a half dozen times in the piece, (including in the title). Microsoft is still and probably will always be known as the company that makes the software most of us use to do work. Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints - heck I bet 80% of the people reading this blog use Exchange/Outlook for your business email.

    Microsoft is about WORK. Getting work done even in 2014 still often equates to dragging your mouse and keyboard around some kind of Microsoft product. 

    So the fact that Redmond is diving into wearable/fitness tech, and openly talking about Productivity in that conversation is eye-opening. Here is just one representative reference to work and productivity in the Microsoft piece:

    Microsoft Band’s cutting-edge continuous heart rate monitoring provides a detailed calorie count and sleep quality measurements. With the inclusion of intelligent personal assistant Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1, the band also offers hands-free access to the web and your most important correspondence whether you’re at the office or at the gym.

    And here is one more snippet:

    With the inclusion of productivity and communication features, they aimed to make not only a wearable personal trainer but also a wearable personal assistant. Productivity features would deepen the device’s connection with the consumer and free them from having to keep their eyes glued to a smartphone.

    While the initial interest and appeal for a wearable like Microsoft Band might be at the individual consumer level, it is pretty easy to see a (near) future when the deep integration of a fitness/activity tracker with the workplace productivity tools that Microsoft has long dominated, would present a compelling value proposition to organizations. I can easily see a day where organizations pass out a Microsoft Band along with a company-issued laptop and corporate Email account. The potential for not only Level 1 benefits (more exercise by employees, better dietary/sleep habits, weight loss, etc), but deeper insight into how work patterns, activities, schedules, and even personal interactions impact employee health and well-being will just be too tempting to pass up.

    Think for a second about the potential benefits for organizations of deeper integration between wearable fitness/activity trackers and the tools we are used to using at work - Email, Office docs, even IM and collaboration tools.

    I can think of at least three really compelling use cases for this kind of integration right off the top. 

    One - how work itself effects employee health. Does someone's heart start racing in every staff meeting? Do they begin to get twitchy when called upon to present to a group? Does a certain interaction with a colleague result in three nights of poor sleep? And then what can organizations then do to better understand and potentially align individuals with projects and team members that can aid their ability to perform, while not making them crazy? How do schedules, (and in particular over scheduling), impact employee health and activity? Do we need to be more mindful of how overworked and over scheduled many of our people are?

    Two - Insights into who in the organization inspires, challenges, and lifts people up, and who serves as essentially the corporate buzzkill? Imaging a meeting with 10 people inside, all wearing the MS Band. One person dominates the meeting, maybe it is the boss, and immediately after the other 9 people begin to show signals of nervousness, irritability, or even lethargy. Maybe email and collaboration patterns in the team begin to show signs of changing as well. Perhaps some members of the team skip their normal workouts for a day or two in the aftermath. Maybe some folks don't even turn up the next day. 

    Three - How much (or little) are employees actually disengaging from work to do things like exercise and even to just relax without worrying about and reading/responding to emails and texts? Activity tracking data should show a fairly regular and consistent pattern of employee activity and (hopefully) reveal that people are getting enough activity and also are not trapped to their work 24/7. What is the relationship between extended periods of downtime and subsequent well-being and productivity? Do we need to be more adamant that people actually take their earned PTO in order to ensure better long-run health and on the job success?

    Ok, I could be jumping the gun on this. But I can't help but see a potential future where activity/fitness/health tracking information becomes a vital input into overall workforce management and planning. Sure, some folks will scream about privacy and employer intrusion into personal areas where they should not be. And while that is a valid concern, if the macro trends hold up, and people continue to be more open and public about their lives, then a future where employees physiological responses and activities to work and the workplace are just another set of data points to overall HR/Talent/Business planning seems almost inevitable. Besides, employers 'spying' on employees did not just get invented with fitness trackers and it will be with us long after we all toss out our Fitbits. 

    So what do you think?

    Does Microsoft Band signal something potentially really important for HR and workplaces?

    Or am I naive to the extent to which people will not want to share this personal data with their employers?


    How the NBA can teach you (almost) everything you need to know about talent management

    Tonight is the opening of the 2014-2015 NBA season, (also known as the greatest day of the year in my house). I am a firm believer that sports, and particularly NBA basketball, offer some of the best real-world and public manifestations and examples of what HR and Talent pros would refer to as modern organizational Talent Management.

    I am also a firm believer that you too can learn just about everything you need to know about modern Talent Management from close observation of the NBA - the teams, the stars, the coaching, the executive decisions, even the marketing. Sure, I know what you are saying, sports isn't like real life and real business, and you can't constantly keep comparing the two very different worlds. To that I say, you're wrong. Or at least that is the argument I am going to make.

    Here are five (easy, and just the most obvious ones I could think of in the 26 minutes I allotted myself to write tihis post), of how following the NBA can raise your HR game in the major Talent Management process areas.

    Recruiting/Selection - The most obvious parallel between the NBA and 'real' business is probably in recruiting and selection. In both examples you have to make the critical determination of just who is likely to succeed and perhaps more importantly, succeed in your specific business/team/set of circumstances. Even really talented NBA players sometimes find themselves on the 'wrong' team or in a system that does not suit their talents, (see Paul, Chris). You know you have been there too, dealing with a smart, talented employee who for some reason or another doesn't 'fit' or simply needs a change of scenery, (maybe a transfer, a new boss, maybe leaving altogether), in order for them to realize their potential. 

    Learning/Development - Most players get to the NBA (mostly) fully formed, i.e., their skills and abilities are reasonably developed, and only need some refinement and experience in order to succeed. But there are some players, especially players later in their career, that end up adding new elements or skills to their games in order to extend their usefulness and their time in the league, (see Carter, Vince). I would argue that for successful people, just like for NBA players, learning and development needs have two peaks, right at the start of one's career, and again towards the end. What is the HR/Talent lesson? Probably not to neglect the learning and development needs of longer-tenured employees, who still have plenty to offer, but might just need a little more time in the gym learning a new skill or two.

    Performance Management - Coaching doesn't make a ton of difference in the NBA, as success or failure is primarily a function of the talent level of the players. But there are a couple of exceptions to this. Namely, the coaches at the very top, the ones that consistently have the most success, find a way to coax superior performance out of their players, (see Popovich, Gregg). Much like with players, the difference between the very best coaches and average coaches is incredibly significant, (and apparent). The HR pro takeaway from this? The best talent does not always win. The best talent, guided by the best managers usually does win. Don't skimp on trying to build the best team of managers that you can.

    Succession Planning - Lots to learn about succession planning from sports, but the best recent example might be what has been happening to the proud Los Angeles Lakers franchise since the passing of owner Dr. Jerry Buss in 2013. Under Buss' stewardship, the Lakers enjoyed a lengthy run of high performance and numerous championships. After his death, his ownership interests passed to his six children, with each one having an equal vote in team matters. Two of the children, Jeannie and Jim have the most direct involvement with the team, and their performance has been to put it kindly, less than stellar. The franchise seems kind of adrift, they have made several questionable decisions, (see Bryant Kobe), and are facing down what is likely to be their worst season in years. The takeaway here? Even the best performing, best-run companies have to have a plan for when their owner/leader moves on. Nothing lasts forever, but organizations with a deep bench of solid leaders will last longer than most. 

    Compensation - All NBA teams operate under a salary budget (cap), just like your organization does too. Allocating that budget intelligently across the roster is paramount to a team's success in the league. Spend too much on one or two superstar players, (see Bryant, Kobe), and then you're left with filling out the team with a collection of less talented players. But, fail to spend (or offer) top-level talent the top-level money they demand, and watch them walk to a competitor, (see Parsons, Chandler). Hey, that is exactly what happens to some of your best people too!

    Simple, right? Lessons abound everywhere in the NBA where you can see the actual outcomes of Talent Management strategies and decisions play out in real-time, every night, in arenas around the country.

    I am down with the NBA, and not just because basketball is by far the greatest of all team sports, but also for how studying the game can help us be better at what we are charged with doing - helping our organizations manage and utilize talent for successful results.

    Welcome back NBA and Go Knicks!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 193 - Humanizing Data

    HR Happy Hour 193 - Humanizing Data

    Recorded Thursday October 23, 2014

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Paul Hebert

    This time on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish welcomed long time show friend and expert on influence and recognition, Paul Hebert back to the HR Happy Hour Show.

    Paul is the Vice President of Solution Design at Symbolist, one of the first to create a blog for the incentive and reward industry – called “Incentive Intelligence” – now hosted here at Symbolist. In addition, Paul writes for one of the top Human Resources blogs – Fistful of Talent, is a founding member of the Editorial Advisory Board at the HRExaminer.

    On the show. Paul, Trish, and Steve talked about the importance of the human element in things like employee engagement, recognition, and motivation strategies in organizations. While we are talking A LOT in HR about data these days, it is really critical that we don't lose sight of the human element in our organizations.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'. 

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    This was a really fun show and many thanks to Paul for joining us and to Symbolist for sponsoring the upcoming HRevolution event. 


    From HR Executive - On being a better HR Tech consumer

    Some readers might know that in addition to being the Program Co-Chair of the HR Technology Conference that additionally I write a monthly column for Human Resource Executive (magazine and online), titled Inside HR Tech. The latest Inside HR Tech piece 'Being a Better Consumer' posted earlier this week, and I wanted to share a little bit of the piece here (since I liked the piece and I think it relevant to many of the blog readers here).

    From Human Resource Executive - 'Being a Better Consumer'

    Recently I had the opportunity to talk with executives and product leaders from a small group of HR technology start-up solution providers. The conversations were primarily focused on these start-ups’ product offerings, their positions in the market and their various approaches to development, software user experience and deployment. It was really interesting stuff for a HR tech columnist for sure!

    But some of the most interesting and engaging elements of the conversations with these providers was hearing from them about their challenges dealing with prospects and customers in the sales, contract negotiation, implementation and post-live support processes.

    They shared some of the specific obstacles they've come across when educating, trying to sell to, and lastly, finalizing contract agreements with HR leaders and organizations. I thought it would make sense to share what they shared and offer some tips for HR leaders to be better customers.

    Though the start-ups, themselves, are small, many of their customers are quite large, even global organizations.

    And while some of what they had to say was certainly flavored by their relative small size and inexperience, I know for sure from having worked for very large HR-tech providers (and customers), that many of these buying process issues are common no matter what the HR-tech vendor’s and the customer’s current size may be. Big company or small, these kinds of challenges arise all the time. So here, without further delay and presented in no specific order, are my tips for being a better HR-tech customer:

    Define and share your decision process/timeline.

    Once the initial contact is made between your HR organization and the HR-technology provider, you -- as a customer -- can significantly assist the overall process by sharing with the tech vendor the motivations behind your inquiry, the specific business needs or problems you are hoping to address, and -- most importantly -- details about your internal decision making process and desired timelines for the technology decision to be made will

    Many of the start-up vendors shared their frustration with long and winding product education/demonstration cycles with customers that seemed to have no end in sight.

    Even if that “end” is a decision not to purchase, the vendors are often better off getting that information sooner in order to shift their time and resources to other prospects.

    And if your decision process, (for whatever reason), is long, that is fine too, just be up front with the vendor early on so they can align their resources and expectations.

    Explain your purchase approval and payment process.

    As a customer.....

    (catch the rest of the piece at Human Resource Executive online 

    I invite blog readers interested in these longer form HR tech pieces to subscribe to get every Inside HR Tech column in convenient email form. I would also invite suggestions and ideas for future Inside HR Tech columns.

    Have a great weekend!