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    Monday
    Feb202017

    HRE Column: What is Driving Innovation in Workplace Technology

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I take a look at the emerging consumer and personal technology trends that are driving and shaping next generation HR and workplace technologies.  While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, real-time, personalized), it still can take time, even years, for these consumer tech trends to manifest in HR technologies.

    I like to think that we are entering (or maybe have already entered), an amazing era of innovation and transformation in HR and workplace tech, much of it being driven by evolving and demanding user expectations, and the changing of the what we think about when we think about HR tech.

    In this month's HR Executive column I examine a a few of the themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the design, development, and deployment of HR and workplace technologies in 2017, and beyond.  This was a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year and make your HR technology decisions. 

    From the HRE piece:

    I've been working on a couple of new talks that I will be giving this year centered around one key idea that has been talked about for some time in HR-tech circles but is now -- finally -- becoming more prevalent in the design, deployment and impact of HR-technology solutions.

    The idea is a simple one. Namely, that the traditional way HR and other workplace technologies have been designed -- by programmers, then marketed and sold to CIOs or IT managers, and finally deployed and configured primarily for the needs of the power users in the payroll and HR departments -- is no longer that useful.

    The continuing series of tech-driven advances in our personal and consumer lives -- such as e-commerce sites that learn our preferences and make personal product recommendations; smartphones and the emergence of app stores that let us design our own preferred toolsets; "intelligent," crowd-sourced platforms that help us beat traffic jams; and ubiquitous and constant Internet connections -- have combined to create heightened expectations of workplace technologies that look, feel and function like the best consumer technologies we have come to love.

    Most importantly, the next generation of the workforce has never known a time when these personalized, highly adaptable, intelligent and easy-to-use types of technologies did not exist.

    Indeed, before walking into your organization for their first day of work, these new employees might have dressed in clothes that were personally selected for them and shipped directly to their houses by StitchFix; have prepared to meet their colleagues by perusing their LinkedIn, Twitter or GitHub profiles; learned about your industry and their new job functions by watching YouTube videos and reading Quora threads; and traveled to the office by summoning a car to their house via Uber or Lyft, or dodging the traffic using Waze. And they did all this on their smartphones. It is no surprise, then, that these new workers are expecting the same kinds of capabilities, flexibility and ease of use from the technology they will use at work.

    Both HR-technology providers and HR leaders are being spurred on to adapt to these new challenges by creating and deploying modern HR technologies that incorporate these kinds of consumer elements and expectations of personalization, beautiful design and ease of use into the next generation of HR tech tools. The evolution of HR and workplace technologies has begun, and the most effective organizations will look to modernize their workplace tools to meet this new, demanding and tech-savvy employee.

    Let's highlight five current manifestations of how modern HR technologies are adapting to meet these these new requirements, and share some thoughts on how HR leaders can better assess, select and deploy HR-technology solutions to meet these demands.

    Mobile

    The Internet traffic and measurement firm StatCounter recently released a report showing worldwide Internet usage from mobile and tablet devices has surpassed internet usage from traditional PCs and laptops, with 51 percent of all Internet usage via mobile. This is a trend that is showing no signs of abating anytime soon. When broken down generationally, it reveals that younger generations prefer mobile over desktops and laptops even more prominently. Three or four years ago, it was common for organizations and HR-technology-solution providers to have a "mobile strategy." Now it seems almost behind the times to explicitly discuss "mobile" tools as something distinct from traditional workplace applications.

    Connected

    I thought about calling this example "Social" to represent how the growth of social networks in the last decade and their popularity with the younger demographic has influenced almost every type of HR and workplace technology, but I think "connected" is a better term to describe how social will continue to influence HR and workplace technology moving forward. "Social" feels a little superficial to me, and besides, I don't think it adequately represents the importance of community and younger workers feeling like they are a part of something larger that is considerably important to them. They want to be connected at work similar to the ways they are connected in their personal lives -- not chasing "likes" on their latest selfie, but coming together with their peers, sharing their knowledge and ideas, helping and supporting each other, and finally "belonging" to something important.

    A great example of this new trend is in the learning-technology realm, where newer systems provide the capability for all end users to share their expertise and upload their own video tutorials, and for other users to build upon this content with comments, addendum and upvotes, indicating that the content was particularly helpful and useful. Communities end up self-forming around subjects and content that are important for the organization, and people feel more connected and supported by their colleagues as well.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and clean out your gutters, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb172017

    CHART OF THE DAY: Report from Startup Land

    I don't like to get too caught up in tracking and detailing the latest trends and moves in HR, Talent, or even workplace technology emanating from Silicon Valley. After all, the vast majority of us do not work in go-go startups, can't really empathize with most startups particular challenges, and the rules of engagement for HR and talent leaders at 30 year-old manufacturing companies with 2,600 employees are naturally, (obviously), different than at a new 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startup in Palo Alto.

    But on the other hand if you generally believe that innovation in technology, service delivery, and even 'HR' things like benefits, workplace design, and employee experience does often start at 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startups, as they are unencumbered by size, tradition, understanding of the 'rules', and simply often too busy to worry about HR things and just get to work, then keeping an eye on what is happening in the Valley can be a useful exercise for any HR and talent pro - no matter what size and type of organization you are in.

    One recently published set of snapshots on what is happening in Startup Land comes to us from Silicon Valley Bank in the form of their 2017 Startup Outlook Report (US).  It is a really interesting look at some of the trends, challenges, and points of view from their survey of leaders of 941 global startups, 62% from the US. I want to share three charts from the US portion of the report, with a comment or two for each, then send you on your way for the (long) weekend.

    Chart 1 - The 'War' for Talent

    You'd expect that a majority of startups would report difficulty in finding the people they need to grow their businesses since many of these startups are in technology fields where the tech itself may be new, and the competition for people with these often very hard to find skills is fierce. But 90% plus saying it is challenging or extremely challenging to find talent? I must say that even surprised me. Even though the percentage ticked down a bit, 9 of 10 startup leaders showed up to work today probably worried about finding talented people.

    2. Gender diversity is not improving

    While it probably is not surprising that most startups have mostly male leaders and mostly male boards of directors, what is at least a little surprising, given the increased attention on this issue in the last year, is that surveyed startups are getting more male at the leadership and board levels.  Buried behind this chart is the note that about a quarter of surveyed firms have formal programs in place to increase female representation in leadership roles. But a quick look at the above data suggests that these efforts are not moving the needle at all.

    3. Despite it all, almost all of these startups are hiring

    It is the nature of a startup to grow and hire, so you'd expect these numbers of firms looking to increase headcount in 2017 to be high, but it is pretty encouraging to see that this number has remained consistently high over the last few years. And this is really good news for the kinds of people that these startups are likely to be after - highly skilled, proficient in the latest technology, and able to add value right away. There's a reason why 'Data Scientist' is sometimes called the best job in America today. Although I'd argue that 'Stretch Four' would be better. Non basketball fans, Google that one.

    Lots of other interesting data points in the 2017 Startup Outlook Report - I encourage taking a few minutes to read it through. You might not be an HR pro at a Valley startup, but you just might be competing with some of them for your next Data Scientist.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Feb152017

    I know he has the title, but is he believable?

    I'm sure you've seen reports of the numerous large and some high-profile organizations that are altering or outright scrapping traditional, ratings-centric performance management processes to move towards a more nimble, flexible, and frequently centered around coaching and development. More forward-looking as opposed to scoring the past as it were.

    While the actual results of these new, 'no more ratings' performance programs have so far been mixed at best, it does seem likely that this trend will continue for a little while longer anyway. And one of the by products of these kinds of programs ironically enough, is the generation of more 'perfomance' data, not less, or at least more than in a traditional annual review process. In these new programs, check-ins, kudos, 'real-time' feedback comments, 1-1 meetings, and even micro bonuses or awards will be happening all year long, will need to be soted, assessed, and made sense of in order for these programs to deliver on their goals - namely improved business and individual performance.

    I was thinking about this when reading about how one firm, Bridgewater Associates is taking this idea of high-frequency, real-time, and highly data driven approaches to employee performance and development to an incredibly detailed level. 

    You should read the entire piece, but here is a snippet from Business Insider piece that sheds a little color on how the firm uses data points on 100+ traits to rate, evaluate, and assess their staff:

    Every employee has a company-issued iPad loaded with proprietary apps. One of them, called "Dots," contains a directory of employees and options to weigh in on various elements of each person's work life, categorized in values, abilities, skills, and track record.

    There are more than 100 attributes in total, but the collections of attributes are customized to roles in the company, in the sense that an investor's performance would not be measured according to the same traits that would be used to measure a recruiter's performance.

    Employees are free to use Dots whenever they'd like, when they want to praise or criticize a colleague for a particular action.

    The numerical value of these Dots is considered along with performance reviews, surveys, tests, and ongoing feedback and averaged into public "baseball card" profiles for every employee. The profiles get their name from the list of attributes and corresponding ratings, the same way a baseball card would list something like a player's batting average accompanied by a brief description of their career.

    These are then brought into play in meetings where decisions are being made. Using their iPads, colleagues will vote on certain choices, and in the system of believability-weighted decision making, each vote will have a weight depending on the individual's baseball card and the nature of the question.

    "A person's believability is constantly relevant," Prince said. "In a meeting, it is relevant to things like how you self-regulate your own engagement in a discussion, how the person running the meeting manages the discussion, and in actual decisions. At all times a person should be assessing their own believability so that they can function well as part of a team."

    There's a lot to unpack there, and I am fairly sure that this kind of pervasive, detailed, transparent, and for many, scary, kind of performance/evaluation scheme would not work at most places and for most people. But I think there are (at least) two key features of this system that any organization should think about in terms of their own performance processes.

    The first is that the 'Dots' app has the ability to collect, synthesize, and make sense of the many thousands of data points that are generated each year for every employee. So that these interactions, assessments, and bits of feedback are not wasted, or pass off into the ether shortly after they are created. In this way the firm continues to build valuable intelligence about its people and their capability over time. 

    And secondly, this information is taken into account when decisions are being made. So that if you have built up credibility over time on a particular subject, your opinion or vote on issues related to that subject carries proportionally more weight than someone less experienced or believable on that issue, regardless of position or title. This data-driven approach to 'Who should we believe about this?' helps the firm guard against 'loudest voice in the room wins' trap that many organizations fall prey to.

    Really interesting stuff and while maybe being a little too extreme (and disciplined) for most organizations, the Bridgewater approach to performance might give you at least a general idea of where we are heading - a place where every employee action, interaction, and decision is logged, rated, and contributes to their overall profile. And where that profile is taken into account when decisions need to be made. 

    Good stuff for a Wednesday. Have a great day!

    Monday
    Feb132017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 275 - Employer Branding on a Global Scale at GE

    HR Happy Hour 275 - Employer Branding on a Global Scale at GE

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Shaunda Zilich, Global Employer Brand Leader, GE

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane are joined by Shaunda Zilich, Global Employment Brand Leader for GE to talk about employer branding, recruitment marketing, and working with employees and the marketing staff to achieve employer branding goals. 

    Shaunda shared some key insights about GE's approach to employer branding, how to engage employees, hiring managers, and business leaders to help spread important employer brand messages, and to best position GE as well as communicate, support and align with business strategy. She also shares some ideas about how to get employer branding and recruitment marketing programs off and running, even with limited, (or maybe even no) budget, staff, or resources.

    You can learn more about GE at www.ge.com/careers where you can learn about GE's new initiative to place 20,000 women in technical roles.

    We also chatted about bourbon, snowstorms, and Trish and Shaunda both shared some incredibly important news of their respective company's recent announcements with the NBA. This is HUGE news (definitely to Steve anyway).

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below:

    This was a fun and interesting show, thanks so much to Shaunda for joining us!

    Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the podcast apps - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Friday
    Feb102017

    Signs of the Corporate Death Spiral #5 : Have we learned nothing from Yahoo?

    Every once in a while, I still come across a story about a book or books being banned, or even burned, in a local area or school system. And every time I hear a story like that I make the same , bad joke - "They are burning books? Burning them? I mean, have we learned nothing from Footloose?"

    And every once in a while we come across stories of organizations that, in the spirit of the formerly great tech company Yahoo, pulling the corporate version of banning books, except is it about banning telework or remote work arrangements.  You probably caught the news that this week IBM's Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso is effectively banning remote working arrangements for IBM's US marketing organization. Staffers will have to report to, (and in some cases relocate within commuting distance of), one of six US offices and (in her words), sit "Shoulder to shoulder" with their colleagues.

    IBM Marketing employees who are unable or unwilling to cease remote work arrangements and report to one of the six offices will be essentially tendering their resignation, (according to reports).

    Call me cynical, but my guess is Ms. Peluso herself will not have to suffer a 'forced' relocation to keep her job. I bet she already lives near enough one of the six offices. 

    But the larger point, like Yahoo, Comcast, or any other organization that resorts to the 'No more remote working for anyone' card is sending a signal that they are kind of out of ideas on how to generate better ideas.

    So they pull the 'More/Better ideas get generated when people are physically together' line and issue edicts like Ms. Peluso's and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer before that. And they are at least (partially) right. Sometimes great ideas do get generated when people are physically together.

    But also true is that great ideas get generated when people are walking their dog, are in the shower, or sometimes when they wake up in the middle of the night and scribble something down on a pad. Keith Richards dreamed the riff for 'Satisfaction', woke up a 4AM and played the lick into a tape recorder on the night stand. He didn't come up with the legendary tune as Agenda Item #6 in an official Rolling Stones band weekly status meeting.

    It seems like these kinds of blunt, non-differentiated, unscientific, (does IBM really know that working in the office will lead to better performance?), never work out in the long run.

    The best talent that feels negatively impacted by this policy change will find their way to greener pastures. And other folks will feel forced by their employer to make incredibly disruptive life changing decisions in order to keep their jobs.

    Ever have to hell an 11 year-old they have to relocate to a new city, new school, and make all new friends? Have fun with that conversation.

    I don't know what is going on at IBM in a big-picture sense. But I do know the various IBM folks I have dealt with and do work with now (some are in Marketing), are all dedicated, intelligent, considerate, and a real pleasure to work with.

    I hope things work out for them the way they want them to.