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    Telling People What to Do

    There are some people that really like giving out orders, and some, (certainly fewer), that like being told what to do. But I suspect the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. As leaders or parents or when acting in any role that puts us in a position of authority, we want to set some basic direction or ground rules, and then sit back happily and watch our charges carry out their duties and tasks without much meddling or the need for intervention and correction.Click image for larger size

    Face it, how many times do you have to tell your kids to clean up their room or to stop texting at dinner before it gets really tedious? And in the workplace it can get very tiresome to have to keep reminding Peter to include the cover sheets on the TPS reports. I mean come on, when is he going to finally get it? Yep, constantly telling people what to do, and the flip side, hearing again and again what you need to do, (or what you need to stop doing), both are dreary, monotonous, and at times soul-crushing.

    What's the solution? I really don't have one except to say that no matter what side of the ledger you find yourself on, the constant repetition can only mean two things. One, the message simply isn't getting across. Or two, the message is clearly understood, and the person that needs to make the change just doesn't have the same agenda as the order-giver. I suppose there is a third scenario, where there is a valid moral or ethical objection to compliance, but that one is kind of rare and usually can be debunked on closer examination. I have not yet acceded to my 11 year-olds 'moral' objections to going to bed.

    Click image for larger sizeSo if you find yourself as a crossroads with someone or something that simply won't see things your way, perhaps taking a page from the worlds of marketing or advertising is the best way forward. Take a look at the images that accompany this post. They are taken from the Library of Congress archives of Works Progress Administration posters from the late 1930s and early 1940s. An era known formally as the Great Depression, and less formally as 'absolute crap'. 

    Both of these posters, and many of the others in the archive, are attempts to 'tell people what to do' in a time where for most people, pretty much the last thing they wanted to hear was a lecture or an admonition from anyone. Mostly, they just wanted to find work, or hang on to the jobs they had, and find some way to feel better about things. And as the 40s started, the likelihood of entering into World War II was pretty high. Certainly, a country going pretty much straight from economic depression to World War II in short order pretty much created an environment of stress, worry, and real fear about both the present and the future.

    So why are these WPA posters so cool and kind of instructive? Well, for one reason they are really cool to look at. They are extremely well designed and artistic, as the WPA had access to and the availability of many top notch designers and artists who had found the normal markets for their work pretty thin during the depression. And secondly, mainly due to the constraints of the medium, they are simple and direct. 'Be Careful', and 'Visit The Zoo'. That's it. That is the entire message. But the design of the posters makes us want to look at them a little longer, to maybe be a little more open to the message, and perhaps, just a tiny bit, be more receptive to the pitch, to being told what to do.

    I think it can be really easy to forget that once the message keeps repeating it often gets tuned out or just blends into the white noise.  But making it interesting, making it compelling, making it into art - well if you can do that you might have a chance at being heard.

    Now if I can just photoshop 'Clean your room' on the Zoo poster and show it to the kid.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    WEBINAR : Social Recruiting MacGyver-Style

    MacGyver is probably the coolest TV-hero ever.  He is cooler than you could ever dream of being even if you only dreamed of being MacGyver.

    He could make a cannon from a old microscope, turn a bedframe into a catapult, and do just about anything else with s Swiss Army knife and some duct tape.

    Smart, agile, resourceful - and able to rock a mullet as good as anyone before or since. Possessor of many of the qualities of my friends from Fistful of Talent, Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett.

    Why the clumsy transition from the legendary MacGyver to KD and Sackett, who are also legendary, but for slightly different reasons?

    Because next Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 1:00PM ET, Kris and Timmy, (and possibly Pete Thornton), are presenting a Fistful of Talent Webinar titled - Social Recruiting MacGyver Style! (How to Recruit via Facebook).

    Here's what you need to know:

    Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn are teaming up to present the next Fistful of Talent Webinar: Social Recruiting MacGyver Style! No Money, a Paperclip and Facebook – all a Real HR Pro Needs to Recruit. (Sponsored by the good people at  Branchout)

    Join KD and Tim on February 2, 2012 for this one-hour webinar and they’ll hit you with the following Facebook-centric items: 

    • Where is social recruiting heading, and why do you need to care as the HR rep of your organization?
    • How a 1-2 person shop can compete in social recruiting (with no money, a paper clip and Facebook…)      
    • How to use rarely understood tools like Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Pay-Per-Click Ads to drive Facebook candidates to your open positions
    • How to use Facebook search features to locate candidates on Facebook and contact them without looking like a stalker

    Register today and the fine folks at Fistful of Talent will send you a special FOT toolkit – “How to Find and Contact Candidates on Facebook without Looking Like a Stalker”, once the webinar is complete.

    Everyone knows that whatever the future holds for recruiting, that Facebook, the largest social network with it's soon to have one billion profiles, is almost certainly going to play a part in most organizations talent strategies. I've written about the subject here as well, and on the webcast KD and Tim, (along with the experts from BranchOut), will help to prepare you for what could very well be the next frontier in the talent game.

    I encourage anyone in the recruiting and talent space to sign up for the webcast. The FOT gang guarantees your 100% satisfaction, 60% of the time.

    And we can also have fun live tweeting and making fun of Tim. 


    How much does the office furniture matter?

    Like most of you, I've worked in all kinds of office layouts over the years. Cube farms, open plan, private offices, 'hotel' desks for more transient workers. I am sure at one time or another I have spent time in all of them.

    And I probably don't have any really strong feelings about any of the office spaces I've worked in. They were, and are, mostly forgettable. Aside from the one consulting project years ago where my 'office' was a telecom equipment closet and an extra door propped up on some boxes was my desk. That one I still remember for some reason.Look like your office?

    But there is a growing awareness of the importance of design, intent, and function of things like desks, chairs, conference rooms, and common spaces in the modern office. While some think the future of work will eventually become almost completely virtual, (meaning everyone will work out of a Starbucks or Panera), for most desk jockeys today, the 'office' still is the central and most common place where work gets done.

    So while work is changing a lot, where we do work doesn't seem to be changing quite so rapidly. And while this is seems like it will continue, at least for the time being, creating spaces that are adaptable, comfortable, and effectively support the shifting demands of workers and organizations is still important and still should be something HR and talent professionals think about when designing spaces, creating work environments, and procuring office furniture. And if you are still trying to manage that balance between work that wants to be more fluid, collaborative, and virtual; and workplaces, that want to be more, well, static, rigid, and boring, then I suggest you check out this piece from the Workplace Design Magazine site.

    The article, a take on the challenges facing workplace designers, is valuable not only for some of the practical design ideas it might provide, but for the approach to design decisions it advocates. Namely, to think about design issue as more that tables, offices, and furniture. To think bigger. From the piece:

    In contrast, I believe your job as workplace professional is to support work, wherever and whenever it takes place. And for me “support” means focusing on the work itself, and how it’s being done, almost more than the workplace.

    Nice. A more expansive way to see the job of designer. In a way, it is a good piece of advice for any of the classical support functions - facilities, finance, IT, even HR. Focus on the work and not on the tools you want to bring to the table. 

    It is a really interesting way to look at things, and kind of instructive. If the best workplace designers don't start with blueprints and fabric swatches, what does that say about the way us technologists and talent pros approach our challenges?

    Are you thinking about the work first? Or your toolkit?


    Inside the iPhone: Biscuits and Tea

    This past weekend the NY Times had an in-depth piece on some of the decisions and processes surrounding the manufacture of Apple's iPhone. The excellent piece is absolutely worth your time and attention, as it provides some fascinating insights into the requirements, expectations, and outcomes from a high-volume, high-tech, design, development, and manufacturing process today.

    Suffice to say some of the commonly-held assumptions about United States firms inability to compete for most of the value-added supply chain and manufacturing processes for the iPhone are validated - US universities are not producing enough skilled engineering talent chief among them.  But some other assumptions, mainly the sheer cost advantage provided by outsourcing less skilled assembly tasks to lower wage locations like China, while not completely dismissed, are at least downplayed as a key decision driver for Apple in the Times piece.

    In the piece the labor cost differential is estimated to contribute only a relatively small percentage of the iPhone's eventual market price stating: "However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that because labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing, paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense."

    While $65 per phone is still relevant, it isn't necessarily enough on its own to drive decisions to outsource. So if the labor cost savings from assembly in China isn't the primary decision driver then why is the vast majority of the iPhone manufacturing process conducted outside of the United States?

    Well if you believe the Times reporting it's almost completely about speed and flexibility. To me the most telling example comes from Apple's 2007 decision to re-design the device's screen just weeks before the launch date. A major change like this, so close to the delivery date would normally result in a missed product delivery, bad PR, unhappy customers, and perhaps even opened the door for a competitor to beat Apple to this market.

    So what happened? From the Times piece:

    One former (Apple) executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhonemanufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

    Let that story sink in a bit. A veritable legion of workers, that were on-site 24/7, and that could be roused to work at a moment's notice to start cranking out the newly re-designed iPhones.  I am sure the former Apple executive is right that the speed and flexibility in this example can't be matched by any American firm.

    And likely no American firm ever will, at least for the foreseeable future. Because having thousands of workers living on the manufacturing site, and that could be roused to work in the middle of the night with a biscuit and some tea doesn't align with any American's conception of what modern work should be. Does that sound like the kind of workforce your firm would want to assemble?

    But when you think about it a little, the idea of thousands of people, all living together in very controlled circumstances, available to work at a moment's notice for extremely low wages, and lacking any real power to do much about their situation does sound a little familiar.  

    It sounds a little like prison.


    Checking it Twice - Happy Tim Sackett Day 

    Happy Tim Sackett Day!

    What the heck is Tim Sackett Day? 

    Let's take a step back and try and explain.

    In the last couple of years, more or less tied to the growth and increasing importance of social networking, online reputation, and emerging consideration, (and attempts to quantify), digital influence; the Human Resources and Recruiting world has seen a plethora of published influence lists, rankings, and other measures of (variously), popularity, importance, influence, quality, and so on.Tim!!!

    While the relevance, accuracy, and importance of any of these kinds of lists can certainly be debated, to me, several enduring truths have emerged from their publication and the subsequent analysis, self-congratulation, hand-wringing, complaining exercises that invariably follow.  And these truths are as follows:

    1. When any new 'Top HR or Recruiting' list is published, there are only three possible reactions:

    A. Hooray! I made the list!

    B. How come I didn't make the list?!?

    C. WTF!!!! How did (insert the name of the person you perceive to be slightly less popular/intelligent/influential/good looking here), make the list and I didn't?

    2. For those list named to the newly published list, a round of (fake) congratulatory tweets, Facebook updates, re-tweets ensues. While these updates usually take the form of 'Congratulations Person X for making the list!!!', they can be safely interpreted as 'I am on this list too, and don't forget it pal.'

    3. For anyone not included on the latest list, more of less equal parts of indifference, interest, and genuine enthusiasm for those lucky folks that were included. Actually, when I think about it, I take back the 'equal parts' bit. Most people, especially busy people with a lot of responsibility don't really notice these lists at all.

    4. Last, and probably most importantly, no matter what the latest HR or Recruiting list attempts to measure or rate, chances are VERY likely that Tim Sackett will not be included.

    So while Tim's exclusion from these lists has become an ongoing inside joke in the (pretty small), world of social media and HR, it also raises a few questions about these kinds of lists, what they represent, and if they matter. Since to me, Tim is really exactly the kind of HR and Recruiting pro that should be recognized on these kinds of lists, and the fact that he never seems to land on any of them, while incredibly amusing, is still kind of curious. Tim's a pro, and has been for a long time.

    I think it was this kind of thinking that inspired Laurie Ruettimann to enlist a few of Tim's friends to create Tim Sackett Day. While we are paying tribute to Tim, while subsequently making fun of him, I think the larger point is that there are scores of smart, powerful, influential, and simply indispensible HR and Recruiting professionals out there that do not get the recognition they deserve. Maybe because they don't have time to read and re-share dozens of HR blogs every week, or they don't obsess over chiming in to every Twitter chat, or don't have that touch of narcissism to possess them to blog or heaven forbid, show up to speak at HR events.

    They are just out there, every day, grinding away. Doing their part to keep the trains running, help their organizations, communities, and families. Just like our boy Timmy.

    So while we congratulate Tim today, mainly for never having being recognized, we also recognize all of the great HR and Recruiting professionals today. For Tim is really all of you.

    Only shorter.

    Congrats Tim! 


    You can follow the fun today on Twitter - search for the hashtag #TimSackettDay

    Also, Tim will be a guest on the DriveThruHR internet radio show today at 1:00PM ET - you can tune in at this link - DriveThruHR with Tim Sackett