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    You probably already have plenty of data, Big or otherwise

    I really wanted to title this post - 'There is almost certainly too much crap on your iPhone', because that is what I was actually thinking about before writing this post. This was in recollection of a few wasted moments the other day when I simply could not find the particular app on the phone that I was looking for. But then a blog post about my frustration with my inability to properly operate a phone seemed the most dire kind of post - self-indulgent, inconsequential, and worst of all - boring.

    But this silly little example, the fact that I've put too many apps on my phone, combined with a lack of organization or semblance of order, with a sprinkle of 'I had a BlackBerry for so long, I am still trying to figure out how to use this thing', and I've ended up (at times) squandering the opportunities that having access to an incredible resource and range of applications should represent.Remember how your phone once looked?

    The best project manager I ever had, when trying to run a year-long, 50-person plus, and technically complex systems integration and implementation project had a general rule of thumb he followed to help manage what threatened to be an impossibly growing 'Issues list.'  His rule?  No project team member was allowed, after the initial requirements discovery period was complete, to add a new issue to the list, unless he or she could prove an existing issue was closed, or was no longer an issue after all.

    This rule, and the discipline it instilled in the process and the team, served to force the team members to think really critically when new potential issues arose, and kept us focused on making consistent progress against what issues had already been raised. It was not a perfect system, and the project manager did make an occasional exception to this rule when it was essential, but it basically worked. 

    Why bring up an old project manager's quirky practice in a post that seems to be about my inability to use my iPhone and with a title vaguely alluding to one of 2013's 'You might already be sick of it' terms, Big Data?

    Well, because for the same reason you and I have too many apps on our phones and belong to too many different social networks and sites, and spend way too much time checking for likes, follows, and retweets - Big Data at work threatens to create even more complexity, confusion, and chaos if we are not careful.

    So as 2013 starts here is my first recommendation for how to approach Big Data for HR - start by figuring out just what data you already have, have been routinely collecting either by design or as a by-product of another process, and take some time to consider what kinds of insight and value could be gained by simply asking some simple questions about this information.

    My guess is just like you already have 'enough' apps on your iPhone, (or at least have a few you can happily set free), you probably have plenty of internal data to commence your own version of a Big Data project without launching some kind of new initiative to collect even more data.

    So that's my advice. Take an inventory. Ask around to see what data folks are collecting on their own spreadsheets. Talk to the creepy guy in IT once in a while. See what additional information is locked up by your Payroll and Benefits providers.  Start there.

    And after that, and only after that, start looking for more data.

    Now, I need to run I have a few more screens of Apps to delete.

    Have a great week all!


    Off Topic: The Joker

    You know the famous song 'The Joker' by the Steve Miller Band?

    The one that goes 'I'm and joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker...'

    Sure you do.  It is a designated earworm of the first degree. 

    Well early last year at the Recruiting Innovation Summit, the great George Anders, while giving a talk about just how difficult we often make our recruiting efforts by virtue of an overbearing list of job 'requirements', showed the following image - a Venn diagram of the classic song to illustrate just the kind of trap we set for ourselves and our organizations:


    George's point, and one so cleverly depicted in the 'Joker' Venn diagram, was that with every additional requirement (smoker, sinner, etc.), added to the job description, the universe of matching candidates diminishes to the point that only a very few 'hard' requirements are needed to make the candidate pool almost impossibly small.

    In the case of the 'Joker', as it turns out, the only matching candidate for the role is Steve Miller himself.

    I loved the presentation by George, and this chart is a classic - the next time you feel like you are faced with a hiring manager or executive that has more than what seems reasonable, (or likely to even exist), requirements for an open role, you should think about sharing this diagram with them and then have a frank talk about whether a 'grinner' is really needed for the job.

    That's it - I am out for the weekend.

    Playin' my music on the run...


    Tech Things to Watch in 2013

    At the start of the New Year the marketing/branding/digital (I confess, I am not completely sure what exactly they do), firm JWT releases a really cool and interesting collection of '100 Things to Watch' for the upcoming year - a collection of new ideas, trends, technologies, societal shifts, etc. that are meant to stimulate thinking and generate discussion. Many of the 'things to watch' are kind of uber-trendy and destined to be largely unimportant and fleeting, (chia seeds, bee venom, and faux meat), but others, particularly the tech trends that JWT identifies have the potential to be more significant, enduring, and even influential in the design of workplaces and the nature in which work is performed. And we even had some fun talking about some of these items, 'Adult Playgrounds' in particular, on the HR Happy Hour Show last week.

    The entire JWT slide presentation is embedded below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through), and after the deck I'll pull a few of the 'things to watch' that are likely to be more relevant and meaningful to work and workplaces.


    So which of the 100 things should you as an HR and Talent pro be on the watch for?

     Here are just a few I think you should keep an eye on.

    11. Biometric Authentication - As a means to combat fraud and improve information security, systems of all kinds (building access, financial, smartphones), are moving toward biometric means (iris scans, fingerprints) of authentication. For organizations with particular security concerns, we may see a shift towards making employees access data and facilities with their bodies, rather than some complex passwords they have to leave posted on sticky notes on their desks.

    22. Data Scientists - The New Hotshots - So maybe you've heard of this little mega-trend known as 'Big Data' - well everyone else has too, and just about every organization is soon going to be wrestling with not just the technologies required to collect data, but with finding people with the right skill sets that can help them assess, analyze, interpret, and make 'Big Data' actionable. Have fun finding, (and affording) these geeky geniuses in 2013.

    39. Geofencing - This idea, the ability to target and message consumers who are in or near a particular location using smartphone GPS information has been around for some time. But in 2013, JWT sees it growing in use and importance, particularly in retail locations. But how about for recruiting? Could a technology that dynamically messages potential candidates at a conference or career fair be all that far off? 

    43. Human Centered Tech - This one is a bit related to the Biometric Authentication trend, if just a little more vague and esoteric. The basic idea is that technologies will increasingly adapt to their users, more fully, more flexibly, and by 'learning' about their users. Think about this trend in terms of HR systems you may have deployed today that have versions or interfaces for wide swaths of users, (managers, staff, executives). Going forward this trend

    80. Self-service -  Wow, self-service? Really? Haven't we had self-service all over the place for ages? Well, yes - but in 2013 JWT suggesting that we will see self-service in even more applications - tagging your own bags at the airport, monitoring your own vital signs, and handling even more support and service requests on our own. And even though we've had 'self-service' applications in HR forever, in 2013 and beyond whether it is due to advances in the technology, the prevalence of mobile devices, or the increased acceptance by all employees to 'do their own HR', we should expect to plan for even more self-service applications.

    What do you think? On the mark? Crazy?

    Time will tell.

    If you take a few minutes to have a look through the entire list, let me know what other 'Things to Watch in 2013' you think will impact the world of work.


    What's 'Study abroad' got to do with it?

    Quick piece for a busy Wednesday - take about 2 minutes and check out this summary on the Fashionista site, (and no, don't be surprised that I read Fashionista, I cast a pretty wide net to find good content), of a recent interview with J. Crew CEO and fashion retailing legend Mickey Wexler.

    Wexler offered some great nuggets of insight from his 40+ year career from really simple observations that we all know to be true but sometimes try to forget - "Marketing only works if the product does"; to takes on more fundamental elements of business and organizational strategy - "Mission statements are a waste of time. Just live by them."

    But the one bit of advice from Wexler that caught my attention and is probably most relevant for the talent professional is Wexler's take on evaluating talent - advice that he was careful to emphasize was applicable for his business, certainly has more fundamental and universal applicability. Here's his take first, and then I'll leave you with a question or two to consider:

    The person is a resume, not what’s on a piece of paper. Whoever gives advice about resumes in college should be dismissed. Titles don’t matter. GPAs don’t matter, nor does what school you go to. What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence. People put ‘study abroad’ on their resume. I actually like when they don’t study abroad because that means they aren’t entitled. What about study abroad will make you a better J.Crew associate? I hire a lot of waiters, waitresses. Someone who’s successful has a background that’s not predictable.

    Great quote right? And one that I think, moving beyond the specifics of resume formatting and the relevance of particular academic credentials, gets to a really essential point about talent assessment and evaluation. Namely, a really deep and intrinsic understanding of what backgrounds and types of people are likely to accomplish two things at J. Crew. One, to identify who actually be successful at the company; and two, to determine who is likely to be the type of employee that others want to work with and will 'fit'.

    Again, for Wexler and his fashion retail business, 'study abroad' doesn't fit his model, for you and your business it might. The specifics of Study abroad and its value to a person's growth or their job candidacy are not the point, the point is whether or not you know if 'study abroad', (or any other precise indicator) is predictive of success at your company or not.

    So here is the question I promised - if the next resume that you review for one of your openings lists 'study abroad' as an accomplishment, does that matter at all in your assessment?

    Should it?

    Have a great Wednesday all!


    But he was great in the interview...

    This post probably will take 500 words to get to the point which is this: As a talent pro, or more specifically, as someone that has responsibility and obligation to make a career-defining hire, be very wary of a 'great interview' that can cause you to take short cuts in your process, unnecessarily cloud your thinking, and frankly, to make a hire today that if you had given it at least a couple of more days of consideration, you might not have made.

    So here is the backstory and yes, I am starting my official 'I am going to continue to write about sports and talent in 2013 campaign' with this post.Stretch

    The Monday immediately after the end of the NFL season is known as 'Black Monday', named as such for the normal purge and firing of anywhere from 5 -10 head coaches, (and their staffs) by losing or otherwise disappointing teams from across the league. This purge also sets off a bit of a frenzy of speculation, posturing, interviewing, and hiring by these same teams as they all seem to be pursuing many of the same individuals from what is (generally) a small and highly sought after candidate pool.

    One such NFL team caught up in the coaching game of musical chairs (again), was the Buffalo Bills, a team caught up in a decade-plus funk, and owners of the league's longest streak of missing the post-season playoffs. The Bills released their prior coach Chan Gailey on Black Monday, and led by newly empowered team executive Russ Brandon, (this coaching search and hire would be his first BIG decision and will likely define his tenure), set about what Brandon described would be 'exhaustive' and 'leave no stone unturned'.  

    This exhaustive search lasted about three days, and resulted in the hire of Syracuse University Head Coach (and former NFL assistant), Doug Marrone, who in four years at Syracuse had won exactly as many games he had lost, (25-25). Depending on your point of view, the decision to hire Marrone, certainly not considered to be among the most desirable of the head coaching talent available, was described as 'curious', a 'stretch', and with 'Who?'

    The great sports site Deadspin ran a piece that compiled reactions to the Bills' hiring of Marrone, and I wanted to call out the pull quote from the Sporting News take on the decision:

    When Marrone interviewed, he must have been extremely impressive. Marrone wasn't even the hottest college coach on the market

    Ouch. And there were other similar kinds of reactions from various media outlets and Bills fans - a mix of surprise, disappointment, and rationalization that a .500 college coach was the right person to tap to rebuild and transform a moribund NFL team.

    Obviously, only team executive Russ Brandon and perhaps a select few other team officials know what was really asked and said in Marrone's interview that was 'extremely impressive' enough for the team to conclude its 'exhaustive' search after three days and offer Marrone the position, which for him, represents a huge step up in pressure, expectations, and compensation. But Brandon has to know his own performance, (and likely his employment), is largely riding on whether or not Marrone ends up succeeding as Bills coach - and as a talent professional well, that is quite a bit of stock to put into what must have been an 'extremely impressive' interview.

    Maybe it's just me, but I worry a little bit, or am just a bit leery when I hear of coaches, heck any other candidates that are described as being 'great interviews'. It strikes me as just a half-step above being a 'snappy dresser', and we all know how much that helps win games.

    Happy Tuesday!