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    Going to States

    In the world of high school athletics, 'going to states', i.e. advancing through local and regional competition to have the chance to compete at the state level has long been a goal and desire of almost all scholastic competitors. 

    Making it to the state championship in any sport is seen as a mark of accomplishment, and students that achieve the honor often remember the experience, win or lose, for many years.

    Next month the HR Happy Hour show is 'going to states', so to speak - Steve and the show will be heading down to the HR Florida State Conference & Expo, set for August 29 - September 1.  The HR Florida event is big time, expectations are high for a record-setting attendance, and certainly there is a sense of unbridled enthusiasm.

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    So in the spirit of the excitement of the show going to 'states', tonight on the HR Happy Hour we will do a bit of an 'HR Florida Preview', starting at 8pm EDT, with a call in number of 646-378-1086.

     We will talk with some of the event planners and leaders, most if not all of the members of the HR Blogger Panel, (the law firm of Stelzner, Tincup, McFarlane and Oxford), as well as some of the session presenters, and who knows what other special guests.

    If you are an HR Pro planning to attend HR Florida, just thinking about it, or simply envious of those that will be there, I encourage you to listen in to the show tonight, and hear first-hand all about one of the premier events for HR professionals anywhere in the country. You can't hold your mud.

    And the best thing about HR Florida?  

    You can make it all the way to 'states' without have to beat Shute first.






    Does that job really require a college degree?

    Over the weekend I was catching up on blog reading and this post, Only 20 Percent of Workers Qualify for High Demand Jobs,  on the Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 blog caught my attention.

    The post describes a dire-sounding situation, especially for the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed - there areFlickr- bgottsab lots of available jobs, but a shortage of candidates with the requisite education and skills to fill said jobs. From the referenced post:

    Today's long-term jobs crisis is not about the current financial meltdown. It is about an accelerating talent showdown. The basic cause is that unprecedented technological advances are ever more rapidly transforming the world of work. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor finds that 62 percent of all U.S. jobs now require two-year or four-year degrees and higher, or special postsecondary occupation certificates or apprenticeships. By 2020 we can expect that these talent requirements will increase to include 75 percent of U.S. jobs.

    And in the post we learn that it is not just the formal education requirement that trips up many job seekers, it is a more fundamental and structural issue:

    Today's long-term jobs crisis is not about the current financial meltdown. It is about an accelerating talent showdown. The basic cause is that unprecedented technological advances are ever more rapidly transforming the world of work. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs.

    The general slant of the piece, and most of what you read in similar 'companies can't find the skilled employees they need' articles lately is that the US education system, from private elementary schools to online PhD programs is failing, and has not reacted with sufficient speed and aggressiveness to the changing global and national economic conditions, and that it is sending its graduates out to battle unprepared in a market that requires capability and skills that they simply do not possess.


    But there is a part of the equation that consistently bothers me.  In articles like this, and in the discussion that ensues, there is hardly ever recognition of the role and responsibility that the employer bears.  When a new product is developed and fails to succeed in the market, can organizations get away with blaming the consumers? Do we look fondly back on these 'before their time' offerings as nothing more than quirky bits of nostalgia?

    When product development comes up with an idea for a product that simply can't be engineered and manufactured at the needed cost/timeframe/quality that the market demands, does the organization and the people involved not see any consequences from the failed attempt?

    But somehow in this 'we can't find the skilled workers we need' debate, the corporation(s) seem to get off scot free.  But they are 'selling' something here as well, the opportunity to work, get compensated, and to learn new skills in exchange for an employee's time, attention, and dedication. If they are unable to find an adequate 'market' for this offering, why aren't they held to task (at least partially) as well?

    In 'Rework' the co-founders of 37signals advise organizations to forget artificial 'years of experience' minimums, and to drop formal education requirements.  In 'Delivering Happiness' Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos.com describes in detail a talent 'pipeline' process that allows Zappos to concentrate their external hiring on entry level positions, and though on the job experience and training continue to develop future management and leadership talent.

    These successful organizations do not set artificially high barriers to entry.

    So I will ask again - does that job REALLY require a college degree?  Or 7-10 years of progressively more responsibility in the specific market and industry?

    If there aren't enough buyers for what you are selling, it seems to me that is at least partly if not mostly your problem.





    Knowledge to go

    In my role as a part-time HR Technology instructor I have been a user and quasi-administrator of a wiki platform called Confluence, a product of the Atlassian company based in Australia.  We have used Confluence in the class to organize the course content, share information on assignments, post readings and presentations, and provide the students the opportunity to learn in a more hands-on way, what a common enterprise collaboration tool looks and feels like. 

    Thousands of organizations use Confluence for wiki collaboration, and there is an active and vibrant developer community surrounding Confluence that continues to produce useful and innovative extensions and enhancements. 

    Last week I noticed a post on the Confluence corporate blog about the release of 'Mini Confluence', aImage source - www.miniconfluence.com new mobile client for either the iPhone or the Android, that allows enterprise users of the Confluence wiki and collaboration platform to view and update content, interact with colleagues via status updates, and tailor the interface to keep track of contributions and comments from key colleagues and teams while you are on the go. 

    For enterprises that have adopted Confluence as their knowledge repository, collaboration platform, or organizational intranet, the ability to deploy a functional and effective mobile application to the iPhone and Android (BlackBerry is also supported via a mobile web interface), further enhances and improves the creation, sharing, and discovery of information and expertise anywhere employees happen to be.

    And organizations that do elect to adopt and deploy modern, fast, and highly functional mobile versions of enterprise collaboration tools will likely further strengthen their ability to act, react, and execute on new opportunities and ideas faster and better than their competitors that are stuck in the old dispensation.

    So if you are in an organization that has yet to materially embrace new ways of working and new collaborative tools like Confluence and others, it is certainly fair to say that you are behind your competition that likely has done so.  But don't forget that while you continue to rely on your tried and true methods (email, private instant messaging, labyrinthine shared network drives), your competition continues to move forward. 

    It could be that they are not just collaborating and creating more effectively than you are while in the office, they are beating you from wherever they go.  And the longer you wait, the gap just keeps getting larger.





    Infinite Choice

    The other day I was driving in a light to moderate then back to light rain storm.  One minute the rain was quite strong and the car's windshield wipers had to be engaged at almost full speed to assureFlickr - Christine Krizsa somewhat decent visibility, and then a minute later the rain would subside to an extent that the wipers were hardly needed at all.

    Fortunately for me, my car and most cars made in the last forty years or so possesses a feature called 'intermittent wipers', a mechanism that enables the windshield wipers to operate at numerous speed settings, with variable delays between 'swipes' across the windshield.  In an extremely light rain, or mist, or in rapidly changing conditions like the ones I was driving in, the ability to adjust the speed of the wipers to most closely match the outsude conditions is a fantastic improvement of the wipers' original design - simply either 'On' or 'Off'

    In the case of windshield wipers, I think most drivers would agree that having a range of settings, perhaps even an infinite amount of settings is an improvement from 'On' or 'Off'.  But having so many choices in wiper settings can actually make finding just the right setting quite difficult.  On my twenty or so minute drive the other day I must have adjusted the wiper speed fifteen different times. As conditions changed outside, I almost unconsciously reacted by tweaking, ever so slightly, the wiper speed. I have unlimited contol and choice remember, so it is assumed no matter what the rain and wind are doing, I have the ability to set the wipers at the perfect setting. I don't remember anything else about that drive except fussing with the wipers the entire time, and thinking I still have to keep messing with them even though I have far superior technical capability at my disposal.

    I was in discussion with some colleagues about performance management, specifically a discussion of the use of rating systems in the performance appraisal process.  One person favored the use of the classic descriptors for formal ratings ('Exceeds, Meets, etc.), while another favored a numerical scale (1-5).  A third said what they really need was a way to rate employees on a sliding scale, that all '3's' or '4's' are not the same, and what they really wanted in their performance management technology was a sliding scale that they could use to dynamically 'drag' and adjust the ratings between the defined beginning and end points. That way they could rate Sally as a 3.73 and Joe as a 3.21 and so on. Sort of like an 'intermittent wiper' for the performance rating.

    While I think that the capability for more granular assignment of numeric performance ratings is, at least on the surface, an improvement from assigning '3' or '4', it doesn't really change the fundamental exercise all that much, or improve the conditions or environment that effects the eventual outcomes in the review process. Sure, the manager has more choices, even an almost infinite amount of choices, but as sometimes happens when we are presented with so much choice that we spend all our time focused on the alternatives and much less (or not at all) on the outcomes.  Obsessing over the 'choice' and not the results of the choice if that makes sense.

    And no matter how advanced our windshield wiper systems get, it still rains outside.




    Who Won't be on the HR Happy Hour Show Tonight

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour show it is time for 'Mystery HR Theater'. I know who the guest is. Shauna, the HR Minion, knows who the guest is, and the guest (hopefully) knows when to call in.

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    But that's it.  We have not let the cat out of the bag, so you will have to tune in tonight at 8PM EDT, and play 'guess the guest' or '20 questions' until we reveal our secret guest's identity - you can call in on 646-378-1086 to join the shenanigans.

    But in the spirit of good fun Shauna challenged the Twitterverse to take a guess at the identity of tonight's secret guest.  So far, no one has got it right, but there were some great guesses, and for those who did guess, I offer some explanations as to why they were off the mark.

    Lindsay Lohan - Lindsay is a big star. Still.  But probably not for too much longer.  Pretty soon I bet weNot on the show will see her on 'Celebrity Rehab' and after that I think we have a shot at landing her on the HR Happy Hour.  But she did not use her one call from jail to call us, so will not be on the show tonight.

    Oates - I kind of think Oates would make a good guest.  We could do 20 minutes on mullet and moustache theory and practice alone.  And then there is the whole 'You look like Bababooey' angle.

    Hall -  More interesting than Oates.  Of the duo, the one that could have made it as a solo artist. Also has a strange obsession with killing deer.  Not just the odd hunting trip to bag a 10-point buck, but killing all deer.  Something about lyme disease.  Would make for a good interview.

    Sarah Palin - She has plenty to say for sure.  It is arguable how much of it makes sense. I did pitch her people to have her come on the show but I was refudiated

    Ben Eubanks  - Such an elusive guy.  Has appeared on the show before (grudgingly).  Since we know he is getting ready for some big and exciting things very soon, he is not going to appear tonight.

    Bob Hope - Would be an awesome booking. Forty years ago.

    Rod Stewart - Has an advantage over Bob Hope in that he is currently alive. Also presents a great opportunity to talk about music, models, and mayhem of life as a rock star. Dang, now I really wish we could book Rod Stewart.

    LeBron - Certainly in need of some positive publicity.  But, has so much money, power, and fame that heNot on the show can give a collective eff you to an entire city and not sweat it at all. If LeBron did come on I think I would ask him about NBA players and tattoos. I think every NBA media guide needs to have a 'player tattoo directory' to help recognize and understand all the ink.

    In no particular order we also had guesses of Al Gore, Toby from 'The Office', HR Fishbowl, Steve Forbes, and Jessica Alba. OK, I added the Jessica Alba guess.

    So who will it be?  Who is the 'Mystery HR Guest?'

    You will have to tune in tonight at 8PM EDT to find out!