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    Monday
    Jun032013

    By 2015, you'd better be a content creator

    I peeled my eyes away long enough from the ongoing drama at Rutgers University (by the way, catch a special HR Happy Hour Show on all things Rutgers here), to catch the news that market research and analyst firm IDC is predicting that by 2015 global shipments of tablet devices are expected to overtake shipments of PCs.

    Here are the specifics of what IDC is forecasting for tablets and PCs as reported by Bloomberg:

    Tablet shipments are projected to grow 45 percent from this year to reach 332.4 million in 2015, compared with an estimated 322.7 million for PCs, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. PC shipments may decline 7.8 percent this year, the worst annual drop on record, the researcher said, a revision from its prior projection for a 1.3 percent decrease.

    Pretty interesting if not terribly surprising I suppose. Just think about how much personal computing (taken generally) has changed since the introduction of the first iPad just a few years ago. Chances are you or someone in your family, or maybe everyone in your family, had jumped into the tablet craze. And why not? Tables are fantastic for watching movies on the plane, checking up on your social networks, playing games, and sure, tapping out that odd email or two when you are on the road or on a plane.

    Pretty obvious right? But worth repeating and thinking about what this means. Hers is more from the Bloomberg piece:

    More portable, affordable and backed by hundreds of thousands of applications, tablets are replacing PCs as consumers’ main tool for checking e-mail, browsing websites and accessing music and movies.

    Read it again and think about what, so far, you and pretty much everyone else does with a tablet. You sit back. You relax maybe. You have the TV on while you are messing with your iPad. You consume. Movies, books, your friend's updates on Facebook. Sure you might send the odd email or two, but you probably read 10 more for every one you actually create and send.

    If the trends in the growth of tablet shipments that IDC predicts are accurate, then in just a couple of years more personal devices that are primarily oriented on consuming content will hit the market than ones whose primary purpose is creating content. All the content that you and me and most working stiffs create, even boring content like spreadsheets and slide decks, (that pay the bills for lots of us), are created on PCs. Even 'creative' stuff like blog posts (other blogs I mean), and graphics and podcast and video editing - all done on PCs or more powerful machines.

    To date, hardly anything is created on tablets. That doesn't mean they aren't amazing tools and certainly the growth and trends indicate the market values the form factor and capability. But mostly, and probably for a while, they will exist for personal and business use cases as consumption devices.

    And by 2015 and beyond, with more and more of these consumption devices out in the world it seems to me the place you want to be isn't sitting back on the couch consuming right along with everyone else. It seems to me the place you want to be is on the content creation side.

    I think you want to be the person pushing content and value (and hopefully getting paid for it), to these millions and millions of consumption devices.

    But that is just my opinion.

    Written on a PC.

    Friday
    May312013

    #HRHappyHour 164 PODCAST - 'The 8 Man Rotation Takes on Rutgers'

    HR Happy Hour 164 - 'The 8 Man Rotation Takes on Rutgers'

    This week in what can only be called a very special HR Happy Hour, the entire 8 Man Rotation crew - Kris DunnTim SackettLance HaunMatt 'akaBruno' Stollak, and Steve Boese take a deep dive into the Rutgers University hiring, firing, and public relations disasters of recent months.

    From an abusive men's basketball coach, to internal university and state government politics, to a high-profile new hire that may have some skeletons in her closet - the series of stories that have emerged from the banks of the old Raritan have provided almost a perfect series of case studies on the intersection of sports and HR.

    An no one is better equipped to talk sports, HR, and what it means for the HR and Talent pro than the 8 Man Rotation crew. So check out the podcast as our team breaks down the Rutgers situation and offers some insights about what it means for your shop.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, using the widget player below, and of course on iTunes or Stitcher radio (for you smartphone types), just search the podcast area for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on BlogTalkRadio

     

    Thanks to KD, Tim, Lance, and Matt for jumping in to the conversation on very short notice.

     

    NOTE:

    Finally, for listeners of the show a quick reminder. For the next little while anyway, co-host Trish McFarlane and I will be doing the HR Happy Hour Shows more as a traditional podcast - recorded in advance, perhaps a little shorter than the live shows were, and hopefully posted to the site every other week. With our schedules and lots of travel on the horizon this year, doing the shows 'live' on Thursday nights has become increasingly challenging. Trish and I hope that by changing how the shows are produced it will allow us the opportunity to continue doing the show/podcast in a way that will work with our schedules as well as our future guests.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    May302013

    In Soviet Russia, marketing candidate find you!

    Yes I am (sadly) old enough to remember the heyday of one Yakov Smirnoff, a Russian comic popular in the 70s and 80s. Smirnoff's main schtick was to crack wise about the differences between the then-communist Russia and his adopted home in the USA in a format that came to be known as the 'Russian Reversal' and that went something like this:

    In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always find you!

    and

    In America, your work determines your marks. In Soviet Russia, Marx determines your work!

     

    Ol' Yakov was quite a funny guy, and I couldn't help but think of him several times over that last few days when seeing numerous pieces in various contexts about how technology, robots, and increasingly sophisticated algorithms are more and more moving the needle to produce not only what we explicitly ask for and need, but also what they think we will need next.

    See for example, Pre-cognitive robot knows you need help before you do, about developing robot technology that is learning how to 'see' and assess you, your actions, and your environment to anticipate your needs and react to them without or before receiving commands or direction.

    And this piece, Forget Searching For Content, Content Is About to Start Searching For You, on how smarter, location-based, and fundamentally tied to your mobile device applications will more and more 'push' data, suggestions, and options to you, based on where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with, without you having to search or ask for information.

    And this one, The Data Made Me Do It, about how the availability (and our increasing willingness to share) of oceans of personal data is leading to better and smarter 'anticipatory systems' that can and will provide you the answers to questions that you haven't even asked. Yet.

    The key running through all these examples? None are really similar to what passes for analytics or business intelligence or even 'big data' solutions that we keep hearing so much about, and what lots of energy are focused on. Mostly, these current tools try to provide better insight and visibility into things that have already happened, not so much about what is likely to happen next, or even more advanced, to lead you with answers to questions you have not even though about yet. What has already happened is important, no doubt, but that is only a baseline or floor for beginning to understand what's next and what is not even imagined.

    It's said that when really good basketball players play together on a team for awhile that they begin to understand, visualize, and anticipate each other's moves, and what they are most likely to do on the court without having to shout, point, or even make subtle eye contact with each other. Each player just knows where the other one will be, and with that knowledge and insight, can make the best decisions about what to do next, again, without even asking.

    I think the same thing will eventually be said for the best technology support systems that we deploy in our workplaces. 

    They won't tell us what has happened, but what is likely to happen. 

    They won't be about providing report cards about the past, but rather action plans for today, (and tomorrow).

    They won't remind us that we need to do a search for candidates for that Controller position that has been open for two weeks, rather they'll present us a list of qualified and interested people to contact for that VP of Marketing position that isn't technically open yet, but that signals from the internal and external social networks indicate a 87% probability the current VP is going to resign.

    As Yakov the HR Director would say, in Soviet Russia, you don't look for marketing candidates - marketing candidates come looking for you.

    Wednesday
    May292013

    Past performance is not indicative of...

    Quick shot for a Wednesday that feels like a Tuesday in the middle of what I promise you will feel like a really long week instead of a short one come Friday.

    Recently Business Insider ran a piece on the retirement and parting thoughts of Gerard Minack, formerly at Morgan Stanley. In Minack's last investment note, the long time investment pro offered his take on why professional investors and advisers usually do better at 'beating the market' than do amateur, or retail investors - also kind of unusual when careful investing in broad market index funds offer the amateurs among us a pretty decent alternative that will generally at least match market returns.Triangles

    Here's Minack on why the pros possess an advantage over the amateurs:

    The good news for the professionals is that many amateurs persist in trying to beat the market and, in aggregate, they seem to do a significantly worse job than the professionals.

    The biggest problem appears to be that – despite all the disclaimers – retail flows assume that past performance is a good guide to future outcomes. Consequently money tends to flow to investments that have done well, rather than investments that will do well. The net result is that the actual returns to investors fall well short not just of benchmark returns, but the returns generated by professional investors.

    In the investing context that's was of interest to Minack, amateurs tend to overweight funds and stocks that have been doing well, and underweight, (or even miss entirely), those funds and stocks that are poised to do well in the future. And to him, the mantra of past performance being a good indicator of future performance, (or even the best indicator), was the main reason.

    It makes sense in this context. Just because Apple stock kept going up and up and up seemed to indicate it couldn't go down. Until it did. And took a lot of investors with it on the way down, (admittedly many of the same ones who rode it up as well).

    But outside of finance and investments, I wonder too, if lots of us fall victim to the 'past performance --> future outcomes' bias too often as well. It's easy to feel that way I suppose. It feels safe. It's hard to argue against usually. When you don't know what will happen next, or know what a person will do next the easiest thing, (and sometimes the only information you have), is too examine what just happened and assume it will continue.

    I once wrote something about being a true visionary or innovator means imagining the future as something wildly and incredibly different and not just an incremental shift of the past. But that is really hard to do, as Minack's observations about investing remind us.

    Tuesday
    May282013

    Virtual HR, or, 'Did you ask the HR chatbot?'

    While I and many, many others have blogged, talked, and pontificated about how the ongoing advances in technology, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence continue to 'hollow-out' or eliminate wide ranges of jobs formerly and traditionally that are done by humans, I also often think that many folks don't see these trends as all that interesting or potentially threatening. Most of the people who read this blog, I imagine, see themselves as knowledge workers that bring imagination, creativity, and perhaps most essentially, an understanding of subtle things like culture and attitude to their jobs and careers. Most of us, (admittedly me too), say of think things like 'My job is just too complex and ever-changing for it to even be outsourced to a less-expensive human (much less a robot).'

    Possibly. But it also seems likely that given enough time, access to ever-improving technologies, and the right economic incentives, there are enterprising people and organizations that even if they couldn't completely automate or robot-icize everything you do, chances are a fair amount of even what we creative types do is already routine enough that the robots could do a passable, if not better (and cheaper and will less of a bad attitude), than we do.

    But again, I know you don't really believe me, as you are (probably) and HR person that is reading this, and automation in HR has only meant changing how the transactional work of HR, (forms, time-tracking, payroll, etc), from paper-driven processes to computer-driven ones, (and often, initiated by employees and completed by managers with little direct involvement from HR). The important work in HR and in many other organizational functions still, and perhaps for a long time yet, remains the exclusive domain of humans - which humans (see the self-service HR example above), matters less today than it used to. 

    But automation is coming - not just to manufacturing lines or driverless cars or better algorithms and assessments that can screen candidates much faster and more efficiently than you can. Perhaps in HR automation will have to look a little different than what we expect, since so much of the profession is about people - talking to them, understanding them, evaluating them, and motivating them - and ultimately helping, (or concluding that we can't), help them.

    Those kind of interactions, even at a basic level, can't be automated yet. Right?

    Well, maybe not yet, but that doesn't mean they won't be one day soon.

    Don't believe me? Then ask Ivy her opinion.

    Who is Ivy? The latest in automation - this time form one of the country's largest employers, and right in your area of interest - the delivery of HR services.  Check the details from the Jobs at Intel blog.

    Okay, the newest thing we’ve launched is a “virtual HR agent”. What’s that, you ask? You know when you shop online, whether it’s for new gadgets or it’s for a plane ticket to go somewhere or maybe it’s just for odds and ends, some websites have a virtual agent that will answer FAQs for you and guide you through the process. Our new virtual HR agent, we named her Ivy, is set up to do the same thing, but for our employees at Intel (so this is an internal tool.) If employees have questions about their pay, stock, benefits, or other HR programs, they simply bring Ivy up on the intranet and type in a question. Ivy uses a combination of natural language processing, artificial intelligence and optimized search to find the answer to the question. Also, magic. Okay, well, it’s like magic to me, so…  As of today, Ivy has 4,331 possible responses. How do I know that number so exactly? I led the team that wrote all the responses. You can bet we’re excited for the launch after all that work!

     Catch all that?

    Ivy, or the virtual HR chat agent, has over 4,000 possible responses to any employee question about pay or benefits or other HR programs, and using the same kind of intelligence we've seen in a consumer or retail environment, provides HR services to Intel employees. As it is an internal-only tool, I'm not able to test it out, but it stands to reason that with over 4K responses, and the ability to 'learn' and adapt, that over time a tool like Ivy would be able to do more that respond to simple questions, and provide more complex answers to more difficult questions.

    Yes, Intel's HR team has to provide the 'intelligence' for Ivy to work, and that, as yet, is still a human job, but what if employees at Intel begin to prefer dealing with virtual HR over real HR? 

    I'll leave you with more from the Jobs at Intel blog about Ivy:

    Ivy’s no chatbot and she’s not backed by a human “behind the curtain”. She’s all software. We’ve got lots of metrics in place to monitor her performance and our employees can give a star rating to each interaction. Using the performance data and star ratings, we can tune Ivy to make her even better. Beyond that, what’s weird is that she learns. Seriously. Her artificial intelligence gets better as employees ask her questions. Amazing.

    The money line in that?

    We can tune Ivy to make her even better. Beyond that, what’s weird is that she learns.

    Can you say the same about the people in your HR organization?

    Happy Tuesday.