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    Wednesday
    Feb132013

    In a slump? Maybe you need a celebrity Global Creative Director

    I was close to dropping this post into the 'Job Titles of the Future' bucket, but then I realized that the idea of a 'creative director' isn't really all that new or novel. Ad agencies, publishers, marketing companies and the like have had and will continue to have a 'Creative Director' role for some time now. But what is new, and who knows if it will eventually move past stunt hiring and into the mainstream, are organizations of all kinds tapping celebrities known for their ideas and personalities as more than just spokespersons, but as 'Global Creative Directors'.Gaga-inspired camera glasses

    I'll give you three recent examples of this trend, (please, if you know of more, share them in the comments), and then offer a take on why these seem to be happening more and more, and if there is indeed anything that our 'normal' organizations can take from these hires.

    1. Polaroid (surprisingly still around), hires singer Lady Gaga as Creative Director for a new line of products, and later unveils the results of their first collaboration, some new Polaroid gadgets at CES in 2011.

    2. BlackBerry, (I really want to be able to come back to you BlackBerry), hires singer Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director. Keys will collaborate with BlackBerry to work "with app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and the entertainment community to further shape and enhance the BlackBerry 10 platform, and inspire creative use through its remarkable capabilities and functionality."

    3. Anheuser-Busch names actor/singer/producer Justin Timberlake as the Creative Director for their Bud Light Platinum brand, seeing JT as a talent that "is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry, and his insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum’s identity in the lifestyle space"

    The cynical (and probably fair) reaction to all three of the above examples would be to simply assume that these 'creative director' arrangements are really just the hundreds of years old celebrity pitchman or woman gimmick just spun a little differently to make the arrangement seem a little deeper than the the typically surface-level celebrity relationships with brands.  After all, what does Alicia Keys know about modern smartphone technology, or Gaga about the technical and competitive challenges in the consumer photography market?

    So why the push to re-brand or re-frame these celebrities as 'creative directors' and not just as spokespeople? 

    Perhaps, (admittedly giving the companies a huge benefit of the doubt here), that these organizations have realized that talent, great ideas, inspiration, and innovation can come from all kinds of sources, and in these examples, from non-traditional ones. Perhaps, these organizations have embraced the idea that incredibly talented people from alternate, adjacent, or even unrelated fields might have something to offer, some new perspective, or fresh eyes, that can actually be of value to their businesses.

    Perhaps, that being really, really, successful at something, might just be a sign of a person that could be really successful at lots of things, even if their background and resume would be one that would never 'pass' the initial assessment for any of the organization's open jobs.

    These companies are all looking for something, some kind of a lift, some new energy. They are taking a chance certainly, but at least they are doing more than holding yet another staff meeting with the same assembled cast of characters and asking, 'So, anyone have any ideas?'

    Tuesday
    Feb122013

    Work, and the Impending Robot Uprising #1

    Launching a new series on the blog this week - well not exactly new, since I have been writing about robots, the impact of increased robot automation on workplaces and jobs, and how if we don't watch out, pretty soon all our base will belong to them for quite some time now. But then I figured that the combination of the robot uprising, and my need for a steady source of reasonably interesting content for the blog warranted a more structured approach to collecting, classifying, and most importantly - providing an easy way for our future robot overlords to see that I am, actually, on their side, the future 'robot' content on the site. So then, this is the first 'official' piece in the new series, 'Work, and the Impending Robot Uprising'.

    From the 'Jobs that the robots are not really doing, but could easily take over if given the chance' category, I submit for your consideration the 'job' of Entertainment Rreporter.  Take a look at the video below, (yes, it is from The Onion, but don't let that unduly influence your opinion), and then ask yourself honestly if robots could indeed replace all manner of entertainment industry 'journalists': (RSS and email subscribers will need to click through)


    iInterviewer: Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola Talk Their New Movie, Inevitable Deaths 

    Not that bad, right? And if you leave out the Onion's need to make the interview more of a gag than a true reflection of the typically horrible and banal celebrity interview  - 'How did it feel to work with such a great cast?', then I think you can pretty easily see that a robot, (and not even that powerful a robot), could step in for what passes for the in-depth and biting reporting that most entertainment shows pay high-priced human talent to produce.

    I know what you're thinking - this is a goof, it's the Onion after all, and I'll never get back the approximate three minutes I've spent reading this post.

    All of those reactions are fair and valid. At least the 'lost three minutes of your life part.'

    But if you're still hanging in there with me on this, here's the payoff.

    It does not matter what industry, job title, function, or process you are involved in. If what you do is easily repeatable, if the people that do the job are pretty much indistinguishable, and if it doesn't really matter who does the job, only that it gets done - then you or your job is a candidate for the impending robot uprising.

    We laugh at the robot interviewing the actors. Until we realize a human reporter would have asked the very same questions.

    And not been as funny.

    Monday
    Feb112013

    The true goals of HR Big Data projects

    Buried near the end of this fairly standard but still pretty interesting piece on how software giant SAP is deploying Human Capital workforce analytics solutions in their internal organization from their recently acquired SuccessFactors product suite is perhaps one of the most clear, coherent, and instructive observations about the goals (or what should be the goals), of any HR organization embarking on an analytics or (buzz work blog police look the other way) 'Big Data' project.

    Here's the quote from SAP's Helen Poitevin:

    We see this (the implementation of modern workforce analytics solutions) as a transformation for us first, moving from being specialists in extracting data from our systems, to being specialists in answering workforce related business questions.

    I know that this seems like a kind of overly simple and somewhat of an obvious point of emphasis, but I think it is one that serves to remind those of us that like to talk, read, or prognosticate about how Big Data will have a truly transformative impact on HR professionals, workforce planning, and human capital management need to remain mindful that collecting more data, and even making the extraction and presentation of that data simpler and even more beautiful, is only the first step in the journey to realizing better business outcomes.

    The goal of these analytics and Big Data projects, as the SAP article makes plain, is not just the ability to organize, describe, extract, and present workforce data (which in truth are necessary and important steps), but to leverage that data, to have the data lead to the asking of the right questions, to illuminate a path towards answering these questions, and to help the organization understand and relate the story that their human capital data wants to tell.

    Again, the SAP piece makes it clear what their goals are, and what has to be the end-state for HR analytics and data projects:

    (the analytics projects) represents a transformation for our business, by virtue of leveraging data-based insights and analysis about our workforce to make better, more sustainable decisions

    Again, you probably already know this. Probably.

    But it is a telling reminder just in case you've let your goals slip a little, or if you want to (or feel like you have to) claim victory with the initial successes in your analytics programs. 'Look we have reports!'

    You're not really there, (and hardly anyone is yet), until the workforce data becomes an essential part of how your business makes decisions, and is not just a set of cool dashboards or a slick set of charts on an iPad app.

    Have a great week all!

    Friday
    Feb082013

    It's Friday - you can't possibly STILL be working, can you?

    Here is a really quick take for a blustery Friday as I stare out the window awaiting the arrival of Winter Storm Nemo, (Yes, we are naming winter storms now. Silly. Next thing you know people will be naming their hangovers. 'Sorry I can't make it to the office today. I got hit by Hangover Bacardi this morning.')

    I thought about the storm's impending arrival across the Northeast, and the havoc that these types of weather events play on work, school, travel, etc., and then it hit me - it's Friday, most of us shouldn't even be working at all.  In the future, and if one Danish academic has anything to say about it, once you've put in about 25 solid hours for the week, you should be able to pack it in, put your feet up, and drink cocoa and watch the snow.

    How so?

    Take a look at the reasoning behind Professor James Vaupel's assertion from a piece on the Science Nordic blog, (you have that one in your Google Reader, right?), titled - 'We should only work 25 hours a week, argues Professor'

    When you’re 20, you would rather spend more time with your friends. When you’re 35, you want time with your kids. But then when you reach 70, you have far too much time on your hands.

    This scenario probably sounds familiar to many people today. But there are good arguments for changing this. We should aim for more leisure time in our youth and instead work a bit more when we get older.

    “We’re getting older and older here in Denmark. Kids who are ten years old today should be able to work until the age of 80. In return, they won’t need to work more than 25 hours per week when they become adults,” says Professor James W. Vaupel.

    In socio-economic terms it makes a lot of sense. The important thing is that we all put in a certain amount of work – not at what point in our lives we do it. In the 20th century we had a redistribution of wealth. I believe that in this century, the great redistribution will be in terms of working hours." 

    Interesting take for sure. Kind of makes sense in a way, I think. If indeed via a combination of longer life expectancies, advances in medical care and technology that will make us capable of being productive workers into our 70s and 80s, and even economic necessity - it seems almost certain most of us, and definitely our kids, will have longer working lives than our parents and grandparents did.

    Professor Vaupel thinks there should be a kind of societal trade-off - in exchange for signing up for working until you are 82 (or you keel over), you get to put in 25 hours or so a week when you are in your 20s and 30s, in theory so you can enjoy your life more, spend time with friends, go surfing, raise your kids, etc.

    Sort of a crazy, only a European would think that way kind of an idea, but one that does at least force us to think about what the impact of an aging workforce might be in the future.

    What's your take - do we all, especially us Americans, work too much? 

    Are we going to continue to work too much way into our Golden Years?

    Are you going to send your Gen Y staff home for the day after you read this, making them PROMISE to take care of you in about 30 years?

    Have a Great Weekend!

    Thursday
    Feb072013

    What's your culture really like? Ask the new guy from out of town

    Company Culture, Employer Brand, Employer Value Proposition - there's been much written and spoken about these ideas and concepts in the last few years and for the most part a general acceptance has emerged that organizational leaders need to be very aware of internal culture, and its effects on morale, engagement, productivity and performance.

    While most HR and Talent pros 'get' that culture is important, and some even taking more proactive steps to promote their unique culture (mostly it seems through enhanced 'cultural fit' recruiting practices), there also seems to be quite a bit less written about revealing or unraveling the existing company culture.Where are the donuts?

    If you work in any type of organization today you certainly have your own opinion of 'What's it like to work here?', but I'd imagine most of us don't go around the office asking our colleagues for their opinion of 'What's it like to work here?'

    Aside from the annual employee survey where these kinds of questions are raised and the answers to them aggregated and placed in colorful bar graphs and pie charts, (Is there anything better than a pie chart?. I think not.), we can pretty easily get tricked into remaining comfortable that our personal view of 'What's it like to work here' is kind of the universal view of the place.

    But a more revealing (and hopefully honest) assessment of a culture or an environment might come from a different source than the aggregated and homogenized survey data, or from the long-held and personal views of organization veterans. It could be that the most refreshing look at the culture of a place comes from its newest members, and in particular, ones that by virtue of their past upbringing and history, would not have many deeply-held biases that might influence their opinion.

    Case in point - the impressions on American culture from a new visitor, the NBA's Alexey Shved from Russia, in his rookie season playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and enjoying his first extended period living and working in the USA.  

    Hey Alexey, what's it like in America?

    "Well, everybody loves donuts here, and I eat them too. People mostly drink beer and not stronger drinks, exactly like in The Simpsons.”

    Nice. American culture through the lens of a recent entrant, with his primary frame of reference being the Simpsons cartoon. 

    It's kind of amusing but also serves as a bit of a reminder that culture and the perception of a culture is a highly personal thing. And it also reinforces the point that no matter how much or how hard we try to shape the culture, (or at least the perceptions of a culture), people are going to have their own take on your place, your people, your vibe - you get the idea.

    Our pal Alexey's take about donuts and beer, while pretty funny, should also be a kind of wake-up call to those of us charged or interested in shaping, communicating, and propagating something as amorphous as 'culture'.

    No matter how hard you try, how slick your marketing campaigns are, and how much 'fit' drives your hiring, firing, and rewards processes - there is probably a new guy from out of town who looks around and sees donuts and beer.