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    Tuesday
    Dec222009

    Do you Read These?

    Earlier this year I co-presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) annual conference in Washington, DC.  The AHRD is professional, research-driven organization made up of Human Resources academics and a few 'reflective practitioners'.

    At that time I also became a member of the AHRD and almost immediately began Some light readingreceiving a regular series of journals and publications from the academy.  Titles like:  Human Resource Development Quarterly, HRD Review, and Advances in Developing Human Resources.

    These are pretty heavy titles, full of some excellent research pieces written (mostly) by Professors of Human Resources from the USA and many other countries. Articles like 'Meaningfulness, Commitment, and Engagement: The Intersection of a Deeper Level of Intrinsic Motivation' have some great information and can be very valuable for academics and practitioners alike. They are not 500-word blog posts, but if you can wrestle your way though them, you can usually pull out some great insights.

    But some other pieces incredibly arcane and narrow in focus and quite honestly seems to exist to support University tenure requirements for publishing. An article like 'The trend of blended learning in Taiwan' fits pretty squarely in this category. By their nature they have limited use and a small potential audience.

    Currently, I am in the (long) process of writing an article for one of the aforementioned journals, and since this is the first (and likely only) time I will ever write for an academic journal I have some observations on the process and on the academic journals themselves.

    1. It takes an incedibly long time to write one of these articles

    You generally submit an abstract or basic idea for a piece to the editors, wait months to hear if your idea is accepted, then submit a 'expanded' abstract, wait for another few months for feedback, submit a revised expanded abstract, wait, submit a first draft, wait, submit a final draft, wait, and eventually (for me this will be over a year later), see the article published. Oh yeah, actually writing the content takes a really long time too, more details on why that is to follow.

    2. Style is (almost) as important as substance

    There are often incredibly detailed and precise requirements for the format and structure of each different submission.  Length, section titles, headings, and of course strict adherence to the citation formats are so stressed and emphasized that it actually is a bit frustrating and annoying. Does anyone really notice if an article uses APA citation format 5 or format 6?  Does anyone even care? This part of the 'writing' process often involves grad student (free) labor.  The idea seems to be to recruit a grad student that is good with research to help find references and compile the bibliography in exchange for a credit on the article's eventual byline.

    3. What other people have written is more important as what you write

    In this kind of writing for academic journals there is a heavy emphasis on citations.  It is not unusual to see a 12 page article with over 100 citations.  In some of these pieces, nary a paragraph goes by without some external source cited (almost always another academic journal article). I get this to some extent, my (or anyone's) opinions on a topic do carry more weight if it can be shown that other author's have agreed, or drawn similar conclusions; and certainly any statistics or factual statements should show the real source of the data. But many times reading one of these pieces, with so many citations, you wonder why the article was even needed at all.  The academic journal citation is probably the earliest form of the blog link or the retweet.  Too many of those, and you wonder if the author actually has anything useful to add to the discourse.

    4. I am pretty sure hardly anyone will read the article

    I keep up with at least 100 other HR blogs, have attended plenty of events, watched dozens of webcasts, and hosted and listened to scores of talk showson HR and recruiting this year.  I have never heard anyone, in any context, mention the AHRD, talk about any of the journals they publish, or cite any of the journal articles in a blog post, presentation, or in any other forum.  My unscientific observation is that the only people that will ever read my article are the editors of the journal, and a very small percentage of the folks that actually get the journal.  And perhaps once in a great while someone doing an academic database keyword search will stumble upon my article for possible use as a (gasp) citation for an article or assignment. This citation (if it ever does happen) will also hardly be seen by anyone outside of this tiny circle of journal editors and academics.

    Frankly, I am at the end of the post and I am not really sure what my conclustion is.

    Could it be the process, form, and ultimate outcome of the academic publishing process is kind of ridiculous and largely unappealing?

    Maybe it is a call for more 'mainsteam' HR practitioners and industry bloggers to take note of the excellent work (if you look hard enough) that can be found in these academic journals?

    Could it be that instead of working on my first draft that is due soon, I found it easier and more satisfying to bang out a 900+ word blog post on  the whole thing?

    I will end with this, does anyone reading this post actually read any Human Resources Academic journals?

    Monday
    Dec212009

    What Do They See?

    NOTE: This guest post is by the great Ben Eubanks of UpstartHR.  Take it away, Ben.

    Let's start with a visualization, shall we? A prospective applicant stops by your career site. They try to search for a job, but they can't find out how. They finally see the little button to search, but when they get to the next page, there doesn't seem to be a way to apply for the position. Disgusted, the applicant turns away from your site and files you away as a "don't even try to apply" in their mind. You've been discarded before you were even in the running.

     

    Is that fair? Is it your fault that they were unable to find out how to apply to your job postings? Well, it may not be, but with a new Google tool, you may be able to see that problem and correct it before other candidates end up the same way.
     
    Google Browser Size is a new tool cooked up by Google's amazing engineers. If you go to this site and plug in your site's URL, you can check how much of your site people can see on their browsers. How does this affect you? Well, if the majority of people can't see how to apply, there's a good chance they won't apply.
     
    Check out the Browser Size tool and test it on your own site. You may be surprised at what you find out. When I looked at my own site, I saw that about 50% of my visitors don't see all the way across my site horizontally. I could be missing some feed subscriptions from those people simply because they can't see my button.

     

     

    To compare that same issue with Steve's site, you can see that more than 80% of his visitors can see his subscription button without having to scroll. I'd be willing to bet that his subscription rate is higher than mine simply on that measure alone. Plus, more than 90% get a glimpse of his HR Happy Hour logo right off the bat. How's that for promoting the show?


    In the post on the Google blog, one of the project engineers talked about how they discovered the problem through their own Google Earth download page. Although a large number of people were visiting the page, there was a significant difference in the number of hits on that page and the number of software downloads. They tested the site with the Browser Size tool and saw that about 10% of people couldn't see the button to download the program.
     
    Ten percent doesn't sound like much, but if your organization gets 1000 hits on your career page per day, that's 100 people who never even apply (assuming they had planned to). Are you sure you want to be turning them away before you get a chance to see their qualifications?
    Ben Eubanks is an HR professional from Huntsville, AL. He lives much of his life online. Don't believe it? Catch him on LinkedIn, Twitter, RocketHR, or via email. His blog, UpstartHR, is about many things, including HR, leadership, and zombies.

     


    Saturday
    Dec192009

    The Situation

    Full Disclosure - I have never seen the new Reality TV show 'Jersey Shore', the saga of the misadventures of a collection of Italian-American young adults, but the other morning on a cable news show (when they were able to take a break from the Tiger Woods drama), ran a story about how some Italian-American groups and advertisers are up in arms about the show.

    These Italian-American groups don't like how the show seems to play to traditional stereotypes, and some advertisers have canceled ads on the show, feeling like the content is inappropriate and don't want their brands associated with such an unsavory and offensive show.

    I don't really care about any of that.

    What is interesting to me, is that from the 'news' story (on MSNBC), we learned that one of the show's participants calls himself 'The Situation'.

    A classic, classic nickname, made all the more timeless since is it is a kind of intangible concept, not a boring nickname that is simply a play on a real name, 'T-Bone', or somehow descriptive of an aspect of a physical trait, 'Shorty'.

    No, 'The Situation' is pretty cool, makes you think (I mean besides about how much of an idiot the guy likely is). 

    And since there is almost nothing more fun in the workplace than giving out nicknames to our 'friends', I figured I would try and come up with some 'Situation-like' monikers for some of your favorite co-workers.

    So here goes:

    The Equilibrium - The guy that never can take a side on an issue.  Sees the benefits and drawbacks in every approach.  Never will come out for or against anyone.  Happy to simply go along with the consensus while being sure never to actually help form the consensus.

    The Standoff - The one that once takes a position, will dig himself a World War I style trench and hunker down until the bitter end. You will have to practically mustard gas this guy to get him to budge. After a long time in the bunker when the stress is high and hallucinations start to set in, The Standoff might climb out and wade back into the field, where hopefully you can put him out of his misery.

    The Malaise - You know this guy.  No matter how exciting the news, how interesting the project, or how crazy the office holiday party gets, The Malaise can't seem to get jazzed up.  Likes to wear old, Mr. Rogers style cardigan sweaters and walk very, very slowly.  Will be the first one to notice when the network is down, or the copier is out of paper. 

    The Operation - This guys turns everything, no matter how simple, into a ridiculous drawn-out series of e-mails, discussions, meetings, unnecessary documentation and the like.  Nothing can be solved quicky, and certainly without soliciting input from all members of the team, from management, and possibly the custodial staff.  No decision can be rushed, getting everyone's input is good.  Now, how long should the weekly status meetings be, 30, 45, or 60 minutes?  Let's have a meeting to discuss this.

    Last Call - This is the annoying guy that makes sure he is the very last one to leave the office every day, and makes sure the boss and everyone else knows it.  Walks over to the vending machines at about 5:30pm every day and loudly proclaims 'I wish we had Red Bull, I could use a Red Bull about now'.  When you leave at 5:00 likes to stop you in you tracks and ask, 'What's this, half a day?'.  He then retires to his cube and proceeds to put on headphones and play World or Warcraft until 8 o'clock. 

    Who are some of your favorite workplace 'Situations'?

    Hit me up in the comments.

     

    Friday
    Dec182009

    Welcome to the Company! Here is your iPhone

    Abilene Christian University made news last year with an innovative and interesting program for its incoming freshman class in 2008; it provided free of charge a new iPhone or iPod Touch to each incoming student.

    The University developed a number of custom applications for the iPhone, ranging from homework Flickr - fanfan2145submission tools, to in-class polling and response systems, to checking campus maps and cafeteria menus.

    But more important than the specific applications and use cases is the underlying philosophy that fueled the decision to 'give' iPhones to all the new students.  Students expect to 'consume' content on the go, from any location, and when it is convenient (which is almost never the 8:00 AM lecture). The campus-developed applications can stream class notes, videos, and other interactive content to the students in real-time.

    And in another interesting twist, Abiliene Christian students are finding that they can leverage the iPhones in ways beyond the 'official' or expected uses.  One student observed:

    Kasey Stratton, a first-year ACU business student, said her favorite aspect of the iPhone program was how apps are changing the way students interact socially. Many Abilene students use Bump, a free app downloadable through the App Store, which enables them to swap e-mails and phone numbers by bumping their iPhones together. Also, the campus’ map app helped her become familiar with the campus quickly when she arrived.

    “At ACU it’s like they see [the iPhone] is the way of the future and they might as well take advantage of it,” Stratton said in a phone interview. “They’re preparing us for the real world — not a place where you’re not allowed to use anything.”

    There are two really interesting notes to take from those comments, both are applicable to HR and HR Technology.

    When given the opportunity, people will find new use cases for technology

    The school distributed the iPhones with some specific, and fairly modest goals. Let students participate in class polls, have access to some information systems, etc.  These were important and valuable benefits.  But the students proceeded to leverage the technology to better connect with each other, to facilitate their own projects and group activities, and ultimately to derive more value than the administration had ever foreseen.

    We see this all the time in consumer or public platforms, like how Twitter users 'invented' the concept of hash tags and '@' replies.  When technology is designed to promote adaptation, or is developed and consumed in ways that can support changes to configuration and flexible levels of personalization the opportunity for end users and employees to 'discover' new and better uses is significantly enhanced.

    In the 'real world' (your companies), entering employees have high expectations

    Before I get in trouble with Lance Haun, I am not going to the Gen Y/Millennial card on this.  Just simply noting the importance of this student's expectation that in the 'real world' tools and technologies like the iPhone, BlackBerry, access to social networks, and 25 things that have not even been invented yet will all be present and available in the workplace. Students that grow up with these tools absolutley will not understand why if indeed they walk into a new organization that is relies on ancient desk phones, MS Outlook email systems with limited storage, and have network file shares as the de facto 'collaboration' tool.  And not just new and younger employees, soon, and for the foreseeable future almost all of your employees will feel the same way.

    Abilene Christian certainly seems like an unlikely place to be at the forefront of an innovative, cutting edge technology-based project like this.  And it is.  But it shows that even from unlikely sources, ones without national reputations, and billion-dollar endowments, that fantastic innovations can arise.

    Maybe your company is also and unlikely launch pad for technology innovation.  Maybe you are small, not that well funded, or stuck in the 90's when it comes to technology.  But if Abilene Christian can do it, then so can you.

    How about next year, when your first batch of new recuits come marching in the door, you hand them a brand new iPhone, and encourage them to use it to connect, learn, share, and experiment?

    I know what you are thinking, where is the budget for that going to come from? I would bet the extra productivity you will get from the program will more than fund the phones over the year.

    Ask Abilene Christian if the investment was worth it, they have gotten more mileage as the 'iPhone College' than they ever bargained for.

     

    Thursday
    Dec172009

    HR Happy Hour - 2010: Looking Ahead

    Another shameless plug for the HR Happy Hour Show!

    Episode 23 - '2010:Looking Ahead' - Thursday December 17, 2009 at 8:00 PM EST www.blogtalkradio/steve-boese

    The HR Happy Hour will polish off our crystal ball and look ahead to 2010 in the world of Human Resources and the workplace. Some of the topics open for debate tonight are:

    What will be some of the major trends in 2010?

    What issues are the most pressing for Human Resources and Talent Management professionals?

    Will this recession ever really end? (and no I don't believe the 'official' recession is over statistics).

    The 2010 Looking Ahead show is being presented in conjunction with the SmartBrief on Workforce (yes, I am on the Advisory Board, how cool is that?), special 2010 preview edition.

    Joining us on the show tonight will be SmartBrief on Workforce Senior Editor Mary Ellen Slayter, and fellow Advisory Board members Sharlyn Lauby, aka HR Bartender, and author/columnist Alexandra Levit.

    I hope you can join us for what will surely be an interesting, lively, and fun show.