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    #HRevolution at the HR Technology Conference

    We are just winding down the HR Technology Conference here at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, once again it was a fantastic event complete with all the things you'd expect from this event - great sessions, a lively exhibition hall packed with demonstrations from every solutions provider that matters, and as always the chance to connect and re-connect with peers, friends, and industry leaders.

    To Bill Kutik and everyone at LRP that makes this event what it is today - many thanks. 

    I was fortunate enough to get to participate in two sessions at the Conferences- as a panelist on the Social Media Strategies panel, (which I previewed here, and will have a recap posted later in the week), and as a co-facilitator along with Trish McFarlane in an #HRevolution-style session titled 'Your Kids Will Never Work in an Office', an open and wide-ranging discussion on the changing nature or work, the influence of technologies like mobile and social on the workplace, and what challenges the next generation of workers will present and provide.

    The slides that Trish and I worked from have been uploaded to Slideshare here, and are also embedded below:



    This #HRevolution session was just one of three separate breakout sessions that #HRevolution veterans presented today at HR Technology.  In addition to our session, Dwane Lay and China Gorman led a discussion on 'HR Technology and Differentiation'; and Daniel Crosby and Lance Haun took on the topics of 'Change Leadership and Gamification'.  All told across the three session, we likely introduced the HRevolution format, vibe, and style to about 250 attendees.

    Our session on the future of work was extremely lively and participatory - exactly as an HRevolution-style session should be. While Trish and I set up the topics, offered some discussion questions, and tried to guide the discussions - the conversations were clearly driven by the participants. There were engaged and thoughtful comments, questions, and opinions from all corners of the large room, and I'd estimate we heard from at least 30 different individuals during the course of the hour.

    The lesson for me is certainly not that any event including HRevolution can truly solve big problems in an hour, but rather that HR and HR Technology professionals have lots to contribute to these discussions, and that when provided the opportunity, (as HRevolution does), they will dive right in and offer their expertise, and openly look to their peers and colleagues for support.

    Our industry needs these opportunities for professionals to come together and engage in this way, and while HRevolution does not claim to be the only option for this kind of dialogue to happen, it is certainly one the seems to have resonated here today at the HR Technology Conference.

    Many thanks to Bill Kutik, Claude Werder, and everyone else at LRP and HRevolution for all the support.



    #HRevolution and the Connected World

    First, a quick shout-out and thanks to all the attendees, session leaders, and supporters of the HRevolution - Las Vegas event that was held yesterday at the Mandalay Bay Resort - thanks so much for everything!

    This was our fourth HRevolution event, and while they all have had distinct characteristics and vibes, there have been some common themes that have been consistently exposed over the course of the series. Connection, interaction, shared passion about the future of not only Human Resources, but about the design of work itself.  Sure, at times these kinds of big, hairy, and theoretical discussions might not seem to have direct and instant payoff back in our day jobs, but participate in enough intense discussions with a group of really smart, talented, and engaged people, and hopefully themes and concepts emerge that actually can be distilled into actionable strategy and near-term benefit.

    In yesterday's event, the big theme I picked up on was connection - not just that simple and kind of obvious realization that technologies, (internet, mobile, tablet), have and will continue to inexorably change the way we work, socialize, learn, play, find, and stay connected to each other, our employees, our customers, and our communities - but rather the more significant implications the connected world will have on the next generation, my kids, your kids, their kids - you know what I mean.

    From simple things like your 8 year old having to teach you how QR codes work to more complex and possibly important implications of how the fundamental organization of the corporation, workplaces, and even societal changes are being effected by the current and next generation of 'connective' technologies - these are among the most interesting and important questions of our times.

    From the opening session of HRevolution, where Joel Cheesman talked about the sheer vastness of mobile connectivity, and some of the implications this has for organizations, to Jim Buttimer from Glassdoor sharing some incredible examples of crowd-sources intelligence, to the Daniel Crosby and Colleen Sutherland 'Change Leadership' session where the power of making connections around a shared goal can lead to amazing and unexpected results - the theme of 'connection' was the primary feeling for the day.

    How this all plays out going forward certainly remains to be seen - but one thing is for sure, the connected world looks and works nothing like the world most of us grew up in. 

    At the HR Technology Conference on Wednesday morning at 9:00AM HRevolution co-founder Trish McFarlane and I will facilitate an 'HRevolution-style' session about these ideas. Our working title for the session is 'Your Kid Will Never Work in an Office', a take on how the connected world of work in the future might look for the kids in elementary school today. While no one has a crystal ball or some kind of clairvoyance to see clearly into the future, most of us want to be sure our schools, societies, organizations, and families will be best prepared to take on the challenges and opportunities this connected future will bring.

    If you are at the HR Technology Conference on Wednesday, we hope you will come to the session and share your ideas as well.


    In which I admit to my robot obsession...

    Just a quick one today, and yes just like yesterday's post the subject is robots, and their slow, steady, inexorable march to world domination. And quite frankly I don't have a problem with all the robot posts, since my favorite source of inspiration and content, the National Basketball Association, seems intent on remaining in a labor impasse for who knows how long, and I have to write about something.How are you feeling? That will be a $50 co-pay.

    So for a busy Friday, the day before getaway day to Las Vegas and HRevolution (tickets still available), and the HR Technology Conference, another dispatch from the Robots vs. Humans front lines, this time from Slate.com:

    Will Robots Steal Your Job? - Why the highest-paid doctors are the most vulnerable to automation

    Yep, another take on the upcoming, heck already started process of further automation and supplementation of traditional careers and functions by complex and dedicated robot technology. But like yesterday's post where I featured robot technology beginning to make inroads into farming, the piece from Slate shows us even highly specialized, highly paid, and highly complex tasks like the evaluation of medical samples for signs of cancer can and are beginning to be encroached by robot labor.

    I don't keep reading and posting about these 'robot stories' here because I find them to be surprising, or that most readers might not be aware that automation in all facets of industry, from low-tech to high-tech is an unstoppable boulder rolling down hill. It can't and won't be stopped.

    But why I like to read these pieces, and think about them, is more about our reaction and response to these developments.  And on that note, I'd like to end this post with the most compelling point from the Slate.com piece:

    By definition, specialists focus on narrow slices of medicine. They spend their days worrying over a single region of the body, and the most specialized doctors will dedicate themselves to just one or two types of procedures. Robots, too, are great specialists. They excel at doing one thing repeatedly, and when they focus, they can achieve near perfection. At some point—and probably faster than we expect—they won't need any human supervision at all.

    There's a message here for people far beyond medicine: If you do a single thing—and especially if there's a lot of money in that single thing—you should put a Welcome, Robots!doormat outside your office. They're coming for you.

    Boom. Specialization, even high-touch, highly complex, valuable specialization that requires spending years training, developing, and perfecting, still that is no guarantee or security against a robot that van do it better, cheaper, and faster. Even if those skills are ones that society needs and highly values, that's no protection in the long term.

    The message? Invent something new, stay one step ahead of the robot masters? You'd better be prepared to keep inventing.

    Or possibly the message is to continuously explore, challenge, and differentiate yourself as being more than a highly trained, highly skilled one-trick pony. Because if all you are only bringing one thing to the table, no matter how wonderful and complex that one thing is, chances are, eventually, someone else, maybe ever a robot, can do it better.

    I promise no more posts about robots for a while, unless the NBA season gets canceled!

    Have a great weeekend and if you are heading out to HRevolution or the HR Technology Conference be sure to find me and say hello.


    When the Robots Are Driving the Tractor

    Last evening, as I stayed up far too late reveling in the latest Red Sox baseball club disaster, (sorry Red Sox fan - but your 'nation' has now surpassed Yankee fan for sheer obnoxiousness. You used to be able to pull off that 'lovable loser' angle pretty well, but ever since you won the World Series you have taken on this entitled and smug attitude that is really off-putting. So there.), I was skimming through a few blogs and caught this article on the Endless Innovation blog that stopped my cold:

    'When Robots Run Our Nation's Farms'.

    The piece is, obviously, about the development of robotic and other automated machinery to improve the speed and efficiency of many time, labor, and capital intensive farming practices. Additionally, this latest generation of agricultural robotics will also help farmers with higher-value and complex decision making. From the Endless Innovation piece:

    A new generation of robot drones is revolutionizing the way we farm in America, with Kinze Manufacturing and Jaybridge Roboticsrecently announcing the first-ever robot drone tractor capable of farming without the need for a human operator. Video clips are already circulating online of the Kinze tractor, gracefully coordinating its harvest dance with other autonomous machines. Once this robot drone tractor becomes part of the agricultural mainstream, robots will decide where to plant, when to harvest and how to choose the best route for crisscrossing the farmland. Humans, except perhaps as neutral trouble-shooters, will be all but unneeded. So what does it mean when robots run our nation’s farms? 

    It is a good question, and one the piece doesn't really have a good answer for, probably because these trends are still relatively new in large-scale commercial farming. But technology improving, enhancing, or replacing what was formerly human, manual labor and effort is certainly nothing new. We deal with this phenomenon every day practically in our homes and workplaces.

    Last night I ordered a pizza online from a local shop, the order was automatically transmitted and printed out in the store, someone (it might have been a robot), made the pizza, and I received an email when the pizza would be ready for pickup. Since I had pre-paid online with a credit card, all I did when I arrived at the shop was tell them my name and walk away with the food. If we add in some theoretical process efficiencies in the shop, (RFID codes, automatic supply replenishment, delivery driver dispatch tools, etc.), it is pretty clear that the modern pizza shop could, like the modern farms described above, produce much more output that ever before, while employing far fewer people to do the work.

    Since many of the folks reading this are involved in the development, analysis, implementation, and advocacy of the latest and most wonderful technologies that we believe will enable organizations and individuals to derive increased value, benefit, and (hopefully) profit assisted by our efforts, we'd also be wise to think about the longer-term effects of these technology-enabled improvements. What legacy to these technologies help shape and what happens to the organization left behind?

    Going back to the 'robot-farmer' example - someone used to have to drive the tractor that we've now turned over to the new, unmanned system. Hopefully as a result of this breakthrough new technology, that farmer is now able to spend more time studying the markets, providing customer service, volunteering in the community, helping his kids with their homework, or heck, even getting to know his cows better.

    Because that would be probably the only real and meaningful benefit of handing the keys to the tractor over to the robots. If the technology only serves to make the process more efficient, but not so efficient that the farmer needs to find another line of work to survive - well then I'd think most of us would be happy to pay a few extra cents for our tomatoes next year.

    In case you are interested - below is a video of one of the 'robot driven tractors' in action - (email and RSS subscribers click through)

    Have a great day!


    Talking Social at The HR Technology Conference

    Next week at the 14th Annual HR Technology Conference at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas I will have the privilege of participating in a panel discussion titled 'HR Technology's Second Annual Social Media Panel: Deploying Deep Social Strategies Without Destroying Your Career.'

    The panel will be moderated by the HR Capitalist himself Kris Dunn who will be joined by Laurie Ruettimann, Mike Krupa, Oliver Marks, and myself.

    It is no secret to anyone in Human Resources or in the enterprise technology space that 'social' needs to move past marketing buzzword and into demonstrable business value for most organizational leaders to take notice, to support social evangelists inside the organization, and to see the real benefits of deploying either social and collaborative technologies in-house, while opening up more fully and systematically to the use of outward facing social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in support of enterprise objectives. I'll bet 90% of the vendors you will see exhibiting at the HR Technology Conference will have some kind of 'social' angle in their solutions, (or at least in their marketing copy), but which ones make sense for you and your organization, and which ones look and feel like they simply bolted on some 'like' buttons and badges as an afterthought. It's not always easy to tell.

    And then there is the 'personal' side of social for the HR professional - how can someone that has a day job with real responsibilities, deadlines, and managers to answer to still use social tools in a way that won't compromise their ability to perform, as well as act in concert with company-wide messaging and postioning that quite frankly, most HR people are not always so well-informed about.  What happens when one of your employees, say a star engineer starts to gain popularity on his or her blog, has about 20,000 followers on Twitter, and starts getting asked to speak at events and do vendor webcasts?

    Do you allow and support them in their 'micro-celebrity', or do you worry about tasks not getting completed while the young (or maybe not so young), emerging star is building his or her name. Can you accrue value from this activity back to the organization? Do you even know how?

    Just because every vendor is talking about social, and just about every person at the Conference and who might be reading this blog is participating in social, (check the graph below for more color on this), hasn't made determining where and how social technologies and processes fit in a given organization's business model and processes any easier. And just because you finally convinced your VP of HR to join LinkedIn or get a Twitter account doesn't mean determining the right balance and relationship of your talent's personal brands and online presence any simpler.

    So at the HR Technology Conference (our session is Tuesday October 4 at 11:00AM),  our panel on social will certainly try to explore many of these topics, I am sure in 75 minutes we can't solve them all, (or any of them), but I think we will provide some good food for thought and give attendees some ideas they can begin to explore in their organizations.

    Oh, and here is the chart I mentioned I'd share - just one data point among millions you have to consider when talking 'social'.

    Source - Business Insider

    Wow - 16% of all time spent online is now on Facebook.  Hmm. Better quit reading this now and get back over there - I might have just tagged you in a picture!

    Hope to see you at the Conference next week!