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    Wednesday
    Sep122012

    What do these 'Big Trends' mean for HR?

    I admit it, I am a total mark for Business Insider

    A superb mix of business, tech, culture, politics, economics, sports, celebrity gossip - all delivered with bludgeon-like ridiculous volume probably running upwards of 100 posts each day.

    Recently BI ran one of their guaranteed to generate a ton of page views slideshows that actually drove me to click through all (70!) distinct pages. Titled 'The US 20: Twenty Big Trends That Will Dominate America's Future', it was just the right blend of data, speculation, hype, and occasional insight that makes BI a go-to site. 

    The entire slideshow is worth a read click-through, but in case you are one of the 'I hate internet slideshow' types, I will spare you all the clicks and page loads and give you just 5 of the 20 Big Trends from the BI piece, the ones that might have the most direct impact to you as a HR, Talent, of HR Technology pro.

    Trend #2 - America is Aging - Key Statistic: The median working age in America is 42.1, up from 35.4 in 1986.

    This one is sort of a easy selection, I've blogged about it before here, but is bears repeating as the population ages the impacts on hiring, retention, work practices, learning, training, and just about everything else that happens at work will be impacted.

    Trend #5 - The Epic Rise of Student Loan Debt - Key Statistic: Student loan debt recently topped $1 Trillion, making it the largest category of consumer debt other than mortgages in the United States.

    Impact on the workplace? More younger workers stressed over their personal finances, more willingness to jump ship for a few more $$ somewhere else, and more likelihood of younger workers taking second jobs and taking work on the side.  

    Trend #13 - The U.S. Manufacturer Roars Back - Key Statistic, (really more of an observation), increased productivity combined with cheaper sources of domestic energy could continue to spur sustained growth in U.S. manufacturing.

    The State of manufacturing in America is constantly in flux, but we are starting to see more and more pieces about the return or renaissance of American manufacturing. A recent piece in Foreign Policy offers additional compelling reasons for the renewed strength in domestic manufacturing like robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3-D printing. No matter the root causes, if more organizations see benefits in re-shoring manufacturing, talent professionals will be under considerable pressure to find, attract, recruit, develop, and retain the kind of employees and leaders needed to make it happen.

    Trend #17 - American Cities as Economic Juggernauts - Key Statistic - Urban areas account for 84% of US GDP

    National growth will continue to be driven by cities, both large and medium-size. It makes sense that talent will chase after said growth and opportunity. If you are a talent pro in an organization not in or near one of these urban centers it could get even harder to lure the people you need from the areas or higher growth to your sleepy little town.

    Trend #18 - Immigrants Driving Product Innovation - Key Statistic - News Corp, (and others), investing heavily in new properties aimed at the growing Hispanic market

    If your organization is among the many that will seek growth and market share from an increasingly diverse set of customers then does your staffing, development, and leadership models adequately reflect the markets you are competing in? Do you have the right people that can understand and effectively service these markets?

    Ok, enough of these 'Big Trends', I think you get the idea. Organizations, and certainly the people inside organizations directly responsible for shaping their workforces, (that's you), have to be aware of the environment in which they operate. Economics, demographics, heck even politics - these things do matter, even if they seem kind of far off, or only the concerns of global mega-companies.

    What do you think, what are some of the big-picture trends impacting the work you do as an HR and Talent pro?

     

    Tuesday
    Sep112012

    The Lewis Turning Point

    I was reading a few pieces over the weekend on the increasing industrial 'robotization' happening in of all places, China. I think for lots of us, our familiarity with Chinese manufacturing processes comes mainly from the recent series of well-publicized articles about Foxconn and their massive manufacturing complexes staffed with what seems like armies of low-to-medium skilled and cheap, (at least relatively cheap) labor.

    We know, or we think we know, the Chinese manufacturing advantage, particularly for high-tech manufacturing. While more nimble and adaptive supply chains are certiainly a large part of the story, there is no doubt that the seemingly endless supply of inexpensive human labor has driven significant advantage for the Chinese firms in the last few decades.

    But as this piece (and others) point out, demographic trends and economic factors in China are impacting this traditional labor supply and cost advantage, (simply put, China is running shorter of the right kind of laborers, and the current ones are generally demanding higher wages). As the below chart from Credit Suisse illustrates, the supply of the typical Chinese manufacturing worker is decreasing dramatically:

     

    What's the big deal? Well perhaps for your organization, unless you are in a high-tech manufacturing company, maybe this situation in China, and the reactions taken by high-tech firms, (more robots, flight to even cheaper labor cost countries, etc.), might not be relevant at all. But one of the pieces on the labor market in China referred to an economic principle called The Lewis Turning Point, that I had never heard of, but I think might have relevance to any number of the so-called 'hard-to-fill' jobs that many talent professionals continue to wrestle with.

    The Lewis Turning Point essentially says this - once a developing economy runs out of affordable and accessible labor, wages will naturally increase, and subsequent technological development and increased efficiency is necessary for investors to continue to realize capital accumulation and ongoing profits.

    The Lewis Turning Point suggests that once easy labor runs out, that firms have to do more to continue to be successful - automate, increase wages, diversify, chase more inexpensive labor in new locations - or some combination thereof.

    Obviously such a broad-based economic theory can't account for or offer specific remedies for the practical 'can't find anyone for this job' conundrums your organization might be dealing with today, but the 'turning point' does reinforce what perhaps deep down you know is true but don't want to admit publicly. Namely, if you truly have a hard, seemingly impossible to fill position in your organization, in order to make any progress it is quite likely you need to start thinking differently. 

    Just like how the massive industrial behemoths in China have realized that their labor supply is contracting and increased robotization is their path forward, once you hit the turning point it is either adapt or die, or at least slowly but surely begin to wither.

    Monday
    Sep102012

    There's only 14 hours in a day

    You only have 12-14 working hours in an average day to get done what you need to get done, so you better get proficient and diligent about scheduling and time management.

    That is the paraphrased advice I caught from one of the guests on an MSNBC show called 'Your Business', a show about tips, strategies, and advice for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.

    It's pretty easy to take that '12-14 hour' assertion and break it down to see if that kind of level of effort and commitment would work in your life of course. It's just a numbers game really.

    Take the midpoint of 'working hours' say - 13

    Give yourself an (optimistic) 6 hours for sleep.

    That's 19 hours accounted for so far. You have 5 hours left, but that still seems like a lot, right?

    Do you physically have to go to an office? If not, you likely on most days, have to go somewhere. Let's be conservative and say 1 hour a day (on average), is spent in transit, and such, more or less not available for 'work', or at least not usually.

    4 hours left. That still feels like plenty.

    There was a really popular book that came out a couple of years back that suggested 4 hours was enough to get a week's worth of work done. I admit to not reading the book and knowing anything about how one might actually successfully pull off that trick, but if someone can figure out how to cram a week's work into 4 hours, then that same amount of time each day has to be plenty for non-working, non-sleeping activities.

    So what would need to be fit into the remaining 4 hours? Well depending on your personal situation, interests, and motivations, you'll need to select however many items you can from the (incomplete) list below:

    1. Eating

    2. Obtaining and/or preparing food and related items to support your need to eat

    3. Personal care and hygiene

    4. (If you have kids) whatever you do each day that passes for parenting

    5. Family/friend social time

    6. Everything else I missed

    Can you fit that all in to 4 hours? Maybe. Again, on average maybe for a while.

    Of course you or someone you take care of might get sick. Your car might break down. Some inconsiderate friend or family member might actually need more than about 45 minutes of your time at a stretch one day. And of course you need time to keep track of and update, (variously), Facebook, LinkedIn, (well that might be 'work'), Twitter, Instagram, Tumbr, Pinterest, etc.

    But the interesting thing to me is not that the guest on the small business focused talk show casually tossed out the 12-14 hours as the standard or expected allotted or expected 'working day', it's that none of the other guests nor the host challenged the assertion in any way. It was a given. It was 'normal'. And while interesting, it certainly isn't surprising, everyone knows, (except maybe the 4-hour work week guy), that small business owners and entrepreneurs have to work longer and harder and give up mostly everything else in their lives for a time in order to get a new venture off the ground.

    That kind of grind, and maybe even worse, comes with the territory. Which is one of the many reasons that small business ownership and entrepreneurship will never be for everyone. Lots of smart, talented, and dedicated folks simply can't or don't choose to sign up for that kind of grind, particularly when they hit a stage in their lives when personal and family obligations increase and become more important, (think kids' school and sports activities, elder care, spouse or partner job transition, and more).

    What's the point?

    I guess that 5 years in to a slowdown-recession-recovery-slowdown cycle that seemingly will go on another 5 years or so, and with so many organizations that have had to fight to survive many of the actual 'survivors' have had a long stretches of time where they've been asked and expected to have the dedication and submit to the lifestyle of the 12-14 hour a day entrepreneur, but usually without any (or many) of the associated benefits.

    The owner and entrepreneur grinds it out because they have a vision, passion, and 'need' to see that vision realized. The W2 wage guy grinds it out usually for different reasons, to fulfill different needs, (almost all of which are financial), and that might be met just as easily somewhere else, and maybe in only 10 hours a day instead of 14.

    I guess I really need an editor because after re-reading this I think I just churned 800 words to re-state the obvious - that leaders and organizations can't really expect the kind of sustained passion and dedication and commitment of an entrepreneur when all you are really offering is a few more dollars and the likelihood that your team members are making incredibly tough choices about what they have to miss each day that many of them never thought they'd have to make.

    How many of your team, or possibly even you yourself, are thinking - 'Hey, I never signed up for this?

    Friday
    Sep072012

    The rest of the room is against you

    Quick take for a Friday that seems like a Thursday. Why is it that these so-called 'short' workweeks always feel so long?

    Anyway - catch the video embedded below, (email and RSS readers will need to click through), courtesy of the sports and pop culture website Grantland, that takes us through the recent NBA Draft experience of one Royce White, a star college player at Iowa State with sure-fire NBA-level talent, but carrying a significant 'too risky' label for many teams, due to his struggles with anxiety disorder and an admitted fear of flying.

    The video is about 8:30, you should watch it all, then come back and be ready to answer a few questions I think White's situation raises for everyone involved in talent assessment, selection, and management.

     

    Wow, pretty powerful and compelling stuff. White, with in the words of his agent, 'The rest of the room against you', will get his chance at the highest level with the Houston Rockets, who seem to be the only team willing to take a chance on a talented guy with a few off the court problems that may or may not effect his ability to perform to the best of his ability.

    Ok, I promised a few questions then I'll wrap this up:

    1. Are the Rockets taking an unnecessary and perhaps reckless risk with one of their prized assets, their 1st round draft pick, by taking White?

    2.  Are the fans, customers, owners of the Rockets going to be patient and understanding if indeed White's problems with anxiety disorder impact negatively his ability to produce results on the court?

    3. Would you, in your role in HR, Recruiting, or just someone with any kind of responsibility or participation in a hiring process be willing to take the bad with the good in a candidate like White? Are you able to play a bit of a long game in your hiring and are you ready to have your own reputation and judgment called into question by making a so-called 'risky' hire?

    After watching the video and learning a little more about Royce White, you can't help feel for the guy and to hope that he is able to overcome or at least deal with his issues and become a successful and productive player.

    But also you want to root for his success not just for him, but for the Rockets organization, (largely Head Coach and NBA legend Kevin McHale), for taking a risk, for looking at the talent as a whole person not just a set of measurements and statistics, and reminding all of us that every candidate deserves a fair reckoning.

    Have a Great Weekend!

    Thursday
    Sep062012

    The Monthly Results Book - now just another app

    Ages ago I worked in a big company corporate finance department where our major group deliverable was something we called the 'Blue Book', a collection of charts, financial reports, and analyses of our division's monthly financial and operating results that was developed, compiled, printed, collated, (really eerie 'Office Space' flashback happening right now), bound up in you guessed it, blue report covers, and distributed to 50 or so leaders and executives across the organization.

    The Blue Book was our version of the truth, the single source for financial information for most of these business and operations leaders, most of whom carried around the most current version of the package in their briefcases as they commuted to the office or tucked under their arms as they attended the next in what seemed like, (and probably was), a series of interminable meetings at the office. It was all ver 1990's and if you know the Office Space re-set, then if you equated the Blue Book to the TPS reports from the movie, then you would not be too far off.

    From time to time we made some incremental changes to the Blue Book contents - we made some fancier charts - remember Harvard Graphics?, dropped a few reports we were pretty sure no one used, and once in a while tightened the distribution list to reflect organizational changes, after all the division financial results were strictly 'need-to-know' material. But we never really changed the manner or method of information dissemination or distribution. Each month we either hand-delivered the books to recipients who were at our HQ, or shipped them off in one of those formerly ubiquitous manila 'Inter-office mail envelopes'. No matter how much better we made the contents, (frankly not that much better), the packaging and delivery never changed, 30 or so pages, three hole punched, six sections, and the familiar blue report cover.

    I have not thought about the Blue Book in a long time, but it came to mind after I downloaded and checked out the 'America's Economy' app the was recently released by the US Census Bureau, (image on this post taken from the App). 

    The App provides real-time updates for 16 key economic indicators released from the US Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Things like employment and unemployment rates, manufacturing measures, international trade balance and flows, and more.

    It is a pretty neat, if simple little App, that allows anyone with access to a smartphone a quick and easy way to find, review, and with Twitter and Facebook integration, optionally share information to their networks.

    So if you have hung in with this (admittedly dull) post to this point you might be wondering what is the point really, besides talking about the America's Economy app and a boring tale from corporate days gone by?

    Here it is - I suspect that many of us are still distributing, communicating, and providing whatever passed for the modern version of our 'Blue Books' in much the same way we have been for years and years. Sure, you probably replaced the printed reports and binders with email and attached PDF files, or set up some kind of online platform or repository to house the data, but my guess is you have not yet been willing or able to change the way you think about sharing and disseminating information all that much.

    My guess is that your executives and managers don't have a simple little app like the America's Economy app where they can, with a couple of fast swipes and taps, see all the relevant data, charts, analyses, trends, etc. that they want and need to know. My guess is that they have to either chase the information, wait until they are in the 'right' place to access it, or perhaps even take decisions without the data.

    The age of the App means that for you, an enterprise service provider, that the bar will continue to climb, and the expectations for ease of use, real-time updates, and having important business information always in hand will only increase. If you have not yet been asked by your leaders questions like, 'That is a nice report, can I get it on my iPhone?', I bet that you will soon.

    And if you don't have a good answer then you might be asked 'Well, the monolith known as the US Government seems to be able to do it, what is your excuse?'