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    OFF TOPIC: The Collateral Damage of Gangnam Style

    You might have caught the news last week that the video Gangnam Style has been viewed so frequently, (2 BILLION plus times), that it actually 'broke' YouTube, whose underlying code had been unable to store and display a video views count above 2,147,483,647.

    YouTube subsequently fixed the bug, if it even could be called a bug, and now assures us that it can handle a views count maximum of somewhere north of 9 quintillion.

    Let's hope that Gangnam Style, (or Grumpy Cat or Celebrities Reading Mean Tweets or anything else) doesn't ever get too close to breaking YouTube again.


    Because there is a cost of sorts in all this YouTube watching. An opportunity cost really, for all of us. A few months back, before Gangnam Style broke YouTube, the folks at the Economist did some calculations to estimate what else humanity might have been able to accomplish with all the time spent (140M hours at that point), watching Gangnam Style.

    Here is the chart from the Economist that will proably make you weep a little bit for humanity:


    One Gangnam Style equates to 20 Empire State Buildings, 4 Great Pyramids, and almost 2 new Wikipedias.

    That is potentially the kinds of things we could have accomplished had we spent the time watching Gangnam Style in more productive endeavors.

    Look, I am not sitting here saying I spend every waking minute in deep study, volunteering for the less fortunate, saving abandoned puppies, or helping elderly folks cross the street.

    I waste plenty of time. I do.

    But seeing this kind of data does make me pause a little. I know I can do better, and I only contributed 1 measly view to the 2 Billion count for Gangnam Style. 

    I know I can do better. Probably you can too.

    Have a great weekend!


    The former next big thing

    I was doing some cleaning/organizing/trying to find something (there's almost no difference), over the weekend when in a box of old papers and books I came across the CD that you see pictured on the right (click on the pic for a much larger version).Click for an enormous version of this

    Since it still might be a little tough to catch all the details from the pic, let me explain what you're looking at.

    This CD dates from 1997 and contains the Functional Overviews, (essentially user manuals), for Oracle Applications products for Finance, Supply Chain, Human Resources, and more. But more notable than the fact that I still have an almost 20-year old CD set of Oracle Apps manuals, is the particular Applications release or version number of the products - something called 10SC.

    For those reading this post not familiar with Oracle Apps Release history the 'SC' in 10SC stood for 'Smart Client' - in Oracle-speak, 10SC was the initial version of the applications that were deployed using graphical forms instead of character-based input screens, and in true client-server mode.

    After typing that I just realized there are probably lots of readers that in addition to not being familiar with old Oracle Apps version numbers, probably are not even that familiar with the notion of 'client-server' as well. Put really simply, client-server was/is a method of deploying applications installed on a central computer (the server) to the end users (the clients) over a local area network, a wide area network, or, later, the internet.

    Prior to the client-server revolution, business applications were primarily installed on mainframes and minicomputers that possessed input/output terminals, (I know, this post has officially become incredibly boring, I promise I am getting to the point soon), so the migration to more advanced client-server application architectures was a VERY BIG DEAL.

    I mean a big, huge, massive deal. If we had Twitter or LinkedIn back then you would have been inundated with pieces like '10 Ways Client-Server is Going to Change How Work Gets Done' and 'Client-Server offers HR Leaders the Opportunity to Re-shape HR service delivery'. And if you were not on board with Client-server for some reason, you'd have been labeled some kind of technology Luddite and a 'typical HR person' getting in the way of progress because you didn't stay on top of technology trends.

    Kind of the same way that the 'Cloud' has been referred to in about 14,980 articles written this year.

    So here is the point. It is not that the Cloud and how HR technology has changed dramatically in the last few years isn't important. It is. It does matter and I firmly believe that owning the HR and workplace technology agenda is the true secret to developing lasting influence and power in organizations.

    It is just that this has pretty much ALWAYS been the case and the Cloud or smartphones or wearable devices are just the latest manifestations or versions of Client-server, or Email or Fax machines.

    Sure you might be tempted to say 'You are wrong, things are moving faster. It is different this time.'

    You are right. It is different this time. It's different EVERY time.

    Keep this in mind as you wind down 2014 and read any 'Top HR and HR Tech predictions for 2015' pieces. Even ones where your humble correspondent might be quoted.

    Happy Thursday.

    Note: If anyone from Oracle is reading this and wants the 10SC CD, let me know I will send!


    Prepare to be disappointed

    The full title of this post really should be 'Prepare to be disappointed: The 2014-2015 New York Knicks', but I wanted to at least try not to scare away any potential readers, particularly ones that get tired of the 8 Man Rotation 'Sports and HR' posts.

    I promise this post isn't really about the Knicks or sports, not completely anyway.

    The backstory:

    I arrived back home at HR Happy Hour HQ at about 7:55PM ET last night and realized that it was about 5 minutes before the tip off time for the Knicks, (my favorite NBA team since forever, my favorite holiday picture from my childhood features a 5 or 6 year old me sporting New York Knicks pajamas that Santa had bestowed), who were matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans, (not a very good team, but better than the Knicks, much like just about every other team so far this year is better than the Knicks). 

    As I quickly gathered up some snacks and a needed beverage, scurrying to be in my favored easy chair for the start of the game the thought that popped into my mind was that all I was really doing was preparing to be disappointed - the Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league and have lost a number of close games recently, the kinds of losses that really sting for longtime fans (and I suppose the players too). Heading into last night's game, there was no logical reason to expect the Knicks would be able to defeat the Pelicans, I didn't think they had much of a chance anyway, so all I was doing by planning my evening, (partially), around watching the game was really just preparing to be disappointed by the eventual Knicks loss.

    OK, that was a lot of nonsense about basketball to get me to the point, so here goes.

    I have ceased letting Knicks loss after loss bother me. Sure, I would rather they were better, I would enjoy more frequent wins. But I get that this is not going to be a very good year for them. And so as a hedge against the Knicks stumbling and bumbling, I have adopted the much better (and much more fun to watch), Atlanta Hawks as my proxy team for the season. 

    The Hawks have a solid winning record so far this season, play an upbeat and entertaining style of basketball, and, importantly, have never been a significant or hated rival to my Knicks. They have always just been another team in the league, so supporting them is not really traitorous to my team, but rather serves as a way for me to keep invested in something I enjoy, (NBA basketball), while not allowing the terrible Knicks team to ruin the overall experience of the sport.

    So now the point (no one has kept reading until this point I am thinking).

    The Knicks, and there relentless way of disappointing me and their other fans probably represent a lot of our real lives too. Jobs that we really can't stand. Managers that are always on our cases. Co-workers that let us down, (at best), or stab us in the back (more likely). Significant others that just seem to do the same annoying things over and over again. And if you have kids, well, I don't need to delineate all the ways they manage to exasperate, frustrate, and yes, even disappoint us. 

    How do we deal with all that, with all that disappointment?

    I think we have to find the version of the Atlanta Hawks in all these varying situations.

    The part, even if it small or insignificant, that is pretty reliably positive. The element that we can latch on to in a bad situation and take something positive from. 

    There is something about your crappy job that has value. Your slacker boyfriend probably takes good care of your cat. There is likely at least one person amongst the clowns you work with from which you can learn something.

    This isn't about seeing the bright side in a given, bad situation, it is about seeing a different side.

    I am stuck supporting the terrible Knicks because they are my team. But I can still take enjoyment from the Hawks, (up until they play the Knicks), without being a traitor.

    And you can find something to love about your job while not betraying your very real hatred for it.

    Ok, that is it, I am out.

    Note: It is halftime of the Knicks-Pelicans game. The Knicks are only down by 2. Maybe I won't be disappointed after all. 


    ECON 101: On high, low, and middle-skilled workers

    There is a great analysis on how workers holding jobs in different skill levels, (high, middle, and low) over at the Federal Reserve of Atlanta site that if you are as much of a labor market/macro workforce data geek as I am, I highly recommend reading.

    The question the researchers set out to answer was based in this: We know that from a combination of the most recent economic recession and augmented by persistently advancing automation technology, that so-called 'middle' skilled workers were the most hard-hit group in the last downturn and recovery. What the researchers wanted to understand is what has or is happening to these displaced middle skill workers. Were they still out of work? Were they forced into lower skilled or service-type jobs? Or did they get the opportunity to move into more highly-skilled (and better paying) jobs?

    Note - for the purposes of this analysis, 'middle-skilled' cconsists of office and administrative occupations; sales jobs; operators, fabricators, and laborers; and production, craft, and repair personnel (many of whom work in the manufacturing industry).

    So let's take a look at the data - first the aggregate employment levels since 1998 for each skill category:

    As of September 2014, the middle-skill employment level was still about 9 percent below the (pre-recession) 2007 level. In contrast, employment in low-skill occupations is 7 percent above pre-recession levels, and employment in high-skill occupations is about 8 percent higher than before the recession took hold. So the first assumption, that middle-skilled workers were hit harder by the recession/recovery than workers in the low and high skilled groups seems to have held up.

    But what has been happening to these displaced middle-skilled workers? Surprisingly, many of them are/have moved into the high-skilled classification. About 83% of the displaced middle-skilled workers that are back employed are still in middle-skilled roles. But what about the other 17% of workers?

    Let's take a look at the data:

    The data shows that about 13% of the group has transitioned from a middle-skilled job into a high-skilled one. Only about 3.5% have been driven into a low-skilled role. This may seem like a small percentage of upward mobility, but it still seems significant to note.

    If, as many economists expect, there continues to be further pressure and erosion of middle-skilled workers (which if you take another look at the first chart you will see still make up the largest category), it is important to the overall economy what happens to displaced middle-skilled workers. If they can transition into high-skilled roles, they see on average a 27% increase in compensation, as opposed to a 24% drop if they move into low-skilled roles.

    While this data and these figures seem all kind of abstract and distant, then think about them this way: Think about your life and lifestyle with a 27% raise in compensation. Then think about it with a 24% pay cut. Pretty big difference, right?

    And then take those scenarios, multiply them by 10 million or so, and now you have some feel for how important this issue is for the US economy.


    Permanent Availability

    Good Monday morning!

    Let me ask you something, and be honest - Did you check your work email over the weekend? Tap out any quick messages or replies from your smartphone while you were out shopping or at the football game or 'spending time with family?'

    I bet you did.

    Everyone does it seems these days.

    This is not a brand new story, but it popped up again over the weekend - Germany Examines Ban on Employees Checking Work Email at Home, a review of some potential legislation to effectively eliminate most 'off-hours' Emails in that country. The country's Labor Minister Andrea Nahles says that it is "indisputable that there is a connection between permanent availability and psychological diseases." 

    Love that line. 

    It sounds a little far-fetched, but even the idea that some combination of workaholism, unhealthy workplace culture and expectations, and enabled by technology that leads to this notion of 'permanent availability' could lead to psychological diseases is at least fascinating.

    And some German companies like Volkswagen, at least partially driven by work contracts and labor rules are adopting the 'no Email after hours' policies. So whether it becomes a government forced mandate or an employer-driven initiative (and possibly something that is collectively bargained), it seems there is at least some traction developing in Germany for a ban or at least a significant restriction on after-hours work communications.

    Let's jump back across the pond to the USA, where those two conditions, some kind of a ban on after-hours email via legislation, or individual company/labor contract agreements to effect the same, are very unlikely. 

    So then, why should we Americans care or even think about this?

    Well for two reasons I think.

    One, regardless of where you are from, if there is some validity to Labor Minister Nahles' claim that email addiction can lead to psychological diseases, then we 'always on' American worker types are even more in jeopardy of falling victim to burnout, stress, depression, and such.

    And two, as HR and business leaders, it probably is time to think about the workplace effects of this new 'permanent availability' with respect to productivity, engagement, retention, and overall performance. Are we really getting the best or most optimal performance, (and working towards being a great/super/amazing/classy place to work), if we have as an organization effectively expanded everyone's working hours to, essentially, all of the time?

    Some time back I postulated that you could discover everything about a company's culture by examining one weekend's worth of corporate email traffic.

    How much email volume is there on the weekend? Who is driving that? How are the response rates and times, particularly when upper management is sending emails out to subordinates? 

    That kind of thing.

    I think if you believe that doing great HR is really about helping organizations perform at their best, that you should be paying attention to what is going on with these 'banning after-hours email' issues. Because even if you know that these bans will never take effect in the US, the reasons that they are even being considered are pretty important, and universal.

    Have a great week!