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    Monday
    May182015

    Regret

    Note: This week on the blog I am trying out a little experiment - writing on the first five (or so) subjects that popped out at random from a cool little app called Writing Exercises. The app provides suggestions for topics, characters, first lines - that kind of thing. I tapped the 'Random Subject' button a few times and will (try) to come up with something for each subject I was presented. It may be good, it may stink - who knows? But whatever the topic, I am taking like 20 minutes tops to bang something out. So here goes...

    Today's subject: Regret

    It is pretty typical and generally accepted life advice that one should live and plan and do in order to arrive at a place, usually somewhere near the end of the line, with no or at least very, very few regrets. The line of thinking holds that most people when reaching that point where they are doing a reckoning of their lives feel the worst about the things they never did or never tried or never took the time or risk to explore. Most of us, the thinking goes, lament the things we didn't do, much more so than whatever failures or disappointments we endured from the things we actually did.

    And I think that mostly makes sense. We don't, most likely, get to the end of our time and think about (too much) the more mundane and specific aspects of how we lived - where we worked, what we did, who we socialized with, where we traveled, etc. Of course we will think about our families and close friends, both the ones who have passed and those we might be leaving behind. And one thing I know for sure, no one sits up on their death bed and thinks, 'Gee, I wish I would have drank more glasses of water every day.' So have that Diet Coke or Mountain Dew or Schlitz. Have whatever you want.

    But back to regret, (and I need to wrap this up fast as I got distracted by a shiny object or someone jiggling some keys and I only have 2 minutes left to my self-policed deadline for finishing this post).

    Here's what I think I think about regret.

    If you did truly reach the end of the line with no regrets you probably had a pretty rich, fulfilling, happy, and positive life.

    But it is also quite possible you didn't dream enough or 'big' enough too. I think that it is probably ok to have a regret or two. It is ok to have, at one time, had some kind of big, audacious idea or plan or dream that for whatever reason you were unable to try and make a reality. It is ok to have missed, at least a little.

    I sort of don't really trust people who claim to have no regrets. Kind of the same way I don't really trust people who claim to not watch TV or who don't like White Castle.

    I know I will have at least one regret. And that is writing this post...

    Have a great week! 

    Friday
    May152015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 212 - LIVE from Cornerstone Convergence 2015

    HR Happy Hour 212 - LIVE from Cornerstone Convergence 2015

    Recorded Wednesday May 13, 2015

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guests: Denise Domian, SVP Human Resources, Bon-Ton Stores

    Jason Corsello, VP, Corporate Strategy, Cornerstone OnDemand

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show Steve sat down live at the Cornerstone Convergence 2015 Conference in Los Angeles with Denise Domian, SVP of Human Resources from Bon-Ton Stores, a national chain of department stores with 275 locations and more than 26,000 employees to talk about some of the challenges facing the modern HR leader today, and how Denise and her team at Bon-Ton are leveraging new technologies and strategies to help meet these challenges. Denise shared some great insights on how a deliberate focus on company culture, linking culture to strategic actions, and creating an environment where employees are empowered to connect and collaborate has led to some substantial and positive business outcomes.  You can check out Denise's most recent piece on the Bon-Ton #LOVESTYLE blog here.

    Additionally, Jason Corsello from Cornerstone shared news of some recent and new Cornerstone OnDemand innovations to help enable organizations to gain more insights from their Talent Management data and to make more informed talent decisions based on making better predictions from their data. The next wave of Talent Management technology is all about how to create value and generate positive outcomes from their people data.

    Steve and Denise also commiserated on their shared love of T-accounts and Steve tried to get Denise to validate a Bon-Ton Stores credit he's been holding since 1997.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or by using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    This was a really fun event and a really fun show. Thanks to Denise, Jason, and the team at Cornerstone for hosting the HR Happy Hour Show this week!

    Thursday
    May142015

    CHART OF THE DAY: Messaging Apps vs. Social Networks

    While you were busy growing your empire on Facebook these last few years, something interesting has been happening in the non-US parts of the world and in particular, among those crazy kids that won't get off of your lawn. 

    Global usage of the top 'messaging' apps, (like WhatsApp and WeChat) have caught up with global usage of the top social networking apps, (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Here's the chart, courtesy of Business Insider, then of course, some FREE comments from me after the data. 


    Some quick thoughts on what, if anything this trend might mean for for HR/Talent pros:

    1. Messaging, like regular old SMS texting, is always going to be the most effective way to get people's attention. If you can get into a candidate or prospect or employee's 'white list' of messaging buddies, then you can capture some valuable attention and even more valuable mindshare. Of course this is easier said than done, so for now most of us will just keep emailing....

    2. Communication preferences and habits, as evidenced in how some of these messaging apps dominate in certain countries and among certain age cohorts, vary quite a bit around the world. While the US has been slower to adopt messaging compared to say Asia, other parts of the world see messaging as their de facto communication medium. Some of this is probably due to the greater tendency in many non-US parts of the world for internet usage to be almost completely a mobile-device scenario. And for many of these users, Mobile = Internet = Messaging. Whatever the reason, any HR pro that has to operate globally has to be aware of how local audiences want to and expect to interact and communicate.

    3. Some of the elements that have fueled the growth of messaging apps are bleeding into workplace or enterprise apps as well. The best recent example would be Slack, a corporate communication platform that works on both smartphones and computers, and seems to be succeeding where other attempts to create corporate social networks, i.e. the "Facebook for the Enterprise", have struggled, by replacing e-mail as the main communications channel inside firms.  Organized around short, direct and group messages, organized into topics or projects, Slack seems to be catering to the same kinds of people who have adopted messaging apps overall. 

    Anyway, one last thought, take a look at what kinds of apps your kids are using these days too. Chances are they are using much more messaging and less 'social networking' than you think.

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    May132015

    Hating a workplace tech product is pretty common. But do you hate it enough to switch?

    This week I'm out at Cornerstone Convergence, which is talent management techology provider Cornerstone OnDemand's annual customer event. Cornerstone puts on one of the HR Tech industry's best (and most fun) events each year and it is one event I am sure to make time for each year. Aside, ask me about last year's Poison concert at Convergence - it was amazingly fun. 

    One of the data points that always comes up at these kind of events is customer retention rate, i.e., the percentage of customers that upon initial contract expiration, (typically after three years), decide to actually renew their contracts with the technology solution provider. At the Cornerstone event they mentioned a pretty high retention/renewal rate, somewhere north of 90%, (I can't remember the actual number and it doesn't really matter for the purposes of this post anyway).

    And Cornerstone is not the only HR Tech solution provider that is able to boast such lofty customer retention rates, I would guess that every single time I have heard a vendor, any vendor, talk about customer retention rates their numbers are similar - they claim their existing customer renew at a rate of 90% or better.  And since I have neither a reason to doubt any of the individual reports of extremely high customer retention rates, nor the existence of some kind of industry-wide handshake agreement where every vendor reports 90% and higher retention rates, let's assume that in fact this is the case, and that most customers do in fact, renew their software contracts at these levels.

    So what does that mean, or stated differently, why is a 90%+ retention rate important for the HR/Talent leader? I can think of three reasons, (although three will be easier to remember, so let's stick with that number for now).

    1. If you're actually in the market, (or soon will be), for a new ATS, LMS, HRIS, or any other kind of software that ends in an 'S', you'd better choose wisely, since these extremely high retention rates tell us that most likely you will be in a relationship with this new technology for quite some time. Take a little bit longer in your up front process, engage more folks in the technology evaluations, heck, maybe even earmark some more budget for bringing in some outside experts to help you navigate the selection process. Even in the modern age of SaaS technology, most enterprise software decisions tend to stay with us for a long, long time.

    2. We consistently underestimate people's aversion to change, even when presented with better alternatives. It has been estimated that in some applicaitions that a replacement technology has to be demonstrated as providing 9 times more value and utility than the existing solution in order for most folks to be willing to make a change. We don't like changing things as mundane as toothpaste brands or where we order coffee in the morning, and most of your workforce probably doesn't want you to change their workplace tools all that often, even if the 'new' ones are better. It's just too much hassle for the average, busy worker and manager to learn some new learning or recruiting or compensation tool. Said differently, they may not really like the tools they have now, but at least they know how to use them. 

    3. The ability to consistently deliver on promised future product development promises probably needs to be ranked higher on any HR technology software selection criteria your organization uses when evaluating competing technologies. This is the classic 'It's on the roadmap' stuff that you will hear often in the sales cycle or even after you become a customer. One of the most important challenges for providers is to balance the need for new product and feature development with their simultaneous need to support customers, fix bugs, and stabilize existing applications. How the provider can live up to promised future capabilities, particularly ones that are critical for your organization, becomes more and more important the longer the customer/provider relationship lasts.

    So take all that for what you think it's worth, I predict either if you agree or disagree, 90% or you (or more), will be back tomorrow for the next installment of this nonsense....

    Tuesday
    May122015

    A different view of 'Top' talent, namely that it is mostly a myth

    Caught this piece, The programming talent myth', over the weekend and if you are in the technology space at all (as a techie yourself, someone who has to attract and recruit tech talent, or simply just someone who is concerned/interested with the 'state' of technology today (particularly when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion)), then you should carve out 15 or so minutes today or soon and give the piece a read.

    It is essentially a summary of a recent keynote speech at a developer's event called PyCon given by Jacob Kaplan-Moss, a well-known contributor to the programming language Django and the director of security at Heroku.

    In the speech Kaplan-Ross took square aim at the concept of 'Top' technical talent, (although I would argue his logic would apply to other disciplines as well), and how the dangerous myth of the 'Rock Star' programmer and the terrible programmer (with nothing really in between these extremes), is detrimental on all kinds of levels. It drives people out of technical careers and studies - if you are not a 'Rock Star' you might as well not even bother. It continues to foster and support less-than-healthy norms and lifestyles - 'Rock Star' programmers work 80+ hours a week and don't think of anything other than programming. And finally, it feeds in to what can easily develop into that 'Bro culture' that is common in many smaller startups and tech companies.

    Here is a little piece from the talk:

    Programmers like to think they work in a field that is logical and analytical, but the truth is that there is no way to even talk about programming ability in a systematic way. When humans don't have any data, they make up stories, but those stories are simplistic and stereotyped. So, we say that people "suck at programming" or that they "rock at programming", without leaving any room for those in between. Everyone is either an amazing programmer or "a worthless use of a seat".

    But that would mean that programming skill is somehow distributed on a U-shaped curve. Most people are at one end or the other, which doesn't make much sense. Presumably, people learn throughout their careers, so how would they go from absolutely terrible to wonderful without traversing the middle ground? Since there are only two narratives possible, that is why most people would place him in the "amazing programmer" bucket. He is associated with Django, which makes the crappy programmer label unlikely, so people naturally choose the other.

    But, if you could measure programming ability somehow, its curve would look like the normal distribution. Most people are average at most things.

    It makes sense if you think of programming as not some mystical endeavor that somehow one is innately born with the talent for or is not. If you see programming and other technical occupations as just ones consisting of a set of skills and capabilities that can be learned over time, (like just about every other skill), then the idea of programming talent and programmers existing on a more normal distribution curve seems the most likely outcome.

    One last quote from the piece:

    The tech industry is rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and discrimination. It is a multi-faceted problem, and there isn't a single cause, but the talent myth is part of the problem. In our industry, we recast the talent myth as "the myth of the brilliant asshole", he said. This is the "10x programmer" who is so good at his job that people have to work with him even though his behavior is toxic. In reality, given the normal distribution, it's likely that these people aren't actually exceptional, but even if you grant that they are, how many developers does a 10x programmer have to drive away before it is a wash?

    How much does the 'Rock Star' mentality and assumption play in to toxic workplaces, less inclusive workforces, and unfulfilled 'Good, but not a Rock Star' people?

    It is a really interesting piece, and Kaplan-Ross' speech is also on YouTube here, and I recommend checking it out.