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    Thursday
    Jan052017

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #2

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of having lots of 'real' work to do in this first week of 2017, I am going to steal borrow the idea for this site. So here goes, the first in what may be a series if I remember to do this again, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). Expect a mix of HR, workplace, Tech, sports, pop culture, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Overrated

    1. 2017 Predictions - Yes, I am a little biased since Trish McFarlane and I just did an HR Happy Hour Show titled 'There are no new HR predictions', but nonetheless, 99.95% of the 'predictions' pieces you see about HR or work or technology are 87.95% worthless, and more or less a waste of your time. Stop with the predictions and get on with the getting stuff done.

    2. Apple - leaving Apple on the overrated list again. Why? I just saw a Kickstarter project for a device to essentially replace all the MacBook ports that Apple decided you didn't need has been a runaway smash. What is happening with Amazon and Alexa reminds us (again), that the hardware is less important than the software and the platform. 

    3. Work/Life Integration - As yesterday's post about the new 'No email after 6PM' regulations in France suggest, I think the notion that most people want 'Integration' or 'Fit' between work and not-work may be finally unraveling, at least some. it could be that many, if not most people, don't want to bring their work home, or on vacation, or on Thanksgiving. It could be we want to work hard, (when we are working), and forget about work when we are not working. Just because a few pundits try and tell you that 'Balance' is the wrong term and concept doesn't mean you have to believe it.

    4. Company Culture - Important, sure. But not more important than Talent or Strategy. (A repeat from last time as well, I am going to keep beating this drum until, well, for a while longer anyway).

    5. The New York Knicks - Just lost their 6th in a row. Moving them from 'Under' to 'Over' rated. Another wasted season seems more and more possible. Time to trade 'Melo. 

     

    Underrated

    1. Amazon - Fun Fact! Amazon was my #2 underrated the first time I did this post last summer. Why are they on here again, and now at the top spot? Because all the interesting news I heard this week from the big CES show in Vegas has been about Amazon and their Alexa operating system. They are into everything - enterprise cloud services, content, drones, spaceships, and now they are set to dominate AI and conversational interfaces. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Apple's Siri? 

    2. Electronic signatures - Been processing a ton of contracts, agreements, etc. lately and the lack of adoption of electronic signatures has been a major pain in the neck. I have had to print, sign, scan, save, then email I am not sure how many docs in the last month. So tedious. Let's all please move E-sigs up on the list of things to do in 2017.

    3. A basketball hoop in the driveway/backyard - Had the chance to play a little backyard hoops over the holidays. Man, I miss having a hoop in the backyard. Goal for 2017 is to get one. And a yard. 

    4. Email consolidation - In 2017, I have gone from 3 main 'work' email addresses and calendars down to 2. (I know I should only have one, but cut me a break). I already, three days in, have noticed a huge difference. AND, I cleared out my voice mail (finally). But please, don't leave me a voice mail.

    5. The Rose Parade - It's is still fun. It is still a great tradition. It is still what helps you get over your New Year's Eve hangover the next morning. I am there in person next year.

    Properly Rated

    1. Tech M&A - Yes, it is that time of year when companies start acquiring other companies, doing mergers, or making 'acqui-hires'. These events are almost always met with breathless and excited coverage and commentary from industry pundits and observers. But the thing is, M&A, and Tech M&A in particular, is about a 50/50 proposition, (at best). Maybe slow your roll on how wonderful the next big M&A deal is going to be before the new company business cards are even printed.

    2. Tesla - Probably not as influential and important (yet) as the insane amount of coverage they get warrants. They delivered 76,000 cars in 2016. That is 76,000 out of a market of over 17 million vehicles. Keep that in perspective.

    3. Ad blocking software - Is it just me, or are more and more 'free' websites failing to load if you have Ad Block software enabled? Ad blocking is now only marginally effective, and thus, 'properly' rated.

    4. The 'Process' - The mad scientist plan of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie to rebuild the team by essentially losing almost every game for three seasons has swung from over, to under, and now has settled I think inot properly rated. But Joel Embiiid himself is probably underrated.

    5. Snow at Christmas - Yes, it's pretty. Yes, it makes it 'feel' like Christmas. But by December 26 it is just, for the most part, a nuisance. I am angling for Christmas on a beach somewhere next year.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Wednesday
    Jan042017

    UPDATE: New Year, Less After Hours Email?

    Last March I posted about a proposed French law that would make after-hours email and other forms of work-related communication more or less 'ignoreable' for employees. After 6PM on work days, (and on holidays and weekends), French workers could not be compelled to be 'on' and responsive to the bosses 10PM emails or expected to be 'available' via their phones on weekends or on their vacations.

    In March I offered these comments on the proposed email regulations:

    At least here in the USA, the vast majority of advice and strategery around helping folks with trying to achieve a better level of work/life balance seems to recommend moving much more fluidly between work and not-work. Most of the writing on this seems to advocate for allowing workers much more flexibility over their time and schedules so that they can take care of personal things on 'work' time, with the understanding that they are actually 'working' lots of the time they are not technically 'at work'. Since we all have smartphones that connect us to work 24/7, the thinking goes that we would all have better balance and harmony between work and life by trying to blend the two together more seamlessly.

    And I guess that is reasonably decent advice and probably, (by necessity as much as choice), that is what most of us try and do to make sure work and life are both given their due.

    But the proposal from the French labor minister is advocating the exact opposite of what conventional (and US-centric), experts mostly are pushing. The proposed French law would (at least in terms of email), attempt to re-build the traditional and clear divide and separation between work and not-work. If this regulation to pass, and if it is outside of your 'work' time, then feel free to ignore that email. No questions asked. No repercussions. At least in theory.

    But here is the question I want to leave with you: What if the French are right about this and the commonly accepted wisdom and advice about blending work and life is wrong?

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, working all the time?

    What if you truly shut it down at 5PM every day?

    That is some of what I had to say about that regulation back in March. Now to the 'Update' part of the post - it turns out that proposed 'No email after 6PM' law actually did pass, and went into effect in France at the New Year.

    From January 1 onwards, employers having 50 or more employees in France will have to offer their staffs a 'right to disconnect'. From coverage of the new regulation in the Guardian, "Under the new law, companies will be obliged to negotiate with employees to agree on their rights to switch off and ways they can reduce the intrusion of work into their private lives."

    If the organization and the employees can't come to an agreement, then the employer must publish a charter or set of rules that explicitly state the demands on, and rights of, employees during non-work hours.

    It is going to be interesting to follow this story to see how it plays out in France, if employers really do follow the edicts of the new regulations, (there are not yet punitive measures in place for employers who do not comply), and if these regulations prove to impact organizational productivity and employee well-being.

    For my part, thinking about this story for the first time since last March when the new law was initially proposed, I don't think my reaction is any different now than it was then.

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, expected to be working all the time?

    Have a great Wednesday. Have fun poring through the 19 emails that came for you last night. Unless you were up at 11PM replying to them already.

    Monday
    Jan022017

    VACATION REWIND: Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From July - Five Quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engaged, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was probably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great and exciting and prosperous 2017!

    Friday
    Dec302016

    VACATION REWIND: The secret to buying software

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From May - The Secret to Buying Software

    Indulge me, if you will, with a short quote from The Book of Basketball:

    (Isiah Thomas, NBA legend with the Detroit Pistons):

    "The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball."

    Here’s what Isiah Thomas meant: the guys who have the best numbers don’t always make the best team. There is more to winning than just the raw talent (although that plays a huge role).

    What Isiah learned while following those Lakers and Celtics teams around: it wasn’t about basketball.Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else." 

    What does the 'secret' of winning basketball have to do with 'real' work and more specifically, enterprise software?
    It is that more and more the 'secret' of making the right software solution purchase decision for your organization has less and less to do with the traditional measurements - system features, fit-gap analysis, and on-paper capability; and has more and more to do with the your mutual vision for the future, and the ability to execute on that shared vision by your potential software provider.

     

    Solution capabilities, certainly at the enterprise level, are evolving and expanding faster than ever. With cloud-based software deployment, shorter enhancement and upgrade cycles, and the comparative ease for organizations who wish to adopt new these capabilities to be able to derive value from them - the actual list of capabilities or 'yes' responses to an RFP questionnaire matter less than ever before.

     

    No, what matters today, and will likely matter even more in the next 5 years, is your ability to assess a potential software providers ability to 'see' around the corner, to articulate an idea of what will matter most for work, workplaces, and employees, and present more than just a list of software features, but rather expand upon a vision of how they (and you), will navigate the next few years of a working world that will almost certainly look much different than the one we live in today.

     

    Think I am wrong about this? That 'features' matter less than vision?

     

    Ok, think about this.

     

    If say three years ago you went out to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system, you would have challenged your potential vendors to show you features like goal alignment, cascading goal assignment, proportional competency evaluation, the connection of performance rating scores to compensation plans, and more. You would have made final evaluations not only on these points, but also on how easily you could migrate your existing annual performance management process to this new system.

    Fast forward to today, where we are entering into a new world of employee performance management.

    Today, if you were again to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system you likely would be looking for features like real-time feedback, peer-to-peer recognition, the ability to do 'scoreless' reviews, and a connection of the performance tool not to your comp system, but to your enterprise collaboration tools.

    The main features you would be chasing would be very, very different.

    That's why the secret to buying software for the organization is that it isn't about the software - at least not as it exists at a fixed point in time.

    If three years ago your chosen vendor for performance technology had the vision, and the ability to adapt to the new world of performance management, then you likely would not need to chase another new solution to meet your (and the workplace's) changing needs. But if they didn't? And they were really only or at least primarily concerned with checking 'yes' to every question on the RFP?

    Then three years later you are left with a technology that can really only support yesterday's process.

    Don't get caught up on features. At least don't make features the only thing you think about when evaluating technology.

    Features are cheap. They are easily copied. And they fall out of fashion faster than you think.

    Vision?

    Much harder to come by. And much more valuable.

    The secret to buying software is that it's not about the software.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Dec292016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 270: There are no new HR predictions

    HR Happy Hour 270- There Are No New HR Predictions

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the show, Trish and Steve discuss why there are no new HR predictions.  Every year by January, there are a slew of articles, blog posts and social media discussions around HR predictions.  As usual, we're finding that none of the predictions are new.  They tend to be restated from previous years. This episode talks about that and what business leaders should be focused on instead.

    We also spent some time talking about what is coming up in 2017.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below (email and RSS subscribers need to click through)

    This was a fun and informative show, we hope you like it! Thanks to show sponsor Virgin Pulse -learn more about them at www.virginpulse.com.

    Remember: Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to find and subscribe to the show.

    Thanks to everyone who listened in 2016 and Happy HR New Year!