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    Wednesday
    Sep272017

    Protests, free speech, and how the 'Work/life blend' people got it wrong

    Your right to free speech in the workplace has largely been a settled matter, at least here in the US. 

    Essentially, you don't have any such right in the workplace. Or said differently, if you attempt in going too far in exercising what you think should be your right to free speech in the workplace, the company that employs you can and possibly will relieve you from your position without much deliberation and without recourse.

    And most employees, I think, more or less get that. They understand the tradeoff, they know that the company does not exist to create a forum for employees to exercise their rights to free speech as and when they like. 'On the clock' time belongs to the company. Computers, phones, and other company owned devices shouldn't be used for activities that are not a part of your 'official' role.

    Like I said, most of us get that. Back when email was first introduced into organizations as a work tool, we (tried) not to use it to email all of our non-work friends. We (tried) not to make a bunch of personal calls from the office phone. And (if we were smart), saved any break room or water cooler talk to last night's game or episode of The Sopranos. 

    The time and place for provocative, controversial, or potentially divisive speech or conversations was pretty much understood to be when you were not at work, and not in the workplace. And that worked (reasonably) well for most folks for a quite some time. 

    Even as technology modernized, and tools like PCs, home broadband connections, and later smart phones and social networks became more ubiquitous, there still was a decent understanding that work time was work time, and non-work time, (and freedom of speech time), was non-work time.  But just like water finds its way to fill up all available space, work too, tries to find its way into more and more of our personal space.

    Over time, it made sense for many companies and for their employees to think a little more fluidly and creatively about 'work' and 'non-work'. The above mentioned technologies, along with more employee's desire to be more present and fulfilled in their personal and family life, and in the last seven or eight years and increasingly tight labor market have all combined to drive many workplaces and roles to be designed much, much more flexibly than in the past. 

    Lots of folks no longer think about work as a place they go and a set of tasks they perform at specific, defined times each day. Usually Monday to Friday by the way. But the tech and the demands of work and employee desires have made it so that 'work' is not so much a place or a time but rather just a thing(s) someone does.

    Who cares if you take the conference call from your kitchen table or if you work on the presentation at 9PM on a Saturday or that you skip some boring all hands meeting to catch Jr's soccer game? When work isn't a time or a place and it just is something you do, then when and where you are at any given time is irrelevant. You do what you need to do (at an acceptable quality level or not).

    But what happened next is that more and more organizations and people too came to find that all this flexibility and fluidity came with an unexpected cost. 

    Work, like water, never stopped flowing. Even when we were almost certain we were not working. Like when we were at that soccer game. Or on vacation. Or at 9AM on Sunday morning. Work became a constant companion, in a way that non-work, despite skipping out from the office to catch a 3rd grade recital never did.

    As the balance between work and not work shifted more and more towards work, then we were suddenly informed by small but loud subset of 'experts' that we needed to stop talking about work/life balance, (which we were told we could no longer achieve), and focus on something called 'work/life blend'. 

    The 'blend' agenda, was/is more or less an admission no longer can work be safely and easily partitioned off from non-work. Sure, you might be able to get away with taking an hour away from your email when you are at the recital but you better check in when you get home or at halftime of the soccer game. Weirdly, being available, accessible, and responsive all the time has become a badge of honor and value for lots of folks. And more and more an expectation of their employers.

    Once you buy into the 'blend' argument, then work is never really something you can completely place aside. Not for long anyway.

    And that might be perfectly fine most of the time for most people. Being able to not be tied to a specific workplace location for specific times has been an incredible benefit for lots and lots of people, (and has increased attendance at elementary school plays immeasurably).

    But recent events in the news help remind us that this 'blend' also comes with a cost beyond just 'My Saturday night might be interupted by an email I have to answer'. The 'blend' also comes with a potential loss of one of the freedoms that most of us take for granted. 

    When you buy in to the idea that 'balance' and by implication 'separation' between work and non-work is no longer possible, then you have tacitly bought into ceding more of your rights and protections than you probably think.

    We've heard and read a lot of talk about how no one's freedom of speech fully extends to the workplace.

    What happens when the workplace extends out to us, to everywhere we go, to everything we do?

    Enjoy that blend.

    Tuesday
    Sep262017

    CHART OF THE DAY: What do employee health benefits cost anyway?

    In between arguing with sports teams, players, owners, and fans on Twitter, one of the other things that the US government's leaders have spent a bunch of time on in 2017 are the attempts, (and so far, 'attempting' is all that has been done), at revising, reforming, or replacing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

    And while I, or no one else as far as I can tell, has any clue what is going to happen with the ACA and whatever might come next, I have been thinking about benefits, in particular employer sponsored health benefits lately, for reasons that are both boring and not really that important.

    While on a internet foray on this topic over the weekend, (I know, my life is REALLY exciting), I landed on an excellent resource for this kind of data, Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) 2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey, which was recently released.

    The annual survey is a joint project of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. The survey was conducted between January and June of 2017 and included 3,938 randomly selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees (including 2,137 that responded to the full survey and 1,801 others that responded to a single question about offering coverage).

    So to get back to the title/question of the post, here is today's CHART OF THE DAY, a quick look at just what employer sponsored health care benefits cost, (the premium) and how much the average employee contributes to that cost. Here's the data, then some comments from me after the chart:

     

    Some thoughts...

    1. Wow, that chart is harder to read than I hoped for. Here is a link to the in a much larger size.

    2. In case you still have trouble making out the details, for 2017 the average cost (premium) for employer-based family coverage was $18,764 annually with the employee contributing, on average, $5,714, or about 30% of the premium.

    3. This split, or ratio of employer funding to employee contribution varies a bit by company size. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, companies larger than 200 employees contribute about 72% of the annual premium, while smaller employers (fewer than 200 employees), only contribute 64%. This difference equates to about an extra $1,600 annually that the employee would have to contribute.

    4. Surprisingly, the rate of premium increases has slowed in recent years. According to the survey, annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 3 percent to $18,764 this year, continuing a six-year run of relatively modest increases.

    5. There are about 151 million Americans who are covered via an employer-sponsored healthcare plan. That makes the employer market by far the single largest source of health care coverage for folks in the US.

    Really interesting data, and there is lots more to dig into at the KFF site.

    As I said, I have no clue what is going to happen with ACA, or whatever might come next. But I do think the more you know about how many Americans access and pay for health care the better informed you will be and the better prepared to make decisions for yourself, your family, and your organization.

    Friday
    Sep222017

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 297 - Enterprise Learning and Development in 2017

    HR Happy Hour 297 - Enterprise Learning and Development in 2017

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Jenny Dearborn, SVP and CLO, SAP

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve is joined by Jenny Dearborn, SVP and Chief Learning Officer of SAP to talk about enterprise learning and development, the role of technology, and how companies and individuals can best prepare themselves for the world of work ahead.

    With all the changes, dynamism, and challenges facing organizations as well as employees with respect to ongoing learning, skills development, and the need to prepare both our organizations and ourselves for the future world of work, the role of the learning leader and its importance have changed over time.

    From the era of 'formal' training, to design focused approaches, to the modern world of mobile and social learning, the need for organizations, and HR and learning leaders to continuously adapt and change has never been more important.

    Jenny shared insights from her perspective as the CLO of a large, global organization, as well as her years advising both individuals and organizations as they contend with important learning and development challenges in 2017 and beyond.

    Additionally, Jenny and Steve talked about their mutual love and admiration for super heroes and comic books, and geeked out about Wonder Woman.

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

    Jenny's upcoming book, The Data Driven Leader: A Powerful Approach to Leading with Analytics, Driving Decisions, and Delivering Breakthrough Business Results can be pre-ordered here.

    Thanks to HR Happy Hour Show sponsor Virgin Pulsewww.virginpulse.com.

    Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or wherever you get your podcasts - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Wednesday
    Sep202017

    How important is knowing the product for a new hire?

    I riffed yesterday about how JetBlue is leaning into a pretty serious shortage of pilot candidates by expanding the talent pools and significantly increasing their investment in training and development in order to essentially 'build' the candidates they are having trouble finding otherwise. And while 'airline pilot' seems like one of the last kinds of job ads you'd see with a 'no experience required' listed in the job req, JetBlue is trying to make it work in order to meet their recruiting goals.

    I thought about that case study/experiment again this morning when I saw the announcement of the newest appointee to the Twitter Board of Directors, (not quite having the responsibility of an airline pilot, but hang in their with me for a minute). Turns out the newest member of Twitter's board is not really a user of Twitter.

    From a piece in Business Insider titled Ex-Google CFO Patrick Pichette is joining Twitter's board, and he just tweeted for the first time:

    Twitter's board is swapping Pepsi CFO Hugh Johnston for ex-Google CFO Patrick Pichette.

    Johnston is leaving Twitter to join Microsoft's board, he said in a series of tweets Tuesday. Pichette is joining Twitter's board after retiring as Google's CFO in 2015 and completing a two-year sabbatical.

    Interestingly, Pichette doesn't seem to be much of a Twitter user. His account says he joined the service in February 2017 and his first tweet was published Tuesday announcing his appointment to the board

    Ok, so the dude was a successful C-suite exec, had a high-profile gig at one of the world's most admired companies, and then cashed out to take two years having fun and whatever it is people with lots of cash and time on their hands like to do. He didn't have time to Tweet at all, but then again, being CFO of Google probably consumes a ton of time and energy and those two-year sabbaticals can be exhausting. I mean, just think about how you feel after your two-day sabbatical at the end of every week. Then multiply that feeling by 350 or so.

    But I digress.

    The point is the newest member of the Board of Directors for Twitter, a company that has been around for a decade, and for better or worse, has been a pretty significant influence on news, politics, social causes, and more for most of that time, has never really used Twitter.

    I would imagine in the last ten years there must have been a time or two where Mr. Pichette at least considered setting up a Twitter account and testing out the product/service and each time decided, 'That's not really for me.'

    Which is certainly his prerogative. I imagine there are lots of successful, accomplished, smart types who have decided not to engage on or otherwise use Twitter. But usually those kinds of people don't get appointed to executive or board-level roles on Twitter. And this isn't a knock on Mr. Pichette and his ability to do a great job on Twitter's board. His CFO experience might be just what Twitter needs right now.

    But just like the JetBlue story, the appointment of Pichette, seemingly a person who does not know all that much about the product of Twitter to the Board speaks to the increasing importance in tightening labor markets of taking a more expansive view of the addressable talent pools.

    Train someone to be a commercial airline pilot who has never flown a plane of any kind? 

    Sure.

    Put someone on the Board of Directors of a company who has never used or experienced the product?

    Ok.

    Hire someone for your next Marketing Manager role who doesn't actually have 'Seven years of progressive experience doing exactly the job we want you to do here in the same industry that we are in?'

    Why not?

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Sep192017

    A reminder that any 'skills gap' is also an employer's problem to solve

    Whether or not there is a true 'skills gap' crisis in the US labor market is certainly subject to debate. For every analysis that indicates that the pipeline of qualified candidates that colleges and other training programs are producing are not meeting the demands of employers for specific skills, you can pretty easily find other data that suggests the US has more than enough of available talent to meet most employer needs.

    But while the data and thinking around the existence of a true skills gap can seem contradictory, the investments and ownership by employers of the problem (assuming it is a problem), has tended to shift in one consistent direction. Namely, over time employers have tended to want to invest less in development, apprenticeship, and other initiatives for either entry level employees or for more experienced hires who require more advanced and specific experience and skills.

    Most employers these days, it seems, want new hires whatever the level or role to walk in to the organization immediately ready to be productive without needing long ramp up times and without having to make extensive and expensive investments in training.

    But what if the roles that the company needs to fill are so specialized, require an incredibly specific set of skills, and that these skills have been demonstrated and certified with proof of thousands of hours of practice? For these kinds of jobs, companies have to become more involved and invested in developing candidate pipelines you would think. It is either that, or face a candidate shortage, experience longer fill times, and likely suffer serious adverse businss impact in the form of lost revenue, poor customer service, and missed deadlines.

    One company, faced with exactly this recruiting and development challenge, and facing an extremely tight and competitive candidate market is doing almost exactly the opposite of what many companies have done with respect to investment in new hire development. They are expanding the market, looking beyond their normal sources for candidates, and most importantly, taking ownership of the 'skills gap' challenge.

    The company is JetBlue Airlines and the hard to fill role is commercial airline pilot.

    From a recent piece on PSFK on how JetBlue is trying to address this recruiting challenge:

    The airline company developed Gateway Select, a special training program for its pilots that took people with little to no flying experiences and turned them into pilots. The program worked out so well for the company that they are once again looking for new recruits. The first round opened in 2016, with 24 chosen applicants out of a pool of 1,5000, including a grocery store clerk, an accountant, and a baggage handler. Trainees will learn about meteorology, aerodynamics and aircraft systems, go through flight simulators, and get in the necessary 1,500 hours of flying experience.

    Think about that a little bit.

    One of the most specific, demanding, and important jobs in the world, commercial airline pilot, and JetBlue is essentially looking past traditional candidate pools and feeder programs, (mostly the US military which has their own pilot shortages they are dealing with), and taking ownership of their challenge by thinking differently about what constitutes a good candidate.

    If JetBlue is willing and able to train the 'right' candidates for pilot roles, even if they are currently accountants or store clerks, then what is holding you back in expanding your own ideas about candidates and their suitability for your open roles?

    Think about that when you post your next position for a finance or HR or marketing or operations role where you require 10+ years of relevant and specific experience doing exactly the same job that you are hiring for.

    If JetBlue can turn store clerks into pilots, then you too can think more expansively and creatively about who is qualified for your roles.

    Have a great day!