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    Thursday
    Jun142018

    When to tell an employee who resigns - 'No need to work your two weeks notice, just get out of here'

    The World Cup kicks off today and in what can only be deemed a fantastic coincidence for the 'Sports and HR' blogosphere, the event has already provided us with an incredible story upon which to opine, one that fits the formula of 'Yes, it is a 'sports' story but it really is a workplace and HR story'.

    In case you don't know what story I am referring to, it involves the head coach of Spain's team (one of the favorites to win the World Cup), getting fired from his post just hours before the event is set to start. Let's all get on the same page with the details of the story courtesy of reporting from ESPN.

    Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain's national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament.

    In a news conference at Spain's training base in Krasnodar, Russia, Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said Lopetegui's fate was sealed just two days ahead of the team's World Cup opening game, as Rubiales could not accept an Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) employee having negotiated his next job without informing his employers.

    "We have been obliged to fire the national coach," Rubiales said Wednesday. "We wish him the best, he has done an excellent job in getting us to the tournament. But the federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have; the World Cup is the biggest of all."

    A lot to unpack there, but just to be sure the non-soccer readers get the important details, here is the gist of what went down.

    1. Spain is one of the top teams in the world, has a great chance to make a deep run in the World Cup, and the coach, Julen Lopetegui has done by all accounts a great job, (unbeaten in their last 20 games), of getting the team ready for the tournament.

    2. As is the case with many national team coaches, Lopetegui had planned to move on from coaching the national team once the World Cup was over. For top coaches like him, coaching at one of the world's leading clubs in the Spanish League or English League represents the pinnacle of the profession, (and is the most lucrative).

    3. The Spanish League Club Real Madrid is the best club team in the world, have just completed winning the European Champions League for the third year in a row, and surprisingly found themselves in need of a new coach for next season, following the shock resignation of their coach.

    4. Combine #2 with #3 above, and we arrive at Lopetegjui agreeing to become coach of Real Madrid at the conclusion of the World Cup.

    5. See the reaction of the Royal Spanish Football Federation above upon learning this news. Essentially they said to Lopetegui, 'Thanks for the notice, but no thanks. Clean out your desk and hit the bricks.' Note, this 'Two weeks notice' is not the usual two weeks notice - it is the World Freakin' Cup, but the people calling the shots did not care. So on the eve the competition, Lopetegui is out.

    So let's spin this story back around to the real world. I don't know for sure how it will effect Spain's performance in the tournament, and you probably don't care. But we do have employees, sometimes high profile and top employees resign all the time. So when should you let the resigning employee ride our their two weeks notice gracefully, and when should you pull a Royal Spanish Football Federation move and show them the door immediately?

    I have three scenarios that line up with the Royal Spanish Football Federation position:

    1. You find out the employee is leaving to go to work with a direct competitor. Leaving Coke to work for Pepsi. Leaving Lowe's to go to the Home Depot, that kind of thing. The sooner they are out of your office, off of your email, and out of your memory the better. Kind of an easy one. Real Madrid does not compete with the Spanish national team, so this one does not really apply here.

    2. You're in an important, stressful period at your shop, and you get the sense that the lingering presence, and the impact the departing person might have on the team they are leaving behind present a risk that is not acceptable. This is the closest to a justification I can get for the Spain move. All of a sudden, all everyone wants to talk about is that the coach is leaving, and the focus on performing in the tournament becomes a risk.

    3. You know the 'two weeks notice' is more or less a paid vacation for said employee, who may have checked out long before officially checking out. If you get the sense that almost no value will be derived from having the departing employee around, you are all better off just acknowledging that and letting them go as soon as possible. Again, probably not applicable in the Lopetegui situation, but stll one scenario that is pretty common in our world.

    I am not sure how this HR move will work out for Spain, it was definitely surprising considering the timing and the importance of the World Cup. I guess we will know in a few weeks.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Jun132018

    A reminder to evaluate the work, not just the person doing the work

    Here's a super interesting story from the art world that I spotted in the New York Times and is titled The Artwork Was Rejected. Then Banksy Put His Name To It.

    The basics of the story, and they seem to be undisputed, are these:

    1. The British Royal Academy puts on an annual Summer Exhibition or Art, and anyone is allowed to submit a piece of art for consideration to be included in the exhibition.

    2. The anonymous, but incredibly famous, artist Banksy submitted a painting, but under a (different) pseudonym - 'Bryan S. Gaakman' - which is an anagram for 'Banksy anagram'.

    3. 'Gaakman's' submission was declined inclusion in the exhibit by the event's judges.

    4. One of the event's judges, contacted Banksy (how one contacts Banksy was not fully explained), to inquire if the famous artist had a submission for the exhibit. This judge did not know that 'Gaakman' was actually Banksy.

    5. Banksy submitted a very slightly altered version of the 'Gaakman' piece to the exhibit - and was accepted for the show. Basically, the same art from 'unknown artist' was declined, but for the famous Banksy it was deemed worthy.

    What can we take away from this little social experiment? Three things at least. 

     

    1. We always consider 'who' did the work along with the work itself, when assessing art, music, or even the weekly project status report. We judge, at least a little, on what this person has done, or what we think they have done, in the past.

    2. Past 'top' or high performers always get a little bit of a break and the benefit of the doubt. It happens in sports, when close calls usually go in favor of star players, and it happens at work, where the 'best' performers get a little bit more room when they turn in average, or even below average work. They have 'earned' a little more wiggle room that newer, or unproven folks. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can lead to bad decisions sometimes.

    3. What we want, as managers, is good, maybe even great 'work'. But what the organization needs is great 'performers'. Great performers don't always do great work, but over time their contributions and results add up to incredible value for the organization. So in order to ensure that the organization can turn great 'work' into great (and sustainable) long-term performance, every once in a while less than great work, turned in by a great performer, needs to get a pass. Take the long view if you know what I mean.

    That's it for me - have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Jun122018

    Balancing data and judgment in HR decision making

    A few weeks ago I did an HR Happy Hour Show with Joshua Gans, co-author of the excellent book Prediction Machines. On the show, we talked about one of the central ideas in the book - the continuing importance of human judgment in decision making, even in an environment where advances in AI technology make predictions (essentially options) more available, numerous, and inexpensive.

    I won't go back through all the reasoning behind this conclusion, I encourage you to listen to the podcast and/or read the book for that, but I did want to point out another excellent example of how this AI and prediction combined with human judgment idea plays out in human capital management planning and decisions. A recent piece in HBR titled Research: When Retail Workers Have Stable Schedules, Sales and Productivity Go Up shares some really interesting findings about a study that aimed to find out if giving retail workers more schedule certainty and clarity would impact business results, and if so, how?

    Some back story on the idea behind the study first. As demand planning and workforce scheduling software has developed over the years, and become much more sophisticated, many retailers now have the information and ability to set and adjust worker schedules much more dynamically, and almost in real time, than they had in the past. Combining sales and store traffic estimates with workforce planning and scheduling tools that are able to match staffing levels to this demand - store managers are, for the most part, able to optimize staffing, (and therefore control labor costs), much more precisely.

    But while optimizing the staffing levels in a retail store sounds like a sound business practice, and makes the owners of the store happy (typically via reduced labor costs), it also often make the staff unhappy. In a software and AI driven staffing model, workers can find their schedules uncertain, changing from week to week, and even find themselves losing expected shifts on very short notice, sometimes less than two hours.

    The data and the AI might be 'right' when they recommend a set of staff schedules based on all the available information, but, as we will see in the research referenced in the HBR piece, the data and the AI usually fail to see and understand the impact this kind of scheduling has on the actual people that have to do the actual work.

    You really should read the whole piece on HBR, but I want to share the money quote here - what the researchers found or recommended would be the best way for a retailer to incorporate these kinds of advanced AI tools to help set retail store worker schedules:

    At the start of the study, we often heard HQ fault store managers for “emotional scheduling” — a script pushed by the purveyors of scheduling software. “In measuring customer experience and making decisions related to a labor model, retailers should rely solely on facts. Too often, changes are made because of an anecdotal or emotional response from the field,” notes a best practices guide from Kronos.

    However, our experiment shows that a hybrid approach of combining algorithms with manager intuition can lead to better staffing decisions. While our experiment provided guidelines for managers, it still allowed the managers to make the final decision on how much of the interventions to implement. The increase in sales and productivity witnessed at the Gap shows that retailers stand to benefit when they allow discretion to store managers.

    What were some of the benefits of giving managers at least some discretion over scheduling, even when the AI made different recommendations?

    When managers could give more workers more 'certain' or predictable schedules, most of them benefited from ability to predict commute times, ability to schedule things like education, child care, other jobs, and enabled them to connect more deeply with customers and co-workers. In short, they were all happier, and this tended to lead to better work performance, better customer service, and in the case of the stores studied by HBR - increased revenues and profits.

    In time, maybe the AI will learn to understand this, this nuanced, subtle, but important impact that work schedules have on workers, and how that impacts business results. But until then, it seems like it's best to let the AI make recommendations on the optimal staffing decisions, and let the managers make the final call, based on what they know about their staff, their customers, and well, human nature in general.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jun112018

    The weekend company culture test

    NOTE: I am re-running a piece (with a few light edits) from a couple of years ago about company email culture. I was at an event this past Friday where I overheard a few people talking about this very subject - who in their organization was always emailing them throughout the weekend, and how that practice was really getting under their skin. Enjoy!

    I am of (pretty) firm belief you can tell just about everything you need to know about company culture from tracking and analyzing email usage patterns, traffic levels, and response expectations.

    Sure, not all organizations, and certainly not all roles in organizations, are overly reliant on email as their primary communications, collaboration, and general project management tool, but for those that are, and I suspect that would include just about everyone reading this post, your email Inbox is largely a proxy for your 'work' in general.

    Very few initiatives actually get started without first sending an email to someone.

    Progress is communicated and monitored on those tasks in ongoing series of emails.

    Organizational structure and power dynamics are reflected in who you are 'allowed' to email, and who will or will not respond.

    You overall stress level and relative satisfaction with your job can be extrapolated from the point in time condition of your Inbox.

    Finally, you probably leave the office with a warped sense of accomplishment if, at the end of the week, you have successfully triaged all of your incoming messages, sent the necessary replies, and achieved that most elusive of states, so-called 'Inbox Zero'. You pack up shop for the week and head home, (or to Happy Hour).

    And that is when my favorite test of company culture begins, what happened to your Inbox from say, 6:00PM on a Friday up until 6:00AM on Monday. (this is what we used to call the "weekend".)

    As you enjoy whatever it is you enjoy this (past) weekend, think about these few questions:

    Who in your company is (still) sending emails on a Friday night? On Saturday morning? Or on Sunday evening when you are clinging like grim death to your last few precious hours of downtime?

    Who is responding to weekend emails? And no, I am not talking about genuine business or customer emergencies, just 'normal' kinds of things. You know, the kinds of things you worry about on Tuesday.

    Are your management or senior leaders making a habit of tapping away message after message (always "Sent from my iPad") all weekend long while they are ostensibly watching Jr's soccer game?

    Are you checking or at least thinking about checking your work email on Saturday afternoon when, I don't know, you're supposed to have something better to do?

    Finally, when you get one of those weekend emails do you respond? Are you expected to? And if you do are you now "at work?"

    It's odd for the one piece of workplace technology that we all probably use more than any other, that we think about and really try to understand it's usage so little.

    Email is just always there. It is always on. We engage with it constantly.

    But we don't ever think about what it might tell us about the organization, the power dynamics, and most importantly, what it can tell us about the culture of an organization.

    So, were you on email this weekend or were you offline?

    Have a great week.

    Thursday
    Jun072018

    Ending 'Upgrades' Once and For All

    About a hundred years ago (ok, it was not actually that long, just feels like it some days), I participated in my first, real 'Enterprise' technology project - helping to implement an Oracle E-Business Suite solution for a foreign division of a massive US-based telecommunications company. Even with that small, early scope, (the project continued for some years covering more and more countries), it was a pretty substantial piece of work.

    We needed DBA's to configure our servers, install the Oracle Applications, and do 'normal' maintenance like patching, load balancing, security, and cloning, (basically creating copies of application setups and configurations to create test, QA, and development environments). 

    We needed Analysts to figure out the business requirements, map these to the application functions, set up the apps accordingly, run tests, identify gaps, and train the end users.

    We needed Programmers to develop custom data loader programs and custom interfaces to other systems that the Oracle Apps needed to feed, or to be fed data by. And of course these programmers needed to develop custom capability that the business needed but the Apps, as least out of the box, could not provide. And don't get me started on all the custom reports that had to be built - even for a small implementation in one country initially.

    Add in to all this documentation, test plans, user process scripts, communication, change management - and the countless other things that need to be done in order, back then, to complete a successful implementation of traditional, (read on-premise), enterprise technology.

    And after all that work, all that time, resource allocation, investment and effort, after it was all done and the system was live do you know what we found? That by then Oracle had released a brand new, better, more capable and upgraded version of the Applications, and if we and the users really wanted the latest and best functionality we had to, wait for it - upgrade.

    But the problem was back then, and to some extent for many companies this is still true today, an upgrade was almost as much work as the initial implementation. The upgrade from one version of a large, on-premise, set of enterprise applications, (with customizations and interfaces), required the efforts of all those same groups of people mentioned above. Upgrades were really manual, required tons of validation and testing, and if the functionality had changed enough, also necessitated significant user training and change management efforts. Frankly, upgrades stunk. And so many organizations running enterprise apps on-premise avoided them as much as they could, preferring to stick with and maintain older versions, (with fewer features and capabilities), as the tradeoff. And that tradeoff has perpetuated. Way longer than most of us thought it might.

    Even in 2018, in this time when we like to assume that every large organization has moved their enterprise systems for Finance, HR, Operations, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, etc. to the cloud, many large organizations have not, and are still running versions of on-premise Enterprise solutions, as the cost, complexity, and resources needed to do a 'upgrade to the cloud' were just as massive and daunting as the old on-premise upgrades were back then. In fact, many of these cloud migrations are not upgrades at all in the classic sense - they are full-on re-implementations - huge technical and functional projects that as I said, many firms have continued to avoid or postpone.

    Sorry for the history lesson, but it's important for the news I wanted to share today.  

    Earlier this week, and in a way that particularly resonated for me given my history with Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle announced the Oracle "Soar to the Cloud" solution - an automated set to tools and processes to enable customers running older versions of Oracle Applications on-premise to migrate to the Oracle Fusion ERP in the Cloud solutions much faster than ever before, and with the assurance that data will be migrated, configurations will be applied consistently in the cloud, and even any customizations done on-premise will be addressed with a new library of pluggable Fusion ERP integration capabilities.

    If you want to deep dive into the nuts and bolts how this process will work, take a look at this video of the presentation made this week by Larry Ellison, Oracle CTO and Chairman, as he walks through the process. But even if you don't need r want to understand all the technical details - just remember this - the Oracle Soar to the Cloud program promises to make your organization's 'upgrade' to the cloud truly the last upgrade (in the traditional sense), that you will have to undertake.

    Once you make it to the Cloud - your organization can get the benefit of regular, continuous, and frictionless updates to your enterprise apps - making the ability to adopt new capabilities, remain compliant with new regulations, and move more quickly and innovate more rapidly than at any time in the past. 

    Your organization probably knows you want/need to be in the Cloud for these reasons and more.

    But if you are in one of the organizations that for one reason or another has avoided the cloud, avoided the dreaded 'upgrade' - this new Soar to the Cloud program might be just what you need to kick start those plans. 

    Learn more at Oracle Soar