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    Monday
    Aug242015

    Job Titles of the Future #14 - Cultural Intelligence Agent

    What kind of organization do you think would benefit from someone who could 'Harness industry trends, insights and resources to help fuel an environment of disruptive growth and innovation?'

    Additionally, the person who would excel in this role would also be able to 'Mine the cultural landscape to identify emerging trends and influences in the areas of Music, Gaming, Design, Tech, and Culinary.'

    That all sounds really cool and fun and vaguely hipsterish. I am pretty sure I am not qualified.

    But to go back to the initial question, what king of organization in what type of industry would you guess is right now looking for someone with these skills? 

    Smart guesses would be advertising, media, (especially 'new' media), entertainment, or maybe even old school publishing. How many guesses would you have to make before you arrived at Soft Drinks and Snacks? Because at least in today's specific example, the company that is right now looking for this kind of talent for a role they call a 'Cultural Intelligence Agent' is PepsiCo.

    More details from the PepsiCo job listing:

    PepsiCo is looking for a Cultural Intelligence Agent with a passion for culture and experience working within or across creative industries including Music, Design, Gaming, Tech &/or Culinary. This role will be responsible for leading a team to harness industry trends, insights and resources to help fuel an environment of disruptive growth and innovation. As an Agent in the Creator Culture Catalyst group, you must demonstrate the ability to become a trusted advisor and thought leader to cross-functional business, brand and innovation leaders. The Agent also will drive and manage cross-functional projects that support creative initiatives and foster innovation

    What do knowledge of music, gaming, design, etc. have to do with the ability to create and sell Pepsi?

    Well maybe nothing directly. But indirectly, understanding, interpreting, and responding to cultural trends helps you understand people. And understanding people is pretty much the key to success in any business.

    Cultural Intelligence Agent sounds like a pretty awesome job. Not quite as fun as Relief Pitcher for the Mets, but still pretty sweet. I hope the folks at PepsiCo see this post and let me know how the recruiting for this position turns out. Because the kind of person who will make a great Cultural Intelligence Agent sounds like a really fun person to know.

    What about in your organization? Does understanding culture matter?

    Note: Further reading for anyone interested in how culture impact business: Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken.

    Have a great week!

    Saturday
    Aug222015

    Superhero T-shirts, Ranked

    You probably own a superhero t-shirt. You might even be wearing a superhero t-shirt right now. But you probably never have considered the question "Which superhero t-shirt is best?" Which makes you pretty normal, I think. 

    Without further delay, here is your incomplete, subjective, unscientific, and 100% accurate ranking of superhero t-shirts.

    Note: I am not going to get into the methodology, criteria for inclusion, etc.. because frankly who cares?

    12. Iron Man

    11. Hulk

    10. Daredevil

    9. Spider-Man

    8. Fantastic Four

    7. Wonder Woman

    6. Superman

    5. Captain America

    4. Punisher

    3. Batman

    2. Flash

    1. Green Lantern

     

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Aug202015

    The Mindset List

    I am such a mark for Beloit College's annual Mindset List, a look at some of the important and sometimes really surprising changes that have occurred in the last 18 years or so, or expressed differently, just how much differently this year's crop of college freshmen have experienced and view the world compared to us older folks.

    Right off of the bat, Beloit reminds us that this new group of students, (mostly born in 1987), have never known a world where hybrid cars were not mass produced, South Park has not always been on TV, and among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.

    The Mindset List is always an interesting read every year, but the odd thing about the list is that while it describes and highlights the world view and perspectives of 18 year olds, they are the ones who are likely the least interested in the actual contents of the list. Their world and world view is just what it is. They don't stop to try and think of or conjure up a time where free Wifi did not exist in every Starbucks in the world. It is the modern version of the classic 'I had it much worse than you' line that every parent in every generation for the entire history of time has at one point leveraged to try to make their children feel guilty about how good they have things.

    I am serious, the first evidence of this phenomenon in recorded history was from some primitive cave drawings and inscriptions found in France. Loosely translated, they read, 'Sure kid, it's so easy to kill that antelope with that accurate, sharpened spear. When I was your age, all we had to fight for our lives with was a big rock.'

    These kinds of admonitions have only weakened over time. I can recall on more that one occasion lamenting to my son that he did not understand how good he actually had things, since when I was his age my TV remote WAS ACTUALLY ATTACHED TO THE TV WITH A LONG CORD.

    Hard times for sure.

    There are some real gems on the Mindset List for this year of course, here are a couple of my personal favorites. Incoming college freshmen:

    They have never licked a postage stamp.

    When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.

    Their proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

    There are plenty more gems like that on the list, and I recommend taking a few minutes to take a look at the entire piece.

    I know it is a little obvious, and maybe seems kind of unimportant to most of us but it is really, really easy to lose sight of just how much the world and technology and society and work and everything else changes in a relatively short time. 

    It is good, no matter how old or young we are, to think about how folks not quite like us see and understand the world.

    Tuesday
    Aug182015

    The obligatory Amazon take

    By now you have read (or at least heard about), the New York Times' blistering takedown of life working at Amazon, your favorite online shopping destination for just about anything you'll ever need, (and lots and lots of things you don't). If you are interested in work, workplaces, culture, and performance, the piece is definitely worth a long read, and it just might make you pause for a moment before you order your next shipment of stuff from the giant retail machine.

    Most interestingly, the Times' piece largely focuses on working culture for Amazon's white collar or professional workers, and not on the many, many thousands of Amazon employees and contractors that toil away in their massive distribution centers, often in extremely harsh conditions. Most Amazon customers already know how tough the warehouse workers have it at Amazon, and judging by Amazon's continued revenue growth, we have shown that we really don't care about people in the warehouses all that much. We just want our stuff faster.

    The responses to the Times piece have more or less fallen into two camps - one; Amazon is a horrible, terrible, dystopian place and shame on them for not (for some inexplicable reason), treating their white collar professional staff 'better' than their front-line warehouse staff; or two, creating a high-performing organization demands focus, dedication, long hours, and most importantly, no tolerance (for long anyway), for average performance. No exceptions. And as the Times reports this lack of tolerance for anything less than high performance and an almost singular dedication to the Amazon cause can look really cold, ugly, messy, and heartless.  

    So where does the 'truth' lie in all of this? Kind of hard to say unless you have direct experience working at Amazon. Chairman and Founder Jeff Bezos issued a kind of non-denial denial of the Times piece. Something along the lines of 'This is not the Amazon I know. This can't really be true or no one would want to work here.' That sort of thing. Note he didn't really say 'This is NOT true, just that it probably can't be true.'

    And ultimately, like in most other complex situations the real truth is somewhat blurry, inconsistent, and as always very, very subject to interpretation and bias. What do I think? Well since it is my blog I get to share.

    I think that any organization that, at least for a time, was willing to subject any of its workforce to the kind of brutal conditions like at the 115 degree Pennsylvania warehouse where workers had to be carried off by paramedics, has pretty much determined that performance, or rather the ability and willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve high performance, is what matters most. 

    Amazon is/has been willing to push warehouse workers to the point of heat exhaustion and collapse, why should we be surprised (and angered), that it is willing to push its professional staff into 80-hour weeks, emails and texts at all hours of the night, and has, if the Times piece is true, to have persistently pushed employees to think of their work first, last, and at every time in between?

    I think, more or less, this 'outrage' against Amazon is at least a little misplaced. Most of us, by virtue of how we spend our money, (and let's not even talk about under what conditions our iPhones are assembled), don't really care how badly most companies treat their workers. 

    We only start to care when these workers begin to, uncomfortably, look a little too much like us, and do the same kinds of jobs that we do.

    Monday
    Aug172015

    FOLLOW UP: How changing communication preferences are changing HR technologies

    Last week on the blog I shared a chart on US teens' communication preferences which showed, (among a few other interesting things), that when it comes to interactions with their friends, email is this group's least preferred method/tool of choice. If you are a parent of a teen, or have ever just observed a teen for more than 10 minutes or so, you would notice them pretty furiously tapping away on their phones almost non-stop - with the vast majority of this activity being SMS messaging, (and to a lesser extent using SnapChat, WhatsApp, and social tools like Instagram). 

    What they are almost certainly not doing is sending or replying to email. 

    It might be hard for us crusty adults to want to deal with or accept, but anyone under about 25 or so did not grow up relying on email for anything, (save for possibly communications with 'grown ups').

    Whenever I run a piece like the 'teens hate email' one, I usually get a few comments or replies on Twitter that more or less say the same thing - 'So what? Email isn't ever going away. When these teens enter the workforce they will simply have to adapt. Blah, blah, blah and get off of my lawn.'

    Mostly, it seems, professional adults don't generally see any significant change to email's ubiquity and primacy as the 'professional' communication technology of choice, and fully expect teens and Gen Z types to have to just deal with it if and when they want to get (and keep), a real job.

    But is it really that simple? Or asked differently, can us 'adults' really get away with thinking that way? Forever?

    So after the 'teens hate email' piece ran last week I received an email from Kay Lucas, VP of Product Strategy at PeopleMatter. In case you are not familiar, PeopleMatter is a leading provider of workforce and talent management technology solutions, focusing primarily on retail, hospitality, and other service provider organizations. Think restaurant chains, convenience stores, hotels - that sort of thing.

    The kinds of organizations that do high volume, rapid hiring. And, more importantly, the kinds of organizations that tend to employ lots of folks in their teens and twenties - the kinds of folks that tend to see email as their least preferred method or technology for communication.

    So to get back to Kay, here is the full text of the email she sent over last week after my post ran:

    Steve,

    This past weekend we rolled out a new release and ditched email as being required for applicants for this reason. Just thought you’d be interested in knowing.

    Thanks,

    Kay

    What?

    Candidates can actually apply for a job without an email address? 

    I had to know more, so I asked Kay for some additional background on this decision and she shared with me some more details (note, I checked with Kay and have her permission to share these emails here).

    (Kay Lucas, PeopleMatter)

    We decided to do this (allowing customers to make Email an optional field for candidates), because our customers felt like they were losing applicants because email was required. One very large casual dining customer in particular really thought that they were losing two whole groups of people: 1) the younger generation as you point out, 2) the non-tech generation – think of back of the house employees in restaurants and retail. It could be folks where English is not their first language and/or they just don’t care about email because they have no reason for it.

    We also know that in our space (service industry), the majority of employees don’t have computers – their phone is their connection. So, texting and mobile friendly are key.

    The release literally just happened this past Saturday morning. Here’s what we have already seen: 

    On Sunday, the quantity of job applications increased by 5% from the prior SundayOn Monday, the quantity of job applications increased by 22% from the prior Monday. Wow! We are already blown away and totally pumped we did this. Hats off to our clients and I love listening to them. Makes us so much smarter. They get it and we are so happy that we’ve made this change. The labor market is tight so this is a really big deal for them.

    Ok, so I love this for a few different reasons. One, it gives us a direct, real-world example of how teens and others communication preferences, (essentially mobile phone driven, and SMS heavy), are being acknowledged and reflected in how organizations and HR technology providers are deploying HR tools. If your target applicant pool would prefer not to use email, (or simply can't use email), then provide a way for them to interact and apply with you using their desired method.Image courtesy PeopleMatter - click for a large version

    Second, it shows really well how good my friends at PeopleMatter understand and react to their customers. Retail and food service are precisely the kinds of industries that would likely have plenty of candidates in the email hating teen to young adult cohort, and this 'email optional' update shows how well the technology can adapt to these needs.

    And finally, it serves as a great reminder to all of us, HR leaders and HR technology providers alike, that just because us old farts that make all of the rules and all of the decisions are not that we are not always right, and that we need to be open minded enough to adapt to what today's 19 year olds think too. 

    That is if we want to remain relevant once that 19 year old becomes out 26 year old boss in a few years.

    Thanks again to Kay Lucas at PeopleMatter for sharing the information on their approach to this issue and if you are an HR leader from retail or food service or hospitality be sure to check out what PeopleMatter is up to.

    Have a great week!