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    Tuesday
    Feb132018

    HRE Column: Succeeding with HR Tech - Part 1

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I talk a little about the one of the major themes that we will be focusing on for the next HR Technology Conference - the nature of 'success' with your HR technology initiatives, and review some of the key issues, themes, and considerations for HR Tech projects and vendor relationships that are essential, and will be covered in more detail at the Conference this year.

    In the piece, I take a look at some of the issues and considerations that HR leaders should keep in mind as they evaluate potential as well as current HR tech providers in order to have the best chance of making the 'right' HR tech decisions, and ultimately, succeeding with HR tech. This month's column talks about culture alignment, a focus on customer success, measurement and goals and more. Next month, we will take a look at 'success' from the internal point of view, and look at some of the most important organizational factors and decisions that set up your team for success.

    Here's an excerpt from this month's piece in HRE Online:

    Anyone who has had the good fortune to participate in the full cycle of an HR technology-implementation project knows well that such efforts usually consist of numerous milestones, dozens—if not hundreds—of tasks and components, scores of internal and external resources, significant investments of funds and time and myriad opportunities for sub-optimal outcomes or outright failure.

    Choose the “wrong” solution and your HR tech project could flounder. Forget to ensure some critical capabilities will be supported in the new system in time and the “go-live” date could be compromised. Fail to procure the right experts to serve on the project team and progress could languish. Lose control of the project’s scope and end up with delays and cost overruns. And there are a hundred other reasons why well-intentioned HR technology projects fail to deliver.

    With apologies to Tolstoy for paraphrasing his famous line about families, I would argue that successful HR tech projects are all alike; unsuccessful HR tech projects fail in their own way. While understanding why some projects succeed and others fail is important for any organization, it’s even more vital to prepare for and execute HR technology strategies in a manner that maximizes the chance for success.

    As co-chair of the HR Technology® Conference and Expo, I am focusing on developing considerable content around the “Success with HR Technology” theme. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to examine the nature of customer success and highlight some considerations that HR and HRIT leaders should keep in mind as they continue with workplace technology planning, purchasing, implementation and post-implementation activities in 2018.

    Creating a culture of customer success

    During some recent research, I was encouraged to find that the concept of customer success has gained strength in recent years as an important measure and barometer for HR and enterprise technology providers.

    While each provider may have its own way of defining customer success, the important thing is that more of them are intentionally making the concept of their customers’ success a fundamental yardstick of self-measurement. Prior to selecting any new HR technology provider, HR leaders will not only want to ensure that customer success is one of the important (if not the most important) ways they self-examine, but you will also want to see demonstrable proof of their customer commitment.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and shovel your driveway, take your dog for a walk, or scrape the ice off of your car.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Feb122018

    Don't talk to me, don't even look at me - I'm busy over here

    Slapping on a pair of headphones or earbuds while you are work, especially in open plan offices, in order to help yourself to focus on your work, and probably more importantly, to send a 'do not bug me right now' signal to your co-workers has been a pretty common element of work for some time now.

    But what do you do when simply putting on headphones is not enough of a barrier between you and pesky co-workers, their questions, their comings and goings, and other kinds of interruptions or distractions? You could simply accede to your true nature and quit your job and take up permanent hermit status? But let's say you don't want to go that extreme, and simply want to find a way to have a little bit more privacy, focus, and send an even more aggressive 'do not bother me' message to the office?

    Enter the 'FocusCap' which has been described as a kind of 'horse blinder for people'. The idea of the Focus Cap is create a 'moble, distraction-proof fortress' so that a worker can 'fully concentrate on high demanding cognitive tasks'. That sounds pretty good to me. I may even need one of those here at HR Happy Hour HQ.

    Check out the videobelow, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

    Pretty wild, right?

    Are office distractions, and the challenges that are presented by the lack of personal space and lack of privacy that modern, open plan offices generate really driving workers to try and build little personal cocoons to carve out some space and peace among the chaos? Maybe so. I have not worked in an open plan setting for quite some time, but I am pretty sure I would not enjoy it all that much. Maybe with a pair of headphones on and a pair of these horse blinders for people I could make it seem like I was in my own spacious (and private) office, or sitting on the sofa in my PJs. 

    And for the record, I have no relationship at all with the makers of the FocusCap. But I do think it is cool.

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Feb082018

    CHART OF THE DAY: There are too many open jobs, (or not enough people to fill them)

    A really quick shot for a busy Thursday - from the most recent JOLTS report (that's the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and you should have this page on permanent bookmark), the most recent (as of December 2017) data on the ratio of Unemployed workers to job openings in the US.

    Here's the data...

        

    The actual chart on the BLS site is interactive if you want to play around with it, but I will save you the time and let you know that as of the end of December 2017 the ratio of unemployed workers to open jobs was down to 1.1. Basically, the US economy is closing in on having nearly the same number of unemployed workers, (about 6.3 million ) as there are job openings (about 5.8 million) as of the end of 2017. The ratio of 1.1 has been steady for most of 2017 and ties the all-time low in the this data series' history.

    I have not much else to add to this, beyond what you already know. The labor market continues to be at or near record levels of 'tightness'. It will be really interesting (and fun if you are a data geek like me), to see of the ratio goes below 1 at some point, a situation where even if every open job in the US was suddenly filled by an unemployed person, there still would be open jobs remaining. I guess then we will have to build more robots to fill those jobs.

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Feb072018

    UPDATE: On striking for a 28-hour work week

    A few seeks ago I shared the story of the largest metal and steel worker's union in Germany whose members were threatening to strike for the right (among other things) for the ability to reduce their work week to 28 hours per week for up to two years at a time - mainly in times where a worker has increased child or elder care responsibilities. As a reminder, this is what the steel workers were trying to accomplish:

    Workers have downed tools at more than 80 companies across Germany as the country’s biggest union stepped up its campaign for a 28-hour working week to allow employees to improve their work-life balance.

    In what is shaping up to be the biggest industrial dispute in the metalwork sector in three decades, more than 15,000 employees took part in warning strikes at factories including those of the carmaker Porsche.

    The IG Metall union, which represents around 3.9 million workers, wants every employee in the metal and electrical sector to have the option to reduce their working hours for a total period of two years, with the automatic right to return to full-time employment afterwards.

    In mid-January I offered the take that we shouldn't look at these worker's demands as another example of the 'soft' or laissez-faire approach to work that we in the US like to think is common in Europe, and let ourselves believe that these kinds of increased worker calls for more benefits (including fewer hours potentially), could not become an issue here eventually. Workers in all kinds of industries likely have more power than they are currently exercising.

    Fast forward about three weeks - how did it turn out in Germany?

    UPDATE - German metal workers union secures right to 28-hour work week.

    From the piece in Business Insider:

    A German industrial union has won its workers the right to work just 28 hours per week in a deal that could eventually impact almost 4 million people in the country.

    IG Metall, the biggest trade union in Germany for metal and engineering workers struck the deal which will allow staff to go down from 35 hours to 28 hours per week for as long as two years, in instances where they need to care for children, elderly, or sick relatives.

    The agreement between the union and industry impacts some major, global manufacturers like Porsche, Airbus, and Mercedes, and also includes a 4.3% pay rise for the workers. It is a pretty major win for the workers, who seem to have gotten just about everything they were looking for in the deal.

    Why does this matter, especially to US readers, in a time where unions and labor rights movements in general have been declining for ages?

    I would say to think about this deal, and why the workers were looking for it, as less of a 'union' issue and more of a work/life issue. One of the major benefits of the so-called 'gig' economy is the schedule control that most gig workers have. There is a tremendous amount of flexibility and even power that comes with being able to self-determine how many hours you will or can work in a given day or week or month. Some times you want/need to work more, and other times fewer hours. Especially when dealing with child, elder, or other personal responsibilities.

    This effort by the metal workers union is really an attempt to try and marry some of the best features of the 'regular' employee (steady pay, benefits, some level of security, commitment to one company), with the 'gig' worker economy, (flexibility, work/life balance, control and freedom).

    Gig working is not for everyone. It can be uncertain, scary, can have pretty major fluctuations in compensation and benefits. And 'regular' work also has its downsides - lack of schedule control, long hours, stress about work/life. So what the German metal workers are really trying to do is find a kind of compromise between the two - by crafting a design where they are still 'regular' employees, but have more flexibility to determine when they need to reduce (or increase) their working hours based on personal and family circumstances.

    That is the way to think about this story if you are a business or HR leader in the US or anywhere really - this is not about the union or some kind of Euro-socialist approach to work.

    It is about workers trying to find the 'right' kind of work/life balance and arrangement that fits for them in the modern world. And it is about companies trying to find ways to ensure their goals can also be met, knowing that for most of them, these goals can only be met through the success and well-being of their workforces.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Feb062018

    Automated narratives

    We are soon going to reach, if we haven't yet, 'Peak Artificial Intelligence' I think.

    There have been a million examples of 'AI will replace XYZ' or 'AI for 'Insert your favorite process here'' pieces and developments in the last couple of years, and if you and your organization is not at least thinking about incorporating AI into your business processes, well, the conventional thinking goes, you are going to be left behind. I suppose time will tell on that. I think the adage (was it from Bill Gates?), that we tend to overestimate the impact of new technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact in the long term probably applies to AI as well. AI is definitely coming to a business process near you, it is just a little unclear how long it will be and how much impact it will have on your organization, people, and business.

    But one fairly common theme in all the talk about AI (and automation more generally), is that it will effect and potentially replace more mundane, repetitive, rules-heavy, and precisely defined processes and roles (at least initially), while leaving creative, nuanced, complex, and more sophisticated processes and roles to the humans, (at least for now). Robots are going to take the wareghouse jobs and maybe some/most of the cashier jobs, but 'creative' types like marketers and advertising folks for example would be largely safe from automation. While Watson can win ay Jeopardy! and Google can build a machine to win at Go, no AI can come up with say, one of the amazing ads we just saw on the Super Bowl. Right?

    But wait...

    Check out this excerpt from a piece on Ad Week - 'Coca-Cola Wants to Use AI Bots to Create Its Ads'

    Coca-Cola is one of the most beloved brands in the world and is known for creating some of the best work in the advertising industry. But can an AI bot replace a creative? Mariano Bosaz, the brand’s global senior digital director, wants to find out.

    “Content creation is something that we have been doing for a very long time—we brief creative agencies and then they come up with stories that they audio visualize and then we have 30 seconds or maybe longer,” Bosaz said. “In content, what I want to start experimenting with is automated narratives.”

    In theory, Bosaz thinks AI could be used by his team for everything from creating music for ads, writing scripts, posting a spot on social media and buying media. “That’s a long-term vision,” he said. “I don’t know if we can do it 100 percent with robots yet—maybe one day—but bots is the first expression of where that is going.

    It is one thing when a manufacturing executive states that he or she wants to automate some or most aspects of a manufacturing or assembly process and reduce levels of human employment in favor of technology - we are coming to expect that robots and tech and AI are simply inevitably going to do those jobs in the future.

    But it is kind of a different thing entirely to hear a 'creative' executive from one of the world's largest companies and most recognized brands to openly discuss how technology like AI can and probably will begin to take over some or even most parts of a highly creative, expressive process like developing advertising content. We don't, or at least I don't, like to think of these kinds of tasks and jobs as ones that could also fall into the category of 'We are better off having a robot do that'. I mean, (trying) to be creative is mostly how I make a living. Emphasize the 'trying' part.

    'Automated narratives', for some reason that term stuck out for me when I read the Ad Week piece. Hmm. Probably need to think about that a little longer.

    But while I am pondering, I will end with the disclaimer that this post, (and so far, all the posts on this blog), was 100% produced by a person. Although some days I wish I had access to a blog-writing 'bot.

    Have a great day!