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    Wednesday
    Dec052012

    A Critical Look at Telework

    If you are at all interested in the role of telework for your organization, for your team, or even for yourself, I recommend taking a little bit of time to read over a recent research piece titled, 'The hard truth about telecommuting', published in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Monthly Labor Review June 2012 issue.

    In the piece, authors Mary C. Noonan and Jennifer L. Glass review the results of their recently completed research that examined the prevalence of telecommuting in the US workforce, the trends in adoption of telecommuting over time, and most interesting to me at least, how telecommuting arrangements tend over time to increase the total amount of hours worked, rather than simply substitute 'home' hours for 'office' hours. Mr. Brady - Working from home

    If you are someone that currently or in the past has done at least some remote work for your organization, the study's most damning conclusion about telework probably will not be very surprising - that between half and two thirds of telework arrangements simply serve to add working hours to the work week, and doe not simply trade hours worked at home for hours that are normally spent working in the office.  Details from the BLS piece:

    Fully 67 percent of telecommuting hours in the NLSY (data) and almost 50 percent in the CPS (data) push respondents’ work hours above 40 per week and essentially occur as overtime work. This dynamic suggests that telecommuting in practice expands to meet workers’ needs for additional worktime beyond the standard workweek.

    As a strategy of resistance to longer work hours at the office, telecommuting appears to be somewhat successful in relocating those hours but not eliminating them. A less sanguine interpretation is that the ability of employees to work at home may actually allow employers to raise expectations for work availability during evenings and weekends and foster longer workdays and workweek.

    These findings, while not terribly surprising, particularly when considering how the rapid advances in mobile technology have made 'working from anywhere' a possibility and reality for so many of us, also raise some important issues for organizations or leaders that are supporting or offering telework to their teams. Namely, any telework program that promises or at least suggests the promise of how telework will be a simple 'shift' of work from one location to another is an outcome that is unlikely at best and misleading at worst.

    A more honest and realistic approach and pitch to telework is one that more of less frames it as 'This job carries high demands and expectations AND we know you have a busy life outside of work too,' Here's how telework fits - that 'extra' 5 or 10 or 20 hours we need from you? Take them as and when you need them - the office, your house, at Starbucks -whatever.'

    And the thing of it is - when framed in that manner, telework stops sounding much like telework and more like just plain old 'work.'

    Here's the last observation I have about telework, and this is largely from my personal experience - the irony of telework is people at work think you are more or less free to 'work' all the time or at any time, while your family and friends at home see you working from home and think you are 'free' all the time.

    What do you think - has telework simply become 'work more from home in your previously free time?'

    Tuesday
    Dec042012

    Protecting what isn't damaged

    It's World War II and your job is to help the military devise a strategy for reducing the shockingly high loss rate of planes in battle. Dozens and dozens of planes are being lost due to ground-based enemy anti-aircraft weapons, as well as in air combat.

    And of the planes that do make it back to their air bases safely, most have received at least some damage, with many of the damaged planes requiring substantial repairs to make them air-worthy again.

    You show up to the air base, and as you begin examining the damaged planes you make an interesting observation - most of the planes that made it back have sustained damage to the wings, fuselage, and fuel systems, but most do not exhibit signs of damage in the engines or front of the cockpits.

    A bunch of shot-up planes but a fairly consistent of measurable and repeatable characteristic - damaged fuselages but not engines. Wings that have sustained hits but with clean and intact cockpits.

    Your recommendation to the military brass to reduce the rate and number of lost planes?

    Well it seems intuitive that better armor and protection on the parts that have sustained the most damage would be the best strategy. I mean, you have evidence all around you - blown apart wings, fuel systems, etc. These parts are obviously sustaining heavy damage in battle, and need shoring up.

    Makes sense, right?

    Except that it is almost completely wrong, and due to the research and conclusions made in WWII by Abraham Wald, the opposite of the best strategy.

    Wald concluded that the Air Force shouldn't arm or add protection to the areas of the planes that sustained the most damage on the ones that came back. By virtue of the fact that they planes came back at all, those parts of the planes could sustain damage.

    Wald's insight, that the holes from flak and bullets on the bombers that did return represented the areas where they were able to take damage led him to conclude that these patches were the weak spots that led to the loss of a plane if hit, and that they must be the parts to be reinforced. 

    Wald's suggestion an recommendation seemed unconventional, but only if you could get past what you could 'see', a bunch of blown apart wings and fuselages; and think about what you couldn't see, the planes that crashed as a result of the damage they sustained.

    The big lesson or takeaway from this tale?  As usual, probably not much of one, with the possible exception is that it serves as a compelling reminder not to always focus on the obvious, the apparent, and what seems like the easy explanation.

    Note - some of Wald's notes on this research can be found here.

    Monday
    Dec032012

    HR through the augmented reality looking glass

    You've probably heard something about Google Glass, one of the more recent in a long line of experimental technologies currently under development by the technology giant. If you are unfamiliar with the project, essentially 'Glass' is a new kind of wearable computer, that is worn like and sort of resembles a pair ofGoogle Glass Prototype glasses, and (theoretically), supply the wearer with a display of information in smartphone-like format, and in a hands-free manner. Further, the Glasses can interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands spoken by the wearer.

    Additionally, sporting these kind of super cool, (ok, I think they are cool), accessory 'smart' glasses currently marks the wearer as someone absolutely on the cutting-edge of new technology, and quite possibly a close personal friend of someone in a really high place at Google. While Google Glass, and it's eventual copy cat technologies, (you can read up on what Microsoft is up to with its version of the smart, augmented reality glasses here), are some ways away from widespread availability, not to mention acceptance and deployment, the buzz surrounding these technologies is continually growing - and not just in geekery circles. Even venerable Time Magazine, named Google Glass one of its '10 Best Inventions of the Year for 2012'.

    The fact is, chances are like smartphones and tablets and QR codes and RFID chips and scores of other technologies before and since, augmented reality (AR) 'smart' glasses are coming to a workplace near you. Maybe not for a while, but perhaps by 2014 a workable, practical version of Google Glass or the Microsoft version will be the busy HR and Talent executives 'must have' technology accessory - sort of the 2014 version of the corporate recruiting iPad app.

    Just what would you as an HR or Talent pro actually do with a pair of AR glasses?  Well some details on the usage patterns envisioned for the Microsoft project might give some clues:

    The device described in Microsoft’s patent application is not intended to be used throughout the day as you are getting around. It focuses on live events like sports games or concerts, and tries to enhance your experience by beaming text and audio overlays to the action in the field. Which makes the device much more simple, since Microsoft knows you should be relatively stationary while wearing it, and won’t have to worry about you walking into stuff while trying to read information hovering in front of you.

    Makes a little more sense now, right? You are sitting at the Knicks game, you pop on the AR glasses, and with a few simple voice commands you 'see' game or player statistics, a menu of options from the concession stand, maybe a live traffic report to help you decide whether to leave a few minutes early to beat the traffic.  The AR glasses are meant to improve and enhance the real-world and real world events, not substitute them for something else on the screen.

    In HR and Talent, what 'real' events could use a dose of AR enhancement? I am sure there are plenty, but here are just a couple of ideas where having real time and private access to additional information would be of great benefit:

    Candidate Interviews - Feedback from references, instant assessment of candidate body language and verbal cues, real-time fact-checking for candidate job history - what wouldn't these AR glasses be useful for in interviews?

    Performance Management Discussions - Context is everything in these discussions. Wouldn't it be cool to have a 'live feed' of the last 3 months of peer comments scrolling by as you chat with an employee about their need to be more of a 'team player.'

    Talent Planning Sessions - it would be cool to see the updated and real-time financial performance of each unit for the execs under discussion just as the CEO is advocating for one of their golfing buddies for a plum assignment or promotion

    And in one last and final benefit, early HR adoption of the smart AR glasses would send an important message that no one, I mean no one, can out geek HR! 

    And one really last point - I recently got some new glasses, they may or may not be prototype AR glasses.

    Have a great week all! 

    Friday
    Nov302012

    In the interview, talk about your talent plan

    Cool story from (Shock!), the world of sports, in this case professional basketball.  The National Basketball Association, (NBA), is not unlike most competitive businesses in that strategy and leadership, while important, will only take an organization so far. To win, heck, to even compete for NBA titles, a supremely talented and thoughtfully assembled roster of players is mandatory. And even then, since almost all the teams possess top talent, you'll never be guaranteed of success, for the teams that usually win rely on two or three superstars - ultra-rare talents that all teams need and compete for.Like a young Lance Haun

    So last summer when Los Angeles Clippers executive Neal Olshey was interviewing for the General Manager job with the Portland Trail Blazers, he, in his words, spent almost the entire interview with Portand owner Paul Allen talking about talent - specifically how the Blazers biggest talent need was at the point guard position, AND the team should address that need by selecting a college player named Damian Lillard in the upcoming player draft. 

    From a piece on SI.com on the Blazers, Olshey, and Lillard:

    In the first week of June, Olshey left the Clippers, a team stocked with point guards but devoid of prominent draft picks, for the Trail Blazers, who had no reliable point guard but two lottery picks.

    During his interview with Blazers owner Paul Allen, Olshey talked about Lillard almost as much as himself. "It was basically the whole interview," Olshey said. "The biggest need was clearly point guard and Damian was the guy. There was no question he was the guy." The Blazers wanted to draft him at No. 11, but feared, for good reason, that he would be gone, so they snagged him sixth.

    So far, about a dozen games into the NBA season, and Lillard's career, Olshey's talent assessment has been right on the money - Lillard leads the Blazers in scoring, assists, and has impressed fans, rivals, and teammates with his outstanding and heady play.

    The larger point I think this story illustrates is how having a talent plan, not just a 'business' or 'strategy' plan was to both Olshey's successful candidacy for the General Manager job, but also the ultimate success of the team, and by extension, Olshey's job performance.

    It is fantastic in an interview setting if you can talk confidently about the target company's industry, competitive situation, opportunities, and challenges. It is great to be able to confidently describe how your skills and experience can help the company solve problems or operate more effectively. But if you can talk about talent - the needs, gaps, where to find talent, what kind of talent you'd recommend to bring into the organization, and how you will bring them in - then I think you have the advantage.

    And if you can, like Mr. Olshey has so far in his tenure, execute on your talent plans, then you win.

    Thursday
    Nov292012

    #HRHappyHour Tonight - 'The LinkedIn Show'

    Tonight at 8:00PM EST  the HR Happy Hour Show is back live with Episode 151 - 'The LinkedIn Show.'

    You can catch the show live starting at 8PM on the listener call-in line 646-378-1086, on the show page here, or via the widget player embedded below.

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    Our guest tonight will be industry analyst and thought leader John Sumser from HRexaminer.com.

    Recently, HRexaminer ran a series of pieces about LinkedIn, the current state of professional networking, the impact and influence of LinkedIn for the talent management community, and finally some interesting and thought-provoking ideas about LinkedIn's future.

    What you WON'T learn on the LinkedIn show are things like, 'How to stuff your LinkedIn profile with the right keywords' or 'How to use LinkedIn to find electricians in Toledo.'

    What we will talk about, and we invite everyone listening tonight to join in and share your thoughts, is LinkedIn's place in the overall professional/personal networking space, how LinkedIn's platform and walled garden are impacting the industry, and what potential threats and alternatives exist to LinkedIn.

    As an HR, Talent, and Recruiting pro, I am sure you have an opinion about LinkedIn as well, and tonight on the show, and on the Twitter backchannel (hashtag #HRHappyHour), we invite you to share your thoughts. 

    It should be a fun and interesting show and I hope you can join us!