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    Calling all HR revolutionaries - #HRevolution Las Vegas is Coming

    There are lots of events in the Human Resources and Talent Management space, and plenty of opportunities for HR leaders and practitioners for professional development, for furthering their knowledge and capabilities, and for networking with like-minded and engaged peers. And we know that everyone is busy, budgets in organizations for travel and development initiatives are still tight, and for HR pros, figuring out where and how to invest their limited time and resources is proving to be a more complex endeavor each year.

    That's why it is more important than ever to make the best choices about where to invest your development dollars, your energy, and most importantly your time. 

    The HRevolution event for Human Resources leaders and professionals is staging its next event on October 2, 2011 in Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay Resort. The HRevolution is partnering with the HR Technology Conference, that will also be held at the Mandalay Bay from October 3-5, 2011, to offer HR and HR Technology pros a fantastic combination of content, networking opportunities, and exposure to the latest and greatest in ideas, tools, technolgies, and innovations that are impacting the workforce today.

    If you are not familiar with the HRevolution events here is a quick primer - the HRevolution is a grass roots, practitioner-led, non-traditional Human Resources experiences that while presenting fantastic content and session leaders, is much more about the people who attend than about a bunch of talking heads delivering boring PowerPoint decks about typical HR topics. At HRevolution you will be challenged by new ideas, expected to engage and contribute to the conversations about the current state Human Resources, and also where the profession is headed. At HRevolution you'll learn about new technologies, talk about new ways to engage the workforce, and most importantly, meet and connect with over a hundred like-minded people that are just as passionate as you are.

    The HRevolution - Las Vegas event is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the Fall/Winter HR conference season, where HR thought leaders and practitioners from around the globe will be converging for a day of exciting, provocative, and cutting-edge discussions. With session leaders like China Gorman, Kris Dunn, Joe Gerstandt, Jason Lauritsen and more the event is shaping up to be a 'can't-miss' opportunity. But since the HRevolution is a different kind of interactive and participatory experience, space is limitedso you will want to get your tickets soon.  

    You can learn more about the HRevolution event here, and register for event here.

    And as an added bonus, when you register for HRevolution - Las Vegas you'll receive a major discount code good for the subsequent HR Technology Conference.

    Register for HRevolution - Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite




    Moving the mundane to the cloud

    Yesterday the cloud-based content sharing and collaboration platform company Box (still most commonly referred to by its web address Box.net), announced it's largest enterprise deal to date - an agreement with consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble to deploy Box's file sharing and content collaboration solutions to as many as 18,000 of P&G's 127,000 worldwide employees.

    If you are not familiar with Box, (shame on you, the service rocks), it was created in 2005 on a simple idea - that individuals, small businesses, and increasingly, large enterprise customers should have a way to access and share their content and files from anywhere.  Box offers a free plan for individuals that provides up to 5GB of storage space, and over the last few years has added an array of features and application integrations (Google Docs, LinkedIn, Salesforce, NetSuite, etc.), that appeal to the enterprise user. As the SaaS deployment model and cloud-based solutions for the enterprise have become more firmly established in the enterprise space, particularly in the HCM arena, organizations like P&G are continuing to explore the benefits and potential of this model in decidedly mundane process areas like simple file storage and sharing.

    But for most knowledge workers this simple process - create a file, save it somewhere others can see it, manage access and changes, make sure everyone is up to date on the latest version, and so on - often proves to be a painful, laborious, and altogether productivity-sapping exercise in frustration. So just like the modern era of popular SaaS and cloud-based solutions like Salesforce have shown, Box (and a few others), are proving that there are benefits to be found, even in large traditional enterprises, in the simple file storage/sharing space.

    At its core, the Box service is as simple as the network file shares that almost all enterprise users have grown up with. Connect to Box, create a project name or folder, upload your files, and access them from any internet connected device from there. But what Box brings in functionality beyond the tired old file share you are used to is access to the content from iPads, iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry; advanced (and easy to use), sharing and collaboration capabilities; ways to easily preview files; full content search capability; and more.  And all this advanced functionality for enterprise users requiring very little if any involvement from corporate IT departments.  

    The Box/P&G announcement is likely just one of the first in what are likely to be many such deals announced in the coming months/years.  For many enterprise users, the realization that the Cloud is now a fundamental part of the corporate experience won't come from the once or twice a year they access their Talent Management suite provider's cloud-based performance review process. It will be when they save, access, modify, share, embed, link, and otherwise interact with the mundane - Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, Acrobat files - but instead of living on their desktop and in the labyrinthine file system on the departmental shared drive, these files and the actions that are taken upon them will be in the cloud, more visible, more accessible, and ultimately more powerful.

    Kind of a dull post for a Friday I know, but I guess that is the point. When even dull processes can be improved and transformed, well I think that is a kind of real progress and benefit to all this cloud talk.

    Have a great weekend!



    The NBA, where a 30% pay cut was the better option

    So the National Basketball Association, henceforth referred to as the 'NBA', 'The League', or 'The Association', fresh off by most accounts was a very successful season, one that started with the LeBron James 'Decision' drama last summer, followed by a compelling regular season that saw several young players raise their play to superstar status, and capped off by a dramatic Championship series were the aforementioned James' Miami Heat team was defeated by a rag-tag, inspirational band of tattooed milliionaires from Dallas, has managed to follow up on its recent success and buzz by failing to forge a new labor agreement between the owners and players, resulting in a classic 1930's style Lockout1.

    The lockout has effectively stopped almost all league business, imposed a ban on teams having any contact with their players, and has even resulted in the scrubbing of the NBA's and associated team websites from player photos, bios, and really most signs that people actually play the games2.

    Since in a lockout situation the owners no longer have to pay the players, one might think the teams could settle in for a protracted impasse, since player salaries make up the majority of team expenses. But even though the lockout is but a few days old, some teams are already making decisions that seem primarily intended to reduce non-player labor costs. Case in point - the Los Angeles Lakers decision to decline to renew the contract of long-time Assistant General Manager Ronnie Lester3.  

    From the ESPN Los Angeles piece on Lester's departure from the Lakers:

    Barring a last-minute change of heart, Lester's 24-year run with the Lakers will end when his contract expires this month. By then, at least 20 other Lakers staffers, including almost all of the scouts who work under Lester in the basketball operations department, will have already packed their belongings and headed home. They've been told little by the team, except that employees whose contracts expire on or after June 30 would not have their contracts renewed, and their jobs may or may not open up again down the line.

    So on the surface it seems like a sad, but kind of straightforward deal. The League is in what appears will be a lengthy labor dispute, the upcoming season is perhaps already in danger of being delayed, if not totally canceled, and teams like the Lakers are taking quick and aggressive steps to reign in labor costs that are still in their control.  Makes sense right, and really isn't all that noteworthy a story. 

    That is until we catch one more little tidbit about the Lester employment situation with the Lakers, buried about 2/3 the way into the piece:

    Lester wasn't fired or laid off. By all accounts, he's still greatly respected within the organization and around the league. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak considers him both a friend and one of the best assistant GMs in the league. He just didn't protect himself well enough last summer when the Lakers gave him the option of signing a one-year contract for the same pay as before, or a three-year deal at a 30 percent pay cut.

    Now it gets more interesting. Apparently this time last year, the Lakers offered Lester a choice - re-up for one year at his current salary, or take a 30% hit but get the security of a three-year deal. Twelve months ago the lockout might have seemed a possible but unlikely outcome given the apparent irrationality of a collection of mostly billionaires (the owners) and millionaires (the players) being unable to agree on a fair division of a massive pot of revenues4. But even as far back as last summer even the most optimistic observers of the NBA scene were expecting a labor problem, and a likely lockout. 

    As an executive on the inside, Lester had to know that the lockout was likely, and he must have also suspected that in the event of a lockout, front office personnel might be in a tenuous situation. But knowing that, and presented with a three-year, 30% pay cut option, he elected to re-up for the single year, maintain his salary level, and leave himself exposed to the contract non-renewal it appears he is facing this month.

    Tough call, even when not staring an impending business crisis in the face. But it is a good question to ponder, even if a theoretical one.

    If your employer offered you a three-year guarantee with a 30% pay cut, would you take the deal? 

    Or would you roll the dice like Ronnie Lester did, maintain your salary for the time being, and take your chances?


    1. That sentence was over 100 words in length. Ridiculous. Get an editor.

    2. It is really kind of jarring. Take a look at NBA.com if you don't believe me. The front page of the Knicks team site features a tribute to the team's dancers and the 'Knicks Now' section is mainly about some recent community outreach efforts by the club featuring team executives.

    3. Lester's best season of his NBA playing career was 1981-1982, when he averaged 11 points per game for a pretty bad Chicago Bulls team. The second leading scorer on that team was Reggie Theus, possibly more well known to readers as the star of Saturday morning classic 'Hang Time'.

    4. There is quite a difference in opinion how profitable (or not), the NBA is, and whether or not the players or owners are mainly responsible for the current labor crisis. Some good background can be found on the FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times site.


    Why aren't computers more human?

    “What would you like your computer or the Internet to do that it can’t do right now?” 

    This morning in the email inbox, wedged in between a press release promoting talent management technology vendor Kenexa's new partnership with leading video interviewing provider Green Job Interview, (kind of interesting), and a blind pitch to run a guest post on my blog about '25 Tech Tools for HR Professionals', (trust me, not at all interesting), came notice of a press release promoting  the results of a study titled 'Children's Future Requests For Computers and the Internet' (pdf link).Wish: a computer that gives real-time help and encouragement

    The study, from the international research consultancy Latitude, was meant to gain insight around potential future technology developments and trends as envisioned by children, and was conducted in 2010. According to the release on the study findings:

    (Latitude) asked more than 200 kid innovators, ages 12 and under, from North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Australia to submit drawings of something they’d like their computers or the Internet to do differently. Researchers then scored and analyzed kids’ inventions based on the presence of specific, future-oriented technology themes.

    As expected the children that participated in the study offered some clever and innovative ideas about their vision of the future capabilities of technology, and in a way, their expectations of the same. As Latitude broke down the findings, (which had to be a bit challenging, since the kids participating in the study were asked to 'draw' their responses), some consistent themes emerged around what these kids hoped for in terms of the evolution of technology and the internet.

    To me, the most interesting theme seen in the kids' responses was this - 'Why Aren’t Computers More Human?'.

     Again from the Latitude study write-up:

    The majority of kids (77%) imagined technologies with more intuitive modes of input (e.g., verbal, gestural, and even telepathic), often capable of human-level responsiveness, suggesting that robots with networking functionality and real-time, natural language processing, could be promising areas of opportunity for companies in education, entertainment, and other industries.

    So the a collection of 12-year olds from around the world want systems and technologies that are more responsive, intuitive, natural, and work more with them, in the contexts of the 'real' world in which they live. They want to interact with technology, and have their tools and gadgets react to them in ways that seem very much in tune and in line with their real-life interactions as well. Tactile, verbal, aural - and the ability for technology to recognize and react to the same, these kinds of things we associate with 'real' interaction - are some of the main wish-list items from the study participants.

    The funny thing is I bet these are broadly the same kinds of things that most of us adults want from our technologies, whether enterprise level ones, or those we use for fun, utility, or connection in our 'real lives'. Technologies that seem like a natural extension of the way to talk, listen, see, hear, touch, engage, and react.  Makes perfect sense that the kids want their computers to seem more human.

    In fact I am sure most of us grown-ups want that too.

    You can read more about the Latitude study here, and check out some of the drawings that the participating children in the study created on this Flickr set.

    What do you think - why aren't computers more human?

    Postscript - Ironicially the Kenexa-Green Job Interview partnership I mentioned at the top of the piece is a small step in 'making enterprise systems and processes more 'human'.


    Just Five out of a Thousand

    Often we underestimate the power of a small change or the potential for a tight but empowered collection of individuals to effect significant change to a level far more enduring than their small numbers suggest, or for seemingly minor but well-positioned and targeted interventions to have massive impact.Look familiar?

    Case in point - studies of traffic congestion on German expressways have determined that a modern, real-time, and networked traffic monitoring system, that feeds information from cars on the road to each other and back to a central traffic monitoring center, can successfully and meaningfully reduce congestion, waste, and the associated societal angst that comes from incessant traffic jams with as few as five cars out of a thousand actually connected to the network, and providing traffic and road condition information back to the base.

    More details from the Fast Company article that described the study:

    The project consists of automobile-mounted, Wi-Fi-enabled sensors, which relay traffic data from car to car until they reach a roadside base station that sends the info to a control center, where engineers can monitor traffic jams, accidents, and construction zones and mount responses in the form of radio alerts and text messages. The surprising discovery is that even when such an automotive web is loosely knit and full of holes, connecting as little as .5 percent of cars on the road, the information it provides can help traffic managers ease congestion, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs--not to mention reducing the stress and anxiety of drivers, whether their rides are Wi-Fi-enabled or not

    It seems like a simple, yet powerful mix of ingredients - a problem everyone would agree needs to be attacked, the smart application of technology and brain power to address the issue, and a solution flexible enough to realize that it won't be feasible or practical to get even a majority of drivers on-board to successfully implement, much less every driver. To me, that is the key to the story - the potential to effect change and likely significant improvement for all the actors involved, (drivers, businesses, families, the environment), while only recruiting so-to-speak a tiny minority of the players that in theory are engaged and passionate about the problem to be solved. 

    Other potential lessons to take from the 'Five out of a Thousand' story? How about to reinforce the idea that in any complex, multi-player system consisting of a collection of individual motivations, attitudes, capabilities, and desires that effecting change or even incremental improvements might not always require a kind of universal buy-in and commitment in order to succeed. I think sometimes we can get caught up in making sure that every new system or process improvement reaches all the far corners of the extended enterprise or ecosystem, and can often spend enormous time and energy 'selling' to a portion of our constituents that are never going to come on board, and quite possibly won't even impact the overall success or failure of the initiative all that much either way. Perhaps you can think about using the precepts of Social Network Analysis inside the organization to better focus change initiatives and more quickly determine the right 0.5% for your efforts to target?

    Admittedly most organizational or societal transformation projects will need more than 0.5% participation to be connected and engaged, but certainly 100% participation is usually not needed (or even possible).  

    The trick is of course, finding the right 'Five out of a Thousand' that will make your project or passion come to life.  It's too bad people are more complex and harder to read than cars on the expressway. 

    Aren't they?