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    Knowledge to go

    In my role as a part-time HR Technology instructor I have been a user and quasi-administrator of a wiki platform called Confluence, a product of the Atlassian company based in Australia.  We have used Confluence in the class to organize the course content, share information on assignments, post readings and presentations, and provide the students the opportunity to learn in a more hands-on way, what a common enterprise collaboration tool looks and feels like. 

    Thousands of organizations use Confluence for wiki collaboration, and there is an active and vibrant developer community surrounding Confluence that continues to produce useful and innovative extensions and enhancements. 

    Last week I noticed a post on the Confluence corporate blog about the release of 'Mini Confluence', aImage source - www.miniconfluence.com new mobile client for either the iPhone or the Android, that allows enterprise users of the Confluence wiki and collaboration platform to view and update content, interact with colleagues via status updates, and tailor the interface to keep track of contributions and comments from key colleagues and teams while you are on the go. 

    For enterprises that have adopted Confluence as their knowledge repository, collaboration platform, or organizational intranet, the ability to deploy a functional and effective mobile application to the iPhone and Android (BlackBerry is also supported via a mobile web interface), further enhances and improves the creation, sharing, and discovery of information and expertise anywhere employees happen to be.

    And organizations that do elect to adopt and deploy modern, fast, and highly functional mobile versions of enterprise collaboration tools will likely further strengthen their ability to act, react, and execute on new opportunities and ideas faster and better than their competitors that are stuck in the old dispensation.

    So if you are in an organization that has yet to materially embrace new ways of working and new collaborative tools like Confluence and others, it is certainly fair to say that you are behind your competition that likely has done so.  But don't forget that while you continue to rely on your tried and true methods (email, private instant messaging, labyrinthine shared network drives), your competition continues to move forward. 

    It could be that they are not just collaborating and creating more effectively than you are while in the office, they are beating you from wherever they go.  And the longer you wait, the gap just keeps getting larger.





    Infinite Choice

    The other day I was driving in a light to moderate then back to light rain storm.  One minute the rain was quite strong and the car's windshield wipers had to be engaged at almost full speed to assureFlickr - Christine Krizsa somewhat decent visibility, and then a minute later the rain would subside to an extent that the wipers were hardly needed at all.

    Fortunately for me, my car and most cars made in the last forty years or so possesses a feature called 'intermittent wipers', a mechanism that enables the windshield wipers to operate at numerous speed settings, with variable delays between 'swipes' across the windshield.  In an extremely light rain, or mist, or in rapidly changing conditions like the ones I was driving in, the ability to adjust the speed of the wipers to most closely match the outsude conditions is a fantastic improvement of the wipers' original design - simply either 'On' or 'Off'

    In the case of windshield wipers, I think most drivers would agree that having a range of settings, perhaps even an infinite amount of settings is an improvement from 'On' or 'Off'.  But having so many choices in wiper settings can actually make finding just the right setting quite difficult.  On my twenty or so minute drive the other day I must have adjusted the wiper speed fifteen different times. As conditions changed outside, I almost unconsciously reacted by tweaking, ever so slightly, the wiper speed. I have unlimited contol and choice remember, so it is assumed no matter what the rain and wind are doing, I have the ability to set the wipers at the perfect setting. I don't remember anything else about that drive except fussing with the wipers the entire time, and thinking I still have to keep messing with them even though I have far superior technical capability at my disposal.

    I was in discussion with some colleagues about performance management, specifically a discussion of the use of rating systems in the performance appraisal process.  One person favored the use of the classic descriptors for formal ratings ('Exceeds, Meets, etc.), while another favored a numerical scale (1-5).  A third said what they really need was a way to rate employees on a sliding scale, that all '3's' or '4's' are not the same, and what they really wanted in their performance management technology was a sliding scale that they could use to dynamically 'drag' and adjust the ratings between the defined beginning and end points. That way they could rate Sally as a 3.73 and Joe as a 3.21 and so on. Sort of like an 'intermittent wiper' for the performance rating.

    While I think that the capability for more granular assignment of numeric performance ratings is, at least on the surface, an improvement from assigning '3' or '4', it doesn't really change the fundamental exercise all that much, or improve the conditions or environment that effects the eventual outcomes in the review process. Sure, the manager has more choices, even an almost infinite amount of choices, but as sometimes happens when we are presented with so much choice that we spend all our time focused on the alternatives and much less (or not at all) on the outcomes.  Obsessing over the 'choice' and not the results of the choice if that makes sense.

    And no matter how advanced our windshield wiper systems get, it still rains outside.




    Who Won't be on the HR Happy Hour Show Tonight

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour show it is time for 'Mystery HR Theater'. I know who the guest is. Shauna, the HR Minion, knows who the guest is, and the guest (hopefully) knows when to call in.

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    But that's it.  We have not let the cat out of the bag, so you will have to tune in tonight at 8PM EDT, and play 'guess the guest' or '20 questions' until we reveal our secret guest's identity - you can call in on 646-378-1086 to join the shenanigans.

    But in the spirit of good fun Shauna challenged the Twitterverse to take a guess at the identity of tonight's secret guest.  So far, no one has got it right, but there were some great guesses, and for those who did guess, I offer some explanations as to why they were off the mark.

    Lindsay Lohan - Lindsay is a big star. Still.  But probably not for too much longer.  Pretty soon I bet weNot on the show will see her on 'Celebrity Rehab' and after that I think we have a shot at landing her on the HR Happy Hour.  But she did not use her one call from jail to call us, so will not be on the show tonight.

    Oates - I kind of think Oates would make a good guest.  We could do 20 minutes on mullet and moustache theory and practice alone.  And then there is the whole 'You look like Bababooey' angle.

    Hall -  More interesting than Oates.  Of the duo, the one that could have made it as a solo artist. Also has a strange obsession with killing deer.  Not just the odd hunting trip to bag a 10-point buck, but killing all deer.  Something about lyme disease.  Would make for a good interview.

    Sarah Palin - She has plenty to say for sure.  It is arguable how much of it makes sense. I did pitch her people to have her come on the show but I was refudiated

    Ben Eubanks  - Such an elusive guy.  Has appeared on the show before (grudgingly).  Since we know he is getting ready for some big and exciting things very soon, he is not going to appear tonight.

    Bob Hope - Would be an awesome booking. Forty years ago.

    Rod Stewart - Has an advantage over Bob Hope in that he is currently alive. Also presents a great opportunity to talk about music, models, and mayhem of life as a rock star. Dang, now I really wish we could book Rod Stewart.

    LeBron - Certainly in need of some positive publicity.  But, has so much money, power, and fame that heNot on the show can give a collective eff you to an entire city and not sweat it at all. If LeBron did come on I think I would ask him about NBA players and tattoos. I think every NBA media guide needs to have a 'player tattoo directory' to help recognize and understand all the ink.

    In no particular order we also had guesses of Al Gore, Toby from 'The Office', HR Fishbowl, Steve Forbes, and Jessica Alba. OK, I added the Jessica Alba guess.

    So who will it be?  Who is the 'Mystery HR Guest?'

    You will have to tune in tonight at 8PM EDT to find out!





    The HR Technology Conference 2010

    You must have already heard about the 2010 HR Technology Conference, set for September 29 - October 1, 2010 in Chicago.

    Since it is the pre-eminent event in the HR Technology industry and has been ever since its inception there is certainly no possible way that you have not read a blog post about it, heard a friend or colleague talking about it, participated in LinkedIn discussion about the key issues, wondered if the legendary Bill Kutik, the conference co-chairman is really the Old Spice Guy, or even listened to an old radio show from last year's event broadcast from the location.

    Pretty much everyone involved in the Human Resources technology game, at any level - consultant, practitioner, vendor will be there.  For the HR Tech community it is the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one event.  

    Take a look at the sponsor list for the event, review the sessions and speakers, find out who is going to be exhibiting and you will soon realize this is one of the must-attend events of the year simply for the unmatched opportunity to learn about the latest in HR technologies, hear from peer organizations how technologies are being applied to solve real problems, and get a chance to network and learn from all the industry experts in one place.

    I even hear that the enigmatic Mike Krupa will be there.

    So the question is not 'if' you should attend HR Technology 2010, clearly you should.  

    And the great Bill Kutik, co-chair of the conference has been generous enough to offer up a sweet discount to folks that read this blog. Just click here to register and use the discount code STEVE10 to get a $500 break on the normal rate. I don't get any kind of kick back from registrations, but I know Bill is keeping score and I want to beat the other bloggers out there who have their own codes.

    If you are in the HR Tech game you need to be there, in fact, if you are just in the HR game you probably need to be there too.

    I hope to see you there, (just don't mistake me for Mike Krupa).






    Last week Trish McFarlane at HR Ringleader asked a few of her friends for their summer book recommendations and I was happy to offer two selections.  

    One of the books I suggested was 'Rework' by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hannson, theRework - Mike Rohde founders of software company 37signals. If you are not familiar with 37signals, you may know some of their popular products, Basecamp, a project management tool;  Highrise, a CRM application;  or Campfire, a group chat and communication tool. Or you might know their Signal vs. Noise blog.

    At any rate, 37signals has built a remarkably successful business in a competitive and complex market, and in Rework, the founders share many of their lessons learned along the way. In some ways the book is positioned toward entrepreneurs (although in Rework we learn 'Starter' is the preferred term), but many of the ideas and the advice could certainly be applied inside work groups at larger organizations.

    For the Human Resources reader, Rework is valuable for the several observations and insights related to the hiring process, namely:

    Resumes are ridiculous - The authors recommend spending more time assessing the cover letter, since cover letters have to show more of a candidate's personality and voice, and are therefore a much better indicator than the resume to see if they are a likely fit with your company.

    Forget about formal education - Reliance on formal education requirements as a screening criteria artificially excludes many candidates that might be great performers.  In fact too much time in academia can be a detriment, as many bad habits have to be unlearned.

    Hire great writers - When trying to decide among candidates, always hire the best writer. Clear writing implies clear thinking, and overall better ability to communicate. 

    Additionally, several views on organizational culture would resonate with the HR world:

    You don't create a culture - Company culture can't be created artificially with mission statements and offsite ropes courses.  Culture is the actions of leaders and employees, and it needs time to develop. 

    Skip the rock stars - Forget posting job ads for 'rockstars' or 'ninjas'. Those terms have nothing at all to do with business. Worry more about creating an environment where people can perform at 'rockstar' level.  Chances are there is tons of untapped potential on your team, but excessive policies, poor leadership, and inadequate technology are holding them back.

    They're not thirteen - Treat people like children, and you will get children's work. Requiring approval for everything creates an environment where employees stop thinking for themselves. Excessive monitoring or employee's coming and going and of online activities never works. 

    Rework reads like a rapid string of short blog posts, interrupted by full page black and white illustrations meant to support the main idea of each piece. I plowed through the 277 page book in a couple of hours. But like most good books, I am sure I will go back to Rework again and again, as the advice and lessons, while simple, are easy to forget as so much of the conventional wisdom that we are bombarded with lies in contrast to the ideas in Rework.

    I recommend Rework for anyone running a small business, thinking of starting one, or if you are in a larger organization leading a team and in search of ideas to make your team work (or rework) better.