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    Wednesday
    Aug062014

    In a same-day delivery world, does waiting two weeks to get paid make sense?

    I am a big fan of Amazon Prime and its subsidiary Zappos which take a very similar approach to package delivery. On either Amazon or Zappos, one or two clicks to find the item you want, one click to order, (at least for Amazon), and boom - a day or at the most two days later the goods are at the door.

    But even next day delivery isn't going to be good enough for these eCommerce leaders, the game is moving towards same-day delivery, at least for the larger markets. Whether these same-day deliveries will be facilitated by the usual shipping companies like FedEx and UPS, managed via centralized drop-off/pick-up locations and lockers, or even executed by Jeff Bezos' armada of flying drones, one thing is for certain - consumers are going to receive (and demand) goods even faster than ever before.

    And it is not just package delivery where consumers expectations for speed are increasing. Who wants to wait 7-10 business days for concert or sports tickets to be printed and mailed? We just have a code on our iPhones scanned at the turnstile. Don't want to walk tediously through the aisles of the grocery store? Fire up an app, make a few selections, (or just tap 'Send me my usual order') and an hour or so later you are swimming in Ritz crackers, Campbell's soup, and Mountain Dew. Heck, even the drive-through at the Starbucks is not enough of a time saver, soon the Starbucks app and some GPS location chicanery will have your order waiting for you the instant you pull in to the lot, (and it will be paid for too).

    I could go on and on like this, but you know the point - technology is making it possible to deliver goods and services and experiences of every type faster and faster - to the point where many of them are almost now 'on-demand' and in almost real time. And that is what we, the consumer, wants and demands. 

    While these trends are influencing all manner of enterprise and business technologies, call them consumerization of IT if you like, one area where the 'instant access' kind of paradigm has not really made any headway in HR tech is in the area of payroll - specifically in hourly payroll where most workers have to wait days if not weeks to actually get paid for the hours they have worked. 

    The main reason is the typical corporate payroll cycle for hourly workers - most often paid on a bi-weekly basis, one week or so after the two-week reporting period concludes. Hours logged on the first day of a cycle might not actually show up in a paycheck for something like 18 or 19 days. And that is kind of a drag for workers that might be living paycheck-to-paycheck to make ends meet. This kind of problem, workers having financial obligations that do not usually wait for the corporate payroll cycle to complete has led to the rise of the Payday loan indusry, where people can get loans/advances on their paychecks from third-parties, usually at ridiculously high interest rates. Workers do get early access to their pay, but at such a high cost that for many it just starts a cycle of debt and fees.

    A new startup called ActiveHours is attempting to end the need for these kind nasty Payday lending practices with a platform modeled after a simple principle: Employees are entitled to the pay for the hours they have worked immediately after those hours are recorded. Here's how it works from a recent review in TechCrunch:

    The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has come up with a radical new way to charge for its mobile payment service that flips the lending model on its head. Activehours is selling a service that lets its customers get paid for the hours they work, without charging any interest on the payments that its clients receive. Users simply take a picture of their time sheet and specify how much money they would like to get paid from their earnings up to that point in the pay cycle.

    The service means hourly workers can get paid as they go, enabling them to spend their wages however and whenever they see fit. Activehours only receives a service charge which is determined by the user themselves. The company has no set fees, nor does it charge interest on the money it disburses to customers.

    Pretty simple, and kind of radical too. Employees take a picture of their time sheet, get verified by ActiveHours, then get essentially a free draw on their bi-weekly net pay at any time during the pay cycle, without have to pay the exorbitant kinds of fees and rates that the Payday lenders have typically demanded.

    ActiveHours only gets paid through user-decided service charges, (a model while extremely worker-friendy, is certainly not sustainable, but still), and the employees can get at their earnings as they work, not only after some corporate-payroll calendar tells them they can.

    Here is the money quote from ActiveHours founder Ram Palaniappan:

    “Every year, more than $1 trillion of hourly pay is held back for two weeks because of the way pay cycles work today. Yet, more than half of hourly workers in the U.S. live paycheck-to-paycheck or borrow money to stay afloat,” said Ram Palaniappan, Activehours founder in a statement. “It doesn’t make sense to incur overdraft fees or take out payday loans when your workplace owes you money. If you work everyday, why can’t you get your pay every day?”

    Kind of a good question, and one that ActiveHours is setting about trying to answer. 

    Note: I have never talked with anyone at ActiveHours and this is not a sponsored post in any way, I just think it is a cool idea.

    Monday
    Aug042014

    Selling your non-glamorous city: 5 observations from 2 days in Cleveland

    I spent a couple of days last week in the lovely city of Cleveland, Ohio to attend the (really fun) DisruptHR Cleveland event, and then took some time doing a bit of a city tour with some really cool people, (see the pic on the right for the crew taken in the Cleveland Indials Social Suite, which was a fantastic place to catch a ball game from).

    Robin, Frank, Tammy, Trish, and me (L-R)

    One of the big themes that seemed to permeate everything about the visit to Cleveland was that just about everyone from Cleveland that I met was pretty heavily invested in convincing me (and everyone else), that Cleveland is, in fact, a really cool place to live, work, play, socialize, etc. Said differently, people from Cleveland are REALLY in to being from Cleveland. They love and are proud of their city, and try really hard to let you know how fantastic it is. Even though they seem to think that most of the rest of the world sees Cleveland as a kind of last century place and not one that holds much allure for non-natives.

    But I think there are probably some ways that are more effective than others in 'selling' your less than glamorous city to potential employees or investors. And since Cleveland is not unique among Midwest, Great Lakes, rust belt kinds of places with having a bit of an image problem, (the place I live, Rochester, NY is right in that mix), it makes sense that lots of HR/Talent pros have to sell their cities all the time. So based on two days of listening and learning from the good people of Cleveland, here are my top 5 observations on the best/worst ways to sell your non-sexy location to someone that is inclined to believe the worst about your beloved hometown:

    1. Don't constantly remind people that they already believe your city is horrible

    Lots of the conversations I had (and a few of the DisruptHR presentations too), seemed to start with a statement like "I know you think Cleveland is old/backward/dirty/boring/horrible/whatever, but I am going to tell you why you are wrong..." And then they would get into the specific elements and attributes of the city that were positive to try and change my (perceived) opinions about Cleveland. But what if I didn't actually have a negative pre-conception of Cleveland? What if I didn't know much at all about the city? Don't make the first notion in my head a negative one with a "I am sure you heard that Cleveland is terrible" statement. Just lead with the strengths and drop the 'I need to change your mind" stuff.

    2. If you have something cool that NO ONE else has, then talk about that. Talk about that a lot.

    Every decent sized city has some amount of the following things: sports teams, art museums, zoos, theaters, fancy restaurants, concert venues, parks, and probably a dozen more things common to cities. While these are all interesting and important, they (typically) don't do much to convince any but the most passionate that your city is somehow superior to some other city. But when you have something really cool, something that no other city can replicate, then you lead with that. In Cleveland one such example is the (very cool) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The ONLY one of these is in Cleveland. I would spend probably 80% of my time talking about these kinds of unique elements if I was trying to sell someone on my city. "We have a nice library" is not really a differentiator.

    3. Don't fixate on a local problem that visitors are likely not familiar with

    In only about 48 hours in Cleveland I learned that the lack of downtown parking seems to be a REALLY BIG issue. Everyone seemed to mention it at some point, and two DisruptHR presenters talked about it as well. Parking seems to be a big problem, but the only reason I know anything about it is because the natives kept on bringing it up. I would not have known or realized this was an issue on my own. But since the locals seem really worrried about this, now I have in my head that parking is a problem in Cleveland. A better strategy is to not constantly remind visitors or potential transplants of what is a local problem until really necessary. Unless the local problem has something to do with random shootings, carjackings, that kind of thing. Those are the local problems I feel entitled to a little warning about.

    4. People at different life stages want different things

    This is kind of obvious, but still worth mentioning. Where you are in your life and career, significantly impacts the kind of places you are drawn too, and the types of features of a city that seem most attractive. The most successful cities are the ones that offer the kind of variety in housing, entertainment, employment, social, and recreational options that appeal to a wide range of people - from hipsters to young professionals to blue collar workers and to experienced professionals. Once the options that appeal to a group (in general), start to wane and they leave for other options, then a part of the city kind of falls away with it. The most vibrant cities, and sections of cities, have a diverse mix of not just people, but uses as well. If your downtown is all office buildings with limited residences and shops, then it will be a ghost town after 6PM.  I am not sure this is really a Cleveland problem or not, but I think it is important to mention regardless.

    5. Everyone comes from somewhere, and most people have an irrationally elevated opinion of how great their own 'somewhere' actually is.

    I am not sure I have ever been to a city where the local residents are as proud of their city as Clevelanders are about theirs. Everyone I met was really in to being from or living in Cleveland. In some ways, I felt like the visitors were being 'sold' all the time. While being proud of where you live is a great, great thing, I think you also have to be careful (and be a little rational too). Lots of cities are really cool places to live. Lots of cities have most of the same kinds of things you do too. People are nice and friendly all over the place, not just where you live. My point is, sell your city, and what makes it great, but remember that the person you are selling to probably feels the exact same way about their own city too. Keep it in check and be honest - folks will appreciate that more than being fooled. Just ease off on all the parking talk.

    I had a fantastic time in Cleveland. And I can't think of better ambassadors for that fine city than our gracious hosts and guides Frank Zupan and Tammy Colson.

    I do think, in fact, it is true - Cleveland rocks.

    Have a great week! 

    Thursday
    Jul312014

    How far are you willing to go to get better?

    At the (continuing) risk of alienating blog readers who are not the least interested in the connections between sports and HR and the workplace (come on, get with it people), I felt compelled to go back to the NBA well one more time to share a sliver of a fantastic piece in Grantland about the Atlanta Hawks' Kyle Korver.

    For the uninitiated, Korver is a 33 year old veteran player about to enter his 12th season in the NBA, after completing 4 years as a college player at Creighton. He has played for 4 different teams in his career, and was notably traded before ever playing a game in the NBA by the Nets, the team that originally drafted him to the 76ers in exchange for $125,000 - enough cash to fund the Nets' summer league team and buy some office equipment. He then bounced around the league somewhat, making stops in Philly, Utah, and Chicago before joining the Hawks in 2012.

    Since becoming a Hawk, and in particular since the Hawks have adopted a more open, fast-paced, spread the court and shoot 3-pointers type of offensive style, Korver has enjoyed something almost unheard of with professional basketball players on the wrong side of 30 - he is getting better. Korver's scoring average, shooting percentages, and most notably his 3-point shooting percentages have all gone up each of the last 3 seasons, just when most players his age are declining to a point where few even remain in the league.

    To what can you attribute this remarkable late-career renaissance for Korver?

    Probably to three things, two that are basketball specific but have relevance to pretty much any kind of workplace, and one other that is strictly a personal development play, and too has relevance to anyone looking to improve their performance in their job.

    One - The league in general has adopted a style of play that suits Korver's natural talents more so than it did even just 5 or 7 years ago. Teams are favoring a more open game, are spacing the floor to free up 3 point shooting, and relying less on dominant center oriented offense. Through a combination of rule changes and a focus on analytics that values a high percentage 3 point shot over almost any other kind of shot, Korver has found himself a valuable niche in the current NBA. For the rest of us, the lesson is about finding that correct industry or type of work that fits with what we are naturally good at or inclined to enjoy. It sounds really simple, and it should be, but we all have probably spent longer than we care to admit in jobs or at companies that were not 'right.'

    Two - The Hawks, Korver's current team, and their head coach John Budenholzer are installing specific patterns and plays to take advantage of Korver's skills, and that more often than not place him in a position where he or his teammates have the best chance for success. Often non-star players do not get much opportunity to showcae their talents, as most NBA teams orient their game plans around the strengths and preferences of their star players. It is not that role players like Korver are not capable, it is just that they often get limited opportunities. Here is a quote from the Grantland piece:

    No coach has unleashed the full breadth of Korver’s game like Budenholzer. Korver isn’t a traditional pick-and-roll player; he can’t dribble the ball 25 feet to the rim, juking dudes along the way. But Budenholzer has tailored a sort of hybrid species of pick-and-roll to his secret star — a high-speed curling action in which Korver takes a pitch or a handoff, probes the defense with a dribble or two, and makes the next pass from there.

    This is the classic, 'never get a chance to show what I can do' problem that happens in many workplaces. You can either get stuck as too much of a specialist, thus becoming too valuable for the one thing that you do well, but might not be too excited about, or you can fight and push and volunteer for projects that will simultaneously energize you and raise your overall value. Even if you work for the man, sometimes you have to make the man work for you.

    Three - Korver probably works harder at getting better at his job than most of us work at getting better at ours. Work ethic is sometimes a tough thing to assess and then to value. Often it isn't about the level of effort that goes into doing the actual work, in Korver's case actually playing the games, but rather what someone is willing to do when they are 'off the clock' so to speak. What are they working on? What are they reading and researching? How far are they willing to push and explore in order to improve? One more bit from the Grantland piece shows what this means to a guy like Korver:

    Korver is also willing to test himself in unconventional ways. Elliott introduced him to misogi, the Japanese annual purification ritual some athletes have adapted into a once-a-year endurance challenge. Korver and Elliott stand-up paddled 25 miles from the Channel Islands to Santa Barbara last year. Korver may have one-upped himself with themisogi he did this summer.

    Big-wave surfers build lung capacity by holding a large rock, sinking to the bottom of the ocean, and running short distances on the ocean floor. Korver and four friends decided to go back to the Channel Islands, find an 85-pound rock, and run a collective 5K holding the thing underwater. Each participant would dive down, find the rock, run with it as long as he could, and drop it for the next guy to find. Those waiting their turn wore weight belts and tread in water between five and 10 feet deep.

    It took five hours. “We were honestly worried about blacking out,” Korver says. They were also worried about sharks.

    “He wants to turn over every stone, and try every possible thing that might make him better — as a player and a person,” Elliott says.

    Get that? A group 5K, underwater, while carrying a 85 pound rock and hoping you don't black out and/or get eaten by a shark. That is work ethic. That is wanting to get better. That is the kind of approach, in combination with the right system and organization, that allows a 33 year old shooter to keep getting better when decades of NBA history says he should be getting worse.

    How far are you willing to go to get better? 

    Wednesday
    Jul302014

    Some #HRTechConf Conversation and a Discount Expiration Warning

    Note: The rest of this post is entirely about the HR Technology Conference coming up in October and is pretty much 100% self-serving, so if you are not really in to HR Tech, or Conferences, or helping me out, then you can drop off now and check back tomorrow.

    First, I had a chance to guest on Bill Kutik's Radio Show to talk about the upcoming HR Technology Conference, to share some of what I felt like were the important changes in the event this year and highlight just a few of the sessions and other aspects of the Conference that I am particularly excited about. You can listen to the replay of that conversation here, (about 25 minutes or so, and it moves really fast, trust me). Thanks to Bill for having me on the show to promote (shamelessly, much like I am doing here), the event.

    Next, coming up really soon, at midnight EDT on August 4th, (that is next Monday!), several HR Technology Conference discount registration codes are set to expire, and essentially if you elect to buy your Conference ticket after August 4, you will have paid a little bit more than you could have. And that is kind of a drag and also is not what I want either. So if you have been contemplating attending HR Tech in October and have not registered as yet, I urge you to do so before 8/4.

    The very best generally available discount code that you can use before the 8/4 deadline is TW14 (case sensitive), and provides $600 off the on site rate of $1,945 for a net price to you of $1,345.

    If you miss the 8/4 cutoff (Shame!), then use the next best thing, the discount code for listeners and fans of the HR Happy Hour Show and podcast that I do with Trish McFarlane. That code is HHH14 (case sensitive), and gives you a $550 discount from the on site rate, so your net cost is $1,395. Still pretty good and for procrastinators the best part is the HHH14 code does not expire.

    The conference's home page is here, where you can find links to the agenda, detailed session descriptions, the list of exhibiting companies at the sold-out Expo, and of course the registration page as well.

    Thanks for indulging me in this little commercial, I do hope to see lots of blog readers out at HR Tech in October and I definitely don't want you to pay more than you have to in order to attend what is shaping up to be a great conference.

    Tuesday
    Jul292014

    The value of keeping the team intact: NBA edition

    Drowned out by the overwhelming amount of fan and media attention that accompanied the recent decision by basketball's LeBron James to leave his team of the last four seasons, Miami, and return to his original club in Cleveland, another team in the NBA has quietly completed the execution of a different kind of talent strategy in advance of the 2014-2015 NBA season.

    The talent strategy? The retention of key players and team leadership. The team? The NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs who recently defeated James and Miami 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals, thus setting off a chain of events of player movement (starting with the league's best player, James), that is still not completely settled almost two months from the end of the season.

    The Spurs' retention strategy concluded with the re-signing to a multi-year contract extension of the team's longtime coach Gregg Popovich. From the ESPN.com piece announcing Coach Pop's contract extension:

    Gregg Popovich has agreed to a multiyear contract extension to continue coaching the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

    Popovich, 65, has coached San Antonio to five NBA titles since becoming the team's coach in 1996-97. 

    The Spurs won their first championship since 2007 last month when they defeated the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals.

    With Tim DuncanBoris Diaw and the rest of San Antonio's key players all set to return next season, it was no surprise that Popovich has signed on for a few more years.

    The long time coach, Popovich. The 'Big Three' star players, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili. All of the important reserve/role players that helped the team vanquish the Heat in a five game series that was for the most part, incredibly one-sided. Everyone that played a key part and made needed contributions to the Spurs' great season and eventual NBA title are returning to the team next season.

    In modern professional sports, the ability to retain so much of the key talent from a championship team is almost unheard of. Individual players, emboldened by their status as 'championship winners', often seek (rightly), to leverage that status into more lucrative contracts with competing teams. Some reserve players get uncomfortable returning to a team where they are likely to remain reserves for another season, thus potentially detracting from their longer term market value. And in sports, just like in any other business, sometimes people get tired of working with each other after a few years, and seek to use the success as a launch pad to something and somewhere else.

    Retention as a strategy is sometimes, perhaps even regularly overlooked in sports and in many other types of organizations as well. Some people like to say retention is an outcome, and not really a strategy in of itself. It could be, but either way that does not diminish its importance and role in long-term organizational success.

    ALL the NBA chatter this off-season has been about where LeBron was going to play next season, what his decision meant for the other stars on Miami, and how these moves impacted the eventual recruiting strategies of the other teams in the league. And while all this talk about player movement, potential trades, and how certain players might fit in with their new teams is fun and interesting for fans, it completely obscures what the most successful organization of the past 15 years has been doing.

    The Spurs led the NBA in victories, won their 5th NBA title in the Popovich/Duncan era by defeating James and Miami in convincing fashion, and then re-signed Popovich and all the important players from that team and NO ONE is talking about them.

    It is because retention is boring. Recruiting is fun and exciting though, so we like to talk about that instead. But retention, stability, and sticking to a winning formula probably gives the Spurs, (and your organization too), a better shot at long term success than chasing elusive talent and not doing enough to convince your home grown talent to stick around.