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    Friday
    Nov182016

    Learn a new word; Word of the year finalists, ranked

    Earlier this week the good folks over at Oxford Dictionaries released their pick for 'Word of the Year' for 2016, and they went with 'post-truth', an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

    Seems like a fitting choice for the current social and political climate, where it seems that how you say something has become more important that what you are actually saying. You can read more about 'post-truth' and the reasons why Oxford tapped it as the 'Word of the Year' over at their site.

    There were nine other words that qualified as finalists for Oxford's Word of the Year for 2016 and taken together they paint a picture of a not-so-great year overall. 

    But as Fitzgerald suggested many years back, we beat on, boats against the current and all that...

    So let's end the week with some fun, and rank the Oxford Word of the Year finalists, and crown our own Word of the Year.

    As a reminder, these rankings are unscientific, unresearched, subjective, and 100% accurate.

    Here goes:

    Here are the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist choices, definitions, and my revised rankings:

    10. alt-right, n. (in the US) an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content. Find out more about the word's rise.

    9. Brexiteer, n. British informal a person who is in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

    8. post-truth, adj. relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief 

    7. glass cliff,  n. used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high.

    6. Latinx, n. (plural Latinxs or same) and adj. a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina); relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).

    5. hygge, n. [mass noun] a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture):

    4. woke, adj. (woker, wokest) US informal alert to injustice in society, especially racism.

    3. chatbot, n. a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

    2. adulting, n. [mass noun] informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult,especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

    1. coulrophobia, n. [mass noun] rare extreme or irrational fear of clowns.

    I have always been a little leery of clowns.

    Of course, you can disagree with these rankings, but as it turns out, you would be wrong.

    That's it from me - have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Nov172016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 267 - Recruitment Marketing, Branding, and Technology

    HR Happy Hour 267 - Recruitment Marketing, Branding, and Technology

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Jared Nypen, GreatClips

    Recorded live at SmashFly Transform in Boston, Massachusetts

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve Boese was joined by Jared Nypen, Director of Talent Acquistion for GreatClips, With more than 4,000 franchised salons throughout the United States and Canada, Great Clips is the world’s largest salon brand. Great Clips franchisees employ 40,000 stylists who receive ongoing training to learn advanced skills and the latest trends.

    On the show, Jared shared how he and his team support the GreatClips franchisees with their talent acquisition, recruitment marketing, and employer branding programs and needs. Jared shared his perspectives on the emerging category of recruitment marketing, and how recruiters need to develop and sustain their own employer brand distinct from the consumer brand through these marketing efforts.

    Additionally, Jared shared some of the strategies and technologies that he and his team have engaged with in order to enable, scale, and measure the effectiveness of these branding and strategy programs and ultimately help GreatClips get more than its fair share of the available talent in a competitive labor market.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below (email and RSS subscribers click through)

    This was a fun show, thanks to Jared for sitting down with us, and thanks to SmashFly for having the HR Happy Hour at the Transform event.

    And of course, thanks to our HR Happy Hour Show sponsor Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com.

    Reminder: subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show om iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the podcast player apps - just search for 'HR HappyHour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Wednesday
    Nov162016

    PODCAST - We're Only Human 3 - What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    We're Only Human: What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    Host: Ben Eubanks

    Listen to the show HERE

    In this episode of We're Only Human, host Ben Eubanks talks about talent mobility and its applications in the workplace. Talent mobility is the practice of using internal talent to fill temporary or permanent roles. 

    Unlike succession, which is typically a top-down approach, talent mobility takes into account the interests and aspirations of employees.  As a talent practice, the idea of talent mobility isn't necessarily new. However, there is renewed interest in the topic due to some interesting trends Ben mentions in the podcast, including changes in career longevity, employee ownership over career paths and work tasks, the gig economy, and challenges with sourcing high performers. 

    In addition, Ben covers some case studies and examples of companies that are doing interesting work with talent mobility, including World Bank Group, Chipotle, and Hootsuite.   

    Listen to the show on the show page HERE or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers click through)

    For more information about Talent Mobility you can check out Ben's presentation on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/beneubanks/talent-mobility-the-key-to-engagement-retention-and-performance

    Many thanks to our show sponsor Virgin Pulse - learn more about their products and services at www.virginpulse.com.

    Reminder, you can subscribe to We're Only Human and all the HR Happy Hour Podcast shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the major podcast player apps - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Monday
    Nov142016

    Basketball, media, and robots coming for our jobs

    With the events of last week's election pretty much consuming and subsuming national attention last week you probably missed this really interesting story on the intersection of sports, media, and technology, one that raises some interesting questions about the future or automation and work.

    First a little background on the story from last week, then some thoughts on why it is interesting beyond the narrow, 'sports' focus.

    Last week Mark Cuban, famous rich guy and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks suddenly revoked the media credentials at Dallas' arena for two Dallas based ESPN basketball writers, Mark Stien and Tim MacMahon. From the first reports that came out, Cuban made the decision to revoke the ESPN pair's credentials because he was disappointed that MacMahon would not be covering every Mavericks game, a change from prior years; and Stein, as a national NBA reporter was thought to only want to cover Mavs games to gain access to players and coaches from the Mavs opponents as they came through Dallas. It was reported that Cuban was particularly miffed by the fact that no ESPN media attended and reported on the Mavs opening night game.

    If this story was just about a team owner trying to play strong arm a major media outlet into providing more coverage for his team, it would not be all that interesting, and I would not have decided to write about it here.

    But a day or two after the initial media credential ban was announced, the story became more nuanced, and well - interesting. 

    What Cuban was also protesting, in addition to the reduced coverage of Mavs games in general by ESPN, was what he feels like is going to be the inevitable replacement for at least some human media game coverage - automated game summaries and stories generated by machine learning and algorithms.

    Here's some additional detail from an email Cuban sent to the web site Deadspin, who had been reporting on the Mavs-ESPN kerfluffle: (Note: I edited this some for brevity and clarity, the full email is at the link above)

    Two things triggered this whole thing. First was when I found out they (ESPN) had cut back or had always offered reduced coverage for 19 nba teams I had no idea this was going on

    The second was when espn didn’t cover our opening night and the resultant coverage on their website was a tweet, One highlight and a wire service story

    It made me realize that I had expected to be covered by all media, but it no longer was a given

    Even though espn was covering the same number of games, if they didn’t think it was a big deal to miss opening night. I had a problem. Not necessarily an espn problem , but a coverage problem

    And if it’s 30 games now for 19 teams. What would keep it from being 60 games for 25 teams ?

    What was their long term thinking ?

    When you realize that the hottest area in technology, and it’s not even close , is machine and deep learning , then it’s an easy step to see where this was going

    I told espn this was my concern. They didn’t say they were taking this path. They didn’t say they weren’t. But I voiced these concerns to them

    They said they would run their business . I can run mine

    So the next question is where would it leave Mavs fans who wanted game results coverage of nothing changed and espn didn’t send a reporter for 30 games ?

    It meant for 30 games and inevitably more in the future they wouldn't have a good experience with espn

    It meant it was likely that in the near term when they went to espn Dallas they find a couple videos, tweets and a wire service story

    How is that positive for any nba team or their fans when 30 games have second rate coverage ?

    And what happens and what message is sent to fans when those games are covered by an algorithm in the future ?

    Short term this is a Mavs issue. Long term it’s a certainty that our games will be covered algorithmically. Thats a problem across the board for us and the NBA

    IMO that devalues our brand . It devalues the fans experience. I feel strongly that now is the time to partner with those who commit to the Mavs and to sending real people to cover the games for Mavs fans

    It may seem like we are picking on espn or telling them how to run their business. We aren't. We are trying to protect ourselves and our fans and our future by partnering with those in the written media who commit to us

    I know the whole automation thing may not make sense to some. But to me this is no different than saying that streaming would change media in 1995. Or social media would change coverage of sports , etc

    Machine and deep learning and algorithmic coverage of sports events is going to happen.

    This isn’t about replacing writers. The best writers will always have a place

    This comes down to how do we value reporting on a game . Right now I value it more than espn and others and want to partner with the DMN FWST (media outlets), and use our own writers as our focus

    Really interesting takes coming from a guy who got rich back in the day, selling a technology company, (Broadcast.com) for millions to Yahoo. Cuban is no Luddite or technophobe.

    But at least in 2016, he (probably rightly), feels that despite advances in machine learning and automation that NBA game coverage is still best produced by actual human reporters and not the algorithms. And if you think that the entire idea of an algorithm replacing a human reporter to write sports event coverage think again - it is already happening mostly via technology created by a firm called Automated Insights. You can learn more about what they are doing with automated reporting of minor league baseball games here.

    Let's go back on one line of Cuban's email above - "Long term it’s a certainty that our games will be covered algorithmically. Thats a problem across the board for us and the NBA."

    In the same message where Cuban admits to using some tough negotiating tactics to push ESPN to continue to provide quality, human coverage of Mavs games, he admits that the algorithmic coverage of these games are a certainty. Today while technology like the one provided by Automated Insights is inferior to human reported coverage, over time it seems apparent to Cuban that the difference in quality will matter less to the media company than the sheer cost savings and efficiency gains that could be realized by replacing human reporters with a computer program.

    And Cuban has a problem with that, as it is in his best interests to have top-notch coverage of Mavs games in the media, as he sees that as an extension of his team and of the Mavs brand.

    I know this post has gotten pretty long, especially for a busy Monday, but I thought it important enough to try and lay out the context before hitting what I think is the main takeaway which is this:

    Just because something can be automated away or a job be done by a robot or a machine instead of a human doesn't mean that it necessarily should. Your customers will decide and balance the tradeoffs between costs, convenience, and quality about the products and services you are offering. 

    You might think, or your CEO might insist, that automation is always the way to go, but until the robot or the algorithm can do the job almost as good as the human it is replacing, then don't be too quick to agree.

    Think I am wrong?

    Take a look at the 'self-service' checkouts sometime at a busy grocery store or big box home improvement retailer?

    Anyone using those? Do they provide a great experience?

    Or would you rather wait an extra few minutes and check out with a human cashier?

    Have a great week all!

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Election edition

    Wow, what a crazy few days. 

    I was thinking about most of the CHART OF THE DAY posts I have run over the last couple of years and I realized that they have been, as far as I can remember, all really positive reflections of an improving US economy. 

    Charts about record levels of job openings, charts about declining unemployment rates, and like today's chart that I will share in a moment, near-historic high rates of voluntary job separations, aka, 'Quits'. But no matter the chart, it has been for the most part, 'good' news.

    You know what, let's just get on with the chart, courtesy of your pals at the BLS, and then some semi-related comments and observations after the data. And probably some more charts too.

    1. The 'Quits' rate, i.e. the percentage of the workforce that voluntarily left their jobs sat at 2.1% in September, just a tick below the data series all time high level of 2.3% back in September 2005. Quits have been at or above 2.0%, many observers threshold for what defines a confident labor market, for a little over a year now. Said differently, the labor market seems attractive enough for more people to voluntarily quit their jobs with the expectation that a new, probably better, job can be more easily found.

    2. The 'Quits' rate usually tracks pretty closely, at least directionally, with overall wage growth. And wages have been going up. Heck, here is another chart showing the year-over-year change in average hourly wages going back to 2009.

    Wage increases in general help to encourage folks to move on, more confident in their ability to not only find a new job, but one with better pay and benefits as well. Like I said above, generally good economic news and data that has been trending positive for several years now.

    3. Want more data to chew on while still thinking about Tuesday's results? Ok, let's toss in the standard unemployment rate chart, while not a perfect indicator of the health of the labor market, at least the one that is most well-known and followed:

    Post-recession unemployment hit it's high of 10% in October 2009 and in the seven years since has meandered downward by half to its current level of 4.9%. There are some arguments over what unemployment rate constitutes so-called 'full' employment, but most economists would peg it in the range between 4% and 6%. Said differently, there is less slack in the labor market today than any time in the last 10 years.

    My anecdotal evidence backing up the strength and tightness of the labor market is seen at my local dry cleaner, who has had a 'Help Wanted' sign up in the window pretty much every day in the last 2 years.

    Sure, there are elements of the labor market that don't paint as encouraging a picture (labor force participation rate being one big one, increasing time-to-fill time is another, as it suggests skills mismatches in the labor force), but overall, it is hard to look at the data and not conclude that since the depths of the recession in 2008, that the labor market and the overall economy are light years better than in those bad times.

    4. Want some other data that is not directly related to the labor market but still provides a window view to the strength and health of the economy? How about the S&P 500 , the broad barometer of the performance/value of large company stocks and a pretty decent overall proxy for 'the market'. Here is the last 5 years or so of the S&P 500 Index to take a look at:

    That is a pretty nice 5 year run if you had some money sitting in an S&P 500 index fund for the last few years. It is even better of you push the window back to start at the bottom of the recession in 2008 or so, but the charting tool I found was not that flexible, and I think you get the point anyway. If you were fortunate enough to still have investable funds at the end of the recession, you probably feel pretty decent about how those investments performed.

     

    So getting back to the surprising results from Tuesday, and buying in to (which I do), that political maxim of 'It's the economy, stupid', then what accounts for the startling repudiation of the status quo, and the rejection of the continuation, more or less, of the policies of the last eight years of recovery and growth?

    I suppose the core can be found in another maxim, this one about progress, technology, and the future.

    The science fiction author William Gibson once said "The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

    Let's look at one last chart that kind of channels the Gibson quote and also suggests possible reasons why in spite of all this good economic news, (as I write this the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 just closed a stone's throw from their all time record highs, reversing an anticipated market plunge in the hours just after the election results were clear):

    Going back a ways, and certainly before the last decade, the 'spoils' of a growing economy have increasingly gone to a smaller percentage of folks in the US. There are probably hundreds of reasons why this has been the case, but in terms of making a decision about a candidate, a party, a platform, and an expected (or hoped for) future, none of the underlying reasons really matter. What matters is that for many, many people, the recovery of the better part of the last decade, the stock market comeback, and improving overall economic security and prosperity have passed them by.

    And it is easy for the folks like me and maybe some of you, and certainly the powers that be in both major parties, and the media, and the corporate big shots, and the hedge fund guys, and the Silicon Valley tech bros, and all the people who think they run things to have forgotten about that, or just to have ignored it completely. After all, most of the people we know are doing ok. Most of our friends seem really secure.  No one we talked to said they voted for the other guy.

    I think that what we did learn on Tuesday night, or at least one of the things we learned, is that for millions and millions of people most of the economic recovery has simply not happened. Their jobs, if they are employed, are worse than the ones they used to have. They have less job security than ever before. They are increasingly unprepared to do many of the 'new' kinds of jobs that might improve their situation. And every day some 23 year-old Stanford grad invents some new technology that has the potential to automate, disaggregate, and 'productize' with an app or a algorithm the kinds of work they used to rely upon to take care of themselves and their families. Self driving cars are going to be awesome, right? Unless you are a bus, taxi, or commericial truck driver. If you have one of those jobs, well, good luck.

    I am stupid and I do think it's the economy. And I think until we all figure out ways to have this incredible, amazing, technologically wonderful future more evenly distribted we will remain a country very divided. 

    But even as we struggle with figuring it all out if nothing else the results Tuesday should ensure that we no longer continue to ignore or wish away these problems.