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    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 198 - What HR Will Be Talking About in 2015

    HR Happy Hour 198 - What HR Will Be Talking About in 2015 (and some things HR needs to stop talking about)

    Recorded Thursday January 8, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Listen HERE

    For the first HR Happy Hour Show of 2015, Trish and Steve dug into some of the topics that HR leaders and pros will be talking about in 2015, and hit a few topics that (Steve especially) thinks HR needs to let go of this year.

    Loosely based on a post Steve led off the year with, (and that can be found here), Trish and Steve talked about some of the big 2015 topics in HR - predictive analytics, retention, talent having the upper hand, and HR as marketing. We also hit some of the the things that maybe HR needs to step back from, whether from overuse, lack of success, or simple silliness. And let's just say your humble hosts didn't agree 100% on all of these ideas.

    Additionally, Steve was SHOCKED to find out the actual HR people spend at least part of their Sunday mornings having discussions and debates about HR issues on Facebook, Steve made a case for wearing the same outfit to work every day (Trish strongly disagreed), Steve was unable to pronouce the word 'ephemeral', and your hosts had to work around an unexpected middle of the show interruption by some garage door installers (sorry, the little glitch hits at about the 18 minute mark, we did our best to smooth it out in the editing room).

    This was a really fun and hopefully thought-provoking show and we hope you check it out.

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

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your subscriptions.

    Happy 2015 from the HR Happy Hour!


    More reasons to wear the same thing to work every day

    Lots of folks spend 10 or 15 or maybe even 30 minutes each morning staring at the closet trying to figure out what outfit to wear to work that day.

    Recently hired University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh is not one of those people. He is rarely seen not wearing his 'signature' Walmart Khakis and black long sleeve shirt.


    As Harbaugh puts it, "It's gotten to the point where I save so much time a day knowing that I don't have to stand in front of the closet, trying to decide what outfit to pick out. About 15 - 20 minutes a day. That adds up, day after day."

    Harbaugh isn't the only successful, famous person who adopted this 'wear the same thing every day' philosophy. So did Steve Jobs. So does President Obama (for the most part).

    Wearing the same thing every day does save time, and it may even be kind of liberating. But most of us don't even consider it. I wonder why.

    A few months ago I posted about this idea over on Fistful of Talent, and since the Harbaugh story put the issue on my mind again, I am going to run that FOT post below, because I still think it is interesting, and I am kind of too busy today to come up with anything better. <FOT Post below>


    The Corporate Uniform… Or, Are you Brave Enough to Wear the Same Thing Everyday?

    Steve Jobs.

    Mark Zuckerberg.

    President Obama.

    Karl Stefanovic. (Okay, I bet you have no idea who this guy is… hang in there, we will come back to him).

    What are these four gentlemen all famous for? Check that—a better question is this: What do these four gentlemen all have in common?

    Besides being extremely successful in their chosen fields of endeavor (even Karl—I will explain), they all at one time or another adopted a personal uniform, i.e., they essentially elected to wear (more or less) the same basic clothes every single day.

    Jobs, of course, became renowned for his black turtlenecks and blue jeans. Zuck, for his seemingly endless supply of gray t-shirts and hoodies. President Obama wears only gray or dark blue suits.

    And our man Karl, who, in case you are not familiar is an Australian morning TV host, has worn the same blue suit on the air every day for a YEAR.

    The reason that the first three men in this list elected to adopt their signature style are remarkably similar. Each man felt like they had much more important things to worry about than fashion or even simply choosing what to wear each day. So by adopting a “uniform” of sorts, they effectively eliminated one set of decisions from their daily routine.

    And there is at least some science that suggests that reducing the sheer number of decisions that one has to make can help to avoid something known as ‘decision fatigue’, a situation where the quality of decisions deteriorates after a long or prolonged period of decision making. When decision fatigue sets in, it can be hard to make appropriate trade-offs and can lead to decision avoidance and irrational—even careless—choices.

    But let’s get back to Karl Stefanovic, the person on this list you are likely least familiar with. Karl, in an experiment of sorts and influenced by his observations that there exists a double standard in TV and entertainment between how men and women’s appearance are judged, decided to wear, on air, the same blue suit every day for a year.

    Karl’s theory was that he could easily get away with wearing the same “uniform” everyday on TV, but his partner, a woman, would be excoriated by the public (and probably by management) for attempting the same stunt. And while we don’t know for sure what would actually have happened if his co-host Lisa Wilkinson tried the same move, we do know the result of Karl’s “wear the same suit on TV every day for a year” experiment.

    The result?

    No one noticed.

    Not a single viewer complained. No letters or emails or tweets about the suit. Management did not issue a correction or reprimand.

    No one cared.

    Karl was, in his words, not being judged on what he wore or how he looked, but rather on “my interviews, my appalling sense of humour—on how I do my job, basically.”

    But if co-host Lisa (or any high-profile female personality or executive) tried the same stunt, can we honestly say that the reaction would be the same?

    If Ginny Rometty or Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer wore the same clothes every day (like Jobs and Zuck and Obama), would we EVER stop talking about what they are wearing and focus on their performance?

    Probably not. Men get judged (primarily) by what they do. Women, especially in visible, important positions, never seem to be able to shake the criticism and commentary about things like clothes and hairstyles.

    The truth is that it hardly matters at all what people wear or what they look like. What matters is what they do.

    For Jobs and Zuck, we don’t give that conclusion a second thought.

    Why can’t we say the same thing for the rest of us?


    CHART OF THE DAY: Is today a good day?

    Is today a good day? A bad day? Or just a typical, run-of-the-mill kind of day? 

    Maybe it is still too early to tell.

    But the answer someone is likely to give to the 'Is today a good day?' question could be highly dependent in which country you live. Take a look at today's CHART OF THE DAY, courtesy of the fine people over at Pew and taken from their Spring 2014 Global Attitudes survey, and of course some FREE commentary from me after the chart.

    It may seem odd or counter-intuitive, but many of those in the poorer countries surveyed were more likely than those in richer nations to say that the day, and this is just a randomly selected day, was a good one.

    When looking at this question by national income, there is a slightly negative correlation between respondents reporting that the day is a good one and their country's per capita GDP. The USA being the major outlier on this measure. The USA has the highest GDP per capita among the countries surveyed by Pew and these American respondents were more likely to rate a day as particularly good than people in other rich nations. But across the board in almost all the surveyed countries, the most common response to this question is that the day was just “typical.”

    Kind of interesting, even if it is hard to know what, if anything to make of it. On the one hand it is noteworthy that with the exception of the USA, the relative wealth (as expressed in per capita GDP), doesn't seem to predict general happiness, (or at least contentedness). But the fact that across the world most people's are just 'meh', seems more interesting.

    Think about your typical day. Today even. 

    Good, bad, or 'meh'. 

    How about yesterday? The day before?

    When was your last really, really good day?

    I hope it is today.

    Happy Wednesday.


    Learning by watching, something else at which the robots are superior

    This story, Robots can now learn to cook just like you do: by watching YouTube videos, made the rounds over the past weekend. The basics of the story are these: researchers at the University of Maryland and an Australian research center have managed to create a system by which robots can 'learn' to cook, (how to recognize cooking tools, how to grasp and manipulate objects, how to process unfamiliar inputs into cohesive sets of instructiokns, etc), with the raw learning material consisting of a set of 88 YouTube videos of cooking demonstrations.

    The entire paper, Robot Learning Manipulation Action Plans by 'Watching' Unconstrained Videos from the World Wide Web is here, but I will grab the most interesting and telling bit from the abstract, and then shoot a few comments after the excerpt.

    From the paper:

    In order to advance action generation and creation in robots beyond simple learned schemas we need computational tools that allow us to automatically interpret and represent human actions. This paper presents a system that learns manipulation action plans by processing unconstrained videos from the World Wide Web. Its goal is to robustly generate the sequence of atomic actions of seen longer actions in video in order to acquire knowledge for robots.

    Experiments conducted on a publicly available unconstrained video dataset show that the system is able to learn manipulation actions by “watching” unconstrained videos with high accuracy.

    There is a lot to unpack even in that short snippet from the research, but the implications of this research suggests a future state of even more powerful automation technologies - the kinds of technologies that can learn simply by watching. And unlike us puny humans, they won't get tired of watching the same stupid 'life hack' kinds of YouTube videos 73,000 times before getting frustrated that we can't 'get it' and then just giving up.

    Some time back I posted about robot technology replacing or at least augmenting human staff in retail big box stores. In that post I posited that the real advantage, or at least one of the most important (and I think really overlooked for the most part), advantages that robots and technology have over human labor are the robot's incredible ability to learn, store, and share information with other robots.

    When the robot solves, or learns how to solve maybe just by watching a human colleague, a customer's problem, it can instantly share that knowledge with every other robot, who will all then have learned to solve that problem. Information, learned knowledge then becomes an asset for all. Immediately.

    Think about the power of that ability the next time you have to roll out some kind of training program to your entire workforce. How many times do you have to explain the same thing to another person? How long does it take everyone to 'get it?'

    How many never do?


    What HR will be talking about most in 2015, (and what we need to stop talking about)

    My completely unscientific, biased, personal, and guaranteed to be 100% accurate take on what HR, work, and workplace technology topics we will be spending endless cycles dissecting and analyzing in 2015, followed by a short list of topics that we have, have, have to stop it already with lamenting.

    These 'hot' topics were complied from a scientific review of all the stuff I saved, tweeted, bookmarked, or emailed to myself over the holiday break, because since I read everything, that is the only research that is really needed. Also, and as an aside, I still email myself stuff all the time and every time I do that I feel like a noob. Oh well, here goes...Mark Rothko, Rust and Blue, 1953

    What HR will be talking about most in 2015:

    Predictive Analytics - Amazingly in three short years we have moved from talking about Big Data, to talking about analytics, and in 2015 we have arrived at even better analytics - the 'predictive' kinds. This is despite having (mostly) not all that much to show for all the focus on Big Data and regular analytics. But in 2015, expect to see HR tech companies espouse the power of their solutions ability to use data to 'predict' which employees will quit, which ones will perform well, which ones most likely to steal your Chobani from the break room fridge. 

    Retention - 2015 is going a be a fantastic year for some folks in the talent game as churn (and therefore recruiting) activity ramps up even more. More organizations are growing than are shrinking, more talented employees are ready to move, the 'quit' rate is climbing, and the best, most in-demand talent is completely in charge. Keeping your best, most difficult to replace people happy is going to be job #1 for HR in 2015. 

    Branding/Marketing/Attraction - In other words the hard job of 'selling' the company and its opportunities to talent that has the power. In 2015 this conversation is going to have to start expanding beyond just the external candidate facing aspect, and become much more of a complete, strategic priority. Marketers always remind us that it is much less expensive to keep, renew, and occasionally upsell existing customers than it is to try and find brand new customers. The same type of logic I think applies to people in the organization as well. It is easier, cheaper, and probably a better long-term play to keep working, investing, developing, and yes marketing to the existing employees than to always be on the hunt for external talent.

    What HR needs to stop talking about in 2015:

    'Social' HR - If you are someone, in 2015, who is still trying to get more HR folks engaged on social media I beg you to let that go. Twitter has been a thing, and a popular, well-known thing, for YEARS. If someone has not been able on their own to figure out if there is some value there for them by now THEY NEVER WILL. Lots of folks, possibly even me too, had some fun, got to travel to events, and got to pretend we were somehow cool or smart because we had a bunch of followers. That was fun. In 2010. In 2015 it is kind of sad. Please let this one go.

    Candidate Experience - I think treating candidates respectfully, professionally, and communicating the status of any of their applications in a timely manner is important, and basic. Everyone should do this. I think spending any more time on 'experience' beyond ensuring those elements are in place is likely a less than optimal use of any organization's time and resources. If you have ALL your other internal talent management challenges in order, then sure, focus more effort on candidate experience. Then again, if you did have all of your other talent management challenges in order it is pretty likely you provide a perfectly satisfactory candidate experience as well.

    Employee Engagement - Only 30% of employees are 'engaged'. That has become an immutable truth of work and workplaces. It is right alongside 'Average annual salary increases will be 3% this year' as the most expected headline of the year in HR. And so maybe it is time to just accept it. Lots of people are not 'engaged' and probably will never be no matter what. Quit worrying about it. Worry about if they show up, they get their jobs done, they don't leak the company intranet to the North Koreans, and they don't microwave leftover fish in the lunch room. We (collectively) have spent ages of time, effort, and energy trying to 'fix' engagement and we have (so far) failed. Maybe it's time to take a year off.

    Ok, I am out. What say you? Am I close on this? Off the mark? 

    Have a great week and a fantastic 2015!