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    Monday
    Feb272017

    One type of consumer debt is at a record high, and it could impact your Employee Benefits strategy

    Quick shot for a busy, 'Did I just read the wrong Best Picture winner?' Monday.

    From our pals at Bloomberg, reporting on the recently released Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit out of the Federal Reserve of New York.

    Total U.S. student debt hit a record $1.31 trillion last year, the 18th consecutive year Americans' education debt rose, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    Outstanding loans taken out for higher education have doubled since 2009, data show. No other form of household debt has increased by as much since then. In fact, of the six major categories of consumer debt tracked by the New York Fed, only student loans and auto debt have increased since year-end 2008 (total auto loans are up 46 percent). Total household debt has fallen by 1 percent

    There are some more interesting nuggets on what is happening with student debt in the New York Fed report, including the fact that among the five major types of household debt (mortgage, home equity, student, auto, and credit card), student loan debt has the highest percentage (11.2%) classified as 'seriously delinquent', i.e. over 90 days late.

    Finally, this chart from the Bloomberg piece illustrates how much faster student debt has risen compared to the other forms of household debt since 2008:

    Add all of this up and it points to an environment where student loan debt loads are increasing, former students are having a tougher time keeping current on repayments, and many if not most of your newest employees are walking into their brand new jobs in a state of financial difficulty. 

    A number of organizations have responded to these circumstances by offering student loan repayment assistance or contributions as a part of their benefits offerings. According to Time.com, Chegg, Penguin Random House, and Aetna are among the companies that have implemented schemes that contribute to employee's student loan repayments. And a number of technology/services offerings from providers like Gradifi, Student Loan Genius, Tuition.io, and SoFi are marketing these programs and schemes to employers.

    It seems pretty likely that the student loan debt crisis is not going away any time soon, (has any college or university ever cut tuition prices?), and that candidates increasingly burdened by debt will begin to actively seek employment opportunities that both recognize and can offer assistance to them in this area. 

    Sure, offering student loan payment assistance as a new benefit will come off as just a 'cost', at least in the sort term. But looking at it from a wider angle, it could be an important differentiator in candidate attraction and employee retention. 

    And it could be that along with the other early adopter companies mentioned above, you can finally get in front of a trend for once, instead of having to chase it three years from now.

    Happy Monday - have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb242017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 276 - The HR Happy Hour Oscars 2017 Preview Show

    HR Happy Hour 276 - The HR Happy Hour Oscars 2017 Preview Show

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, in what has become a beloved and annual HR Happy Hour Show tradition, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane break down the major categories for the upcoming Oscars 2017 awards show, share their choices for the big categories, and generally have fun talking about the movies, the themes, and the big ideas in movies in 2017. There was definitely some disagreements and interesting discussions along the way as movies, like any art form, are really personal and impact everyone in a unique way.

    This show is essential prep to get you ready for Oscars 2017, and if you have not yet seen some of the big movies that are up for awards, Steve and Trish offer some ideas as to the 'must sees' of the year.

    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 is probably our favorite show we do each year, we hope you enjoy it too!

    Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app - just search for HR Happy Hour to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Wednesday
    Feb222017

    The Uber HR mess, it probably starts at the pitch meeting

    I don't have a lot more to add to what has been voluminous coverage over the last several days of the recent expose of Uber's (probably) hostile work environment, particularly for the women at Uber. The process of the shocking reveal of what is was really like to work at Uber from a former employee, the wide and far calls of condemnation and Uber boycotts, followed by the quick (and high profile) reactions and vows to 'fix' things from Uber's CEO and their celebrity board member are playing out more or less how you would expect them to.

    Whether or not Uber can, wants to, or will really be able to 'fix' things remains to be seen, and is probably the less important of the things that the rest of us can take away from this mess. It is probably more useful for us to think about how Uber (and others like them), got to this point in the first place.

    Recode has a good piece about how Uber insiders attribute a large portion of the situation at Uber, the ineffectual support and response of internal HR to employee complaints, to the HR culture at Uber of being 90% about recruiting, and 9% about terminations, with the leftover 1% spent doing the necessary admin functions. I made up the percentages, but the idea is clear - Uber was scaling up at a rapid pace, hiring was critical to meeting their business objectives, and it seems likely once people were hired, they were more or less on their own.

    And while the Recode piece makes some great points, and I have no reason to think it is not accurate, I would add one more possible 'cause' to all this mess at Uber, (and the many, many other tech companies that continually struggle with these issues). And it is this - from the earliest stages of the enterprise, the initial presentations and investor pitch decks that the founders use to raise funds, building and supporting diverse teams of people is almost (I can't find one example) never mentioned in these contexts. The 'formula' for raising investments does not include things like a diversity plan or strategies to incorporate talent from underrepresented groups as a key element that will lead to business success.

    It is just never mentioned. What gets mentioned, (and rewarded), are the product ideas, the 'briliance' of the founder, or the reasonable line of sight the investor can assess from the idea to some kind of highly profitable outcome. 

    I did some quick searching this morning for 'Best Pitch Decks Ever' or 'Top Pitch Decks of All Time' and I looked through about 20 of them and did not find one mention of diversity, inclusion, or a stated goal to build a more open, welcoming, fair, or equitable workplace. Note, I am certain this exists somewhere, but I could not find an example right off the bat.

    So back to the question of where to these problems start at places like Uber?

    I think they start from that very first slide deck and from that first presentation where I bet no one talks about these issues.

    Should they be raised at that early point in a company's growth? I will leave that up to the professional investors and founders I guess.

    But having said that, leaving that question up to those two groups has led us to places like Uber.

    Have a great Wednesday!

    Monday
    Feb202017

    HRE Column: What is Driving Innovation in Workplace Technology

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I take a look at the emerging consumer and personal technology trends that are driving and shaping next generation HR and workplace technologies.  While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, real-time, personalized), it still can take time, even years, for these consumer tech trends to manifest in HR technologies.

    I like to think that we are entering (or maybe have already entered), an amazing era of innovation and transformation in HR and workplace tech, much of it being driven by evolving and demanding user expectations, and the changing of the what we think about when we think about HR tech.

    In this month's HR Executive column I examine a a few of the themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the design, development, and deployment of HR and workplace technologies in 2017, and beyond.  This was a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year and make your HR technology decisions. 

    From the HRE piece:

    I've been working on a couple of new talks that I will be giving this year centered around one key idea that has been talked about for some time in HR-tech circles but is now -- finally -- becoming more prevalent in the design, deployment and impact of HR-technology solutions.

    The idea is a simple one. Namely, that the traditional way HR and other workplace technologies have been designed -- by programmers, then marketed and sold to CIOs or IT managers, and finally deployed and configured primarily for the needs of the power users in the payroll and HR departments -- is no longer that useful.

    The continuing series of tech-driven advances in our personal and consumer lives -- such as e-commerce sites that learn our preferences and make personal product recommendations; smartphones and the emergence of app stores that let us design our own preferred toolsets; "intelligent," crowd-sourced platforms that help us beat traffic jams; and ubiquitous and constant Internet connections -- have combined to create heightened expectations of workplace technologies that look, feel and function like the best consumer technologies we have come to love.

    Most importantly, the next generation of the workforce has never known a time when these personalized, highly adaptable, intelligent and easy-to-use types of technologies did not exist.

    Indeed, before walking into your organization for their first day of work, these new employees might have dressed in clothes that were personally selected for them and shipped directly to their houses by StitchFix; have prepared to meet their colleagues by perusing their LinkedIn, Twitter or GitHub profiles; learned about your industry and their new job functions by watching YouTube videos and reading Quora threads; and traveled to the office by summoning a car to their house via Uber or Lyft, or dodging the traffic using Waze. And they did all this on their smartphones. It is no surprise, then, that these new workers are expecting the same kinds of capabilities, flexibility and ease of use from the technology they will use at work.

    Both HR-technology providers and HR leaders are being spurred on to adapt to these new challenges by creating and deploying modern HR technologies that incorporate these kinds of consumer elements and expectations of personalization, beautiful design and ease of use into the next generation of HR tech tools. The evolution of HR and workplace technologies has begun, and the most effective organizations will look to modernize their workplace tools to meet this new, demanding and tech-savvy employee.

    Let's highlight five current manifestations of how modern HR technologies are adapting to meet these these new requirements, and share some thoughts on how HR leaders can better assess, select and deploy HR-technology solutions to meet these demands.

    Mobile

    The Internet traffic and measurement firm StatCounter recently released a report showing worldwide Internet usage from mobile and tablet devices has surpassed internet usage from traditional PCs and laptops, with 51 percent of all Internet usage via mobile. This is a trend that is showing no signs of abating anytime soon. When broken down generationally, it reveals that younger generations prefer mobile over desktops and laptops even more prominently. Three or four years ago, it was common for organizations and HR-technology-solution providers to have a "mobile strategy." Now it seems almost behind the times to explicitly discuss "mobile" tools as something distinct from traditional workplace applications.

    Connected

    I thought about calling this example "Social" to represent how the growth of social networks in the last decade and their popularity with the younger demographic has influenced almost every type of HR and workplace technology, but I think "connected" is a better term to describe how social will continue to influence HR and workplace technology moving forward. "Social" feels a little superficial to me, and besides, I don't think it adequately represents the importance of community and younger workers feeling like they are a part of something larger that is considerably important to them. They want to be connected at work similar to the ways they are connected in their personal lives -- not chasing "likes" on their latest selfie, but coming together with their peers, sharing their knowledge and ideas, helping and supporting each other, and finally "belonging" to something important.

    A great example of this new trend is in the learning-technology realm, where newer systems provide the capability for all end users to share their expertise and upload their own video tutorials, and for other users to build upon this content with comments, addendum and upvotes, indicating that the content was particularly helpful and useful. Communities end up self-forming around subjects and content that are important for the organization, and people feel more connected and supported by their colleagues as well.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and clean out your gutters, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb172017

    CHART OF THE DAY: Report from Startup Land

    I don't like to get too caught up in tracking and detailing the latest trends and moves in HR, Talent, or even workplace technology emanating from Silicon Valley. After all, the vast majority of us do not work in go-go startups, can't really empathize with most startups particular challenges, and the rules of engagement for HR and talent leaders at 30 year-old manufacturing companies with 2,600 employees are naturally, (obviously), different than at a new 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startup in Palo Alto.

    But on the other hand if you generally believe that innovation in technology, service delivery, and even 'HR' things like benefits, workplace design, and employee experience does often start at 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startups, as they are unencumbered by size, tradition, understanding of the 'rules', and simply often too busy to worry about HR things and just get to work, then keeping an eye on what is happening in the Valley can be a useful exercise for any HR and talent pro - no matter what size and type of organization you are in.

    One recently published set of snapshots on what is happening in Startup Land comes to us from Silicon Valley Bank in the form of their 2017 Startup Outlook Report (US).  It is a really interesting look at some of the trends, challenges, and points of view from their survey of leaders of 941 global startups, 62% from the US. I want to share three charts from the US portion of the report, with a comment or two for each, then send you on your way for the (long) weekend.

    Chart 1 - The 'War' for Talent

    You'd expect that a majority of startups would report difficulty in finding the people they need to grow their businesses since many of these startups are in technology fields where the tech itself may be new, and the competition for people with these often very hard to find skills is fierce. But 90% plus saying it is challenging or extremely challenging to find talent? I must say that even surprised me. Even though the percentage ticked down a bit, 9 of 10 startup leaders showed up to work today probably worried about finding talented people.

    2. Gender diversity is not improving

    While it probably is not surprising that most startups have mostly male leaders and mostly male boards of directors, what is at least a little surprising, given the increased attention on this issue in the last year, is that surveyed startups are getting more male at the leadership and board levels.  Buried behind this chart is the note that about a quarter of surveyed firms have formal programs in place to increase female representation in leadership roles. But a quick look at the above data suggests that these efforts are not moving the needle at all.

    3. Despite it all, almost all of these startups are hiring

    It is the nature of a startup to grow and hire, so you'd expect these numbers of firms looking to increase headcount in 2017 to be high, but it is pretty encouraging to see that this number has remained consistently high over the last few years. And this is really good news for the kinds of people that these startups are likely to be after - highly skilled, proficient in the latest technology, and able to add value right away. There's a reason why 'Data Scientist' is sometimes called the best job in America today. Although I'd argue that 'Stretch Four' would be better. Non basketball fans, Google that one.

    Lots of other interesting data points in the 2017 Startup Outlook Report - I encourage taking a few minutes to read it through. You might not be an HR pro at a Valley startup, but you just might be competing with some of them for your next Data Scientist.

    Have a great weekend!