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    Top 5 Reasons to get your HR Technology Conference ticket today #HRTechConf

    I think by now most readers of the blog know that I am the Co-Chair of the HR Technology Conference, coming up fast on October 18 - 21 in Las Vegas. I have spent months putting together the program and working with literally hundreds of folks ranging from HR executives, IT and Business leaders, the big, massive HR tech companies that everyone knows, and a growing and increasingly innovative set of HR tech startups to develop this year's slate of content, demonstrations, and educational sessions.

    And since a great opportunity to attend the Conference at a reduced rate expires tomorrow, Wednesday September 16 at Midnight EDT, I thought I would try and make sure blog readers were aware, and offer up some of my own thoughts about why this year's event is once again a 'must-attend' for HR, Business, and IT leaders, as well as anyone interested in how technology can enable better business outcomes through people.

    So with that said, here are my Top 5 reasons to register today and come out to the HR Technology Conference this October:

    5. Presentations from HR and Business executives from many of the world's leading organizations on their challenges and how they have utilized a wide range of HR technology solutions to address these challenges. Just some of the companies on the agenda this year are MGM Resorts, Allstate, Unilever, Cisco, Marriott, Novo Nordisk, Delta, UPS, and many more. You will hear first-hand and unfiltered how these and many more organizations are attacking the same kinds of problems you have in your shop.

    4. Two General Sessions focusing on what is "Awesome" and new in HR Tech. Once again we will showcase the best innovations in the HR Technology industry both from the vibrant startup community, and from the big, brand name tech companies that you know. Details on both of these "Awesome New Tech" sessions will be released soon, but rest assured (I have seen all of the demos), that you will not want to miss either of these sessions to learn how the most innovative solutions can help your business.

    3. The first ever HR Tech Conference Hackathon, where teams of top engineering and design talent from across the HR tech insecurity will show off their skills and creativity in a classic, 48-hour hackathon format. This will be a great look into the behind the scenes of how great HR technologies get created, and a chance for many of the top and most talented people working in HR tech to shine.

    2. In another first for HR Tech, the new 'Customer Success' track will help HR leaders, no matter where they are on their organization's journey with HR technology, to gain important insights, tips, and learn from best practices on every point of the journey. From creating an HR technology strategy, to business case creation, vendor evaluation and selection, change management, implementation, and relationship management - leading industry experts will be their to help guide you along the way. At the Conference, we want to help provide attendees with the tools to succeed along the entire journey, not just the first step.

    1. Finally, once again HR Tech will be the largest, best, and most comprehensive event in the industry for everyone interested in improving work, workplaces, and business outcomes and how technology can support these goals. We will once again have a sold-out Expo, with a growing section carved out for the HR tech startups that are innovating like mad, a record-high number of sessions and speakers, and thousands of the best and most creative people in the HR tech industry today. HR Tech has become an essential event for leaders that are charged with solving the most important business challenges today - driving better results through people. 

    And one Bonus Reason, it is Vegas!

    C'mon, you know you love going to Las Vegas. In late October the weather will be perfect, sunny and highs about 80 or so, the food, drink, and entertainment options are limitless, and you the Conference and the other myriad social events that happen around the Conference are an incredible opportunity for you to network, socialize and have fun.

    I hope to see many of the blog readers out at the Conference this year!

    As a reminder, the Early Bird registration rate expires at Midnight EDT tomorrow, (Wednesday September 16). And as an added bonus - if you head on over to LinkedIn and become a member of the HR Technology Conference Group, you can use the registration code LINK15 to save an additional $150.00 on top of the $350.00 Early Bird discount (expiring Sept. 16) – That’s $500.00 in savings when you register by Wednesday.



    Learn a new word: The Friendship Paradox

    Do you sometimes get the feeling that somewhere there are amazingly cool things being done by seemingly very cool people that you are somewhat connected to and have awareness of due to your Facebook/Instagram addiction? 

    I mean every time on the weekend when you scroll though your timeline, (in between loads of laundry and cleaning up dog poop), you are treated with images of people laughing at a party, strolling on a white sandy beach, or enjoying another #perfect #sunset with #wine?

    Quick aside, and this is for everyone - ENOUGH with the sunset/sunrise pictures. The sun rises and sets EVERY day and everyone has seen this phenomenon thousands of times. We get it already.

    Ok, back to the point.

    Why is it that it seems like lots and lots of other folks are having an AMAZING time while you, well, not so much?

    It could be due to something called The Friendship Paradox. The Friendship Paradox is the phenomenon that your friends have more friends than you do. How does that make sense?

    Actually pretty simple, from a recent article on the topic called The Inspection Paradox is Everywhere, by Allen Downey:

    In 1991, Scott Feld presented the “friendship paradox”: the observation that most people have fewer friends than their friends have.  He studied real-life friends, but the same effect appears in online networks: if you choose a random Facebook user, and then choose one of their friends at random, the chance is about 80% that the friend has more friends.

    The friendship paradox is a form of the inspection paradox.  When you choose a random user, every user is equally likely.  But when you choose one of their friends, you are more likely to choose someone with a lot of friends.  Specifically, someone with x friends is overrepresented by a factor of x.

    Ok, so let's accept that the Friendship Paradox is valid, and that for the most part your friends have more friends than you do. But why do they all seem to be happier and to be having more fun than you as well?

    Well, it turns out that the Friendship Paradox extends to things like success, wealth, and happiness too. 

    From a long-ish piece on the MIT Technology Review site titled How The Friendship Paradox Makes Your Friends Better Than You Are:

    To study other types of network, Youg-Ho Eom and Hang-Hyun Jo looked at two academic networks in which scientists are linked if they have co-authored a scientific paper together. Each scientist is a node in the network and the links arise between scientists who have been co-authors.

    Sure enough, the paradox raises its head in this network too. If you are a scientist, your co-authors will have more co-authors than you, as reflected in the network topology. But curiously, they will also have more publications and more citations than you too.

    Eom and Jo call this the “generalized friendship paradox” and go on to derive the mathematical conditions in which it occurs. They say that when a paradox arises as a result of the way nodes are connected together, any other properties of these nodes demonstrate the same paradoxical nature, as long as they are correlated in certain way.

    As it turns out, number of publications and citations meet this criteria. And so too do wealth and happiness. So the answer is yes: your friends probably are richer and happier than you are.

    That has significant implications for the way people perceive themselves given that their friends will always seem happier, wealthier and more popular than they are. And the problem is likely to be worse in networks where this is easier to see. “This might be the reason why active online social networking service users are not happy,” say Eom and Jo, referring to other research that has found higher levels of unhappiness among social network users.

    So if you’re an active Facebook user feeling inadequate and unhappy because your friends seem to be doing better than you are, remember that almost everybody else on the network is in a similar position.

    So there you go, you have learned a new word/term and a little bit on the backstory and research behind a phenomenon that you have undoubtedly experienced, maybe even this past weekend.

    You were home raking leaves or fixing the leaky bathroom sink or maybe just glued to your sofa watching football and eating chips while everyone else out there was busy being better looking, having more fun, and just living way larger than you.

    Except for me. I assure you I was not one of those people. 

    Have a great week!


    Remember Harvard Graphics?

    I saw this clever post yesterday, titled Computer Science Courses That Don't Exist But Should, and one suggested course in particular really stood out:

    CSCI 3300: Classical Software Studies

    Discuss and dissect historically significant products, including VisiCalc, AppleWorks, Robot Odyssey, Zork, and MacPaint. Emphases are on user interface and creativity fostered by hardware limitations.

    While I am not nearly geeky enough to know all of those old products, (the only one I recognize is VisiCalc, and I never even used that), it made me think back on my introduction to software and workplace technology more generally.Pretty slick UI, right?

    And the one 'classic' piece of workplace tech that I remember most fondly, for reasons I will share in a second, is Harvard Graphics, the first general use charting and data visualization tool to gain acceptance in the office. In the late 80s and maybe a little into the early 90s, Harvard Graphics was the go-to tool for creating at that time were really amazing bar, pie, line, and other types of charts that today we would just laugh at for their simplicity. But pretty soon Microsoft Office took over the office, and Harcard Graphics pretty quickly fell out of fashion.

    But I loved my time with Harvard Graphics. Back in the day, when the first colorful stacked bar chart of regional sales broken out for the last 4 quarters emerged from the plotter, (look that one up, kids), and I marched it in to the CFO's office, suddenly I was looked at not like the 22-year-old kid who knew nothing, but as the 22-year-old kid who created something cool.

    After getting a glimpse of what the HG program could do, the CFO started setting me off to make more and different kinds of graphical representations of our financials that would be used in exec meetings, sent out to the regional presidents, and often tacked up on the wall in the CEO's office. No one would ever tack a boring looking income statement on their wall, but a 3-D multi-colored bar chart of gross profit margin by product segment? That was high art to some of these guys, and I was the only person in the office, (probably because I could not add much value anywhere else), that was able at that time to produce these charts.

    That simple little program, and the rest of the office's reluctance to embrace anything new or seemingly complicated, helped me cement a reputation as someone clever, useful, and for being what then passed for technically savvy - which make no mistake helped out your career as much back in those days as it does today.

    Harvard Graphics got me at least two raises I am pretty sure.

    Ok, the walk down memory lane is over. Have a great weekend and think about this little tale the next time some new and scary and complicated technology shows up in the office.

    It just might be the one that gets your work tacked up on the CEO's wall. 


    CHART OF THE DAY: More open jobs today than since... well, since ever

    If the title of this post sounds familiar, well it should because I ran a post with this exact same title back in June. At that point the chart that accompanied the post showed that open jobs in the USA as of the end of April sat at 5.4 million, at that time the most that the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS report had ever reported.

    Fast forward a couple of months and we have yet another record high number of job openings in the USA as reported in the latest JOLTS report, climbing to 5.8 million as of end of July. Check the chart below and then, as you have continually demanded, some FREE comments from me after the numbers.

    Some quick takes....

    1. Wage pressure has to, has to be coming even more than in some of the pockets that we have already seen increasing wages. With this many open jobs, and the labor force participation rate still pretty low by historical standards, rising wages have to be one of the options employers turn to in hopes of filling some of these jobs. You can push 'great culture' and 'summer hours on Fridays' as much as you want, but at the end of the day many, many candidates have many, many more options than ever. 

    2. As I wrote last time I showed this chart, even increasing wages might not be enough in a candidate-scarce market. Are you still telling 37-year-old new hires they start at 10 days vacation, accrued in 4-hour increments every two weeks? Are you still making outside sales people show up at some central office every day when they really have no need to do that? Are you still making and enforcing rules that anyone with options will not tolerate for any longer than they need to?

    3. It could be time when you (finally) push hard for a strategic increase in your internal development initiatives. Certainly some component of the record high in job openings stems from organizations that just can't find people with the right set of skills and experiences. But since the market continues to send messages that it will not suddenly or miraculously begin producing more of these ideal candidates, you have to figure out some other means of filling these gaps. Maybe you have to get more creative with apprenticeships, college and vocational partnerships, and/or upskilling your own employees to fill the roles that the market can't seem to provide.

    I love this chart. I love it when people have options, have opportunity, and hopefully, some leverage in the typically employer-driven recruiting game.

    Good luck out there.


    A reminder that even the world's most admired company has hiring challenges

    Lots of words are spilled in the HR/Talent/Recruiting space that more or less read something like this - 'Oh sure, that (insert HR/Recruiting/Benefits program of choice here), might work for Google or Apple, but there is no way that applies to us, we don't have a sexy, well-known brand.'

    Said differently, it is more or less commonly accepted that companies like Google, Apple, Nike, Goldman Sachs, etc., have incredible advantages in competition for talent by virtue of their brand equity, vast resources, employer brand reputation, and the like. If you are repping one of these companies from Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies list, you would think you pretty much could dial up anyone you need and they would be sold on the opportunity. And that is at least partially, if not mostly true.

    But even the World's Most Admired Company for 2015, Apple, faces the occasional recruiting challenge. Yep, I know, hard to believe.  But apparently in the global fight for scarce data science talent, even Apple has some issues attracting talent. From a recent piece on The Stack titled Apple's privacy policies repel the data scientists it needs to create 'predictive' smart phones:

    Just for once, it seems that Apple ‘can’t get the staff’. According to a Reuters exclusive, the Cupertino-based global device giant is falling behind in the race to create ‘predictive’ services for smartphones because its privacy policies are too protective of the end-user.

    The report has crunched numbers on Apple job openings and talked to various industry insiders, many of whom agree that Apple lacks the best conditions to attract the very limited supply of data scientists necessary to leverage cloud-based services and anticipate the most minute demands of smartphone users.

    The reason for the company’s difficulty in challenging the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon for the brightest and the best new minds in data science and analysis seems to lie with its commitment to protect the privacy of its users. The report notes that data retention policies on user-centric information gathered into its Siri ‘personal assistant’ product is a reasonably generous six months, whilst information retained from the user’s exploration of Apple Maps expires after only 15 minutes

    So it looks like the world's best talent in the field of data science doesn't like the fact that Apple keeps comparatively less data around upon which to practice their science. Companies like Google and Facebook in comparison, seem to offer these scientists more of a playground for them to challenge themselves with.

    A couple really interesting points I think worth noting in this story, that are probably true for both the World's Most Admired Companies and for your shop as well.

    1. The work, then challenge, and the opportunity to be your personal best in your field still trumps the 'Brand' or the reputation of the company in general. Apple might be the #1 company in the world to work for, but for this group of highly scarce and talented folks it is the work that matters more.

    2. Often the factors that influence a candidate's decision about joining an organization sit well out of reach of the org's HR/Recruiting leadership. No matter how much influence the HR and Talent organization has at Apple, they are never going to impact Apple's customer data storage policies and practices.

    3. For a big company like Apple with lots of resources, acquisition might be the best (and only) way to get the talent that they require. The related Reuters study notes that Apple's 'acquisitions of startups such as podcasting app Swell, social media analytics firm Topsy and personal assistant app Cue have also expanded Apple’s pool of experts in the field.'

    Interesting times out there when even the most well-known, most valuable and most admired companies is facing recruiting issues. I guess that sort of makes the rest of us feel good, maybe a little anyway.

    Have a great Wednesday!