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    Notes from the Road #13 - #HRevolution Edition

    Filing yet another dispatch for the ever-popular, often imitated, and usually exceeded 'Notes from the Road' series from the Delta Sky Club, this time in lovely LaGuardia Airport.

    I am heading this fine morning to Dallas, or more specifically, Grapevine, Texas for the the 6th (or possibly 7th, I have lost count), HRevolution 'Un'Conference and HR family reunion of sorts.

    This time the HRevolution event, which began when a small group of HR professionals (Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, yours truly, and later joined by the mighty Matt Stollak), combined forces to form a different kind of HR conference, returns to its original roots. The event is one that has always emphasized new and challenging topics, personal and professional networking, and one that was not 'owned' or overly dependant on external organizations, associations, or sponsors.

    I have written tons of posts about HRevolution over the years, it doesn't really make too much sense for me to once again run down the list of all the reasons why I am proud and honored to be a part of the HRevolution organizing team and community. The event, in many ways, is the high point of the professional year for me.

    Many, many thanks must go out to this year's HRevolution sponsors - Symbolist, (who have been gracious enough to open their doors, literally, for us), Mercer, and Small Improvements.

    It is going to be a fantastic event this weekend in Grapevine - hope to see many of you there!

    Have a great weekend!


    If you're not sure

    Spotted, in this piece from Esquire, The 16 Wisest Things Men Have Ever Said About Style:


    "If you're not sure whether it looks good on you, it doesn't."

    – Scott Omelianuk, Author of Things A Man Should Know About Style


    Great advice, I think, not just for fashion but for all manner of situations and endeavours. 

    Not that being sure, matters all of the time of course. We can't always, maybe hardly ever, be sure about things.

    But for the times when we need to be sure, whether it is the choice of clothes, careers, or maybe even sorting out whom you can trust and whom perhaps you should not, well, I think that the advice from Mr. Omelianuk is pretty solid.

    Now the trickier part I reckon is knowing when you need to be sure and when you only need to feel reasonably confident you're doing the right thing. 

    But for now at least that hat/shirt/coat/monocle/walking stick/handlebar moustache/eyepatch/neck tattoo/sketchy person you are thinking about sharing an important business item with that you are considering?

    Stop considering them.

    Happy Thursday.


    Artisanal HR

    For the beer fans out there I have a question for you: When is the last time you had a cold, refreshing Budweiser? You know, the classic, iconic, King of Beers?

    I think I can hear the beer snobs out there answering 'Not for ages, who drinks Bud anymore?' You likely prefer some kind of triple filtered, quadruple hopped, double bocked India Top Secret super pale ale, (aged for 18 months in oak casks imported from Bordeaux).

    (For the record, I like Bud and Bud Light, so there.)

    But the reason I bring up Budweiser on the blog today was this interesting piece from Ad Week - Budweiser Woos Hipsters With Artisanal Wooden Crates and Throwback Logos. Here is an excerpt from the Ad Week piece:

    (Budweiser) today revealed it's planting 10,000 vintage wooden crates in stores across the country this week. The packages will contain 18 bottles of Bud adorned with a classic label from either 1918 (beginning of Prohibition), 1933 (end of Prohibition) or 1976 (the brand's 100th anniversary) as well as two pilsner glasses. The crates were handmade by a North Carolina shop called Vintage Editions.

    Additionally, the throwback labels will appear on 1.6 million Bud bottles to be shipped in the next several weeks.

    Why am I bringing this up?

    Because I think it is interesting, (the number one reason I blog about anything), and also because it is about beer, (the third reason I would choose a topic for the blog, the second reason being some kind of a take about basketball).

    What is interesting about the move by Bud, is that beyond a simple re-packaging tactic it is also a play to evoke and leverage Bud's rich history and mythos as America's traditional and largest brewer. Bud has been a part of America longer than any of us have, and likely even if many of us have moved on to more (allegedly) 'better' beers, that most of us have memories of family and friends and Bud.

    But somehow along the way Bud (and other mass-market brands), become not 'cool' any more. Bud is too generic, too large, too mass-produced for many folks. For them, whether it is beer or tomatoes or cheese or even physical products like furniture or clothes what is valued is new, unique, and something called 'artisanal.' I don't want the thing that lots of other people have, (or have access to). So while Bud can't change and somehow become hip or artisanal, what it can do I think, via smart messaging, packaging, and leveraging a strength of theirs, (their history), is remind a new generation of potential customers that they are still around, still relevant, still cool, (in an ironic way, see Blue Ribbon, Pabst).

    What's the connection to HR/Talent/Workplaces?

    Well, lots of what we do (and have done) in HR probably seems more like Bud and not much like Pliny the Elder (Google it).

    But just like Bud is still a pretty refreshing drink, especially on a hot day, lots of what we do in HR and Talent is still relevant and valuable - even if it doesn't seem cool anymore. Maybe there are a lot of old-sounding processes for training or leadership development or even mentoring that still have value (and you can prove it), but just need a refresh, some re-packaging, and a way to remind the new wave of customers of their value.

    Maybe instead of re-inventing everyrhing, you should start by considering re-packaging the best of what you already have first. 

    And don't be a beer snob.


    No one can find anything in a massive Home Center. Except this robot.

    Getting back to the 'Robots are going to take all of our jobs' beat that I feel like I have been neglecting for a while and I wanted to share with you a short video, (Email and RSS subscribers click through), and some quick thoughts about a recent, and pretty interesting 'Robots in the workplace' development.

    This one, perhaps surprisingly, comes to us from the folks at Lowes - the mega-chain of supersized home improvement centers. You know the ones I am talking about. Each one about the size of the town you grew up in, carrying tens of thousands of different items, and once within, it's usually impossible to find the specific item you are actually looking for (or a store employee to help you).

    Enter OSHbot. A fully independent, multi-lingual, and infinitely patient Home Center assistant. Need to find an item in the store? OSHbot knows exactly where everytihng is located. Do you have the actual item in your hands? Hold it in front of OSHbot's camera and the robot can recognize and identify the item. Don't speak English? No problem, OSHbot will engage with you in the language you prefer.

    Check the video below, (about 2.5 minutes), and then a couple of comments from me after that.

    Seems like such an obviously good idea, right? This (pretty simple, really), technology goes a long way towards addressing the most common customer complaints with massive, big box stores.

    Where is the item I want? Can you take me there? What is this part I know that I need to replace but I have never seen before? Can someone here speak to me in my language?

    But I bet even more interesting, (and challenging for HR/Talent pros and organizations), will not be whether or not customers will embrace/adopt these robot store associates (I think they will), but what this might mean for staffing, deployment, and management of the robot's human co-workers.

    Once technology like the OSHbot becomes more widely deployed, human employees will have to become accustomed to working with technology that at some level is 'better' than they can likely be. By 'better', I mean that the robot, with access to real-time store inventory, sales, and perfect recall, will have the 'better' answer (or at least just as good an answer as a human) to probably 90% of customer inquiries.

    Certainly in a home center environment there will be some level of customer support, for more complex or nuanced questions, that actual human experts in paint or lumber or plumbing will be best prepared to answer. But I wonder for how long? I mean, couldn't Lowes just deploy a few more OSHbots to 'shadow' the best human experts to record, classify, evaluate, and share with all the other OSHbots across the world the 'best' or 'right' answers to these complex questions? And once that process starts, won't the line or level where actual humans remain 'better' at serving retail home center customers recede even more?

    And finally, one last thought. Robots taking customer service jobs in a Lowes or similar might not be alarming to you yourself right now. But these applications are not going to stop at the Lowes or the Walmart. They are being developed everywhere.

    How long until we see the first HR robot?

    Have a great week!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 194 - Small Improvements

    HR Happy Hour 194 - Small Improvements

    Recorded Wednesday October 29, 2014

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guest: Linda Jonas

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish were joined by Linda Jonas, International traveler, and Director of Marketing for Small Improvements, an HR technology provider of tools that provide a simpler, easy to use, and more engaging approach to performance management, workplace feedback, 360-degree reviews, and more.

    We talked about Linda's annual 6-week world tour where she meets with customers and partners, her Small Improvements colleagues, and attends events like the HR Technology Conference and the upcoming HRevolution (of which Small Improvements is a sponsor). 

    Additionally, Linda shared some insights into emerging and ongoing trends in employee performance management, and the need for both software providers and organizations to keep these processes clear, easy to adopt, and valuable for employees, managers and organizations overall. Everyone seems to hate on Performance Management and one of the reasons is that the process has often been overengineered and over-complicated. Check out Small Improvements to get some insights into how you can change that in your organization, while improving (pardon the pun) both the process and the desired outcomes.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'. 

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



    This was a really fun show - thanks to Linda and to everyone at Small Improvements!