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    Notes from the Road #17 - You should pay more attention edition

    Quick dispatch from Day 4 (or maybe 5) of my trip over to Hong Kong and China to take some meetings and do some on the ground prep work for next April's inaugural HR Technology China Conference. Here are my top 5 thoughts and observations coming from someone who prior to this trip, had never come over to China before:

    1. I travel a lot, but the one thing even for me is that I bet 95% of the trips I take are to somewhere I have been to before. Even savvy travelers forget what it is to actually be someplace brand new, and factor in that new place pretty much totally different than anywhere else you have been before, and that is a recipe for trouble. I go to Vegas so much I don't usually know which hotel I am staying in until I get in the cab at McCarran. That kind of 'Oh, I will just figure it out when I get there' is not a great strategy over here.

    2. American pop culture is everywhere. We had a long meeting here yesterday in the hotel with some of our local partners and contacts, and every so often when the conversation paused I could here the music that was being piped in to the room. I think I heard 'Hotel California' about 8 times during the meeting. Do the Eagles resonate with the average local? I wonder.

    3. Business cards are still a pretty big deal over here. When you come out next April, make sure you have a stack. I am not kidding, this is a much bigger deal than you think.

    4. No matter how many or what variety of electonic charging device converter you bring, it will somehow be the wrong one. This is uncanny. I took along two different charging adapters and for reasons I can't fathom, they do not work. Luckily the hotels I have been in so far have converters in the rooms that work just fine. I just have to ration the power back and forth between my phone and PC all night. 

    5. Expedia customer service will keep you on hold so long you will eventually break down and hang up.

    6. Hand towels folded up in the shape of an elephant is a nice touch.

    7. You sometimes find unusual things in the hotel closet (see pic at right).

    All kidding aside, this has been a really fun and interesting trip so far. You should definitely come some time.


    HRE Column: Some common questions (and even a few answers) about HR Tech

    Here is 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.

    As usual, the Inside HR Tech column is about, well, HR Tech, (sort of like I used to write about all the time on this blog), and it was inspired by the recent presentation that Trish McFarlane and I gave at the SHRM Annual Conference, (note, you can find those slides here).

    I once again kind of liked this month's column, (I suppose I like all of them, after all I wrote them), but felt like sharing this one on the blog because it touches upon what has been in the past a pretty popular topic with HR leaders today - how to make the most of their HR technology investments.

    Here is an excerpt from the column, Common Questions About HR Tech:

    At the recently concluded Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to co-present to a very large audience along with my HR Happy Hour Podcast co-host Trish McFarlane on the topic of HR technology implementations, and more specifically, on some of the most common myths surrounding the subject of HR technology more generally.

    But rather than use this column to run through these myths and our ideas of how to “bust” them, I wanted to take some time to share and try and dig into some of the common questions I get when presenting on HR technology to HR audiences, in hopes that the questions that Trish and I received during and after the session are indicative of the broad questions and concerns that most HR professionals have about HR technology. And, by the way, if you are interested in the HR tech “myths” themselves, you can check out the slide deck that we used here.

    Question No. 1: Is it better to have a single unified system for all of my HR processes, or should we look for the “best” solutions for each area and then integrate them later?

    Our take: This question, whether a single system is preferable to several so-called “best-of-breed” solutions that support different process areas has been asked for about a decade now, perhaps longer. And the “answer” is still—unsatisfyingly—the same: “It depends.”

    There are numerous and company-specific factors that influence whether the increased capability that many “best-of-breed” solutions say for process areas such as recruiting or learning are offset by the ease with which data is shared, if the user experience is common to all and the vendor-management process is simplified when using a single, unified system.

    Each company has to think about how their workforces create value, their business strategy and then how these influence what kinds of technologies can support them. So there is no single “right” answer, but only a “right” answer for each organization, and this can only be found by prioritizing systems needs in light of where, how and through whom the organization drives value and results.

    Read the rest over at HRE Online 

    Good stuff, right? Humor me...

    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 wash your car or cut the grass for you if you do sign up for the monthly email.

    Have a great Wednesday!


    CHART OF THE DAY: On Tesla and Disrupting Markets

    Quick question for a busy Monday - which auto maker have you seen the most reporting and commentary about in the last few years?

    Maybe General Motors - the largest US auto maker and who has been in the news plenty in recent years, mostly for a slew of recalls.

    Or possibly one of the major Japanese or Korean manufacturers like Toyoata or Hyundai that seem to be continually closing the gap in US market share from the traditional leaders, GM and Ford.

    No, I bet the auto maker you have read and heard the most about lately is the electric car maker Tesla, who for lots of reasons, (innovative products, charismatic leadership of Elon Musk, and interest in modern and ever cloud-based technology for cars), has garnered insane amounts of press and media coverage. 

    So here is another question for you, and the subject of today's Chart of the Day - How much market share does Tesla actually have in the USA? Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of The Truth About Cars, then some quick comment from me. And as always, comments remain FREE.



    Some thoughts:

    1. So according to the chart for the first half of 2015 Tesla's USA market share is, well, we don't know what it is because on this chart Tesla does not actually register. They must be included in the 1.9% of 'Other'. 

    2. According to a similar data set over at Autonews.com, we see that for the first 6 months of 2015, Tesla sold about 10,200 cars in the US out of a total market of approximately 8.5 million vehicles.  So if my math is right, that puts Tesla's US market share for the first half of 2015 at 0.12%. That's a little bit more than a tenth of a percent. Other makers in the same general space in the market as Tesla include Maserati, Bentley, and SmartUSA.

    3. Here is why this is interesting to me, and where I think that there are some parallels to what we see in any technology market. There is a completely outsized focus on Tesla relative to their actual position in the market and one could argue, the market value of their business, when placing it in context. The pundits and the media, even what passes for the HR/Talent media, love, love, love to focus on the 'new' story, often at the expense of the most relatable story for their audiences. Chances are you have seen 1,493 stories about Tesla in the first 6 months of the year. Chances are also pretty good you don't know anyone that actually owns a Tesla.

    4. It is awesome in HR and Talent to think about what is next, what is likely to dominate how organizations are organized, how people are engaged, how workplaces will function in the future, but the truth is the vast majority of us, (and our leaders), have to think about the next 6 months of 2015, not what the world of work will look like a decade from now. It is important to think about this when reading about HR's version of Tesla, which of course is Zappos, and whatever new experiments they are running over there.

    5. Tesla probably is the most disruptive and innovative auto maker in the world, but the truth is the real impact of their disruptions won't be seen until they truly can deliver sufficient volumes of more mass-market cars, (Tesla's are $100K or so, high-end luxury cars today), and/or the big boys like GM or Toyota decide to try and compete more directly in this segment. It is the same in HR whether it is Holacracy or 'no resume recruiting' or 'no more performance reviews'. It takes a long time in mature industries for these disruptions to move past 'niche' and into the mainstream. Your challenge as an HR/Talent pro is to know when to move with the Teslas and Zappos of the world and when to lay back and lease the newest Camry. 

    Interesting stuff...

    Have a great week!


    Three Talent Management Observations from the First Day of NBA Free Agency

    I continue to be on record as stating that HR/Talent pros can learn just about everything they need to know about talent management, leadership, team dynamics, managing for performance, and a million other things from careful observation of professional sports - and most notably the NBA.

    Yesterday was the first full day of the league's free agency period - the time where teams are free to recruit, negotiate with, and sign to new contracts those players whose contracts had expired - thus making them 'free' agents. As usual, Day 1 of free agency led to a flurry of announced and rumored deals between NBA teams and the most coveted of these players, three of which I want to mention here, as they all reveal some interesting insights towards talent and how top talent and exemplary organizations think.

    1. LeBron James and the 1-year deal - While the norm across the NBA on Day 1 of free agency has been for the most prized free agents to agree to 4 and 5-year deals for very large dollar amounts, (Kevin Love, Draymond Green, DeMarre Carroll, etc.), the league's very best player Lebron James is reported to only be willing to accept a 1-year deal from his current team, the Cavaliers. This short-term deal, while being riskier for James, (in case he gets injured), secures his leverage with team ownership, as he can demand that the Cavs do everything possible to field a contending caliber team, with the threat of losing James looming at the end of each season. Keep LeBron happy and you get to keep him. So while lots of talented players are willing to take 4 and 5 years, the best player doesn't need that security, he would rather keep the power shifted in his direction. The same probably holds true for the best, most-talented pros in any field. You need them more than they need you.

    2. Gregg Popovich will not call you at midnight - Popovich, the longtime coach of the San Antonio Spurs, one of the league's most admired and successful teams of the last 15 years, eschews the practice of attempting to begin wooing free agents at the stroke of midnight on July 1, the official starting point of free agency. According to Pop, "I'm not calling anyone at midnight, I'll be in bed. And if that's the difference in someone coming or not coming, then I don't want them." That stance cements two points in the recruiting process for the Spurs. One, they don't need to try and impress free agents with the (silly) gesture of the midnight phone call. And two, they realize that any player that requires that kind of a gesture in order to have their ego massaged is probably not the kind of player the famously unselfish and team-first Spurs are interested in having anyway. This is a great example of an organization living up to and reinforcing their specific culture in the recruiting process.

    3. LaMarcus Aldridge is not impressed - One of the most in-demand free agents this year is LaMarcus Aldridge, formerly of the Portland Trailblazers. In his meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, a storied team that has recently fallen on hard times, Aldridge came away unimpressed. The reason? The Lakers presentation focused too much on off-the-court opportunities that the Los Angeles market can provide, and not enough on how the team plans to actually get better at playing basketball.  Aldridge has his pick of about a half-dozen teams, the market price for a player like him is pretty well defined, so money is not really an issue, so it actually boils down to the work and the opportunities to be on a competitive team that matters to him. The Lakers are trying to play off a reputation that might have mattered 20 years ago, but is lessened in its value today. Lesson here? You might have been a top place to work in 1998, but that matters almost nothing today to talented pros who want to grow in their careers. 

    As these three short examples indicate, the power dynamics at play between organizations and the best talent are always fascinating to watch. While different, they all lead us to just about the same place - he/she who holds the power gets to make the rules. And that balance is just that, a balance. Which means it can shift, subtly at first, but sometimes dramatically, leaving the unprepared side to wonder what the heck just happened.

    Have a great July 4th holiday weekend in the USA.  

    Quick editorial note - I am on the road for most of the next two weeks, making my first trip to China and Hong Kong in preparations for next years' first ever HR Tech China Conference. So posting may be a little sporadic over that time.


    SLIDES: Busting the Common Myths in HR Technology - #SHRM15

    I had a great time (early) this morning co-presenting along with Trish McFarlane at the SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Trish and I were really glad to see somewhere near 300 folks brave the 7AM start time to hear us talk about HR Technology and more specifically, HR Technology implementations.

    The size of the crowd, the high level of attendee enthusiasm and engagement, and the really long line of folks who came up to chat after the session was completed was a great indicator of the continuing and increasing importance of technology to the HR professional.

    The slide deck we shared is up on Slideshare and also embedded below, (Email and RSS subscribers may need to click through).


    The big messages that Trish and I shared were a few - that even in the age of modern SaaS technology platforms the fundamentals of great project management remain important. Executive support, a dedicated project team, intentional attention to change management, and making sure the 'right' users at all levels of the organization are appropriately engaged in the implementation project are just as important in 2015 as they were in 1995.

    This was a fun session to present, and Trish and I want to thank everyone who came out this morning as well as the folks at SHRM for allowing us to be a part of the event.

    We'd love any thoughts, comments, suggestions any one has on this deck as well!