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    Great players win early

    I remain convinced that everything, everything (pretty much) you need to know about HR/Talent Management/The Workplace you can learn from watching the NBA. I even said as much a few weeks back.

    The dynamics of NBA basketball exhibit remarkable similarities to many of the most common workplace situations: Relatively small working teams, (even in large organizations, most work gets done in much smaller groups), a need for the team to function cohesively, and, importantly, plenty of opportunity (and need for), individual expressions of creativity and high performance.Yao

    With that setup, I want to call out yet another example of how understanding the NBA can help you with HR and Talent management, this time a look at how early-career NBA player performance can help you in evaluating tricky things like how long should it take a new hire to be 'fully productive' and an even more challenging question - 'What is the performance ceiling, or potential of this new hire?'

    At Deadspin, they took a look at the early career results, (defined by team regular season win totals), for high draft choices (in HR-speak 'Top talent'), over the last 15 or so years. What they found after examining the data is for the most part is that really truly great players begin to show positive results for their (almost always 'bad') teams, by their third season in the NBA.  Here is an excerpt from the analysis, then a couple of comments from me about how you might be able to consider this data in a 'normal' workplace context.

    This is a look at regular season wins. Taking just the regular season gets us out of theringsssssss mentality. The NBA playoffs are the most meaningful of any sport's, but geting 66 wins out of Mo Williams, Boobie Gibson and Delonte West is a version of greatness that hasn't been explored as deeply as it probably should. (Steve here - this is a reference to the stiffs that LeBron James carried on his back in his first stint with the Cavaliers).

    So let's draw a totally arbitrary line in the sand at 50 wins, and plot out not just who gets there, but when they get there, the idea being that in those first few years, we can isolate talented players on inferior teams. As it happens, the hunch mostly bears out: In today's NBA, good players win, great players win early.

    The Deadspin piece goes on to list the players that meet this (admittedly subjective) criteria - 50 wins by year three, the player was a high draft pick, and the 'new hire' played significant minutes from the beginning of their career. And the list reads like a 'Who's Who?' of current NBA stars - Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kevin Durant etc.  The point is not really that LeBron and Durant and Paul are great players, it is pretty easy to tell that by just watching them, but rather how that greatness actually manifests in organizational success, i.e., wins.

    The point is (quoting from the piece), 'Good players win. Great players win early.'

    What takeaways about new hire productivity and longer-term potential might you be able to glean from the data about NBA stars? I have three quick ideas:

    1. The 'learning curve' for really talented, special performers is likely much, much shorter than for average performers. They will 'get' the basic elements of the industry/organization/role really quickly, and might be bored if your typical onboarding/training program feels too slow and too restrictive. 

    2. Great, transformative talent will likely demonstrate that talent in some manner pretty early in the process. It might be a great new idea for a product/service, an improvement in an existing process that saves time or money, or simply how they begin to elevate the performance of those around them. But the point is, you likely can tell pretty quickly if you have a potentially great performer on your hands.

    3. But in order to one; not be bored with a slow training cycle, and two; even have the chance to demonstrate great ability and potential, the new player on the team has to be given some opportunity to do just that. In the NBA study, the new players had to have averaged 28 (out of 48) minutes of game action, i.e. they had to essentially be starting, featured players even though they were new. The same is true in any workplace really. In order to contribute meanigfully, you have to have a chance or platform to do just that. The overwhelming tendency is to shield new hires from the most complex and important projects until they are 'ready', but by doing that you might be preventing both their chance to demonstrate their true capability and potential. 

    It's all about the NBA. It is. I will convince you eventually. Ok, I am out.

    Have a great day! 


    REVISITED: For American workers, the quits keep coming

    Back in February I posted CHART OF THE DAY: The Return of the Quit, a look at the increasing rate of 'quits', (HR nerds can call them 'voluntary separations' if that makes you feel better), across the American labor market.

    Back in February, the news was that quits were rising from the financial recession low point of 2009-2010, reflecting growing individual confidence in the labor market and consequently placing pressure on organizations to develop retention, replacement, succession planning strategies.

    Fast forward about nine months to the latest data on quits, (Note: this data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report), and the story about quits continues to play out along the same lines as I talked about in February. 

    I'm going to hit you with the updated data below, then revisit my (FREE) commentary after the jump. I actually think all the points I made about th February data still apply in November, the question really being if we as organizational talent pros are paying enough attention to this data.

    Here is the latest data, showing the Quit rate climbing to about 2%:

    Some thoughts:

    1. 'Quits' are a function of several factors, (personal circumstances, the magnitude of the jerkitude of your managers, people self-selecting out as not being in the right job, etc.), but most observers of the Quit rate on a macro level ascribe movements in the rate to worker's confidence in their ability to find another, and what they think will be a likely 'better', job.  The rate moving up, to a level that is approaching the pre-recession level, is a signal that overall job market confidence is rising.

    2. So while you and many other HR/Talent pros are lamenting about 'hard-to-fill' jobs, simultaneously more of the workforce are thinking of themselves as 'easy-to-place'. I'm not sure how that apparent paradox will work out, (probably very differently depending on location, skills, etc.), but it is kind of interesting and amusing at the same time.

    3. How you are thinking about and reacting to news of a good employee quitting is probably changing too. In 2008 or 2009, you might have reacted by thinking, 'What is she crazy? Where is she going to find another job with as good pay/benefits/cupcake Friday like we have here?'. Now? Probably you'd think more along the lines of 'Hmm... She's going to XYZ Corp? I wonder if she could bring me over there too.'

    4. Last, while the Quit rate increasing kind of feels like it is a good thing, there is certainly some warning signs as well. For one, those recent quitters might find that their skills and experience are not in as high a demand as they figured, and thus end up spiking the unemployment rate in the short term, (as well as having to take a boatload of grief from people questioning their sanity for quitting a perfectly good job). They might find, even today, that keeping a job is much easier than finding a job. And increasing worker confidence might put pressure on companies to increase wages, which can also have a detrimental effect on growth and profits.

    So take a look at the JOLTS report if you are interested in this kind of data, I think it gives a little more color and depth to the more widely reported headline of the total rate of unemployment.

    Are you seeing an increase in 'quits' in your shop?

    Ready to quit yourself?

    Have a great week!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 196 - Career Management and Technology

    HR Happy Hour 196 - Career Management and Technology

    Recorded Thursday November 20, 2014 

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Joe Brooks, CEO Zapoint

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Trish and Steve were joined by Joe Brooks, CEO of Zapoint, an HR tech solution provider that focuses on employee career management, individual and organizational skills identification and mapping, and by providing access to learning content to help employees build out their skills and achieve their career objectives.

    We talked about some of the most common barriers to effective career planning - lack of visibility into existing opportunities, limited ability to assess if you were a good 'fit' for a given role or career path, and lack of transparency and willingness of managers to develop and share talent. 

    The conversation also touched upon the HR and organizational leader's need to have a better understanding of aggregate skills and capabilities of the organization's talent - to help enable organizational objectives and to facilitate ongoing succession planning. Joe also shared some insights into how organizations can have success in meeting both sets of these challenges - for employees as well as leadership - by leveraging modern technologies like Zapoint and their innovative skills mapping and career management tools.

    Also, Steve and Trish talked about the potential release of 'Facebook at Work', Steve (finally) remembered what day it was, and we reminisced about the long gone Google Wave produce.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below.

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


    Also you can access and subscribe to the show on iTunes or for Android using Stitcher Radio, (or your favorite podcast app). Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your playlist/subscriptions and you won't miss an episode.

    This was a fun and interesting show and many thanks to Joe and to the folks at Zapoint for sharing their insights.


    Facebook at Work and Google Wave

    Remember Google Wave?

    Sure you do. You probably even recall nagging your friends and contacts for a (at the time) coveted invitation to join the Google Wave beta.

    Google Wave was going to be the next big, big, transformative thing in workplace collaboration technology. It was the re-imagination of email, chat, file sharing, and 17 other things - packaged in a completely new way. It was, for a little while, exciting and cool. Most of the folks who get paid lots of money to prognosticate on such matters expected Google Wave to become, if not truly transformative, at least an important and eventual essential component in the enterprise software tool set.

    Fast forward about a year (give or take) from the launch of Wave and somehow, for some reason, those optimistic forecasts about the importance of Wave turned out to be wrong. Wave did not catch on, at least not enough, and not as a workplace essential tool, and Google pulled the plug on the adventurous project. (Still, mad about that, personally.)

    I have not thought about Google Wave all that much in the ensuing years, (man, it seems like just yesterday, but it has literally been YEARS since Wave was shuttered), until the recent announcement and reactions to the reports that Facebook is planning on releasing its own workplace collaboration technology, which most are simply calling 'Facebook at Work'.

    But unlike Google Wave, which was greeted with (generally) optimistic predictions about its importance and relevance to work and workplaces, the early reaction to the notion of 'Facebook at Work' has been almost universally pessimistic and negative.

    The arguments against the success of 'Facebook at Work' are numerous and expected:

    People don't want to mix personal online socializing and networking with work.

    Facebook can't be trusted to secure sensitive and proprietary corporate data.

    Enterprise social networking tools, ironically often referred to as 'Facebook for the Enterprise', have been around for years, and have never really, truly caught on in a substantial way.

    That kind of thing.

    I have no idea if Facebook at Work will even be released as a product (Facebook has not made any public comment on these reports), much less become a successful, popular, and essential workplace collaboration technology.

    Maybe it will. And maybe it will fail spectacularly like Google Wave. And maybe it will never even be a 'real' product.

    Who knows?

    But I would also suggest the litany of commenters and pundits who have already written off Facebook at Work as a potential important enterprise tech solution also have no real idea either.

    Google Wave was going to be the next big thing. Until is wasn't. Facebook at Work has no chance of infiltrating the workplace. Until it does. Or maybe it won't.

    I think you get what I am driving at by now. No one, not me, or any of the smart people at TechCrunch or Business Insider or CNet or anywhere else really knows.

    So stop worrying or thinking about Facebook at Work for the time being. If and when it ever is released, then make your own evaluation.

    And while you are waiting, maybe send an Email to Google to see if they will reconsider resurrecting Wave. I liked that thing.


    There's more to User Experience than usability

    Here is a quick take and a diagram on UX that I wanted to share on a cold, kind of snowy Wednesday in my part of Western NY, (and thankfully not too snowy, lake effect snow is a funny thing, one side of town can get buried in snow, while a mile away sees hardly anything at all).

    I was plowing through my Feedly last night, (while watching my Knicks fail, admirably however in Milwaukee), and I came across this really interesing piece on API design from the Nordic APIs site. 

    I know what you might be thinking: Really, you must have a terribly exciting life, reading about API design and watching basketball. And you would be right! It is terribly exciting. 

    You don't have to read the entire piece about API design, (I admit, it gets a little ponderous near the end if you are not really, really into APIs), but I wanted to share what I thought was the most interesting and perhaps relevant part of the piece, a diagram called the UX Honeycomb, originally developed by Semantic Studios. The diagram is meant to portray the facets or elements of User Experience, and as you will see, there is much more than 'usability' at play here.


    The point of the UX Honeycomb is to make sure that designers understand the various components that encompass UX, and to also emphasize the center element - 'Valuable'. So while for UX professionals, 'usability' remains important to overall UX, it is not by itself sufficient. And it is also a great reminder that the elements like 'useful', 'accessible', and perhaps most importantly for HR readers, 'credible' remain critical.

    And the way that the elements of the UX Honeycomb seem to have really close applicability to lots of what HR in general and HR technology projects in particular is the primary reason I wanted to share the diagram. Whether it is a traditional HR-led initiative like training, or performance coaching, or rolling out a employee wellness program, or a straight up HR systems implementation, evaluating your approach against these UX elements I think makes a ton of sense.

    Is what you are doing, or trying to get others to do, useful, usable, desirable, credible, valuable, etc.?

    I think you have to be able to check 'Yes' on just about every one of the elements on the UX Honeycomb no matter what the project is, in order to have a chance to capture the attention and the time of your users, employees, and leaders. I am going to keep the Honeycomb in mind moving forward, and I think you might want to as well.

    Anyway, that's it.

    Stay warm out there today.