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    Tuesday
    Mar212017

    Communication overload

    There has been a proliferation of new communication technologies and services that are/can be used for work purposes in the last several years. Whether it is the newer tools that have seen increased adoption in the workplace like Slack or the just released Microsoft Teams, collaboration technologies that have adopted chat or discussion features like Box or Evernote, and of course the myriad social platforms that are also used for work communication like LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. and the sheer number of places, systems, and tools that a modern professional has to keep up with is pretty daunting at times.

    Oh, and I didn't even mention email, voicemail, and (lord help us, the actual phone). Who knows what tool to use or where to look for, check, or send a new message these days?

    The comic from xkcd below illustrates this problem in a succinct, and clever way, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through)

    For me, the (sub-optimal) answer has been to mostly ignore the communication tools that I would prefer not to use at all for work reasons, (voicemail, Twitter DMs, Facebook, and most LinkedIn messages). My strategy is that the people trying to connect with me using those media will eventually interpret my non-responsiveness as a signal that they (if they really need to reach me for work reasons), try another method. 

    For what's it worth, some time back I blogged about the preferred ways to contact me for work reasons to try and make it more clear how I would prefer to communicate.

    But the problem with that old list, and with simply ignoring (or shutting off) any of the other popular tools for business communication is that it fails to take into account what the other person would prefer. So taking a blanket approach like I have, (essentially I want everything to be in email, while I am not always great about keeping up with it at times, at least I know where I can find everything), or text (I actually like texting for work a lot, it keeps things short and sweet), keeps me from effectively communicating with people who might like phone calls or who are comfortable using social networks like Twitter or Facebook for work purposes.

    But the truth is almost no one would prefer to use every possible tool in the cartoon above to manage their work communication - it would be maddening if not impossible. And my guess is having to keep up with so many avenues for work communication are contributing to stress, burnout, and the inability to have any separation between work and not-work.

    It is probably a pretty good idea for HR and talent leaders to be cognizant of how workplace communication tools have multiplied and how the associated expectations for employee monitoring and responsiveness have changed as well. 

    Some places do have written, (or at least well-understood but unwritten), expectations for reading and responding to email for example, but I bet not many have similar guidelines or cultural norms for newer tools like Slack, the use of public social networks or apps for workplace messaging, and when (or if), employees can and should use texting for work communication. In small organizations, and in small teams that tend to mostly interact within the team, it is usually something that is pretty easy to work out.

    One quick discussion the manager should have on Day One should go something like this : "We use email for formal stuff and team or company wide announcements, (respond if you have to send a response, and do it within one day unless there are unusual circumstances), Slack for 'real' collaboration conversations, (respond according to the demands and schedules of the project/task), and texting only for brief, and usually essential, or time-sensitive reasons (respond accordingly, you know, like a human)." Don't mention tools like Facebook or WhatsApp if you don't want them used for workplace messaging and then you likely will never have an issue with employees having 17 different Inboxes to monitor every day.

    And finally, if you are starting a new communication with someone you don't work with regularly, you don't know, or is outside your organization, start with the more formal traditional tools first, (email, phone, voicemail), and don't jump to Facebook Messenger or a Twitter DM unless you are sure the person wants to use those tools for work. Not every business contact wants you sliding into their DMs.

    Ok, that's it, I am out. Probably need to take my own medicine know and try and catch up on my email. 

    But don't try leaving me a voicemail, it's full.

    Monday
    Mar202017

    CHART OF THE DAY: More on the increasing 'Quits' data

    Quick shot for a busy 'Can you believe my Gamecocks are in the Sweet 16?' kind of a Monday.

    Here's just one chart from the latest release of what regular readers recognize as my favorite labor marker report - the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey - aka the 'JOLTS' report. 

    This chart illustrates the amount of 'Quits'  better known in HR speak as Voluntary Separations, compared with the amount of Layoffs and Discharges, AKA, 'Pack your things, son, it's time for you to go' deals.

    Here's the latest chart of this data, then as we all have come to expect by now, some FREE comments from me:

    Three quick observations...

    1. Really interesting right now that these two lines continue to get farther apart, and the gap between Quits and Layoffs/Discharges continues to increase. The delta between the two series is now 1.6 million, with Quits hitting 3.2 million in January, against 'only' 1.6 million Layoffs/Discharges.

    2. The continuing increased in the level of Quits is generally seen as a proxy measure for the overall health of the labor market. The thinking goes that when employees feel more confident in their ability to find alternative work, (either at another company or for themselves), then they are more likely to 'quit' the job they have now. It is a seller's market for labor in some sense. 

    3. If this trend continues, and labor markets continue to tighten, (you can also look at total job openings to get a sense of this), then employers will (according to the immutable laws of supply and demand), be forced to take counter measures. They can either look to reduce 'quits' by raising wages, improving benefits, or striving to become less crappy places to work. Or, they can look to alternate sources of labor - offshoring, outsourcing, automating, etc., in order to find the talent/labor they need.

    The slow and steady economic recovery since the bottom of the last recession marches on. Unless something changes relatively soon, 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for folks who are in demand, have negotiating leverage, and are feeling as confident as ever in their ability to control their careers.

    Have a great week! 

    Go Gamecocks!

    Thursday
    Mar162017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 278 - The ACA in 2017: What HR and Benefits Leaders Need to Know

    HR Happy Hour 278 - The ACA in 2017: What HR and Benefits Leaders Need to Know

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guests: Shan Fowler, Benefitfocus, Chris Condeluci, CC Law & Policy

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, recorded live at Benefitfocus One Place 2017 Conference, Steve Boese is joined by Shan Fowler of  Benefitfocus and Chris Condeluci of CC Law & Policy to talk repeal, replace, reconciliation, and all things ACA in 2017.

    Any HR and Benefits leader who is following the news surrounding the potential repeal and replacement of the ACA is no doubt facing questions and concerns about what is really happening in Washington, what these potential changes mean for employers, and how best to keep informed and prepared for the future of the ACA and whatever may come next.

    Chris and Shan talked about what is most likely to happen with the current legislation under consideration, a timeline of what seems likely to occur in the next several weeks, and what might happen in the balance of 2017.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below (Email and RSS subscribers click through)

    This is an important, fast-moving, complex, and fascinating topic, and one that all HR and Benefits leaders need to have top of mind as events unfold. Listen to the show to learn more about what is happening, and how you can stay ready for what might be coming soon.

    And Steve gives a solid 'Schoolhouse Rock' reset along the way.Thanks to Shan and Chris as well as everyone on the Benefitfocus team for hosting this special episode of the HR Happy Hour Show.

    Learn more at www.benefitfocus.com.

    Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Wednesday
    Mar152017

    The Outsiders characters, ranked

    Over the weekend I caught the news that 'The Outsiders' by S.E. Hinton is 50, that is five-oh years old.

    A classic, and long a staple of middle school reading lists everywhere, I think a fitting honor for the book's 50th is a treatment on the VERY popular 'ranked' series here on the blog.

    Reminder, these rankings are unscientific, unresearched, subjective, ill-informed, and 100% accurate.

    Here goes - (Note: Character name is followed by the actor or actress who played that character in the 1983 movie)

    10. The rest of the nameless Socs (various)

    9. Bob Sheldon (Leif Garrett)

    8. Two-Bit Mathews (Emilio Estevez)

    7. Cherry Valance (Diane Lane)

    6. Steve Randle (Tom Cruise)

    5. Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio)

    4. Sodapop Curtis (Rob Lowe)

    3. Darrel (Darry) Curtis (Patrick Swayze)

    2. Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell)

    1. Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon)

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings but of course, you would be wrong.

    Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

    Happy Wednesday.

    Monday
    Mar132017

    Understanding your competition for talent

    There is a old adage, (not sure when and from whom this was first attributed to), that ascribes a breakthrough in an auto manufacturer's business strategy to them realizing that they were not in the 'car building' business, but rather they were in the 'helping people to get where they want to go' business. 

    This restatement in their fundamental purpose as a business became the key to thinking differently or more expansively about the business, their products, and the talent attraction and retention programs they would have to employ. This kind of thing is happening once again in the auto industry, as described in a piece I read over the weekend from Business Insider titled 'There's a raging talent war for AI experts and it's costing automakers millons'.

    Most of the major auto makers are now playing at some level or another in the nascent self-driving vehicle space - continuing the evolution of their business purpose and their strategy towards personal transport and away from just making cars. But, as you would expect, and the BI piece points out, these shifts have important implications for talent attraction and retention - most importantly even for those of us not in auto making, and are driving changes in the talent competition marketplace.

    From the BI piece:

    But automakers, in particular, are making massive investments in (AI) experts because they’ve begun their AI efforts late compared to traditional tech companies.

    Because deep learning has applications far beyond just self-driving cars, manufacturers are having to compete with each other and traditional tech companies.

    Only 28 companies have more than 10 deep learning specialists on staff, accounting firm KPMG wrote in a 2016 report. What's more, only six technology companies employ 54% of all deep learning specialists: Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA, IBM, Intel, and Samsung.

    "The traditional power and talent of the auto industry was based in their product development group," Gary Silberg, the head of KPMG’s automotive unit, told Business Insider. "So they would hire these amazing mechanical and electrical engineers at the top schools of engineering and they would be part of product development."

    "You can’t just turn on a dime and say, 'ok, now we are going to go recruit AI geniuses and computer scientists and expect them to come to work with us,'" Silberg continued.

    A shift in strategy, leading to the increased demand for a (apologies to Liam Neeson) particular set of skills, is changing how and with whom the auto makers are having to compete with in order to find the talent they need for these AI initiatives.  And they are not finding it easy. Instead of a GM or a Ford more or less having to only worry about each other, and maybe Chrysler, for the cream of the crop of mechanical engineers and industrial designers, they now have to compete with Google, Uber, Microsoft, Tesla and more for the really, really scarce pool of AI experts.

    In fact, as the BI piece points out, the pool of AI experts is so small at least in part due to the best AI professors themselves being recruited out of academia and into industry, leaving universities unable to meet the demand for educating more AI students.

    Want a great example of how a business strategy shift impacts your talent strategy, and requires that the talent strategy undergo a complete re-think? Look no further than this example from the auto makers. The lesson here? The next question your company needs to ask when assessing a business strategy shift, after 'Can we really do this?' is 'Can we find, attract, hire, and retain the kinds of people we need to do this?'

    Competing for talent against one or two competitors that do about the same thing as you do is fairly straightforward.

    Competing for talent against an ever-growing, deep pocketed, and fast moving ecosystem of often dissimilar companies is another thing entirely.

    Have a great week!