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    How come you're not freaking out?

    So I am about one week away from the start of the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, (October 7 - 10, 2014 use discount code 'HHH14' for $550 off the on site rate), (ok the commercial is over), and if there is one question that I have been asked more than any other in the run up to the event it is this:

    How come you're not freaking out?

    It is kind of a weird question, I think, to ask someone that is facing some kind of important deadline, deliverable, or an event of some kind for which there has been significant, lengthy, or substantial planning.

    And for the record, I feel like I am not, in fact, freaking out about the upcoming Conference. 

    But so many folks have have asked me that question in the last few weeks, that every so often I get to wondering myself - maybe I should be freaking out? Is there something that I have missed or forgotten? Is there some giant shoe that is about to drop that I should be losing sleep over?

    And I think the answers to those questions are probably all 'Yes'. There is likely something that has been missed, with an event of this size and complexity and with the literally hundreds of people involved. There is bound to be some kind of mini-drama next week at the event with a speaker who falls ill or a session that does not come together as perfectly as expected. Something will go wrong, it is just how it is, the world is an imperfect place. Stuff happens and sometimes it can't be avoided.

    But what can be avoided is the question in the first place, the little or subtle way in which we make folks begin to second-guess themselves with the 'How come you're not freaking out?' line. Because when you hear that often enough the question turns around into more of a statement - 'You should be freaking out. If I were you I would be freaking out. Something must be wrong with you to not be freaking out.' 

    That kind of thing.

    So here is my advice, or really my request. Stop asking people why they are not freaking out. 

    Because maybe they are freaking out and just trying to hide it from you. Maybe they could use some actual help, instead of just another person reminding them of the pressure they are under. Or maybe they do feel as if they have everything together but with each additional person wondering why or how they are not cracking under the strain that self-doubt (and then panic) might actually start to set in.

    Ok, I am out. I am busy with a week to go until the show. But I am not freaking out about it.

    Just don't ask me again though.


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 191 - HR Technology Conference Preview

    HR Happy Hour 191 - HR Technology Conference 2014 Preview

    Recorded Thursday September 25, 2014

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane gave their preview of the upcoming HR Technology Conference that is set for October 7 - 10, 2014 in Las Vegas.

    Steve and Trish will  be co-moderating a panel of CHROs at the Conference, (we are not officially calling this session a live HR Happy Hour, but just between us, that is what it really will be!), and Trish will also be leading an Expert Discussion session focusing on HR technology implementations. 

    In addition to previewing these sessions, on the show, Steve and Trish also previewed some of the other highlights of the upcoming Conference - the keynotes, the sold-out Expo Hall, some of the concurrent sessions that attendees don't want to miss, and even a little bit about the fun and social events that are surrounding the show.

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

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


    Listeners of the HR Happy Hour Show can still make their plans to attend the HR Technology Conference at a discounted rate - register with code 'HHH14' (case sensitive), to receive $550 off the full, on-site Conference registration rate.

    Trish and Steve hope to see and meet lots of HR Happy Hour Show listeners out at HR Tech - be sure to say Hello if you see us there!


    OFF TOPIC: Color of the Year 2015

    I am completely, and probably irrationally fascinated with Pantone's 'Color of the Year' designation and process.

    In case you are unfamiliar (shock!), with Pantone and the Color of the Year designation here is all you need to know. Pantone is the world's leading authority on color, color systems, and publishes the industry standard definitions of colors. In other words that nice new green shirt you just bought is not just 'green' it is 'Pantone Antique Green 18-5418 TCX'. Pantone provides guidelines and definitions for thousands of variations of colors, and it is the standard by which colors are classified.

    Each year the color experts at Pantone declare one specific shade the 'Color of the Year'. This specific color (in 2014 it is 'Radiant Orchid' in case you did not know), is meant to be a kind of reflection of trends in art, design, fashion, popular events, and branding and often will subsequently become more common in actual products like clothing and jewelry as a result of the Color of the Year designation. So perhaps if you think back on 2014 and think you have seen a lot of Radiant Orchid - an 'expressive, creative, and embracing purple', you have Pantone to thank or blame.

    But since 2014 is winding down, and 2015 fast approaching I think it is time to start to consider what 2015's Color of the Year might or should be.

    The short list of contenders, or at least what appears to be the group from which 2015's Color of the Year will emerge can be found here, and I will list a few of them below along with my personal comments and odds:

    Wood Violet - probably too close to the 2014's Radiant Orchid to rate much of a shot - 20/1

    Champagne Beige - kind of a cool name that does not mask the fact that the color is well, beige - 15/1

    Steel Grey - I like this one. Probably because I am prepping myself for the upcoming cold, grey winter - 8/1

    Red Dahlia - reminds me of South Carolina Gamecocks' Garnet. Which means it is awesome. This is your winner for 2015 - 3/1 odds.

    What do you think, what color should be the one to set the tone, (bad pun) for 2015?


    The problem with pie charts

    is that they don't allow the visualization or the possibility of something else, something that is unknown, or undefined. They can only show some measure of allocation of the pieces of a thing that can be identified and named.

    Even the pie charts that have 'other' or 'undefined' as a component or slice, still have the overall context of the chart to set the definition. The 'other' slice of most every pie chart is not really 'unknown' anyway, it just means that there were too many additional defined things that bothering to chart them all individually just made no sense or was not visually appealing.

    But we like pie charts, I think, because we like to classify and identify things, and we like even more to have the things we classify and identify sum up into a tidy and logical package. There is that thing, or process, or amount, or opportunity that we have to examine and describe and the way that we feel most comfortable and capable addressing this problem is to separate, partition, and sum. And to make sure that nothing is missed, nothing is unknown, nothing is indeterminate.

    I think this is probably the cause of another, and related, truth (one we don't like to admit either), that the vast majority of your peers don't actually want you to be successful, as it would mean in the logic of the pie chart, that they are losing. They want to keep the size of their piece of the pie as large as possible, and ceding any area to you or anyone else can only diminish their status or income or opportunity. Sure we can talk about 'making the pie larger for everyone' but we almost never think that way when we encounter news of someone else getting a great new job or landing a big account or signing up a new sponsor.

    Even in markets where actually determining the absolute total size of the pie, (say for example, all the potential organizations that might hire you to speak to their employees or customers or prospects) the instant you find out that someone else just got hired by company 'X' to work on 'Y', you lament the missed opportunity. And while in that narrow, slice of the pie context you might be correct, spending more than one second trying to re-calibrate your relative position compared to the market (which you can't know how large it really is anyway), is foolish.

    Forget the pie, forget trying to grab a progressively larger share of some fixed and finite thing. Do what you do and if it is honest enough, and good enough, you will have your own pie. And you will finally stop caring about what everyone else is doing.

    They will still hate you though.

    Have a great week! 


    HBS Grads on Competitiveness, Jobs, and American Workers

    Is there a better cohort might to survey about the state of American business, workforces, and competitiveness than Harvard Business School grads? 

    Chances are a whole bit fat bunch of us are taking direction today from a grad of the famous business school. It does stand to reason that if you survey enough HBS grads you will get a pretty decent understanding of what business leaders are thinking, saying, and doing, (or importantly, not doing).

    This is a long read, so you might want to save it for the weekend, but I definitely encourage you to check out An Economy Doing Half Its Job: Findings of Harvard Business School's 2013-2014 Survey on US Competitiveness. The Harvard researchers, led by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin, surveyed about 1250 HBS Alumni on questions of US firm's competitiveness, the quality of the workforce from a skills perspective, and their assessment of how the US K-12 Education system is performing in terms of producing capable and qualified workers.

    Long, long story short, while US firms remain highly competitive across a wide range of sectors, the HBS grads' responses about many important workforce-related questions do not bode well for workers today, and in the longer term as well. 

    There are lots of great money quotes from the study, (and again you really should take the time to read it all), but here is one that stuck out for me:

    Workers will not invest in developing their skills if it does not lead to employment and higher living standards. Employers will continue to turn to technology, vendors, or other alternatives to address their needs. The associated loss of productivity growth will further undermine both America’s economic growth and its long-term competitiveness

    Makes sense, people will not be incented to try and get better or improve their skills if they can't see a connection, even a potential connection, between this kind of investment and improved career prospects.

    But even if individuals don't see the link between skills development and a better living standard, then certainly organizations will still continue to invest in skills development anyway, right? After all, the organizations need and lament the lack of skills in large swaths of the workforce. Well, maybe not. Here is a another quote from the HBS study:

    Our survey reveals that business leaders in America are reluctant to hire full-time workers. When possible, they prefer to invest in technology to perform work, outsource activities to third-parties, or hire part-time workers. For instance, 46% of survey respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that their firms' US operations prefer to invest in technology to perform work rather than hire or train employees, while only 25% disagreed.

    So it seems like what we have been mostly thinking is likely mostly true - organizations would rather automate, outsource, find alternative (and cheaper) ways to get work done rather than take on more full-time staff (or train and 'upskill' the staff they have).

    It is a tough problem, with no easy solutions. The HBS authors do make several recommendations to try to better align workforce capability with opportunity and to encourage organizations to make investments in talent much like they have been making investments in technology. And while the answers to these problems are not simple, it does seem that unless we (all of us), begin to take them more seriously that large numbers of American workers are going to be left behind.