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    Notes from the road #11 - We're not going anywhere edition

    Submitting this dispatch to the Notes from the Road series from another Delta Sky Club at a ridiculously early hour. 

    Short story - Weather/air traffic control/mandated pilot rest period (or some combination of, we never really got a full and/or definitive story), caused cancellation of a bucketful of late night flights heading out of NYC last evening, including the one your humble correspondent had boarded and had been patiently waiting on for about 3 hours before No Joy was called. Nothing like a planeful of angry passengers who, at about 1:00 AM, get informed that they are not, in fact, going to make it home at all after such a long delay, and had better scramble to make alternate arrangements or prepare to sleep in the airport.

    Good times.

    Me being the smart and savvy frequent traveler that I am, managed to book the best available alternative flights home, (and I do mean flights, I will enjoy flying about 300 miles past where I actually live, in order to get on another flight to come back). I then pulled some Elite Status traveler magic (or so I thought) to get a room at the closest hotel to the airport, figuring I could get about 4 hours of decent sleep before coming back in the morning. Only when I arrived at said hotel did I find that no, there were no rooms at all available, and the reservation the nice man on the Elite phone line made for me was actually for TONIGHT and not last night (which had already turned into today, as it was about 1:45 AM when this was all happening).

    So now who was the savvy traveler?

    Not me. Now I was looking at only about 3.5 hours or so I had to kill before heading back to the airport, sitting in a deserted hotel lobby that had no room for me, (except on the couch in the lobby where I hunkered in to ride it out), and praying that I didn't wake up and freak out from not knowing where the heck I was.

    Sure, things happen in business travel, these kind of bad nights are almost unavoidable from time to time. But there were a few customer service/training and employee empowerment kinds of things I noticed that if handled better, could have at least taken some of the sting out of the problems.

    1. I'll will try to find out is better than I don't know, which is better than the wrong answer

    I had to try and figure out, since I was switching to a different NYC departure airport, if I needed to get my checked bags back from the original plane. I think I asked 4 different airline personnel questions about how to make that happen. I basically received three 'I don't knows' and one essentially incorrect answer. Only when I pursued the line of actions that proved to be incorrect did I find out what was really happening. No one offered to actually try and help, (except for the guy who simply gave me the wrong information).

    2. Generalists are more valuable than specialists most of the time

    I think the primary reason why it was so hard to find out what the process should be for recovering my bags lies in the fact that every person I encountered had one primary role and if that role did not directly involve the baggage handling procedures, they were simply not able to offer any advice. I may have well been asking them to break down the quadratic equation or recite some sonnets. Customers can't be asked to maneuver their own way around your org structure and hierarchy when they need assistance. Having even one or two people that could reliably address a wider range of customer issues would have made everyone's lives easier last night.

    3. Different parts of the organization need to communicate more effectively

    The hotel debacle last night was pretty simple when you analyzed the cause - the agent on the phone did not back date my reservation by a day, and since it was already past midnight local time, the reservation was made for the wrong day. A bad error on his part, but sort of understandable at least. But the bigger issue was when I arrived at the hotel and the counter agent told me about the reservation problem, he added that 'This happens all the time when flights get cancelled late at night. Phone reservations keeps sending people here with a reservation for the following night'. Sure enough, two more folks after me turned up in the ensuing hour or so in the same situation. So obviously the moral here - if this happens all of the time, why can't someone at the hotel near the airport talk to someone at phone reservations to build in some kind of process to safeguard against it happening in the future? Ticking off your best customers because two parts of your organization don't know how to communicate is simply not acceptable.

    Ok, that is it - rant off for the day. Going to try and get on another plane. Hopefully this one will go a little farther than the end of the tarmac and back.

    Happy traveling.


    SLIDES: What Did That HR Tech Salesperson Say? #SHRM14 Presentation

    Earlier today Trish McFarlane and I presented "What did that HR Tech salesperson say? Demystifying HR Technology Selection and implementation" at the SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

    Despite it being one of the very last and final sessions of the marathon event, (we jokingly referred to the session as the 'Closing-Closing Keynote'), we had a super-engaged audience of HR professionals that had lots and lots of questions about the HR technology research, evaluation, selection, and implementation processes. Trish and I were kind of blown away by the number of questions, really. And even though it was the final session of the Conference, numerous attendees stayed past the 'official' ending time to share with us their challenges and concerns about HR tech solutions.

    Embedded below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), are the slides that Trish and I presented, (although with the number and type of questions we had from the attendees, we probably needed to devote more time to Q and A), at the session. Have a look to see the basic of what we talked about, and what had so many HR pros wanting to dig in to the important issues facing them and their organizations.


    In fact, we had so many questions and conversations after the session ended, that we promised attendees we would continue the conversation on the HR Happy Hour Show - so look for a show to be scheduled soon in which we will continue to try and 'demystify' the HR Tech selection process, and help HR pros arrive at better decisions for their organizations.

    Many thanks to SHRM for having us at the event, and for allowing us to 'close' the show!


    Which tech advice is good advice? #SHRM14

    Been spending a little time working on the final bits of the presentation titled "What Did the HR Tech Salesperson Say? Demystifying HR Technology Selection and Implementation", that Trish McFarlane and I will be giving later this week at the SHRM Annual Conference, and by way of preview (and since it is interesting to me) I wanted to riff on one section of the presentation, where we plan to discuss ways for 'normal' HR pros to conduct HR technology research.

    With blogs, social networks, LinkedIn, podcasts, about 1,345 Twitter chats, etc. there is no shortage of advice, opinion, and information out there about anything and that of course includes HR technology solutions. 

    But which sources of advice are good advice, or at least, relatively better than some of the competing alternatives? I think you can break down and then compare sources of advice on HR Technology solutions on a simple 2x2 grid with the X Axis being "Informed" and the Y Axis being "Biased" (or at least the potential exists for bias based on history, contracts, or other less obvious drivers of biased opinion.)

    Here's my take on the "Who can you trust/who knows what they are talking about" chart:

    What do you think? Too harsh on some of the vendor-driven content? Not giving the Online Pundits their due? Does your Mom know a lot more about HR Technology than I calculated?

    Look, the exact placement of any of these sources of information on the plot of 'Informed/Biased' is subject to debate, interpretation, and certainly exceptions exist for any of them.

    But the larger, and more important point I think, and one we will make during the presentation, is that any source that you as an HR pro uses as an input into your research/decision process needs to be evaluated and scrutinized carefully.

    Lots of 'experts' really are not that expert - they either never have actually bought and implemented HR solutions in organizations themselves, or haven't done so for a really long time. Some consultants purport to be vendor solution agnostic, but might only have a chance at scoring some billable work from you if you select a specific vendor's technology. And lots of people with blogs and Twitter accounts have no idea what they are talking about, (possibly me too).

    So in the SHRM session, we will try to take some of the mystery out of what can often be a one-sided, vendor has all the power kind of dynamic, and give you the HR pro some tips, tricks, and secret code to help you better understand the process, and hopefully that will lead to better outcomes.

    And, we will have a bunch of HR Happy Hour shirts to give away at the session as well!


    CHART OF THE DAY: Special #SHRM14 Handbag Edition

    The convergence was just too irresistible to fight: the week of the SHRM Annual Conference (where on Wednesday in the SHRM version of the 'Session Time of Death', Trish McFarlane and I will be presenting), I run across a story and chart about HR ladies' traditional favorite accessory maker, Coach.

    Turns out, times are getting a little tough for Coach - in the last couple of years it has seen it's sales growth evaporate, its stock price essentially miss the entire bull market, and the emergence of increased competition from companies like Michael Kors and Tory Burch.

    Today's chart, courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, shows the percentage change in same-store sales (a really important data point in retail), for Coach and its principal rival for the arms of HR ladies everywhere, Michael Kors.

    Pretty ugly if you are a fan of Coach, (or a stockholder). Kors has been killing it while Coach seems to be in the beginnings of their death spiral.

    Times are certainly changing, I guess - whatever allure Coach had for many years seems to be waning and companies like Kors and Tory Burch and Kate Spade are the new must-haves.

    What in fact do I know about any of these trends in women's fashion and accessories?

    Hardly anything. But I have owned and loved a series of Coach men's wallets over the years, so I suppose I should think about making a future replacement purchase as insurance - just in case in three years when my current wallet is about needing to be retired there will be no more Coach to speak of. The relationship a man has with his wallet is a pretty important one, second only to the one he has with his butcher I would think. So put me on the record as hoping Coach figures it out.

    If you are heading to SHRM, have fun - look around and see if you can spot this changing of the guard so to speak as you wander the halls and the Expo.

    Have a great week!


    Three data points that should tell us something about how things are changing

    For a 'please can this week be over yet?' Friday, here are three unrelated pieces of news/information from the last few days that individually are interesting, and taken collectively should make us think about where the next few years are heading in technology. First, here are the three stories for your consideration:

    League of Legends is now a college sport - and one University is offering scholarships for its team (Venture Beat)

    Robert Morris University of Chicago is now accepting applications for its first competitive League of Legends season. Associate athletic director Kurt Melcher said the university is also looking to hire a coach.

    Competitive League of Legends is a remarkably successful enterprise. E-sports racked up an astounding 2.4 billion viewer hours last year, with this online strategy game being the most-watched game of the bunch. This has brought a multitude of advertisers and sponsors to the table. League of Legends also made $624 million dollars in microtransactions last year and has over 70 million monthly players.

    RMU is looking to fill around 18 or 19 player spots. Eight or nine players will be a part of the varsity team, but the college is also looking to field two full (five man) practice squads. The university is offering scholarships that will pay up to 50 percent tuition and 50 percent room and board, which Melcher said is valued at around $19,000.

    Yo Now Has Over 200,000 Users - 140,000 More Than It Had Yesterday (Business Insider)

    You might still be figuring out what you think about Yo, the app that only lets you send "Yo" notifications to your friends, but the app is taking off.

    Yo just announced that the app has surpassed the 200,000 user threshold.

    Yo has also broken into the Top 50 free apps on Apple's App Store, surpassing even Facebook's new Slingshot app. It's currently #24.

    The Best and Worst: Media Habits of the Class of 2014 (Niche)

    This year’s high school graduating class is part of a coveted demographic for tech companies. In a survey of 7,000 Class of 2014 Niche users, students ranked 50 popular apps and websites based on frequency of usage.


    Steve here - really interesting data points I think. Video games and gamers are getting more and more mainstream each day, the hottest App in the Apple App Store has a single function, sending the word 'Yo' as a notification to one of your contacts, and the oldest Gen Z (or whatever we call them), has no time for anything that exists primarily as a website or a web-based destination. With Yo, and the data from teen tech usage, we see that attention spans for individual tasks are getting still shorter, (if that was possible). But the video game trends remind us that for the right experience, you can capture attention for long, long periods of time. And those experiences are changing.

    I think it is important if you consider yourself a student of people and technology, (what the best HR tech folks should be), to at least keep aware of these kinds of developments as they arise, and before they turn into full-blown trends. If you are still writing and reading stories about how 'Mobile is going to be big' or 'Social media is important for HR', you're really late to the party. In fact, that party is over, it ended in 2010 or so.

    This weekend you should spend 10 minutes thinking about what, if anything, 'Yo' means for you in HR and for your workplace tech in the future.

    Or just send me a 'Yo'.

    Have a great weekend!