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    Friday
    Jan132017

    HRE Column: Looking ahead to HR Tech 2017 - #HRTechConf

    Once again, I offer 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.

    This month, in what has become an annual exercise for me, I take a look at the emerging HR, HR technology, and workplace themes and trends that surface from my early planning for the HR Technology Conference in October.  While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, analytics, engagement), some others like the field of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, seem really fresh and new.  I like to think that reviewing hundreds of HR Tech speaking submissions and having dozens of calls with leading HR tech providers and thought leaders provides me kind of a unique perspective on what is really happening with modern HR technologies inside organizations.

    In this month's HR Executive column I take a look at a few of these initial themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the discussions in 2017, and the program for the HR Technology Conference in October. This is always a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year.  

    From the HRE piece:

    I have started the planning process for the 20th annual HR Technology® Conference and Exposition (Oct. 10 through 13, 2017, and back in Las Vegas after a quick detour through Chicago last year). To date, the most common question I am asked from individuals and organizations interested in attending and/or speaking at the conference is what the main themes will be this year.

    Granted, the annual event covers an ever-broadening spectrum of technologies, business processes and topics and, over time, many of the primary challenges facing HR and business leaders have grown, changed and evolved as well. Five years ago, the word "analytics" would likely not have popped up in an HR leader's job description. Today, analytics is high on almost every HR leader's list of strategic priorities. And the main themes of HR Tech have evolved as well, along with these ever-changing business challenges and technology-driven opportunities.

    But to get back to the question, here is my very preliminary swing at the answer:

    Artificial Intelligence and HR

    When I initially started brainstorming topics for the column, one thought was to write about the recent Consumer Electronics Show and look for parallels and extensions from the new and emerging consumer tools to how these technologies might manifest in the workplace. While I decided not to do an entire column on that topic, there was one clear "winner" of CES this year, and that was Amazon's Alexa platform. Alexa, via Amazon's Echo device, is a voice-activated, intelligent digital assistant that can perform a wide variety of useful tasks, primarily in the home. The big story from CES was how Alexa is already being leveraged by numerous other devices -- such as in cars, on refrigerators and directly integrated in smartphones. The big takeaway from this, and a trend I am seeing reflected in many of the HR Tech proposals I have reviewed, is the increasing comfort level and capability individuals are developing with intelligent and responsive technologies, in addition to their increasing reliance on them. As these intelligent technologies proliferate in our personal lives (often accompanied by voice-interface capability), we can expect to see them emerge in HR and workplace technology as well. I expect "AI for HR" will be an important topic at HR Tech 2017 and beyond.

    The Employee Experience

    Last year in this space I talked about the evolution of employee engagement as an important topic for 2016. Now that a full year has passed, I think this evolution from the idea of "engagement" to something that has become known as the employee "experience" has made significant progress. More organizations have begun looking past the focus on the "end result," i.e., the engagement score, and have launched initiatives (and looked to supporting HR technologies) that more directly impact the key components of an employee's experience with the organization -- components that ultimately drive what we measure as engagement. A look through my inbox of pitches for HR Tech 2017 reveals topics such as career development, employee well-being, corporate social responsibility and personalized employee learning -- all topics that speak to organizational efforts to enhance their employees' positive experience.

    Platforms and Integration

    Like most technology trends, there is a lag between the introduction of a new technology, the identification and emergence of that technology as a "trend," and the more widespread acceptance and adoption of the technology by providers and organizations. At  the 2015 conference, we began to look more closely at the importance of HR-technology platforms, ecosystems and application marketplaces. No matter the specific terminology, the main idea was that organizations of all sizes had adopted numerous and often disparate HR-tech solutions, and were facing the daunting challenge of integrating these diverse solutions both for process efficiency and productivity, as well as for consolidated reporting and business intelligence. Fast forward to early 2017, and HR-tech platforms, application interoperability, and the "marketplace" or app store concept is now being more fully realized and adopted by providers and customers. At the upcoming HR Tech Conference, I expect we will see and hear stories about some important and early organizational successes that have resulted from applying these technologies and approaches to harmonize their divergent sets of HR solutions.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    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 shovel the snow off your driveway, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Jan112017

    CHART OF THE DAY: People are quitting faster than you can fire them

    Do you know what the best day of the month is for workforce trends and labor market geeks is?

    Of course you do - when the monthly JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report is released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics!

    That great day was yesterday, and in what has become a semi-regular feature on the blog over the years, I want to share just one chart from the latest JOLTS report, and as you DEMAND, offer some free (cheap!) comments on the data.

    First the chart - this one showing the amount of 'Quits', (voluntary separations), vs. the level of  'Layoffs and Discharges' (non-voluntary turnover), for the US labor force.

    Some quick takes from the 'Take this job and you know what with it!' vs. the 'Clean out your locker and scram' trends:

    1. Consistent with the longer term and pre-recession trends, 'Quits' are now exceeding 'Layoffs' by about a 2/1 ratio. Back in 2006, you could expect 2 folks to quit for every 1 who you had to fire (or layoff). Halfway into the last recession, (and for some time after), Layoffs surpassed Quits, as no one in their right mind wanted to quit their job with the chances of finding another one being so dicey.

    2. Obvs, the return to a more 'normal' and historical 2/1 Quits/Layoffs ratio puts much more pressure on HR,  recruiters, business leaders - essentially anyone whose job depends on having the needed people in place, and not looking to leave for the next, better opportunity at the drop of a hat. The same drivers that are making the Quits rate climb, (perceived labor market leverage, lots of openings across the country, rising wages), also tend to depress the 'layoff/discharge' rates. Do you really want to can that marginal performer if you are not at all sure you can find a better replacement in a timely manner?

    3. Finally, what might be the most valuable take away from looking at the overall labor market Quits/Discharges ratio is that it (should) force us to think about this ratio in our own organizations, and what we think might be the optimal or healthy ratio for us. We probably would rather exist in a world where there were not all that many quits and certainly not all that many firings or layoffs. But that ideal world rarely exists, and even if it did, would it be perfect?

    Said differently, there probably should be some tension and some churn in our organizations. The system/culture/workplace should weed out some folks who will self-select out. There should be some really talented folks that end up having/choosing to leave to chase some bigger dreams and goals that you might not be able to offer them the opportunity. And there should be some folks that you force out. The key may not be the absolute numbers of any of these categories, but the way these groups compare. If you are being forced to forcibly remove more folks that leave on their own accord, then you have a problem I would imagine.  And if no one ever decides to leave on their own, you have a problem as well, albeit a different one.

    Ok, that's it from me. Enjoy the JOLTS report like I know you will!

    Monday
    Jan092017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 271: For 2017, Echoes of Success

    HR Happy Hour 271 - For 2017, Echoes of Success

    Hosts : Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Recorded LIVE while watching the Tournament of Roses Parade

    Listen to show HERE

    This week for the first HR Happy Hour Show of 2017, hosts Steve and Trish talk about 'success'. specifically some ways to think about success at work in 2017. The lens through this conversation was framed was the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade, whose theme was 'Echoes of Success', and provided an interesting context for the discussion.

    We talked about some of the important barriers to success and ways to try and move past them - like overcoming fear, making sure you identify your tribe of supporters and allies, and  Alfred Hitchcock quotes.

    We also talked about moving hot tubs up a large hill, (not easy), a fun New Year's Eve wedding, Rocky IV, and the different ways success can be defined.

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

    This was a really fun show and a great way to kick off 2017 on the HR Happy Hour.

    Thanks to show sponsor Virgin Pulse - learn more about them at www.virginpulse.com.

    And remember to subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Thursday
    Jan052017

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #3

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of having lots of 'real' work to do in this first week of 2017, I am going to steal borrow the idea for this site. So here goes, the first in what may be a series if I remember to do this again, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). Expect a mix of HR, workplace, Tech, sports, pop culture, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Overrated

    1. 2017 Predictions - Yes, I am a little biased since Trish McFarlane and I just did an HR Happy Hour Show titled 'There are no new HR predictions', but nonetheless, 99.95% of the 'predictions' pieces you see about HR or work or technology are 87.95% worthless, and more or less a waste of your time. Stop with the predictions and get on with the getting stuff done.

    2. Apple - leaving Apple on the overrated list again. Why? I just saw a Kickstarter project for a device to essentially replace all the MacBook ports that Apple decided you didn't need has been a runaway smash. What is happening with Amazon and Alexa reminds us (again), that the hardware is less important than the software and the platform. 

    3. Work/Life Integration - As yesterday's post about the new 'No email after 6PM' regulations in France suggest, I think the notion that most people want 'Integration' or 'Fit' between work and not-work may be finally unraveling, at least some. it could be that many, if not most people, don't want to bring their work home, or on vacation, or on Thanksgiving. It could be we want to work hard, (when we are working), and forget about work when we are not working. Just because a few pundits try and tell you that 'Balance' is the wrong term and concept doesn't mean you have to believe it.

    4. Company Culture - Important, sure. But not more important than Talent or Strategy. (A repeat from last time as well, I am going to keep beating this drum until, well, for a while longer anyway).

    5. The New York Knicks - Just lost their 6th in a row. Moving them from 'Under' to 'Over' rated. Another wasted season seems more and more possible. Time to trade 'Melo. 

     

    Underrated

    1. Amazon - Fun Fact! Amazon was my #2 underrated the first time I did this post last summer. Why are they on here again, and now at the top spot? Because all the interesting news I heard this week from the big CES show in Vegas has been about Amazon and their Alexa operating system. They are into everything - enterprise cloud services, content, drones, spaceships, and now they are set to dominate AI and conversational interfaces. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Apple's Siri? 

    2. Electronic signatures - Been processing a ton of contracts, agreements, etc. lately and the lack of adoption of electronic signatures has been a major pain in the neck. I have had to print, sign, scan, save, then email I am not sure how many docs in the last month. So tedious. Let's all please move E-sigs up on the list of things to do in 2017.

    3. A basketball hoop in the driveway/backyard - Had the chance to play a little backyard hoops over the holidays. Man, I miss having a hoop in the backyard. Goal for 2017 is to get one. And a yard. 

    4. Email consolidation - In 2017, I have gone from 3 main 'work' email addresses and calendars down to 2. (I know I should only have one, but cut me a break). I already, three days in, have noticed a huge difference. AND, I cleared out my voice mail (finally). But please, don't leave me a voice mail.

    5. The Rose Parade - It's is still fun. It is still a great tradition. It is still what helps you get over your New Year's Eve hangover the next morning. I am there in person next year.

    Properly Rated

    1. Tech M&A - Yes, it is that time of year when companies start acquiring other companies, doing mergers, or making 'acqui-hires'. These events are almost always met with breathless and excited coverage and commentary from industry pundits and observers. But the thing is, M&A, and Tech M&A in particular, is about a 50/50 proposition, (at best). Maybe slow your roll on how wonderful the next big M&A deal is going to be before the new company business cards are even printed.

    2. Tesla - Probably not as influential and important (yet) as the insane amount of coverage they get warrants. They delivered 76,000 cars in 2016. That is 76,000 out of a market of over 17 million vehicles. Keep that in perspective.

    3. Ad blocking software - Is it just me, or are more and more 'free' websites failing to load if you have Ad Block software enabled? Ad blocking is now only marginally effective, and thus, 'properly' rated.

    4. The 'Process' - The mad scientist plan of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie to rebuild the team by essentially losing almost every game for three seasons has swung from over, to under, and now has settled I think inot properly rated. But Joel Embiiid himself is probably underrated.

    5. Snow at Christmas - Yes, it's pretty. Yes, it makes it 'feel' like Christmas. But by December 26 it is just, for the most part, a nuisance. I am angling for Christmas on a beach somewhere next year.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Wednesday
    Jan042017

    UPDATE: New Year, Less After Hours Email?

    Last March I posted about a proposed French law that would make after-hours email and other forms of work-related communication more or less 'ignoreable' for employees. After 6PM on work days, (and on holidays and weekends), French workers could not be compelled to be 'on' and responsive to the bosses 10PM emails or expected to be 'available' via their phones on weekends or on their vacations.

    In March I offered these comments on the proposed email regulations:

    At least here in the USA, the vast majority of advice and strategery around helping folks with trying to achieve a better level of work/life balance seems to recommend moving much more fluidly between work and not-work. Most of the writing on this seems to advocate for allowing workers much more flexibility over their time and schedules so that they can take care of personal things on 'work' time, with the understanding that they are actually 'working' lots of the time they are not technically 'at work'. Since we all have smartphones that connect us to work 24/7, the thinking goes that we would all have better balance and harmony between work and life by trying to blend the two together more seamlessly.

    And I guess that is reasonably decent advice and probably, (by necessity as much as choice), that is what most of us try and do to make sure work and life are both given their due.

    But the proposal from the French labor minister is advocating the exact opposite of what conventional (and US-centric), experts mostly are pushing. The proposed French law would (at least in terms of email), attempt to re-build the traditional and clear divide and separation between work and not-work. If this regulation to pass, and if it is outside of your 'work' time, then feel free to ignore that email. No questions asked. No repercussions. At least in theory.

    But here is the question I want to leave with you: What if the French are right about this and the commonly accepted wisdom and advice about blending work and life is wrong?

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, working all the time?

    What if you truly shut it down at 5PM every day?

    That is some of what I had to say about that regulation back in March. Now to the 'Update' part of the post - it turns out that proposed 'No email after 6PM' law actually did pass, and went into effect in France at the New Year.

    From January 1 onwards, employers having 50 or more employees in France will have to offer their staffs a 'right to disconnect'. From coverage of the new regulation in the Guardian, "Under the new law, companies will be obliged to negotiate with employees to agree on their rights to switch off and ways they can reduce the intrusion of work into their private lives."

    If the organization and the employees can't come to an agreement, then the employer must publish a charter or set of rules that explicitly state the demands on, and rights of, employees during non-work hours.

    It is going to be interesting to follow this story to see how it plays out in France, if employers really do follow the edicts of the new regulations, (there are not yet punitive measures in place for employers who do not comply), and if these regulations prove to impact organizational productivity and employee well-being.

    For my part, thinking about this story for the first time since last March when the new law was initially proposed, I don't think my reaction is any different now than it was then.

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, expected to be working all the time?

    Have a great Wednesday. Have fun poring through the 19 emails that came for you last night. Unless you were up at 11PM replying to them already.