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    Wednesday
    Feb152017

    I know he has the title, but is he believable?

    I'm sure you've seen reports of the numerous large and some high-profile organizations that are altering or outright scrapping traditional, ratings-centric performance management processes to move towards a more nimble, flexible, and frequently centered around coaching and development. More forward-looking as opposed to scoring the past as it were.

    While the actual results of these new, 'no more ratings' performance programs have so far been mixed at best, it does seem likely that this trend will continue for a little while longer anyway. And one of the by products of these kinds of programs ironically enough, is the generation of more 'perfomance' data, not less, or at least more than in a traditional annual review process. In these new programs, check-ins, kudos, 'real-time' feedback comments, 1-1 meetings, and even micro bonuses or awards will be happening all year long, will need to be soted, assessed, and made sense of in order for these programs to deliver on their goals - namely improved business and individual performance.

    I was thinking about this when reading about how one firm, Bridgewater Associates is taking this idea of high-frequency, real-time, and highly data driven approaches to employee performance and development to an incredibly detailed level. 

    You should read the entire piece, but here is a snippet from Business Insider piece that sheds a little color on how the firm uses data points on 100+ traits to rate, evaluate, and assess their staff:

    Every employee has a company-issued iPad loaded with proprietary apps. One of them, called "Dots," contains a directory of employees and options to weigh in on various elements of each person's work life, categorized in values, abilities, skills, and track record.

    There are more than 100 attributes in total, but the collections of attributes are customized to roles in the company, in the sense that an investor's performance would not be measured according to the same traits that would be used to measure a recruiter's performance.

    Employees are free to use Dots whenever they'd like, when they want to praise or criticize a colleague for a particular action.

    The numerical value of these Dots is considered along with performance reviews, surveys, tests, and ongoing feedback and averaged into public "baseball card" profiles for every employee. The profiles get their name from the list of attributes and corresponding ratings, the same way a baseball card would list something like a player's batting average accompanied by a brief description of their career.

    These are then brought into play in meetings where decisions are being made. Using their iPads, colleagues will vote on certain choices, and in the system of believability-weighted decision making, each vote will have a weight depending on the individual's baseball card and the nature of the question.

    "A person's believability is constantly relevant," Prince said. "In a meeting, it is relevant to things like how you self-regulate your own engagement in a discussion, how the person running the meeting manages the discussion, and in actual decisions. At all times a person should be assessing their own believability so that they can function well as part of a team."

    There's a lot to unpack there, and I am fairly sure that this kind of pervasive, detailed, transparent, and for many, scary, kind of performance/evaluation scheme would not work at most places and for most people. But I think there are (at least) two key features of this system that any organization should think about in terms of their own performance processes.

    The first is that the 'Dots' app has the ability to collect, synthesize, and make sense of the many thousands of data points that are generated each year for every employee. So that these interactions, assessments, and bits of feedback are not wasted, or pass off into the ether shortly after they are created. In this way the firm continues to build valuable intelligence about its people and their capability over time. 

    And secondly, this information is taken into account when decisions are being made. So that if you have built up credibility over time on a particular subject, your opinion or vote on issues related to that subject carries proportionally more weight than someone less experienced or believable on that issue, regardless of position or title. This data-driven approach to 'Who should we believe about this?' helps the firm guard against 'loudest voice in the room wins' trap that many organizations fall prey to.

    Really interesting stuff and while maybe being a little too extreme (and disciplined) for most organizations, the Bridgewater approach to performance might give you at least a general idea of where we are heading - a place where every employee action, interaction, and decision is logged, rated, and contributes to their overall profile. And where that profile is taken into account when decisions need to be made. 

    Good stuff for a Wednesday. Have a great day!

    Monday
    Feb132017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 275 - Employer Branding on a Global Scale at GE

    HR Happy Hour 275 - Employer Branding on a Global Scale at GE

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Shaunda Zilich, Global Employer Brand Leader, GE

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane are joined by Shaunda Zilich, Global Employment Brand Leader for GE to talk about employer branding, recruitment marketing, and working with employees and the marketing staff to achieve employer branding goals. 

    Shaunda shared some key insights about GE's approach to employer branding, how to engage employees, hiring managers, and business leaders to help spread important employer brand messages, and to best position GE as well as communicate, support and align with business strategy. She also shares some ideas about how to get employer branding and recruitment marketing programs off and running, even with limited, (or maybe even no) budget, staff, or resources.

    You can learn more about GE at www.ge.com/careers where you can learn about GE's new initiative to place 20,000 women in technical roles.

    We also chatted about bourbon, snowstorms, and Trish and Shaunda both shared some incredibly important news of their respective company's recent announcements with the NBA. This is HUGE news (definitely to Steve anyway).

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below:

    This was a fun and interesting show, thanks so much to Shaunda for joining us!

    Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the podcast apps - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Friday
    Feb102017

    Signs of the Corporate Death Spiral #5 : Have we learned nothing from Yahoo?

    Every once in a while, I still come across a story about a book or books being banned, or even burned, in a local area or school system. And every time I hear a story like that I make the same , bad joke - "They are burning books? Burning them? I mean, have we learned nothing from Footloose?"

    And every once in a while we come across stories of organizations that, in the spirit of the formerly great tech company Yahoo, pulling the corporate version of banning books, except is it about banning telework or remote work arrangements.  You probably caught the news that this week IBM's Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso is effectively banning remote working arrangements for IBM's US marketing organization. Staffers will have to report to, (and in some cases relocate within commuting distance of), one of six US offices and (in her words), sit "Shoulder to shoulder" with their colleagues.

    IBM Marketing employees who are unable or unwilling to cease remote work arrangements and report to one of the six offices will be essentially tendering their resignation, (according to reports).

    Call me cynical, but my guess is Ms. Peluso herself will not have to suffer a 'forced' relocation to keep her job. I bet she already lives near enough one of the six offices. 

    But the larger point, like Yahoo, Comcast, or any other organization that resorts to the 'No more remote working for anyone' card is sending a signal that they are kind of out of ideas on how to generate better ideas.

    So they pull the 'More/Better ideas get generated when people are physically together' line and issue edicts like Ms. Peluso's and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer before that. And they are at least (partially) right. Sometimes great ideas do get generated when people are physically together.

    But also true is that great ideas get generated when people are walking their dog, are in the shower, or sometimes when they wake up in the middle of the night and scribble something down on a pad. Keith Richards dreamed the riff for 'Satisfaction', woke up a 4AM and played the lick into a tape recorder on the night stand. He didn't come up with the legendary tune as Agenda Item #6 in an official Rolling Stones band weekly status meeting.

    It seems like these kinds of blunt, non-differentiated, unscientific, (does IBM really know that working in the office will lead to better performance?), never work out in the long run.

    The best talent that feels negatively impacted by this policy change will find their way to greener pastures. And other folks will feel forced by their employer to make incredibly disruptive life changing decisions in order to keep their jobs.

    Ever have to hell an 11 year-old they have to relocate to a new city, new school, and make all new friends? Have fun with that conversation.

    I don't know what is going on at IBM in a big-picture sense. But I do know the various IBM folks I have dealt with and do work with now (some are in Marketing), are all dedicated, intelligent, considerate, and a real pleasure to work with.

    I hope things work out for them the way they want them to.

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #4 - Business Travel Edition

    NOTE: 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 running out of good ideas this week, I am going to steal borrow for this site. So here goes, the fourth installment, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). I am going with a business travel theme this time, since I have been back on the road some after a January lull and also because I am pretty sure the world does not need another blog about employee engagement or robots coming for our jobs right about now.

    So here goes...

    Overrated

    1. The fun places you will see! - Writing this from a hotel room in rainy, damp, dreary Cleveland. That is not a knock on Cleveland, you could substitute Newark, Pittsburgh, or Dallas and it would be pretty much the same. At least half, if you are lucky, of the places you will travel for business are places you'd never go to otherwise. 

    2. Turn down service - Let me see, I had to jump to attention with a startling knock on the door so that someone could fold back the blanket a foot and a half and drop two milk chocolate squares on the night stand? No thanks. 

    3. The hotel indoor pool - Unless you are traveling with kids under 10, you will never, ever dip a toe in the indoor pool. Can that room smell any weirder?

    4. 'Comfort' Class - You just paid $59 more each way for 1.2 inches additional leg room. And one 'free' Bud Light.

    5. Going out for drinks/dinner with the local staff - Usually fun for about an hour. Then the locals are all thinking 'It's Wednesday night, I have things to do at home, when can I get out of here?', and you start thinking, 'I had to get up at 3:45AM to catch my flight here, I am about to crash hard. When can I get out of here?'

    Underrated

    1. Hotel in-room coffee makers - You might take these for granted. You might even think the quality of the coffee is terrible, (it is). But tell me how much you enjoy that 37th floor city view room in Vegas until you realize that there is no coffee maker in the room and you're facing a 18 minute trek and a 23 minute long wait at the Starbucks in the lobby.

    2. The chance that being around all those people in tight spaces like planes will make you very sick - The sickest I have ever been in my life was about seven or so years ago when I picked up the Swine Flu (remember that), after a quick two-day, one-night trip into NYC for business. I was knocked flat for 10 days, every muscle I had (not many) ached, and I don't think I got off of my sofa for more than 8 minutes a day. The illnesses you can pick up on a commuter flight to JFK are legion.

    3. The Sky, Admiral's, Captain's or whatever Club you use at the airport - This is the best travel investment that any regular business traveler can make, (yes, I would rate it higher than TSA Pre-check). Just one bad weather night and a 7-hour layover in JFK or LGA will make the $500 or so annual fee worth it right there. And it seems to me that the Airport Clubs are all getting nicer, while almost every other aspect of air travel is getting worse.

    4. Business/First class to Asia, (or anywhere else really far) - Another investment I would recommend, (even better if you can get someone else to fund this), is the splurge upgrade to Business/First Class for any flight you may have to take of 12 hours or more. Why? Because if you only take this kind of a flight once in your life, you will always remember it as the best flight you ever had. The last Business Class pod I had on a flight to China was bigger than my first apartment. And the food was much better too.

    5. Frequent Flyer Status - Things get a little better with 'Gold' status. Things get better still with 'Platinum' status. But things get much, much better with 'Diamond' status. Which it is why it is so hard to get. And worth every stopover in Detroit instead of flying directly to Chicago that you have to endure. If you are just starting to travel for business, pick one airline and stick with it. Cling to it like grim death if you must. You want status.

    Properly Rated

    1. Room service - Pros: It's food that someone brings to your room after you make one phone call. And you can eat in your bathrobe and no one cares. Cons: Overpriced, usually mediocre food.

    2. Rental cars - Pros: It is someone elses car! Let's do a neutral drop as we pull out of the Courtyard by Marriott! Cons: How do I turn on the headlights? Arghhh! That was the windshield wipers!

    3. 'Local' TV/news - Kind of fun to watch a different city's local news shows to get a little bit of the flavor of the place. But tempered by the fact that local car dealers and personal injury attorney advertising is just as annoying on the road as it is at home.

    4. The Hotel Gym - Often, you will be so bored and stir crazy in your room that you will work out more when you are on the road which is good. But, it is a hotel gym. You see some strange stuff in there.

    5. Eating at Chili's, Applebee's, or any other place you can eat at that is within five minutes of where you live - Sure, you feel like a jerk for eating at a nondescript chain place. But, it probably saves you at least 27 minutes of scrolling through Yelp trying to figure out if 3.5 stars means the same thing in San Antonio as it does in Des Moines.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

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

    Have a great day.

    Monday
    Feb062017

    Want a larger piece of the (economic) pie? Look for the most competitive industries

    Caught a really interesting piece over the weekend at The Atlantic looking at one potential reason why (relatively speaking) that worker's or labor's share of GDP is decreasing when compared to 'capital's', i.e. ownership's share. This divergence in share has been thoroughly examined as a primary driver of increasing economic inequality, and was the main subject of Thomas Piketty's influential Capital in the Twenty First Century from 2014.

    Said differently, and much more simply, today in the aggregate is getting a smaller piece of the overall economic pie than in the past. There are tons of data points you can examine on this, but they all more or less show the same thing - on average, workers are no better off today, and might be worse off, than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

    Why The Atlantic piece titled One Reason Workers are Struggling Even When Companies are Doing Well caught my attention is that it shared some insights from a recent NBER research paper on not just that this share divergence is happening, but offered some reasons as to why it is happening.

    And the theory is kind of an interesting one, and if true, can help better inform anyone making career/industry decisions moving forward. Best of all, it is a pretty simple idea that boils down to this - The more concentrated an industry is, (fewer competitors and the ones that dominate are all pretty large), the lower labor's share of the income for that industry will be.

    Here's some color from The Atlantic piece:

    The researchers looked at data from the U.S. Economic Census between 1982 and 2012 for nearly 700 industries in six major sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale, services, finance, and utilities and transportation. Looking at how much the four largest firms in each industry accounted for in terms of total sales in the industry, they found an upward trend in concentration in all of the six sectors, meaning that it was increasingly common that just a few firms accounted for the bulk of sales. Since the U.S. Economic Census reports payroll, input, and employment, the researchers were able to observe a negative correlation between concentration and labor’s share—meaning that this trend of so-called superstar firms tends to mean workers taking home a smaller share of the pie. Moreover, the more concentrated an industry had become, the larger the decline in labor’s share.

    Unpack that a little bit to show a pretty straightforward formula:

    Industries have tended to consolidate over time --> the more dominant the four largest firms in an industry become --> then decreasing shares of the overall industry profits find their way to workers/labor.

    There are a couple of reasons on offer for why more consolidated, big-firm dominated industries are getting worse in terms of share of profits for workers. One is that these companies are simply growing revenues at a faster pace, and labor costs just have not (or do not need to) keep pace. Another is that modern, transparent business practices make it easier for consumers to find and reward the 'best' companies, which drives out competition in the industry faster than before - and reduces the potential number of firms competing for workers.

    The takeaways for the average employee?

    Probably that it might pay, (no pun intended), to keep on eye on the relative levels of competition in your industry, particularly if you are in a role that feels industry-specific. If your industry has seen consolidation with weaker competitors being driven out of business (or being acquired), the trends suggest a shrinking percentage of profits will find their way to you and your colleagues.  

    You might be better off thinking about an industry that seems to have more, and more even competition, where the market share, (and to some extent the demand for labor), is not being controlled by two or three big companies. And one where the threat of competition for your skills can either score you a better offer somewhere else, or give you more leverage and power in your next compensation negotiation with your current shop.

    More options might not be better for the owners of your company, but they might be much, much better for you.

    Have a great week!