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    Thursday
    May072015

    Learn a new word Thursday: The BATNA

    I will admit when prowling around for ideas for the blog that I sometimes get lost in the weeds of Wikipedia. Sort of reminds me of how back in the day a 9-year old me would page through volumes of the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia late at night when I should have been sleeping. Note to the kids out there, that is just one example of how miserable life was before the internet, and smart phones, and Snapchat. When I have some more time I will tell you about the 13-inch TV I had to watch in college. 

    But back to the point, (such as it is).

    While reading about a pretty interesting article on a Game Theory principle called the Nash Equilibrium, I came across a slightly less interesting but probably more relevant for the HR/Talent pros, an idea called the BATNA, or in the realm of negotiations, the 'Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

    From the 'Pedia:

    In negotiation theory, the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA. 

    The BATNA is often seen by negotiators not as a safety net, but rather as a point of leverage in negotiations.

    So the BATNA is kind of the fall back plan, the Plan 'B' so to speak if you are unable to reach a negotiated agreement - whether it is for the price of a new car, the starting compensation package for that new job, or if you are unable to convince your significant other that eating at Chili's does, in fact, constitute a 'night out.'

    But the idea that the BATNA isn't a safety net, or a 'bottom-line' is key to the entire concept.

    Usually, a bottom line signifies the worst possible outcome of a negotiation that you are still willing (or are forced to), accept. The bottom line is meant to act as the final barrier after which a negotiation will not proceed. It is a means to defend yourself against the pressure and temptation that sometimes exists to simply end a negotiation, even if the conclusion is self defeating. Although bottom lines definitely serve a purpose, they also inflexible, can eliminate more creative solutions, and decrease the likelihood of long-term satisfaction with the agreement.

    Let's go back to the salary negotiation example to see the difference between the BATNA and the 'bottom-line'.

    Candidate: I am looking to start at $125,000 with 5 weeks vacation.

    Employer: Our offer is a starting salary of $105, 000 plus 3 weeks vacation.

    Candidate BATNA - $115,000 with 4 weeks vacation

    Candidate 'Bottom Line' - probably something like $110,000 with the 3 weeks. 

    Notice the difference between the BATNA and the Bottom Line though. The BATNA gives up a little on the salary number, but represents a gain on the vacation number. It really is a 'Best Alternative' scenario for the candidate, and not just a surrender. The 'Bottom-line' however, is more or less a total loss from a negotiation standpoint. The candidate might be able to live with that outcome, (say if their current salary was $95,000), but if they accept the bottom-line deal they are going to be immediately dissatisfied with the outcome. But if they have the BATNA defined walking in to the negotiation, then settling on it will still represent a good outcome.

    It is a small, maybe even a subtle difference, but understanding the difference between the BATNA and the Bottom-line could be the key to drive better overall outcomes.

    So there it is, your new word of the day - BATNA - The Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

    Happy haggling.

    Wednesday
    May062015

    Your culture is defined by who you're willing to re-hire

    First the news on how owner and Class A jerk, James Dolan continues to destroy my single, favorite sports team, the New York Knicks.  From the Deadspin piece The Knicks and their Owner James Dolan, Are Shameless Garbage:

    Earlier today, James Dolan announced that Isiah Thomas, who once sexually harassed one of his co-workers while he was head coach of the Knicks, was going to be named president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. To most people, putting a sexual harasser in charge of a women’s basketball team is a bad look, but the Knicks would like those people to know that they don’t care about bad looks.

    For those who might not be familiar with the entire back story, the facts of the case are these.

    1. Isiah Thomas was once the Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks from 2006 - 2008

    2. In October of 2007, a Federal Court in Manhattan, in response to a claim by a female former team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, ruled that Thomas had sexually harassed Sanders, and that Madison Square Garden, the owner of the team, improperly fired her for complaining about the unwanted advances.

    3. Sanders was awarded $11.6 million in punitive damages from the Garden and James L. Dolan, the chairman of Cablevision, the parent company of the Garden and the Knicks. Of that figure, $6 million was awarded because of the hostile work environment Mr. Thomas was found to have created, and $5.6 million because Ms. Browne Sanders was fired for complaining about it.

    4. After finally being fired by the team in 2008, Thomas has drifted in and out of several basketball roles, serving as a college coach at Florida International for a bit, and recently as a TV commentator.

    5. And now, yesterday, the aforementioned James Dolan, who still presides over the Knicks and their Women's NBA team, the New York Liberty has not only re-hired the sexual harrasser Thomas, he has also placed him in a position of authority for the WNBA's Liberty. If you were a player or coach on the Liberty you can't be feeling really happy about reporting to a confirmed workplace sexual harasser like Thomas.

    I think if I had to pick one, singular data point from the sea of human capital data and information that is available to organizations today that reveals the most about an organization's culture and what it is they believe in (if anything), it would be which former employees that they are or are not willing to re-hire. 

    Initial hiring is kind of a crap shoot, even the best shops make 'bad' hires every so often. And really great organizations are sometimes guilty of waiting too long to pull the lever on a termination, even when it is justified or the person is just not working out. It happens.

    But the bad hire on a re-hire? That should NEVER happen. The people you are willing to re-hire and who you are done with forever tells anyone what kind of an organization that you want to be. You know exactly who these people are, what they can do, and whether or not you would be proud to have them represent your organization.

    The Knicks, it seems, want to be an organization that no one can take pride in.

    Tuesday
    May052015

    CHART OF THE DAY: How America will look in 2050 in one chart

    This short, but fascinating recent piece from the Washington Post is the source for today's installment of CHART OF THE DAY - a quick snapshot of how the US population is expected to change by 2050 in three key areas - religious affiliation, age, and race/ethnicity. As always, I will drop in the chart, then some FREE commentary from me after the data: 

    Washington Post

    Let's take a shot at interpreting the meaning/relevance to HR/Talent pros of each of chart's three data sets in order, shall we? Sure why not...

    1. Religious affiliation - A big trend here is the increase in the percentage of the population that will categorize their religious affiliation as 'unaffilitated', i.e., not attached to a specific or traditional religion or church. Folks who consider themselves 'spiritual' but not formal church members fall into this group. What might be the HR/Workplace implication of this trend? Kind of hard to say. Could be that more organizations over time will have to re-think their company holiday schedules and practices as fewer employees will identify with the religious-oriented holidays. Probably of the three data sets in the chart this one is the toughest to interpret.

    2. Age - This data is not surprising to anyone who watches demographic trends - a big surge in the population of older Americans, so much that the 65+ cohort will be almost the largest in the country by 2050. Of course living longer in general, means working longer into older age as well. Workplaces in the next few decades are going to have to do more to accommodate this rise in older workers through some combination of physical and environmental changes along with support and benefit programs more tailored an older workforce.

    3. Race/Ethnicity - Again, nothing really surprising in this data, America in 2050 will be less white, more Hispanic, and generally much more diverse overall. This trends has been playing out for a while, but slowly, so perhaps most HR pros are not yet doing or at least thinking differently about what it might mean for work and workplaces. At a minimum any organization that is conscious about wanting their workforces (and more importantly perhaps, its leadership ranks), reflect more closely their customers and communities are going to start to feel the pressure soon. It will be kind of a shame if by 2050 if most of the white guys we see in the workplace have C-level titles.

    Anyway, that's it from me. Share your thoughts in the comments on this data, if it matters at all to you as an HR pro, and what you and your organization might do in response.

    Monday
    May042015

    'We believe we can do anything'

    I get kind of bored with most of the conversation/writing about 'Company Culture'. Probably because at best the dialogue seems either a little empty or obvious or perhaps even derivative. Or at worst, it equates vague concepts like 'culture' and 'fit' with exclusionary hiring, promotion, and rewards policies. Used in this way 'culture' becomes the same thing as 'gut feel', which then allows some organizations and leaders to do whatever the hell they want ignoring data, logic, and even at times, the law. And finally, and something I have written and presented about, the 'culture' army confuses or at least substitutes 'culture' for strategy. When a company builds its business around say, providing the best customer service in their industry, that is a conscious strategic decision, not a 'cultural' one. But the 'culture' folks like to ignore strategy, conveniently.No. 61, Rust and Blue, Mark Rothko

    Anyway, a few weeks ago I was listening to a very senior executive at a large corporation discuss their organization's recent strategic acquisitions of a few smaller firms that competed in new, or at least adjacent markets to where the larger firm had traditionally competed. This (at the time still new to the company and in their role) executive expressed concerns to the CEO about their organization's ability to efficiently integrate these newly acquired companies and to effectively compete in these new markets. According to this new Exec, the CEO just leaned back and said something to the effect of 'Relax. This is ACME Company (not their real name, obviously). At ACME, we believe that we can do anything.'

    And to me, that little story was the best example of what, if such a thing really exists, a 'culture' can mean to what an organization does, how they approach challenges, and the types of people that will succeed (and hopefully be happy), working in the organization. As a philosophy it is simple, fundamental, and definiitive. It doesn't require lots of complex messaging or high cost communications strategies to articulate. It is pretty easy to evaluate decisions, actions, behaviors, and probably people too in comparison. Plus, and this is probably why I liked it, the 'We believe that we can do anything' approach sits in an opposite or at least an entirely different way to think about experiments and risk and competition than the 'embrace failure' crowd.

    Like I mentioned at the top, I am not that big on the 'culture' discussions but when it can be expressed in one sentence, in seven words like it was by that CEO, then you might get me to buy in, at least a little. ACME believes that it can do anything.

    What does your organization believe?

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Apr302015

    Revealing Complexity

    Probably the most significant barrier to user adoption of new workplace technology is that users don't see the personal benefit of adopting these technologies. This is the classic 'What's in it for me?' conundrum. While that subject is important and worthy of exploration, I won't be hitting that specific problem today. Instead, let's talk about what is likely the second-most important barrier to employee adoption of workplace technology, namely, that most enterprise technologies have provided (relatively) poor user experience and/or are just too complex for them to use intuitively.

    While enterprise technology companies have talked about, and some have actually delivered, better, more compelling, more consumer-like technology user experiences, even the most modern, best-designed applications eventually run into a common problem in that enterprise tools often require LOTS of data be input into them.

    It could be a new sales prospect being recorded in a CRM, a new supplier that needs to be set up in Procurement, or even a relatively simple matter of entering a new hire in the HRIS, all of these use cases while impacting disparate systems and organizational departments, have much more in common than we usually think. Each of these transactions requires (usually), a whole bunch of data fields to be populated with a whole bunch of data. And even in 2015, for many organizations the bulk of these myriad data elements have to be manually typed into the respective system form fields the old fashioned way - manually.

    And so since the makers of CRM and Supply Chain and HR technologies understand this reality, and like to be able to sell to customers the things they need to run their business operations, even the most modern, slick, mobile responsive, and really amazing looking enterprise solutions often and still have these kind of busy, kind of ugly, kind of tired looking data input forms in order to support these kinds of transactions. And while we might be tempted to look at these kinds of forms, (and the processes that make these 37 field data input forms necessary), as relics from an older, less awesome age, they still have a place in most organizations and in most modern technology solutions.

    Not every interaction with an enterprise technology can (or should) be reduced to a graphic or chart on a tablet, or a glanceable notification on your new Apple Watch. Sometimes, the hard and necessary work of getting relevant data (and lots of it) about customers, vendors, and employees into the enterprise tools that organizations rely upon is, still, kind of boring, kind of repetitive, and even kind of monotonous.

    But that is entirely ok, and should not be considered some kind of an indictment of the technology solution provider that has not figured out a way to make inputting 32 fields about a customer into some kind of a gorgeous 'swipe left' and 'swipe right' kind of user experience.  

    User Experience and what is good User Experience is highly variable and highly personal. And what usually constitutes great User Experience for the sales exec who wants to look at the Q3 funnel on her tablet is much, much different than what makes up great UX for a payroll entry clerk. We can't confuse them with each other.

    The best designed enterprise systems, of course, support both UX's and both kinds of users. The key is, I think, to have the system only reveal its fundamental complexity, and the form with 37 input fields, only to those people who really need them, and care about them, and help them see the 'What's in it for me?' as well as treating them and their role with respect.