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    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 344 - Make Work Simpler, Smarter, and More Agile

    HR Happy Hour 344- Make Work Simpler, Smarter and More Agile

    Sponsored by Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com

    Host: Trish McFarlane 

    Guest: Emily He, SVP of Marketing for Human Capital Management at Oracle

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Trish recorded live from Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, to talk with Emily He about themes Oracle is embracing in developing solutions to support the workplace of the future. How are they approaching this? There are a few ways:

    Make Work Simpler: Artificial intelligence and machine learning deliver an easier and more familiar user experience for employees. Oracle is innovating with scalable HR Concierge with digital assistants, a mobile- responsive experience and configurable action lists for represented worker processes.

    Make Work Smarter: Powerful AI-based tools help organizations make smarter, more strategic business decisions by taking a data-first approach to talent management. Oracle is using smart sourcing with Best-Fit Candidate and self-Learning Risk Management with Advanced HCM Controls.

    Make Work Agile: New innovations help employees collaborate, improve skills and experience a unique, consistent company culture across all platforms.

    Listen to the show on the show page HERE, on your favorite podcast app, or by using the widget player below:

    This was a really interesting and fun show - thanks to Emily and everyone at Oracle for having the HR Happy Hour Show at their event.

    Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.


    Creating 'Psychological Personal Space' at Work

    Blame the 'open plan' office design that pretty much takes away individual privacy or blame the workplace information overload that causes many office dweller types to feel like no matter how much they are working, they never seem to feel like they are getting much accomplished, modern work and workplaces can seem really, really frustrating.

    People always in your face, or at least in your peripheral vision, few quiet places to retreat to in order to get some peace and quiet and really focus, and more and varied incoming requests for our time and attention, (emails, texts, Slack messages, etc.) than ever before all conspire to make it really hard sometimes to do our best work - or any work for that matter.

    Wouldn't you like, at least sometimes, to fence yourself off from these kinds of distractions? To be able to, even if you don't have a physical 'retreat' space to head to at work, (not counting going to sit in your car in the parking lot), create some kind of semblance of private and personal space - to be alone with your thoughts, your work, yourself? 

    Enter a new idea from the fine folks at Panasonic - the 'Wear Space' - a kind of combination privacy screen and set of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones that functions like a set of horse blinders, except for people. The Wear Space wraps around the user's head, blocks most of their peripheral vision, allowing them to focus on their work that is in front of them. The nature of the Wear Space also signals to the wearer's pesky co-workers that they should probably not bother or disturb the person, as he/she clearly does not want to be illuminated by tales of how you spent your weekend or what is on the menu for lunch today.

    According to one of the Wear Space's developers - the Wear Space is supposed to create a “psychological personal space” for the wearer to help them concentrate, particularly in noisy, distracting, open-plan offices. The device isn’t intended to just isolate the wearer but also communicate with others, telling them: Go away, I’m busy.

    I don't have too much more to offer on the Wear Space as a technology, but just to say that if we need to invent a kind of ridiculous looking combination head covering, noise canceling, giant barrier to wear in order to try and cut down interruptions and distractions at work probably means that we are not taking enough time or care in designing work and workplaces so that these kinds of gimmicks are not needed in the first place.

    We all probably do need some way to find 'psychological personal space' when we are at work. It probably should also be something not that hard to find as well.

    Have a great week!


    Expanding the Capabilities of Voice Assistants

    Amazon recently was granted a new patent for an advance in the capability of it's voice assistant, 'Alexa', that enables the Alexa to detect a user's emotional, physical and behavioral states, just from the the user's voice and other audio signals. The technology would allow Alexa to recognize audible cues, such as a sneeze, or a cough or a certain cues from the user's tone of voice, and interpret those cues, along with the words the user has spoken, to better understand how a user is feeling, mentally and/or physically, and provide  tailored responses based on that information.

    Have a look at the image below, courtesy of this piece on Business Insider for a graphic of how this kind of an interaction, and how Alexa will attempt to use these audio cues to respond.

    The image may be a bit hard to see, so I can try and spell it out for you. The user indicates that she is hungry, but while trying to say the sentence "I'm hungry", she both coughs and sniffles. Alexa responds by asking 'Would you like a recipe for chicken soup?', a very specific response to the statement 'I'm hungry.' In this case Alexa has 'heard' the user's cough and sniffle, and the statement indicating hunger, and replied with an offer of a recipe for chicken soup - a type of food long associated as one that people who are sick would appreciate. Alexa doesn't 'know' the user is sick, the user has not stated that in words, but the cough and sniffle, behaviors that can often indicate an illness of some kind, are included in Alexa's consideration of the best reply to the user's 'I'm hungry' statement.

    As the interaction between Alexa and the user continues, Alexa asks the user if she would like Alexa to order her come cough drops, to which the user replies 'yes' - still having never explicitly indicated to Alexa that she is sick or experiencing and symptoms of illness. Alexa submits the order for the user and will let her know when it is completed.

    This is a simple example of how Alexa, or any voice assistant technologies really, are likely to evolve over time, to move from simply being 'order followers' to something much more sophisticated and potentially more powerful. Instead of just following commands kind of like a well-trained puppy, Alexa would be able to suggest actions, directions, products, etc. that perhaps the users had not thought about yet themselves, but would find relevant, timely, effective, and engaging.

    The initial reporting on this patent from Amazon focuses, (naturally), on Amazon's business strenghts - surfacing and presenting product recommendations to users that match what the users want and need at the right time, and then helping the users order said products and delivering them to the user as quickly as possible. But I'd like to think about how this kind of innovative application of voice technology may apply one day at work and in workplace settings. Here are just some possibilities:

    1. An employee accesses their voice-assistant HR system to request some HR information. The voice assistant 'hears' coughs and sniffles like in the above example and suggests that the employee may need some rest, or even to book an appointment with the company's mobile app that provides 'on-demand' medical consultation service.

    2. An employee completes a project and the voice assistant asks her to give some feedback on how she thought the project went. The VA senses some stress in the user's voice, and her project summary indicates some real issues with some members on the team. The VA can send information to the project team providing some recommended further actions and remedies for the situation, as well as tips for the project leader to deal with this employee's frustration.

    3. If in the interaction with the HR voice assistant, the VA senses some general anxiety or stress, it could present the user with a prompt to enable the workplace wellness voice application or skill, or suggest some common stress remediation approaches or exercises. The user may not have ever searched for or even be aware of these services, but the VA can sense they may need them in the moment.

    These are just some ways that more intelligent and sophisticated applications are evolving in the voice assistant marketplace. And just like almost every consumer tech advance of the last 30 years, pretty soon these capabilities will be available in workplaces - and employees will demand them.

    I think voice is the most interesting tech sandbox right now - I am really interested in how it will play out.

    Have a great day!


    Notes from the Road #24 - The things you see/hear during 8 hours in the Sky Club

    The details don't matter, but let's set this up that due to a flight delay and some inflexible travel plans, I spent about 8 hours or so in the Delta Sky Club in Detroit yesterday.

    The Sky Club is awesome, by the way. If you travel more than once a month, I think the expense is worth it. Nice place to sit and work. Food and snacks options are getting better. Decent selection of complimentary booze (we will come back to that one in a minute). So making the disclaimer that the rest of this is not a knock on the Club or Delta (who I love). It is more a commentary on what happens in these kind of environments where people seem to drift in this weird, 'I am working but not working' pattern combined with 'I may or may not be drinking Jack Daniels while I sit on this 1PM conference call.'

    So presented to you in more or less chronological order - the things I saw and heard after spending essentially an entire workday in the Sky Club.

    11:00 AM - Not technically in the Sky Club, but just outside the door to the Club, is a currency exchange counter. The person on line in front of me requested almost $10,000 worth of Philippine Pesos. The exchange rate is about 54 pesos/USD. So $10K is a lot of pesos. So much so that the currency exchange counter tapped out at about $2800 worth of pesos. The dude basically walked out of that counter with every peso in Detroit. Kind of a bummer for the next person on the 5:30PM flight to Manila who is going to be out of luck trying to score a couple of pesos.

    11:30AM - This particular Sky Club as a self-service bar area. You walk up, pour yourself a beer, or a glass of wine, or something a little stronger from the collection of booze. The self-service Coke machine is in the same spot too, so as I was waiting to fix myself a nice Diet Coke, an older gentlemen in a suit was pouring himself a scotch on the rocks. He then took a sip of said scotch, said something like 'Smooooooth', and proceeded to try and convince the woman behind him in the drink line to have a sip of the drink as well. He was for real trying to convince a total stranger to sip off of his scotch at 11:30 in the morning. For the record, she declined.

    1:00PM - Airline clubs are getting more and more crowded these last few years. Maybe it's the booming economy. Maybe corporate travel budgets are expanding. Who knows. But on a weekday the Sky Club in Detroit is packed. I was sitting/working, (I promise), at one of the few desk/office chair setups in the back part of the Club. Nice and quiet, comfortable spot to work. Near the self-service bar too. A prime spot. Only four desks here and all are taken. So what happened? Two or three guys were literally lined up near the space waiting to pounce at the sight of someone packing up their stuff and exiting the space. For one person, the wait was getting too long and he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how much longer I was going to be, like the desk was a treadmill at a too-crowded hotel fitness center. How much longer? I am going to be here all night, pal. I'm moving in. I am putting up new wallpaper I am so moved in.

    2:00PM - Phone job interview! Not for me, but the person right behind me was doing a phone interview with a candidate. So tell me about yourself? Why did you decide to go to MIT? What else do you like to do for fun? (Are we even allowed to ask that?). Interviews are the worst. I bet he/she went to MIT to get an awesome job with great perks like a corporate Sky Club membership.

    2:30PM - Guy sitting near me has been on a conference call for about 15 minutes. He has said the word 'Omnichannel' five times. I am pretty sure no one knows what that word means. Including him.

    3:00PM - Just remembered to set up my 'Out of the Office' email auto-reply. FYI - I am out of the office. I am in the Sky Club. I may be here a long time. Thankfully, the supply of carrots, celery, and ranch dip seems unlimited.

    3:15PM - My fitness tracker app on my phone just buzzed me to let me know I have not been active in the last three hours and it is probably time to get up and stretch. Probably a good idea. Nothing like sitting in the Sky Club for 8 hours before getting on a 7 hour flight. I wonder how many steps it is to the self-serve bar?

    3:18PM - It's 47 steps to the self-serve bar.

    3:30PM - Getting up to walk about the Club a bit. Leaving my laptop open to the BLS 'Jolts' report page just because.

    4:00PM - It is right about the time when many of the Sky Club road warrior types stop even pretending they are working. Guy near me has solitaire going on his laptop, some kind of a movie or video on an iPAd, and is talking to one of his buddies on the phone. Yes I agree, Aspen will be EPIC this winter.

    4:10PM - Nothing to do with the Sky Club, but this trend of people doing 'selfie' LinkedIn videos has to stop. These are horrible. You are actually making LinkedIn even worse, which is not easy to do. 

    4:45PM - Admittedly, I have wound things down a bit and have fired up a replay of the Milwaukee Bucks v. Charlotte Hornets game from the other night. Got what looked like an evil eye from yet another Club member who wanted to take over my prime seat/desk location. How do you know I'm not working? I could be a sports writer or something. Yeah, that's it.

    4:48PM - The 'Ford Keys to the Game' for the Hornets were 'Control your emotions' and 'Don't freak out'. Decent advice. Probably more generally applicable beyond the Hornets game.

    5:00PM - The food and beverage area has two large TVs mounted to the wall about 20 feet apart. One TV is playing Fox News while the other is tuned to CNN. I think that is a smart move by Delta. Like Michael Jordan once said, (I am paraphrasing a little) - 'Both Democrats and Republicans buy sneakers.' And airplane tickets.

    5:05PM - I like Brook Lopez on the Bucks. One of my favorite players. Giannis for MVP this season. Lock it in.

    5:15PM - BANDWITH CRISIS! So many people pounding the Sky Club wifi that people are having a hard time getting connected. Hell hath no fury like a Regional Assistant Director Manager who is not able to access the Penske file. if I were a better person I would stop streaming games from NBA.com. If only.

    5:45PM - Have to admit, I am getting a little punchy. Maybe I should have scheduled some kind of phone interview or a call where I got to say 'Omnichannel' a few times. But if all goes well, I am nearing the end of this stint in the Club. One more 47 step walk to the bar and maybe a few more cubes of cheddar and a couple of carrot sticks and I will be good to go. It's a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon with a self-serve open bar. Which, if they had that in more marathons, would spike the popularity of the sport.

    6:00PM - Observation: 74% of people in the Sky Club like to call someone they know and tell them they are, in fact, in the Sky Club. I can't really think of many other places that drive people to alert someone else of their current whereabouts.

    6:15PM - Finally leaving the Sky Club to head to the gate. Not quite 8 hours in the Club, more like 7 and a half. Felt like longer. a lot longer. Hopefully there lays ahead a nice flight, maybe one movie, and sweet, sweet sleep. Let's hope.

    Have a great weekend!


    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 343 - Taking on Today's Talent Acquisition Challenges

    HR Happy Hour 343 - Taking on Today's Talent Acquisition Challenges

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Susan Vitale, CMO, iCIMS

    Sponsored by Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve recorded live from the iCIMS Influence event in the iconic Bell Works building in New Jersey, the new home for the talent acquisition technology provider iCIMS to talk with iCIMS Chief Marketing Officer Susan Vitale about how organizations are tackling today's talent acquisition challenges.

    On the day this show was recorded, the BLS released their monthly JOLTS report which showed that open jobs in the USA hit 7.1 million, an all-time high for this data series. Simply put, more organizations have more job opening than ever before in the US. iCIMS sits at the center of this challenge, helping their customers to find, attract, engage, recruit, and onboard talent in this incredibly tight labor market.

    Susan shared how some of iCIMS customers are attacking their unique talent acquisition challenges with a combination of strategy, process improvement, and innovative applications of new technologies. From global process improvement and efficiencies at a large company like Hertz, to high-touch, high impact recruiting of highly sought after researchers at St Jude's Research Hospital, to engaging with thousands of front-line candidates at scale using texting as a primary communication medium at Advantage Solutions - every company's recruiting challenge is unique and iCIMS is helping thousands of companies in these efforts. 

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, using your favorite podcast app, or on the widget player below:


    Thanks to Susan and iCIMS for joining us and for hosting the HR Happy Hour Show.

    Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show wherever you get your podcasts.