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    Wednesday
    Apr062016

    Pies, ranked

    In collaboration with my HR Happy Hour Show Co-host, Trish McFarlane, we present the authoritative, unscientific, unresearched, subjective, and 100% accurate ranking of pies.

    10. Boston Cream - (Trish says there is some controversy if this is 'pie'. It is.)

    9. Banana Cream - A good way to introduce the fruit to an unwilling eater.

    8. Vinegar - this is a Trish pick - it involves custard not so much vinegar. It's a midwest thing.

    7. Apple - more for the nostalgia than the tasteVinegar pie

    6. Cherry - Cool drink of water.

    5. Lemon Meringue - How come there are not more 'meringue' pie types?

    4. Peach - Very underrated pie.

    3. Pecan - is 'Pe-can' or 'Pe-Kahn'? Doesn't matter.

    2. Pumpkin - deserves to be eaten more than once a year

    1. Key lime - 'I could eat this all day' - Trish

    As always, you can disagree with these rankings, but of course, you would be wrong.

    Tuesday
    Apr052016

    Aligning business strategy and talent strategy: Kim Kardashian edition

    File this one to the 'You probably have no idea what is bothering your employees' file.

    Check this recent piece on Business Insider about some of the tensions that continue to roil the folks at beleaguered technology dinosaur Yahoo. I will just drop the headline (edited slightly to keep this post out of email subscriber's spam folders), then some quick comments after the lede:

    Yahoo's big media hires complain they have to compete against Kim Kardashion'a A$$'

    (from the piece)

    Yahoo's content strategy is frustrating a lot of its own writers and other media personalities, with many complaining about the front page algorithm that shows non-Yahoo generated stories over original content.

    In fact, it's become so demoralizing that some Yahoo journalists are openly complaining about losing front page space to lowbrow content, like celebrity gossip.

    “You are competing against Kim Kardashian’s ass,” is a running joke within the Yahoo newsroom, the report said.

    One big reason for this is that Yahoo's front page is run by an algorithm that automatically identifies and shows stories based on each user's personal taste..

    A quick point here, although the post from BI is meant to grab attention and clicks, the issue at Yahoo and Kim's 'features', is not the important takeaway from this. What is important, if we can expand upon the comments and complaints from the Yahoo writers, is that they seem to have not been clued in on the strategy and subsequent decisions (even the ones made by an algorithm), that Yahoo execs are pursuing.

    Yahoo's problem, at least in this example, isn't really whether or not the content strategy that favors aggregated, viral, or lowbrow content over more reasoned, professional, and high-minded content that the Yahoo writers produce is the 'right' one from a pure content creation perspective. 

    The problem is that the business/content strategy that results in our pal Kim being featured prominently on the Yahoo home page doesn't line up at all with the organization's talent strategy that has recruited and is paying handsomely lots and lots of super writers and reporters.  It doesn't make sense to pay (perhaps overpay), someone like Katie Couric to produce exclusive shows and interviews for the site, then bury these features underneath the latest celebrity news and gossip.

    There isn't much point in chasing 'top' talent if the work you have for them is not aligned with what 'top' talent expects and can most likely find somewhere else. It might work for a while, but then you do end up having to overpay, essentially bribing them to go along to come along if you will.

    But eventually, if they are really good, they will find somewhere to do what it is they really are born to do. It's just probably not chronicling the latest developments from Kim and Kanye's Instagram accounts.

    Monday
    Apr042016

    Giving up control

    Uncle Seth Godin has an interesting post/rant the other day about how it seems that Gmail has (at least for some), been delivering his daily blog's email version to subscribers' 'Promotions' tab in Gmail, or even worse, shunting the email to their Spam folders.

    In the post, Seth correctly reminds readers that if they (or you), rely on any kind of a algorithmic filter, be it Gmail's spam machinations or Facebook's (and other networks), 'newsfeeds' to make a determination of what posts the platform thinks you will be interested in seeing, then you constantly run the risk of missing things and content that at some point you had indeed indicated that you were interested in seeing/reading.Mark Rothko, Number 14 (1960)

    I wrote about the same phenomenon, from a slightly different point of view, recently too, when I posited more or less that we get the algorithms we deserve to some extent, by allowing ourselves to be beguiled into thinking that superior networking tools and technologies can somehow allow us to usurp the famous Dunbar number which suggests an absolute limit to the amount of social relationships a person can manage at any time. 

    Both posts, mine and Uncle Seth's, are really about the same issue at a fundamental level. In our information overload existence, we are increasingly ceding the signaling of what content is important enough for us to take a moment to actually consider to algorithms, which are at least in part informed by what everybody else thinks is important. Before the Facebook newsfeed took over the world, we used to subscribe to the sites/blogs we decided we were most interested in, either getting posts via email or the dearly departed Google Reader, and we could confidently rely upon either of those mechanisms to reliably deliver the content we explicitly desired.

    Sure, we may not have always had time to read all our email, or plow through all the unread items in Reader, but that was on us - the content would always be there whether or not we were ready to consume. And now, with Google deciding for us what messages we should be prioritizing, and the social networks relying on some mysterious formulas to determine the relevance of content, we have, even if we have not really intended to, relinquished some of our own agency in the process.

    And while I think things like spam filters and 'smart' algorithms can improve the way we see and engage with the barrage of information we confront on a daily basis, there still needs to be some kind of a universal setting for 'I want to see this all of the time, even if I don't read it right away, and especially if I don't click the like or share button every time I see it.'

    There needs to be an override to the algorithm for the things we decide we care about.

    Even if these things are not super popular. Even if they don't get 'enough' likes. 

    Even if Google thinks they are spam.

    Even if none of your Facebook friends like them.

    Thursday
    Mar312016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 242 - Big Ideas for Employee Benefits in 2016

    HR Happy Hour 242 - Big Ideas for Employee Benefits in 2016

    Recorded Wednesday March 30, 2016 at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Nate Randall, President and Founder, Ursa Major Consulting

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the show Steve sat down at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference with Nate Randall, President & Founder at Ursa Major Consulting to talk about three big ideas and trends in employee benefits that Nate is seeing as he works with organizations around the country. 

    Nate shared some ideas around managing benefits in a global and distributed environment, and the challenges that can present. We also talked a little about use of Private Exchanges for employee benefit coverage, and some considerations that employers should take into account when evaluating this model. Finally, we spent some time discussing the new trend of employers offering Financial Wellness programs for their employees, and some important factors employers need to consider before deploying these kind of programs.

    Nate also shared some insights from one of his former roles at Tesla Motors, and the challenges they faced in scaling up the organization from under 1,000 employees to over 13,000 in a very short time.

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

    This was an interesting and informative show with one the the industry's leading experts and thinkers on employee benefits - we hope you will check it out.

    Reminder - you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and all the podcast player apps for iOS and Android - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Wednesday
    Mar302016

    #BenefitsConf Opening Message: Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be

    I am out at the 4th Annual Health & Benefits Leadership Conference for the next few days and will (if plans don't get derailed because, well, Vegas), be sharing some ideas and highlights from the event, including at least one HR Happy Hour Show from the event.

    The opening keynote at the show was given by Alexandra Drane, Co-Founder of Eliza Corp and was titled Mentioning the Unmentionables: Is 'Life' the Missing Link?', an examination of where health and wellness approaches have possibly been misaligned with the needs, desires, and actual, practical situations and lives of the people the healthcare industry is trying to serve.

    Let's unpack that a little bit by referring to a chart we have all seen a thousand times, Maslow's hierarchy, and one that Ms. Drane referred to several times during her talk. Take a look at my (slightly out of focus) pic of the chart below, and then some FREE comments from me on the key points of the talk after that. Note: the person on the lower right of the pic is an artist doing a sketch of the talk in real time - really pretty cool!

    Alexandra's primary message on where health and wellness initiatives have gone wrong is in that so many of the efforts and outreach have been focused on individual and employee behavior modification that impact and reside at the very peak of the self-actualization pyramid - ignoring the fact that many, if not most people are wrestling with life issues much further down.

    We (or our employers), bug people to exercise more frequently, to eat healthier, to make sure they are up to date on all preventive medical screenings, etc., but often do not even attempt to address the myriad of issues that would prevent people from even thinking about doing more exercise or the other things that happy, secure people can spend time on.

    These are very basic, and fundamental issues and challenges like elder or child care, financial challenges and troubles, divorce, lack of intimacy, or even something as elementary as loneliness or disconnection from people.

    These issues, she argued, are the more important drivers that lead towards negative health outcomes that manifest in 'real' diseases like diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease, hypertension, and many more. And trying to motivate people into behavior changes that might lead to say a reduced risk of diabetes will not be effective if they are completely stressed out with family or personal crises that dominate their ability to cope.

     

    Until we are able to meet people where they are, many if not most of them dealing with tremendous pressures, stress, and personal challenges in their real lives, will we be able to better provide tools, resources, support, and empathy needed to try and move them to where we want (and hope) they can be - as people who can actually take the time to jog for 45 minutes a day, and spend an extra hour at home each night preparing healthy meals.

    It was a really important message I think, and one we'd all be wise to remember.

    People are really complex. Life can really suck sometimes. And the combination of the two makes trying to drive behavior change much, much more than just suggesting they choose a salad instead of a Big Mac.

    Thanks to Alexandra Drane for such an interesting and compelling talk this morning.