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    Who's on first?

    'Who's on first?', is a classic comedy routine by the legendary American comics Abbott & Costello. Aside - even 1940s comedians are on the net check out A&C's website here. The routine is essentially a play on a failure to communicate, Costello wants to know the name of a certain baseball player, and Abbott can't seem to get across clearly that the player's name is 'Who', thus the recurring theme of the bit, Costello keeps asking 'Who's on first?' and Abbott keeps saying 'Yes'.

    Video of the classic bit can be found here.

    The idea of Who's on first? makes me think about who (customers, employees, shareholders) is 'first' in most organizations today. Many organizations will have well-defined, budgeted campaigns and programs specifically centered on the customer, how to find them, how to keep them, how to get them happier, spend more, tell all their friends, and otherwise 'delight' them.

    But very few put similar emphasis and focus on programs aimed at their employees, getting to understand them better, keep them motivated, discover their hidden talents and aspirations.  Systems and processes are usually not centered around employees leading to the often noticed phenomenon in many organizations - 'LinkedIn knows more about your employees than you do'. Think about it, are your employees current skills and profiles easily accessible in your HR systems? Are they up to date? Are you saving 20 year old resumes in a file somewhere?

    The astronomical growth and popularity of Social networking sites reveals that people want to share experience, knowledge, and learn from each other.  Why not shift some of your 'customer' focus to an 'employee' focus? 

    Find out where and how your employees are congregating, self-organizing, and otherwise connecting with each other, as well as your industry, customers and the marketplace.

    Does it make sense for your organization to develop your own 'place' or network for your employees?  

    Check out what Best Buy is doing with Blue Shirt Nation, or from a vendor perspective check out SelectMinds.

    Should we focus more on our employees?



    Downturn dilemma

    Stock market cratering, employees on edge with 401(k) values plummeting, layoff rumors buzzing, not a great time here in corporate America.  While I am not smart enough to predict how all this will shake out, I do know one thing, your organization may need to start postponing planned or needed technology projects in order to cut costs and ride out the storm.

    What can you as an HR Technologist do in the interim?  Because in the current environment your employees are more nervous that ever, your need to help your company execute the strategy is more critical than before, and you may have had your project funding and/or resources yanked from under your nose.

    In a strange way, the downturn may actuallly help you kick-start some experimentation and pilot projects using technologies that are simple to implement, do not require a significant investment, and don't 'trap' you into a long-term situation that you worry you won't be able to afford.

    Some ideas:

    1. Kick-start a Yammer trial with the HR department

    2. Organize and seed a simple wiki to share internal infomation in your department (everyone's e-mail inbox is maxed out already) - check out PbWiki or Socialtext, both offer free versions totally acceptable for a trial deployment

    3. Get a read on your Employment image in the Web 2.0 world.  Search for your company name followed by 'Jobs' or 'Careers' on Google, FlickR, YouTube, Facebook and other popular site where your target candidate pool congregates.  What are you seeing in the results?  Do you need to upload a simple 2 minute recruiting video to YouTube?  You probably already have something like this on your corporate website, it will take you 5 minutes to get it on YouTube and cost you nothing.

    4. Get on Twitter. Use Twitter Search to see who and what is being talked about your brand, industry, region. Consider if an active presence on Twitter makes sense for your brand. Save the Twitter search(es) you need as RSS feeds in your feed reader.

    And here is another point to consider, whether your focus is tying to build better community and collaboration among your employees, or to gain insight to the external community of customers, prospects, potential applicants, either way those folks are already out there in Web 2.0, talking about you, commenting, tagging, and influencing your organization. 

    So, maybe you no longer have the funds for the ERP upgrade, or the new Applicant Tracking System, but there are lots of other HR Technology avenues to pursue in the meantime.

    What else can you be doing to make sure when the downturn shifts back to an upturn you are smarter and more prepared that before?


    photo credit - FlickR Simon Willison


    Better Presentations

    I make a fair bit of presentations for class and for work and like many of you always thought my presentations were pretty good, not great, but darn good and I was sure of that.

    Well, I had to prepare a presentation specifically about making better designed presentations, and in my research and preparations for this, I came to realize that about 90% of the presentations I have made have been absolute crap.

    I am really taking about the visual design of the presentations, mostly tedious bulleted slides, maybe some screen prints, or gasp! Clip Art to tray and jazz things up.  I always know what I am talking about (well almost always), but the visual element of my presentations have been sorely lacking.

    In developing my new and improved presentation I relied heavily on Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds, and to a lesser extent by some great examples of visual design on SlideShare

    From Presentation Zen I cam to realize that simpler is always better, and really understanding the material is  the key to developing and delivering a great presentation.  From SlideShare I found dozens of examples of excellent design.

    Here is the presentation I gave on 'Effective Use of Visual Aids'.  It ran about 30 minutes live, and while I know there is still room for improvement, it is a thousand times better designed than my normal stuff.

    The direct link is here, take a look and let me know what you think. 

    Now do I have time to re-design all my class lecture slides in time for Winter?



    A Call for help

    Please HR Tech vendors, help!!!

    I am preparing to teach my HR Technology Class at RIT this Winter, and I am hopeful that I can recruit some assistance and partnership from the HR Technology community.  I am in need of some 'hands-on' experiences and exercises for my students in HR Tech, and I really need some folks in the vendor community who would be willing to participate.

    My ideal scenario would be to obtain access to a hosted demo or test instance of your software, set up and design some scenarios for my class, and let me really learn what cutting-edge, enterprise HR software is all about.

    In the past the only important vendor that has shown willingness to participate in my class is SpectrumHR, and I can't say how fantastic and supportive they have been to work with.  They have been over and beyond my expectations.

    But what I could use the most is for one of the major Talent Management vendors to step up. Anyone from SuccessFactors, Halogen, or Taleo

    How about Workday? I would kill for the chance to get my class in any of these packages.

    Look at it this way, if the economic crisis is here, you may have some time on your hands for some 'pro-bono' work.

    So, I am asking, no basically begging, if anyone can help me on this, or knows someone who can, drop me a note at steveboese@gmail.com, or leave a comment.



    photo credit - FlickR - aspengull


    Yammer it up

    Today we had a mini-crisis with our application that lets Student employees self-register for an Employee Self-service account to view their Payslips, sign up for direct deposit, and view other personal information online. The existence of the problem became known to me when I received an e-mail with the relevant details.

    The specifics of the problem are not important, but it was sufficiently complicated that from report to resolution I received a total of 17 e-mails from four different people in less than one hour.

    A total of six people were copied on the original e-mail, so in classic e-mail fashion as everyone who jumped into the issue kept checking 'Reply All' every time the web of the e-mail trap spread and spread.  And of course, each message itself got longer and longer and larger and larger as all prior messages were appended to the next message.

    So in total we ended up with 102 distinct e-mail messages, with the entire content of the original message included in full on each and every message.  That must be some great e-mail that we now have 102 copies of it stored on our server.

    And all this because across the organization, no other collaboration tools are widely used.  Sure one or two of my HR colleagues uses IM to contact me, occasionally we open an IM chat room.  I have started a wiki that only has been used my me and one other colleague (although I suspect he is starting to give up).  

    I claimed my organization's domain on Yammer - which would have been the perfect tool for all this dialogue.  Almost all of the 102 emails were a sentence or two. And other folks who may have been of assistance may have seen the exchange, impossible in e-mail if they were not included from the start. So far only three others in an company of 3,000 have signed up. And two of the three are the HR folks who just IM me anyway.

    So many tools are so far superior to e-mail for collaborative work and problem solving, why am I not able to get my organization to see that?

    Any suggestions? Because I am not getting the message across.