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    From HR Executive - On being a better HR Tech consumer

    Some readers might know that in addition to being the Program Co-Chair of the HR Technology Conference that additionally I write a monthly column for Human Resource Executive (magazine and online), titled Inside HR Tech. The latest Inside HR Tech piece 'Being a Better Consumer' posted earlier this week, and I wanted to share a little bit of the piece here (since I liked the piece and I think it relevant to many of the blog readers here).

    From Human Resource Executive - 'Being a Better Consumer'

    Recently I had the opportunity to talk with executives and product leaders from a small group of HR technology start-up solution providers. The conversations were primarily focused on these start-ups’ product offerings, their positions in the market and their various approaches to development, software user experience and deployment. It was really interesting stuff for a HR tech columnist for sure!

    But some of the most interesting and engaging elements of the conversations with these providers was hearing from them about their challenges dealing with prospects and customers in the sales, contract negotiation, implementation and post-live support processes.

    They shared some of the specific obstacles they've come across when educating, trying to sell to, and lastly, finalizing contract agreements with HR leaders and organizations. I thought it would make sense to share what they shared and offer some tips for HR leaders to be better customers.

    Though the start-ups, themselves, are small, many of their customers are quite large, even global organizations.

    And while some of what they had to say was certainly flavored by their relative small size and inexperience, I know for sure from having worked for very large HR-tech providers (and customers), that many of these buying process issues are common no matter what the HR-tech vendor’s and the customer’s current size may be. Big company or small, these kinds of challenges arise all the time. So here, without further delay and presented in no specific order, are my tips for being a better HR-tech customer:

    Define and share your decision process/timeline.

    Once the initial contact is made between your HR organization and the HR-technology provider, you -- as a customer -- can significantly assist the overall process by sharing with the tech vendor the motivations behind your inquiry, the specific business needs or problems you are hoping to address, and -- most importantly -- details about your internal decision making process and desired timelines for the technology decision to be made will

    Many of the start-up vendors shared their frustration with long and winding product education/demonstration cycles with customers that seemed to have no end in sight.

    Even if that “end” is a decision not to purchase, the vendors are often better off getting that information sooner in order to shift their time and resources to other prospects.

    And if your decision process, (for whatever reason), is long, that is fine too, just be up front with the vendor early on so they can align their resources and expectations.

    Explain your purchase approval and payment process.

    As a customer.....

    (catch the rest of the piece at Human Resource Executive online 

    I invite blog readers interested in these longer form HR tech pieces to subscribe to get every Inside HR Tech column in convenient email form. I would also invite suggestions and ideas for future Inside HR Tech columns.

    Have a great weekend!


    CHART OF THE DAY: Everything you want to know about Labor Force Participation

    I know that I definitely have hit Labor Force Participation a few times in the past in the often imitated but never exceeded CHART OF THE DAY series here on the blog, but now thanks to some really excellent work out of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta I think we have the best source yet for digging into Labor Force Participation.

    From the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics micro-site, check out just a couple of examples of what the data shows with respect to Labor Force Participation, that encompasses some important measures of who is actually working, looking for work, or unable to find work from the labor force.

    Chart 1 - The Big Picture - By mid-2014 Labor Force Participation was at its lowest rate since 1978

    Chart 2 - What accounts for this steep decline since the start of the financial crisis and ensuing recession in about 2007? Well, lot's of things, but mostly it is just the population getting older.

    Chart 3 - But what about people in their 'prime' working years? Are they still in the Labor Force in the same proportions history would suggest? Turns out not really.

    Chart 4 - But most of the decline in Participation for 'prime' workers has to be the bad economy, right? Most of the folks in the 25-54 group that are not in the labor force are missing not by choice I bet. They are probably just frustrated but still want to work. Actually, no.

    Turns out that the decrease in labor force participation among prime-age individuals has been driven mostly by the share who say they currently don’t want a job. 

    I know that it can be really hard to see the link from this kind of macro labor force data and the trends in participation to your day-to-day or even year-to-year workforce planning and talent management initiatives. But I am convinced it is important for any business leader to be at least cognizant of the macro trends and dynamics that your organization and your current and future labor force operate in. Plus, charts are fun!

    But ok, enough charts for now, you can check out the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics site for even more data and analysis on this topic. 

    Have a great Thursday!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 192 - DataNow

    HR Happy Hour 192 - DataNow

    Recorded Tuesday October 21, 2014

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guests: Mollie LombardiRachel Cooke

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish were joined by two of Trish's colleagues from Brandon Hall Group - Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst of Workforce Management Practice; and Rachel Cooke, COO. On the show Mollie and Rachel shared details about DataNow, a new research-based and data-driven product that can enable HR leaders to have better and deeper insights into research data, organizational benchmarks, and relevant insights.

    Additionally, the upcoming Brandon Hall Excellence Conference, set for January 2015 was previewed. This event is shaping up to be a great opportunity for HR leaders to learn from, network with, and engage with their peers as well as the experts at Brandon Hall.

    Also, Steve shared his indifference towards household pets ('They are sort of houseguests that don't really help with anything and just get into trouble'), and his need to escape the dreary Western New York weather.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    This was a fun and informative show about a innovative new approach to share HR and HCM research findings and insights and we want to thank Mollie and Rachel for joining us this week.


    Talent Attraction: The Real Reason to Keep Top Talent

    A few months ago I posted a recap of 'Why Stars Matter', a recent study out of the National Bureau of Economic Research that concluded the most important contribution that so-called 'Top Talent' makes to an organization is that they increase the organization's ability to recruit even more Top Talent.

    Here is an excerpt from my piece from April, then I will hit you with the reason why I wanted to revisit this topic today:


    A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study titled Why Stars Matter, has attempted to identify just what are these 'top talent' effects. It turns out that just being better at their jobs only accounts for a part of the advantage these high performers provide and that possibly the more important benefit is how the presence of top talent impacts the other folks around them, (and the ones you are trying to recruit).

    Here is a summary of the findings of the 'top talent' effects from HBR:

    The researchers found that the superstar’s impact on recruiting was far and away the more significant driver of improved organizational productivity. Starting just one year after the superstar joins the department, the average quality of those who join the department at all levels increases significantly. As for the impact of a superstar on existing colleagues, the findings are more mixed. Incumbents who work on topics related to those the superstar focused on saw their output increase, but incumbents whose work was unrelated became slightly less productive.

    So 'top talent' (mostly) gets to be called 'top talent' because they are simply better, more productive employees. But a significant benefit of these talented individuals is that they help you recruit more people like them, who in turn also are more productive than average, continuing to raise the overall performance level of the organization.


    Back to October when we have from the world of sports, specifically the NBA, this effect of 'Top Talent as a recruiting magnet' playing out with one of the league's most well-known and successful teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, and superstars, 5-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant. Except in this case, if Henry Abbott's reporting on ESPN is accurate, the 'Top Talent', i.e. Kobe, is no longer attracting talent, he is in fact, serving to repel other top players (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, etc.), from even considering joining the Lakers when all three players had that option this off season.

    In Abbott's short video he essentially concludes that at this stage of his career, Kobe's personality, need to take most of the shots, (and claim all of the spotlight), and his past history of not being able to co-exist with other top players has made the Lakers, once the destination of choice for NBA legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq, and Magic Johnson, into a place where no top player will consider playing for.

    It is worth watcing the quick (1:20) report from Abbott, even if you are not an NBA fan, just because it serves as a reminder of what the NBER talked about in their research. Once 'Top Talent' stops serving as a magnet for other top talent, then it is probably time to take a long, dispassionate look at what they are contributing to the organization overall. Not just in what they are producing themselves, but how they might be holding the organization hostage so to speak, if they are keeping away the next wave of star talent you need.

    Happy Tuesday.


    The technology (sometimes) doesn't matter

    Before I hit the main point of this post, I want to be clear about something - I think whether in enterprises or for personal use, having the 'right' technology available is often a critical enabler of both indivdual and organizational performance. 

    Anyone that has had to deal with older, even antiquated business systems that are slow, difficult to use, have to be accessed through a labyrinth of logins and passwords, and at the end of the (painful) process can't really produce the information you need to make decisions, can attest to the importance of modern tools and technologies. Or maybe it is that aging first or second generation iPhone you are still carrying around. You know, the one that has the tiny screen and doesn't have enough memory and processing punch to be able to run the VERY LATEST version of iOS. The iOS version that you know is better, even if you have no idea how. But you NEED IT.

    So here is the point, until last week I was the guy carrying around a (by today's standards), a really, really old iPhone, an iPhone 4 to be precise. Older, kind of slow, I only had 3G network speed. Aside - does anyone actually know specifically how much better 4G is than 3G? Other than it being 1G better?  But I held on to the old phone well past its normal life expectancy for two reasons. One, despite it being old, and small, and slow, it just worked. I was able to get everything done on the phone that I needed to get done. So the small size and slower speeds didn't really matter all that much. And second, and probably more importantly, I had been running a mental debate with myself for months about whether or not to switch to one of the newer Android phones, like the Samsung S5 or the LG G3. Eventually I ended up with the LG phone, primarily since I do not run any other Apple products other than the old iPhone, and am a big user of Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Hangouts, it seemed like a smarter move to go to Android.

    But even though I knew that making the switch to Android was the right decision for me, I still put it off for months. 


    Because I fell into the trap that lots of us do these days, whether considering personal technology or even technology solutions for our business - I was placing too much value on the technology itself, and not thinking logically and critically about what I actually needed the technology to help me accomplish.

    Keeping up with (and often failing) with Email, checking Twitter and Instagram, catching up on blogs and news with Feedly and Zite, and checking out sports scores on The Score - together these make up I would bet 90% of all the things I do on the smartphone.

    And the truth is all smartphones, ANY smartphone including my old iPhone4 are perfectly capable of handing all of these use cases. Quite simply it doesn't matter which kind of phone I chose. ALL of them would do.

    Yet I dithered on this 'big' decision for weeks and months, almost to the point where the old iPhone was just about crashing every day. 

    The point, (one more time), is that sometimes, maybe more than we think, the technology choices we make don't really matter as much as we get fooled into believing that they do. Whether it is modern smartphones or modern HR or Talent Management systems, chances are pretty good they all will suit most every use case that you can reasonably toss at them.

    The technology today is so good and so capable, that success with it is fast becoming not an issue of whether or not you have good enough technology, but rather if you can figure out how to use the capability in the most beneficial manner. So maybe the advice is spend less time lamenting which technology to choose, and more time making the most out of the technology you do choose.

    Have a great week!