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    Notes from the road #14 - Things seen and (over)heard

    The better part of the last two weeks on the road as always provides a rich source of amusement. 

    Herewith, presented in no particular order, are 5 random observations from the road...

    1. Overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'Tell him to take his head and pull it out of his ass.  If he can't do that, then fire him. I SAID FIRE HIM!'

    2. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'The last four guys who quit have told HR in their exit interviews that the demands of the job are unreasonable. That it total BS. No, I can't meet with you tomorrow. I have a meeting with HR.'

    3. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'No I have not hired anyone for Japan yet. They keep sending me crap candidates. The last one didn't know that Osaka is not the same as Okinawa.'

    4. If there is a major spill of liquids or such in an airport corridor, the sheer number of folks that get involved is staggering. Retail workers, airport staff, private security, Metro Police, cleaners, other kinds of maintenance people, etc. I saw a pretty large spill of water in the Cleveland airport, (one of those 5-gallon water jugs blew out), and no less than 9 different people had some involvement in the reporting, cleanup, and assigning blame processes. 

    5. If I ever do another 'Ignite' style presentation (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide), I will absolutely not try to tackle as big a subject as Humanity's relationship with technology. I did think the 5 minute talk went well, but as is my typical fashion, I could have gone on for another 45.  But DisruptHR Cleveland was a blast.

    Have a great weekend!


    ADVICE: Read more, write less

    Super interesting piece on the Savage Minds anthropology blog the other day titled Read More, Write Less, an essay by Ruth Behar about her conversations with the Cuban author and poet Dulce Maria Loynaz.

    I must confess to having no familiarity with Ms. Loynaz, but in the piece she offers some really excellent advice for writers, bloggers, really communicators of any kind.

    From the Savage Minds piece:

    Inspired by her meditative Poemas sin nombre (Poems With No Name), I had written a few poems of my own, and Dulce María had the largeness of heart to ask me to read them aloud to her in the grand salon of her dilapidated mansion. She nodded kindly after each poem and when I finished I thought to ask her, “What advice would you give a writer?”

    I will always remember her answer. It came without a moment’s hesitation and could not have been more succinct: Lee más, escribe menos, “Read more, write less.”

    That might seem like old-fashioned advice in our world today, where so many of us aspire to write more. But having pondered Dulce María’s words, I think I now understand the significance of what she was saying.

    It comes down to this: you can only write as well as what you read.

    Awesome advice, and so good that I don't really need to add anything more to it. I try and read as much as I can in order to have new ideas, fresh perspectives, and just interesting things to share. But there is so much more out there.  I know I probably should read more, and different things instead of trying to push out posts all the time.

    Read more, write less. Great advice. 

    Have a great Thursday.


    The Human Score

    I caught this interesting piece on the PSFK site over the weekend, Reebok Platform Lets You Reclaim Your Humanity with Human Score, about a current Reebok marketing campaign and associated 'humanness' quiz. And since I have heard quizzes on the internet might be a thing, I clicked over and spent 5 minutes taking the test to find out my 'human' score, (pic of my result embedded on the right, click to see a giant version if you are so inclined).

    According to Reebok, The Human Score is the world’s first test to put a numeric value on one’s ‘humanness,’ and is strategically designed by scientist David McRaney.

    McRaney enlisted average people to help define what it means to be human and gathered different responses about generosity, humor, resilience, discipline and other characteristics. The test asks questions in a five-part series of questions aggregated from the collective data, from the type of guest you might mingle with at a party, to your attitudes towards fitness, and even what kind of news headlines  might catch your attention.

    My 'human' score labels me as a 'Brain Buff', and Reebok says that Brain Buffs "make for a pretty great human specimen. Brain Buffs do more than keep their bodies fit – they actively work to keep their minds sharp. With their curious nature and insatiable hunger for knowledge, they’re always on the go. For Brain Buffs, there is pretty much no end to self-improvement. There is always room upstairs to add more theories, ideas and wisdom. They make it a point to regularly challenge themselves to think big thoughts way outside the box. And they are rigorous thinkers inclined to do their own research and ask questions rather than take information at face value. Smarty-pants Brain Buffs use all their intellectual gifts to help reach their fullest human potential."

    I guess some of that is true, I don't know about the 'fullest human potential' part - I probably watch too much basketball for that to be totally true.

    Anyway, it is a fun little exercise, as these things go, and good for a 10 minute diversion as you hit the middle of the work week.

    If you take the 'human' test, let me know how it goes.

    Happy Wednesday.


    Two important engagement questions that employers never ask

    Caught this fascinating piece over the weekend from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review publication titled Worker's expectations about losing and replacing their jobs: 35 years of change. The piece describes changes over time in American worker's feelings about job security, confidence, and (I would argue), their ability to focus wholly on doing their actual job well, and not just trying not to lose that job.

    This data about worker's expectations comes from analysis of data from the General Social Survey which has been administered each year since 1972. The results of the General Social Survey are representative of the adult population of the United States, as the respondents are in line with population characteristics drawn from the population in surveys of the U.S. Census Bureau.

    In the piece, author Charles Weaver notes that:

    "Workers were less secure about retaining their jobs in 2010 and 2012 than in 1977 and 1978; they also were less secure about the ease with which they would find a comparable job if they were separated. As might be expected, the two measures of job security track unemployment, although other factors certainly play a role as well"

    This conclusion is drawn from the responses to the following two specific survey questions (repeated every year in the survey)

    1. Thinking about the next 12 months, how likely do you think it is that you will lose your job or be laid off—very likely, fairly likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

    2. About how easy would it be for you to find a job with another employer with approximately the same income and fringe benefits you have now? Would you say it would be very easy, somewhat easy, or not easy at all?

    As Mr. Weaver reports, over time the number of workers who felt it was very likely or fairly likely to lose a job or be laid off rose to 11.2% from 7.7%, while only 48.3% felt it would be very easy or somewhat easy to find a comparable job, down from 59.2% in the late 1970s.

    So in the period from about 1977 to 2012 job security on the macro level had declined, while confidence in one's ability to find a comparable job had also declined. There are potentially thousands of reasons for these declines, and while important, and interesting, are not why I wanted to post about these findings today.

    What I thought about was the two questions themselves, and how an individual worker feels about them might relate to their job satisfaction, performance, and potentially their engagement.

    Are you in fear of losing your job or getting laid off? If you were laid off, how easy/hard could it be to find a comparable job?

    The answers to these questions can tell you plenty about workers. They speak to uncertainty, fear, anxiety, etc. about work and their livelihoods. The less optimistic one feels about job security, the more likely they are to approach work as something to fear, a place not to screw up, and I think these kinds of fears might improve short-term performance, (and other things not directly related to performance, like showing up on time, following rules, etc.)., but a anxious worker is not going to be a happy worker, (or an engaged worker) very long.

    For those reasons, (and probably more), employers would probably like to know how their employees would respond to the two questions above. Wouldn't you like to know if your workers are tiptoeing around, hoping the other shoe isn't about to drop?

    Sure. But here is another sure thing. You will never find either of those two questions on any internal employee survey. 


    I don't want to work with companies, I want to work with people

    The hard thing about blogging sometimes is that for various and practical reasons you often can't write about stuff that actually happens in your actual life, personal or professional. Sometimes you have to change names, change details of a story, obscure some elements that might not be terribly important to the overall point, but at least give you some plausible deniability, (and protection as well, for the most part, most bloggers are not independently wealthy, i.e. we still need to make a living).

    That disclaimer serves two purposes really; one, as an acknowledgement and reminder that there have been plenty of really interesting and potentially really very good posts that I and lots of other HR/workplace type bloggers have to quash in the interests of personal protection/employability. And two, as a preface to what I wanted to really write about, (getting to that next, I promise), which is based on some actual events with real people, but with the specific names left out and some details slightly changed. Ok, here we go...

    One of the interesting aspects of the transforming nature of work and workers from corporate lifers into more entrepreneurial, flexible, contingent, and more or less free agents (who may affiliate with a company for a time for mutual benefit), is that customer/partner loyalty is now much more often tied to people and not organizations. Said a little differently, buyers and potential business partners are more and more drawn to the actual people involved in the project or transaction, and not so much, (if at all), their current, (and likely temporary) corporate affiliation.

    The specific circumstances that caused me to think about happened last week, in two separate discussions I had with some HR industry folks. Both of these were concerning projects and initiatives where I had been working with, or at least working on collaborating with specific individuals that was interested in working with again. And in both cases, as these potential initiatives became socialized inside the corporate meeting rooms of the organizations where these folks are aligned, the geometry of the deals began to alter.

    Suddenly, more (or different) folks needed to be involved. Now more higher-ups from these organizations had to have their opinion heard, (even when I had not talked with any of them previously). There was at least some reluctance in one of the cases by management to 'allow' their person to work with me on the project, as they wanted to have their other, preferred person, (who I did not ask for), leading the effort.

    As more professionals see themselves as free agents, who affiliate with companies in more fluid, shorter, and transitory arrangements while simultaneously building their personal networks, professional portfolios, and reputations independent of any corporate overseer, these kinds of tensions will only increase. In the examples I cited above, I was led to and wanted to collaborate with specific individuals based on past experiences (prior to them arriving at their current roles), and personal conviction in these individual's ability and competence. Quite frankly, their current corporate affiliation does not really matter. At least to me.

    But it does matter, naturally, to the folks that are the executives at these places, whose job it is to build, protect, strengthen, and make more valuable their company brands. But this will be increasingly more challenging, in many relationship-driven kinds of businesses anyway, when the company brand is really only comprised of a loose affiliation of individual brands, who are going to move in and out of the company umbrella more or less on-demand, and who have many more outside connections and relationships than in the past.

    This 'free agent nation', this new world that is sometimes referred to as the 'Uber-ification' of work where most workers are essentially carving out their own personal careers, less dependent on organizational support (and protection) than before is one that puts not only these workers under more pressure than before, as they shoulder more personal risk than ever, but it also will stress their company brand owners as well. I don't think my perspective as a potential partner/customer is all that unique; I am interested in collaborating with the best people I can, and often, (and maybe soon always), I am not that interested in their 'official' titles or what their current company leadership believes how I should interact and engage with them. As sometimes I like to say, that is a 'you' problem, not a 'me' problem.

    I guess I will leave with this - the free agent nation has delivered exceeding benefits to company brands - less fixed costs, less regulations, more flexibility, and even more profits. But there are some risks too. Some of your free agents don't really need the company brand as much as the brand needs them. And some of your best customers and partners want to work with people, not with companies. And as the ties between people and companies continue to loosen, (almost always at the behest of companies by the way), the company's hold on talent and opportunity and profit will loosen as well.

    Have a great week!