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    Monday
    Jan042016

    What HR should be talking about most in 2016, (and what we need to stop talking about)

    My second annual (here is last year's in case you are interested), completely unscientific, biased, personal, and guaranteed to be 100% accurate take on what HR, work, and workplace technology topics we will be spending endless cycles dissecting and analyzing in 2015, followed by a short list of topics that we have, have, have to stop it already with lamenting.

    These 'hot' topics were complied from a scientific review of all the stuff I saved, tweeted, bookmarked, or emailed to myself over the holiday break, because since I read everything, that is the only research that is really needed. Also, and as an aside, I still email myself stuff all the time and every time I do that I feel like a noob. Oh well, here goes...

    What HR should be talking about most in 2016:

    Intelligent Technology - Last year I had 'Predictive Analytics' as one of my three things HR should be talking about in 2015. And talk about it many folks did, even if not very many organizations have as yet had either the technology in place or the organizational readiness for adapting this kind of advanced analysis into their day-to-day HR functions. But even if many or even most organizations are not yet there with predictive analytics, more and more of the major and leading HR technology solution providers are baking in predicitive capability into thier platforms and providing at least basic 'predictions' on things like retention and peformance to HR and business leaders already. And I think this trend and set of tools will continue to expand in capabiliy and usage in 2016. But this year, I hope that HR and HR tech expands not just the capability but the conversation in this area just a bit further, into something more akin to a kind of 'intelligent' set of tools and workflows that will help HR, managers, and employees complete processes, tasks, and hopefully allow them to make better decisions. This technology would not just predict the likelihood of a potential outcome, but would 'learn' from usage patterns, history, preferences, and more about what you (the employee) should do next, given a set of data and process conditions. That could mean surfacing the 'right' learning content when you get assigned to a new project, suggesting you make an internal connection with a specific colleague when you run a search in the corporate knowlege base for a specific topic, or if you are a manger, provide you intelligent recommendations about how to handle coaching conversations with your team members, adapted to their individual profiles and preferences. I think there is plenty more we can and should be doing with all the data that our systems are capturing. In 2016 HR and HR tech should be talking about this much, much more.

    Benefits - I may be way off, but I think boring old benefits are going to be a big deal in 2016. And while the compliance-related ACA driven stuff will always be an important issue for HR, I am not even talking about that side of benefits. No, I am referring to that collection of non-cash rewards that in a tightening labor market can play a huge role in retention, engagement, and productivity - all things that remain important in just about any year. Expand the definition of 'benefits' a little to include all the various initiatives that organizations have or may undertake in order to improve work/life balance for their employees, (flexible work, modified schedules, enhancements to parental leave, etc), and suddenly benefits and related becomes a much more strategic and powerful set of tools in the HR leader's workshop. Last item on this: In 2016 I think 'Financial wellness' will be a subject of more conversations than in the last 10 years combined. 

    Employee Experience - This an offshoot of the prior point about Benefits and kind of expands that line of thinking into things like the design, layout, and function of workspaces, as well as the technologies and methods that are employed to facilitate individuals and teams getting their work done while feeling good about that work they are doing. With workers demanding more flexible schedules and locations, and many organizations desire to reduce real estate footprints and costs, figuring out the best ways to juggle people, places, technologies, and the workload will be a primary challenge and opportunity for HR leaders in 2016. Employee experience is a big topic, and most organizations don't really think about it in those terms. Rather, they manage the heck out of individual components of the experience, (recruiting, onboarding, technology, facilities, org design, training, performance management, comp, etc.), and hope that somehow the overall package adds up to a winning combination. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. Most organizations have a pretty senior executive who 'owns' the overall customer experience and/or success, why not have a similar exec in the HR office that would own the employee experience/success?

    And Here is what HR needs to stop talking about in 2016:

    Millennials - If you are a semi-frequent reader of the blog, you may remember this post from a couple of weeks ago - CHART OF THE DAY: We can FINALLY stop talking about Millennials. In the piece, I shared some data that showed that in the USA that Gen Z (the one that comes after the Millennials), have just about caught up to the Millennials in terms of numbers. Additionally, the youngest members of Gen Z are now starting to enter the workforce. Add this all up and it can only mean one thing - if you are STILL talking about Millennials in 2016 you are going to sound like you've been beamed back to 2008. The only interesting generations are these: The one just emerging on to the scene as contributing members of society (Gen Z), and the one that is predominantly in charge of things, (Government, business, institutions). I would argue that is Gen X at this point. Bottom line: no more about Millennials in 2016 please.

    The 'Gig' Economy - Here's the thing about the rise in importance of the so-called 'Gig Economy', it is quite possible that its growth as a percentage of the labor force has been generally exaggerated possibly due to the oversized coverage that the largest Gig company, Uber, has received over the years. According to this Wall St. Journal piece from last July:

    Far from turning into a nation of gig workers, Americans are becoming slightly less likely to be self-employed, and less prone to hold multiple jobs. Official government data shows around 95% of those who report having jobs are accounted for on the formal payroll of U.S. employers, little changed from a decade ago.

    If Uber and its ilk were fundamentally undermining the relationship workers have with employers, that shift would be showing up in at least some of the key economic indicators. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, or even a few million, may have dabbled in the gig economy, but in the context of the 157 million-strong U.S. labor force, the trend remains marginal.

    It is possible that since there are likely more 'Gig' workers in coastal 'elite' cities like New York and San Francisco, and folks in these cities dominate the conversations in the media, that it just feels like the Gig economy is fast becoming the dominant form of work. But the data just doesn't reflect that, at least not yet. And it likely will not in 2016 or in 2018 or maybe even in 2020. So for now, it makes sense to think about your labor force composition, sure, (just like it always has), but massive, fundamental changes in that mix of labor is not typically top of mind for most organizations.

    Employee Engagement - A holdover from my list of things HR should stop talking about from last year, I fear the conversations about employee engagement hardly ebbed in 2015. Why do I keep thinking we need to drop the employee engagement conversation? Well, for the same reasons as I wrote back in late 2014, namely that Only 30% of employees are 'engaged'. That has become an immutable truth of work and workplaces. It is right alongside 'Average annual salary increases will be 3% this year' as the most expected headline of the year in HR. And so maybe it is time to just accept it. Lots of people are not 'engaged' and probably will never be no matter what. Quit worrying about it. Worry about if they show up, they get their jobs done, they don't leak the company intranet to the North Koreans, and they don't microwave leftover fish in the lunch room. We (collectively) have spent ages of time, effort, and energy trying to 'fix' engagement and we have (so far) failed. Maybe it's time to take a year off.  

    Ok, I am out. What say you? Am I close on this? Or off the mark? 

    Have a great week and a fantastic 2016!

    Thursday
    Dec312015

    Best of 2015: Wearable tech at work: Three lessons from the NBA

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from October titled Wearable tech at work: Three lessons from the NBA, that was my favorite kind of post to write - taking an example from the sports world and thinking about what it means for the mainstream kinds of workplaces most of us inhabit.

    Wearable tech at work: Three lessons from the NBA

    The NBA season starts tomorrow!  

    It could not have come soon enough for this NBA junkie. While my beloved Mets have made things interesting with a surprising run to baseball's World Series, I live and breathe for NBA basketball. This is for two reasons primarily. One, the NBA is simply the best, most exciting, most watchable sport there is. And two, basketball provides a tremendous source of insights for all things HR and the workplace - leadership, recruiting, talent management, assessment, compensation, and increasingly - the use of advanced performance analytics for evaluation, talent management, and strategy development.

    Case in point, the increased use of player movement and performance tracking technology to better understand patterns, tendencies, and importantly, fatigue and diminished output/effort in a player. Check this excerpt from a recent piece on the topic from Grantland, From BMI to TMI: The NBA Is Leaning Toward Wearable Tech, then some comments from me after the quote:

    The NBA is putting its own money into the study of wearable GPS devices, with the likely end goal of outfitting players during games, according to several league sources. The league is funding a study, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, of products from two leading device-makers: Catapult and STATSports.

    The league declined comment on the study. Most teams already use the gadgets during practices, and Catapult alone expects to have about 20 NBA team clients by the start of the 2015-16 season. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants wore Catapult monitors during D-League games last season in an obvious trial run for potential use at the parent league.

    Weighing less than an ounce, these devices are worn underneath a player’s jersey. They track basic movement data, including distance traveled and running speed, but the real value comes from the health- and fatigue-related information they spit out. The monitors track the power behind a player’s accelerations and decelerations (i.e., cuts), the force-based impact of jumping and landing, and other data points. Team sports science experts scour the data for any indication a player might be on the verge of injury — or already suffering from one that hasn’t manifested itself in any obvious way.

    The piece goes on to make some interesting points about how teams can use the devices in a practice setting in order to make decisions about player rest and practice strategy. But since the NBA player's are represented by a union, in-game use of these devices will have to be collectively bargained according to the piece. What can we extrapolate to 'normal' workplaces from the NBA's experiments and experiences with these kinds of wearables?

    I can think of three main things:

    1. Union shop or not, organizations are going to have to take data privacy, usage, and access issues very seriously and head-on. Players that are angling to secure their next contract might not want widespread access to their performance data if it begins to show some performance degradation that might not be apparent to the naked eye. If you want any employee to wear a tracking tool like this, you have got to ensure the 'right' level of privacy and control for your situation.

    2. Your primary use case for wearable tech should be a positive one. And probably your secondary use case as well. If wearables are going to be used to prevent injuries, help workers find efficiencies, or better align tasks to workers, (and even to a specific day or time), then it is likely you will have a better chance at employee adoption of this kind of tech. If employees think your primary goal of these devices is to identify the 'weak links' in the organization in order to apply discipline, (or to weed them out), then the reaction is going to be less-than-enthusiastic. There is already a pretty large 'Big Brother is watching' inherent bias you need to overcome, don't make it worse by treating wearable tech at work like some kind of house arrest ankle bracelet.

    3. Wearable data has to be interpreted in context. Every basketball game is unique. The opponent, the combinations of players on the court, the external conditions, (travel, amount of sleep, diet, etc,), all vary from day-to-day and game-to-game no matter how hard coaches try to have things consistent. Careful analysis of player tracking data and performance has to include and attempt to understand how external factors impact performance. Player tracking data is going to create tremendous amounts of data for team management to analyze - on top of the pretty large data sets they already have been crunching. And when this kind of data is available to every team, the competitive advantage ceases to be simply having the data - the advantage shifts to the organization that is the best and extracting insight from the data.

    I am sure there will be more to unpack as player movement and tracking data becomes more of a mainstream form of analysis, but for now, these are the big takeaways for me.

    I love the NBA. You should too. Everything you need to know about HR an Talent can be learned in 48 minutes a night.

    Trust me... it will be a great season!

    NOTE: This was the last of the 'Best of 2015' posts. Hope you enjoyed looking back on the year. HAppy New Year to everyone and we will see you back with fresh content next week.

    Wednesday
    Dec302015

    Best of 2015: The worst people in the workplace, ranked

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from July, possibly my favorite of the ongoing 'Ranked' series on the blog, The Worst People in the Workplace, Ranked. Try and see where you might fall on this list.

    The Worst People in the Workplace, Ranked

    You probably work. You probably work with other people. Many of those other people are terrible. Here is your incomplete, yet definitive guide to the worst of these other people.

    10. The five people in your conference room who are still meeting at 11:05 when they only booked the room until 11 - Your meeting is probably a waste of time and money. The seven of you standing around in the hallway waiting to get inside the conference room is certainly a waste of time and money.

    9. The host who is late to the Conference Call - The virtual equivalent of standing around in the hall at 11:05 because the idiots who reserved the conference room from 10 - 11 can't stop yapping. But only this time you have terrible 'hold' music to listent to.

    8. The 'I never got the email' guy - You got the email, you liar. You forgot/ignored/deleted the email. But you got the email.

    7. The 'Half day?' guy - This is the jerk who feels obligated to track the comings and goings of everyone else in the office. Anyone who drops the 'Half Day?' line at you at 5:02PM is a terrible, sad, humorless dullard.

    6. The 'Marked as urgent' emailer - If it were urgent, you would just call. It is an email, therefore it can't be urgent. Look up the word urgent sometime you jerk.

    5. The Sunday night emailer - Hey guess what? Sunday is (still) technically part of the weekend. You may feel the need to work on Sundays, but that doesn't mean the rest of us want/need/care to. Work on your own stuff on Sundays if you must, but keep the rest of us out of it until Monday morning. 

    4. The 'wears headphones all day' guy - You are at work. You are not on a LAX - JFK flight in an economy class middle seat. You want us to think that actually trying to talk to you is such a burden and will somehow ruin your 'flow'. Give it a break, it won't kill you to take off the headphones once in a while and act like a human being.

    3. The 'community candy' lady - This story is 100% true, (small details changed to protect everyone, especially me).  Think massive, Fortune 100 type tech company housed in a giant high-rise. On each floor there is a central reception desk manned by one or two people throughout the day. On said desk on Floor 29, there lied a large candy bowl with the expected assortment of treats, chocolates, twizzlers, whatever. Everyone coming and going from that floor would take a treat or two from the bowl as they walked by. No one really 'asked' if they could have a piece, it was just understood that the candy was for everybody. Then one day one of the company employees, who was wearing a visible company badge, actually asked the lady at reception if it was ok if he could take a piece of candy. And the reception lady said 'No'. for whatever reason, she refused to allow this particular employee to take a piece of the community candy. The rejected employee proceeded, (irrationally for sure), to freak out, accuse the receptionist of racism, shout a few choice and unprintable words in her direction, and knock the candy bowl and its contents to the floor. This exchange led to a series of urgent emails, executive meetings, HR interventions, written warnings and literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of managerial time to sort out. The bottom line: Community candy is terrible.

    2. War story guy - This is the guy who shows up to work every Monday in a splint, with a soft cast, with some kind of bandage over the eye, or a noticeable limp. He then has to regale you, (because you feel like you have to ask), with some crappy story about how he totally rocked it on the side of some cliff or shooting the rapids or playing on the 40+ rugby team. Hey doofus - once you hit say 35 or so, it is time to grow the hell up and quit turning up for work like it is the first day of 5th grade. And no, we don't want to see your killer Go Pro footage of that radical tumble you took on the Black Diamond slope.

    1. Nothing is good enough for my high standards guy - The standard issue office chair? Not going to work. The whiteboard that fits on the wall of each office leaving room for the door to open? Not big enough. The pens and pencils that are stocked in the office supplies drawer that are used by everyone else? Not going to cut it. Basically nothing in the way the office works is good enough for this guy who needs a special version of EVERYTHING. I am not talking about any real accommodation issues here, no, this guy just has to be different. This is often accompanied by bringing personal supplies like staplers and binders, and frequent references to former employers, something along the lines of 'When I was at ACME Company, we had the nice pens.' You know what? Go the heck back to ACME company, and take your stupid stapler with you.

    Ok, that is it...

    Who did I forget? Let me know in the comments.

    Tuesday
    Dec292015

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 229 - Lessons from the Academy of Rock

    HR Happy Hour 229 - Lessons from The Academy of Rock with Peter Cook

    Recorded Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Peter Cook, Founder, Human Dynamics

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show, Steve and Trish were joined by Peter Cook, leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock.

    We chat with Peter, about the impact of music on our success and learning in business.  We also talk about his new book (coming out in 2016) called  Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise.  Peter shares his stories from a lifetime in business and experiences with many well-known musicians.  

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using he widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

    This was a really fun and interesting show and I hope you will check it out.

    As a reminder, you can find the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes and all the major podcast apps for iOS and Android. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your playlists and you will never miss a show. And follow the HR Happy Hour Show on Twitter - @HRHappyHour.

    Finally, thanks for listening to the show in 2015 - lots more in store for next year!

    Tuesday
    Dec292015

    Best of 2015: The culture of performance, and firing by form letter

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from June, titled The Culture of Performance, and Firing by Form Letter, a simple example of how organizational culture (needs to) manifest itself in approaches to talent management.

    The culture of performance and firing by form letter

    Super look at just one of the ways that a 'performance is the only thing that matters' culture that is professional American football manifests itself over at Deadspin last week in the piece This is the the letter you get when you are cut from an NFL team.

    Take a look at a typical player termination letter from one of the league's clubs, the Houston Texans:

    A couple of things about the letter, and then i am out for the rest of a summer Monday.

    1. First up, in a really hands-on job like 'NFL Player', physical ability to perform issues are number 1 and 2 on the 5 possible termination reasons. For the rest of us who are not NFL players, this could equate to keeping up our skills, learning new ones as business and technology shifts, and importantly, not 'faking' it in terms of what we say we can do.

    2. Reason 3, and the one that this example from 2006 shows, says basically, 'You are just not good enough, i.e., the other guys on the team are better'. No details, no wordy explanations or nuances. Just a cut and dried 'You're not good enough.' That's cold, but again, completely aligned with the organizational values and culture. Performance trumps everything. Want a high-performance culture? Then you have to be ruthless in trimming the organization of people who don't meet the standard. And you as a leader can't let it bother you too much either.

    3. The organization also has a broad right to terminate you for 'personal conduct that adversely affects or reflects on the club'. Heck, that could be just about anything, since it is the club who gets to evaluate the 'impact' of your behavior. In other words, we (mostly) care about your physical condition and your performance, but we can fire your butt for just about anything we want at any time. Heck, that sounds a lot like many of the places us 'normals' work too. Employment at will is a great deal for sure. Until you get fired, well, just 'because.'

    Hiring, promoting, rewards, and even terminations all play a big role in defining, supporting, and communicating an organization's values and culture. If you are going to go all-in on high performance, well, you need to remember the dark side of that decision too.

    And firing by form letter is one example of that.

    Have a great week!

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