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    Monday
    May232016

    I'm comfortable not knowing

    Note: Re-running a post from the archive, not (completely) because I didn't have time to write anything this weekend, but rather the very thing I wanted to write about sounded so familiar to me that I had in fact written about it before. Hope you enjoy...

     

    About a thousand years ago I was a newbie consultant working for a large, (actually quite large), implementation services arm of a equally large software company. As the software products that our consulting and implementation services group were responsible for implementing numbered in the dozens (if not more), and they were each one reasonably complex technologies, the company enrolled all newly hired implementation consultants in an extensive 8-week training program that was affectionately known as 'bootcamp'.

    The bootcamp consisted of 8 hour days, for 8 weeks, taking all of the new consultants through the details and inner workings of the most commonly purchased of the company's applications, giving us a reasonable facsimile of 'real-world' problems that needed to be solved via case studies, and took us through what life as a traveling software consultant was actually all about. Aside - the job and lifestyle was equally better and worse than we all anticipated, but that is a topic for another time.

    But even over an 8-week period, the amount of technical, functional, business, process, and project management material that was presented to us was immense and fast-paced, and truly, there was almost no way to actually remember I'd estimate more than about half of it. The rest, and certainly the more important parts of the knowledge needed to become a good consultant would take more time to acquire, and work in the field with real customers to reinforce.

    All of this setup is to get to the point of this post. I don't really remember anything specifically from the content of the 8-week training bootcamp save for one sentence that was uttered not from one of the excellent instructors or experienced consultants that led our training, but rather from one of my fellow bootcampers.

    At the end of a long week of intensive work on some complex application and technology concepts, our instructor was making a final point about some detail or another, and she noticed a look of confusion on the face of a student in the front of the class. She paused, explained the point once more, and then asked him point blank, "Do you understand what I mean by configuring setting ABC in order to allow the customer to do XYZ?" , (the specifics don't matter, and I don't remember what they were anyway).

    The student thought about the question for a second then replied, "No, I really don't understand. But I'm comfortable not knowing."

    The instructor was a little taken aback, tried to re-state the concept, and hammer it home so that it clicked with the student, but she missed the real point of his response. It was not that he didn't care about understanding the point she was making, or that he would never understand it, but rather in that setting, with that specific point competing with about 3,000 other ones we'd all been exposed to in the last few weeks, that is was ok to not understand. He was comfortable (his word), with his ability to access reference material, draw on his network of colleagues, do some of his own testing, etc. in order to understand the key point when confronted with the problem in the future.

    He was comfortable not knowing because he was comfortable in his ability to think about the problem, access relevant resources, and apply what he'd learned more generally in order to solve this specific problem. He didn't need to know everything, Heck, no one needs to know everything.

    I like people that don't claim to have all the answers. I especially like people that are willing to admit that they don't have all the answers, but know how to find them. 

    And are comfortable with that.

    Friday
    May202016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 246 - Do you need an HR system?

     HR Happy Hour 246 - Do You Need an HR System? What Leaders Need to Know

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Guest: Dave Fiacco, PeopleStrategy

    Listen HERE

    First, Steve and Trish are THRILLED to welcome our new partner and sponsor, Virgin Pulse to the HR Happy Hour show!  Virgin Pulse, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, designs technology that cultivates good lifestyle habits for your employees. Please visit them at www.VirginPulse.com for more information.  

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish talked with Dave Fiacco, President and COO of PeopleStrategy. As President and Chief Operating Officer of PeopleStrategy, David Fiacco sets the bar high and ensures the company upholds its promise to deliver exceptional solutions coupled with extraordinary service.

    Dave talked with us about a topic that leaders everywhere struggle with.  Do you need a HR system?  Do you need to upgrade your system?  If so, how do you know and what are the steps?  Some of the issues we tackled on the show:

    -What considerations should HR think about during the process of moving from using Excel or other home grown tools to an actual HR system?

    -How do HR leaders (or other leaders) decide if a suite or point solution is what they need?

    -How does the type of solution you choose tie into pricing?

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

    This was a fun and interesting show, thanks again to Dave Fiacco for joining us this week.

    Remember to download and subscribe the the HR Happy Hour on iTunes, or using your favorite podcast app for iOS or Android - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to never miss an episode.

    Wednesday
    May182016

    The secret to buying software

    Indulge me, if you will, with a short quote from The Book of Basketball:

    (Isiah Thomas, NBA legend with the Detroit Pistons):

    "The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball."

    Here’s what Isiah Thomas meant: the guys who have the best numbers don’t always make the best team. There is more to winning than just the raw talent (although that plays a huge role).

    What Isiah learned while following those Lakers and Celtics teams around: it wasn’t about basketball.Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else." 

    What does the 'secret' of winning basketball have to do with 'real' work and more specifically, enterprise software?

     

    It is that more and more the 'secret' of making the right software solution purchase decision for your organization has less and less to do with the traditional measurements - system features, fit-gap analysis, and on-paper capability; and has more and more to do with the your mutual vision for the future, and the ability to execute on that shared vision by your potential software provider.

     

    Solution capabilities, certainly at the enterprise level, are evolving and expanding faster than ever. With cloud-based software deployment, shorter enhancement and upgrade cycles, and the comparative ease for organizations who wish to adopt new these capabilities to be able to derive value from them - the actual list of capabilities or 'yes' responses to an RFP questionnaire matter less than ever before.

     

    No, what matters today, and will likely matter even more in the next 5 years, is your ability to assess a potential software providers ability to 'see' around the corner, to articulate an idea of what will matter most for work, workplaces, and employees, and present more than just a list of software features, but rather expand upon a vision of how they (and you), will navigate the next few years of a working world that will almost certainly look much different than the one we live in today.

     

    Think I am wrong about this? That 'features' matter less than vision?

     

    Ok, think about this.

     

    If say three years ago you went out to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system, you would have challenged your potential vendors to show you features like goal alignment, cascading goal assignment, proportional competency evaluation, the connection of performance rating scores to compensation plans, and more. You would have made final evaluations not only on these points, but also on how easily you could migrate your existing annual performance management process to this new system.

    Fast forward to today, where we are entering into a new world of employee performance management.

    Today, if you were again to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system you likely would be looking for features like real-time feedback, peer-to-peer recognition, the ability to do 'scoreless' reviews, and a connection of the performance tool not to your comp system, but to your enterprise collaboration tools.

    The main features you would be chasing would be very, very different.

    That's why the secret to buying software for the organization is that it isn't about the software - at least not as it exists at a fixed point in time.

    If three years ago your chosen vendor for performance technology had the vision, and the ability to adapt to the new world of performance management, then you likely would not need to chase another new solution to meet your (and the workplace's) changing needs. But if they didn't? And they were really only or at least primarily concerned with checking 'yes' to every question on the RFP?

    Then three years later you are left with a technology that can really only support yesterday's process.

    Don't get caught up on features. At least don't make features the only thing you think about when evaluating technology.

    Features are cheap. They are easily copied. And they fall out of fashion faster than you think.

    Vision?

    Much harder to come by. And much more valuable.

    The secret to buying software is that it's not about the software.

     

    Monday
    May162016

    CHART OF THE DAY: More Americans are Working Longer

    I am a total mark for labor force data and today's Chart of the Day fits the bill perfectly. Check out the below chart on the Employment to Population ratio for Americans aged 65 and up over the last 50 years, and of course some FREE comments from me after the data

    (Chart courtesy of Bloomberg)

    Lots of interesting points we can tease out of this data, so let's go..

    1. Just under 19% of Americans age 65+ are currently in the workforce, according to the BLS. This is the highest percentage of working people in this age cohort since the early 1960s. 

    2. Why are folks in this age cohort working in greater numbers than before? The most commonly cited reason according to a recent study from Transamerica is that they need the income and benefits. The financial crisis, and the tech bubble that busted a few years before that, devastated many baby boomers' retirement savings accounts, and has forced them to work longer than they had originally planned.

    3. The next most commonly cited reason for 65+ folks to remain in the workforce is that, well, they like their jobs and want to remain a part of their organizations. You probably know, or maybe feel this way yourself, that traditional 'retirement' is not at all that appealing. From the same Transamerica survey, 36% of respondents indicated enjoying their work and wanting to stay involved in the workforce was a primary reason to delay or postpone traditional retirement.

    4. Finally, a couple of other trends are factoring in to help drive the employment ratio up for older workers. Some organizations need the experience and expertise of these workers, and would have a difficult time replacing them should they begin to retire in greater numbers. In certain, less exciting industries, these older workers remain essential to the organization, and are being incented to stay in the labor force. And one more thing - folks are just living longer and remaining more productive later in their careers than in the past.

    Add it all up and it seems that these trends suggest that more and more of the workforce will be comprised of older, 65+ workers. Business and HR leaders that want to take best advantage of this situation will make sure they are not ignoring older workers in their recruiting, are willing and able to make necessary adjustments and accommodations as needed, and are actively engaging their older workers in important projects and in mentoring their younger, less experienced workers.

    We are all getting older. It just seems like it is happening all at once.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    May132016

    Nothing but our own fear

    I was at the Globoforce WorkHuman Conference earlier in the week, and one of the more interesting aspects of this conference from the many that I attend in the course of the year is Globoforce's willingness to showcase speakers and topics that are not necessarily 'on the nose' with their specific set of technologies and solutions.

    Most conference, especially vendor user conferences, tend to be super-focused on product - what's happening with the product, what new features are being developed, which companies are adopting the product, how can you learn to use the product better - you get the idea. And that makes perfect sense for vendor user conferences since the one unifying element that generally is the purpose and the binder for the event itself is the actual product. No products, no users, no user conferences. Pretty simple.

    And while there was certainly some of that product related content at the Globoforce event, it did not seem at all like the primary reason for the event, and the driver for most attendees to take the time to be there. Globoforce and the community of folks at the event did (mostly) seem to be there for a more general, conceptual, and different reason - the idea of making work more 'human.'

    What can make, or should make work more 'human' is at the same time a simple and kind of complex topic, (and not the same for everyone). I wrote about my ideas on this a couple of weeks back, so I won't go into them again here. But by making this non-product centric concept the central theme of your user conference, it frees up the organizers to make some interesting choices in terms of speakers and topics.

    For me, one of the highlights of the event was a wide ranging Q and A session with the legendary actor Michael J. Fox. In the Q and A, Fox shared really openly and passionately several stories from his long acting career as well as his well-known and continuing battle with Parkinson's disease.

    The conversation was full of gems, (like Fox lost out to Matthew Broderick for the lead role in one of my favorite films, 'War Games'), but the below quote, (which I tweeted of course, because that is what you do), was for me the idea that I am pretty sure I won't soon (if ever) forget.   

     

    For some context, Fox was asked about if was ever scared or afraid of his condition and the ongoing battle with Parkinson's when he made the observation about fear - his lack of fear and the fear he senses others see when they talk with him about his condition.

    This observation also reminded me of my single favorite Star Wars quote. Yes it is from Yoda, and no it's not the worn out 'There is no try' line.

    The one I am thinking of is from The Empire Strikes Back from the part of the film when Luke is on Dagobah to train with Yoda and learn about the Force. 

    Here's the setup and the line from Yoda (thanks IMBD).

    Luke: There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death.

    Yoda: [points to a cave opening beneath a large tree] That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.

    Luke: What's in there?

    Yoda: Only what you take with you.

    The 'fear' Michael J. Fox talked about was our fear, not his.

    The 'evil' in the dark side cave wasn't really in there, rather it is carried in there by the seeker him or herself.

    I think we often forget that most of our fears are within us. Not a product of some scary, external circumstance.

    We choose what we see. We choose what we carry with us into that cave.

    And what is really remarkable that what led me to think about these things for the last two days was something I heard at an HR conference.

    Have a great weekend.