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    Monday
    Jun182018

    A chart, like a picture, says more than words do

    Welcome back to the work week (and try not to skip out on too much of what you need to do this week to watch the World Cup). Actually, can we pass a law that makes the World Cup more convenient to my personal time zone? But enough about that.

    Here's what I wanted to share today, an interesting, quick read from the Washington Post on how much more effective charts are when compared to straight text for making sure your audience clearly understands the underlying data surrounding a particular issue.

    Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Exeter recently published some interesting findings, ones that you probably already would have guessed at, around the effectiveness of charts in combating false conclusions or ones that are not supported by the facts.

    To prove this thesis, the researchers took a given issue, say whether or not participants believed that the Earth's temperatures were increasing, and then showed one group a chart containing the relevant climate data, a second group was given a text-only version of the climate data, and a third group was given no additional information at all.

    Here's the chart (naturally), of what the researcher's found happened to the levels of incorrect or non-factual beliefs that were held by each group after seeing the chart, text, or just going with their gut.

     

    I am sure you noted on the chart that the actual groups of people being tested in this experiment were folks who identified as Republican, but for what I took away from the Post piece and the research itself, that is only a footnote. What really matters here is that among folks holding a particular belief, one that seems to be counter-factual, (or even flat out false), you have a much better chance of getting them to embrace the facts (and change their opinions of those facts), by showing them a chart of the relevant data, not a text-only passage. Doing nothing at all, or just shouting at them, is definitely the most ineffective strategy.

    In the experiment above, using the chart of global temperatures drove the percentage of people holding incorrect beliefs down to 10%, a huge improvement from the text-only or 'nothing' strategies. That's the takeaway from this, don't get caught up in the political topics themselves. T

    his strategy can be used for just about anything in the workplace where there are incorrect beliefs, perceptions, or just a person or a group that has dug their heels into the ground over a particular issue and you can't find a way to make them budge.

    That's your assignment for the week - find one opportunity to send your message and make your point in chart form - don't rely on a simple email or a chat message to convince anyone of anything.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great week!

    Friday
    Jun152018

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 324 - HR and the Internet and Technology Trends for 2018

    HR Happy Hour 324 - HR and the Internet and Technology Trends for 2018

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    Sponsored by Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane talk about the Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report for 2018 and the key tech trends that are impacting work and workplaces.

    The Internet Trends Report is published annually by VC firm Kleiner Perkins, led by Mary Meeker, and provides a massive overview of the most important internet, technology, and software trends, on a global level, and is read and cited by just about everyone in the technology space. The report covers e-commerce, social networks, digital advertising, technology at work, enterprise technology, and much more. It is must-reading for anyone who needs to be current with what is going on in tech.

    On this annual HR Happy Hour Show covering the report, Steve and Trish identify three major themes from the 2018 Internet Trends that we think will impact HR and work - personalization and consumerization, the on-demand workforce, and finally Artificial Intelligence.

    We hit each of the three topics, shared some thoughts on how HR and HR tech are responding to them, and how HR leaders can use knowledge of these trends moving forward.

    We also talked about the weather, (of course), the virtues of the Slip 'n Slide, and why Steve doesn't like to buy green bananas.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, on your favorite podcast app, or by using the widget player below:

    This was a fun show, thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Thursday
    Jun142018

    When to tell an employee who resigns - 'No need to work your two weeks notice, just get out of here'

    The World Cup kicks off today and in what can only be deemed a fantastic coincidence for the 'Sports and HR' blogosphere, the event has already provided us with an incredible story upon which to opine, one that fits the formula of 'Yes, it is a 'sports' story but it really is a workplace and HR story'.

    In case you don't know what story I am referring to, it involves the head coach of Spain's team (one of the favorites to win the World Cup), getting fired from his post just hours before the event is set to start. Let's all get on the same page with the details of the story courtesy of reporting from ESPN.

    Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain's national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament.

    In a news conference at Spain's training base in Krasnodar, Russia, Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said Lopetegui's fate was sealed just two days ahead of the team's World Cup opening game, as Rubiales could not accept an Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) employee having negotiated his next job without informing his employers.

    "We have been obliged to fire the national coach," Rubiales said Wednesday. "We wish him the best, he has done an excellent job in getting us to the tournament. But the federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have; the World Cup is the biggest of all."

    A lot to unpack there, but just to be sure the non-soccer readers get the important details, here is the gist of what went down.

    1. Spain is one of the top teams in the world, has a great chance to make a deep run in the World Cup, and the coach, Julen Lopetegui has done by all accounts a great job, (unbeaten in their last 20 games), of getting the team ready for the tournament.

    2. As is the case with many national team coaches, Lopetegui had planned to move on from coaching the national team once the World Cup was over. For top coaches like him, coaching at one of the world's leading clubs in the Spanish League or English League represents the pinnacle of the profession, (and is the most lucrative).

    3. The Spanish League Club Real Madrid is the best club team in the world, have just completed winning the European Champions League for the third year in a row, and surprisingly found themselves in need of a new coach for next season, following the shock resignation of their coach.

    4. Combine #2 with #3 above, and we arrive at Lopetegjui agreeing to become coach of Real Madrid at the conclusion of the World Cup.

    5. See the reaction of the Royal Spanish Football Federation above upon learning this news. Essentially they said to Lopetegui, 'Thanks for the notice, but no thanks. Clean out your desk and hit the bricks.' Note, this 'Two weeks notice' is not the usual two weeks notice - it is the World Freakin' Cup, but the people calling the shots did not care. So on the eve the competition, Lopetegui is out.

    So let's spin this story back around to the real world. I don't know for sure how it will effect Spain's performance in the tournament, and you probably don't care. But we do have employees, sometimes high profile and top employees resign all the time. So when should you let the resigning employee ride our their two weeks notice gracefully, and when should you pull a Royal Spanish Football Federation move and show them the door immediately?

    I have three scenarios that line up with the Royal Spanish Football Federation position:

    1. You find out the employee is leaving to go to work with a direct competitor. Leaving Coke to work for Pepsi. Leaving Lowe's to go to the Home Depot, that kind of thing. The sooner they are out of your office, off of your email, and out of your memory the better. Kind of an easy one. Real Madrid does not compete with the Spanish national team, so this one does not really apply here.

    2. You're in an important, stressful period at your shop, and you get the sense that the lingering presence, and the impact the departing person might have on the team they are leaving behind present a risk that is not acceptable. This is the closest to a justification I can get for the Spain move. All of a sudden, all everyone wants to talk about is that the coach is leaving, and the focus on performing in the tournament becomes a risk.

    3. You know the 'two weeks notice' is more or less a paid vacation for said employee, who may have checked out long before officially checking out. If you get the sense that almost no value will be derived from having the departing employee around, you are all better off just acknowledging that and letting them go as soon as possible. Again, probably not applicable in the Lopetegui situation, but stll one scenario that is pretty common in our world.

    I am not sure how this HR move will work out for Spain, it was definitely surprising considering the timing and the importance of the World Cup. I guess we will know in a few weeks.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Jun132018

    A reminder to evaluate the work, not just the person doing the work

    Here's a super interesting story from the art world that I spotted in the New York Times and is titled The Artwork Was Rejected. Then Banksy Put His Name To It.

    The basics of the story, and they seem to be undisputed, are these:

    1. The British Royal Academy puts on an annual Summer Exhibition or Art, and anyone is allowed to submit a piece of art for consideration to be included in the exhibition.

    2. The anonymous, but incredibly famous, artist Banksy submitted a painting, but under a (different) pseudonym - 'Bryan S. Gaakman' - which is an anagram for 'Banksy anagram'.

    3. 'Gaakman's' submission was declined inclusion in the exhibit by the event's judges.

    4. One of the event's judges, contacted Banksy (how one contacts Banksy was not fully explained), to inquire if the famous artist had a submission for the exhibit. This judge did not know that 'Gaakman' was actually Banksy.

    5. Banksy submitted a very slightly altered version of the 'Gaakman' piece to the exhibit - and was accepted for the show. Basically, the same art from 'unknown artist' was declined, but for the famous Banksy it was deemed worthy.

    What can we take away from this little social experiment? Three things at least. 

     

    1. We always consider 'who' did the work along with the work itself, when assessing art, music, or even the weekly project status report. We judge, at least a little, on what this person has done, or what we think they have done, in the past.

    2. Past 'top' or high performers always get a little bit of a break and the benefit of the doubt. It happens in sports, when close calls usually go in favor of star players, and it happens at work, where the 'best' performers get a little bit more room when they turn in average, or even below average work. They have 'earned' a little more wiggle room that newer, or unproven folks. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can lead to bad decisions sometimes.

    3. What we want, as managers, is good, maybe even great 'work'. But what the organization needs is great 'performers'. Great performers don't always do great work, but over time their contributions and results add up to incredible value for the organization. So in order to ensure that the organization can turn great 'work' into great (and sustainable) long-term performance, every once in a while less than great work, turned in by a great performer, needs to get a pass. Take the long view if you know what I mean.

    That's it for me - have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Jun122018

    Balancing data and judgment in HR decision making

    A few weeks ago I did an HR Happy Hour Show with Joshua Gans, co-author of the excellent book Prediction Machines. On the show, we talked about one of the central ideas in the book - the continuing importance of human judgment in decision making, even in an environment where advances in AI technology make predictions (essentially options) more available, numerous, and inexpensive.

    I won't go back through all the reasoning behind this conclusion, I encourage you to listen to the podcast and/or read the book for that, but I did want to point out another excellent example of how this AI and prediction combined with human judgment idea plays out in human capital management planning and decisions. A recent piece in HBR titled Research: When Retail Workers Have Stable Schedules, Sales and Productivity Go Up shares some really interesting findings about a study that aimed to find out if giving retail workers more schedule certainty and clarity would impact business results, and if so, how?

    Some back story on the idea behind the study first. As demand planning and workforce scheduling software has developed over the years, and become much more sophisticated, many retailers now have the information and ability to set and adjust worker schedules much more dynamically, and almost in real time, than they had in the past. Combining sales and store traffic estimates with workforce planning and scheduling tools that are able to match staffing levels to this demand - store managers are, for the most part, able to optimize staffing, (and therefore control labor costs), much more precisely.

    But while optimizing the staffing levels in a retail store sounds like a sound business practice, and makes the owners of the store happy (typically via reduced labor costs), it also often make the staff unhappy. In a software and AI driven staffing model, workers can find their schedules uncertain, changing from week to week, and even find themselves losing expected shifts on very short notice, sometimes less than two hours.

    The data and the AI might be 'right' when they recommend a set of staff schedules based on all the available information, but, as we will see in the research referenced in the HBR piece, the data and the AI usually fail to see and understand the impact this kind of scheduling has on the actual people that have to do the actual work.

    You really should read the whole piece on HBR, but I want to share the money quote here - what the researchers found or recommended would be the best way for a retailer to incorporate these kinds of advanced AI tools to help set retail store worker schedules:

    At the start of the study, we often heard HQ fault store managers for “emotional scheduling” — a script pushed by the purveyors of scheduling software. “In measuring customer experience and making decisions related to a labor model, retailers should rely solely on facts. Too often, changes are made because of an anecdotal or emotional response from the field,” notes a best practices guide from Kronos.

    However, our experiment shows that a hybrid approach of combining algorithms with manager intuition can lead to better staffing decisions. While our experiment provided guidelines for managers, it still allowed the managers to make the final decision on how much of the interventions to implement. The increase in sales and productivity witnessed at the Gap shows that retailers stand to benefit when they allow discretion to store managers.

    What were some of the benefits of giving managers at least some discretion over scheduling, even when the AI made different recommendations?

    When managers could give more workers more 'certain' or predictable schedules, most of them benefited from ability to predict commute times, ability to schedule things like education, child care, other jobs, and enabled them to connect more deeply with customers and co-workers. In short, they were all happier, and this tended to lead to better work performance, better customer service, and in the case of the stores studied by HBR - increased revenues and profits.

    In time, maybe the AI will learn to understand this, this nuanced, subtle, but important impact that work schedules have on workers, and how that impacts business results. But until then, it seems like it's best to let the AI make recommendations on the optimal staffing decisions, and let the managers make the final call, based on what they know about their staff, their customers, and well, human nature in general.

    Have a great day!