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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (93)

    Friday
    Jan232015

    Manager Tracking

    In case you missed it, we had a really fun, interesting, and dare I say engaging conversation last night on the very special 200th Episode of the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast. You can catch the replay of the show here, or download to iTunes or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    The show, titled 'The Final Conversation on Employee Engagement?', had many highlights, (and was lots of fun too), but for me probably the one nugget that resonated the most was when Mike VanDervort shared how at a former employer, a large retail organization, HR and leadership realized that understanding how managers physically walked around the stores, in what speed and direction, and with whom they talked with and for how long, was a key to better understanding employee engagement. I don't want to put words into Mike's mouth, check out the replay of the show to hear his full comments, but to me this kind of insight while obvious on one level (management by walking around has been a thing for ages), is probably more valuable now than before due to the tremendous advance in wearable technologies, GPS-like tracking (even indoors), and our better ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data.

    Check out the pic below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through if the image does not render), it is an example of advanced visualization data on player movement from an NBA game. 

    The visualization above, of the movements of the 10 players on the court, the ball, and relative to the 24-second shot clock, provides both coaches and the players themselves insights into their performance on this play, and can help them make adjustments for future games, understand how player movements are coordinated with each other, understand where and how the movement of the ball impacts player positioning, and finally, use a data-driven approach to evaluating individual performance. This kind of deep dive into player movement is made possible by advanced video capture technology installed in NBA arenas, and powerful new software tools that can make sense of and display the massive data sets, in almost real-time.

    Let's jump back to the retail store manager example then. Just as the NBA is embracing advanced tech that captures player movements in order to make better decisions and improve team and player performance, Mike's example of the store manager incorporates those same concepts. If store leadership had a better understanding of how the best store managers actually, physically moved around the store, and where and how they chose their interactions, who they collaborated with, (the retail store version of sharing the ball in the NBA), they might be able to copy, or at least take the repeatable and transferable elements of successful manager interaction and movements to other, less successful stores and managers. With modern wearable technologies to track movements, record interactions, and supplemented by internal GPS or iBeacon tech, there is almost no reason why a large retail operation could not develop 'manager movement' maps similar to the one you see above from the NBA game. 

    Sure, the 'manager' map would move a little slower, and may not be as compelling a view, but the insights it could give to improve manager performance, (and then increase employee engagement, which is the context we were discussing on the Happy Hour Show), is I think quite attainable. 

    Already retail operations are experimenting with tracking technologies that locate, identify, and then target shoppers with custom ads and offers based on where they are in the store, their past shopping history, and what the retailer thinks will help convert a sale. I can definitely see a time when similar technology is brought to the HR technology stack, and instead of pinging a customer to a sale in Aisle 7, that due to some signals about low stock on the shelves in a certain department, it will then alert a front-line manager to spend some additional time with the employees on the receiving dock.

    It's cool, it is powerful, and I think it is coming...

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Jan152015

    Culture Change or the Gig Economy: You probably can choose only one

    Warning in advance, this post is (sort of) about basketball, but hopefully will resonate beyond the hardwood and make some sense to HR/Talent pros in this increasingly complicated modern age. First a quick take from the NBA, and how perhaps it might hold some insights that apply in the real world.

    Exhibit A : Your 2014 - 2015 New York Knicks, current possessors of the NBA's poorest Won-Loss record at 5 - 35, at the time of this writing riding a franchise-record 15 game losing streak, with their two best players currently injured, and recently having traded another two of their more useful players for essentially nothing in return, (the players they received in the trade were immediately released).

    The Knicks are a joke, a running tour of poor performances, uninspiring effort, and predictable results. Even for me, a life-long fan, they are almost impossible to watch. 

    But let's get to the HR/Talent/Workplace angle of this. Prior to the season the Knicks hired a new head coach, Derek Fisher who had extensive playing experience (and has played on a few championship teams), but no coaching experience. Basically he is a first-time coach. And more importantly, the Knicks threw a ton of money and power to lure legendary coach Phil Jackson, winner of 11 titles with the Bulls and Lakers, to run the entire basketball operation. In corporate terms, the Knicks basically brought in a new CEO and a new COO with the marching orders to turn the franchise into a winner and to make the changes need that will lead to winning - many of these changes centered around instilling a 'winning' culture.

    But in the NBA, and in your company, even C-level mandated change, and in particular with attempts to change something as nebulous and imprecise as workplace culture the task is never going to be easy. And often in both sports teams and 'normal' businesses, culture change is completely about the people that make up the organization, their willingness to make and embrace changes, their commitment to these changes longer term, and finally the ability and flexibility of management to add/move/replace talent as needed to better align the workforce to this new culture-driven change program.

    Now since the NBA has some specific and unique rules and constraints (salary caps, rules about trading players, deadlines for trading players, etc.) that to some extent limits the flexibility of team executives to simply 'rip and replace' the roster with new players if the current ones are adjudged not good enough or (beg forgiveness) not a 'cultural fit'. And I bet even if your organization is not subject to many, (or any), of these kinds of constraints, it still isn't easy or even advised for you to begin a widespread house cleaning of employees to try to quickly raise the talent level and try for better cultural alignment. I mean, after you fire everyone, who exactly is going to do the work while you scour LinkedIn for replacements?

    So NBA teams and normal businesses too that are driving massive change programs, at least in the short term, are going to have to try and effect change by, on, and with many of the existing workforce. And in the 2014 - 2015 Knicks, one specific attribute of their workforce/roster has made driving this kind of major cultural change, (and the actual on-court tactical changes that accompany it), exceedingly difficult. 

    At the start of the 2014 - 2015 season, 11 of the 15 Knicks roster players were on the final year of their playing contracts, the sports world's version of being a lame duck. These 11 were not all at the same stage of their careers, some were young, untested players trying to cement a place in the NBA, some were older veterans trying to hang on to their lucrative playing careers, and some were mid-career players that likely were not going to be a part of the Knicks plans beyond this season. In short, 11 of the 15 workers had no guarantee or assurances their services would be wanted by the Knicks past this season - a season where the team executives were also trying to push major strategic and cultural changes on the team.

    Basically, the Knicks started 2014 - 2015 trying to drive a massive change program with the vast majority of their front-line workers, (the players), not at all bought in to this long-term program, as these 11 were (and are) essentially short-term, contract, 'gig economy' type workers. They, naturally, have to worry about their next contracts, and will be incented to do the things they think they need to do to obtain those contracts. 

    And many of these kinds of behaviors (scoring more, getting court time, developing more personal skills), have not be aligned or compatible with the Knicks executives ideas about how they team should play. Jackson and Fisher want the team to play in a style that will (and has) precluded most of these players from generating the kinds of outcomes they think they need to further their careers.

    And therein lies the problem.

    The Knicks, (and this could be any business), are trying to drive a massive cultural and strategic change program with a majority workforce working as short-term contingent employees that have to think about their personal agendas and futures. 

    The Knicks leaders have expected (and have been surprised by the fact that it has not really worked), that these short-term, 'gig' workers would fully and happily embrace change when the workers had no assurances at all even if they did embrace the changes that one, they would not be shown the door at the end of the season anyway; and two, that embracing these changes would not hinder their opportunities to find new contracts with other teams when/if the Knicks let them go.

    You can't change the culture by relying on a bunch of short-timers to execute that change. It doesn't work in basketball and it probably won't work anywhere. 

    There are lots of benefits to organizations to increase their reliance on short-term contractors, contingent workers, outsourced services, etc. Less cost, more flexibility, easier admin, etc.  But running the organization as a loose confederacy of 'gig' economy workers has some negatives too.

    Chief among them, you can't expect these gig workers to care too much about your culture, and your desire to change that culture. Culture change requires commitment, from both employees and employers.

    Happy Thursday.

    Thursday
    Jan082015

    More reasons to wear the same thing to work every day

    Lots of folks spend 10 or 15 or maybe even 30 minutes each morning staring at the closet trying to figure out what outfit to wear to work that day.

    Recently hired University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh is not one of those people. He is rarely seen not wearing his 'signature' Walmart Khakis and black long sleeve shirt.

    Why? 

    As Harbaugh puts it, "It's gotten to the point where I save so much time a day knowing that I don't have to stand in front of the closet, trying to decide what outfit to pick out. About 15 - 20 minutes a day. That adds up, day after day."

    Harbaugh isn't the only successful, famous person who adopted this 'wear the same thing every day' philosophy. So did Steve Jobs. So does President Obama (for the most part).

    Wearing the same thing every day does save time, and it may even be kind of liberating. But most of us don't even consider it. I wonder why.

    A few months ago I posted about this idea over on Fistful of Talent, and since the Harbaugh story put the issue on my mind again, I am going to run that FOT post below, because I still think it is interesting, and I am kind of too busy today to come up with anything better. <FOT Post below>

    ---------------------------------------

    The Corporate Uniform… Or, Are you Brave Enough to Wear the Same Thing Everyday?

    Steve Jobs.

    Mark Zuckerberg.

    President Obama.

    Karl Stefanovic. (Okay, I bet you have no idea who this guy is… hang in there, we will come back to him).

    What are these four gentlemen all famous for? Check that—a better question is this: What do these four gentlemen all have in common?

    Besides being extremely successful in their chosen fields of endeavor (even Karl—I will explain), they all at one time or another adopted a personal uniform, i.e., they essentially elected to wear (more or less) the same basic clothes every single day.

    Jobs, of course, became renowned for his black turtlenecks and blue jeans. Zuck, for his seemingly endless supply of gray t-shirts and hoodies. President Obama wears only gray or dark blue suits.

    And our man Karl, who, in case you are not familiar is an Australian morning TV host, has worn the same blue suit on the air every day for a YEAR.

    The reason that the first three men in this list elected to adopt their signature style are remarkably similar. Each man felt like they had much more important things to worry about than fashion or even simply choosing what to wear each day. So by adopting a “uniform” of sorts, they effectively eliminated one set of decisions from their daily routine.

    And there is at least some science that suggests that reducing the sheer number of decisions that one has to make can help to avoid something known as ‘decision fatigue’, a situation where the quality of decisions deteriorates after a long or prolonged period of decision making. When decision fatigue sets in, it can be hard to make appropriate trade-offs and can lead to decision avoidance and irrational—even careless—choices.

    But let’s get back to Karl Stefanovic, the person on this list you are likely least familiar with. Karl, in an experiment of sorts and influenced by his observations that there exists a double standard in TV and entertainment between how men and women’s appearance are judged, decided to wear, on air, the same blue suit every day for a year.

    Karl’s theory was that he could easily get away with wearing the same “uniform” everyday on TV, but his partner, a woman, would be excoriated by the public (and probably by management) for attempting the same stunt. And while we don’t know for sure what would actually have happened if his co-host Lisa Wilkinson tried the same move, we do know the result of Karl’s “wear the same suit on TV every day for a year” experiment.

    The result?

    No one noticed.

    Not a single viewer complained. No letters or emails or tweets about the suit. Management did not issue a correction or reprimand.

    No one cared.

    Karl was, in his words, not being judged on what he wore or how he looked, but rather on “my interviews, my appalling sense of humour—on how I do my job, basically.”

    But if co-host Lisa (or any high-profile female personality or executive) tried the same stunt, can we honestly say that the reaction would be the same?

    If Ginny Rometty or Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer wore the same clothes every day (like Jobs and Zuck and Obama), would we EVER stop talking about what they are wearing and focus on their performance?

    Probably not. Men get judged (primarily) by what they do. Women, especially in visible, important positions, never seem to be able to shake the criticism and commentary about things like clothes and hairstyles.

    The truth is that it hardly matters at all what people wear or what they look like. What matters is what they do.

    For Jobs and Zuck, we don’t give that conclusion a second thought.

    Why can’t we say the same thing for the rest of us?

    Monday
    Dec292014

    REPRISE: The Analytics Takeover Won't Always Be Pretty

    Note: The blog is taking some well-deserved rest for the next few days (that is code for I am pretty much out of decent ideas, and I doubt most folks are spending their holidays reading blogs anyway), and will be re-running some of best, or at least most interesting posts from 2014. Maybe you missed these the first time around or maybe you didn't really miss them, but either way they are presented for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2014!

    The below post first ran back in March and is a good example of a combination of themes that I love writing about on the blog: NBA basketball and talent management. In this piece I took a look at the trend developing in the modern NBA, where business and tech savvy (and new) team owners are valuing data and analytics skills and experience more than decades of actual basketball experience when making executive hires. As you would expect this change in hiring philosophy will have pretty significant implications for talent, and might just be indicative of bigger talent management challenges. 

    Happy Sunday!

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Analytics Takeover Won't Always Be Pretty

    Seems like it has been some time since I dropped a solid 8 Man Rotation contribution here on the blog, so to remedy that, please first take a look at this recent piece on ESPN.com, 'Fears that stats trump hoops acumen', a look at the tensions that are building inside NBA front offices and among team executives.

    In case you didn't click over and read the piece, the gist is this: With the increased importance and weight that a new generation of NBA team owners are placing on data-driven decision making and analytical skills, that the traditional people that have been the talent pool for NBA team management and executive roles, (former NBA players), are under threat from a new kind of candidate - ones that have deep math, statistics, and data backgrounds and, importantly, not careers as actual basketball players.

    Check this excerpt from the ESPN piece to get a feel for how this change in talent management and sourcing strategies is being interpreted by long time (and anonymously quoted) NBA executives:

    Basketball guys who participated in the game through years of rigorous training and practice, decades of observation work through film and field participation work feel under-utilized and under-appreciated and are quite insulted because their PhDs in basketball have been downgraded," the former executive, who chose to remain anonymous, told ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard.

    One longtime executive, who also chose to remain anonymous, postulated that one reason why so many jobs are going to people with greater analytical backgrounds is because newer and younger owners may better identify with them.

    "Generally speaking, neither the [newer generation of] owners nor the analytic guys have basketball in their background," the longtime executive told Broussard. "This fact makes it easy for both parties to dismiss the importance of having experience in and knowledge of the game.

    The piece goes on to say that since many newer NBA owners have business and financial industry backgrounds, (and didn't inherit their teams as part of the 'family business'), that they would naturally look for their team executives to share the kinds of educational and work experience profiles of the business executives with which they are accustomed to working with, and have been successful with.

    The former players, typically, do not have these kinds of skills, they have spent just about all their adult lives (and most of their childhoods), actually playing basketball. A set of experiences, it is turning out, no longer seems to provide the best training or preparation for running or managing a basketball team. 

    But the more interesting point from all this, and the one that might have resonance beyond basketball, is the idea that the change in hiring philosophy is coming right from the top - from a new generation of team owners that have a different set of criteria upon which they are assessing and evaluating talent.

    Left to tradition, hiring and promotion decisions would have probably only slowly begun to modernize. But a new generation of owners/leaders in the NBA are changing the talent profile for the next generation of leaders.

    The same thing is likely to play out in your organization. Eventually, if it has not happened yet, you are going to go to a meeting with your new CHRO who didn't rise through the HR ranks and maybe is coming into the role from finance, operations, or manufacturing. In that meeting your 19 years of experience in employee relations might be a great asset to brag on. Or it might not be.

    And you might find out only when you are introduced to your new boss, who has spent her last 5 years crunching numbers and developing stats models.

    Wednesday
    Dec102014

    Prepare to be disappointed

    The full title of this post really should be 'Prepare to be disappointed: The 2014-2015 New York Knicks', but I wanted to at least try not to scare away any potential readers, particularly ones that get tired of the 8 Man Rotation 'Sports and HR' posts.

    I promise this post isn't really about the Knicks or sports, not completely anyway.

    The backstory:

    I arrived back home at HR Happy Hour HQ at about 7:55PM ET last night and realized that it was about 5 minutes before the tip off time for the Knicks, (my favorite NBA team since forever, my favorite holiday picture from my childhood features a 5 or 6 year old me sporting New York Knicks pajamas that Santa had bestowed), who were matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans, (not a very good team, but better than the Knicks, much like just about every other team so far this year is better than the Knicks). 

    As I quickly gathered up some snacks and a needed beverage, scurrying to be in my favored easy chair for the start of the game the thought that popped into my mind was that all I was really doing was preparing to be disappointed - the Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league and have lost a number of close games recently, the kinds of losses that really sting for longtime fans (and I suppose the players too). Heading into last night's game, there was no logical reason to expect the Knicks would be able to defeat the Pelicans, I didn't think they had much of a chance anyway, so all I was doing by planning my evening, (partially), around watching the game was really just preparing to be disappointed by the eventual Knicks loss.

    OK, that was a lot of nonsense about basketball to get me to the point, so here goes.

    I have ceased letting Knicks loss after loss bother me. Sure, I would rather they were better, I would enjoy more frequent wins. But I get that this is not going to be a very good year for them. And so as a hedge against the Knicks stumbling and bumbling, I have adopted the much better (and much more fun to watch), Atlanta Hawks as my proxy team for the season. 

    The Hawks have a solid winning record so far this season, play an upbeat and entertaining style of basketball, and, importantly, have never been a significant or hated rival to my Knicks. They have always just been another team in the league, so supporting them is not really traitorous to my team, but rather serves as a way for me to keep invested in something I enjoy, (NBA basketball), while not allowing the terrible Knicks team to ruin the overall experience of the sport.

    So now the point (no one has kept reading until this point I am thinking).

    The Knicks, and there relentless way of disappointing me and their other fans probably represent a lot of our real lives too. Jobs that we really can't stand. Managers that are always on our cases. Co-workers that let us down, (at best), or stab us in the back (more likely). Significant others that just seem to do the same annoying things over and over again. And if you have kids, well, I don't need to delineate all the ways they manage to exasperate, frustrate, and yes, even disappoint us. 

    How do we deal with all that, with all that disappointment?

    I think we have to find the version of the Atlanta Hawks in all these varying situations.

    The part, even if it small or insignificant, that is pretty reliably positive. The element that we can latch on to in a bad situation and take something positive from. 

    There is something about your crappy job that has value. Your slacker boyfriend probably takes good care of your cat. There is likely at least one person amongst the clowns you work with from which you can learn something.

    This isn't about seeing the bright side in a given, bad situation, it is about seeing a different side.

    I am stuck supporting the terrible Knicks because they are my team. But I can still take enjoyment from the Hawks, (up until they play the Knicks), without being a traitor.

    And you can find something to love about your job while not betraying your very real hatred for it.

    Ok, that is it, I am out.

    Note: It is halftime of the Knicks-Pelicans game. The Knicks are only down by 2. Maybe I won't be disappointed after all.