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    Entries in career (155)

    Tuesday
    Aug082017

    The fine line between unpopular and unemployable

    Apologies for the not fully formed thoughts to follow as I am putting this down in the Delta Sky Club in MSP, (a pretty nice airport to make the East Coast - West Coast stopover in I think).

    Like you probably have as well, I spent a little time the last few days following the news about the Google employee's (now former employee's) saga from the leak and subsequent publishing of his paper? article? manifesto? regarding diversity and inclusion at Google, the subsequent internet and internal to Google reactions, the Google leadership reactions, and which has culminated, (for the time being), in said Google employees firing from the company. I am not linking to pieces about these developments, there are now 19025 pieces out there on this, and I am pretty sure you know the story as it sits.

    You might also be familiar with the ongoing saga of another famous unemployed person, aspiring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who despite seemingly possessing all the requisite experience and physical ability to be a valuable player on several NFL teams, (including my beloved New York Jets who plan on using at quarterback a couple of guys only slightly more qualified than me), remains an unsigned free agent with only about one month to go before the NFL regular season is set to begin. 

    Kaepernick, as I am pretty sure you know, made headlines last season by demonstrating, (apologies if this is not the best word), his advocacy for a number of social issues by 'taking a knee' during the playing of the national anthem prior to his NFL games last season. This form of demonstration later was joined by numerous other players in the league, expanded to some other sports, and generally created tons of news and awareness beyond the sports world. Chances are, unless you are at the stadium, you never cared about the pre-game national anthem, (in fact for 'normal' games the anthem is rarely televised), until Kaepernick began taking a knee.

    What connects these two unemployed but talented people, the former Google engineer and Kaepernick, together today seems to me to be two things. One, they are both currently out of work. And two, the primary, (arguable) reason that they are both out of work has little to do with their ability, skills, experience to do the job that they would like to do, but has more to do with things that they think and beliefs they hold that for wildly different reasons, are seen as pretty unpopular with various constituencies that are important to their professions.

    I am not going to dig in to the merits or validity or appropriateness of either person's statements and actions. As I said there are thousands of places you can get that if you care to. But what I am interested in is what these cases say or suggest about the kinds of things can can get you fired, (or keep you from getting hired). We've known for a decade or so now, since the advent of the social media age, that posting or saying terrible, racist, discriminatory, even pornographic things online can and does get people fired. 

    But both of these cases, again, this is certainly debatable, don't seem to fall into that kind of territory. At least to me, they might both be controversial, might go against the majority of thinking in their respective fields, but don't seem to, on their surface, rise to the level of 'Fire this person immediately' or 'Hire other, less qualified people instead of this person' territory. Debatable for sure, I admit. Clearly the CEO of Google and about 30 NFL owners have a different take.

    Two more quick thoughts then I have to catch a plane.

    One, the kinds of people that tend to agree with/support the Google engineer and the ones who support Kaepernick are probably, (many of them anyway), on complete opposite ideological poles on lots and lots of issues. Said differently, the kinds of views that get you run out of one employer and would be embraced at another are almost entirely situational and pretty subjective.

    And two, the line between unpopular and unemployable is thin, keeps moving all the time, and is set (usually) by folks who never, ever, ever, want to deal with this kind of stuff. Once something, anything, consumes energy and resources that are supposed to used generating revenue/income, that line moves to 'unemployable' really quickly.

    I am still thinking about this, I hope you are too. Maybe we can do a HR Happy Hour Show on this and get some feedback from listeners and readers.

    Monday
    Aug072017

    A quick reminder that your employer probably won't help you stay employable

    The belief that employees have to own their own development, career planning, and future employability, and that no employer can truly invest/care that much about its employees in the modern world to do those things is not a new one. I am pretty sure I heard it from an employer myself back in the 90s.

    But while the idea of employees being (more or less) solely responsible for ongoing development and learning, and as in the case with most jobs now, keeping up with and remaining/becoming proficient in the latest and most relevant new technologies is generally accepted these days, it isn't often that we see senior execs of big companies going on record stating this as a fact or condition of employment. No, usually C-suiters like to talk about 'people being our most important asset' and like to tout investments in employee learning and development and other ways they portend to be a 'people' organization.

    That disconnect between what leaders of large companies like to say, and the generally accepted premise that all employees, even 'permanent' employees, are just temps that get a few more benefits, was really crystallized for us all by the (kind of surprisingly), frank comments on employee development attributed to Dell and VMWare CIO Bask Iyer, in a recent interview and as reported in the Economic Times of India

    Check these comments then a quick comment of my own...

    Bask Iyer, CIO and Executive Vice-President of Dell and VMware, has sounded a warning for information technology (IT) employees: surf the oncoming technology waves all the time and upskill yourself, otherwise be prepared to leave IT. 

    "I am making sure that all my IT folks are best equipped to generate revenues rather than lay them off. People without the skill-sets to go ahead to the next level in a company will go anyway, that’s just the way it is," Iyer said in an interview to

    Iyer said the onus for upskilling lies with the employees themselves and not the organisations. "As for reskilling, no organisation provides for that because even they don’t know what to train employees on," he said. The IT employees themselves must figure out the future and upgrade their skills accordingly, Iyer said.

    Pretty frank, and seemingly honest observations from a tech leader at one of the world's most well-known tech companies. Iyer tries to couch or position his comments less as 'the organization won't make sure your skills are up to date because it is solely your responsibility as an employee to do that' and more of a 'we as an organization just can't predict what skills will be needed, and therefore are unable to train our staff to remain relevant and current.'

    But that is kind of a cop-out as well as probably not being 100% honest if you dig in a little.

    If the CIO of Dell claims that he and the rest of Dell's leadership can't predict what skills will be needed, then truly what is the reasonable expectation that the average software engineer or designer at Dell would be able to make that call him or herself?

    And wouldn't it be reasonable for that software engineer at Dell to think that the technical and business leadership at Dell (or insert any company name here), would in fact be able to have that kind of foresight and strategy, and be able to help develop workforce plans and associated technical skills and competencies needed with at least some advance warning?

    My guess is this - Dell probably has some idea of where they want to go in the next few years, but since no one can really be sure what technologies will dominate and be needed outside of a year or so, they want to hedge and offload at least some of their responsibility to their employees.

    I will wrap with this last comment. If we, all of us, are all truly temporary workers, (we are), then we need to break down lots more assumptions - legal, regulatory, social, ethical, of what it means to be an employee anywhere. I am kind of glad to see the frank comments from Iyer about employee development. He finally said what lots of us have been thinking for a long time.

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    "I think about work all the time" (and you had better too, if you want to work here)

    Super interesting and quick read from our pals at Business Insider on a method that one CEO of a small but growing media company likes to use as a screening device for job candidates.

    From BI:

    If Erika Nardini (CEO of Barstool Sports) is going to hire you, first she wants to know you're committed to your job — even on a Sunday at 11 a.m..

    "Here's something I do," she said. "If you're in the process of interviewing with us, I'll text you about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast you'll respond."

    The maximum response time she'll allow: three hours.

    "It's not that I'm going to bug you all weekend if you work for me," she said, "but I want you to be responsive. I think about work all the time. Other people don't have to be working all the time, but I want people who are also always thinking."

    if there ever was a clearer sign that the culture (and expectation) of Barstool Sports employees is one of "always on", I can't think of it.

    But while some folks who read this might cringe a little bit at the notion of a CEO of a company 'testing' job candidates with a Sunday morning text, I'd counter that the approach is at least honest, and pretty revealing. Better to find out before you take the job that you (almost certainly) will be expected to be responsive, if not actually available, pretty much whenever the CEO, (who is thinking about work all the time), deems it necessary to contact you.

    Either that kind of an expectation works for you or it doesn't. For the folks that are that excited and passionate about the company mission to the point where 24/7 responsiveness does not seem unreasonable, then this little text test probably does a decent job of screening candidates.

    Better to know in advance, as I said, and better to know when to run for the hills before you decide to take a job working for a CEO who clearly doesn't really care about you when you are not actually working. And that's the trick of her little test.

    She doesn't have to care about you when you're not working, because you should be working, (or at least thinking about work), all the time.

    Happy Tuesday.

    Friday
    Jul072017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 288 - Workplace Movie Hall of Fame: Mr. Mom

    HR Happy Hour 288 - Workplace Movie Hall of Fame - Mr. Mom

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Listen to the shoe HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish debut a new series on the show: The Workplace Movie Hall of Fame and in the first installment, break down the 1983 classic Mr. Mom

    Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton, Teri Garr, and Martin Mull, made about $100M combined in Box Office sales and rentals. It came in as the 8th best grossing movie of 1983.  The plot, about a man laid off from his job as an engineer at an auto plant, who then switches roles with his wife as she returns to the workforce and he becomes a stay-at-home dad - a job he has no clue how to do, is fill of HR, work, and workplace themes.

    From the changing gender roles of men and women, to sexual harassment in the workplace, to how these may or may not have changed in the 35 years since Mr. Mom was released, this movie raises some serious and important issues that are still relevant for HR and business leaders today.

    Steve and Trish break down these themes, talk about how they relate to today's workplace, and the challenge and opportunity for HR leaders to use these ideas and societal changes to lead positive changes in their organizations.

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

    This show was really fun for us to do and we hope you enjoy it! Please tweet @HRHappyHour for any suggestions for future movies to include in the Workplace Hall of Fame series.

    Remember to subscribe to HR Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    Tuesday
    Jun202017

    Life at 2.0x Speed

    I was talking to some folks I met recently at an event about the HR Happy Hour Show, and the cool things that are happening there with the other HR Happy Hour Network Shows, (I admit to talking about this a lot. I'm sorry). During the conversation, one of the persons at the table indicated that she would love to listen to more podcasts, but she (like many of us, I suppose), felt like she just didn't have enough time in her day/week to fit them in. With work, family, friends, community involvement, etc, spending a couple of hours a week listening to all the great podcasts that people tell her about just seems not doable for her right now.

    At that point another person who was sort of half-participating in the conversation chimed in that he had the same challenge finding time for podcasts too, but he's 'solved' it by now listening to his favorite podcasts at 1.5x or sometimes even 2.0x speed. For those who don't listen to podcasts regularly, or who just may not be familiar with the speed adjustment feature of podcast apps, all of them allow you to increase the speed of the podcast stream to 1.5x or even 2.0x the normal speaking rate. So at 1.5x speed, a 30 minute podcast could be listened to in 20 minutes. At 2.0x you could cover it in 15. It just speeds up everything you hear. It is kind of like the old speed reading craze, except with audio.

    But, and this could be just a personal issue for me, listening at 1.5x or 2.0x speed is really unsettling. The podcast hosts and guests all seem really amped up on six cups of coffee, everything about the conversation feels nervous, and listening to people talk that fast for that long, never taking what would seem to be natural pauses or breaths is just really off-putting. But technically you can listen that fast if you, as our friend above, are so pressed for time that turning 30 minutes into 20 is important in your day/life. But I still think you shouldn't do it. It's too weird.

    Why do I care about this enough to blog about it?

    I probably shouldn't care, but I have thought about that conversation and mister 'I listen at 2.0x' guy a few times since it happened a couple of weeks ago. And I kind of felt bad, (and a little guilty too).

    Bad for a guy who is just a representative of our hyper-focused, productivity over all, 24/7, 'more-more-more', professional climate that seems to value doing as much productive work as possible at all times. And in this instance, turning the concept of time itself into something that can be bent to the gods of productivity.

    And guilty for the fact that I don't speed up the listen rate when I play back podcasts, I do, often, find myself trying to make people get to the point faster, cut to the chase in emails, and text me instead of calling me - lest an interaction that can be reduced to 16 seconds actually take 3 minutes.

    I don't speed up my podcasts, but too often I (try) and speed up lots of other things. And that is probably as unsettling as listening to sportswriters talk about the NBA draft at double speed.

    NOTE: I spent 28 minutes writing this post. With any luck, next time I can get it down to 21.