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    Entries in career (158)

    Friday
    Dec012017

    Steve's Holiday Gift Recommendation #3 - Sprinkles are for Winners

    Almost two years back I riffed on the Progressive Insurance ad titled 'Sprinkles are for winners'. To save you some time and a click, I really liked (and still do) the spot.

    Competition is hard. Trying is good. But there are winners and there are not-winners (losers), and in most forms of endeavor, the winners get the spoils and the sprinkles.

    Here's the original Progressive adin case you need a reminder. Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through.

    Pretty cool.

    My affinity for the message and the ad is what brings you this weeks Holiday Gift Recommendation - a simple gray 'Sprinkles are for Winners' shirt courtesy of One 10 Threads.

    Simple classic style, to the point, and available in men's, women's, and even tank styles, you will be the favorite uncle/aunt/brother/sister/cousin if you drop one of these beauties on someone who is on your holiday list.

    I dig this shirt. You may see me in this soon.

    Reminder - I have no affiliation and receive no compensation if you purchase any of the gift recommendation items.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Nov302017

    It doesn't matter if the robots aren't coming for your job, they are coming for your neighbor's job

    After reading a flurry of pieces over the last few days about the progress being made in self-driving vehicle technology, I was reminded that one job category that seems likely to be highly pressured by this type of automation is commercial vehicle driving. You don't have to be a genius to realize that once Tesla (and others), get enough of their new commercial trucks into service, that Generation 2.0 of these trucks will attempt to not just eliminate diesel fuel and noxious emissions from their products - they will try to eliminate the driver too.

    And you probably caught something about Amazon's newest experiments with retail stores that have no cashiers. Or maybe you have heard about fast food giants like McDonald's or Panera pushing more self-service kiosks into their locations, to reduce the need for human cashiers and order-takers. Or the hotels that are using mobile robots to deliver room service meals to their guests. And the list goes on and on.

    And maybe after reading all these stories you say to yourself: "Self, these technology advancements are amazing. But good thing I am a (insert the white collar 'knowledge' job you have here) and not a truck driver or a cashier.' 

    And whether or not the robots are coming sooner or later for whatever 'knowledge' job you have today is probably debatable, let's pretend for the moment in the words of Big Brother, (yes, I am fan), - 'Knowledge worker X, you are safe'. Phew. That is a relief.

    But here is the thing, the kinds of jobs that are most vulnerable, most likely to be adversely impacted by automation are ones that are held by millions of people. Have a look at the chart below, from BLS data from May 2016.

     

    Look closely at that list of the Top 10 'most-held' job categories in the US and think about which of them, (Clue: It is almost all of them), are going to be increasingly pressured by technology, automation, and 'self-service'.

    There are about 150M people in the US labor force give or take. The Top 10 job categories in the above chart represent about 21 or 22 million workers - roughly 15% of all US workers. That is a huge number, especially considering that half a percent or a full percent moves in the unemployment rates are such big news.

    The potential and the consequences of labor automation are concerns for everyone - whether or not your job is 'safe'.

    And one last bit of food for thought. This issue, this challenge of automation and technology threatening jobs is also going to be a local one. Check out this chart below that shows the largest private employer for each state in the US. See any cause for concern?

    When Walmart decides to move more aggressively into online, self-service, robot customer service pods, and Amazon-like efficiency in their distribution centers there will be an impact too.

    But that's ok. You don't work at Walmart.

    But I bet you know someone who does.

    Friday
    Oct272017

    What do you think you know about job hopping?

    Probably my favorite movie of the last few years is The Big Short, the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book detailing the run-up to the financial crisis/meltdown in 2007 - 2008.

    If you have not seen it, take some time this weekend and do so, you will be glad you did.

    But why I bring it up is that the movie opens with an on screen quotation, which is attributed to Mark Twain and that reads as follows:

    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    If you know the story of The Big Short you'll know why the Twain aphorism resonates. Again, take some time this weekend and catch the film if you haven't.

    But back to the point, or, rather, here's the point I want to make and why I thought of that quote this week.

    What do you think you know about job hopping? Meaning, do you think, as I suspect most of us do, that younger generations of workers, (younger Gen X, Millennials, etc.), are more likely to 'job hop', i.e., have shorter average tenures in their jobs than prior generations?

    I mean, that seems to be the convential wisdom, that the Millennials in particular have shorter job tenures, are much more likely than us older types were to leave a job that either is not working out for them, or for what they perceive is a better opportunity, and overall are less attached to workplaces and employers than we were in the past.

    Do you think that is more or less true?

    I admit, I did, (without ever looking it up), until I caught this piece in the Economist recently, Workers are not switching jobs more often. Here is a quick chart and excerpt from the piece:

    EVERYBODY knows—or at least thinks he knows—that a millennial with one job must be after a new one. Today’s youngsters are thought to have little loyalty towards their employers and to be prone to “job-hop”. Millennials (ie, those born after about 1982) are indeed more likely to switch jobs than their older colleagues. But that is more a result of how old they are than of the era they were born in. In America at least, average job tenures have barely changed in recent decades.

    Data from America’s Bureau of Labour Statistics show workers aged 25 and over now spend a median of 5.1 years with their employers, slightly more than in 1983 (see chart). Job tenure has declined for the lower end of that age group, but only slightly. Men between the ages of 25 and 34 now spend a median of 2.9 years with each employer, down from 3.2 years in 1983.

    And here is a quick chart showing tenure not really moving, at least at younger cohorts, over time.

    So yes, Milennials switch jobs more frequently than older workers. Younger workers have always switched jobs more frequently than older workers. The data shows that the phenomenon hasn't really changed much over the last 30 years.

    What's really striking from the chart is not just that the 25 - 34 age cohorts is basically exhibiting the same characteristics with respect to changing jobs than they did 20 or 30 years ago, but that the largest and steepest declines in job tenures are seen in the Men aged 45 - 54 group. That group's average job tenure has declined from 12.8 years in 1983 to 8.4 years by 2016.

    There are tons of possibly reasons for this, primarily how the events so well portrayed in The Big Short put so many of this group into unforeseen unemployment, as well as how technology, automation, and outsourcing have seem to affected this group more significantly than other labor cohorts.

    But that is a post for another day.

    The main reason this one stood out for me is that the data shows pretty clearly that what we think we know for sure, that Milennials are job hopping, low attention span miscreants, probably really isn't true.

    What else about work, and careers, and employees do we know for sure that might be, in the words of Twain, 'Just not so?'

    Have a great weekend!

    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!