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    Entries in career (166)

    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!

    Tuesday
    May222018

    Learn a new word: Introvert Hangover

    I've had two solid weeks of business travel, events, a ton of meetings, interviews, podcasts, some personal travel and more and by the end of that run, last Friday or so, I was feeling really burned out. Not exactly 'tired' even though I was definitely tired, but more like I just needed a break from people - interacting with them, being in a crowd, making small talk at dinner, even dealing with the hundreds of emails that have piled up, a fair number of text messages and looking a backlog of Twitter mentions and messages. I just needed some time to step back from what seemed to be just a relentless, suffocating sense or feeling that 'someone wants your attention' that has not let up in some time.

    And while I have, from time to time, had a similar feeling after a spate of travel, events, and meetings, I had never known that for folks like me this feeling of being burned out and needing a break from people, from social settings, even from electronic communications actually has been given a term - an Introvert Hangover.

    From a piece over the weekend on Business Insider explaining the phenomenon:

    If you identify as more of an introvert than an extrovert, you'll know that means you are more energised by spending time on your own, or in very small intimate groups of people you trust. It doesn't mean you are a hermit or dislike social situations — you just often need time to recharge alone after them.

    This time to regroup is sometimes called an "introvert hangover" because after a lot of social stimulation, whether that's in a small group or a noisy overstimulated context, an introvert's nervous system gets overwhelmed.

    Essentially, an introvert brain functions differently than an extrovert brain. An extrovert has a very high threshold for dopamine, so they require constant stimulation. An introvert has a very low threshold, so they reach their limit much sooner.

    Also, while an extrovert can approach an event objectively, an introvert has a lot more going on internally. For example, they notice all sorts of details, are self-conscious about themselves and the mistakes they are making, and draw a lot from their long-term memory bank when speaking. All of this is emotionally exhausting, so it's no surprise they need to take some time to regroup afterwards.

    But an introvert hangover isn't exactly a bad thing. For most, it means curling up with a book or a film, or doing a relaxing hobby like drawing

    I know that this idea, this concept of an Introvert Hangover could sound kind of silly to some folks, I would argue that those folks are either extroverts, or are introverts that have managed to architect their lives so that they don't often run into extended periods of over stimulation, or near constant contact with other people and social settings. After thinking about how I felt this past weekend, and other times in the past where I have had long runs of 'public' activities, I kind of think this Hangover idea is a real thing. It's definitely not the same as being just tired. It's more, 'I need some time to take care of my own stuff, I need to not have to talk to anyone for a little bit, and I need to re-charge, not just physically, but emotionally too.'

    Why bring this up?

    Well, besides being a really apt and accurate description of what i was going through, it also serves as a great reminder to be aware and empathetic of other people at work, in our personal lives, even family members that also need a 'break' from people from time to time.

    It doesn't make them bad people, it doesn't even make them anti-social or unfriendly, it doesn't mean they don't care - it just means that for their own mental health they need to step back from time to time.

    So if you have one of these people in your life, try to understand that sometimes an unreturned text message or an email or phone call that isn't responded to right away isn't some kind of personal insult. It could be that they just need a little time-out, a little re-set, and the chance to get prepared to get back out there again.

    That's it - have a great day!

    Friday
    Apr272018

    In praise of the ordinary job ad

    We are probably all a little tired of or at least raise a cynical eyebrow when we see yet another job posting advertising an amazing work culture, fast-paced environment, incredible colleagues, and off the charts compensation and perks. We all know that every job ad is a kind of marketing message, so a little bit of hype and exaggeration is kind of a given and kind of expected and accepted. But at the same time most all of us with even just a little bit of work experience know that not every workplace can be a Top/Great/Awesome/Admired place to work, not every job is actually a great opportunity, and not every workplace is blessed with a great, supportive culture.

    Sometimes a job is just a job. And there is nothing wrong with that. Beats watching Cable news all day.

    And in the spirit of the acknowledgement that sometimes a job is just a job, even one that seems as cool an opportunity as being a teacher in a university, I want to share this story, seen on the excellent Sixth Tone site, of how one average university in China has decided to advertise on very average job opportunity.

    From the piece on Sixth Tone:

    A recruitment notice from a university in southwestern China impressed readers with its bluntness on Tuesday, and has been shared on social media as “the most honest job ad.”

    The ad from Xingyi Normal University for Nationalities in Guizhou province seeks teaching staff who hold doctoral degrees in languages and linguistics. It begins by introducing the college as a “very, very ordinary” institution that is not part of any prestigious national tertiary education leagues and describes the salary and conditions as simply “standard.”

    The perk, however, is that the role is fairly undemanding. “There’s not too much pressure and no research obligations; it’s entirely up to you whether you want to apply for projects or publish articles — if you just want to teach classes, that’s fine,” the advertisement says, adding: “The students here are comparatively unsophisticated … don’t teach anything too esoteric that they might not be able to absorb.” The post also includes some attractive features about the city of Xinyi — such as the low price of beef - 35 yuan a pound cheaper than in other cities.

    I have to admit I love this ad for its bluntness and self-awareness.

    An 'ordinary' institution offering a 'standard' job with 'average' compensation, but having the benefit of being 'undemanding' and serving 'unsophisticated' customers/students.

    While on the one hand you would think a job ad of this type would only attract 'B' or 'C' type candidates, (and you could also argue that any 'A' player or top talent would not be happy in a role like this), the University has actually reported that the responses so far to this honest, ordinary ad have been really positive.

    According to reports, the Dean of the University had received many inquiries, including ones from graduates of some of China's top schools.

    So maybe this honest job ad, seeking candidates for an average job at a standard rate of pay where the successful candidate won't have to work too hard might just achieve for the University just exactly what any job ad is meant to do. Attract not necessarily the 'best' candidates, but rather the 'right' ones.

    Do your job ads manage to accomplish that?

    Have a great weekend! 

    Wednesday
    Apr182018

    Job Titles of the Future: Technology Ambassador

    Traditionally the institutions that have wielded power and influence and have amassed significant wealth and made an impact on people's lives were governments, (and to some extent religions). When a country's government enacts a policy or issues some new set of rules and regulations, this tends to have an outsize impact and effect on the people of that country, and if the country is big and influential enough, can even impact people all over the world. Just one recent example - the US/China trade and tariff disputes have sent global equity markets on a kind of wild, roller coaster ride lately - effecting markets and wealth of people all over the world.

    To a less direct, but by no means insignificant degree, changes in direction or policy from important religious organizations can effect people all over the world. The major world religions are not confined within one country or even two or three - they have followers all across the globe. If tomorrow the Pope issued a decree that, say, women are not allowed to become priests, that news would stir congregations in two hundred countries.

    But increasingly there is another set of globe spanning institutions that have perhaps even more worldwide influence and importance in people's lives and in commerce than say do most individual countries or single religions - the world's largest technology companies. Think Facebook with its 2 billion users. Google with its incredible reach and dominance in web search and mobile phone operating systems. Amazon with its seemingly inexorable march to dominate e-commerce and cloud computing. Apple, with more cash on hand than many small countries. And we haven't even mentioned the Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. In China, Tencent's WeChat impacts everything - news, communication, shopping, banking, and more.

    The world's largest tech companies are in some ways like countries or religions themselves. Their users are like citizens, their terms of service, methods of interaction, rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and unique cultures and sub-cultures offer similarities to the framework of large, religous organizations. Their influence on global economics and societies cannot be underestimated. Just like global trade disputes have roiled financial markets in recent days, so has the Facebook data security drama and fallout. At this stage, who would argue that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg isn't one of the world's most important people?

    So all that leads back to the title of the piece, the latest installment of the often imitated, but never surpassed 'Job Titles of the Future' series. The job title is Technology Ambassador and the details of this job come to us from the country of Denmark, who, as far as I can tell, are the first and only nation to create and name an official 'Technology Ambassador' for the country. 

    What does a Technology Ambassador do? Some details from a piece on Wired UK:

    Ambassadors are traditionally staid public officials, holed up in grand embassies in the farthest-flung corners of the world. Their job? Schmoozing the powerful, smoothing over tricky arguments and promoting their country. "Diplomacy has always been about putting people in outposts where there have been new activities and events - be it in conflict areas, or where innovation, creativity and new technology is influencing our ways of life," explains Casper Klynge, who has just taken up the role as the first ever ambassador to Silicon Valley.

    The job came about when Denmark's Foreign Office decided to create the post of what was then called a "Google ambassador", who would interact with the tech giants. The role was officially created in February; Klynge was appointed a few months later. In late August, he moved to California and into his Palo Alto embassy, where he plans to build a team of more than a dozen staff, supported by a back-office secretary and a number of tech attachés around the world - the first of which will be based in Klynge's old stomping ground, Asia.

    The most important role he has as ambassador shows just how much the world has changed in recent years: he's there to meet Silicon Valley's biggest companies in exactly the same way he has previously met with prime ministers and presidents. "We need to build those relationships because of the key influence these companies have over our daily lives," he says, "and, at the end of the day, over foreign policy and international affairs."

    This appointment of a Technology Ambassador show Denmark's really progressive, prescient, and probably soon to be copied approach to their nation's relationships with 'Big Tech' by other countries in the near future.

    These companies seem to only be growing in influence - signing on more and more of the world's population, developing ever more and more convenient capabilities and features to keep users engaged, and expanding into more areas of daily life. Think about it this way - what institution or entity is more influential on a macro basis, Facebook or a country like Denmark?

    These are certainly interesting times, tech companies have more users than most countries have citizens or religions have adherents. And unlike most counties and religions, their size and influence seems to still be trending higher. Denmark's decision to think about and treat Big Tech like nations have traditionally considered other nations is also incredibly interesting too. And a one of the most interesting 'Job Titles of the Future' we have came across yet.

    Have a great day!

     

     

     

    Friday
    Apr132018

    No more philosophy majors?

    For a 'I can't believe it's mid-April and my flight is probably going to get canceled because it is STILL snowing Friday', an interesting piece of news from a couple of weeks ago on how one university is seeking to re-align many of its programs of study with its assessment of labor market changes and trends.

    The TL;DR version?

    No one wants to hire History, English, or Philosophy majors. (I am not sure that this is actually true by the way, but that seems to be the conclusion). Here's some details from a recent piece in Fortune on what the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is proposing:

    One university doesn’t think its students need to pursue English as a major anymore. Or philosophy, history, or Spanish.

    The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point has proposed dropping more than a dozen majors currently offered through its humanities and social sciences departments. The university would instead offer programs with “clear career pathways.".

    Included in the list of majors to be dropped are the above mentioned history, English, and philosophy as well as programs in geography, (who needs that when we have GPS?), political science, (that seems like it would be in demand these days), and American studies, (that actually sounds really interesting to me).

    Other programs to be expanded or created in this effort to better align the University's programs with what is or at least seems to be happening in the job market include chemical engineering, finance, marketing, (Is there really a shortage of marketers?), and geographic information science, (sounds like geography).

    While this is not really a remarkable or surprising bit of news, I do find it interesting when thinking about what many smart folks seem to say about how work is changing, how automation and AI are replacing (or augmenting), many kinds of labor and roles, and what are the true skills all workers will need to be successful and employable in the robot future.

    And by that I am talking about the kinds of human skills and traits that can't easily or perhaps shouldn't be replaced by machines or algorithms - creativity, empathy, emotional understanding, appreciation of (yes I am saying it), history and philosophy. Sure, the kinds of 'hard skills' and technical programs that this university wants to emphasize are currently in demand, but like many (or all) kinds of technology and science roles, the likelihood of automation and more advanced AI tools replacing them (or at least reducing the need for some human labor) in them is pretty high.

    I am not totally sure what 'Geographic information science' is, but I would be willing to bet that technology will be able to perform lots of what that role requires much sooner than any kind of technology would be able to think, reason, assess, and communicate like a talented philosophy graduate.

    And by the way, if I was looking for new marketing talent, I might prefer a philosophy major or a sociology major anyway.

    Figuring out what kinds of skills are going to be needed and in demand in a changing and dynamic labor market is certainly not easy, and I understand that universities also have practical challenges and have to produce and offer programs that will attract students, (and parents).

    But while there is a lot of data and science that shows where the (current) jobs are there is also some art to producing the kinds of talent that will best be able to help the economy thrive.

    And we probably can't do art, at least not well,  if we stop teaching art.

    Have a great weekend!