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    CHART OF THE DAY: In a world of infinite choice, we choose very little

    How many apps do you have installed on your smart phone? 50, 60, maybe more?

    How many TV channels does your cable or satellite TV subscription offer? A couple hundred, give or take?

    How many websites are there on the internet? Way, way too many to count I bet. Probably something in the order of tens of millions at least.

    So after thinking about those questions, let's ask another set of questions. How many apps, websites, and TV channels do you regularly use/visit/consume? What it the number of these apps, etc. that tend to dominate your time and attention?

    Take a look at the chart below, taken from a recent presentation given by business strategist Michael Wolf at a recent Wall St. Journal conference, for some insights into these questions, and then as you have come to demand, some FREE commentary from me after the data.

    Interesting data, let's unpack it a little here and see what it might mean for HR/Talent/anyone trying to get attention in a busy world. 

    The average person uses 27 apps in a month, but about 80% of that time is spent in only 5 apps. I will offer up my top 5 - Gmail, Twitter, Zite (a news aggregator), Feedly (an RSS feed reader), and The Score (a sports news and scores app). But whatever your Top 5 apps may be, chances are good they dominate your time on your phone to a significant extent.

    This same self-selected narrowing of almost endless choices also is seen with the general internet, and with TV content. We have tons of options, almost too many, yet we end up gravitating and focusing on those very few choices we seem to enjoy and identify with the most. And again, those lists are pretty small. 

    What should this data make us think about in more general terms as we try to pry precious attention and eyeballs towards our bright shiny new things?

    1. We choose very little, but the 'pie' is so big, even a tiny sliver is huge. With the continued growth of market penetration of smart phones, broadband connections, and wifi everywhere - more and more time is being spent online in all of its forms. Your app or website or internet show or podcast doesn't have to break into anyone's Top 5 to still be a huge success. You just have to identify, target, and create value for that small group that will be open and ready for your message. The HR Happy Hour Show that Trish McFarlane and I do is a great example of this. We may not be 'Serial', but we have a fantastic and growing audience of HR and HR tech fans and have built a really cool thing.

    2. Habits are really hard to change. You, me, everyone - we check the same 5 apps, the same 8 websites, watch the same 10 TV channels week after week after week. If you can't easily get folks to change their consumption habits then you have to find a way to better integrate with these habits. No one hates email more than me, but I still spend more time in email every day than I care to, and I still get plenty of news and information from this old habit. So it makes sense to focus at least some on getting your message better read in email or in one of the other 'Top' apps today (LinkedIn, Medium, Quora, Snapchat, etc.), instead of creating something brand new that requires users to adopt a new habit. 

    3. Don't 'break' things that are working. Once you have an audience, or a set of fans/followers etc., you have to be careful not to mess around or experiment too much all at one time. It is hard enough to initially earn the attention of the audience you seek, it is even harder to have to try and earn them a second time. As your audience grows you want to be sure you are growing along with them, but not leaving them behind if that makes sense. I'd like to run 'Ranked' posts every day, but if I did I am pretty sure I would drive away just about everyone who I have spent 7 or 8 years trying to connect with. But the occasional Tom Cruise or Ranked post is fine I think.

    No one has time for all the choices that are now available to us on our phones, the web, and our TVs. That doesn't mean there is not any room or any opportunity for something new to break through, it just means that the ideas that can break through are rarer than ever, and the people that can conjure up these ideas are more valuable than ever.

    Ok that's it, I am out. Go back to the sites/apps you really enjoy. 

    Have a great week!


    Revolutionary HR Tech: Part 1 - Clean Data for All - #HRevolution

    Note: For the rest of this week, (or longer if I can't manage to get it all done in time), I am going to run a short series of four posts inspired by a session at last weekend's HRevolution event in St. Louis that I facilitated along with the fantastic Mike Krupa. 

    In the session, we asked four teams of attendees to imagine, envision, describe, and articulate a new (or at least new to them), kind of revolutionary HR technology solution that would improve or enhance some aspect of HR, talent management, recruiting, strategy, etc.

    The teams were each given a context to work in that roughly correspond to the major sub-types of HR technology tools today: Administration, Talent Management, Culture/Brand, and finally Insight/Analytics. The teams came up with some really clever and thought-provoking ideas in a really short time, and I thought it would be fun to share them (as best as I can recall them), here and try to keep the HRevolution discussions on this topic moving forward. We will consolidate all 4 revolutionary HR tech ideas into one paper that we will post here and on the HRevolution site as well.

    Ok, let's hit the first HR tech idea - from the 'Administration' team, a tool called 'Oscar.'

    The idea: Every HR tech project plan starts or has near the start, a step called 'Clean up the data.' And that step is miserable. Over time and with growth, most companies possess numerous systems for HR and workforce processes and functions. And with the growth of an organization's systems footprint, the challenge to keep data not just in synch across systems, but to ensure the data is 'clean' (accurate, up to date, correctly formatted, validated, etc.), becomes daunting.

    While the Admin team is aware that there are some existing HR technology solutions that help integrate HR data across systems, the team felt like simple file-transfer type information from System 'A' to System 'B' is not good enough. After all, if the Employee's date of birth is not correct in System 'A', then sending over that bad piece of data to System 'B' does nothing to help with the real issue - inaccurate employee and workplace data that can lead to a myriad of downstream problems.

    So that is were 'Oscar' comes in. 

    Oscar is a tool that would sit over an organization's existing HR technology solutions and would serve to monitor, audit, validate, and clean, (or at least raise exceptions as needed), the core elements of the organization's HR data set. Think employee names, dates of birth, employee ID numbers, locations, salary, hours, and many more potentially. These kinds of data elements usually exists in multiple platforms, systems, and can be acted upon in numerous ways, which often results in data getting out of alignment, or 'dirty'. Oscar would learn where to look for these conditions, and raise alerts to the needed administrators, HR analysts, managers, and employees as needed to ensure action is taken before 'bad' data gets propagated.

    Think of it as a kind of an HR-based identity theft monitoring tool that instead of being on the lookout for a gang of shady credit-card spoofing thieves, instead is constantly waiting patiently and vigilantly for bad HR data to raise it's ugly head, and to take action to stamp it down.

    I think this is a cool idea, and definitely one that HR pros, especially in larger organizations would love.

    Would it be complicated to build? Sure.

    Does it, or elements of it, probably exist in other tools already? Maybe.

    But is it a 'revolutionary' idea for HR tech? Most definitely.

    So that is the first idea, stay tuned in the next few days for what the Talent, Culture, and Insights teams cooked up.

    Final note: Big, big thanks to our HRevolution 2015 sponsors - Globoforce, Quantum Workplace, and The Arland Group


    CHART OF THE DAY: If you're feeling old, you're not the only one

    Super simple, yet cool Chart of the Day on the graying of America courtesy of the Chmura Economics Blog - let's take a look at the chart then as you continue to demand, some FREE commentary from me...

    Wow, check the growth of the 60+ age cohort from 2000 - 2030, amazing how the other segments remain (relatively) flat, while just about everyone else, (you and me too), get a heck of a lot older.

    Why should we care about this? A few reasons I think.

    1. These general demographic trends combine with observed and predicted workforce composition trends to point to a future where the average worker will be older, will plan on working longer, and where qualified 'new' workers will be even more in demand. If your company is not one where these in-demand younger workers will want to be, then you are going to have to get used to an older workforce than you have had before.

    2. How does a relatively older workforce actually translate to HR/Talent programs? Increased need for re-training, as careers lengthen but needed skills continually change, higher reliance on benefits more likely to be used by older workers and less on those that tend to be leveraged by 20 or 30-somethings, and finally a need to be more aware and deliberate about how more widely spread age ranges can effectively work together. 

    3. Deeper in the Chmura data, they break down this 'aging effect' by US state/county, (I was not able to embed the map here, but you should click through to check it out). As you might expect, the effects of the aging population/workforce composition will differ by locality. You might want to pinpoint the county(ies) that your organization has set up shop in order to get a feel for how quickly and how pronounced the aging effect is expected to be where you need to recruit and retain.

    Bottom line, it is probably a good idea to be aware of the big shifts in demographics, at least until you have figured out a way to replace all of your workers with robots.

    And looking at how much older we all seem to be getting, you might want to accelerate the robot recruiting sooner than later.


    Learn a new word: fact-resistant

    Let's start with the definition, courtesy of Wordspy:

    fact-resistant adj. Impervious to reason, counter-examples, or data, especially when they contradict one's opinions or values.

    From the examples given on the Wordspy entry (on the science behind global warming, politics in the Middle East, violence due to firearms), the term fact-resistant seems to have been most commonly applied or ascribed in these kinds of political or 'hot-button' kinds of contexts. I suppose using the term fact-resistant is a slightly kinder and gentler way of saying. 'What the heck is wrong with you, you big dummy. Can't you just accept the truth of what I am telling you?'

    But where fact-resistant is likely to be more relevant and applicable in the HR/workplace/talent management worlds are the conflicts and tensions that can arise between the data and analytics camps and the folks who prefer (or are just more comfortable with), the traditional or old-school ways of evaluating, assessing, and managing people.

    Here are a few specific scenarios where you, as a modern, progressive, and 'seen Moneyball six times' HR pro might run into some fact-resistant colleagues:

    The hiring manager that 'just can tell from looking in the candidate's eyes' whether or not they should be hired. He's been managing by 'gut feeling' for so many years, why should he change now? What does it matter what your data shows about what sources, backgrounds, and characteristic of candidates predict better performance? 

    The CEO who 'gets a good feeling' when she walks around the office at 8AM (and again at 5PM), and sees cube after cube of people diligently working. She is not interested in hearing about your data that shows that engagement, retention, and productivity would all be improved by the introduction of more flexible working arrangements. Everyone looks happy to her, so why make changes?

    The Chief Operating Officer that doesn't care that your compensation benchmarking data shows that you are trailing the market in some key areas and job roles - those same places and roles where your data also shows increased attrition and longer time-to-fill open roles than in less important areas. The COO just want to ensure that 'we pay just a little below market' to ensure stable and consistent gross margins. Peg everyone to '5% below market' and stop bugging me about this.

    I think you get the idea. But the trouble with these fact-resistant types is not identifying them, it is trying to figure out how to rebut them. Because your normal and expected recourse is to just present more facts. And by definition, this probably isn't going to help very much.

    Maybe appealing to the end results, the outcomes, instead of the math and data needed to get there is the best bet. Rather than hitting them with dashboards or spreadsheets that try to sell your idea, just go big on how you know how to fix the problem with X, Y, or Z, and how they will not only benefit, but also look like a hero in the process. 

    The fact-resistant types are tough though. I still think the Knicks are a title contender this year.

    I don't care what the numbers say.

    Have a great week!


    Remember Harvard Graphics?

    I saw this clever post yesterday, titled Computer Science Courses That Don't Exist But Should, and one suggested course in particular really stood out:

    CSCI 3300: Classical Software Studies

    Discuss and dissect historically significant products, including VisiCalc, AppleWorks, Robot Odyssey, Zork, and MacPaint. Emphases are on user interface and creativity fostered by hardware limitations.

    While I am not nearly geeky enough to know all of those old products, (the only one I recognize is VisiCalc, and I never even used that), it made me think back on my introduction to software and workplace technology more generally.Pretty slick UI, right?

    And the one 'classic' piece of workplace tech that I remember most fondly, for reasons I will share in a second, is Harvard Graphics, the first general use charting and data visualization tool to gain acceptance in the office. In the late 80s and maybe a little into the early 90s, Harvard Graphics was the go-to tool for creating at that time were really amazing bar, pie, line, and other types of charts that today we would just laugh at for their simplicity. But pretty soon Microsoft Office took over the office, and Harcard Graphics pretty quickly fell out of fashion.

    But I loved my time with Harvard Graphics. Back in the day, when the first colorful stacked bar chart of regional sales broken out for the last 4 quarters emerged from the plotter, (look that one up, kids), and I marched it in to the CFO's office, suddenly I was looked at not like the 22-year-old kid who knew nothing, but as the 22-year-old kid who created something cool.

    After getting a glimpse of what the HG program could do, the CFO started setting me off to make more and different kinds of graphical representations of our financials that would be used in exec meetings, sent out to the regional presidents, and often tacked up on the wall in the CEO's office. No one would ever tack a boring looking income statement on their wall, but a 3-D multi-colored bar chart of gross profit margin by product segment? That was high art to some of these guys, and I was the only person in the office, (probably because I could not add much value anywhere else), that was able at that time to produce these charts.

    That simple little program, and the rest of the office's reluctance to embrace anything new or seemingly complicated, helped me cement a reputation as someone clever, useful, and for being what then passed for technically savvy - which make no mistake helped out your career as much back in those days as it does today.

    Harvard Graphics got me at least two raises I am pretty sure.

    Ok, the walk down memory lane is over. Have a great weekend and think about this little tale the next time some new and scary and complicated technology shows up in the office.

    It just might be the one that gets your work tacked up on the CEO's wall.