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    Entries in development (17)

    Tuesday
    Sep192017

    A reminder that any 'skills gap' is also an employer's problem to solve

    Whether or not there is a true 'skills gap' crisis in the US labor market is certainly subject to debate. For every analysis that indicates that the pipeline of qualified candidates that colleges and other training programs are producing are not meeting the demands of employers for specific skills, you can pretty easily find other data that suggests the US has more than enough of available talent to meet most employer needs.

    But while the data and thinking around the existence of a true skills gap can seem contradictory, the investments and ownership by employers of the problem (assuming it is a problem), has tended to shift in one consistent direction. Namely, over time employers have tended to want to invest less in development, apprenticeship, and other initiatives for either entry level employees or for more experienced hires who require more advanced and specific experience and skills.

    Most employers these days, it seems, want new hires whatever the level or role to walk in to the organization immediately ready to be productive without needing long ramp up times and without having to make extensive and expensive investments in training.

    But what if the roles that the company needs to fill are so specialized, require an incredibly specific set of skills, and that these skills have been demonstrated and certified with proof of thousands of hours of practice? For these kinds of jobs, companies have to become more involved and invested in developing candidate pipelines you would think. It is either that, or face a candidate shortage, experience longer fill times, and likely suffer serious adverse businss impact in the form of lost revenue, poor customer service, and missed deadlines.

    One company, faced with exactly this recruiting and development challenge, and facing an extremely tight and competitive candidate market is doing almost exactly the opposite of what many companies have done with respect to investment in new hire development. They are expanding the market, looking beyond their normal sources for candidates, and most importantly, taking ownership of the 'skills gap' challenge.

    The company is JetBlue Airlines and the hard to fill role is commercial airline pilot.

    From a recent piece on PSFK on how JetBlue is trying to address this recruiting challenge:

    The airline company developed Gateway Select, a special training program for its pilots that took people with little to no flying experiences and turned them into pilots. The program worked out so well for the company that they are once again looking for new recruits. The first round opened in 2016, with 24 chosen applicants out of a pool of 1,5000, including a grocery store clerk, an accountant, and a baggage handler. Trainees will learn about meteorology, aerodynamics and aircraft systems, go through flight simulators, and get in the necessary 1,500 hours of flying experience.

    Think about that a little bit.

    One of the most specific, demanding, and important jobs in the world, commercial airline pilot, and JetBlue is essentially looking past traditional candidate pools and feeder programs, (mostly the US military which has their own pilot shortages they are dealing with), and taking ownership of their challenge by thinking differently about what constitutes a good candidate.

    If JetBlue is willing and able to train the 'right' candidates for pilot roles, even if they are currently accountants or store clerks, then what is holding you back in expanding your own ideas about candidates and their suitability for your open roles?

    Think about that when you post your next position for a finance or HR or marketing or operations role where you require 10+ years of relevant and specific experience doing exactly the same job that you are hiring for.

    If JetBlue can turn store clerks into pilots, then you too can think more expansively and creatively about who is qualified for your roles.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Aug212017

    Customers might always be right, but what they tell you isn't always useful

    Happy possible-end-of-days Great American Solar Eclipse Monday!

    'The customer is always right' has been a generally accepted mantra? maxim? truism? that has pretty much informed the product, service, and sales strategies for all kinds of industries for decades. And while the absolute truth and the need to adhere to this precept is certainly debatable, 'customer focus' taken more generally has developed into the operating philosophy of most successful organizations.

    So while the customer is (probably, mostly) always 'right', is what they are telling you all the helpful or useful?

    Over the weekend I came across this outstanding post from Cindy Alvarez called '10 Things I've Learned About Customer Development' that highlights just a few of the ways that customer input and feedback isn't always incredibly insightful or useful. Here's just one example (my favorite), from the list:

    What features your customers ask for is never as interesting as why they want them. So: Direct them away from talking about the solution and back to describing the problem. Listen, pause, and then ask what it would allow them to do if they had it today. Ask what they’re currently doing as a substitute. They’ll either identify a problem (good — now go solve it) or be unable to provide specifics (feel free to deprioritize this suggestion).

    In the enterprise and certainly in the HR tech space function and feature 'arms races' have been a significant driver of solution provider development and attempts at competitive differentiation for ages. This approach makes sense in an environment where customers and prospects send out voluminous RFPs and request tightly scripted demonstrations that sometimes are even spelled out in minute by minute increments. 

    In an environment where business can be won by 'checking the most boxes' it just made sense for providers to, in fact, strive for the most items that could be checked off. Even if no one, customer or provider alike, is entirely sure that checking all the boxes is the best or even a sensible strategy. 

    Of course there is some level of baseline capability that say a Payroll or ATS solution must provide to even be tenable - no one would argue that. But there is probably much more room for creativity, innovation, and ground breaking thinking around enterprise tech than we allow if we focus too much on 'what' we need systems to do and not enough on 'why' we think these features will allow us to accomplish.

    Check out the entire list from Ms. Alvarez, there is much more food for thought in there for solution providers and customers alike.

    And don't stare too much into the sun today!

    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!

    Friday
    Dec022016

    Learn a new word: The Feature Factory

    Quick shout-out to John Cutler writing at the Hackernoon site for this outstanding piece (and the source for today's 'Learn a new word' submission - The Feature Factory.

    What is a 'Feature Factory' in the context of a software development function?'

    From the piece on Hackernoon, '12 Signs You're Working in a Feature Factory' to get an idea -

    I’ve used the term Feature Factory at a couple conference talks over the past two years. I started using the term when a software developer friend complained that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line.”

    How do you know if you’re working in a feature factory? (SMB Note: there are 12 signs in the post, I am just going to grab two of them here, but you really should read the entire piece)

    3. 'Success theater' around "shipping", with little discussion about impact. You can tell a great deal about an organizations by what it celebrates.

    7. Obsessing about prioritization. Mismatch between prioritization rigor (deciding what gets worked on) and validation rigor (deciding if it was, in fact, the right thing to work on). Prioritization rigor is designed exclusively to temper internal agendas so that people “feel confident”. Lots of work goes into determining which ideas to work on, leaving little leeway for adjustments and improvisation based on data. Roadmaps show a list of features, not areas of focus and/or outcomes 

    Really, really good stuff for project managers and development teams to think about.

    Why should this matter for readers of Steve's HR Tech?

    I can think of two reasons straight up.

    One, it is worthwhile to think about your current and potentially future providers of HR technology solutions in this context. Does your provider talk about their product roadmap for the next year or two in the same way you run down your holiday shopping or grocery list? Do they talk about the future as simply the container in which they will 'ship' more features and gadgets? Or do they discuss their plans and directions using your challenges and your desired outcomes as the context in which they are organizing and planning to deliver new solutions? I know I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating - almost any provider can build the capability you need if they think they have to. What is much more important for your long term success with a tech provider is if yours and their visions of the future are in alignment, and the methods, pace, and you feel confident in the manner in which you will both grow and evolve to be better prepared to succeed in that future. That is what is really important. Not just "shipping."

    And the other reason that this idea of the 'Feature factory' is important? Because in late 2016 it is pretty likely that all but the very smallest organizations have in-house IT and development teams themselves, and these teams are comprised of folks that both do not want to work in an environment that could be described as a feature factory, and at the same time have lots of career options that don't include your organization. As HR leaders, it is probably worthwhile from time to time to check in with some of your really important, hard to find, and harder to replace tech talent types and see how they really think and feel about the organization's development climate. If you are treating these talented and in-demand folks too much like cogs in the machine, chances are they won't want to stay in that machine for too long. They will see your shop as a skills and resume builder stepping stone to somewhere more interesting, more fun, and more challenging.

    Ok, that's it from me. Tip your servers.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Feb082016

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 233 - Knowing Your HR Potential

    HR Happy Hour 233 - Knowing Your HR Potential

    Recorded Thursday February 4, 2016

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane recorded a podcast of a rehearsal on the day before a webinar that actually happened last Friday. I know that might be a little confusing, but just think of the show as the audio track for a webinar for the Cleveland SMA called 'Know Your Potential', (slides have been loaded up to Slideshare and are embedded below), that Steve and Trish delivered last week.

    The webinar (and this podcast), covered a range of topics, trends, and tips for HR, recruiting, and talent professionals - all aimed towards getting the most out of your potential for excellence in 2016.  So on the show we talk about some of the important trends for 2016, why they matter for HR and Talent pros, and how to leverage these trends in your professional life. Additionally, we shared some advice and tips on maximizing the value from online, social, and professional networks - an always interesting and rapidly changing space. Finally, while the webinar, (and attached sldes), covered some emerging HR and recruiting technologies, we cut the podcast short before this topic, as we will revisit it on its own show soon.

     

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

    The slides we used for the webinar and podcast can be found on Slideshare here, as well as embedded below.

     

     

    This was a really fun show to do, and many thanks for checking it out, and to the Cleveland SMA for having us on the webinar.

    Reminder: you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or using your favorite podcast app for Android or iOS. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your subscriptions and you'll never miss a show.