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    Entries in HR (483)

    Monday
    Jun112018

    The weekend company culture test

    NOTE: I am re-running a piece (with a few light edits) from a couple of years ago about company email culture. I was at an event this past Friday where I overheard a few people talking about this very subject - who in their organization was always emailing them throughout the weekend, and how that practice was really getting under their skin. Enjoy!

    I am of (pretty) firm belief you can tell just about everything you need to know about company culture from tracking and analyzing email usage patterns, traffic levels, and response expectations.

    Sure, not all organizations, and certainly not all roles in organizations, are overly reliant on email as their primary communications, collaboration, and general project management tool, but for those that are, and I suspect that would include just about everyone reading this post, your email Inbox is largely a proxy for your 'work' in general.

    Very few initiatives actually get started without first sending an email to someone.

    Progress is communicated and monitored on those tasks in ongoing series of emails.

    Organizational structure and power dynamics are reflected in who you are 'allowed' to email, and who will or will not respond.

    You overall stress level and relative satisfaction with your job can be extrapolated from the point in time condition of your Inbox.

    Finally, you probably leave the office with a warped sense of accomplishment if, at the end of the week, you have successfully triaged all of your incoming messages, sent the necessary replies, and achieved that most elusive of states, so-called 'Inbox Zero'. You pack up shop for the week and head home, (or to Happy Hour).

    And that is when my favorite test of company culture begins, what happened to your Inbox from say, 6:00PM on a Friday up until 6:00AM on Monday. (this is what we used to call the "weekend".)

    As you enjoy whatever it is you enjoy this (past) weekend, think about these few questions:

    Who in your company is (still) sending emails on a Friday night? On Saturday morning? Or on Sunday evening when you are clinging like grim death to your last few precious hours of downtime?

    Who is responding to weekend emails? And no, I am not talking about genuine business or customer emergencies, just 'normal' kinds of things. You know, the kinds of things you worry about on Tuesday.

    Are your management or senior leaders making a habit of tapping away message after message (always "Sent from my iPad") all weekend long while they are ostensibly watching Jr's soccer game?

    Are you checking or at least thinking about checking your work email on Saturday afternoon when, I don't know, you're supposed to have something better to do?

    Finally, when you get one of those weekend emails do you respond? Are you expected to? And if you do are you now "at work?"

    It's odd for the one piece of workplace technology that we all probably use more than any other, that we think about and really try to understand it's usage so little.

    Email is just always there. It is always on. We engage with it constantly.

    But we don't ever think about what it might tell us about the organization, the power dynamics, and most importantly, what it can tell us about the culture of an organization.

    So, were you on email this weekend or were you offline?

    Have a great week.

    Thursday
    Jun072018

    Ending 'Upgrades' Once and For All

    About a hundred years ago (ok, it was not actually that long, just feels like it some days), I participated in my first, real 'Enterprise' technology project - helping to implement an Oracle E-Business Suite solution for a foreign division of a massive US-based telecommunications company. Even with that small, early scope, (the project continued for some years covering more and more countries), it was a pretty substantial piece of work.

    We needed DBA's to configure our servers, install the Oracle Applications, and do 'normal' maintenance like patching, load balancing, security, and cloning, (basically creating copies of application setups and configurations to create test, QA, and development environments). 

    We needed Analysts to figure out the business requirements, map these to the application functions, set up the apps accordingly, run tests, identify gaps, and train the end users.

    We needed Programmers to develop custom data loader programs and custom interfaces to other systems that the Oracle Apps needed to feed, or to be fed data by. And of course these programmers needed to develop custom capability that the business needed but the Apps, as least out of the box, could not provide. And don't get me started on all the custom reports that had to be built - even for a small implementation in one country initially.

    Add in to all this documentation, test plans, user process scripts, communication, change management - and the countless other things that need to be done in order, back then, to complete a successful implementation of traditional, (read on-premise), enterprise technology.

    And after all that work, all that time, resource allocation, investment and effort, after it was all done and the system was live do you know what we found? That by then Oracle had released a brand new, better, more capable and upgraded version of the Applications, and if we and the users really wanted the latest and best functionality we had to, wait for it - upgrade.

    But the problem was back then, and to some extent for many companies this is still true today, an upgrade was almost as much work as the initial implementation. The upgrade from one version of a large, on-premise, set of enterprise applications, (with customizations and interfaces), required the efforts of all those same groups of people mentioned above. Upgrades were really manual, required tons of validation and testing, and if the functionality had changed enough, also necessitated significant user training and change management efforts. Frankly, upgrades stunk. And so many organizations running enterprise apps on-premise avoided them as much as they could, preferring to stick with and maintain older versions, (with fewer features and capabilities), as the tradeoff. And that tradeoff has perpetuated. Way longer than most of us thought it might.

    Even in 2018, in this time when we like to assume that every large organization has moved their enterprise systems for Finance, HR, Operations, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, etc. to the cloud, many large organizations have not, and are still running versions of on-premise Enterprise solutions, as the cost, complexity, and resources needed to do a 'upgrade to the cloud' were just as massive and daunting as the old on-premise upgrades were back then. In fact, many of these cloud migrations are not upgrades at all in the classic sense - they are full-on re-implementations - huge technical and functional projects that as I said, many firms have continued to avoid or postpone.

    Sorry for the history lesson, but it's important for the news I wanted to share today.  

    Earlier this week, and in a way that particularly resonated for me given my history with Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle announced the Oracle "Soar to the Cloud" solution - an automated set to tools and processes to enable customers running older versions of Oracle Applications on-premise to migrate to the Oracle Fusion ERP in the Cloud solutions much faster than ever before, and with the assurance that data will be migrated, configurations will be applied consistently in the cloud, and even any customizations done on-premise will be addressed with a new library of pluggable Fusion ERP integration capabilities.

    If you want to deep dive into the nuts and bolts how this process will work, take a look at this video of the presentation made this week by Larry Ellison, Oracle CTO and Chairman, as he walks through the process. But even if you don't need r want to understand all the technical details - just remember this - the Oracle Soar to the Cloud program promises to make your organization's 'upgrade' to the cloud truly the last upgrade (in the traditional sense), that you will have to undertake.

    Once you make it to the Cloud - your organization can get the benefit of regular, continuous, and frictionless updates to your enterprise apps - making the ability to adopt new capabilities, remain compliant with new regulations, and move more quickly and innovate more rapidly than at any time in the past. 

    Your organization probably knows you want/need to be in the Cloud for these reasons and more.

    But if you are in one of the organizations that for one reason or another has avoided the cloud, avoided the dreaded 'upgrade' - this new Soar to the Cloud program might be just what you need to kick start those plans. 

    Learn more at Oracle Soar

    Wednesday
    Jun062018

    CHART OF THE DAY: Job Openings Continue to Increase to New Record Highs

    I know I've covered this territory a hundred times, it seems like every month lately, but I feel compelled once again to share the headline number from the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics  JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) Report released earlier today.

    Here's the headline (and an accompanying chart from our pals at the St. Louis FED) - Total Job Openings have climbed to 6.7 Million - reaching another new record high in the history of the data series.

    The steady increase in record high job openings has been one of the truly amazing developments in the aftermath of the financial crisis and recession, which saw openings bottom out at about 2.2M in July 2009.

    The questions are now twofold I think. One, just how high is the ceiling for US job openings to climb towards? I mean these records continue to be set even while trade wars are constantly in the news and many financial and labor markets observers have no idea what strange 'news' emanating from Washington might do to the market and the economy?

    And two, when and by how much do we begin to see a much more pronounced increase in wage growth, as companies are finally forced to increase wages in order to try and fill these millions of openings? The sluggish nature of wage growth in the face of seemingly and endless supply of open jobs has been one of the must puzzling aspects of the labor market in the last several years. Something has to give soon, right?

    It's a good time to be looking for work, I would say.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jun042018

    If not enough candidates fail your drug screening, maybe the problem is you not them

    While catching up over the weekend on the latest from Willamette (Oregon), Week, (I mean, who doesn't spend at least part of their Sunday catching up on all things Willamette?), I hit this beauty of a headline - Oregon is Running Out of Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test.

    Since I think from the headline of the piece you probably have an idea where this is going, so I won't bother setting it up too much and just take you to the money quote from our friends in Willamette:

    “One labor issue that continues to crop up is drug testing. At least anecdotally, more firms are reporting trouble finding workers who can pass a drug test,” the economists write.

    Ok, so maybe I should have set up the quote a little. Oregon, like a lot of the rest of the country, is seeing unemployment levels at almost twenty year lows - about 4.0%. That, coupled with Oregon's decriminalization of marijuana for most uses in 2014, and many employer's slow reaction to changing existing and traditional screening practices has led to a bit of a conundrum in the Beaver State - plenty of open jobs, and also plenty of candidates who are 'failing' old-school employment drug screens.

    As the trend/tendency for more and more states to adopt more permissive laws concerning recreational drug use - typically marijuana - I think organizations still conducting pre-employment drug screens and who are facing a shortage of 'acceptable' candidates in these states have three main options as to how to proceed:

    (Note, all of the rest of this assumes jobs/roles that are not directly in public safety domains, i.e. I am not going to advocate that airline pilots for example are not screened for drug use)

    1. Do nothing - What at least some employers in Oregon and elsewhere are doing. Maintain your strict policy of pre-employment drug screening, knowing that in places like Oregon you will effectively screen out more and more candidates as time/social mores evolve. The potential positive? Not everyone is so permissive about recreational drug use, and you might be able to score some points with that crowd - both candidates and customers. "We're the drug-free burger place" - that kind of thing.

    2. Better segment their jobs and screening protocols - Ok in almost every organization there exists some jobs that are more, say, 'sensitive' than others. The payroll manager has access to lots more information (and can do more damage if she chooses), than say, the person who manages the cafeteria. The point is that not all jobs in the organization need to have the same strict pre-employment screening protocols. And chances are you know that, the CEO knows that, everyone knows that. If you are an employer facing 'clean pee' issues, maybe its time to think about how universal your policy needs to be?

    3. Throw in the towel - Or, said differently, let a little bit more of the world in, realize you are recruiting (largely in Oregon), from a candidate pool who considers recreational pot use just fine, (and by the way is also legal). Sure, make or continue to enforce 'on the job' rules of conduct as you see fit, no one is arguing that, but let go of this kind of old-fashioned idea of having a 'drug-free' workforce. Because you know what? You don't have one of those anyway, despite whatever rules or policies you have. Said differently - a drug-free 'workplace' is your right (and the right thing to have), and drug-free 'workforce' is more or less none of your business and is out of your control.

    Organizations usually often are slow in adapting to changes in the world around them. The great Grant McCracken wrote recently that "organizations are great at keeping things out, not so great at letting things in", (I might be paraphrasing a bit, but that is the gist.

    The smart HR/talent leader not only know what is happening out there, they also know how their talent strategies have to adapt. Even in Oregon.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    May302018

    Corporate uniforms and what they say about the workplace

    My airline of choice is Delta, the best airline in the world, (or at least that flies out of my home city), and because of my loyalty to Delta I read with interest a recent piece on Business Insider, 'Delta's 64,000 employees now have new designer uniforms', covering the news that soon Delta's uniformed employees would soon be wearing a new set of uniforms designed by Zac Posen. See below for a pic of the new duds:

    They look pretty sharp, right?

    Seeing the pics of the new Delta uniforms got me to thinking about workplace 'uniforms' more broadly - not necessarily for airline staff or retail workers or any kind of business that actually has an official uniform - but rather the kinds of uniforms or perhaps more accurately, how standards of dress come to be adopted in workplaces and industries where people have a wide set of options about how they dress in the workplace.

    And by that, I'm not talking about 'dress codes', that fun HR topic from the 90s, but rather the more subtle, cultural drivers that lead people to dress in certain ways, what 'looks' are accepted and which are not, and how adaptive and flexible workplaces are to fashion trends and evolution. Thinking about this quickly, (and with the caveat that when I'm not on the road, I work from home, so NBA t-shirts are the 'dress code' most days for me, and that I am largely considering this from a male POV), I think what, how, and when people make certain choices about workplace uniforms break down into the following categories:

    We all wear the same five things- Doesn't matter if your workplace is business, business casual, or casual - everyone's work wardrobes revolve around tiny variations of the same five pieces. If it is business, think gray and navy suits, white or blue shirts, brown shoes, etc. If it is business casual, everyone wears the same khakis, gingham or polo shirts, blue blazer if things are a touch more dressy, and brown/tan loafers. Think what an accounting convention looks like - a sea of middle aged dudes in blue jackets and tan or gray pants. Finally, if the office is totally casual - jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. Stan Smiths or if you are a flush tech company - Yeezys.

    There's a little bit of experimentation, but it helps if the boss signals approval- this kind of workplace is almost the same as the above, but where it differs is how/when new trends are adopted and embraced into the uniforms. A great current example of this is the new'ish trend in men's sneaker fashion - the recent increase in higher-end, expensive, 'dress' sneakers as an alternative to dress shoes in business casual situations and even sometimes worn with a formal suit. The key here is do you as a cog in the machine feel emboldened to be the first person to rock a new trend like this at work, or do you need to spy the CEO wearing a pair of Lanvins before you think it is ok to wear your new pair of Greats to the office?

    Role-based uniforms- pretty straightforward and pretty common. Sales dresses a certain way (what they think will impress prospects), Execs wear nicer, more expensive versions of what Sales wears, back-office staff more or less follows the rules above, and 'technical' folks are left to their own devices - since no one wants to dare offend their delicate sensibilities by trying to place any guidelines or expectations on them. 

    Pretend Steve Jobs- this is more of an individual choice rather than a workplace norm, but it is worth mentioning because some high-powered types like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama became associated with the idea of wearing exactly, or almost the same clothes every single day, as a way to lessen 'decision fatigue.' If you rock the same dad jeans, black turtleneck, and New Balances every day, the thinking goes, you have more mental bandwith for the important things at work. If you have one of these kinds of guys in your workplace, be wary, chances are they are no Steve Jobs, and are just doing the turtleneck thing to make people talk about them.

    No one really cares - probably only really exists in really small organizations, where entire departments consist of one person. If there is only one person in Finance, what he/she wears sets the tone for whoever comes next. And so on across the company. Nothing resembling a uniform code forms in a department until you have at least three people. You need the dynamic of two people being able to sneak off and talk about what the third person is wearing, (behind that person's back) in order for some kind of cultural direction to take form.

    That's it for today, have fun out there in your uniform of choice.

    Note: My pal KD over at the HR Capitalist has promised me an in-depth look at one of the new trends I mentioned above, the 'dress' sneaker, so be on the look out for that.