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    Entries in Human Resources (16)

    Thursday
    Mar092017

    HRE Column: HCM Trends and How HR Can Take Advantage of Them

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I take a look at the recently released Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report, which was also the subject of a recent HR Happy Hour Podcast we did with Josh Bersin.  This annual report, now in its 5th year, has emerged as one of the HR and HR Technology industry's 'must-reads', so for the benefit of HR Executive readers that may not (yet) have listened to the podcast, I tried to capture the content and the spirit of the conversation I had with Josh in the HRE column.

    So in this month's HR Executive column I examine a a few of the themes or trends that were identified in the Global Human Capital trends Report, and how these trends will help inform and shape the design, development, and deployment of HR and workplace technologies in 2017, and beyond.  This was a fun podcast with Josh, and a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year and make your workforce, workplace and HR technology decisions in 2017. 

    From the HRE piece:

    Recently, Deloitte released its annual Global Human Capital Trends Report, which, in just its fifth year of publication, has become essential annual reading for HR, business and HR-technology leaders. The report combines findings from a comprehensive survey of more than 11,000 respondents, interviews with multiple HR and business leaders, case studies from many leading organizations, and insights from Deloitte's human capital management analysts and consultants. The result is an insightful report that sheds light on trends, challenges, and opportunities for HR and business leaders who are all tasked with driving business results through their people.

    I had one of the report's principal authors, Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, as a guest on my HR Happy Hour Podcast on the day the report launched to discuss some of the key findings. For the benefit of readers who have not (yet) had a chance to listen to that interview, I thought I would share some of it here.

    Rethinking the Organization

    Building the "organization of the future" was cited by 88 percent of Deloitte's survey respondents as being an important or very important challenge. What is driving this imperative for many HR and business leaders? Primarily, it’s the need for the organization to become more agile, to be able to adapt more quickly to changing market and competitive conditions, and to increasingly embrace new and more flexible forms and sources of talent. The catalyst for at least some of this need is the increased volume and importance of more flexible labor/talent arrangements, i.e. contractors, consultants and other “gig” workers. As these sources of flexible and contingent labor have continued to evolve, HR-technology solutions such as Upwork, Wonolo and Toptal have become increasingly important sources of talent that HR and business leaders are relying upon to execute their rapidly changing workforce needs.

    But it is not just the increased reliance on contingents that's driving the need to rethink the organization. The way work gets done in organizations today -- increasingly, via short-term, purpose-built and cross-functional teams, and not in formal, functionally defined hierarchies -- is also forcing HR leaders to reconsider how the organization should be designed. The need for increased agility in the assembling and disassembling of these teams requires HR and talent leaders to have better insights into individuals’ skills, as well as any overall organizational skill deficiencies. The need for robust talent-management, workforce-management, learning and development, and organizational collaboration technologies to support these rapid shifts in organizational dynamics places primary importance on a close connection between business, people and IT strategy in order to ensure that the organization can react as the market demands.

    The Employee Experience

    On the podcast, Bersin told me "the employee-engagement market is over." On first blush, you might think that was an odd thing to say, given that employee-engagement levels remain persistently low, and most HR and business leaders have bought into the notion that increasing these engagement scores would be a good thing for retention, morale and productivity.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and re-seen you lawn, take the car for a wash, or help you plant your spring flowers. I especially like alstroemelias.

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Feb222017

    The Uber HR mess, it probably starts at the pitch meeting

    I don't have a lot more to add to what has been voluminous coverage over the last several days of the recent expose of Uber's (probably) hostile work environment, particularly for the women at Uber. The process of the shocking reveal of what is was really like to work at Uber from a former employee, the wide and far calls of condemnation and Uber boycotts, followed by the quick (and high profile) reactions and vows to 'fix' things from Uber's CEO and their celebrity board member are playing out more or less how you would expect them to.

    Whether or not Uber can, wants to, or will really be able to 'fix' things remains to be seen, and is probably the less important of the things that the rest of us can take away from this mess. It is probably more useful for us to think about how Uber (and others like them), got to this point in the first place.

    Recode has a good piece about how Uber insiders attribute a large portion of the situation at Uber, the ineffectual support and response of internal HR to employee complaints, to the HR culture at Uber of being 90% about recruiting, and 9% about terminations, with the leftover 1% spent doing the necessary admin functions. I made up the percentages, but the idea is clear - Uber was scaling up at a rapid pace, hiring was critical to meeting their business objectives, and it seems likely once people were hired, they were more or less on their own.

    And while the Recode piece makes some great points, and I have no reason to think it is not accurate, I would add one more possible 'cause' to all this mess at Uber, (and the many, many other tech companies that continually struggle with these issues). And it is this - from the earliest stages of the enterprise, the initial presentations and investor pitch decks that the founders use to raise funds, building and supporting diverse teams of people is almost (I can't find one example) never mentioned in these contexts. The 'formula' for raising investments does not include things like a diversity plan or strategies to incorporate talent from underrepresented groups as a key element that will lead to business success.

    It is just never mentioned. What gets mentioned, (and rewarded), are the product ideas, the 'briliance' of the founder, or the reasonable line of sight the investor can assess from the idea to some kind of highly profitable outcome. 

    I did some quick searching this morning for 'Best Pitch Decks Ever' or 'Top Pitch Decks of All Time' and I looked through about 20 of them and did not find one mention of diversity, inclusion, or a stated goal to build a more open, welcoming, fair, or equitable workplace. Note, I am certain this exists somewhere, but I could not find an example right off the bat.

    So back to the question of where to these problems start at places like Uber?

    I think they start from that very first slide deck and from that first presentation where I bet no one talks about these issues.

    Should they be raised at that early point in a company's growth? I will leave that up to the professional investors and founders I guess.

    But having said that, leaving that question up to those two groups has led us to places like Uber.

    Have a great Wednesday!

    Friday
    Feb102017

    Signs of the Corporate Death Spiral #5 : Have we learned nothing from Yahoo?

    Every once in a while, I still come across a story about a book or books being banned, or even burned, in a local area or school system. And every time I hear a story like that I make the same , bad joke - "They are burning books? Burning them? I mean, have we learned nothing from Footloose?"

    And every once in a while we come across stories of organizations that, in the spirit of the formerly great tech company Yahoo, pulling the corporate version of banning books, except is it about banning telework or remote work arrangements.  You probably caught the news that this week IBM's Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso is effectively banning remote working arrangements for IBM's US marketing organization. Staffers will have to report to, (and in some cases relocate within commuting distance of), one of six US offices and (in her words), sit "Shoulder to shoulder" with their colleagues.

    IBM Marketing employees who are unable or unwilling to cease remote work arrangements and report to one of the six offices will be essentially tendering their resignation, (according to reports).

    Call me cynical, but my guess is Ms. Peluso herself will not have to suffer a 'forced' relocation to keep her job. I bet she already lives near enough one of the six offices. 

    But the larger point, like Yahoo, Comcast, or any other organization that resorts to the 'No more remote working for anyone' card is sending a signal that they are kind of out of ideas on how to generate better ideas.

    So they pull the 'More/Better ideas get generated when people are physically together' line and issue edicts like Ms. Peluso's and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer before that. And they are at least (partially) right. Sometimes great ideas do get generated when people are physically together.

    But also true is that great ideas get generated when people are walking their dog, are in the shower, or sometimes when they wake up in the middle of the night and scribble something down on a pad. Keith Richards dreamed the riff for 'Satisfaction', woke up a 4AM and played the lick into a tape recorder on the night stand. He didn't come up with the legendary tune as Agenda Item #6 in an official Rolling Stones band weekly status meeting.

    It seems like these kinds of blunt, non-differentiated, unscientific, (does IBM really know that working in the office will lead to better performance?), never work out in the long run.

    The best talent that feels negatively impacted by this policy change will find their way to greener pastures. And other folks will feel forced by their employer to make incredibly disruptive life changing decisions in order to keep their jobs.

    Ever have to hell an 11 year-old they have to relocate to a new city, new school, and make all new friends? Have fun with that conversation.

    I don't know what is going on at IBM in a big-picture sense. But I do know the various IBM folks I have dealt with and do work with now (some are in Marketing), are all dedicated, intelligent, considerate, and a real pleasure to work with.

    I hope things work out for them the way they want them to.

    Thursday
    Jan262017

    Two years away (from being two years away)

    At the National Basketball Association player draft in 2014, former college basketball coach and now broadcaster and analyst Fran Fraschilla offered this classic observation of then 18 year-old Brazilian prospect Bruno Caboclo and his potential to become a successful NBA player:

    "He's two years away from being two years away, (from being ready to play in the NBA), and then we'll see."

    I thought about this gem of a line from Fraschilla in a recent conversation I was having with a friend about potential career choices. Why did the '2 years away' line come up?

    Because I think that 2 years may be the new 5 years, in terms of the old classic interview "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question. Take your pick from fast-changing technology, new business models, disruption coming from all sides, and toss in a side dish of the gig economy and I think most people would have a really hard time seeing out five years into the future and be able to offer up a credible or coherent idea of what they think they will be doing then. Two years seems at least more tangible. The future can't move that fast, right? Don't answer that.

    The really important point isn't just that 2 years might be the new 5 years, but that just like our pal Bruno Caboclo, what you don't want is to find yourself two years from now STILL being two years away from whatever goal/plan you had set out to reach.

    It may be more realistic and reachable to set out career plans and goals in 2 year increments as opposed to 5, (or whatever your dopey interviewer says), but the downside is that 2 years passes really, really fast.

    Just ask Bruno, who in 2 1/2 full seasons in the NBA has played in a grand total of 22 games and scored a whopping 16 total points. 

    The upside? Bruno is still only 21 and has time to get to where he wants to be. 'Losing' two years might not hurt him that much. 

    But I am pretty sure that most of the rest of us don't have that kind of luxury. Or an NBA contract.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Aug112015

    Enterprise Robots

    Most 'Robots are coming to take away all of our jobs' stories usually read something like this one - 'Chinese factory replaces 90% of humans with robots, production soars' - a recent recounting of the now getting familiar tale of automation becoming more and more of a threat to workers and employment.

    You can check out the entire piece on Tech Republic, but here is the essential takeaway:

    The Changying Precision Technology Company factory in Dongguan has automated production lines that use robotic arms to produce parts for cell phones. The factory also has automated machining equipment, autonomous transport trucks, and other automated equipment in the warehouse.

    There are still people working at the factory, though. Three workers check and monitor each production line and there are other employees who monitor a computer control system. Previously, there were 650 employees at the factory. With the new robots, there's now only 60. Luo Weiqiang, general manager of the company, told the People's Daily that the number of employees could drop to 20 in the future.

    The robots have produced almost three times as many pieces as were produced before. According to the People's Daily, production per person has increased from 8,000 pieces to 21,000 pieces. That's a 162.5% increase.

    The increased production rate hasn't come at the cost of quality either. In fact, quality has improved. Before the robots, the product defect rate was 25%, now it is below 5%

    Ooh - that's is the technology double, (really triple), whammy at the expense of workers - cost savings, increased productivity, and better quality. At least in this specific manufacturing example, there just seems to be no way for workers to compete with the robots in this scenario.

    So that is the scary, and kind of obvious aspect of the robot takeover, and perhaps for most of the folks reading this blog not one that feels particularly relevant, at least personally. Most of the audience here (and me too), are not manufacturing workers, or even on the 'front-lines' of our businesses for that matter. We work in the more complex, subtle, nuanced, and emotionally tuned-in parts of the business. We have to understand and deal with people, not rigid manufacturing processes. We need to be able to read people, their language, their facial expressions, their tone, and their mood. We need to be able to connect with people. Robots can't do that.

    Well, not yet anyway.

    Recently Japanese mobile phone operator SoftBank announced the enterprise availability of Pepper - a humanoid robot designed to be a companion able to communicate with people through the most intuitive interface we know: voice, touch and emotions. Launched first as a personal, and in-home companion, the makers of Pepper envision deployment of the robot in many business scenarios - dealing with customer in a retail setting, educating customers on products and services, and perhaps even entertaining them while they wait for service. 

    But the interesting part of this is not just what this particular robot can or can't do today, it is what Pepper (and surely others to follow), is designed to be able to do in general. This is from SoftBank's 'Who is Pepper?' website:

    To be a true social companion Pepper needs to be able to understand your emotions. If you burst out laughing, he will know you are in a good mood. If you frown, Pepper will understand that something is bothering you.

    Pepper can translate what state you are in using his knowledge of universal emotions (joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness) and his ability to analyze your facial expression, body language and the words you use. He will guess your mood, and will even adapt to it. For example, he will try to cheer you up by playing your favorite song!

    Pepper also can express emotions, and this is what makes him so cute! We can say he has a real personality conveyed by his body language, his funny gestures and his voice.

    Reading expressions, gauging your mood from analyzing a complex set of human cues, adapting to you as necessary, and finally, learning from these interactions. Let's suspend (natural) disbelief for a minute and assume Pepper can actually do these things, and is likely to get better and better at all of them over time. If that is the case, what might these developments mean for the rest of us, those of us who don't worry about robots taking over Chinese factories, since we, you know, don't work in Chinese factories?

    Robots taking over low-skill manufacturing jobs is only part of the larger automation story, and probably not the most interesting or important part. It is really just replacing one human in a human-process/machine interaction.

    Robots like Pepper substituting for human-human interactions? Now that is a story. One that hits much closer to the mark.