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    Entries in Human Resources (63)

    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.

    Thursday
    Aug062015

    This is why we can't have nice things (HR and Talent Edition)

    If you follow the news, particularly the news relevant to the workplace, HR, and Talent Management, you probably caught a couple of recent stories that have been pretty widely reported, circulated, and dissected.

    One having to do with compensation - Gravity Payments Raising Minimum Salary to $70,000

    And the second, a straight up benefits story - Netflix To Offer Unlimited Parental Leave

    Both of these stories, one about how one company is raising its minimum salary to a pretty high level compared to local and national statutory minimum wage requirements, and the next, about how another large US company is extending and enhancing a much-needed employee benefit (parental leave), were initially met with positive or at least neutral reactions.

    But then, predictably, the backlash and criticism of both of these policy changes, and from a wide assortment of commentators began.

    The decision by the Gravity Payments CEO to raise his company's minimum annual salary to $70,000 was the easier mark. Outlets from the New York Times all the way to the site I contribute to Fistful of Talent, took apart the Gravity plans. Unworkable, unaffordable, unfair to top performers - the list of holes that were poked in the Gravity plan are too long to recount. 

    Netflix' decision to extend parental leave to an unlimited amount for an entire year has been met with relatively less criticism, but at least one major publication, the Washington Post wasted little time in alerting the rest of us that in fact Netfilx' innovative policy was likely "a bad idea for your company."

    Whether it is these recent stories from Gravity and Netflix, or older and more familiar stories about novel, innovative, and worker-friendly policies from companies like Zappos or Google, there is always one element they have in common. No matter what the specific issue is, (increases in pay, enhanced benefits, more worker autonomy, etc.), once the news makes the rounds almost immediately thereafter commences the chorus of commentary that strikes a familiar, and tired, refrain. 

    And these critiques are always the same. They are always some combination of 'This is a terrible idea/bad Talent Management' along with its corollary 'Sure, this might work in Silicon Valley, but it will never work for you'.

    And I have to say I find that pretty depressing. 

    Why do we have to immediately and forcefully look to take down or at least diminish the significance and importance of new ideas that are clearly intended to improve work, workplaces, and the lives of workers?

    Why do we instinctively look to marginalize the significance of any employee welfare improvement initiative that comes out of some Silicon Valley tech firm as something that could only work in that progressive environment, and not at any 'grown up' company?

    Why do so many HR and Talent folks immediately look to identify why they can't look to follow some of these leading organizations like Netflix and Google and the like, instead of admitting that they might be able to learn/steal from their ideas?

    Look, I understand the arguments knocking the compensation plan that Gravity is trying to implement, and the realities of costs and budgets that make offering up to a year of paid parental leave hard if not impossible for many companies to copy. The criticisms are often valid and well-reasoned.

    But the problem is that they usually just try to shut down the conversation, and don't offer any insights into how these modern, innovative, (and certainly outlier) ideas can be adapted to work in a more mainstream and widespread way. Instead of saying something like 'You can never copy what Netflix is doing', how about we try 'You may not be able to do exactly what Netflix is doing, but here are some ideas on how you can leverage these ideas in your shop'.

    But instead we almost overwhelmingly react negatively. As if raising the minimum salary in an organization to $70,000 is an abomination, and giving new parents unlimited leave for a year are concepts that if adopted in the mainstream would somehow crack the foundations of modern business, and of HR/Talent Management. As if somehow these ideas threaten us.

    What are we afraid of, really?

    Thursday
    Jul232015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 217 - The HR Round Table - Part 2

    HR Happy Hour 217 - The HR Round Table with Hebert and Brennan, Part 2

    Recorded July 9, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Guests: Paul Hebert and Sarah Brennan

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show, Trish sat down for a HR RoundTable with Paul Hebert and Sarah Brennan.  With Paul's expertise in reward and recognition and Sarah's expertise in HCM technology and research, we had a lively discussion around emerging research in the Talent Acquisition space, thoughts on the recent LinkedIn hack-a-thon, and where reward and recognition fits into the organization of today.

    You can listen to Part 2 of the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    And in case you missed it, Part 1 of the Episode can be found here.

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    The show was so lively that we had to record two episodes to fit it all in!  Please be sure to listen to both Part 1 and Part 2 of the HR Round Table episode. It was a fun show and great to have two guest hosts while Steve was out-and-about in China preparing for HR Tech China!

    Have a great day!

    Thursday
    Jun112015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 215 - Operation Rob Lowe

    HR Happy Hour 215 - Operation Rob Lowe

    Recorded Wednesday June 10, 2015 at the Globoforce WorkHuman Conference

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show Steve and Trish recorded the HR Happy Hour Show live at the first ever Globoforce WorkHuman Conference in Orlando, Florida. The event was definitely fun, definitely interesting, and definitely different, as it was much less about any specific technology but rather about work, workplaces and people's relationships with work and their colleagues.

    From Improv sessions, to TED-style talks, to what was a (surprisingly to me anyway), really engaging and energetic keynote from actor Rob Lowe - this event left Steve and Trish with plenty to discuss. 

    So tune in to the show to hear Steve accuse IBM of stealing his 'Culture-Strategy-Talent Triangle' concept, Trish then agree with Steve and then reverse the heat and disagree with him at the end, and what Rob Lowe had to say about the secret to building great work teams. Hint: It was more about 'Talent' than culture or strategy.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio
     

     

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    This was a fun show and a fun event. Many thanks to the folks at Globoforce for having us at the event and definitely check out something from the Rob Lowe filmography this weekend.