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    Entries in talent (56)

    Monday
    Mar132017

    Understanding your competition for talent

    There is a old adage, (not sure when and from whom this was first attributed to), that ascribes a breakthrough in an auto manufacturer's business strategy to them realizing that they were not in the 'car building' business, but rather they were in the 'helping people to get where they want to go' business. 

    This restatement in their fundamental purpose as a business became the key to thinking differently or more expansively about the business, their products, and the talent attraction and retention programs they would have to employ. This kind of thing is happening once again in the auto industry, as described in a piece I read over the weekend from Business Insider titled 'There's a raging talent war for AI experts and it's costing automakers millons'.

    Most of the major auto makers are now playing at some level or another in the nascent self-driving vehicle space - continuing the evolution of their business purpose and their strategy towards personal transport and away from just making cars. But, as you would expect, and the BI piece points out, these shifts have important implications for talent attraction and retention - most importantly even for those of us not in auto making, and are driving changes in the talent competition marketplace.

    From the BI piece:

    But automakers, in particular, are making massive investments in (AI) experts because they’ve begun their AI efforts late compared to traditional tech companies.

    Because deep learning has applications far beyond just self-driving cars, manufacturers are having to compete with each other and traditional tech companies.

    Only 28 companies have more than 10 deep learning specialists on staff, accounting firm KPMG wrote in a 2016 report. What's more, only six technology companies employ 54% of all deep learning specialists: Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA, IBM, Intel, and Samsung.

    "The traditional power and talent of the auto industry was based in their product development group," Gary Silberg, the head of KPMG’s automotive unit, told Business Insider. "So they would hire these amazing mechanical and electrical engineers at the top schools of engineering and they would be part of product development."

    "You can’t just turn on a dime and say, 'ok, now we are going to go recruit AI geniuses and computer scientists and expect them to come to work with us,'" Silberg continued.

    A shift in strategy, leading to the increased demand for a (apologies to Liam Neeson) particular set of skills, is changing how and with whom the auto makers are having to compete with in order to find the talent they need for these AI initiatives.  And they are not finding it easy. Instead of a GM or a Ford more or less having to only worry about each other, and maybe Chrysler, for the cream of the crop of mechanical engineers and industrial designers, they now have to compete with Google, Uber, Microsoft, Tesla and more for the really, really scarce pool of AI experts.

    In fact, as the BI piece points out, the pool of AI experts is so small at least in part due to the best AI professors themselves being recruited out of academia and into industry, leaving universities unable to meet the demand for educating more AI students.

    Want a great example of how a business strategy shift impacts your talent strategy, and requires that the talent strategy undergo a complete re-think? Look no further than this example from the auto makers. The lesson here? The next question your company needs to ask when assessing a business strategy shift, after 'Can we really do this?' is 'Can we find, attract, hire, and retain the kinds of people we need to do this?'

    Competing for talent against one or two competitors that do about the same thing as you do is fairly straightforward.

    Competing for talent against an ever-growing, deep pocketed, and fast moving ecosystem of often dissimilar companies is another thing entirely.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb172017

    CHART OF THE DAY: Report from Startup Land

    I don't like to get too caught up in tracking and detailing the latest trends and moves in HR, Talent, or even workplace technology emanating from Silicon Valley. After all, the vast majority of us do not work in go-go startups, can't really empathize with most startups particular challenges, and the rules of engagement for HR and talent leaders at 30 year-old manufacturing companies with 2,600 employees are naturally, (obviously), different than at a new 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startup in Palo Alto.

    But on the other hand if you generally believe that innovation in technology, service delivery, and even 'HR' things like benefits, workplace design, and employee experience does often start at 12-person 'Uber for XYZ' startups, as they are unencumbered by size, tradition, understanding of the 'rules', and simply often too busy to worry about HR things and just get to work, then keeping an eye on what is happening in the Valley can be a useful exercise for any HR and talent pro - no matter what size and type of organization you are in.

    One recently published set of snapshots on what is happening in Startup Land comes to us from Silicon Valley Bank in the form of their 2017 Startup Outlook Report (US).  It is a really interesting look at some of the trends, challenges, and points of view from their survey of leaders of 941 global startups, 62% from the US. I want to share three charts from the US portion of the report, with a comment or two for each, then send you on your way for the (long) weekend.

    Chart 1 - The 'War' for Talent

    You'd expect that a majority of startups would report difficulty in finding the people they need to grow their businesses since many of these startups are in technology fields where the tech itself may be new, and the competition for people with these often very hard to find skills is fierce. But 90% plus saying it is challenging or extremely challenging to find talent? I must say that even surprised me. Even though the percentage ticked down a bit, 9 of 10 startup leaders showed up to work today probably worried about finding talented people.

    2. Gender diversity is not improving

    While it probably is not surprising that most startups have mostly male leaders and mostly male boards of directors, what is at least a little surprising, given the increased attention on this issue in the last year, is that surveyed startups are getting more male at the leadership and board levels.  Buried behind this chart is the note that about a quarter of surveyed firms have formal programs in place to increase female representation in leadership roles. But a quick look at the above data suggests that these efforts are not moving the needle at all.

    3. Despite it all, almost all of these startups are hiring

    It is the nature of a startup to grow and hire, so you'd expect these numbers of firms looking to increase headcount in 2017 to be high, but it is pretty encouraging to see that this number has remained consistently high over the last few years. And this is really good news for the kinds of people that these startups are likely to be after - highly skilled, proficient in the latest technology, and able to add value right away. There's a reason why 'Data Scientist' is sometimes called the best job in America today. Although I'd argue that 'Stretch Four' would be better. Non basketball fans, Google that one.

    Lots of other interesting data points in the 2017 Startup Outlook Report - I encourage taking a few minutes to read it through. You might not be an HR pro at a Valley startup, but you just might be competing with some of them for your next Data Scientist.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Nov162016

    PODCAST - We're Only Human 3 - What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    We're Only Human: What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    Host: Ben Eubanks

    Listen to the show HERE

    In this episode of We're Only Human, host Ben Eubanks talks about talent mobility and its applications in the workplace. Talent mobility is the practice of using internal talent to fill temporary or permanent roles. 

    Unlike succession, which is typically a top-down approach, talent mobility takes into account the interests and aspirations of employees.  As a talent practice, the idea of talent mobility isn't necessarily new. However, there is renewed interest in the topic due to some interesting trends Ben mentions in the podcast, including changes in career longevity, employee ownership over career paths and work tasks, the gig economy, and challenges with sourcing high performers. 

    In addition, Ben covers some case studies and examples of companies that are doing interesting work with talent mobility, including World Bank Group, Chipotle, and Hootsuite.   

    Listen to the show on the show page HERE or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers click through)

    For more information about Talent Mobility you can check out Ben's presentation on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/beneubanks/talent-mobility-the-key-to-engagement-retention-and-performance

    Many thanks to our show sponsor Virgin Pulse - learn more about their products and services at www.virginpulse.com.

    Reminder, you can subscribe to We're Only Human and all the HR Happy Hour Podcast shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the major podcast player apps - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Thursday
    Aug112016

    Every business is a talent business, retail edition

    Over coffee this morning I caught an interview with Macys CEO Terry Lundgren who was a guest on CNBC discussing the retailer's latest quarterly results, (which were surprisingly positive for a company that like many in the retail industry has been struggling of late).

    During the interview about the positive results and momentum that seem to have buoyed the company in the 2nd quarter of 2016, one of the CNBC reporters questioned Lundgren about the key drivers of this shift and hopeful turnaround in Macys business. Here's the question, (paraphrased a little), and then Lundgren's response, which I found really interesting.

    Reporter: :What is the most important thing you are doing to change the business, is it inventory management, is it physical changes to the stores, or is it the increased investment in digital and e-commerce?"

    Lundgren: "I think the biggest single thing that we did was that we decided to invest in people and putting more people back on the sales floor in advance of the performance of the business. So it was a bet so to speak. In a retail business like ours with so many stores, the biggest expense you have is your salesforce on your floors. So investing millions and millions of dollars back into that part of the business before the business turned around was the biggest bet that we placed in the beginning of the 2nd quarter. That to me, because I am watching what we call our 'Magic Scores', which are our customer service scores every single month now improving and going in the right direction. And I think that investment in people has had the biggest positive impact."

    There is a popular saying, I think that even has been repeated on this blog from time to time, that 'Every company is a tech company', alluding to the fact that transformative and disruptive technology-driven change has redefined business, markets, competition, service delivery, communication, and pretty much everything else. And while I do believe that sentiment is largely true, and the most successful companies will be the ones that can adapt to and exploit new technologies the fastest, we can't ever let the 'talent' part of the popular Culture--Strategy--Talent triangle go wanting.

    Is was surprising and refreshing to hear the CEO of huge organization attribute smart investments in talent as the primary driver of what he and Macys hopes to be a sustained turnaround in business fortunes.

    It's never all about new technology. It's never all about the best business strategy. And it's never all about assembling the best talent. It is all about finding the balance between all three, and knowing, as seems to be the case with Macys, when to shift investments and attention to shore up the side of the triangle that may be lacking, and the one that has the greatest opportunity to impact customers and results. 

    Every business a tech business today. Sure.

    But even if you don't buy that, you have to agree that every business ,truly, at the end of the day, is a talent business.

    Tuesday
    Jul262016

    VACATION REWIND: Netflix ratings and what they might mean for your real-time feedback program

    NOTE: I am on vacation this week - please enjoy a replay of a piece from January of this year.

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    Netflix ratings and what they might mean for your real-time feedback program

    Everyone's favorite entertainment streaming platform/service Netflix has been in the news plenty lately.

    Their most recent earnings announcement was pretty fantastic, their revenues and reach are climbing steadily, and they continue to set the pace, tone, and standard for the modern entertainment experience. Just about everyone who is a Netflix subscriber loves it, and some think that Netflix (and some other services like Hulu and Amazon Prime), might one day ring the death bell for traditional broadcast networks and cable service providers.

    Netflix is a case study example of a company that has managed growth, transition, technological change, and even making some strategic blunders to become one of the digital age's most interesting and influential companies. You might recall that Netflix made quite a stir in the HR/Talent Management space with their famous 'Culture Deck' a few years back. That document, which some have called the most important one in all of Silicon Valley, was seen and shared by thousands.

    But why I was interested in posting about Netflix this week has nothing to do with their 'culture deck' or consumer cord cutting or the new season of Orange is the New Black. It is for another element of the Netflix approach I find really interesting and relevant to HR and talent management pros today - their approach and attitude about program ratings, the traditional way most TV programs have been judged, and their creators rewarded.

    As consumers of TV we are all at least somewhat aware of ratings. They are reported on regularly. We all hear stories about TV's highest rated shows. And we know that when shows are cancelled, the usual reason is low ratings. In the traditional TV model, ratings are closely monitored, are made public and are widely reported on, and are the ultimate form of either validation and success, or rejection and failure. 

    Want to know the ratings of any broadcast or cable TV show? That information is not that hard to find.

    Want to know the ratings or even the total number of viewers for Netflix shows like Orange or House of Cards? Well, good luck finding out that information. Here is what Netflix thinks about ratings, from a recent piece on Business Insider:

    Netflix thinks ratings are bad for television shows, and are a negative force on the talent that produces them.

    Last week, executives from the likes of NBC and FX traded barbs with Netflix over ratings transparency.

    FX CEO John Landgraf said it’s “ridiculous that we don’t have usage numbers on Netflix," while NBC’s Alan Wurtzel cited data from an outside research company that Netflix’s ratings weren’t all that impressive.

    Netflix fired back, not just at NBC’s data, which content chief Ted Sarandos called "remarkably inaccurate," but at the very idea of ratings.

    Netflix has always closely guarded its viewership data, so much so that many of its creators don’t even know how well their shows are doing. Tina Fey, who was the co-creator of the Netflix show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” said she had no idea how many people were watching the show,according to the Wall Street Journal.

    Now Netflix is saying this type of secrecy is actually good for shows. Sarandos said that instant ratings data turns TV into a weekly arms race between networks, and puts “a lot of creative pressure on talent,” Variety reports.

    He asserted that the focus on ratings “has been remarkably negative in terms of its effect on shows.”

    Quite a bit to take apart from that story but the key for me is not the 'old guard' sniping at Netflix from the NBC exec, but rather the Netflix point of view that a focus on ratings, particularly instant or 'real-time' ratings information is in fact harmful to the creative talent that it is increasingly engaging to produce its content.

    It is kind of a remarkable point of view, and in the modern world of digital content delivery and availability of big data and powerful analytical tools, very counter-intuitive. Everything - marketing, politics, sports, and yes even HR and talent management is in an almost lock-step march towards compiling more data, gauging success or failure more discretely, and importantly - providing results and feedback to people much more often.

    You can't swing a cat in a room of HR people today and not find at least someone, maybe a few someones, that are scrapping annual performance reviews and shifting towards some kind of alternative program for assessing and hopefully improving employee performance. While these new approaches differ at least some, they almost always have one thing in common - the encouragement of more frequent 'feedback' (if you like 'ratings'), given to employees in the course of a year.

    Sure, this 'feedback' is meant to be less formal, more forward-looking, and less frightening than the annual performance review, but strip away the new terms we are using and underneath it all to many employees it is going to feel like you've replaced the dreaded annual performance review with anywhere from 12 to 52 'mini' performance reviews. And that is going to stink worse than any uncomfortable one-hour annual performance review meeting ever did.

    The real thing to think about in all this is the effect that feedback/criticism/ratings will have on talented people, especially creative people that are increasingly the difference between organizational success and failure.

    Netflix, the paragon of the modern company, culture, and talent engine has decided that less feedback (in form of program ratings), is actually a positive, and beneficial to the creative talent with which it engages, and which it needs to compete and succeed. It thinks for people to do their best, most creative work, they can't be constantly worried, on a week-to-week basis, with ratings and viewer numbers. Netflix is playing the long game.

    So what does this mean for you, the HR and talent pro wrestling with these trends and changes in the way 'traditional' performance management has always been done?

    It might mean this: Replacing traditional, annual performance reviews with a system that amounts to more frequent, if less formal, performance reviews might be exactly the wrong thing to do if you are trying to get the best, most creative results from your teams.

    Or said differently, how many really, really talented people do you know that like to be told how they are doing all of the time?