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    Entries in Technology (385)

    Tuesday
    Jan092018

    What comes after the smartphone?

    Today, January 9, 2018, marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of the original iPhone, when back on January 9, 2007 the late Steve Jobs introduced the world to the gadget that would change personal, workplace, and social technology profoundly.

    Even a decade plus later, the smartphone remains the dominant personal tech innovation of its time, with legions of users lining up on new model launch days to get their hands on the latest versions of their favorite new phone. Data below from IDC estimates over 460M new smartphones were shipped worldwide in 2016, (the latest full year data I could locate in 4 minutes of exhaustive research).

    But just like any other successful technology, the smartphone can't (probably) remain the dominant device for personal technology, communication, and productivity forever, right?

    Think about it - we don't carry around Palm Pilot PDAs, pagers, or Blackberry devices any more, (sorry Canadidan readers). There was a time, believe it or not, when those devices (and others), seemed just as important, even essential to our daily lives and our work.

    So it is likely to be the case with the smartphone too.

    Something will come next and while this something may not (at least right away) replace the smartphone, it is likely, based on the history of technology, that this 'next' thing will start to chip away at the foothold that smartphone has over lives.

    The annual Consumer Electronics Show has been going on this week in Las Vegas - the event where all the biggest providers of all forms of consumer technology (phones, appliances, robots, even cars at this stage), showcase their latest product innovations, make new product launch announcements, and generally share their vision of where consumer technology is going.

    If we are looking for insight what might come after the smartphone, CES presents a decent place to begin that research. And what has been the dominant theme of this year's CES so far (and what have I written about here at least twice already this year?)

    Here's a quote from Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Reserch for the Consumer Technology Association:

    "Coming out of CES, we're going to clearly have established that voice is going to be the go-to user interface," said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association. "Wherever we go or whatever we're doing, we're going to have some form of digital assistant at our side ready to help us."

    Amazon, Google, and pretty much every technology supplier that matters is thinking about what comes next and is chasing the next breakthrough innovation that will be as disruptive as the smartphone. If I had to bet right now, I would say the always-on, ubiquitous, and mostly voice-activated digital assistant and the ecosystem behind that assistant seems like the best bet to become that breakthrough.

    It will be interesting to watch for sure.

     

    Monday
    Jan082018

    SAVED FOR LATER: A word about words - the ones your use in your public job listings

    Since no one asked, a quick word about the process I have used for ages to find/save ideas for blog topics.

    I use Feedly, (while pouring one out for the late, great Google Reader), to subscribe to about 400 news and information sources on topics like tech, HR, news, pop culture, sports, and more for two main reasons. One, to try and keep up to date and informed about what is going on the world, country, and in the HR/workplace/HR tech space. And two, to leverage Feedly's 'Read Later' funciton  to effectively bookmark or save posts and articles that might be used as sources or inspiration for future posts.

    Inevitably, I save many, many more articles than become posts, (or topics on the HR Happy Hour Show). So sometimes, usually on the weekend, I page and scroll back through some 'Saved for Later' pieces that I didn't actually cover or discuss anywhere in order to make sure that there wasn't something really interesting that should have been covered but for some reason was not.  And there are plenty of these kinds of pieces for sure. So in 2018 I am going to try to do a little better about surfacing these topics, even if it is a little 'late' or if it seems the news cycle has passed. So here we go...

    From a few weeks ago, in something you may have caught, perhaps not, the HR Tech company Textio (who we featured at the 2017 HR Technology Conference), published a really interesting post titled '1000 different people, the same words', which shared the results from text analysis of over 25,000 public job postings from 10 well-known tech companies. The purpose of the analysis was to determine both the most common words and phrases used within a company's job postings, as well as assess how much more or less frequently these words and phrases appear compared to peer companies and a general baseline. Finally, Textio also examined the impact of these words and phrases in terms of how they drove differences in the expected number of male and female applicants. Take a look at a summary of the data below, then a couple of quick comments from me.

    It is pretty amazing and instructive what this fairly simple but still pretty profound text analysis suggests, (and possibly reveals), about the cultures, norms, and expectations that these companies have for their employees based on the words they use/overuse in their job postings.

    The words and phrases are also kind of reinforcing too, of the ideas we the public and job applicants likely have of these companies, based on what we know about them from the news and their reputations.

    The words that appear often in Amazon and Uber job postings like 'maniacal' and 'whatever it takes' are probably not surprising given what we know and have heard about these companies approach to work, business, competition, and performance.

    Likewise, Slack's use of 'lasting relationships' and Twitter's use of the phrase 'diverse perspectives' also pretty accurately reflect at least some elements of both of these company's ethos.

    This is really interesting, and I think important. The language that an organization uses in their communications, especially their public-facing kinds of communications say more about what they truly are about than any formal, stilted, and focus grouped to death mission or vision.

    It is a really good idea to make sure that the words, phrases, tone and manner with which your message is being carried to those who may not know (or have experience with) what you organization is really all about be true to what you believe (or aspire) it to be.

    Textio is doing some really interesting and important work in this area, thanks to them for sharing this data.

    Happy Monday - have a great week! 

    Thursday
    Jan042018

    Learn a new word: Nomophobia

    My son hassles me from time to time because I have, (again, from time to time), became irrationally worried when we are out and about and I notice the battery life on my mobile phone has dipped below, say 80% or so.

    It could be because I travel a fair bit and rely on my mobile more than most people for essential functions, or that for that last 7 or 8 years I no longer have a working 'home phone' so my mobile is the only way to contact me. Or it could be that I need UP TO DATE scores on Knicks, Liverpool, and South Carolina Gamecock games.

    Actually, that is probably it.

    But all of us probably at one time or another felt the creeping anxiety or frustration or maybe ever fear that comes from being without our mobile phones - either from a dead battery, being in a place with no mobile/data service, or even one of the rare (and disappearing fast) places where mobile phone use is not permitted.

    How long could you go, in a non-emergency, 'normal' life situation, without having access to a working, functional mobile phone? An hour? Maybe two? Maybe much less than that, if you are the kind of person who more or less runs your life and business and family stuff from your mobile phone.

    Turns out this anxiety/fear of being out of mobile contact has a name, or at least a proposed name - Nomophobia.

    From our pals at Wikipedia:

    Nomophobia is a proposed name for the phobia of being out of cellular phone contact. The term, an abbreviation for "no-mobile-phone phobia", was coined during a 2008 study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based research organization evaluating anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they "lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage".

    I'd say since 2008, the year of the referenced study above, that the percentage of folks who would admit to being 'anxious' if they were without their working mobile phone would be much, much higher. Like everyone, I am thinking.

    Why bring this up, this pretty obvious, 'We all are reliant on our mobile phones and we get really squirrely when we don't have them or they don't work' take?

    Because there is at least some responsibility from workplace rules and norms, and associated workplace technologies that are contributing to this phenomenon.

    The original research into the causes of nomophobia most often cited respondent's need to keep in touch wth and be available to friends and family as the prime driver of their anxiety during times when they had no mobile access. Today, for many if not most employees and even contingent workers, I would probably add "the need to be able to see, respond, and otherwise be accessible to 'work'" as another significant driver of nomophobia-type anxiety.

    Sure, we need to be able to text our kids to find out where they are, when they need to be picked up, or when they are coming home. Not being able to perform that function is a real hassle, and can be anxiety-filled.

    But I bet if you were honest with yourself, you would rank 'Missing an important email from the CEO/Boss/Client' almost as high on your list of nomophobia triggers.

    Once any tool becomes a workplace tool, the folks who architect and design work and our relationships to the tools we use for work have at least some responsibility to ensure that these tools are used, well, responsibly.

    It is probably worth a minute or two, before 2018 really gets going and you won't have time for this nonsense, to think a little bit more about what we expect, demand, and require from our teams and ourselves, when it comes to being 'always' accessible.

    We have a lot to get nervous and anxious about without worrying about missing an email at 11PM on a Saturday.

    Postscript- The Wikipedia piece on Nomophobia links to a 2012 research paper titled 'Mobile phone addiction in adolescence: The Test of Mobile Phone Dependence (TMD)', that includes a 12-question survey (way at the end of the paper), to test your own addiction to mobile technology. Worth a look if you suspect you might have a nomophobia problem. 

    Friday
    Dec292017

    Five things I think I think, year-end 2017 edition

    Winding down 2017 with five quick observations, (not predictions), about HR, work, tech, basketball, or whatever comes to mind in the 21 minutes I have allotted to complete this final post of 2017.

    1. Workplace- Matt Lauer. Robert Wilmers. Harvey Weinstein. John Skipper. All really powerful execs/talents (and I can name dozens more), that seemingly out of nowhere were here one day and gone the next. If 2017 will go down as the year of #MeToo it will also be remembered by many as the year when organization's lack of planning for the future was severely exposed. There is no doubt that in 2018 we will see more of these abrupt terminations and separations - many from high-profile well known leaders, and many others involving people lesser or unknown, but important to the organization's operations. If I were the Chief HR or Talent Officer of any reasonably sized company, I think I would start 2018 working on my organizational talent depth chart. When your COO or CFO suddenly resigns (or is terminated), on Jan 7, will you be ready?

    2. HR and HR Tech- I am going to have to try really hard not to get too overboard with my recent 'Voice interfaces are the next disruption' take, although I really believe it to be the case. I caught a recent video of an 85 year-old grandma learning to use her new Echo/Alexa device her grandkids gave her for Christmas and I couldn't help but think of the power, accessibility, and reach that voice UI make possible. I still think this will be the story in HR tech in 2018 and 2019. As for 'normal' HR, the tightening labor market shows no signs of reversing as we close the year. 2018 will (hopefully), finally be the year when wages (more broadly), begin to increase meaningfully as organizations chase scarce and powerful talent. Your compensation analysts, (ironically), have become much more valuable to your organization.

    3. Media and content- I have to admit, I have missed, (and probably still will miss in 2018), the idea of the 'pivot to video' that many media companies have made in the last couple of years. Maybe it is because I do have the proverbial face for radio or maybe it's that I still prefer to consume 'real' content in writing. And I still think that most HR, tech, and business professionals are not spending their days at work or on a plane or during their commute watching a stream of short videos instead of reading longer form pieces, (and listening to podcasts, but more on that next). I could be wrong about this. Maybe. But the most compelling piece I read about this pivot to video theorized that it is happening not because it is what consumers/audiences want, but rather because it is what Facebook decided it could sell more expensive ad products against, and thus has prioritized video content in user's news feeds. Sounds plausible.

    4. HR Happy Hour- The HR Happy Hour Podcast is now heading into it's 9th year. It remains my favorite creative exercise and (hopefully), the most valuable contribution that I make to the HR, HR Tech, and workplace communities. And it was cool to think that we (myself, Shauna Moerke at the beginning, and Trish McFarlane now), were on to 'the next big thing' before it was even a thing. Sure, I am shilling, but I am really proud of what we are doing. Shamleess plug - HR Happy Hour Show.

    5. Blog- The blog here is now about 10 years in. At the beginning, I started blogging for the students in an HR Tech class I used to teach. Then, when blogging became much more mainstream in the HR space, I wrote for the increasing numbers of readers, (and for the attention, I have to admit). Now, with attention completely divided up into bite size pieces, spread out across thousands of sites, social networks, apps, and new media, (like podcasts), I think now I mostly blog for me. It still is a mentally valuable exercise, gives me a sense of 'At least I got something done today', and keeps me from getting lazy. In a lot of ways the blog has turned back into what the first (web) blogs were created to do - provide a forum for sharing the blogger's personal thoughts. That still is valuable to me and why I still keep up this blog after all this time. The blog is about what I think is interesting, which is the only way I can stay interested in the blog.

    As always, thanks for indulging me and many thanks for reading in 2017.

    I hope you have a fantastic end to the year, and that 2018 brings you everything you hope it well.

    Happy New Year!

    Wednesday
    Dec272017

    An example of how 'good' user experience changes over time

    Quick shot for a 'I'm not really working but not quite on vacation either' Wednesday.

    Like many folks, I am dabbling with some new technology over the holidays and after messing around with a newly acquired device, the Amazon Fire Stick, (for those not familiar, the Fire Stick is a small device that plugs in to a TV's HDMI port to enable streaming content like Netflix, SlingTV, and my favorite, the NBA League Pass App).

    It's a cool, inexpensive, and highly capable little piece of tech. I do believe I am just days away from cutting the cable cord for good. It is really just the phone call I have to make that I am dreading at this point.

    But as I was setting up the Fire Stick, I couldn't help but notice the size, setup, and UX elements of the Amazon remote. Take a look at the pic below. The remote on the left is my current Spectrum Cable TV remote, and on the right, the Fire Stick remote.

    In case you're scoring at home, the Spectrum reomote has 59 buttons and is easily over twice the size and weight as the Fire Stick remote, which has a total of 7 buttons and a kind of tactile navigation wheel.

    Three quick observations on these two remotes, and what we might be able to apply to our own work and workplace tech decisions from thinking about how UX and tech expectations change over time.

    1. What we consider 'good' in terms of design and UX is a fluid, changing thing. The first time I got a hold of the Spectrum remote I am sure I was excited, happy, if a bit overwhelmed with all the functions. This remote could do 'everything' and I am sure I thought that the tradeoff in size, complexity, usability in order to do everything was worth it. Sure, most of the buttons are really tiny, are jammed too close together, but that's the price of a super-powered piece of tech. Eventually, you figure it out.

    2. The most important of the seven buttons on the Fire Stick remote is the little one at the top of the device with the microphone image. It's used for the remote voice command capabilities akin to how one issues commands to Amazon Alexa enabled devices. Think, 'Alexa, open Netflix'. Or 'Alexa, fast-forward three minutes'. Or, 'Alexa, play The Real Housewives of New Jersey' (that last may or may not have been the one I tested for this piece).

    I recently wrote about Alexa here on the blog, so I won't repeat all those takes again, but with Amazon reporting that the single most popular item on Amazon.com this holiday shopping season was its Echo Dotdevice, it seems certain that tens of millions of US households will be experimenting, learning, and becoming familiar with the power of voice-activated tech in 2018. These tens of millions of folks are also your employees, using your workplace tools and tech, and will begin to press for more and better voice capable tech at work. No doubt.

    3. Probably the obvious take on these two devices, their design, and how they make the user feel, but here it is. More is not better with UX and with tech in general. Better is better. I know the tendency, especially with workplace technology is to continue to add features, functions, processes, and in our example, buttons to the solution in order to cast the widest possible net. Tech providers are guilty of this, but so are organizations that issue 846 page RFPs for a Performance Management solution evaluation. And so many of the tech providers respond, especially for a large, Fortune 100 size customer, to add whatever features and functions that the customer claims they 'need'. This cycle spins and repeats over time, and that is how you end up with the 59 button Spectrum remote. Let's hope in 2018 both providers and customers alike will think a little harder about what they really need to get done, how their tools should support them and not overwhelm them, and provide employees with the simplest solutions possible that enable their success at work.

    Happy holiday week. Hope you are staying warm!