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    Entries in Technology (196)


    Stealing jobs back from the machines

    We've been hearing the alarm bells, (heck many of us, well mostly me) have been ringing those bells, the ones that are tolling for the eventual and perhaps even imminent demise of the American worker, destined to be replaced by a robot or an algorithm.

    Automation is continuing apace and advances in computing power, combined with development of more sophisticated robotics and smart machines that create and communicate massive amounts of data are causing a perfect storm of sorts. Routine work is likely to be automated out of human hands, lower-complexity service jobs are under threat, and even many types of 'knowledge work' are becoming targets of the relentless pace and unwavering progress of automation and technology.

    It is a story that keeps getting repeated so often lately that it is simultaneously getting tired and self-fulfilling.

    That's why this piece, 'Gods' Make Comeback at Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs from Robots , from Bloomberg about what a possible brighter future of work and human worker's co-existence with the robots might look like was both surprising and instructive.  The piece is about how at Toyota, long a leader in applying advanced theories, processes, and technologies to the manufacturing environment, was actually introducing (or re-introducing, I suppose), more human-powered and manual labor-based processes into many of its plants. 

    Why put slower, more expensive, more likely to mess up, and definitely more likely to need a rest after 8 hours or so humans back into the manufactring flow? 

    From the Bloomberg piece:

    Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future.

    “We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” said Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants. “When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.”

    These gods, or Kami-sama in Japanese, are making a comeback at Toyota, the company that long set the pace for manufacturing prowess in the auto industry and beyond. Toyota’s next step forward is counter-intuitive in an age of automation: Humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process.

    Learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn’t get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota’s factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes, Kawai said.

    In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota’s Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line 96 percent from its length three years ago. Toyota has eliminated about 10 percent of material-related waste from building crankshafts at Honsha. Kawai said the aim is to apply those savings to the next-generation Prius hybrid.

    Really interesting and perhaps this story foretells one likely scenario for the future of work - a kind of hybrid and peaceful co-existence and co-operation between human and machine. One where each actor can supply and focus on what they do best. The machines are precise, indefatigable, obedient, unerring. The people focusing on creativity, adaptability, recalling institutional memory and lessons. Then the combination of the two leading to the best outcomes for both (and the organization). The humans 'learn' then teach the machines to carry out these learnings. 

    Which is kind of the way it has always been until recently, when it seems like we have allowed the advances in automation to allow us to forget that we humans still have much to offer and much to teach the machines.


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 180 - Putting People First

    HR Happy Hour 180 - 'Putting People First' (Live from Ultimate Connections 2014)

    Recorded Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    Guest: Cecile Alper-Leroux, Vice President of Product Strategy, Ultimate Software

    Last week Steve and Trish were able to attend Ultimate Software's Annual Connections User Conference in Las Vegas and sit down with Cecile Alper-Leroux to get an update on some of the exciting developments and happenings at Ultimate Software as well as talk about some of the ways that putting People First - in software design, in the approach to talent management, and how that leads to the best outcomes for both individuals and organizations is the key to sustained success.

    Ultimate Software, across their thousands of customers, supports over 15 million people records in the cloud. Cecile shared with us one of the primary considerations that Ultimate takes into account when building software for so many people - the almost radically different expectations people have in their relationship with any technology. People's personal lives are filled with technologies that are adaptive, responsive, fun, engaging, and are also simple to use. Those expectations and demands are now being placed on the technologies that we use in workplace as well. Cecile shared the key things to consider: provide user value, hook users in early with a great experience, and be useful and help them get their jobs done.

    We also talked about the ridiculous labor laws in France and how we all want to live there.

    Ultimate Software through their innovative technology solutions, focus on designing software experiences that place the individual's needs at the forefront, and from the deep experience that comes from over two decades of supporting their thousands of customers, have evolved to become one of the most important and influential HR technology solution providers in the industry today. 

    This was a really fun and interesting show and I encourage you to give it a listen.

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

    Listen To Business Internet Radio Stations with Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    Additionally, you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or for Android device users, from a free app called Stitcher Radio. In both cases just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your podcast subscription list. 

    This was a fun and informative show and I would like to thank Cecile and everyone at Ultimate Software for allowing the HR Happy Hour Show to be a part of Connections 2014. 


    What's bigger than the World Series? Watching people play video games

    This is a short update in a semi-regular series of 'If you are not paying attention, the world is probably a lot different than you think' department I offer up this nugget courtesy of The Atlantic - 'More People Watched the 'League of Legends' Video Game Championships that the World Series'.

    Here is the opening from The Atlantic piece, click over to read the rest if you like, but unless you are a fairly serious gamer the first paragraph is probably all you need, (or I need) to make the point:

    In October, some 15 million people tuned in to watch Major League Baseball’s World Series in the United States. But that’s nothing compared to the other big sporting tournament that took place around the same time: In late September and early October, 32 million people watched the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship, according to a new report (pdf) from SuperData, a games research company.

    Additionally, over 18,000 people (real, actual people) filled the Stapes Center in Los Angeles to watch the finals live. Also, it wasn't just the World Series total viewers that were topped by viewers of League of Legends - the NBA Finals Game 7, the average for the NCAA College Basketball Final Four, and the BCS College Football National Title game all fell short of the 32 miiion people that tuned in to the League of Legends finals.

    Why mention this story? Well, it is a Friday and in a nod to yesterday's crowdsourcing post, I kind of am out of other ideas. But seriously, I think this is an incredibly interesting story. Think about it in your own work or personal context - would you ever have thought about the growing popularity of watching other people play video games?

    It sounds so silly, right? Who would actually want to watch someone else play a video game?

    I am not really sure, but if you think about it for half a minute (and non-emotionally), watching 'real' sports like baseball or football is just as silly as watching people play video games. What is the difference really, except just that baseball and football have been around longer. But those of you who take 4 hours out of your Sunday afternoons to watch your favorite NFL team all Fall/Winter don't have the right to claim any kind of intellectual high ground over the video game fans.

    In fact, most of the people who watch the pros play video games do it to try and actually improve their own game playing ability - something that can be said for very few football or baseball fans.

    The world is not at all what we think it is at time.s I think it helps our work in HR and Talent, although I could not tell you precisely how, to keep aware of what is going on out in the big, scary world where millions of people are watching video games when you are watching football.

    Have a great weekend!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 179 - Data Driven HR

    HR Happy Hour 179 - 'Data Driven HR' (Live from Equifax Workforce Solutions Forum 2014)

    Recorded Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    Guests: Dann Adams, President, Equifax Workforce Solutions and Mike Psenka, Senior Vice President Workforce Analytics, Equifax Workforce Solutions

    Last week Steve and Trish were able to attend Equifax Workforce Solutions Annual User Conference in Scottsdale, AZ and sit down with Dann Adams and Mike Psenka to talk about some of the ways that more advanced capability and increased availability of data and analytics are changing the way HR gets done, and increasing the opportunities for HR to contribute significant business value.

    Data is increasingly the 'must have' resource for HR leaders. It can allow the leveraging of that data and the related insights on pay, turnover, and job movement from a wide swath of industries and millions of data points in order to give organizations a better understanding of how their workforce trends stack up to their peers. It also means using data and decision support tools to ensure the organization is making the right decisions and remaining compliant with complex ACA requirements.

    Equifax Workforce Solutions through their technology solutions, extensive and robust data set from which to derive insights, and the domain experience of their team are at the forefront of delivering on the promise and potential that data and analytics offer to HR leaders and organizations. On the show, Dann and Mike share a few examples and share their insights as to how HR organizations can get the most value from these data driven approaches. 

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

    Popular Business Internet Radio with Steve Boese on BlogTalkRadio


    Additionally, you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or for Android device users, from a free app called Stitcher Radio. In both cases just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your podcast subscription list. 

    This was a fun and informative show and I would like to thank Dann, Mike, and everyone at Equifax Workforce Solutions for allowing the HR Happy Hour Show to be a part of Forum 2014. 


    CHART OF THE DAY: Better hope you're not a telemarketer

    I'm about to speak a little later this afternoon at the Achievers Aspire event in San Francisco on the topic of Robots in the Workplace (I know, shocking that this was the topic I pitched when the folks at Achievers asked me if I would be interested in participating in the event), and in doing a final review of the slides I am planning on presenting I figured I should share one of the most interesting charts from the deck - so here goes:

    (Source: Business Insider)

    It is probably not a shock to you or anyone that jobs like telemarketing, typists, and retail salespersons are coming under increasing threat from the rise of robots and automation, but take a look at some of the other, more surprising types of jobs that have a high likelihood of being automated away in the next two decades.

    Accountants, technical writers, even commercial pilots - these are not the kinds of jobs we initially think about when we consider the potential impact of robots and automation in workforces.

    I have a feeling my talk this afternoon might be a tough one - I am not at all sure that the HR leaders in this room that are not working at 'obvious' ripe for automation types of industries like manufacturing or call centers are really thinking all that much about robots and automation. But I think, or at least I am going to try and argue, that automation in its many forms, (robots, intelligent software algorithms, wearable devices, machine to machine interaction), are going to be in the forefront of the HR/Talent agenda for just about every organization of any size in any industry.

    It should be a fun talk. I will let you know how it turns out.