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    Entries in Technology (367)

    Tuesday
    May092017

    Never gets tired, never stops learning

    Sharing another dispatch from the 'robots are coming to take all our jobs away' world with this recent piece from Digiday, "Who needs media planners when a tireless robot named Albert can do the job?".

    The back story of this particular implementation of AI to replace, (or as we will learn, perhaps just augment or supplement human labor), comes from advertising, where the relatively new concept of programmatic digital advertising has emerged in the last few years. Part of the process of getting things like banner ads, Facebook ads, display ads, and even branded video ads in front of consumers involves marketers choosing the type of ads to show, the content of those ads, the days/times to show the ads, and finally the platforms upon which to push the ads to.

    If it all sounds pretty complex to you, then you're right.

    Enter "Albert." As per the Digiday piece once the advertiser, (in this case Dole Foods), set some blanket objectives and goals, then Albert determined what media to invest in at what times and in what formats. And it also decided where to spend the brand’s budget. On a real-time basis, it was able to figure out the right combinations for creative and headlines.  For example, once Albert determined that Dole’s user engagement rate on Facebook was 40 percent higher for mobile than desktop, Albert shifted more budget to mobile.

    The results have been impressive; According to Dole, the brand had an 87 percent in increase in sales versus the prior year.

    Why bring this up here, on a quasi-HR blog?

    Because it highlights really clearly, a real-life example of the conditions of work that are most ripe for automation, (or at least augmentation). Namely, a data-intensive, detailed, and heavy data volume environment that has to be analyzed, a fast-moving and rapidly paced set of changing conditions that need to be reacted to in real-time, (and 24/7), and finally, the need to be constantly assessing outcomes and making comparisons of choices in order to adjust strategies and execution plans to optimize for the desired outcomes.

    People are good at those things. But AI like Albert might be (probably are) better at those things.

    But in the piece we also see the needed and hard-to-automate contributions of the marketing people at Dole as well.

    They have to give Albert the direction and set the desired business goals - sales, clicks, 'likes', etc.

    They have to develop the various creative content and options from which Albert will eventually choose to run. 

    And finally, they have to know if Albert's recommendations actually do make sense and 'fit' with the overall brand message and strategy.

    Let's recap: People - set goals, strategic objectives, develop creative content, and "understand" the company, brand, context, and environment. AI: executes at scale, assesses results in real-time, optimizes actions in order to meet stated goals, and provides openness into the actions it is taking.

    It sounds like a really reasonable, and pretty effective implementation of AI in a real business context.

    And an optimistic one too, as the 'jobs' that Albert leaves for the people to do seem like the ones that people will want to do.

    Friday
    May052017

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Decline of the Landline

    Really interesting data from your pals at the National Center For Health Statistics on the long, slow but seemingly irreversible decline of the home landline phone. Turns out, if you have dropped your landline to go mobile only, you are not all that odd any longer.

    Here's the data and as you constantly demand, some FREE comments from me after the chart.

    Some really interesting data for sure. The key points or takeaways for me:

    1. More folks than not have ditched the home landline. Just over 50% of households are now mobile only. Pretty soon it will be kind of odd and weird to still have a landline. Additionally, more than 70 percent of adults between 25 and 34 were wireless only. 

    2. Being wireless only, as a majority of households are now, means, (as if you didn't know this), that our mobile phones are constantly powered on, are always within reach, and have become probably the most indispensable piece of technology we own. What could you go without with longer, your mobile phone or your car? Or your TV? Or your coffee maker? I might choose the coffee maker, but the car and the TV I would give up. Why not? I can request an Uber with my phone and stream the NBA playoffs on my phone. Once my phone can make coffee, well...

    3. Since the mobile phone is the most important piece of technology most of us use, then gaining 'share' of people's phpne time, no matter of you are in marketing, recruiting, sales, or even HR, is the most impactful thing you can do to advance your agenda. I would posit that at least half, if not more like 75%, of the efforts you are making to reach people should be focused on how you are reaching them on their mobiles. We all know this but when I see data about the usage and penetration rates of mobile technology for HR I am not so sure we are really applying what we know to be true. 

    Anyway, that's it for me. I'm out, have a great weekend!

     

    Thursday
    Mar232017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 279 - Artificial Intelligence for HR and for People

    HR Happy Hour 279 - Artificial Intelligence for HR and for People 

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest Co-host: Madeline Laurano

    Guests: Cecile Alper-Leroux, Armen Berjikly, Ultimate Software

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve Boese and special guest co-host Madeline Laurano recorded a special Happy Hour Show live from Ultimate Connections 2017 in Las Vegas. They were joined by Ultimate Software's Cecile Alper-Leroux and Armen Berjikly to talk about the need to listen to the  'Voice of the Employee', the importance of technology to help HR leaders understand data, (especially unstructured data), and how modern technology solutions can help HR leaders move from just listening, to understanding, and finally, to taking actions, (and recommending actions).

    The theme for the Ultimate Connections Conference was 'Elevate' - and the key idea to how HR and business leaders can elevate the employee experience by listening to their needs more closely, applying new technologies that can help analyze data from employee surveys and other disparate sources for things like sentiment and tone, and finally using those insights to take actions that can improve the organization and the individual employee experience.

    Additionally, Steve re-visited Schoolhouse Rock, his old fashioned method of accessing data from a database, the happiest countries in the world, and Cecile cemented her position as all-time leading HR Happy Hour guest.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers click through)

    This was a fun and interesting show - thanks to Madeline, and to Cecile and Armen and everyone at Ultimate for hosting the show.

    Subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the podcast apps by searching for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Tuesday
    Mar212017

    Communication overload

    There has been a proliferation of new communication technologies and services that are/can be used for work purposes in the last several years. Whether it is the newer tools that have seen increased adoption in the workplace like Slack or the just released Microsoft Teams, collaboration technologies that have adopted chat or discussion features like Box or Evernote, and of course the myriad social platforms that are also used for work communication like LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. and the sheer number of places, systems, and tools that a modern professional has to keep up with is pretty daunting at times.

    Oh, and I didn't even mention email, voicemail, and (lord help us, the actual phone). Who knows what tool to use or where to look for, check, or send a new message these days?

    The comic from xkcd below illustrates this problem in a succinct, and clever way, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through)

    For me, the (sub-optimal) answer has been to mostly ignore the communication tools that I would prefer not to use at all for work reasons, (voicemail, Twitter DMs, Facebook, and most LinkedIn messages). My strategy is that the people trying to connect with me using those media will eventually interpret my non-responsiveness as a signal that they (if they really need to reach me for work reasons), try another method. 

    For what's it worth, some time back I blogged about the preferred ways to contact me for work reasons to try and make it more clear how I would prefer to communicate.

    But the problem with that old list, and with simply ignoring (or shutting off) any of the other popular tools for business communication is that it fails to take into account what the other person would prefer. So taking a blanket approach like I have, (essentially I want everything to be in email, while I am not always great about keeping up with it at times, at least I know where I can find everything), or text (I actually like texting for work a lot, it keeps things short and sweet), keeps me from effectively communicating with people who might like phone calls or who are comfortable using social networks like Twitter or Facebook for work purposes.

    But the truth is almost no one would prefer to use every possible tool in the cartoon above to manage their work communication - it would be maddening if not impossible. And my guess is having to keep up with so many avenues for work communication are contributing to stress, burnout, and the inability to have any separation between work and not-work.

    It is probably a pretty good idea for HR and talent leaders to be cognizant of how workplace communication tools have multiplied and how the associated expectations for employee monitoring and responsiveness have changed as well. 

    Some places do have written, (or at least well-understood but unwritten), expectations for reading and responding to email for example, but I bet not many have similar guidelines or cultural norms for newer tools like Slack, the use of public social networks or apps for workplace messaging, and when (or if), employees can and should use texting for work communication. In small organizations, and in small teams that tend to mostly interact within the team, it is usually something that is pretty easy to work out.

    One quick discussion the manager should have on Day One should go something like this : "We use email for formal stuff and team or company wide announcements, (respond if you have to send a response, and do it within one day unless there are unusual circumstances), Slack for 'real' collaboration conversations, (respond according to the demands and schedules of the project/task), and texting only for brief, and usually essential, or time-sensitive reasons (respond accordingly, you know, like a human)." Don't mention tools like Facebook or WhatsApp if you don't want them used for workplace messaging and then you likely will never have an issue with employees having 17 different Inboxes to monitor every day.

    And finally, if you are starting a new communication with someone you don't work with regularly, you don't know, or is outside your organization, start with the more formal traditional tools first, (email, phone, voicemail), and don't jump to Facebook Messenger or a Twitter DM unless you are sure the person wants to use those tools for work. Not every business contact wants you sliding into their DMs.

    Ok, that's it, I am out. Probably need to take my own medicine know and try and catch up on my email. 

    But don't try leaving me a voicemail, it's full.

    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!