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    Entries in Technology (364)

    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!

    Wednesday
    Feb222017

    The Uber HR mess, it probably starts at the pitch meeting

    I don't have a lot more to add to what has been voluminous coverage over the last several days of the recent expose of Uber's (probably) hostile work environment, particularly for the women at Uber. The process of the shocking reveal of what is was really like to work at Uber from a former employee, the wide and far calls of condemnation and Uber boycotts, followed by the quick (and high profile) reactions and vows to 'fix' things from Uber's CEO and their celebrity board member are playing out more or less how you would expect them to.

    Whether or not Uber can, wants to, or will really be able to 'fix' things remains to be seen, and is probably the less important of the things that the rest of us can take away from this mess. It is probably more useful for us to think about how Uber (and others like them), got to this point in the first place.

    Recode has a good piece about how Uber insiders attribute a large portion of the situation at Uber, the ineffectual support and response of internal HR to employee complaints, to the HR culture at Uber of being 90% about recruiting, and 9% about terminations, with the leftover 1% spent doing the necessary admin functions. I made up the percentages, but the idea is clear - Uber was scaling up at a rapid pace, hiring was critical to meeting their business objectives, and it seems likely once people were hired, they were more or less on their own.

    And while the Recode piece makes some great points, and I have no reason to think it is not accurate, I would add one more possible 'cause' to all this mess at Uber, (and the many, many other tech companies that continually struggle with these issues). And it is this - from the earliest stages of the enterprise, the initial presentations and investor pitch decks that the founders use to raise funds, building and supporting diverse teams of people is almost (I can't find one example) never mentioned in these contexts. The 'formula' for raising investments does not include things like a diversity plan or strategies to incorporate talent from underrepresented groups as a key element that will lead to business success.

    It is just never mentioned. What gets mentioned, (and rewarded), are the product ideas, the 'briliance' of the founder, or the reasonable line of sight the investor can assess from the idea to some kind of highly profitable outcome. 

    I did some quick searching this morning for 'Best Pitch Decks Ever' or 'Top Pitch Decks of All Time' and I looked through about 20 of them and did not find one mention of diversity, inclusion, or a stated goal to build a more open, welcoming, fair, or equitable workplace. Note, I am certain this exists somewhere, but I could not find an example right off the bat.

    So back to the question of where to these problems start at places like Uber?

    I think they start from that very first slide deck and from that first presentation where I bet no one talks about these issues.

    Should they be raised at that early point in a company's growth? I will leave that up to the professional investors and founders I guess.

    But having said that, leaving that question up to those two groups has led us to places like Uber.

    Have a great Wednesday!

    Monday
    Feb202017

    HRE Column: What is Driving Innovation in Workplace Technology

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I take a look at the emerging consumer and personal technology trends that are driving and shaping next generation HR and workplace technologies.  While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, real-time, personalized), it still can take time, even years, for these consumer tech trends to manifest in HR technologies.

    I like to think that we are entering (or maybe have already entered), an amazing era of innovation and transformation in HR and workplace tech, much of it being driven by evolving and demanding user expectations, and the changing of the what we think about when we think about HR tech.

    In this month's HR Executive column I examine a a few of the themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the design, development, and deployment of HR and workplace technologies in 2017, and beyond.  This was a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year and make your HR technology decisions. 

    From the HRE piece:

    I've been working on a couple of new talks that I will be giving this year centered around one key idea that has been talked about for some time in HR-tech circles but is now -- finally -- becoming more prevalent in the design, deployment and impact of HR-technology solutions.

    The idea is a simple one. Namely, that the traditional way HR and other workplace technologies have been designed -- by programmers, then marketed and sold to CIOs or IT managers, and finally deployed and configured primarily for the needs of the power users in the payroll and HR departments -- is no longer that useful.

    The continuing series of tech-driven advances in our personal and consumer lives -- such as e-commerce sites that learn our preferences and make personal product recommendations; smartphones and the emergence of app stores that let us design our own preferred toolsets; "intelligent," crowd-sourced platforms that help us beat traffic jams; and ubiquitous and constant Internet connections -- have combined to create heightened expectations of workplace technologies that look, feel and function like the best consumer technologies we have come to love.

    Most importantly, the next generation of the workforce has never known a time when these personalized, highly adaptable, intelligent and easy-to-use types of technologies did not exist.

    Indeed, before walking into your organization for their first day of work, these new employees might have dressed in clothes that were personally selected for them and shipped directly to their houses by StitchFix; have prepared to meet their colleagues by perusing their LinkedIn, Twitter or GitHub profiles; learned about your industry and their new job functions by watching YouTube videos and reading Quora threads; and traveled to the office by summoning a car to their house via Uber or Lyft, or dodging the traffic using Waze. And they did all this on their smartphones. It is no surprise, then, that these new workers are expecting the same kinds of capabilities, flexibility and ease of use from the technology they will use at work.

    Both HR-technology providers and HR leaders are being spurred on to adapt to these new challenges by creating and deploying modern HR technologies that incorporate these kinds of consumer elements and expectations of personalization, beautiful design and ease of use into the next generation of HR tech tools. The evolution of HR and workplace technologies has begun, and the most effective organizations will look to modernize their workplace tools to meet this new, demanding and tech-savvy employee.

    Let's highlight five current manifestations of how modern HR technologies are adapting to meet these these new requirements, and share some thoughts on how HR leaders can better assess, select and deploy HR-technology solutions to meet these demands.

    Mobile

    The Internet traffic and measurement firm StatCounter recently released a report showing worldwide Internet usage from mobile and tablet devices has surpassed internet usage from traditional PCs and laptops, with 51 percent of all Internet usage via mobile. This is a trend that is showing no signs of abating anytime soon. When broken down generationally, it reveals that younger generations prefer mobile over desktops and laptops even more prominently. Three or four years ago, it was common for organizations and HR-technology-solution providers to have a "mobile strategy." Now it seems almost behind the times to explicitly discuss "mobile" tools as something distinct from traditional workplace applications.

    Connected

    I thought about calling this example "Social" to represent how the growth of social networks in the last decade and their popularity with the younger demographic has influenced almost every type of HR and workplace technology, but I think "connected" is a better term to describe how social will continue to influence HR and workplace technology moving forward. "Social" feels a little superficial to me, and besides, I don't think it adequately represents the importance of community and younger workers feeling like they are a part of something larger that is considerably important to them. They want to be connected at work similar to the ways they are connected in their personal lives -- not chasing "likes" on their latest selfie, but coming together with their peers, sharing their knowledge and ideas, helping and supporting each other, and finally "belonging" to something important.

    A great example of this new trend is in the learning-technology realm, where newer systems provide the capability for all end users to share their expertise and upload their own video tutorials, and for other users to build upon this content with comments, addendum and upvotes, indicating that the content was particularly helpful and useful. Communities end up self-forming around subjects and content that are important for the organization, and people feel more connected and supported by their colleagues as well.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and clean out your gutters, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Jan252017

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 273 - HR Tech 3.0 and More of What HR Leaders Need to Know

    HR Happy Hour 273 - HR Tech 3.0 and More of What HR Leaders Need to Know

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Randy Cooper, Co-CEO, PeopleStrategy

    Listen HERE

    This week on the show, host Steve Boese is joined by Randy Cooper, Co-CEO of PeopleStrategy to talk about some of the big themes and trends in HR and HR Tech as we begin 2017. First we had HCM 1.0, marked by 'big' systems that helped organizations manage all kinds of back office functions, then HCM 2.0, the beginning of the internet era, where we see the first HR and Recruiting processes migrate to the web.

    Think the first ATS tools, Benefits outsourcing, the emergence of SaaS for Talent Management, etc. And now in 2017 we are at the start of HCM or HR Tech 3.0, where (hopefully) the best elements of both HCM 1.0 and 2.0 are coalescing and combining to create a set of greater capabilities, service delivery options, and advanced capabilities that back in the 1.0 days, we only dreamed about.

    Does HCM 1.0 and 2.0 add up to HCM 3.0? Should HR leaders chase the next shiny object? Where can HR leaders turn to get better educated on the HR Tech landscape?

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

    Listen to the show to hear a lively and interesting discussion about the current set of HR technologies, the challenges and opportunities they present, and what HR leaders need to know as they plan their organization's HR Tech strategies moving forward.

    This was a fun and interesting show, thanks Randy for joining us.

    And of course, thanks to our show sponsor Virgin Pulse - learn more at www.virginpulse.com.

    Finally, subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app.