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    Entries in Technology (374)


    What do you hate the most about work?

    What do you hate the most about work in general, or your job in particular?

    The low pay?

    The crappy hour long commute to the office just to sit in a cube and spend all day communicating electronically with your colleagues, thinking all the while, 'I could have done all this sitting home in my PJs and saved two hours in the car'.

    The shaky bathroom habits of your co-workers?

    How about this one - the annual performance review?

    Yep, the annual performance review typically rates pretty high on the list of unpleasant activities that employees and managers have to endure.  We (mostly) hate them, we (generally) feel that they are a valuable and necessary activity to try and ensure employee efforts are aligned with overall organizational objectives, and that employees are provided the platform and opportunity to learn, develop, and simply become more engaged in the jobs and careeers.

    And (theoretically) we tie the outcomes of the annual performance review to some if not all compensation outcomes.  The whole 'pay for performance' idea, (I bet you have heard about it).

    But generally, despite the decades of managerial attention, scholarship, and execution, many if not most of us have come to the conclusion that 'performance reviews suck'.

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour Show we are going to take on this topic head on, with two of the founders of an interesting and innovative technology company called Sonar6.  Sonar6 makes performance review and succession planning software that promises to help your organizations execute a performance management process that doesn't suck.

    How can technology impact the performance process in such a dramatic manner? How can a new and different approach turn 'suck' into 'fun'?

    How can a couple of guys from New Zealand make a big impact in the world of HR Technology?

    Tune in to the HR Happy Hour Show tonight, 8pm EDT, to talk with Sonar6 CEO John Holt and Co-founder Mike Carden and find out.  Better still, jump into the conversation by calling in at 646-378-1086.

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    Note : If you are not familiar with Sonar6, take a look at this 'Brief History of Sonar6' video:

    Thanks guys at Sonar6 for staying up late calling in from the future to join us on the show.


    Designing Experiences

    The Hermitage is a massive museum of art and culture located in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise nearly 3 million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. It’s close to 2,000 separate rooms make for a daunting proposition for visitors, as simply seeing and finding items and collections of particular interest can certainly be difficult.

    As the museum approaches its 250th Anniversary in 2014, it has engaged the services of renowned architect Rem Koolhaas to ‘modernize the art museum experience’ for visitors, while staying true to the history and tradition of the institution, and also under the constraints that no new buildings will be constructed, and no existing structures will be significantly modified.Kandinsky - Composition VI - 1913

    What does this have to do with business, HR, or technology?  Perhaps not much, but I was looking for an excuse to run a post with a Kandinsky picture.

    Well the three main operating principles that Koolhaas has adopted in his re-design of the museum-goer experience can, I think, be applied to many organizational and system design (or re-design) projects.

    Principle 1 - Understand how customers really use your products – not how they “say” they use your products.

    Whether it is by an over reliance on policies and procedures, deploying internal knowledge management systems that proscribe a rigid hierarchy and taxonomy for information storage, or explicit and detailed enterprise systems user guides that all attempt to define and control employee interactions, many organizations not only fail to see how their products and services are used, they demand or require a specific method of interaction.

    How can HR and IT organizations do a better job at understanding how their products and services are being used? By really observe use patterns in the field, and not just ‘tracking’ them for one. Sure, your latest masterpiece on this year’s Benefits Open Enrollment process has suddenly become the most visited page on the intranet, but is it actually working?  What sections or pieces of information are the most important? Where do employees go immediately after accessing the information? 

    Principle 2 - Create as many opportunities as possible for interaction between the customer and your product

    In a museum setting, we’re not really talking physical interaction, but rather ways to foster more mental and emotional engagement with the collections.  By creating more opportunities for slowing down, contemplating, and in Koolhaas words "do(ing) everything possible to “diminish the obligations of a directed path, the architects are attempting to better connect the customer to the experience.  

    Inside organizations I think there countless opportunities to allow for more exploration, crowd sourcing, and discovery.  Does your culture overschedule people with hour upon hour, day upon day of a seemingly endless series of meetings?  Have you set the expectation that every e-mail has to be opened, read, and responded to immediately? Do you spend the first six months of a new hire’s tenure indoctrinating on ‘This is how we do things here’, rather than ‘Here is what we need to get done, here are the constraints, have at it’.

    Principle 3 - Implement best-in-class practices from around the world

    While chasing ‘best practices’ is not always sound advice, (usually it just puts you in catch-up mode, since once you identify which ‘best practices’ to emulate, and take the time to mimic them, the creators of said ‘best practices’ have already moved again to newer, and better practices, leaving you emulating yesterday’s good ideas). To me the ‘around the world’ angle of this principle is the important one.  It suggests looking beyond the typical sources of inspiration, (companies in the same industry, other local organizations, and competitors offering the same kinds of products and services).  Maybe your large organization can learn a thing or two from a scrappy start-up, your design for a boring B2B product can be energized by the iPad, or your enterprise software can actually look, feel, and be as fun and intuitive to use as Facebook or Amazon. Inspiration and ideas can be found practically everywhere.

    Last thought, often when trying to change anything, we can get caught up in the barriers or constraints. But barriers and constraints will always be there, and in fact can for you to get more creative and focused.  Koolhaas has to take a 250 year old massive institution and re-design the experience in the next few years, while not changing the structure, layout, or much of anything else - I’ll bet your barriers and constraints are not nearly as daunting.

    Note :My friend and fellow blogger Victorio Milian at his Creative Chaos Consultant blog has written about the importance of design and design thinking for HR professionals, and I highly recommend checking out his work on this topic.






    Admit it, you love the Bedazzler

    Remember the Bedazzler?

    The little stapler-like tool that lets one attach rhinestones, studs, and stars to clothing and other items? In the words of a classic TV infomercial pitch the tool - 'Takes things from dull to dazzling'.Flickr - Linda Libert

    Just in case there is anyone reading that does not remember the Bedazzler, the basic idea was that you take an old or plain looking shirt or pair of jeans and via the careful and artistic attachment of (fake) jewels and other decorative attachments, the article of clothing would be transformed from a boring and typical piece into something unique and special.  The benefit (at least as described by excited TV pitchmen) was the rescue of clothes and other objects, and the ability to imbue some personality to plain articles.

    That old pair of boring jeans, or that plain, solid color t-shirt immediately become one of a kind 'artworks', that can revive and revitalize a tired wardrobe and instantly transform the wearer into a kind of unique and distinctive personality.  Why be boring when you can be Bedazzling?

    And you, or perhaps more accurately, many of your organizations love the idea of the Bedazzler. 

    How so?

    Think about that old legacy ERP system that you are using for HRIS, or the technology behind your intranet or employee portal, or the home-grown Microsoft Access and Word-based system a few smart folks from IT hacked together nine years ago to do some rudimentary talent and succession planning.

    As time goes on, and with budgets constrained, and resources are tight the organization has likely been forced to make-do with what you have had, and most updates/enhancements/improvements to these systems (and perhaps to the underlying processes they support) are not at all that much different than slapping a few rhinestones on your old pair of jean shorts.  Sure, the first few stones and studs look good, they add a bit of flair, and in the case of your systems, a bit of functionality. And just like 'Bedazzling' a pair of jeans, adding incremental pieces of capability to your old systems is cheap, generally easy to do, and often provides some short term excitement and satisfaction.

    But eventually the excitement and the ability to continue to meet the demands of the business with a cheap set of rhinestones runs out.  And then Bedazzling stops being fun. No matter how many fake jewels and colored studs you slap on those jeans, they're still the same old, tired jeans underneath.  

    Eventually you'll fill up the jeans with glam, there will be no more room for additional enhancements, and you'll be left with a one of a kind custom monstrosity.

    And that is not very dazzling.





    Tactics and Technology

    The climax of the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg that took place in July 1863 was a Confederate Army attack that has come to be well-known as 'Pickett's Charge', named after General George Pickett,General George Pickett one of the Confederate leaders on the field that day.

    Pickett's Charge was essentially a direct frontal assault by the Confederates, across an open field, uphill, against an entrenched Union Army enemy force that was supported by artillery on even higher ground.

    Part of The Conference Board's Leadership Experience program at Gettysburg has the participants walk the same path across the field and up the hill that Pickett's (and many others) men traversed that day. The well-documented history of the battle tells us that the Confederates suffered horrific casualties, were unsuccessful in breaking the Union Army lines, and were forced to withdraw and retreat.  Twenty-one months later the war ended, with the Union Army victorious.

    As the leadership experience attendees traced the path of Pickett's Charge, it was seemingly obvious that attempting such an attack, covering almost a mile of open terrain, with the enemy dug in and holding the superior position, was absolute insanity. As we marched up the path towards the high ridge where the Union Army was aligned, one of the class questioned the 'march in a straight line in the open and approach the enemy' attack formation, that in 1863 was still the most common attacking tactic. This was troubling, since advances in technology and weaponry had improved the range, accuracy, and deadly force of the various artillery pieces, rifles, pistols, and ammunition.

    The technology of war had dramatically improved to such an extent that it began to render the traditional tactics, if not essentially ineffective, certainly more costly in terms of casualties.  And the crazy part is that one of the event facilitators indicated that the basic attack strategies continued all the way until World War I.  But even then it required another technological breakthrough, (the tank), to significantly alter the accepted tactics.

    I know the corporate world is not the same as the 'real' battlefield, and getting too comfortable with military metaphors risks oversimplification of what are usually complex issues. But in this case I think the comparison is appropriate. 

    New and better technologies are being created, improved, and being brought to bear with increasing frequency in a wide range of traditional human capital functions.  Whether it is in recruiting, performance management, learning and development, or internal collaboration, the rate of advancement in capability and potential is accelerating.

    But advances in technology, without an appropriate and complementary shift in the strategy and tactics to better leverage the new and more powerful technologies will only result in partial victory at best, and a significant loss at worst. Your competitors are likely to have the same access to these technologies as you go, simply 'owning' them will not be enough, being smarter and even bolder in their deployment will be the difference.

    If you deploy fantastic new tools and technologies, but continue to execute in a 'march in a straight line across the field' manner, then history may be as unkind to you as it has been to General Pickett.





    Guest Post - Why Business Intelligence is Failing HR Managers

    Note: This guest post comes from Tom Malone, CEO of Accero.

    In the past few years it seems like business intelligence has been all the rage. Vendors promise a tool that will help HR managers pull a seat up to the table with strategic insight gained through predictive analysis of the company’s own data.

    However, according to analysts, most companies never achieve the results they expect with these tools. Why is it that business intelligence fails to live up to expectations? The answer can be found in time and resources.

    Somewhere between the sales pitch for BI and the initial implementation of the product comes the realization that instead of a solution that serves up insightful analytics, they have a tool that, while powerful in potential, requires a ton of work before it can provide any useful insight.

    Once a BI product has been purchased someone within the organization (usually HR & IT) must determine what key metrics they want, and what data they need to support those metrics.  Then they must couple the BI tool with other technologies such as a database and ETL tool (extraction, transformation and loading) to build a data-mart that manages and stores complex workforce data, automate a process to load data into the data mart, design each key metric as a chart, scorecard  or dashboard, build all the charts and dashboards, store them in a way that makes finding the right metric easy, tie each metric to a role-based security model and finally train their users in using the BI tool to slice and dice through the resulting metrics. 

    As you can imagine, doing all of the above takes a lot of time, a lot of IT talent and a lot of money.  It is the number one reason why BI is failing HR managers and their organizations.

    Do we need analytics solutions to help provide insight in the space? Absolutely. HR Managers are the best conduits for information into how an organization can encourage and reward employees, comply with laws, reduce labor costs and increase productivity and eliminate compliance risk. Are we there yet with easy-to-use tools and pre-defined solutions?   For most HR departments, the answer is no.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts and personal experiences with this topic. Is BI working for you and within your organization or has it failed to live up to its promise?


    Tom Malone is CEO of Accero (formerly Cyborg) a Payroll, Human Resources and Human Capital Management software and service provider. Tom has over 25 years of experience in the software, computer services, and telecommunications industries.