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    Entries in work (161)

    Tuesday
    Sep062016

    The tyranny of connectivity

    I am slightly ashamed to admit to having done a fair bit of 'real' work over the long Labor Day weekend, (including yesterday, Labor Day itself). 

    Of course I didn't really want to work on Labor Day, or perhaps said differently, I did not want involve other people in said work, mainly by sending out email messages to them on a holiday. But, sadly, I indeed did send a few email notes out, interspersed with the other work that I was doing that did not need to involve communicating to others in order to complete.

    And I as wind up the holiday, (I am writing this on Monday night, pretty late), I have three quick observations from my Labor Day spent, (at least partly), working.

    1. LOTS of other people were working too. As I mentioned, I did, against almost everything I hold dear, send a few work-related emails on Labor Day. I received replies from almost everyone I contacted. And three or four people replied to me within 10 minutes of my original message. If Labor Day is meant to be a celebration of the working person, lots of working persons I know were also, actually, working.

    2. NO ONE I corresponded with over email or chat on Labor Day did not mention the fact that it was, in fact, a holiday. No one questioned why I was messaging them. No one replied, 'hey, it is a holiday, I will get back to you tomorrow', and almost no one failed to get back to me by about 8PM ET, (as I am writing this). 

    3. Aside from the aforementioned email exchanges, I spent most of my 'working' time on tasks that did not require outside collaboration, input, or communication. They were just things I needed to do, and were fairly important, but for some reason had not been done. I noticed my ability to get these tasks completed on a holiday, where I was not being peppered every 2 minutes with a new incoming email or chat message was incredibly enhanced. Quite simply, I was probably twice as productive working on these items on a holiday as I would have been on a normal Monday, when I am, like everyone else, almost constantly being barraged by incoming messages and requests. If I changed my working hours to say, 7PM - 3AM I swear I would be two or three times more productive than I am now. The technology and the need to stay 'connected' all the time during the normal workday is killing our ability to get things done.

    I am not about to change my official work schedule to 'off hours', but I can't say that I am not tempted. there is something to be said for working when no one, (or most anyway), are not working, and you can be, despite our state of constant connectivity, be more or less alone with your thoughts.

    There are thousands of productivity advice pieces that advocate that you consciously disconnect from email and work chat and Slack, etc. during the work day in order to get more work done. But realistically, how many people actually take that advice and feel comfortable and empowered enough to actually not be accessible to work colleagues for large stretches of the workday?

    Most organizations, and teams, expect if not demand almost real-time access and response.

    It is not until you spend a day, or even a few hours, working when that expectation simply does not matter until you realize how our constant connectivity damages our ability to get anything done.

    Having said that, maybe I should not have been surprised so many other folks seemed to be working on Labor Day. They too must have realized that a holiday is the best day to get anything done.

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Aug292016

    Three quick 'Gig Economy' links and a warning for HR leaders

    There are about 12,238 surveys and data points that you can unearth when researching the rapidly evolving, and probably growing, 'gig economy', i.e. work that is performed by independent contractors, self-employed types, and those that for better or worse, (worse), get referred to as '1099 workers', for the IRS form on which their earnings are reported.

    Rather than spit out a bunch of (sometimes contradictory) data on how and where this gig economy is heading, I wanted to share three quick and interesting developments in this area that are worth thinking about and then one more recently released set of survey data that should be a warning to HR and business leaders that are moving towards increased usage and reliance on 'gig' workers.

    Item 1 - Atlassian now lets you hire freelancers right from Jira

    JIRA, Atlassian’s flagship project management service, is getting a new feature today that will let you easily convert JIRA tickets into job postings on Upwork’s freelance marketplace. “The smartest people will always exist outside of your company,” Atlassian’s head of growth for JIRA and Bitbucket Sean Regan told me. For many companies — and especially small startups — it’s also hard to have all the right expertise available in-house to solve every problem. With this new integration, these companies can now click a button in JIRA and get a pre-populated form to submit to Upwork’s marketplace.

    Steve here - an example (of which we will see more I am sure), of enterprise technology and management tools integrated with sourcing/hiring platforms for 'Gig' workers 

    Item 2 - LinkedIn enters the Gig Economy with an Upwork competitor

    LinkedIn has created a freelance marketplace. Launched on Wednesday, "LinkedIn ProFinder" asks employers to submit contract jobs in categories such as design, writing, or financial services and promises to send them up to five free quotes from LinkedIn users in response. Over the last five years, the number of freelancers on LinkedIn has increased by 50%, according to the company.

    Steve here - Of course it makes sense for LinkedIn to dive in more heavily into the 'Gig' work space. It's growing, and LinkedIn thinks/knows it has the way to connect gig workers with opportunity

    Item 3 - This CEO says he was shut out by tons of investors in Silicon Valley for classifying his workers as W-2 employees

    But Josh Bruno, the CEO of senior-care startup Hometeam, said that for him it was always clear that Hometeam's 1,000-plus caregivers needed to be on W-2s. They needed a lot of training, and Bruno wanted to give them the sense that Hometeam was investing in them for the long haul.

    But unfortunately, when Bruno was trying to raise money, that wasn't what Silicon Valley VCs wanted to hear.

    "I was kicked out of every office on Sand Hill Road," Bruno said, referring to the iconic street that houses many famous Silicon Valley VCs. Bruno said he even had a verbal agreement with a "flashy name" VC, who then wouldn't go through with the investment unless Bruno put his workers on 1099s.

    Why? One reason, Bruno said, is because big names like Uber and Lyft were doing it. Bruno's main competitor, Honor, which was named one of Business Insider's hottest San Franciscostartups to watch in 2016, originally used 1099s. It has since switched to W-2s.

    But it wasn't simply because everyone was doing it, Bruno said. The deeper reason rested in what a 1099 represented.

    Bruno said that to VCs he spoke with, a 1099 meant a job that was both easy and repeatable. The worker is a part that can be swapped in, which is good because it means the business will be easier to scale, Bruno explained. And it would be easier to get the kind of growth the VCs were looking for.

    Steve here - In case you wondered what the general attitude of 'people who have money and are looking to have more money' is towards labor, there you have it. 'Gog' workers are cogs, more or less the same, more or less interchangeable. This isn't a problem until.... Well, let's ask some of the Gig workers.

    And as promised, here's your warning, 67 percent of Americans who have worked as independent contractors would choose not to do so in the future (infographic below courtesy of Deloitte).

    A recent online poll by Deloitte of nearly 4,000 workers found that 67 percent of respondents who have worked as an independent contractor would choose not to do so again in the future. Additionally, more than 60 percent of employed workers said that their stability would suffer if they moved to independent contract work, and 42 percent worry about sacrificing good compensation and benefits.

    Steve here - Lots of interesting nuggets to take away from the Deloitte data, but they all point to the same place - that many, many 'Gig' workers are not at all happy to be Gig workers, and that most organizations are doing a terrible job managing and engaging these gig workers. it's almost as if the Silicon Valley VC attitude towards labor is taking hold and becoming more common.

    The danger is at the same time you as an organization make the strategic move to increase your use of Gig workers, and the tools and technologies are making it easier for you to incorporate Gig workers into your processes and workflow, that the way we value, treat, and support Gig workers seems to be getting worse. And lots of Gig workers are not happy.

    Plenty to think about here as the next few years play out.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Aug242016

    Have to advise your kid on their college major? Here's some data you may want to review

    Time to dig into some labor market data!

    (Note: all the data referred to in this post can be found courtesy of our pals at the BLS. While their site isn't the easiest to navigate, you can start at the 'Employment, Hours, and Earnings' page to get started with this kind of analyses).

    I had a chat with a friend recently who was sending their child off to his or her, (I can't remember which, does not matter), first year of college this month. In the conversation I faked genuine interest by asking what the child was planning to choose as their major. I think the answer was 'Business' or 'Physics', like I said, I was faking interest at this point, but the entire conversation made me think about just what 'should' the child have chosen, forgetting for now what they are interested in/good at. If the child wanted to make a purely rational, economic decision, what might be the direction to head in terms of college major?

    I confess to not knowing the answer, but a recent piece from the Nieman Lab about trends in employment in selected information industries, (copied below), at least provides one set of data points to (hopefully), better inform these kinds of economic decisions. Take a look at the Nieman Lab chart, (knowing by accessing the BLS data in the link above, you could create similar charts across other or all industry classifications), and then some comments from me after the data.

    The point of the Nieman Lab piece was more or less 'Gee, what a crappy last decade it had been for the newspaper business, and the people working in it', but examining this kind of data a little more broadly can be instructive on a number of levels.  Sometimes this kind of data validates what we think we know or have observed in our own lives - do you know anyone who actually reads a newspaper anymore?

    Other times the data can be a bit surprising too. I personally had no idea that employment in Motion Picture and Video Production had just about doubled since 1990. Are there really that many more films being made? Besides the Sharknado series I mean?

    Back to the original question raised in the post - what should someone making what they hope to be is a rational, economically sound decision choose for their college major? 

    Some topic or subject that maps easily to an industry group we think holds bright employment prospects for the future? 

    I still have no idea I suppose. But at least I would tell them to not plan to work for a newspaper after they graduate. 

    And then I would take a minute to explain what a 'newspaper' is.

    Happy Wednesday. Have fun with the data.

    Monday
    Aug012016

    Vacation wrap-up: What I did wrong, did right, and what I'd do differently next time

    I am just back from a super week of vacation/holiday spent in the wonderful state of South Carolina (Note to self: If I ever get my feet back in South Carolina I am going to nail them to the ground), and wanted to take a few minutes before diving in to my hopelessly full email inbox to reflect on the break with respect to how I did or didn't handle 'work' and 'work/life' issues during the week.  I had not taken this many consecutive days off (outside of the end of year holidays), in some time, so it was an interesting and revealing week for me as well. And also kind of sad in a way, that simply taking one business week off, (and the weekends on each side of that week), creates such a challenge for me, and I would expect, many of the folks who read this blog. It just shouldn't be that hard, if you know what I mean.

    But in the interest of 'I need to get back to watching Sharknado 4', let's get on with the idea for the post.  Here's what I did wrong, did right, and the next time I take a week or more offline, what I would definitely do differently.

    What I did wrong:

    By the time I had left for the trip I had one pretty important work item that needed to be completed, and sadly, was not. So I rationalized that I would work on said item on the plane ride down, and then it would be all set. But alas, said project took longer than I had anticipated, and I had to revisit it two other times during the trip before it was completed. What I did wrong was not finishing this project, no matter what it took, before the trip. There's no way to leave on a vacation with everything completed, but I should have realized the importance of this one thing and made sure it was done. It was completed by mid-week or so, but it did bug me for the first half of the trip. But that was on me, I needed to do a better job at prioritizing projects before I left.

    What I did right:

    Today is Monday, the first day I am back 'in the office', and I smartly have zero 'official' meetings or calls today. I knew that attempting to wade through the Inbox would pretty much be the only thing I would be able to attack today, and I made sure there were no other conflicts to allow me to attempt to catch up.  The other thing I did right, and I was not sure about this at the time, was actually haul the laptop with me on the trip. It wasn't because I felt compelled to 'work' on the trip, but if I really had to, (see above), I would be able to, and would not get stuck in a hotel business center or having to find a FedEx office location at the beach.

    What I would do differently next time:

    I will probably set up my 'Out of the office' email auto-response at least one full day before I am actually out of the office. This would create a little more airspace to complete anything that needs to be done before leaving on a vacation, and better set expectations for response time. I would also, similar to what I did today, make sure on the last day in the office that I have no meetings or calls set up.  It's kind of like setting up a DMZ situation one day before and one day after a vacation. The other thing I would do differently is perhaps pick one personal  'work' project, (for me it is this blog, the HR Happy Hour Show), to spend at least some time thinking about or working on. Those personal projects are extremely fun, and often don't really seem like work. I would have loved to come back from vacation with a dozen great blog post ideas or two or three podcasts booked. Alas...

    That's it from me. If you have not yet taken some time off this summer, I really hope you do and have a fantastic break. And if you are one of the approximately 489 people waiting to hear back from me, I promise I will get caught up soon. I mean that. Truly....

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Jul192016

    The best, or at least most fun, workplace reaction to Pokémon GO

    There are two possible reactions to the current Pokémon GO craze for the owner/boss/supervisor who is concerned that their employees are wasting too much time playing the game and are subsequently shirking their workplace duties and responsibilities.

    1. Issue a ban or similar crackdown on playing the game, up to and possibly including blocking access to the app on company-issued devices

    2. Ignore the phenomenon completely, continue to manage to organizational and individual norms and expectations for performance, and treat people as adults, more or less. This approach treats and categorizes Pokémon GO as just the latest in the endless and endlessly updating list of 'shiny things that are more fun than work, and will distract our weak-minded staffs from their tasks.' 

    And like the other distractions that have come before it, (the Internet, March Madness, Facebook, fantasy football, etc.), if you and your organization finds itself having a real Pokémon GO problem, well, your problem is not really Pokémon GO, if you know what I mean. The problem is one or more of hiring the right people, giving them engaging assignments, management not up to the task, inefficient process design, or something else - Pokémon GO only helps you to realize something more fundamental is going on that won't be fixed by taking away people's Pokémon fix.

    You know, now that I think of it, there is a third possible organizational reaction to the Pokémon GO craze - make playing the game a required activity for employees.

    Check out what the folks over at The Next Web office in Amsterdam are up to:

     

    Sounds to me like the best, (and geekiest) workplace reaction to Pokémon GO yet.

    Have a great day and I hope you Level Up!