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    Entries in work (230)

    Tuesday
    Jul312018

    A (slight) pause in the robot job takeover

    Quick report for the last day of July from the robots are taking all the jobs frontier. It looks like, at least for now, one of the important, (and widely held) jobs that has seemed most vulnerable to eventual robot takeover may remain the province of humans a little bit longer.

    The job is over the road truck driver, a job that has been in the news plenty lately, mostly in the context of pretty significant labor shortages. Shipping companies and manufacturers are having a hard time recruiting new truck drivers into what is a demanding profession, the existing supply of truckers are starting to age out of the workforce, and efforts to improve pay and conditions for truckers, (which in theory helps with recruiting and retention), have so far had mixed results.

    These factors, combined with the seeming dozens of high tech companies actively working on self-driving transportation technologies have led many industry observers to predict that self-driving trucks and associated technologies would sooner than later begin to be introduced into the industry. It makes sense for sure, the combination of a human labor replacing opportunity, with a technology that has been in development for quite some time, and a clear economic need that continues to grow have created what most industry experts considered a kind of perfect storm for truck drivers. In fact, all the coverage and noise about how the profession of truck driving is doomed, (for people), probably is contributing to the current truck driver shortfall. Who wants to enter an industry where 5 or 10 years from now you'll be replaced with a self-driving truck?

    But some news broke a couple of days ago that may give this entire narrative pause. Our pals at Uber, long-considered one of the leaders in developing self-driving trucks and technology is stepping back from their development efforts. From a piece covering the news in Venture Beat:

    Uber is shifting resources away from the self-driving truck unit within its Advanced Technologies Group, the company announced today in an email to reporters. For the time being, it’s ceasing development on the autonomous freight platform it acquired from autonomous tech company Otto.

    “We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars,” Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in a statement. “We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward.”

    It's a pretty interesting move by Uber, who has had a bunch of other problems to deal with over the last couple of years, but to shift their self-driving tech development and focus from trucking to cars probably indicates the trucking problem is much tougher to solve than they realized.

    Truck drivers, as it has been reported, do plenty of other things besides keep the vehicle between the white lines on the freeway. Load inspection and balancing, monitoring vehicle performance, consideration of local weather and traffic conditions, and finally, negotiating the often tricky and challenging last miles of a delivery and plenty more. Uber likely has found that solving all of these problems and delivering true 'self-driving' trucking solutions has turned out to be harder than it seems.

    And that is probably a lesson we can take in other domains as well. As robots and technolgy advance in capability, it can be easy to underestimate all the added value and unique value that humans bring to their work. It's not easy building a self-driving truck that can replace a human truck driver.

    It's probably not going to be easy to build technology to replace you or me either. (Let's hope).

    Have a great day!

    Friday
    Jul272018

    Job Titles of the Future: Chief Non-alcohol Beverages Officer

    A quick dispatch for a middle of Summer Friday from the often-imitated, easily duplicated Job Titles of the Future series. For the latest offering I submit a job title I've never seen before - 'Chief Non-alcohol Beverages Officer'. For details, see this piece from Fortune:

    American beer drinkers keep shunning Bud, and Anheuser-Busch InBev is going to extreme measures to meet their changing tastes.

    The brewer announced Thursday that revenues in the U.S. had slumped by 3.1% in the second quarter as sales of its major brands—Budweiser and Bud Light—continued to drop. U.S. beer sales dropped 5% by volume.

    At the same time, it announced that it will create a new executive position—chief non-alcohol beverage officer—as a response to Millennials and “Generation Z” drinking less than their elders. Lucas Herscovici, currently global marketing VP of strategic functions, will fill the role. Nonalcoholic drinks constitute some 10% of AB InBev’s volumes, and it’s aiming to boost the proportion of low and no-alcohol sales to 20% of the total by 2025, reports theFinancial Times. But in the second quarter, the category fell a damaging 43%, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    This announcement about the new C-Level job role from Anheuser-Busch InBev was interesting to me for three reasons:

    1. It shows, at least at the surface, that the organization needs to react to changes in customer attitudes, tastes, and preferences with a significant and high-level talent/people strategy response. In the past, I guess forever, Anheuser-Busch InBev didn't need to consider this market and this role. Their business was selling beer. Now their business is changing to one that is more about meeting the customer's needs/desires for refreshment - a wider, deeper, (and maybe for them in the long run), a more lucrative market.

    2. This shift in Anheuser-Busch InBev's business is another great example and reminder of the challenges that all kinds of legacy, established businesses have when trying to adapt to shifts in customer attitudes. The company knows that it needs to focus more on non-alcohol beverages moving forward, but at the same time has to try and protect and strengthen its core, legacy regular beer business. Becoming more nimble and agile to chase new markets while at the same time having to rely on declining core businesses for profits and cash flow is the classic big company challenge. I am a fan of many Anheuser-Busch InBev products, so I am hoping they navigate these challenges successfully.

    3. It's the summer, it's just about the weekend, and an article about a beer company essentially just drew me in. Hope you have a great weekend, have a cold one if that's your thing, and Cheers! 

    Friday
    Jun292018

    How tight is the labor market? One retailer is already taking applications for the holidays

    You've seen the headlines, (or heard me talk about them on the HR Happy Hour Show), unemployment is really low, the number of posted job openings has never been higher, and companies of all kinds are reporting that finding and retaining talent continues to get tougher.

    Just how tough is it out there?

    Well here we are in late June and Kohl's, a major US retailer is already accepting applications for holiday (think Christmastime), seasonal workers for their stores. Here's the details from a piece on CNNMoney:

    The department store announced Wednesday that it is already accepting applications for seasonal positions. Kohl's is staking an early claim in a tight job market that has made it hard for companies to find workers.

    Kohl's is filling jobs at 300 of its 1,100 US stores for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. Additional jobs at stores and fulfillment centers will come open later in the year.

    It's the earliest Kohl's has ever started hiring seasonal workers, said Ryan Festerling, the store's executive vice president of human resources.

    Unemployment is 3.8%, the lowest since 2000. For the first time in at least 20 years, there are more job openings than people looking for work.

    A couple of quick thoughts on this move by Kohl's to get a jump start on holiday seasonal hiring:

    1. Kohl's is signaling, and I bet they have the internal data to back it up, that holiday hiring is going to be really, really tough this year for lots of reasons we've mentioned above. Starting as early as they can, they are hoping, will help them fill the roles they need by the dates they need them filled by.

    2. For the talent pool for retail holiday season help, Kohl's has gotten ahead of the likely competition for these workers. This story has been in the news a fair bit, and people who are thinking about looking for these kinds of jobs this year might consider Kohl's before other retailers - especially since they can apply right now.

    3. Despite all the talk about the end of retail and the inevitable domination of online shopping and Amazon, physical retail still matters. Lots of people work in these stores, and with a strong US economy, most of the large retailers will be looking to add staff for the holiday rush. Heck, maybe I will pick up a few hours this year over at the local mall.

    That's it for me for a summer Friday - have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Jun272018

    Making it easier for employees to get paid

    I caught some news last week from the small business payroll provider Gusto announcing the initial launch of a service called 'Flexible Pay', a service designed to give employees at companies using the Gusto payroll service the ability to choose their own pay schedule and get paid whenever they want for hours they have already worked.

    Think about how most shops run a typical Bi-weekly, hourly payroll cycle. The employee works and clocks their hours and OT for a 14-day period, often ending on a Friday. The employer (or their service provider), sums up all the hours, calculates gross pay, sorts out the taxes and other deductions, and issues a paycheck or direct deposit for the employee's net pay about a week later - usually the following Friday. So the work done by the employee is essentially loaned to the employer until the two-week collection period ends, and the week of processing time is over. And for lots of employees, ones who might be facing bills or other obligations that don't line up well with the employer's pay schedule, that delay in getting their pay presents a problem.

    They might look for a payroll advance, put more spending on their credit cards, or even seek out a high-interest payday loan - often because the one to almost three week 'float' doesn't work for them in their lives.

    So the idea that a payroll service provider like Gusto is making it possible for employees to have more choice in when they get paid for time already worked, while also making it available to employers, (Gusto is basically fronting the funds for the employer until the 'real' payroll runs), I think is one that is long overdue, and is needed and will be appreciated by lots of employees.

    A couple of disclaimers here - this service is really new, and so far only available to Gusto customers in Texas, (more states are on the way), Gusto did not ask me or compensate me at all to post about this, (in fact I am pretty sure they did not even contact me about it), and finally, there might be other payroll providers out there with similar products and services (ADP, Paychex, Ceridian, etc.), I don't claim to know that this is an offering that is unique to Gusto. So please let me if your company already offers this, and I will add a footnote to the piece. But regardless, this is a cool idea and I hope it catches on with more companies and payroll providers.

    I will leave with this image - a crude Google map of Las Vegas with location pins for Starbucks locations, (which seem to be everywhere), and for Payday Loan Companies. Can you guess which is which?

     

    Have a great day!

     

     

    Monday
    Jun182018

    A chart, like a picture, says more than words do

    Welcome back to the work week (and try not to skip out on too much of what you need to do this week to watch the World Cup). Actually, can we pass a law that makes the World Cup more convenient to my personal time zone? But enough about that.

    Here's what I wanted to share today, an interesting, quick read from the Washington Post on how much more effective charts are when compared to straight text for making sure your audience clearly understands the underlying data surrounding a particular issue.

    Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Exeter recently published some interesting findings, ones that you probably already would have guessed at, around the effectiveness of charts in combating false conclusions or ones that are not supported by the facts.

    To prove this thesis, the researchers took a given issue, say whether or not participants believed that the Earth's temperatures were increasing, and then showed one group a chart containing the relevant climate data, a second group was given a text-only version of the climate data, and a third group was given no additional information at all.

    Here's the chart (naturally), of what the researcher's found happened to the levels of incorrect or non-factual beliefs that were held by each group after seeing the chart, text, or just going with their gut.

     

    I am sure you noted on the chart that the actual groups of people being tested in this experiment were folks who identified as Republican, but for what I took away from the Post piece and the research itself, that is only a footnote. What really matters here is that among folks holding a particular belief, one that seems to be counter-factual, (or even flat out false), you have a much better chance of getting them to embrace the facts (and change their opinions of those facts), by showing them a chart of the relevant data, not a text-only passage. Doing nothing at all, or just shouting at them, is definitely the most ineffective strategy.

    In the experiment above, using the chart of global temperatures drove the percentage of people holding incorrect beliefs down to 10%, a huge improvement from the text-only or 'nothing' strategies. That's the takeaway from this, don't get caught up in the political topics themselves. T

    his strategy can be used for just about anything in the workplace where there are incorrect beliefs, perceptions, or just a person or a group that has dug their heels into the ground over a particular issue and you can't find a way to make them budge.

    That's your assignment for the week - find one opportunity to send your message and make your point in chart form - don't rely on a simple email or a chat message to convince anyone of anything.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great week!