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    Entries in work (168)

    Tuesday
    Dec062016

    Terms that mean 'employee', ranked

    Lots of us are employees. But some of us work at places that don't refer to us as 'employees.' Somewhere along the line, (I am guessing in the late 1970s, but I really don't know for sure), it became trendy, if not fashionable for organizations to move away from the more formal sounding term of 'employee' and start referring to their, well, employees using other terms.

    Inspired by a weekend spent in heavy retail environments and overhearing an 'All available associates, please report to the front of the store' announcement, I started thinking about all the various terms that are now used by organizations to substitute for 'employee.'

    And then I thought it made sense to rank said terms.

    As always, this list is unscientific, unresearched, incomplete, subjective, and 100% accurate.

    Here goes -  Terms that mean 'employee', ranked:

    10. Worker - About as cold as it gets. Unless you go with 'peon' or 'serf'. Which don't seem to be used (much), any more.

    9. Co-worker - Slightly softer version of 'worker'. Still pretty cold though/

    8. Staff member - As generic as it gets. Best used when the organization hates taking any kind of a stand about anything.

    7. Teammate - Unless the 'team' is designed to kick a ball or run really fast, probably should not be used in the workplace.

    6. Team Member - A little less cloying than teammate. But still not great. But yay - we are on a team!

    5. Crew or crew member - Are you on a boat? Do you build boats? No? Then you are not on a crew.

    4. Partner - This is actually sort of dumb. Unless the company is just made up of actual partners. Then it's ok.

    3. Colleague - This actually would be the one I would choose if I had to choose. Rides nicely that fine line between 'touchy-feely' and 'we all just work here' that I like

    2. Associate - a solid move if you for some reason need to move off of 'employee', but want to stay appropriately distant, yet convey a (fake) sense of importance to everyone in the organization. 

    1. Employee - Call me old school, but I still think the simplest solution is the best. I don't think anyone is really offended by being called an employee. At least I don't think so.

    Did I forget anything? Hit me up in the comments.

    And as always, you could disagree with these rankings, but of course you would be wrong.

    Friday
    Dec022016

    Learn a new word: The Feature Factory

    Quick shout-out to John Cutler writing at the Hackernoon site for this outstanding piece (and the source for today's 'Learn a new word' submission - The Feature Factory.

    What is a 'Feature Factory' in the context of a software development function?'

    From the piece on Hackernoon, '12 Signs You're Working in a Feature Factory' to get an idea -

    I’ve used the term Feature Factory at a couple conference talks over the past two years. I started using the term when a software developer friend complained that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line.”

    How do you know if you’re working in a feature factory? (SMB Note: there are 12 signs in the post, I am just going to grab two of them here, but you really should read the entire piece)

    3. 'Success theater' around "shipping", with little discussion about impact. You can tell a great deal about an organizations by what it celebrates.

    7. Obsessing about prioritization. Mismatch between prioritization rigor (deciding what gets worked on) and validation rigor (deciding if it was, in fact, the right thing to work on). Prioritization rigor is designed exclusively to temper internal agendas so that people “feel confident”. Lots of work goes into determining which ideas to work on, leaving little leeway for adjustments and improvisation based on data. Roadmaps show a list of features, not areas of focus and/or outcomes 

    Really, really good stuff for project managers and development teams to think about.

    Why should this matter for readers of Steve's HR Tech?

    I can think of two reasons straight up.

    One, it is worthwhile to think about your current and potentially future providers of HR technology solutions in this context. Does your provider talk about their product roadmap for the next year or two in the same way you run down your holiday shopping or grocery list? Do they talk about the future as simply the container in which they will 'ship' more features and gadgets? Or do they discuss their plans and directions using your challenges and your desired outcomes as the context in which they are organizing and planning to deliver new solutions? I know I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating - almost any provider can build the capability you need if they think they have to. What is much more important for your long term success with a tech provider is if yours and their visions of the future are in alignment, and the methods, pace, and you feel confident in the manner in which you will both grow and evolve to be better prepared to succeed in that future. That is what is really important. Not just "shipping."

    And the other reason that this idea of the 'Feature factory' is important? Because in late 2016 it is pretty likely that all but the very smallest organizations have in-house IT and development teams themselves, and these teams are comprised of folks that both do not want to work in an environment that could be described as a feature factory, and at the same time have lots of career options that don't include your organization. As HR leaders, it is probably worthwhile from time to time to check in with some of your really important, hard to find, and harder to replace tech talent types and see how they really think and feel about the organization's development climate. If you are treating these talented and in-demand folks too much like cogs in the machine, chances are they won't want to stay in that machine for too long. They will see your shop as a skills and resume builder stepping stone to somewhere more interesting, more fun, and more challenging.

    Ok, that's it from me. Tip your servers.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Nov072016

    Working too much is (possibly) bad for your brain

    Quick question, if you had to guess, what do you think would be 'better' (for folks 40 and older), in terms of maintaining or even enhancing your overall cognitive abilities - I will give you two options, pick the one you think would be 'better'.

    1. Working at a full-time job that is a real grind, and putting in 60+ hours/week

    2. Doing more or less nothing in terms of paid employment, i.e., spending a lot of time playing video games, watching Netflix - that kind of thing

    Well, according to a recent research study published at the University of Melbourne, the guy sitting on the sofa binge watching The Walking Dead is probably better off, at least in terms of cognitive functioning, than the 60 hours/week work hero.Three Flags (1958), Jasper Johns

    So what might be the true, 'best' option to keep cognitive function from deteriorating as we get older?

    Unsurprisingly, the answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes of 'doing nothing' and 'probably working too much.'

    From the University of Melbourne's findings:

    Our findings show that there is a non-linearity in the effect of working hours on cognitive functioning. For working hours up to around 25 hours a week, an increase in working hours has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. However, when working hours exceed 25 hours per week, an increase in working hours has a negative impact on cognition. Interestingly, there is no statistical difference in the effects of working hours on cognitive functioning between men and women.

    This could be the greatest argument yet for the three day work week, at least for folks in the 40+ crowd, (is anyone actually arguing for a three day work week? Maybe I can start the groundswell here).

    But what is interesting about the research and the conclusions is how it more or less aligns with what most of us would intuitively feel to be the case - that being engaged in work helps keep the brain sharp, and the mental faculties in shape. It would be hard to argue, based on a personal and informal review of the losers in our lives, (I am looking at you, Mr. no-good brother in law), that sitting on the sofa all day is good for cognitive functioning.

    What might be surprising however is the pretty low weekly working hours threshold where cognitive function starts to decline. Twenty five hours per week is squarely in the 'part-time' category, and likely not the one in which most of us find ourselves in during the prime, (or what we think is the prime), of our working careers.

    So in sum the two things to at least think about are both pretty clear, and kind of obvious too.

    Lots of us are working too much, and all of this work might be having a negative impact on cognitive function, (not to mention family life, stress, physical health, etc.).

    But as we get older, working at least some, (up to 25 hours or so), is actually positive on a number of fronts, and should be a part of our planning as we age.

    Everything in moderation. Shocking, I know.

    And probably a good reminder as we hit Election Day tomorrow.

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Oct242016

    The Geometry of the Deal

    So do you want to know what I did this past Saturday night? 

    Scratch that, I assure you that you do not, as you would likely become distracted having to navigate the simultaneous emotions of boredom, pity, and incredulity.

    So let's pretend for both of our sakes that I didn't spend a good portion of Saturday night re-watching (thank you Amazon Prime), the 1996 HBO movie The Late Shift, a 'based on real events' telling of the late-night TV wars of the 1990s following the retirement of TV legend Johnny Carson, long time host of NBC's The Tonight Show.

    (Ok, just between us, this is what I did on Saturday night, don't judge, and roll with me on this)

    Quick recap of the movie's key elements: 

    1. Johnny announces his plans to retire from TV in May of 1992, giving NBC effectively a full years notice and time to select his successor

    2. NBC has to decide who will be the next host of The Tonight Show, an extremely important decisions because (at least in 1992), The Tonight Show was still very popular, and extremely profitable. This was a big deal for NBC, (and their corporate owner at the time, GE).

    3. There are only two candidates. One, Jay Leno, who was well-liked, funny, (he was), and had become Johnny's regular guest host in the last few years of Johnny's run. And two, David Letterman, who had been hosting the Late Night Show on NBC, (the 12:30AM show that ran right after Johnny) for the past 10 years, and who was also popular, if slightly more edgy and hip than Leno.

    4. The rest of the movie, (I won't spoil it for you, as if I need to worry about dropping a spoiler for a 20 year-old movie), runs through what happens in the run-up to NBC's eventual decision, and the chaos and corporate drama which almost immediately ensues.

    I decided to watch this movie again for one specific reason, and that was not because I could not remember who did get The Tonight Show.

    No, it was because I recently was in a discussion with a friend regarding a real-life contract negotiation, and during that discussion I wanted to advise my friend to essentially 'think bigger', to not necessarily get bogged down in trying to 'win' on the small items, but rather to try and garner support for something more expansive, something more wide and far-reaching, frankly for a pretty significant re-interpretation and definition of the business relationship altogether.

    And then the phrase I was wrestling with trying to articulate finally popped into my head - I wanted him to change 'the geometry of the deal'.

    And then, I remembered where I first, (and I am pretty sure the only) time I heard that phrase - the movie The Late Shift.

    About a third of the way through the movie, Letterman comes to realize that NBC intends on awarding The Tonight Show host job to Leno, and is frustrated and confused and doesn't really know how to move forward. His ally (and Carson's producer), Peter Lassaly advises Dave to meet with a Hollywood agent, something Dave has in the past had no interest in doing. Lassally does convince Dave to meet with one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood, Mike Ovitz, and the 'geometry' line comes from Ovitz, when he sits down to meet with Letterman and Lassally.

    (Note: I can't find a clip of just the Ovitz meeting, below is a YouTube embed of the full movie, fast forward to 35:12 for the meeting, which is only a little over 2 minutes long). Email and RSS subscribers, click through.

    Here's the text of the Ovitz speech as well, in case you can't be bothered to mess around with the clip:

    Michael Ovitz: Peter, I know Dave's circumstances, and so I know why you're here. Dave is a star of such compelling stature that frankly it makes me personally angry he finds himself this abused. We pride ourselves here at CAA in developing a career plan for our clients that protects them as much as it enriches them. David has set such an incredibly high professional standard and yet he is going disturbingly unrewarded. That just doesn't make any sense; it's simply bad business practice. Obviously, we have an interest in establishing a business relationship with you Dave, and you Peter. Frankly, we have worked out a career plan for David, and it includes securing everything for Dave that he wants. EVERYTHING. Of course that means an 11:30 television show. Dave will be offered an 11:30 show, and he will be offered it by every network. The geometry of the deal will be far larger, the studios will be in, the syndicators, the full range of the entertainment industry. We shall frame a deal that will make you one of the giants. And if you give us the privilege of working with you, CAA will take care of everything your talents deserve, and his spirit desires.

    Awesome, right?

    And if you did watch the clip in the movie when Ovitz makes the speech you will catch his confidence, his preparedness, ("Peter, I know Dave's circumstances"), and his all-around dominance of the proceedings. Dave leaves the meeting much more confident himself, which is how all the best coaches, agents, teachers, leaders, or bosses make the people they work with feel.

    But most of all, and why this is so cool is that phrase - 'The Geometry of the Deal'. It's been in my head for 20 years, and now, hopefully, it's in your head too.

    Go kick some a$$ this week.

    I will try to as well.

    Friday
    Oct212016

    REMINDER: LinkedIn is still not the real world

    In what has become an annual tradition on the blog, as beloved as the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or me passing out on the sofa in a turkey/stuffing coma each Thanksgiving, I wanted to offer my quick reminder that the world of LinkedIn has only a partial, if not passing, resemblance to the real world of work, workplaces, and the kinds of jobs most people have.

    What prompts this regular reflection and reminder? As in years past, (here is what I wrote about this last winter), LinkedIn has released what they call 'The Top Skills That Can Get You Hired in 2017', based on their data set of member profiles, job posting activity, and their assessment of the candidate skills that were more likely to generate recruiter interest and hiring activity. They publish this list of 'top' skills both globally, and for a selection of countries and more or less the narrative that follows is something along the lines of 'If you want to get hired next year, you should try to acquire one (or more) of these skills.'

    Here is the list of these 'top' skills for the USA for 2017, per LinkedIn:

    As has been the case in the last couple of years, these 'hot' skills are dominated by the latest in IT trends and innovations. Cloud computing, user interface, algorithm design, etc., are all skills (and roles), that have certainly seen an increase in employer demand, and is often reported, can be difficult to find in candidates. So simple supply (which is not enough), and demand, (which continues to increase), for these skills naturally make them 'hot' and the folks that possess them remaining in demand.

    Makes sense. Good to know. Interesting to think about if you are just starting your career and want to have at least some level of comfort about your chances of employment.

    But as I like to point out, and did the last time LinkedIn shared with us what was 'hot',  these skills, or said slightly differently, the kinds of jobs that require these skills, still make up a really, really small percentage of overall employment in the USA, and are not the ones that the vast majority of people are doing.

    Here's the latest data that is available from our pals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics on 'Major Occupational Groups as a Percentage of Employment', (from 2015):

    Did you see the grouping for 'Computer and Mathematical', where the majority of jobs that required most of the 2017 LinkedIn 'hot' skills would typically reside?

    It is down towards the bottom of the graph just after 'Personal care and service' and before 'Healthcare support'. If you go to the actual BLS data, 'Computer and Mathematical' makes up 2.9% of all jobs in the USA, about the same as it has been the last couple of years.

    Even allowing for the fact that some of the 'hot' skills would be in demand in other general employment categories, is still stands to reason that just about all of the jobs where these skills are being sought out for represent, still, a sliver of the US labor market, and do not reflect the jobs that the vast majority of people are actually doing, (and will be doing for some time).

    Sure, it is trendy to think that the LinkedIn skills represent the future of work, and perhaps they probably do, and I would encourage anyone, especially younger folks to think about pursuing them,  but these skills don't really represent the 'present' of work, not in a substantial way anyway.

    LinkedIn is a fantastic business, a staggering success, and not at all like the real world where the overwhelming majority of workers reside.

    Have a fantastic weekend And don't spend so much time on LinkedIn.