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    Entries in work (85)

    Wednesday
    Aug202014

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Shrinking American Vacation

    Today's chart is perfectly timed for me, as starting from tomorrow I am heading out for a few days off. But my (too short) vacation I have lined up also aligns with an overall downward trend in the duration of American worker's vacations, as seen in the chart below, (courtesy of Vox). As always, some FREE commentary after the chart.

     

     

    From the data, which was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 9 million Americans took a full week of vacation in July 1976. Contrast that to July 2014, when just about 7 million Americans scored a full week of sun or sand or just sleeping in on the sofa. If that does not seem like a big drop over about 40 years, consider that there are about 60 million more people employed in 2014 than there were in 1976. Bottom line, this data suggests that American workers, on the whole, are not taking long (used loosely) vacations like we used to.

    What might that mean for us today? Here are three quick takes, and I would love to hear what you think as well.

    1. The paradox of constant connectivity - Smartphones, tablets, Wifi in every coffee shop, bar, restaurant, etc. should (theoretically) make it easier for workers to go on longer vacations, but for some reason that is not happening. There are pretty few places in the country/world one can run off to on vacation and not be at least somewhat reachable. So in theory the ability to be reached, to monitor work and chech emails for any dire emergencies, and actually even do some work while on vacation has never been easier. But that still isn't allowing American workers to disconnect from work as much as we used to. Why not? 

    2. FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - This phenomenon, described as a form of social anxiety, fed by smartphones and social networking, is one where we become compulsively concerned that we might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or other satisfying event. If you are not constantly checking your friends' Facebook and Foursquare updates, you might miss something really cool happening across town, for example. FOMO is a prety-well documented psychological dependence in social interactions, but since we use the same tools and tech more and more for work, then it makes sense that a kind of FOMO about work might be kicking in too. But in the work context, the perceived consequences of missing out might be greater. Instead of just missing a party or a Happy Hour, maybe you are missing out on some great work project or a rare chance to schmooze with the CEO. 

    3. It's a candidate's market, but the candidate's don't believe that yet - This is sort of the obvious one, where FOMO morphs into FOLOJ (Fear of Losing One's Job). Even though just about every labor market indicator is seemingly trending in a manner that suggest more power and leverage are shifting towards workers/candidates, (unemployment rate, job opening rates, time to fill, etc.), most workers are still not buying in to that story as yet. The brutal recession is not yet a distant enough memory for most of us to feel like we have either reasonable job security or a reasonable likelihood that we will find another suitable job should we lose the one we have. So we put in the extra hours, we check and respond to email at all times, and we don't go away on vacation for too long - lest anyone back at the office think, 'Hey, Steve has been out for a week, and things went just fine without him...'

    Anyway, that's it for today - I have to get back on the grind before I leave on my (short) vacation.

    No new content for a few days, but I am sure you will do just fine without me...

    Thursday
    Aug142014

    The best 'Out of the Office' message might be this one from Germany

    Regular readers (and people who have the occasion to want to get in touch with me) probably know that I have a troubled, difficult, and often non-productive relationship with email. Honestly, email and I should have broken up a long time ago, as clearly it is just not working out for either of us.

    So it is from that point of view that I offer up what I think might be the best (partial) solution to one of the biggest problems with email today for the busy professional - just how much of it piles up when you are away from it for some time, like when you are out on holiday or if you are traveling for business, or even if you just need to turn off the email incoming fire hose for a while and actually do some work.

     

    Check out what the German automaker Daimler is offering up to its 100,000 or so employees to help stem the tide of email when they are out of the office on holiday. Note: these excerpts are taken from a piece on FT.com, it is free to read but requires registration to get access to the article.

     

    The Stuttgart-based car and truckmaker said about 100,000 German employees can now choose to have all their incoming emails automatically deleted when they are on holiday so they do not return to a bulging in-box.

     

    The sender is notified by the “Mail on Holiday” assistant that the email has not been received and is invited to contact a nominated substitute instead. Employees can therefore return from their summer vacation to an empty inbox.

     

    “Our employees should relax on holiday and not read work-related emails,” said Wilfried Porth, board member for human resources. “With ‘Mail on Holiday’ they start back after the holidays with a clean desk. There is no traffic jam in their inbox. That is an emotional relief.”
    An 'Out of the Office' that not only lets the person know that the intended recipient is actually out, but also deletes the incoming email entirely? 

     

    Sign me up for that right now!

     

    Email and the never ending battle to not allow email to sap productivity, destroy morale, and turn into your job instead of a tool you use to help you do your job is likely to continue to be a contentious subject as long as email remains the primary tool for business communication and collaboration.

     

    And that kind of stinks, because in 2014 when we have robot butlers, self-driving cars, drones that can make package delivery, and digital assistants that can guide us and help us navigate our days that most of us have to stare at and wade through hundreds of seemingly random messages every day before we actually get to 'do' anything.

     

    I am going to be on vacation/holiday for a few days in a week or so, I wonder if the good people at Daimler would be willing to license out their little 'Out of the Office' auto-delete tool to me.

    I definitely would use it.

    Have a great day! (And if you are waiting for an email from me, be patient a little longer....) 

    Friday
    Jul252014

    REPRISE: PowerPoint for the iPad? Well that's no fun.

    Note: Caught a really interesting article this week on the Unofficial Apple Weblog, titled Microsoft still doesn't get why the iPhone succeeded, which breaks down Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's recent manifesto memo to MSFT employees regarding the tech giant's strategy and direction. Essentially, the author contends that Nadella's focus and emphasis on the device (smartphone, tablet, whatever is coming next, etc.), as a 'work' or productivity device misses the entire reason why people originally flocked to the iPhone and iPad in the first place. Here is a snippet from the piece:

    Consumers primarily buy mobile devices that make their lives easier and more fun, work be damned. Microsoft Office wasn't available on the iPhone until June of 2013. An iPad version wasn't released until four months ago! And guess what, hundreds of millions of consumers bought iPhones and iPads anyhow.

    The longer Microsoft continues to focus on the alleged allure of productivity software, the more it runs the risk of falling into the same trap as RIM, which remained so beholden to the notion of physical keyboards that it completely ignored the mass market to placate its beloved enterprise users. Just as RIM mistakenly believed that physical keyboards could fend off the growing popularity of the iPhone, Microsoft seems to believe that the abstract notion of "productivity" will help them garner more marketshare.

    The underlying problem with this train of thought is that it ignores the fact that the iPhone helped usher in the consumerization of IT, the dynamic where individuals themselves are able to influence the type of mobile devices supported in their work environment.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    Steve here- The entire piece kind of read and felt familiar to me, and a quick look back at the archives here revealed I had kind of written a similar piece back in February of 2012, when early rumors of MS PowerPoint being ported out to the iPad first started making the rounds.  So since it is sometimes fun to look back, and because I think the gist of the argument I made in 2012 still applies today, here is that piece from 2012 in all it's majesty:

     

    PowerPoint for the iPad? Well that's no fun.

    Lots of chatter in the tech news and blogosphere this week about the possible launch of an iPad version of Microsoft Office.  First the news of the Office for iPad was broken by The Daily, denied, (kind of), by Microsoft, examined in more detail by ZDNet, then reconfirmed on Twitter by a staff member at The Daily. And I am sure there were lots of other takes on the potential release of Office for the iPad, most of which making it seem like it is not a question of if Microsoft will release the iPad version of Office, but rather when the apps will be released.Source - The Daily

    So based on the evidence, and the sort of non-denial denial from Microsoft, let's assume that indeed in the 'coming weeks' there will be a release of MS Office for the iPad. Most of the accounts about this possible new Office version herald this development as a positive one, both for Microsoft, essentially absent to this point in the rapid rise of the tablet ecosystem, and also for the millions of iPad users that now can become 'more productive' now that the ubiquitous Office suite will have a native iPad version.

    But for me, I have to admit I don't feel all that excited about having Excel, Word, or PowerPoint on the iPad. Even assuming that the iPad versions of these workplace stalwarts manage to leverage the best capabilities and usability features that the iPad offers, you are still crunching spreadsheets, writing (boring) documents, and futzing around with another PowerPoint. You know, working. And work, sadly, is often not much fun. And perhaps through no fault of their own, Excel and PowerPoint take a lot of reflected shrapnel for that if you get my meaning.

    People love their iPads because they are fun, (assuming you can mentally set aside how they are actually manufactured, but that is another story), they provide an amazing user experience, and mostly what you do with them either isn't work, or doesn't feel like work. It just seems cool, hip, easy. Not words we often associate with work. Especially when work takes the form of spreadsheets and slide decks.

    So when MS Office for the iPad comes out will I rush to load it up? Probably not. But I imagine I will eventually succumb, as the allure and utility of being able to tweak that presentation file on the iPad when sitting in the airport will prove too tempting and seem too necessary. It's work right? Need to get 'er done whenever and wherever.

    I just hope I won't have to drop Angry Birds to make room for Excel. Because that would really stink. 

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Jul242014

    CHART OF THE DAY: Whose Labor Market is it Anyway?

    There is a simple answer to that question, really. 

    The candidates run the current labor market, at least for large, (and growing) swath of managerial, professional, and technical roles. 

    Check out this week's Chart of the Day, a look at how recruiters see the labor market - candidate driven or employer driven,  courtesy of the MRI Network's latest recruiter sentiment study, (as always, some pithy commentary from me after the chart)

    Wow - pretty simple and clear to see how at least this group of surveyed MRI Network recruiters have seen the labor market shift pretty dramatically in just two and a half years.

    From late 2011, when the sentiment was that that the power and leverage in recruiting was about an even split between candidate and employer, to one where now these recruiters see about a 4x advantage for the candidates, this shift will have some pretty profound implications for many HR/talent pros.

    Quite simply, offers to candidates with desirable, in-demand skill sets are going to have to get sweeter, and they are going to have to happen faster. Digging in to the MRI data you see that the primary reason candidates can't be closed is that they have accepted a different job offer. Sure, there are plenty of factors at play here, but the lesson is that just like in the market for desirable real estate in New York or San Francisco, the market for top candidates is likely to be super-competitive, with candidates holding signifcant leverage and multiple offers.

    One more nugget from the data - candidates accepting counter-offers to remain with their current employer are rising. Whether or not it makes sense to even make counter-offers is definitely subject to debate, but the fact that if you don't at least consider the practice for your in-demand talent, you are likely going to find yourself having to replace at least some of that talent sooner than you might have liked. 

    Looking back over this data, and the last few Charts of the Day I have posted and it continues to become more clear - job openings are up, employees are more willing to jump for a better opportunity, the competition for candidates is getting more fierce, and the strategy and tactics you were using as recently as 2011 probably are not going to work in labor markets where the best candidates have all the power.

    Have fun and be careful out there.

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    CHART OF THE DAY: Unemployed workers per job opening

    The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) was released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and it showed that US job openings as of May 2014 stood at about 4.6 million, up from 4.5 million in April.

    Taking the JOLTS openings data and combining it with gross unemployment data (also from the BLS), and you get the chart below that shows the trend over time in the ratio of unemployed workers per job opening. Take a look at the chart, (from Business Insider) and then some comments from me below.

    1. The latest ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 2.11, the lowest level since early 2008, and extremely lower than the post financial crisis high water mark of almost 7 in mid-2009. 

    2. The trend seems to suggest a continued lowering of this ratio, as increased hiring will likely be only partially offset by more entrants into the labor marker, (students leaving school, folks getting coaxed back into the labor market due to improving prospects).

    3. As an HR/talent pro, you might start finding for more jobs a relative reduction in the number of applicants for your open positions. Unless you are offering so-called 'good' jobs, have a compelling employer value proposition, or have a proven pipeline of candidates, there will be, at least in aggregate, fewer available people for your jobs. 

    4. As a consequence of this labor market tightening, your Econ 101 book will tell you that wages are going to have to begin rising more steeply. Again, this is what the economists predict, but for you, all Economics is local. If indeed you are finding it difficult to attract adequate numbers of qualified candidates, then you are going to have to take a long, hard look at the compensation you are offering for these roles. More and more categories of workers are going to at least perceive they have more leverage, (same goes for existing employees too).

    5. With fewer unemployed people per job in the labor pool, it is going to be paramount, even for many entry-level jobs, that you get better at identifying talent from competitors and companies in adjacent industries in order to maximize your candidate flow. It could be the days of simply posting a job online, or placing a Help Wanted sign in the window simply to get the candidates you need are disappearing.

    OK, that is it on this from me. What do you think, are you seeing the markets for your open jobs getting tighter?