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    Entries in work (232)

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Other duties as assigned: How about 'Micro-influencer?'

    Calling your attention to a super read over at The Atlantic titled 'Employers are Looking for 'Influencers' Within Their Ranks' that describes the relatively recent phenomenon of employers enlisting 'real' employees for what are, mostly, low-tech, minimal production values, and hopefully authentic advertising and branding campaigns. In what reminded me of the seemingly ubiquitous trend on TV spots where car companies tout their casts of 'Real people, not actors', The Atlantic piece breaks down how Macy's has recruited dozens of real and often front-line workers in their Macy's 'Style Crew' campaign where these workers share updates, pics, and videos showcasing Macys fashions as well as sharing some of their own lives as well.

    A great example of a Macy's Style Crew Instagram post is embedded below, (if you can't see the image in email or RSS, you may need to click through)

     

     

    You can see from this pic, and from the several dozen others I looked at with the #macysstylecrew hashtag, that most of the pics achieve what Macy's is after from this campaign - grass roots, believable, authentic, and perhaps most importantly, inexpensive branding and advertising for the business.

    In a world where consumers tend to trust brand messages less and less, and "official" Instagram and other social media Influencers are charging higher and higher fees for sponsored posts and produce mentions, Macy's is trying a different approach, one that calls to action participants that it has more control and influence over - the company's own employees.

    The upside for Macy's? Hundreds, perhaps thousands of quasi-independent voices sharing content and information about the brand's products, in a casual, "real" way, and the opportunity to build stronger bonds between the company and their customers, (and employees).

    The upside for Macy's employees in the Style Crew? It is a little less clear, to be honest. The Atlantic piece does mention some kind of compensation for these participants, (it is not apparent how much or in what form the compensation is delivered). They also stand a chance, with interested and enthusiastic participation to get noticed by higher ups at Macy's, I guess there is some value to that. And last, if nothing else, they get to have a little fun at 'work' - posting selfies of your daily outfit before you head to the office or store is kind of a thankless job, (that's why I stopped doing that myself). Injecting a little brand ambassadorship into the equation makes it somehow (maybe?) less inane of a practice.

    In the modern, gig economy we are all always hustling. For some Macy's employees, that includes when taking selfies.

    Have a great day!

     

    Friday
    Aug172018

    Expect Great Things

    The other day I caught an interview with Kevin Dann, the author of 'Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau'. I don't know any more than the average person about Thoreau, I read Walden Pond I am pretty sure back in high school, but that is about it.

    But the interview with Dann, the most recent of Thoreau's many biographers really resonated for me, and mainly for the author's reasoning behind the book's title.

    Here's the section from the interview, courtesy of the Art of Manliness Podcast:

    Kevin Dann - And you’re pointing to my contextualizing Thoreau in this way. A big part of that was a signature I found right away was this sense, you know, I used it for the title of the book. “Expect great things”. So his mantra was, that he said in a hundred different ways, “In the long run, we find what we expect. We shall be fortunate then if we expect great things.” And whether it’s astrology, or reading tea leaves, the operative principle of magic is that what we think manifests in the world as being real, and that’s what his mantra was. “Expect great things”.

    I pretty much stopped really taking in the rest of the hour-long conversation after hearing that. The 'Expect Great Things' concept I just could not stop thinking about. Maybe because it is so different than what I am comfortable or used to doing. I might, on a good day, 'hope' for good things to happen, but I have to admit it is the more rare situation that I 'expect' great things. 

    And Thoreau's point, as far as I think I understand it, is that eventually we find what we expect to find. We find what we think or believe we are going to find. There is also at least a bit of mysticism in what Thoreau was talking about. We also, I came to learn, communicated with faeries out in the woods.

    But if Thoreau was right, and we do indeed, eventually, find what we expect to find, then it makes perfect sense to expect great things. Who would expect less?

    Ok, I am signing off for the week. I am going to try better to expect great things in work, at home, for my Liverpool FC team, and for the folks that I hold dear. I hope you will too.

    Have a great weekend!

    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!