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    Entries in work (207)

    Thursday
    Feb012018

    Steve's 12 Rules For Life

    Apologies if this '12 Rules for Life' meme is a bit worn out (I confess to have only just seen it in the last week or so here and here and since I am pretty much absent on most forms of social media these days I have a feeling these kinds of things come and go and I usually don't catch them), but since it reminded me a bit of blogging say, 10 years ago when these kinds of themes were passed around in blog 'tags' and comments, I thought I would give it a shot.

    So here goes - in no order of importance, relevance, research, or general applicability. 

    And, there are lots of more important rules - like the ones concerning family, relationships, etc. that I have no desire to even try to offer advice, let alone rules. Consider these the most unimportant, but somehow vital 12 rules for life you will ever read. If you read them that is.

    And now here goes...

    1. Pick up the tab - You don't have to do this all the time, just sometimes. There is nothing more awkward than handing a server or bartender seven different credit cards to try and settle a $132 check. Pick up the tab and you just made six friends. And made a deposit in the bank of good karma. You may need that one day.

    2. No talking in a public restroom - with the exception of someone in authority if they need to shout 'The building is on fire, everyone evacuate!'

    3. Do whatever you can to control your schedule. Most of us will end up with some kind of job or career where bosses, colleagues, customers, clients, etc. all have some kind of claim on our time. The more you can limit the number of people who can lock up your time and the amount of time you have to be available to others, the more you will be able to focus on what you truly want to do, and I bet you will be happier overall. Call it your own 'Executive Time' if you have to, and block your own calendar.

    4. Don't stress over the dessert or the third slice of pizza or the french fries or whatever you consider your dietary weakness. No one ever looks back on their life and says 'Gee, I wish I drank more water and ate more salad.' 

    5. Jog/walk/move a little bit more. Sometimes when I travel I have to take two pretty long connecting flights in a row. And sometimes I see the some of the same people get off the first plane, where we had all been sitting for three hours or so, and immediately park themselves down in another seat to wait an hour just to get on another three hour flight where once again, we will all be sitting. It baffles me. And while you are at it, you don't need to find the closest parking space to the grocery store or post office or theater. Park a little farther out and walk for two minutes. It's fun. 

    6. Never place a bet on any animal that can't talk. Betting on ones that can talk is also advised against, but it is fun. Except for tennis. Don't bet on tennis, it is pretty likely the match is fixed.

    7. Don't spend too much time on social networks. I know, that 'rule' is everywhere. But even Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook (heavy use of Facebook anyway), is not that great for you. Check it like you check your snail mail - a quick scan for a minute as you bring it in from the mailbox and then maybe for 15-20 minutes later as you sort out what is important, what can be trashed and what you need to read. Reading long lists on blogs is, however, very admirable and good for you. So keep doing that. Well done.

    8. Sign up for TSA Pre-check. Even if you only travel a few times a year it is worth every cent. 

    9. Figure out the three things or types of work that you like to do the most, (or which you want to become more proficient), and make sure you reserve time every week to work on these three things. Keep (loose) track of the time you spend on these things and do a kind a self-audit every few months to determine two things. One, are you actually making time to do the things you really want to do? And two, are you getting better at these things? I think the thing that holds us back the most at work and maybe even in life, is that we are not good or comfortable with self-examination and making an honest assessment of things. If that sounds like a bit of a confession/admission you are right.

    10. Set expectations (where you can). In a project or a negotiation or even just 'normal' business, people are generally going to be happy or at least satisfied as long as they are not disappointed or surprised. If you have to, set an email auto-responder during your busy times, (maybe all the time), that lays out when people can expect to hear back from you or the time it will take for you to take some action. If you email me today, (it's a Thursday as I write this), and I auto-respond I will get back to you by Monday COB, then at least you understand not to expect a reply on Friday. This is also a confession/admission of sorts.

    11. It's ok to be a snob about something, (wine, beer, cheese, movies, books, etc.) but not everything. Popular culture is called that because it's you know, popular. Lots and lots of people drink Coors Light, eat at Taco Bell, and go on Dunkin' runs. Jumanji grossed about $340M in 2017. And the people that drink Coors Light and hit the Taco Bell on the way to catch Jumanji? You have to work with them, serve them as customers, and socialize with them. You are not any better than them because you like some triple-hopped craft IPA that was brewed in someone's backyard. 

    12. Don't listen to anyone's rules about how to live. Except for number 8 above. You will never regret not waiting in the 'regular' line at security.

    If you decide to post your '12 Rules' somewhere let me know in the comments, or add a rule or two of your own there. 

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Jan302018

    Critics

    From the Wikipedia page on Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)

    Perhaps one reason Sibelius has attracted both the praise and the ire of critics is that in each of hisJean Sibelius is not hearing any of your crap. seven symphonies he approached the basic problems of form, tonality, and architecture in unique, individual ways. On the one hand, his symphonic (and tonal) creativity was novel, but others thought that music should be taking a different route. Sibelius's response to criticism was dismissive: "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic."

     

    You are either a creator or a critic.

     

    Choose your side wisely my friends.

     

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jan152018

    Striking for a 28-hour work week: What happens when workers feel like they have the upper hand

    Over the weekend while taking a break from freezing and shoveling snow, I caught this recent piece from the Guardian - German workers strike for the right to two-year, 28-hour working week'.

    Turns out in Germany the combination of the traditionally strong position of workers and worker's groups, historically low unemployment, and a robust and growing German economy have conspired to put industrial workers, in this case the Metal Workers Union, in a place where they can hold 'warning' strikes against employers as they advocate for a new benefit - the ability to reduce their hours to 28 per week for a period of up to two years. More details from the piece in the Guardian:

    Workers have downed tools at more than 80 companies across Germany as the country’s biggest union stepped up its campaign for a 28-hour working week to allow employees to improve their work-life balance.

    In what is shaping up to be the biggest industrial dispute in the metalwork sector in three decades, more than 15,000 employees took part in warning strikes at factories including those of the carmaker Porsche.

    The IG Metall union, which represents around 3.9 million workers, wants every employee in the metal and electrical sector to have the option to reduce their working hours for a total period of two years, with the automatic right to return to full-time employment afterwards.

    Later in the piece we learn that this reduced working week proposal is centered around the need for improved work-life balance for workers, particularly in times when they have more elder or child care responsibilities. Certainly anyone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with the constant struggle to balance family and personal care needs with work would appreciate the benefit for which the German workers are advocating.

    Before you pass off this as another 'Coddled European workplace' story and dismiss its importance or relevance for most of the rest of us, think about this.

    The conditions here in the US are not all that different than what is happening in Germany, and in many other developed countries right now. Unemployment is at or near decades-long lows. Skilled workers are incredibly hard to find (and to retain). In manufacturing and other heavy industries, long tenured and older workers are retiring much faster than they can be replaced with new talent. And finally, more and more American workers are also struggling with elder and child care needs, and making the balance with work and these personal obligations work. In fact, we did an entire recent HR Happy Hour Show on this topic.

    The main difference, you would rightly point out, in the story in Germany and the labor relations environment here in the US is the US worker generally does not have strong union/labor council representation that can advocate for these kinds of benefits and policies. And that is a big caveat, I admit.

    But all the other conditions are present, if not more acute here in the US. In fact, the US unemployment rate is about 4.1%, much lower than in Germany right now.

    So the thing to think about might not be 'What will I do when the workers agitate for 28-hour weeks?', but rather, 'Am I / we prepared for a labor environment where we (the employer), have even less power and influence than we have today?'

    And, 'Are we prepared for a world where we don't choose employees, but rather one where employees choose us?'

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Jan092018

    What comes after the smartphone?

    Today, January 9, 2018, marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of the original iPhone, when back on January 9, 2007 the late Steve Jobs introduced the world to the gadget that would change personal, workplace, and social technology profoundly.

    Even a decade plus later, the smartphone remains the dominant personal tech innovation of its time, with legions of users lining up on new model launch days to get their hands on the latest versions of their favorite new phone. Data below from IDC estimates over 460M new smartphones were shipped worldwide in 2016, (the latest full year data I could locate in 4 minutes of exhaustive research).

    But just like any other successful technology, the smartphone can't (probably) remain the dominant device for personal technology, communication, and productivity forever, right?

    Think about it - we don't carry around Palm Pilot PDAs, pagers, or Blackberry devices any more, (sorry Canadidan readers). There was a time, believe it or not, when those devices (and others), seemed just as important, even essential to our daily lives and our work.

    So it is likely to be the case with the smartphone too.

    Something will come next and while this something may not (at least right away) replace the smartphone, it is likely, based on the history of technology, that this 'next' thing will start to chip away at the foothold that smartphone has over lives.

    The annual Consumer Electronics Show has been going on this week in Las Vegas - the event where all the biggest providers of all forms of consumer technology (phones, appliances, robots, even cars at this stage), showcase their latest product innovations, make new product launch announcements, and generally share their vision of where consumer technology is going.

    If we are looking for insight what might come after the smartphone, CES presents a decent place to begin that research. And what has been the dominant theme of this year's CES so far (and what have I written about here at least twice already this year?)

    Here's a quote from Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Reserch for the Consumer Technology Association:

    "Coming out of CES, we're going to clearly have established that voice is going to be the go-to user interface," said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association. "Wherever we go or whatever we're doing, we're going to have some form of digital assistant at our side ready to help us."

    Amazon, Google, and pretty much every technology supplier that matters is thinking about what comes next and is chasing the next breakthrough innovation that will be as disruptive as the smartphone. If I had to bet right now, I would say the always-on, ubiquitous, and mostly voice-activated digital assistant and the ecosystem behind that assistant seems like the best bet to become that breakthrough.

    It will be interesting to watch for sure.

     

    Wednesday
    Dec202017

    More on the employee caregiver challenge

    Quick shot for a counting down the days before a long holiday break Wednesday. Today's New York Times ran a piece on the growing elder care challenges in the US and the disproportionate impact that elder care demands are placing on female workers. You can read the piece titled 'How Care For Elders, Not Children, Denies Women a Paycheck', here.

    Two things of note from the piece, and then one plug for a recent HR Happy Hour Show we did on this topic in case you missed it.

    One, the numbers and population demographics in the US are making the elder care situation a much greater issue in the last 15 years or so. One researcher estimates that currently there are about 21 million family members in the US who are caring for an adult relative (and not being paid for this care). He estimates that by 2040 this number will increase to around 34 million. So again, the elder care challenge/crisis is only going to increase.

    Two, the responsibility for providing elder care tends to fall predominantly on women. The American Time Use Survey indicates that about a quarter of women aged 45 - 64 are providing some level of elder care. Other research points to decreases in labor force participation for women in this age cohort, a reduction in earnings and hours, and an overall decline in economic health and prosperity for these care givers. Finally, factor in elder relatives living longer, (and needing more long term care), smaller families (lessening the ability to rely on siblings to assist with care), and increased divorce rates, (often making the care giving burden much harder), and you can see that the elder care challenge is complex and real.

    It is important that HR/workplace leaders are aware of these issues as they will continue to impact an increasing percent of American workers. I must admit to having not given the elder care issue much thought until a couple of months ago, when we welcomed Adam Goldberg, CEO and Founder of Torchlight to the HR Happy Hour Show

    Torchlight is an outcomes focused, employee caregiver platform that helps reduce the costs and complexities of modern care giving for families and employers in the U.S. 

    On the show, Adam talked about the growing challenge of care giving in the US, the situation where employees have significant responsibilities outside of work with childcare, elder care, and other care giving situations that require, time, attention, resources, and are a major source of life and work stress for employees.

    I usually don't like to re-post older podcast episodes on the blog here, but after reading the NYT piece this morning, and thinking more about the importance of the issue, I thought it right to try and raise some additional awareness of the challenge and how one innovative company is helping employers and employees.

    You can listen to the podcast with Adam here, on the widget player below, or on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

    Have a great day!