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    Entries in work (207)


    CHART OF THE DAY: When does work usually get done?

    A few years ago I wrote about a study that concluded that the optimal day/time to conduct a job interview was exactly 10:30AM on Tuesday.

    Back then, I wrote:

    Even without data to back up that claim, it at least makes intuitive sense to me. Mondays are terrible for everything. Many folks mentally check out by Fridays. That leaves Tuesday - Thursday as options for any kind of important meeting, like a job interview. Let's automatically remove anything after lunch, as you never know how a heavy meal, quick workout, or a couple of shots and a Schlitz are going to have on the interviewer.

    So that leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Let's rule out Thursday since it is close enough to Friday to catch a little of the 'Is it the weekend yet?' shrapnel. Now we are in a tossup between Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. And since even by only Wednesday, lots of folks might already be thinking 'How can it only be Wednesday, this week is taking forever?', Tuesday seems like a safer choice. As for a time - use the Goldilocks approach - not too early, not too late (and too close to lunch), which lands you at 10:30AM.

    Made sense back then I guess. We (the Royal 'We', your mileage may differ), are at our peak of attention, focus, energy, and mental capacity at 10:30AM on Tuesday. So schedule that important meeting, interview, presentation - whatever you need to be at your best for, at that time and you increase your chance for success.

    Remind yourself to check back on that at 10:30AM tomorrow, (assuming you read this on a Monday, which is when it is getting posted).

    I came across a slightly different version of the 'When are we at our best?' question over the weekend via some research results posted on the Redbooth (a provider of project management software) blog titled 'At what time of day do people complete the most tasks?'.

    Redbooth studied anonymized data from its user base - over 1.8 million projects and 28 million tasks to try and determine when does work actually get done? Take a look at the chart below that shows what they found about how much work gets done during the typical day.

    Kind of makes sense, right? The day starts kind of slow, productivity begins ramping up steeply as the work day progresses and peaks at about 11AM local time (time zones of users were taken into account). Then there is a dip in productivity during the 'normal' lunch break hours that does not really recover as the rest of the day pans out. And around 4PM productivity drops off the proverbial clip and does not recover.

    Again, not totally surprising like the answer to the 'When should we schedule the big meeting/interview/presentation?' question.

    But a couple of things to note in the Redbooth data that might have an impact on how we plan and perform our work, (and how we manage the folks on our teams).

    One, we probably should try no to interrupt our own and our people's most productive times with unnecessary meetings, interruptions, emails, and phone calls. If the sweet spot for productivity is from say 9:30AM - 12:30PM or so, then we should do just about whatever we can to keep that block of time free from distractions and other events that can cause conflicts. Take that standing 10AM Tuesday meeting and think about moving it to 3PM on Thursday, (or consider scrapping it altogether).

    Two, the productivity drop is so sharp staring at about 4PM (and continuing through the night and weekends), that we all really need to be honest with ourselves about how much we and our teams are really getting done if we are the kinds that see 12 - 14 hour days and working at least some of the time on the weekends as the norm. The data from the Redbooth platform makes it pretty clear that despite whatever great work we think is getting done at 11PM on Wednesday, it does not add up to much in the data.

    And finally, this data suggests or hints at something that many of us have known and research has suggested is true - sustained high productivity over such a large block of time - 8, 10, 12 hours, is really hard for most people to pull off. If we remain committed to the 'standard' working schedule that has dominated for decades, (M - F, 8 hour days, etc.), we should be thinking harder about how we architect work, tasks, meetings, interactions, etc. to try and get the most out of these long days - while not burning out ourselves and our people in the process.

    Really interesting data, I think and hopefully helps us to think about how to be better at what we do and what we are trying to do.

    Have a great week!


    Job Titles of the Future: Man-Machine Teaming Manager

    It's been ages since I have had a new entry in the extremely popular 'Job Titles of the Future' series, but over the weekend I came across an interesting report from tech consultancy Cognizant titled '21 Jobs of the Future: A Guide to Getting - and Staying - Employed Over the Next 10 Years'that more or less has the next 21 posts in this series all in one report. With so much interesting source material (thanks Cognizant!), I had to bust out a new post for the series.

    Then entire report is really interesting, and I imagine I am going to re-visit it again for future installments, but I thought today I would call out one really interesting future job from the list of 21 - a job that I can see playing a large role in the future of work and too, the future of HR.

    The job title of interest is 'Man-Machine Teaming Manager' and I will share some details from the 'job description' for this theoretical role as laid out by our pals at Cognizant.

    The key task for this role is developing an interaction system through which humans and machines mutually communicate their capabilities, goals and intentions, and devising a task planning system for human-machine collaboration. The end goal is to create augmented hybrid teams that generate better business outcomes through human-machine collaboration.

    As a man-machine teaming manager, you will identify tasks, processes, systems and experiences that can be upgraded by newly available technologies and imagine new approaches, skills, interactions and constructs. You will define roles and responsibilities and set the rules for how machines and workers should coordinate to accomplish a task. This involves designing flexible experiences that meet workers’ expectations, while providing a simple and intuitive interaction with machines (translating consumer behavior to business users, as well as to machines, for instance). Ideal candidates will be passionate about advancing human-robot cooperation strategies in a dynamic business environment.

    Lots of the more enlightened 'robots are taking away the jobs' commentary and predictions have arrived at a similar conclusion, that the future of work will be much more about people and robots/machines/algorithms working together, with each contributing their unique and hard to copy strengths. If you did in to the job responsibilities for the Man-Machine Teaming Manager role, (and kudos to Cognizant for writing this report in the form of a bunch of new-age job adverts), the first one talks about the manager needing to identify and describe the business functions and capabilities that are uniquely possessed by people and the ones that would be better performed by machines.

    It seems to me, if you took this conceptual job, and instead of 'people' and 'machines' being the groups that the manager had to better combine as teams and collaborators, and just described it in today's terms of cross-functional teams of people, then in many ways you would be describing the role of an HR leader or Chief Talent Officer.

    Figuring out strengths, capabilities, gaps, and the best ways for diverse groups of talent to combine and connect and collaborate in order to achieve desired business outcomes seems to be one of the most important roles in any organization, and one that should be owned and championed by HR and Talent leaders. So if the Cognizant report is right, and I have no reason to nay say it, then in the near future more of the talent and the collaborators will be some form of technology or robots or algorithms.

    That doesn't change the essential need, purpose, and importance of the role - organizations need leaders that can assess, understand, support, and put in place systems and processes that enable all the talent in the organization to work together to produce the best possible outcomes.

    Hopefully, that role will be filled by people for some time to come.

    Hopefully, they will be HR people.

    Have a great week!


    The rules for when you request a meeting with someone else

    WARNING: Some borderline old-guy 'get off my lawn' about to follow...

    The situation: You have the kind of job where a fairly large, variable, and growing collection of folks are contacting you to set up meetings and phone calls. These are usually for valid work/business reasons, so the requests themselves are reasonable, but I have noticed with more frequency that folks are not following (at least what I think are) the normal, customary, and pretty simple steps, and protocols in this situation.

    So because no one asked, herewith are the rules for when you request a meeting with me, (not actually me, just using the collective me here. Is that a thing? Who cares, it's my blog).

    1. If this is the first interaction you are having with this person, explain (succinctly), who you are, what you do, the company you are working for or represent. Make sure you convince the person you are not insane.

    2. State clearly the purpose and goal for the requested meeting. Bonus points if the purpose/goal of the meeting actually helps this person solve one of their problems, and not just helps you.

    3. Adapt to the technology, communication, and other preferences of the person who you are requesting to meet with. This means adapting to at least the following:

    A. Communication preferences - email, text, LinkedIn, etc. Example, and this one happens to me a ton, if you send me a LinkedIn message asking for a meeting, I am 99% of time going to provide my email address and ask you to email me details, an invite, etc. This is due to the fact that I, along with just about everyone else in the world, manages my time on a calendar that is integrated with my email. No one manages their time on with a LinkedIn calendar because such a calendar DOES NOT EXIST. I'm ok with being contacted on LinkedIn, but I am not ok having to manually update my calendar because you prefer to use LinkedIn.

    B. More about calendars. If you are requesting the meeting from someone else, DO NOT send them a link to your own Web Calendar or scheduling tool as ask them to find a time for the meeting. YOU are asking for the meeting. It is really cheeky and presumptuous to make a meeting request and then ask me to do your work (managing your calendar) for you.

    C. Adapt to the time zone preferences of the person you are requesting the meeting with. Again for me, I am usually on ET. Your request or offer of day/time options for the meeting needs to state the time in ET. It is ok, even preferable, to list your time zone too, (if it is different). But don't ask me to have a meeting at 3PM Mountain Time and force me to figure that out. I know this is a small gripe, but once again, you are asking me for my time.  

    4. Confirm the meeting is set by 'accepting' the calendar invite. This is really for both parties of the meeting, but we really don't need another round of emails that 'confirm' the meeting is set. 'Accepting' or 'Replying Yes' to the calendar invite is the confirmation.

    5. Sometimes, the person you are requesting the meeting with does not or can't meet with you. It happens. And sometimes they either don't give you a reason for declining the meeting or give you a reason that you don't like. It happens. Accept it. You are still a wonderful person, I promise.

    That's all I have for a quick rant on this. I didn't even mention at the top that I am writing this in my favorite writing spot ever, the Delta Sky Club. Nice to be back out on the road. And solid upgrades on the snacks, Delta.

    Did I miss any 'meeting request protocol' rules?

    Let me know in the comments.

    Have a great week!


    Most of the time, distractions are your fault

    I had an acquaintance reach out to me recently who wanted my advice on an issue he has been experiencing in his workplace since, as he said to me in his note, 'Know something about HR'. While that is entirely up for debate, I had the sense that this person didn't really have many options to look to for some help, so I agreed to try to help and we had a talk.

    The gist of the problem, without getting into the details and the original causes of said problem, as they don't really matter, was that he has had a series of run-ins, arguments, and increasingly loud and hostile disagreements and interactions with a co-worker in an adjacent department. He and this person don't directly work on the same team, but their paths do cross from time to time on larger projects, division meetings, in the hallway, etc. There have been a couple of nasty email exchanges, allegations of some office refrigerator lunch shenanigans, and last week, a loud, screaming really, argument that was so loud that it caused the VP over both their departments to emerge from her office and send both parties home for the day. And to be clear , this is just personality conflict kind of stuff, nothing physical or sexual harassment related at all.

    When I talked to him, my acquaintance was exasperated because, at least according to him, none of this was his fault, he was not the source of the hostile behavior, and he really wants nothing at all to do with this co-worker. He just wants to show up, do his job, and go home. Which I suspect most of us do too. But for some reason, my acquaintance claimed, the HR folks who have gotten pulled in to this matter, and the VP and department managers are 'blaming' (his word), him equally for these workplace dramas and interruptions, and have not seen his side of the story. And this, he claims, is not fair. (I can read the minds of just about everyone still reading this laughing at the idea the the workplace should be 'fair'. But I digress).

    After hearing all that, again, just the one side of the story but coming from a person I think is pretty honest and trustworthy, I had to at least try to offer some advice. Kind of like when the contestant on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire uses their 'Phone a Friend'. Even if you have no idea of the name of the 17th European Monarch who lost some obscure battle, you better at least take a guess.

    So here was my guess/advice.

    These continuing issues that take time and attention from managers, colleagues, HR, and even execs get lumped into a large bucket called 'distractions', i.e., 'Stuff no one who has other things to do wants to deal with.'

    It doesn't matter who is 'right' or 'wrong' in this. If my acquaintance and his co-worker can't figure out a way to work this out, or effectively ignore each other, it is pretty likely that the VP will hit the point of 'I don't need to keep hearing about this nonsense' and one of the two people involved will have to go. Maybe a transfer, (might be unlikely because it is a small company), but more likely a 'Clean out your locker, it's time to go' for one or the other.

    And it won't matter which one started it or is 'wrong' or is being the bigger jerk.

    To many leaders, owners, execs, and even HR folks the solution to the problem isn't about sorting out who's right or who is wrong. The solution is about eliminating the distraction.

    That's why companies like Yahoo and IBM, after unearthing a few cases of remote workers more or less slacking off, decide to do a wholesale revocation of their work from home policies. That's why ESPN, after a couple of instances of on-air talent posting some arguably controversial content on social media issues a new, updated, and broadly worded social media policy that specifically requires employees to avoid posting content that would 'embroil the company in unwanted controversy.' And you know what 'unwanted controversy' is? Yep, another distraction.

    So I left the call with my acquaintance with this thought - if what you are doing (or being pulled into), is helping to create the same kind of 'unwanted controversy' or 'distraction' that no one with an important title wants to deal with, then you had better be prepared to be told it's time for you to go.

    I don't know if that was good advice or not. But it seems like if he fails to understand that things at work are often not fair, and distractions are like Superman's Kryptonite to business leaders, then he could be in for some bad news.

    Have a different thought on this? Let me know in the comments.

    Have a great day!


    What do you think you know about job hopping?

    Probably my favorite movie of the last few years is The Big Short, the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book detailing the run-up to the financial crisis/meltdown in 2007 - 2008.

    If you have not seen it, take some time this weekend and do so, you will be glad you did.

    But why I bring it up is that the movie opens with an on screen quotation, which is attributed to Mark Twain and that reads as follows:

    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    If you know the story of The Big Short you'll know why the Twain aphorism resonates. Again, take some time this weekend and catch the film if you haven't.

    But back to the point, or, rather, here's the point I want to make and why I thought of that quote this week.

    What do you think you know about job hopping? Meaning, do you think, as I suspect most of us do, that younger generations of workers, (younger Gen X, Millennials, etc.), are more likely to 'job hop', i.e., have shorter average tenures in their jobs than prior generations?

    I mean, that seems to be the convential wisdom, that the Millennials in particular have shorter job tenures, are much more likely than us older types were to leave a job that either is not working out for them, or for what they perceive is a better opportunity, and overall are less attached to workplaces and employers than we were in the past.

    Do you think that is more or less true?

    I admit, I did, (without ever looking it up), until I caught this piece in the Economist recently, Workers are not switching jobs more often. Here is a quick chart and excerpt from the piece:

    EVERYBODY knows—or at least thinks he knows—that a millennial with one job must be after a new one. Today’s youngsters are thought to have little loyalty towards their employers and to be prone to “job-hop”. Millennials (ie, those born after about 1982) are indeed more likely to switch jobs than their older colleagues. But that is more a result of how old they are than of the era they were born in. In America at least, average job tenures have barely changed in recent decades.

    Data from America’s Bureau of Labour Statistics show workers aged 25 and over now spend a median of 5.1 years with their employers, slightly more than in 1983 (see chart). Job tenure has declined for the lower end of that age group, but only slightly. Men between the ages of 25 and 34 now spend a median of 2.9 years with each employer, down from 3.2 years in 1983.

    And here is a quick chart showing tenure not really moving, at least at younger cohorts, over time.

    So yes, Milennials switch jobs more frequently than older workers. Younger workers have always switched jobs more frequently than older workers. The data shows that the phenomenon hasn't really changed much over the last 30 years.

    What's really striking from the chart is not just that the 25 - 34 age cohorts is basically exhibiting the same characteristics with respect to changing jobs than they did 20 or 30 years ago, but that the largest and steepest declines in job tenures are seen in the Men aged 45 - 54 group. That group's average job tenure has declined from 12.8 years in 1983 to 8.4 years by 2016.

    There are tons of possibly reasons for this, primarily how the events so well portrayed in The Big Short put so many of this group into unforeseen unemployment, as well as how technology, automation, and outsourcing have seem to affected this group more significantly than other labor cohorts.

    But that is a post for another day.

    The main reason this one stood out for me is that the data shows pretty clearly that what we think we know for sure, that Milennials are job hopping, low attention span miscreants, probably really isn't true.

    What else about work, and careers, and employees do we know for sure that might be, in the words of Twain, 'Just not so?'

    Have a great weekend!