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    Entries in work (183)

    Monday
    Apr032017

    Most of us are on Plan B (or C or D)

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    Ask any 8 - 12 year old that question and you will probably get one of the following careers in response - Movie Star, Pro Athlete, Musician, Astronaut, Firefighter, (increasingly) Video Game Developer, or maybe YouTube star, (apparently that is a thing now).

    What you won't get much of in response are more common occupations like Office Clerk, Home Health Aide, Salesperson, or Bus Driver.

    Not a shock, right? But I wonder if there isn't more to think about from the disconnect between what we really wanted to be doing with our careers, and what (many of us), end up actually doing in our careers. A recent survey of more than 400 teens conducted by C + R research suggests that most of today's teens have career aspirations that are extremely out of synch with the true nature of the labor market.

    For example, 20% of surveyed teens expressed a desire for a career in "Arts, Design, Entertainment, Media, & Sports", a field that makes up only about 1% of American jobs in the workforce. And fully 0% of teens indicated a desire to move into "Office and Administrative Support" occupations, (like HR or IT), even though that category encompasses fully 15% of American workers today, making it the largest segment of the labor force as tracked by the BLS. 

    This is not surprising data; I mean who wouldn't rather be a relief pitcher for the Mets or a Hollywood movie producer than say, an HR manager? 

    Heck, even to this day when people ask me about my career goals, 'Point Guard on the Knicks' still comes up as a delusional option.

    Why does any of this matter? Who cares what your boss or your colleague or even you wanted to really do with your life when you were 12 or 14?

    It is possible that it does not matter. 

    But it is also possible that it is a good idea to be reminded every once in a while that most of us are not really doing the thing we used to dream about doing. 

    That does not mean we can't love what we are doing now, and be excited about how our careers have panned out, I am not saying that. And even if we can't be doing the thing we'd really want to be doing, (I am too old, slow, and have too unreliable a jump shot to actually play for the Knicks), I think the key to making peace with the Plan B ( or C or D), that we landed on is finding some elements of Plan A inherent in what we ended up with.

    If you really wanted to be an artist or an athlete or an explorer, then what can you find in your (less glamorous), HR Manager role that at least hints at or reminds you of why you were attracted to those childhood dreams in the first place? What can you invent to make the role you have more like the one you always wanted?

    How can you become the most artistic, expressive, courageous, legendary HR Manager ever?

    If you can, then you probably will accomplish your version of "Point Guard for the Knicks".

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Mar302017

    Career and Life Advice #1

    New series on the blog, (calling it a series in case I decide to try this again, if so it will look like it was some kind of a plan all along), titled 'Career and Life Advice'.

    What makes me qualified to give either career or life advice?

    Nothing!

    That's why the plan is to share career or life advice from folks who have had  pretty demonstrable career success or plain to see amazingly cool lives. Ok, maybe I will try to sneak in some of my own thoughts down the line, we will see.

    First up, some career and life advice from San Antonio Spurs head coach, and noted curmudgeon Gregg Popovich, from an article where Pop was discussing the coaching ability of one of his assistants Becky Hammon, who many NBA observers feel will one day become the first female head coach in the NBA.

    What is one of Hammon's qualities that contributes to her success according to Pop, (and here comes the advice part):

    "She's been perfect," Popovich said. "She knows when to talk and she knows when to shut up. That's as simple as you can put it. A lot of people don't figure that out."

    Boom.

    Solid career and life advice in three sentences.

    And advice we can all learn from.

    Know when it is time to talk and perhaps more importantly, when it is time to shut up.

    In trying to follow said advice, I am going to shut up now.

    Have a great day.

    Wednesday
    Feb152017

    I know he has the title, but is he believable?

    I'm sure you've seen reports of the numerous large and some high-profile organizations that are altering or outright scrapping traditional, ratings-centric performance management processes to move towards a more nimble, flexible, and frequently centered around coaching and development. More forward-looking as opposed to scoring the past as it were.

    While the actual results of these new, 'no more ratings' performance programs have so far been mixed at best, it does seem likely that this trend will continue for a little while longer anyway. And one of the by products of these kinds of programs ironically enough, is the generation of more 'perfomance' data, not less, or at least more than in a traditional annual review process. In these new programs, check-ins, kudos, 'real-time' feedback comments, 1-1 meetings, and even micro bonuses or awards will be happening all year long, will need to be soted, assessed, and made sense of in order for these programs to deliver on their goals - namely improved business and individual performance.

    I was thinking about this when reading about how one firm, Bridgewater Associates is taking this idea of high-frequency, real-time, and highly data driven approaches to employee performance and development to an incredibly detailed level. 

    You should read the entire piece, but here is a snippet from Business Insider piece that sheds a little color on how the firm uses data points on 100+ traits to rate, evaluate, and assess their staff:

    Every employee has a company-issued iPad loaded with proprietary apps. One of them, called "Dots," contains a directory of employees and options to weigh in on various elements of each person's work life, categorized in values, abilities, skills, and track record.

    There are more than 100 attributes in total, but the collections of attributes are customized to roles in the company, in the sense that an investor's performance would not be measured according to the same traits that would be used to measure a recruiter's performance.

    Employees are free to use Dots whenever they'd like, when they want to praise or criticize a colleague for a particular action.

    The numerical value of these Dots is considered along with performance reviews, surveys, tests, and ongoing feedback and averaged into public "baseball card" profiles for every employee. The profiles get their name from the list of attributes and corresponding ratings, the same way a baseball card would list something like a player's batting average accompanied by a brief description of their career.

    These are then brought into play in meetings where decisions are being made. Using their iPads, colleagues will vote on certain choices, and in the system of believability-weighted decision making, each vote will have a weight depending on the individual's baseball card and the nature of the question.

    "A person's believability is constantly relevant," Prince said. "In a meeting, it is relevant to things like how you self-regulate your own engagement in a discussion, how the person running the meeting manages the discussion, and in actual decisions. At all times a person should be assessing their own believability so that they can function well as part of a team."

    There's a lot to unpack there, and I am fairly sure that this kind of pervasive, detailed, transparent, and for many, scary, kind of performance/evaluation scheme would not work at most places and for most people. But I think there are (at least) two key features of this system that any organization should think about in terms of their own performance processes.

    The first is that the 'Dots' app has the ability to collect, synthesize, and make sense of the many thousands of data points that are generated each year for every employee. So that these interactions, assessments, and bits of feedback are not wasted, or pass off into the ether shortly after they are created. In this way the firm continues to build valuable intelligence about its people and their capability over time. 

    And secondly, this information is taken into account when decisions are being made. So that if you have built up credibility over time on a particular subject, your opinion or vote on issues related to that subject carries proportionally more weight than someone less experienced or believable on that issue, regardless of position or title. This data-driven approach to 'Who should we believe about this?' helps the firm guard against 'loudest voice in the room wins' trap that many organizations fall prey to.

    Really interesting stuff and while maybe being a little too extreme (and disciplined) for most organizations, the Bridgewater approach to performance might give you at least a general idea of where we are heading - a place where every employee action, interaction, and decision is logged, rated, and contributes to their overall profile. And where that profile is taken into account when decisions need to be made. 

    Good stuff for a Wednesday. Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jan162017

    Blue Monday

    Blue Monday is not just the name of a New Order song from the 80s, it is also the designation given to the third Monday in January (that is today, in case you are still sleepy), by the British academic Cliff Arnall. Dr. Arnall postulated that a combination of factors including gloomy winter weather, holiday debts, time since Christmas and a general lack of motivation conspire to make this day, the 'bluest' or most depressing day of the year.

    And while it might be easy to pass off the idea of Blue Monday, or any most depressing day of the year as kind of a silly joke, I think like all good jokes there is at least some truth lurking within. For most of this past weekend (at least here in the USA), the news was dominated by extreme winter weather events, the impending inauguration of a new President that without getting into the politics of it, seems to have at least half the population in a tizzy, and punctuated by your favorite sports team losing in the big game.

    It is really, really easy to get a little down this time of year. Yesterday I thought I saw a small sliver of blue sky in what has been a typical, relentless, and yes, depressing series of gray, wet, and cold winter days. I actually stopped what I was doing to stare for a minute, (maybe I should have taken a picture), at a sight I had almost forgotten about. Immediately after completing this post, I am booking a trip to someplace warmer and sunnier.

    I'm joking, but only kind of. When you think about the concept of Blue Monday, and think about how you fired up you were, (or were not), when you were forced to crawl out of your warm bed and face the cold, dark, and potentially icy day, then I bet for many of you, (and the folks you work with), Blue Monday does not sound all that crazy.

    It is tough out there. It is especially tough today, if Dr. Arnall's formula is even a fair indicator of how the combination of weather, work, and personal pressures all seem to come together and smack you in the face this time of year.

    So here's my advice, (I hope to take it myself), for Blue Monday. Go outside, (if ice is not falling from the sky, I mean). Pet your dog. Or find someone else's dog to pet. Take a real lunch break. Call a friend. Eat something that is not on your diet. And finally, most importantly, be nice to each other. We are all in this crappy Blue Monday together.

    And if all that fails, feel encouraged that as bad as it gets today, well, things are only going to start looking up from here.

    Happy Blue Monday.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Jan042017

    UPDATE: New Year, Less After Hours Email?

    Last March I posted about a proposed French law that would make after-hours email and other forms of work-related communication more or less 'ignoreable' for employees. After 6PM on work days, (and on holidays and weekends), French workers could not be compelled to be 'on' and responsive to the bosses 10PM emails or expected to be 'available' via their phones on weekends or on their vacations.

    In March I offered these comments on the proposed email regulations:

    At least here in the USA, the vast majority of advice and strategery around helping folks with trying to achieve a better level of work/life balance seems to recommend moving much more fluidly between work and not-work. Most of the writing on this seems to advocate for allowing workers much more flexibility over their time and schedules so that they can take care of personal things on 'work' time, with the understanding that they are actually 'working' lots of the time they are not technically 'at work'. Since we all have smartphones that connect us to work 24/7, the thinking goes that we would all have better balance and harmony between work and life by trying to blend the two together more seamlessly.

    And I guess that is reasonably decent advice and probably, (by necessity as much as choice), that is what most of us try and do to make sure work and life are both given their due.

    But the proposal from the French labor minister is advocating the exact opposite of what conventional (and US-centric), experts mostly are pushing. The proposed French law would (at least in terms of email), attempt to re-build the traditional and clear divide and separation between work and not-work. If this regulation to pass, and if it is outside of your 'work' time, then feel free to ignore that email. No questions asked. No repercussions. At least in theory.

    But here is the question I want to leave with you: What if the French are right about this and the commonly accepted wisdom and advice about blending work and life is wrong?

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, working all the time?

    What if you truly shut it down at 5PM every day?

    That is some of what I had to say about that regulation back in March. Now to the 'Update' part of the post - it turns out that proposed 'No email after 6PM' law actually did pass, and went into effect in France at the New Year.

    From January 1 onwards, employers having 50 or more employees in France will have to offer their staffs a 'right to disconnect'. From coverage of the new regulation in the Guardian, "Under the new law, companies will be obliged to negotiate with employees to agree on their rights to switch off and ways they can reduce the intrusion of work into their private lives."

    If the organization and the employees can't come to an agreement, then the employer must publish a charter or set of rules that explicitly state the demands on, and rights of, employees during non-work hours.

    It is going to be interesting to follow this story to see how it plays out in France, if employers really do follow the edicts of the new regulations, (there are not yet punitive measures in place for employers who do not comply), and if these regulations prove to impact organizational productivity and employee well-being.

    For my part, thinking about this story for the first time since last March when the new law was initially proposed, I don't think my reaction is any different now than it was then.

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, expected to be working all the time?

    Have a great Wednesday. Have fun poring through the 19 emails that came for you last night. Unless you were up at 11PM replying to them already.