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    Entries in work (226)

    Friday
    Apr202018

    CHART OF THE DAY: Mount Stupid

    Really quick shot for the end of a busy week, where despite it being nearly May, it is still snowing as I write this.

    Today's CHART OF THE DAY does not cover one of the normal themes I usually like to hit with these posts - employment, the labor force, the aging population, how terrible the Knicks have been, etc.

    No, today's chart, courtesy of SMBC Comics, is meant to elicit a chuckle and perhaps make you think, even just a little, before you feel the urge to chime in on a topic, issue, person, or event that you really don't have all that much information about.

    Here's the chart, the one last comment from me after that:

    Knowing just about nothing about a subject generally doesn't get you into trouble. Neither does being incredibly well-versed. In the former case, we usually have enough sense to keep out of the conversation and debate. And in the latter case, even if we run into a disagreement, we can usually have facts, data, or even just plain old experience to back up our opinions.

    But when we know just about enough to simultaneously not seem like a complete fool but not enough to avoid becoming that fool?

    That my friends is 'Mount Stupid.'

    And you don't ever want to be up there. Besides being unpleasant, it's way, way too crowded.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Apr182018

    Job Titles of the Future: Technology Ambassador

    Traditionally the institutions that have wielded power and influence and have amassed significant wealth and made an impact on people's lives were governments, (and to some extent religions). When a country's government enacts a policy or issues some new set of rules and regulations, this tends to have an outsize impact and effect on the people of that country, and if the country is big and influential enough, can even impact people all over the world. Just one recent example - the US/China trade and tariff disputes have sent global equity markets on a kind of wild, roller coaster ride lately - effecting markets and wealth of people all over the world.

    To a less direct, but by no means insignificant degree, changes in direction or policy from important religious organizations can effect people all over the world. The major world religions are not confined within one country or even two or three - they have followers all across the globe. If tomorrow the Pope issued a decree that, say, women are not allowed to become priests, that news would stir congregations in two hundred countries.

    But increasingly there is another set of globe spanning institutions that have perhaps even more worldwide influence and importance in people's lives and in commerce than say do most individual countries or single religions - the world's largest technology companies. Think Facebook with its 2 billion users. Google with its incredible reach and dominance in web search and mobile phone operating systems. Amazon with its seemingly inexorable march to dominate e-commerce and cloud computing. Apple, with more cash on hand than many small countries. And we haven't even mentioned the Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. In China, Tencent's WeChat impacts everything - news, communication, shopping, banking, and more.

    The world's largest tech companies are in some ways like countries or religions themselves. Their users are like citizens, their terms of service, methods of interaction, rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and unique cultures and sub-cultures offer similarities to the framework of large, religous organizations. Their influence on global economics and societies cannot be underestimated. Just like global trade disputes have roiled financial markets in recent days, so has the Facebook data security drama and fallout. At this stage, who would argue that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg isn't one of the world's most important people?

    So all that leads back to the title of the piece, the latest installment of the often imitated, but never surpassed 'Job Titles of the Future' series. The job title is Technology Ambassador and the details of this job come to us from the country of Denmark, who, as far as I can tell, are the first and only nation to create and name an official 'Technology Ambassador' for the country. 

    What does a Technology Ambassador do? Some details from a piece on Wired UK:

    Ambassadors are traditionally staid public officials, holed up in grand embassies in the farthest-flung corners of the world. Their job? Schmoozing the powerful, smoothing over tricky arguments and promoting their country. "Diplomacy has always been about putting people in outposts where there have been new activities and events - be it in conflict areas, or where innovation, creativity and new technology is influencing our ways of life," explains Casper Klynge, who has just taken up the role as the first ever ambassador to Silicon Valley.

    The job came about when Denmark's Foreign Office decided to create the post of what was then called a "Google ambassador", who would interact with the tech giants. The role was officially created in February; Klynge was appointed a few months later. In late August, he moved to California and into his Palo Alto embassy, where he plans to build a team of more than a dozen staff, supported by a back-office secretary and a number of tech attachés around the world - the first of which will be based in Klynge's old stomping ground, Asia.

    The most important role he has as ambassador shows just how much the world has changed in recent years: he's there to meet Silicon Valley's biggest companies in exactly the same way he has previously met with prime ministers and presidents. "We need to build those relationships because of the key influence these companies have over our daily lives," he says, "and, at the end of the day, over foreign policy and international affairs."

    This appointment of a Technology Ambassador show Denmark's really progressive, prescient, and probably soon to be copied approach to their nation's relationships with 'Big Tech' by other countries in the near future.

    These companies seem to only be growing in influence - signing on more and more of the world's population, developing ever more and more convenient capabilities and features to keep users engaged, and expanding into more areas of daily life. Think about it this way - what institution or entity is more influential on a macro basis, Facebook or a country like Denmark?

    These are certainly interesting times, tech companies have more users than most countries have citizens or religions have adherents. And unlike most counties and religions, their size and influence seems to still be trending higher. Denmark's decision to think about and treat Big Tech like nations have traditionally considered other nations is also incredibly interesting too. And a one of the most interesting 'Job Titles of the Future' we have came across yet.

    Have a great day!

     

     

     

    Wednesday
    Apr042018

    UPDATE: Who benefits from corporate tax rate cuts?

    About a month ago I had a piece on the blog about the recent cuts in the corporate tax rate for US companies - more specifically, I looked at what companies were actually doing, (or have stated they will do) with the proceeds of these cuts, and how organizations may or may not be able to leverage these plans in their recruiting and retention efforts.

    Long story short, last month I said, (and shared some data) that said most companies are taking care of shareholders before and to a much more substantial degree than they are looking after current employees (with raises, bonuses, increased development opportunities), and potential future employees, (investing in new facilities, R&D expansion).

    Well, some more and more current data about corporate spending plans for their tax cut driven windfall is in, and sadly for (most) workers, the story has not changed all that much. Courtesy of Just Capital, a non-profit organization that has been monitoring what large US companies are doing and planning to do with these proceeds, have a look at how about 120 large organizations are allocating these new found funds:

    If you can't see the chart, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through), the data breaks down by category of corporate stakehiolder or potential spending group as follows:

    Shareholders - 57% (stock buybacks, dividends)

    Jobs - 20% (commitment to job creation, capital investment intended to add jobs)

    Products - 7% (invesment in product quality or benefits)

    Customers - 6% (reduced pricing, increased service, privacy, safety)

    Workers - 6% (wages, bonuses, benefits, training)

    Communities - 4% (charitable giving, matching gifts, volunteering)

    Although the many announcements and rounds of one-time bonuses that many corporations have granted to employees have generated a lot of news, the Just Capital data continues to show that these programs and plans amount to an exceedingly small percentage of the total corporate benefit of tax cuts - estimated to be about $150B in 2018 alone.

    As I speculated the last time I looked at this data, organizations that were really making a meaningful and greater than average commitment and investment of these tax windfalls in their employees would likely be able to leverage the investments effectively as a tool for retention and increased overall employee loyalty. And potential new recruits could also be attracted and drawn to organizations that if not putting their employees first on the stakeholder pecking order, at least consider them to be more important (relative to shareholders for example) than competitors and industry averages.

    And here's one more bit of interesting information to consider for organizations and leaders trying to decide the 'best' allocation of tax savings. Just Capital periodically polls American's attitudes towards corporations - mainly to find out which corporate behaviors are seen as being the most 'just' or fair. In the most recent polling, how corporations treat their workers came in as the most important category in evaluating these corporations, with almost a quarter of respondents ranking worker treatment as number one.

    Shareholders? How corporations treat them came in last, with only 6.4% of respondents naming their treatment as most important when assessing corporate behavior.

    Lots to chew on here for sure. I will probably let this topic go for a while, as frankly its a little depressing. I suppose for most organizations, it is better to be a shareholder than anything else.

    Have a great day!

    Thursday
    Mar292018

    Career and Life Advice: You're probably not right for that job

    An example of some short and sweet 'Career and Life Advice' courtesy of the New York State (Full disclosure: the state in which I reside. For now), contest for the Democratic Party nomination for the November Governor's race.

    One one side we have the current two-term Governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who is running for re-election in November.

    On the other side, contesting Governor Cuomo for the Democratic Party nomination is Cynthia Nixon, best known as the actress who portrayed Miranda on the long-running HBO series 'Sex and the City.'

    As a New Yorker, I would rate Governor Cuomo as a perfectly fine Governor. For what that is worth.

    But that is not the point of this post.

    The point is how many folks, the kind of folks like me who don't follow politics all that closely, or take it all too seriously, would evaluate the qualifications of these two candidates.

    On the one side we have the incumbent Governor, who has been in office since 2011, and who had previously served as the Attorney General of New York, as well as the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

    On the other side, we have an actress/activist whose prime claim to fame is playing 'Miranda' for several years.

    But as I said, I don't follow this very closely and am not offering my opinion, but I do want to highlight the comments made by 'Miranda's' best friend - none other than Sex and the City's 'Carrie' - AKA the actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Sarah was asked to comment on her former cast mate and friend's run for Governor and according to the New York Post she responded with the best 'Non-endorsement that doesn't actually read like a non-endorsement but really, really is a non-endorsement'.

    Here's the quote:

    Cynthia has been my friend and colleague since we were little girls. I look forward to talking to her about her New York State gubernatorial run.

    Man, that is sick. 'I look forward to talking to her'. Not, 'She would be a great Governor' or 'She is the sharpest pencil in the box' or even a 'She is a wonderful person who cares deeply about New Yorkers.'

    But here is the thing, it is probably a good response/bit of advice from a friend/colleague that knows Ms. Nixon pretty well. It says, 'Hey friend, you are probably not right for that job' without coming out directly and saying 'Hey, you are probably not right for that job.'

    Most job advice is crap. Especially job advice from your silly friends.

    But this time, a well-crafted 'non-endorsement' from a friend just might be the best career advice you will hear all year.

    Good luck Miranda.

    Have a great day!

    Wednesday
    Mar282018

    Should workers have a 'Right to disconnect?'

    Quick shot for a busy, 'It's almost Spring Break but not quite' Wednesday - another dispatch from the front lines of technology-driven employee burnout, (and potential governmental overreach).

    First spotted from a piece on Fast Company with the headline 'New York workers may soon get the right to stop answering work email after hours' we find that there is some proposed legislation before the New York City Council titled "A Local Law to amend the New York city charter and the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to private employees disconnecting from electronic communications during non-work hours".

    First observation of this proposal? The name doesn't quite roll off the tongue like 'The Affordable Care Act' or 'Prohibition'. Maybe shorten up the name next time?

    But leaving that aside, the details of this proposed regulation/law are what is more interesting. Patterned on successful and similar laws in France and Germany, this proposal would make it illegal for private employers in New York City to require employees to answer work-related electronic communications, (email, texts, work chat messages, etc.), outside of their 'normal' working hours.

    Here's the relevant excerpt from the proposal (for those who appreciate government-speak):

    Disconnecting from work. a. 1. It shall be unlawful for any employer to require an employee to access work-related electronic communications outside of such employee’s usual work hours, not including overtime, except in cases of emergency

    There are some other exceptions from this policy named in the proposal - on-call workers and independent contractors are the two most common - but essentially if enacted, this 'Right to disconnect' would explicitly forbid private employers to require electronic message responses from workers outside of normal working hours. And the proposal also protects workers from retaliation and interference should they choose to exercise this 'Right to disconnect'.

    A couple of quick thoughts on this, then I will let you ponder the wisdom and/or need for such a regulation while you take a few minutes away from your overflowing Inbox:

    1. Note that the proposal isn't entirely clear on what 'in cases of emergency' really means - 'Where is the Penske file? EMERGENCY!!!!', which creates what seems to be a pretty big loophole for employers to walk through.

    2. If you have to resort to making a rule, whether a piece of legislation, or just a company-wide 'No E-mail Thursday' policy, then it is pretty likely you have some kind of a problem with email and electronic communication overload. A law might not make sense, but it seems apparent that carrying on with things as they are, and with employees drowning in messages, texts, and emails isn't going to be sustainable forever.

    3. It's at least worth pondering a few questions: What would our organization do if this law did apply to our employees? How would we communicate, organize, collaborate, and manage differently? Does our organization really rely on almost 24/7 electronic access and availability of our people? And if so, what does this do to them?

    Do I think such a 'Euro-style' kind of proposal would actually pass into law anywhere in the US?

    Not really.

    But the way we tend to recoil or even mock these kinds of proposals that even if ill-considered have at their core the well-intentioned goal of giving workers more balance, time to re-charge, and time to not be thinking about work, also suggests that we are probably contributing to the problem too.

    I once blogged, (it was so long ago, I can't find the link, but trust me I did), that you could learn everything you needed to know about an organization's work culture by examining six months worth of weekend email traffic.

    Who is sending them (weekend email), who are they sent to, who is responding, and how quickly would reveal tons of information about the culture.

    Have a few extra minutes soon? Ask your IT group to give you some stats on weekend email usage. I bet it would be interesting...

    Have a great day!