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    Entries in workplace (91)

    Wednesday
    Feb142018

    Are HR's diversity and inclusion strategies proprietary information?

    Companies suing each other after an employee leaves one company to join another, especially when the companies are competitors, over the details in the employee's non-compete agreement is not all that uncommon. Particularly in the tech industry when many rival companies are chasing many of the same kinds of tech-driven breakthrough projects like AI, self-driving vehicles, robotics, and more - the loss of a key employee or two to a rival can have significant competitive consequences and impact.

    A debate can be had whether or not the entire idea of employee non-compete agreements are beneficial or necessary (or enforceable), but for the purposes of what I wanted to call to your attention today, let's all accept that for the moment such agreements do exist, and from time to time, are actively enforced by companies trying to protect their IP from escaping to a competitor, (along with the employee).

    The story I wanted to highlight is about a big tech company fight over an employee non-compete, but not one of the ones we expect - surrounding some star engineer working on the latest VR or AI tech - it centers around HR, more specifically, around a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer heading to Microsoft from IBM.

    Here are some details and context from coverage in Business Insider - Microsoft just hired a chief diversity officer - and IBM is suing them over it:

    Tech companies have a less than stellar record hiring women and minorities. But these companies will apparently do whatever it takes — including launching a legal fight — to hire one type of person: a Chief Diversity Officer.

    IBM is suing Microsoft for poaching its top diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre in a case that could prove just how important diversity, recruitment, and retention has become for tech companies.

    McIntyre, who joined IBM in 2006, was named chief diversity officer of Microsoft on Sunday, after serving in the same role and as VP of human resources at IBM. IBM, in its complaint, argues that McIntyre had access to diversity data, strategies, methodologies and initiatives that are confidential, and that she "will use, rely on or divulge" these strategies in her new role.

    On Monday, IBM was granted a temporary restraining order in New York federal court, which prevents McIntyre from working for Microsoft until the court decides otherwise.

    "McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM's success in these areas," a representative for IBM said in a statement. "While we understand Microsoft's need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Ms. McIntyre's non-compete agreement to protect our competitive information."

    A really interesting case it seems to me. I admit to not following the ebbs and flows and latest cases in employment law all that closely, but I do follow lots of news and I don't recall seeing a major non-compete case with this kind of profile that focuses specifically on an HR executive, and perhaps more interestingly, on specific human capital management strategies. Whatever specific policies, programs, maybe even some technology applications too that IBM, under Ms. McIntyre's leadership were employing to improve diversity, IBM is contending that these combined represent IP that is not just company confidential, but also represents relevant and demonstrable competitive advantage.

    It probably matters that IBM and Microsoft are highly likely to be competing for many of the same kinds of talented people across a wide spectrum of roles. And it also probably matters that (as I have pointed out on the blog for a couple of years on the CHART OF THE DAY series), that labor markets in general are really tight, and for certain 'hard-to-find' roles are incredibly tight. Recruiting and retention ratchets up the CEO's list of priorities when the people the company needs are in high demand and when your competitors are willing to go really far to beat you in the talent game - whether recruiting new grads or poaching your top execs - like Ms. McIntyre.

    The diversity angle here is interesting and timely,  and probably contributed to why this was a story coverred in the general tech press. But what would be more interesting to me is to see a major non-compete battle be launched over say a CHRO or a VP of Talent, or even a Global Leader of Talent Acquisition. I'd like to see a major, Fortune 50 or so company go to battle over an HR/TA leader, contending that their particular insights, and their specific talent strategies are so important, in fact just as important as the knowledge of the latest AI hotshot, that the company is willing to battle in court to keep that HR knowledge in-house.

    This is a really intriguing case, I will keep an eye on it for sure. It would be interesting and validating too, if IBM wins in this case, and HR programs and strategies are shown to be true (at least in the court's view), completive advantage. And it would be pretty cool for HR to have some more over the top recruiting and retention fights go on over HR people for once.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Feb122018

    Don't talk to me, don't even look at me - I'm busy over here

    Slapping on a pair of headphones or earbuds while you are work, especially in open plan offices, in order to help yourself to focus on your work, and probably more importantly, to send a 'do not bug me right now' signal to your co-workers has been a pretty common element of work for some time now.

    But what do you do when simply putting on headphones is not enough of a barrier between you and pesky co-workers, their questions, their comings and goings, and other kinds of interruptions or distractions? You could simply accede to your true nature and quit your job and take up permanent hermit status? But let's say you don't want to go that extreme, and simply want to find a way to have a little bit more privacy, focus, and send an even more aggressive 'do not bother me' message to the office?

    Enter the 'FocusCap' which has been described as a kind of 'horse blinder for people'. The idea of the Focus Cap is create a 'moble, distraction-proof fortress' so that a worker can 'fully concentrate on high demanding cognitive tasks'. That sounds pretty good to me. I may even need one of those here at HR Happy Hour HQ.

    Check out the videobelow, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

    Pretty wild, right?

    Are office distractions, and the challenges that are presented by the lack of personal space and lack of privacy that modern, open plan offices generate really driving workers to try and build little personal cocoons to carve out some space and peace among the chaos? Maybe so. I have not worked in an open plan setting for quite some time, but I am pretty sure I would not enjoy it all that much. Maybe with a pair of headphones on and a pair of these horse blinders for people I could make it seem like I was in my own spacious (and private) office, or sitting on the sofa in my PJs. 

    And for the record, I have no relationship at all with the makers of the FocusCap. But I do think it is cool.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb022018

    New tech won't just replace workers, it will track them even more closely

    I won't do another run at the 'Robots are going to take all the jobs' gimmick today, there is plenty of that you can find pretty much everyday and everywhere. No, today I want to highlight two examples, from different perspectives and contexts, about how tech will not just replace some/most/all jobs one day, but along the way tech will continue to provide ways for employers to track/monitor/coach/guide/punish/reward employees even more closely.

    Example 1 - from our pals at Amazon (the most interesting company in the world) - Amazon could make a bracelet that tracks worker's movements and buzzes them if they move in the wrong direction.

    From the piece on Business Insider:

    Amazon may be looking to improve its workers' efficiency in new ways.

    As was spotted by Geekwire, the company was just awarded a patent for a device that would attach to its warehouse workers' wrists and track their movements using ultrasonic waves. In conjunction with a receiver unit, those ultrasonic waves could track where the worker's hand is in real time and guide it to pick out items, then pack them in boxes.

    If the worker's hand moves in the wrong direction, for example, a slight vibration in the wrist would let them know.

    The idea is to help reduce the time that Amazon warehouse workers spend looking for items, sorting through boxes and shelves, with the idea of helping them be more efficient at selecting the necessary items for a given order. But as the BI piece points out as well, this kind of technology could also be used to measure employee performance and improvement (or regression) down to the micro-level - the gesture.

    I had a summer job working in a perishable food distribution center a hundred years ago, and we were measured (back then), on one metric - how close we came each day to completing our orders in the estimated amount of time allotted for them. So if a given order was meant to be completed in 30 minutes, and it took me 40 minutes to actually turn in the order to the shipping dock, then I would be at 67% (10 minutes overage on a 30 minute order). Each week we had to be a certain percentage rate, (I think it was 85%) in order to stay in good standing. Too many weeks below 85% and you'd eventually get canned.

    Back then we thought that was a harsh, 'Big Brother' type monitoring system. But at least it did allow for some slack, for having a bad shift or two, and for a little bit of gamesmanship. It didn't take too long to find the gaps and wiggle room in the system, and find ways to beat it. And since we were provided a real-time update on our percent completion rate after every order, you could also determine come Friday just how much you had to hustle (or slide), in order to maintain the 85% for the week. Looking back on it now, it seems pretty reasonable overall, to both the company and the workers. But if we thought aggregated performance measurement and targets were 'Big Brother' back in the day, I can't imagine what we (or anyone), would think about performance monitoring and measurement at the gesture level. Wild.

    Example 2 - From the world of sports, taken from an analysis of NBA player John Wall, and his case for being included on the NBA All-Star team this season. Here's ESPN's Zach Lowe providing a bit of data about Wall's performance this season:

    Wall is shooting 42 percent, his lowest mark since he was a rookie, and he just hasn't played with enough vigor on either end of the floor. One measure of that: He has spent 76.57 percent of floor time either standing still or walking, the largest such share among all rotation players, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum.

    Ball-dominant stars need to conserve energy. Some guys shift from walking to turbo mode without spending much time in between.

    But regardless: Wall should not be freaking last. He too often stands around when he doesn't have the ball, or when a shot is the air and he might be able to help on the glass. He switches constantly on defense to avoid chasing his guy around picks.

    That professional athletes have their performance measured and monitored to a greater degree than most other professions is not that surprising - after all metrics and statistics like points scored, rebounds, and assists have been a part of NBA box scores for decades. But what is new('ish) is the technology advances in both video capture and motion analysis that provide data on every step that an NBA player takes during a game. So now instead of just looking at how many points a player scored in a game, and judging his effectiveness based on a combination of things we can count, (like point), and an 'eye test' judgement of their effort level and hustle, NBA teams now can analyze and examine exactly what a player did every second he was on the court.

    Look again at the statistic mentioned above - Wall has been walking or standing exactly 76.57% of the time he has been on court this season. His activity is being measured to hundredths of a percent for crying out loud. Can you imagine working in a job where your management had access to your effort down to that level? Every second you are supposed to be at work? Also wild.

    These two examples (and I am sure there are lots more), point out that the impact of new technology on work and workplaces is not limited to total or direct replacement of workers and human roles. Technology also has the effect (or at least can have the effect) or driving ever closer measurement and control over workers and work performance. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - organizations and workers have to be able to understand their work, how to improve, and companies need to continue to get more efficient in order to compete. But, there needs to also be consideration of the balance between measurement, control, and workers' ability to exist as people, in a setting that may not be replacing them, can be seen as de-humanizing them. And until the robots are ready, your organization still needs these people.

    Have a great weekend!

    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!

    Thursday
    Jan182018

    UPDATE: Amazon just told you the top 20 cities for business investment in North America

    Surely you heard about Amazon's announcement of their intentions to build a second company headquarters, the so-called HQ2, in the coming years, and the widely covered RFP process to help them identify candidates (cities and regions), for this new HQ2. I wrote about the process last October here.

    Over 238 cities submitted bids to become the home of HQ2, and this week, Amazon named a short list of 20 cities that have made it to the second round of consideration, where Amazon will work more closely with these cities to dive deeper into the proposals, to get additional information, and to winnow down the list to the eventual winner - the home of the new HQ2.

    This is a big deal for these 20 contenders - $5B in investments and as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

    Here's the list of cities that made the short list, as well as a map showing the 20 - more on that in a bit.

    Atlanta, GA
    Austin, TX 
    Boston, MA 
    Chicago, IL 
    Columbus, OH 
    Dallas, TX 
    Denver, CO 
    Indianapolis, IN 
    Los Angeles, CA 
    Miami, FL 
    Montgomery County, MD 
    Nashville, TN 
    Newark, NJ 
    New York City, NY 
    Northern Virginia, VA
    Philadelphia, PA 
    Pittsburgh, PA 
    Raleigh, NC 
    Toronto, ON 
    Washington DC 

     

     

    Kind of the 'usual suspects' list I suppose, but a couple of things stand out for me.

    One, nothing in the NorCal/Silicon Valley area. Probably a couple of reasons for this. Amazon has always seemed to indicate that it wanted more of a geographical balance between its current Seattle HQ and the eventual HQ2, pointing to a midwest or eastern location as a more likely selection. And two, I wonder if Amazon just wants no part of the already overheated market for talent, real estate, and inflated cost of living that comes with the Valley.

    Also, from the long list of 238, which certainly included a lot of places that had no real chance at meeting Amazon's requirements for population, talent availability, access to transportation hubs, etc., the final 20 does not include even one true 'outlier', a real longshot location that would have at least made things interesting, (if you are a betting person, anyway). Pretty much any of the 20 on the short list would seem reasonable should they eventually win the bid and become the home of HQ2.

    Finally, in case you or your leadership were wondering just what were the best locations in North America to consider a similar, major investment, well, Amazon might have done the first wave of analysis and due diligence for you. You can almost look at the Top 20 list from Amazon as a starting point and work from there. And believe me, even the 19 cities that don't win this bid will remind you and everyone that they were a finalist for one of the largest US corporate investment initiatives ever.

    And since everything is more fun when there is something on the line, I present Steve's opening odds for each of the 20 finalists to be named the home of the new HQ2.

    Atlanta, GA - 4/1
    Austin, TX - 5/1
    Boston, MA - 7/1
    Chicago, IL - 8/1
    Columbus, OH - 25/1
    Dallas, TX - 10/1
    Denver, CO - 12/1
    Indianapolis, IN - 20/1
    Los Angeles, CA - 15/1
    Miami, FL - 15/1
    Montgomery County, MD - 20/1
    Nashville, TN - 25/1
    Newark, NJ - 20/1
    New York City, NY - 10/1
    Northern Virginia, VA - 15/1
    Philadelphia, PA - 12/1
    Pittsburgh, PA - 12/1
    Raleigh, NC - 10/1
    Toronto, ON - 20/1
    Washington DC - 15/1

     

    Reminder: These odds are presented for entertainment purposes only, please, no wagering.

    Have a great day!