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    Entries in workplace (114)


    Other duties as assigned: How about 'Micro-influencer?'

    Calling your attention to a super read over at The Atlantic titled 'Employers are Looking for 'Influencers' Within Their Ranks' that describes the relatively recent phenomenon of employers enlisting 'real' employees for what are, mostly, low-tech, minimal production values, and hopefully authentic advertising and branding campaigns. In what reminded me of the seemingly ubiquitous trend on TV spots where car companies tout their casts of 'Real people, not actors', The Atlantic piece breaks down how Macy's has recruited dozens of real and often front-line workers in their Macy's 'Style Crew' campaign where these workers share updates, pics, and videos showcasing Macys fashions as well as sharing some of their own lives as well.

    A great example of a Macy's Style Crew Instagram post is embedded below, (if you can't see the image in email or RSS, you may need to click through)



    You can see from this pic, and from the several dozen others I looked at with the #macysstylecrew hashtag, that most of the pics achieve what Macy's is after from this campaign - grass roots, believable, authentic, and perhaps most importantly, inexpensive branding and advertising for the business.

    In a world where consumers tend to trust brand messages less and less, and "official" Instagram and other social media Influencers are charging higher and higher fees for sponsored posts and produce mentions, Macy's is trying a different approach, one that calls to action participants that it has more control and influence over - the company's own employees.

    The upside for Macy's? Hundreds, perhaps thousands of quasi-independent voices sharing content and information about the brand's products, in a casual, "real" way, and the opportunity to build stronger bonds between the company and their customers, (and employees).

    The upside for Macy's employees in the Style Crew? It is a little less clear, to be honest. The Atlantic piece does mention some kind of compensation for these participants, (it is not apparent how much or in what form the compensation is delivered). They also stand a chance, with interested and enthusiastic participation to get noticed by higher ups at Macy's, I guess there is some value to that. And last, if nothing else, they get to have a little fun at 'work' - posting selfies of your daily outfit before you head to the office or store is kind of a thankless job, (that's why I stopped doing that myself). Injecting a little brand ambassadorship into the equation makes it somehow (maybe?) less inane of a practice.

    In the modern, gig economy we are all always hustling. For some Macy's employees, that includes when taking selfies.

    Have a great day!



    CHART OF THE DAY: ETFs, Active Managers, and Human Specialization

    Today's Chart of the Day comes to us from the world of Finance and our pals at Bloomberg and shows just how once type of job, the "active", (and human) mutual fund manager is being disrupted by another kind of manager - a 'passive' one, modeled against the market more broadly, and dominated by algorithms and sophisticated computers.

    Long story short - investors have been migrating their money away from the active, people-driven funds and strategies and towards the passive, ETF-type funds. Here's the chart from Bloomberg, then some comments below from your favorite active blog manager (me).

    Some really interesting things to note from this chart. And recall, just like when we blog about basketball here, this blog about finance and investing isn't really just about finance and investing.

    1. Highlighted on the chart is the worst of the financial crisis, September 2008. This appears to be the inflection point where investors bailed on active investment management in favor of passive investing. In other words, when times were tough, investors didn't seek 'expert' human management for their diminishing funds. In fact, they sought out the opposite.

    2. As the chart above demonstrates, the current active management model for investments simply can't compete any longer with the cheaper passive/ETF model in either total asset gathering (trying to simply grow the way to prosperity), or in terms of returns. Whatever the current strategy is for the active managers, it is definitely not working and has not been for a decade.

    3. So what can these highly-paid, expensive, and under threat active fund managers do to at least try and maintain some relevance and hold on to their country club memberships and beach houses? Bloomberg suggests one approach - hyper specialization.

    From the piece:

    What does the future of active management look like? We believe it should only seek a portion of an investor's assets. To do this, they will have to create highly idiosyncratic and concentrated portfolios. They will have to find the one thing they do well and do it in a concentrated, risk-seeking way, whether it be health-care, emerging markets, macro themes, algorithms, technology or trading. The manager will need to be known as the "go to" person in that space to emerge as the next star, allocating capital as efficiently as possible.

    Again, the specific example/industry/job role doesn't matter here. What matters is the method and approach for people to remain valuable and competitive in a situation where machines and algorithms have plenty of advantages. The advice is not to try and out-compete the robots where you simply can't defeat them, but rather to seek out those areas, pockets, and opportunities where you can leverage uniquely human skills and experience to stay one step ahead of the machines.

    Super interesing article and one that I think no matter what industry or job you are in, has something we can learn from as well.

    Have a great day!


    n = 1

    1. Beloved footwear brand Crocs is in a bit of trouble. Might want to stock up on some just in case. I did the same move when I learned that Twinkies were being discontinued a few years back.

    2. There was some really interesting coverage on what auto manufacturer GM is doing to try and better control employee healthcare costs and improve outcomes. It is clear that all of the traditional strategies they have been trying up until now have not moved the needle.

    3. One of the biggest stories in college sports was recently broke by a reporter that ESPN laid off earlier in the year. Tough to get 'scooped' by someone you decided was not essential to your business.

    4. From Academia - 'Compensation and Incentives in the Workplace' by Edward P. Lazear. "A sample of some of the most applicable papers are discussed with the goal of demonstrating that compensation, incentives, and productivity are inseparably linked."

    5. Still more from the market for truck drivers from Fortune. Between automation influences, labor force demographic changes, and increasing regulatory pressures, hiring truck drivers has never been harder.

    6. Infographic (are they still a thing?) 'Debunking 8 Myths about AI in the Workplace'

    7. The English Premier League season kicks off this weekend. If you need a team to support, I recommend Liverpool. This is our year for sure.

    8. Trish McFarlane and I did a great HR Happy Hour Show earlier this week with guest Erica Volini from Deloitte on the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report. You can listen to the replay HERE or on your favorite podcast app.

    9. Speaking of the HR Happy Hour Show, our new version of the show for the Amazon Alexa platform just crossed the 50 episode mark. To listen to the show just add the HR Happy Hour Skill to your Echo device's Daily Flash Briefing.

    10. It's one month until the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Check out the agenda and register here. Use my code STEVE300 for $300 off your HR Tech Conference pass.

    Have a great weekend!


    No more free lunch, at least for some tech workers

    The on-site, catered, or in-house chef-prepared free lunch (and potentially even breakfast, dinner, and endless snacks and drinks) has long been a stable of high-tech companies all over the country, but is most typically centered on the Silicon Valley and San Francisco startup scenes.

    Free meals and snacks have become so commonplace (and celebrated), that many companies see the benefit/perk as simply a cost of doing business in order to attract and retain the best talent, (and probably to keep them on-site and working longer hours, and less distracted throughout the day). Heck, most of us are too busy to do much more than have a sandwich and an Diet Dr. Pepper at out desks for lunch anyway - who has time to head out to a restaurant? So making that grab and go and devour lunch in 12 minutes routine much more satisfying by making the food both free and delicious at least gives many tech workers a benefit that the rest of us can only admire from afar.

    Well if some Mountain View and San Francisco public officials get their way, the free lunch benefit may finally succumb to the old maxim 'There's no such thing as a free lunch.' Details of what these city leaders have in mind come from a recent piece on Business Insider - San Francisco Bay Area Cities are Cracking Down on Free Food at Facebook and Other Tech Companies:

    It's no secret that Facebook employees love their office meals. On Instagram, there are countless photos of free meals — from sushi to tacos to coffee waffles — served at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, California.

    But come this fall, when the tech giant moves to a new Mountain View office complex called the Village, that perk will no longer exist.

    That's because the city is prohibiting companies from fully subsidizing meals inside the Village, a rule that could spread to other Bay Area cities in the future. Free food is a popular perk at tech companies throughout San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

    On Tuesday, San Francisco legislators proposed a similar ban, the San Francisco Examiner reports. If passed, it would adjust zoning laws to bar new construction of on-site workplace cafeterias. (The ban wouldn't be retroactive, however, so on-site food at companies like Google and Twitter would still be available.)

    A quick look at the details of the rules in Mountain View and the proposal in San Francisco do show that there are or could be at least some decent-sized loopholes that companies can walk through in order to keep providing employees free lunch. Companies already providing the perk are exempt from the new rules, and the "fully subsidized" language in the rule seems to open up the opportunity for companies to at least heavily subsidize or discount food they bring into the office for employees.

    But having said that, let's contemplate for a moment what might happen if these rules/bans actually do stick and new companies or new developments from existing companies discover that the on-site free lunch truly gets eliminated for their workers. 

    Would there be some kind of a worker revolt? An "We Demand Our Avocado Toast and Cold Brew" march on City Hall? Would some workers actually leave or refuse to join a tech company that actually made employees leave the office and buy their own food? Might a tech company or two simply relocate or decide to build their new facility in a more "free food friendly" location?

    Why am I asking so many questions about free lunch? Probably because I have not worked anywhere that offered such an awesome perk.

    Because if I did, I'd probably still be working there. 

    What do you think, should governments be regulating the perks that companies can offer their workers?

    Sounds like a bit of an overreach to me. Now you will have to excuse me, I have to go make my own lunch.

    Have a great day!


    Making it easier for employees to get paid

    I caught some news last week from the small business payroll provider Gusto announcing the initial launch of a service called 'Flexible Pay', a service designed to give employees at companies using the Gusto payroll service the ability to choose their own pay schedule and get paid whenever they want for hours they have already worked.

    Think about how most shops run a typical Bi-weekly, hourly payroll cycle. The employee works and clocks their hours and OT for a 14-day period, often ending on a Friday. The employer (or their service provider), sums up all the hours, calculates gross pay, sorts out the taxes and other deductions, and issues a paycheck or direct deposit for the employee's net pay about a week later - usually the following Friday. So the work done by the employee is essentially loaned to the employer until the two-week collection period ends, and the week of processing time is over. And for lots of employees, ones who might be facing bills or other obligations that don't line up well with the employer's pay schedule, that delay in getting their pay presents a problem.

    They might look for a payroll advance, put more spending on their credit cards, or even seek out a high-interest payday loan - often because the one to almost three week 'float' doesn't work for them in their lives.

    So the idea that a payroll service provider like Gusto is making it possible for employees to have more choice in when they get paid for time already worked, while also making it available to employers, (Gusto is basically fronting the funds for the employer until the 'real' payroll runs), I think is one that is long overdue, and is needed and will be appreciated by lots of employees.

    A couple of disclaimers here - this service is really new, and so far only available to Gusto customers in Texas, (more states are on the way), Gusto did not ask me or compensate me at all to post about this, (in fact I am pretty sure they did not even contact me about it), and finally, there might be other payroll providers out there with similar products and services (ADP, Paychex, Ceridian, etc.), I don't claim to know that this is an offering that is unique to Gusto. So please let me if your company already offers this, and I will add a footnote to the piece. But regardless, this is a cool idea and I hope it catches on with more companies and payroll providers.

    I will leave with this image - a crude Google map of Las Vegas with location pins for Starbucks locations, (which seem to be everywhere), and for Payday Loan Companies. Can you guess which is which?


    Have a great day!