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    Entries in workplace (108)

    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!

     

     

     

    Thursday
    Apr052018

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 317 - When Women Thrive: Supporting Women in the Workplace

    HR Happy Hour 317 - When Women Thrive: Supporting Women in the Workplace

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Pat Milligan, Mercer

    Sponsored by Virgin Pulse - www.virginpulse.com

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve is joined by Pat Milligan of Mercer, where she leads the When Women Thrive research initiative to talk about the project's most recent research on Women's economic standing and equity in the workplace. On the show Pat shared some findings and key recommendations from the recently released report from the When Women Thrive research titled 'Accelerating for Impact: 2018 Gender Inflection Point.'

    Pat discussed the current state of women's economic standing in the workplace, how in 2018 the data show that despite progress, there are still opportunities and challenges for organizations with respect to including and improving women's representation and standing in their organizations. She also shared some of the ways and tools that are available to organizations - an increased focus on data and analytics to identify areas of opportunity and measure progress, the benefits of focusing on women's health and wellness - inside and outside the organizations, and finally how HR leaders can begin to change the culture in their organizations and with their leaders to better focus on these issues.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, on your favorite podcast app, or by using the widget player below:

    This is an important issue, and When Women Thrive are doing great work to help organizations make progress. Make sure to download the report here.

    Thanks Pat for joining us!

    Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show wherever you get your podcasts - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' on your favorite podcast app.

    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!

    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!

    Friday
    Mar232018

    Job Titles of the Future: Director of Mental Health and Wellness

    While there definitely has been increased focus on wellness and wellbeing in the workplace in the last 10 or so years, most of that focus has been on the physical dimension of wellness - with programs and tools designed to help employees get more physically active, to quit smoking, to get a handle on better ways to manage long-term and (often) preventable health risks. But less attention (it seems to me anyway), has been paid to other aspects of wellness/wellbeing - and in particular, mental health. And mental health, and how employee mental health impacts people and the organization is a huge deal. I mean huge.

    How huge?

    According to some data from the Depression Center from the University of Michigan:

    Depressive illnesses, including major depression and bipolar disorder, are highly prevalent in the United States, affecting nearly one in five adults at some point in their life. These conditions are also among the top five causes of disability globally, and depression ranks as the #1 contributor to disability in the U.S. and Canada. An estimated 6.7% of adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Depression is one of the most costly health conditions for American employers. The annual cost of depression in the U.S. is estimated at $210.5 billion, with approximately 45% attributable to direct costs, 5% to suicide-related costs, and 50% to workplace costs. A majority of these workplace costs are due to lost productivity in the workplace from both absenteeism (missed days of work) and "presenteeism" (reduced productivity at work). Presenteeism represents nearly 75% of workplace costs and 37% of the overall economic burden of depression.

    And that is just one set of data points from one source on the significant impact the mental health challenges and depression in particular makes on organizations, not to mention the personal and family impact depression has on people, families, and communities.

    So it makes sense that organizations are and should be addressing mental health and depression as just as important a dimension of employee wellness with as much focus as they have with physical wellness. And at least one organization, maybe one you wouldn't think would 'have' to worry about the mental health of its workforce is doing just that.

    The organization is the National Basketball Association, (don't worry, this is not turning into a 'sports' post). From a recent piece on the NBA.com site:

    Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan -- two All-Stars -- who became the latest NBA players to detail their public battles with mental wellness. Love wrote a first-person account last week in The Players’ Tribune of the panic attack he suffered earlier this season. DeRozan spoke last month of the depression he’s dealing with during what may be his most successful NBA season.

    Their disclosures came as the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are close to naming a Director of Mental Health and Wellness, who will run an independent mental wellness program that is being jointly funded by the league and union.

    It might seem surprising that NBA players - generally young, wealthy, successful, admired, and in great physical health would be affected by mental health issues, panic attacks, and depression. But the fact that we can have that kind of a reaction - 'Gee, what do these guys have to be depressed about?', reminds us that it is too easy to fail to take mental health issues seriously, or to want to treat them as not real issues for employees because we can't 'see' them.

    And I am pretty sure that is going to change, or it will have to change, as these issues become more common in the US and by extension, in the workplace. The National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health estimates that, in 2016, more than 44 million Americans suffered from some form of mental illness, ranging from mild to moderate to severe, and impacting more than 18 percent of all U.S. adults.

    As an NBA fan, I like that the league is doing more to actively recognize, address, support and mostly not to hide from the mental health challenges that players are facing - even if we think these don't or shouldn't exist, the accounts of Love, DeRozan, and others show us the problems are real. And with the data showing that mental health issues and illnesses growing at a consistent rate, it makes sense for organizations to think about today's Job Title of the Future - Director of Mental Health and Wellness. Maybe you should too.

    Have a great weekend!